Read: The Covenant of Baha'u'llah

By Adib Taherzadeh
By the same author
(Baha'i Publishing Trust, London, 1972)
1. Baghdad 1853-63
2. Adrianople 1863-68
3. Akka, The Early Years 1868-77
4. Mazra'ih and Bahji 1877-92 <piv>
Tablet in Baha'u'llah's handwriting addressed to Abdu'l-Baha Translated by Shoghi Effendi as follows:
O Thou Who art the apple of Mine eye! My glory, the ocean of
My loving-kindness, the sun of My bounty, the heaven of My
mercy rest upon Thee. We pray God to illumine the world
through Thy knowledge and wisdom, to ordain for Thee that
which will gladden Thine heart and impart consolation to Thine
eyes. The glory of God rest upon Thee, and upon whatsoever
serveth Thee and circleth around Thee. <pv>
GEORGE RONALD Publisher Limited
46 High Street, Kidlington, Oxford OX5, 2DN
All Rights Reserved
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Taherzadeh, Adib
The covenant of Baha'u'llah.
I. Title
ISBN 0853983437
ISBN 0853983445 pbk
Printed and bound in Great Britain by Billing and Sons Ltd, Worcester <pvii>
List of Illustrations ix
Notes and Acknowledgements x
Foreword xi
Introduction 1
Prologue: The Covenant and the Human Soul 5
Part One
'Him Whom God shall make manifest'
1 The Covenant of the Bab 31
2 The Fulfilment of the Covenant of the Bab 52
3 Mirza Yahya, The Nominee of the Bab 60
4 The Breaking of the Bab's Covenant 65
5 The Triumph of the Covenant of the Bab 89
Part Two
1. The Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha
6 Abdu'l-Baha, the Centre of the Covenant 99
7 The Family of Baha'u'llah 111
8 The Arch-breaker of Baha'u'llah's Covenant 125
9 The Relationship of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha 135
10 The Appointment of Abdu'l-Baha 141
11 The Breaking of Baha'u'llah's Covenant 148
12 'The Day that Shall Not Be Followed by Night' 155
13 Principal Covenant-breakers during the ministry
of Abdu'l-Baha 164
14 Clandestine Opposition to the Covenant 170
15 Mirza Aqa Jan 181
16 Discrediting the Centre of the Covenant 193
17 Abdu'l-Baha in Action 208
18 Covenant-breaking in Persia 213
19 Building the Shrine of the Bab 223
20 Years of Incarceration 231
21 Covenant-breaking in the West 245
22 The Baha'i Attitude to Covenant-breaking 253
23 Fostering Steadfastness in the Covenant 261
2. The Formative Age
24 The Close of the Heroic Age 273
25 Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Faith 280
26 Building the Foundations of the Administrative Order 292
27 The Expounder of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah 307
28 The Administrative Order in Action 314
29 Vital Developments at the World Centre 322
30 Rebellion in the East against the Guardian 332
31 Rebellion in the West 343
32 The Faithless Relatives of Shoghi Effendi 351
33 The Onward March of the Faith 370
34 The Chief Stewards 377
35 The Universal House of Justice 394
36 The Unfoldment of the Covenant 408
1 The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha 416
2 Letter from the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land
to all National Spiritual Assemblies, 15 October 1960 429
3 The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice:
Letters from the Universal House of Justice 433
Bibliography 442
References 445
Index 454
Tablet of Baha'u'llah in His handwriting, addressed to Abdu'l-Baha
Between pages 252 and 253
Abdu'l-Baha, the Centre of the Covenant
Abdu'l-Baha as a young man
Bahiyyih Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf
Abdu'l-Baha and the Purest Branch
Aqay-i-Kalim, faithful brother of Baha'u'llah
Ustad Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Salmani
Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali
Dr Yunis Khan-i-Afrukhtih
Dr Habib Mu'ayyad
Haji Ali Yazdi
The House of Abdu'llah Pasha
The House of Abdu'l-Baha in Haifa
The Shrine of the Bab built by Abdu'l-Baha
The superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab
Between pages 412 and 413
Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Cause of God
The Shrine of Baha'u'llah and the Mansion of Bahji surrounded by
the residences of the Covenant-breakers
The Pilgrim House at Bahji
Views of the Mansion of Bahji in ruins
The Mansion of Bahji restored to its original condition
A view of the formal gardens surrounding the Shrine of Baha'u'llah
The Shrine of Baha'u'llah
The Mansion of Mazra'ih
The International Archives Building
The resting-places of the Purest Branch and Navvab
The Hands of the Cause of God
The resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf, with a view of the Seat
of the Universal House of Justice
The extracts from the Writings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah quoted in this book are from the matchless translations by Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, and those carried out under the auspices of the Universal House of Justice. Published sources are acknowledged in the References and Bibliography. There are many other quotations from Persian manuscripts and publications, and these I have translated, unless otherwise indicated. Most quotations had to be edited prior to translation. The footnotes to these quotations, however, are mostly mine, and this is indicated explicitly where confusion may arise. Persian and Arabic names are transliterated in accordance with the system adopted for books on the Baha'i Faith, but quotations are reproduced in their original form.
I am deeply indebted to the Audio-Visual Department of the Baha'i World Centre for supplying the photographs printed in this book.
I wish to extend my warmest appreciation to Dr May Hofman Ballerio for her excellent and skilful editorial work on this book. Her advice and expert assistance on many issues have been of great value to me. I am truly indebted to my dear wife Lesley for her selfless and loving support which she has extended to me in the course of my writing this book.
My special grateful thanks to Mr Thomas Howe for reading the manuscript in its early stages and offering valuable suggestions to improve its syntax.
I wish to extend my warmest thanks and gratitude to Miss Carol Clyde, Miss Corinne Logue and Miss Johanna Merritt for their excellent typing of the manuscript from my scribbled and often illegible notes. I am grateful to Dr Wendi Momen for the skilful production of the index and many helpful suggestions.
This book is an attempt to provide some basic material, however limited in scope, for the study of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah -- the unique and priceless heritage He has bestowed upon His followers. The enormous potentialities latent within so mighty an institution, unprecedented in past Dispensations, will need to be manifested in the course of time stretching far into the future, unfolding thereby the glory and the perfection of Baha'u'llah's new world order destined to usher in the Golden Age of His Faith on this planet.
This peerless Covenant revolves around its Centre, Abdu'l-Baha, extolled by Shoghi Effendi as Baha'u'llah's 'most exalted handiwork, the stainless Mirror of His light, the perfect Exemplar of His teachings, the unerring Interpreter of His word, the embodiment of every Baha'i ideal, the incarnation of every Baha'i virtue, the Most Mighty Branch sprung from the Ancient Root, the Limb of the Law of God, the Being round whom all names revolve, the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity, the Ensign of the Most Great Peace, the Moon of the Central Orb of this Most Holy Dispensation'.
The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, the child of this Covenant, provides its extension through the establishment of the Administrative Order, supported by the two mighty pillars of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice and perpetuating into the future the manifold functions with which the author of the Faith has endowed the institutions of His world-embracing order. These include the protection of the revealed Word from human interference, the preservation of the integrity of the Faith and of the purity of its teachings, principles and laws, the safeguarding of the unity of the Baha'i community, the promotion of an ever-advancing civilization, the provision of means for the spiritualization of the human race, and the development of the necessary agencies needed to establish the Baha'i World Commonwealth as envisaged in the Holy Writings.
In order to grasp the mysteries of the Covenant, and to apprehend its immeasurable potentialities for the unification of humanity and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, the followers of <pxii> Baha'u'llah are duty bound to study this important feature of their Faith.
The Kitab-i-'Ahd (The Book of the Covenant) and the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, the two major documents upon which the Covenant of Baha'u'llah is based, are quoted in full in this volume; it is the hope of the present author that the study of this book might help the reader to appreciate the significance of their contents as well as details of many historical episodes recorded therein.
This appreciation depends also upon the individual's endeavour to deepen his knowledge of the verities of the Faith of Baha'u'llah, and to meditate, in a prayerful attitude, on His Writings and those of Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi in order to discover for himself 'the pearls of wisdom' hidden within the ocean of Baha'u'llah's Revelation and thereby perceive, to the extent of his capacity, the preponderating role of Baha'u'llah's mighty Covenant as well as the mysteries it enshrines.
That this book, however inadequate, may even to a small extent assist those who embrace the Faith of Baha'u'llah in the study of His Covenant, is the ardent hope of the present author. <p1>
Physical life in the world around us is governed by the laws of nature. The sun pours its energy upon all living things on this planet, the earth supplies the food, while every creature responds to the dictates of nature. The mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms are all under its control and cannot deviate a hair's breadth from the course which the Creator has set for them. For instance, the bee is created to make its hive only in the form of a hexagon; it cannot choose to build it in a different form. The fish must live in the water, and the beast inhabit the land. Each living organism and, indeed, the whole universe involuntarily obeys the laws of nature.
Man is the only exception. God has endowed him with two opposite natures, the animal or physical, and the spiritual. Man's physical being is subject to the laws of nature; but his soul, his spiritual nature, is not. The soul emanates from the spiritual worlds of God and cannot be bound by material ties. Because of his spiritual qualities man has been endowed by the Creator with the special faculty of free will, a faculty which is absent in the rest of His creation on earth. Furthermore, God has created man in His own image, meaning that He has conferred all His attributes upon man, attributes that are latent within him.
In order to enable the soul to progress and attain spiritual qualities and so reveal these latent attributes, God has made a Covenant with man and has required him to abide by its provisions. We note therefore that whereas the body of man is bound by the laws of nature, his soul is governed by the laws of the Covenant of God. A covenant is a contract between two sides, each of whom has obligations to fulfil. It follows that a meaningful covenant between God and man must require freedom of choice on both sides, and that man must exercise his free will in choosing his response to his Creator.
The relationship of God with man in this Covenant is somewhat similar to the relationship between the principal of a school and the child. As soon as a child goes to school for the first time, he enters into a covenant with the school principal, although often without <p2> really knowing it. In this contract the principal provides the means for the education of the child. He appoints teachers to teach him, draws up the educational programme and ensures the child's well-being and development in every way. The child's part in this covenant is to follow the instructions of the teacher and learn every lesson he is taught. It is through this process that the child acquires knowledge, develops his capacity, and becomes endowed with intellectual and spiritual powers. As the child grows in learning and maturity, the principal will appoint other teachers to contribute to his education. In this covenant, the responsibilities of the two parties are fundamentally different. They cannot be confused and are not interchangeable.
Another feature of this covenant is that the two parties are not of the same calibre. One side, the school principal, is knowledgeable, wise and strong. The other, the child, is unlearned, weak and immature. The terms of this covenant are drawn up entirely by the strong party and the child has no say in them. Usually, the weaker party is the loser when a contract is drawn up solely by the strong. Not so in this case, for the motive of the principal in making all the arrangements is his love for the child and concern for its education. His greatest ambition is to see the child attain wisdom and knowledge. He longs to see his pupil become a mature person.
The same is true of God. He is the Creator, the Almighty, the Author of the Covenant, whose terms He Himself has stipulated unilaterally without the help of man. As in the above example, God's part in this Covenant is different from man's. God's part is to release the vivifying forces of life and of Revelation, and man's is to receive these voluntarily and obey His commandments wholeheartedly.
We learn from the study of religions that it is the act of creation itself that brings about this Covenant of God with man. God's part in the Covenant is to confer life upon the individual, to provide him, on the one hand, with his physical needs by placing at his disposal all the resources of this earth and, on the other, to bestow upon his soul the bounty of His Revelation by sending His Messengers to guide his steps toward his everlasting abode.
Baha'u'llah tells us that everything in the physical world is created for the well-being and development of humanity. Addressing man in Hidden Words, He affirms:
"O Son of Bounty! "Out of the wastes of nothingness, with the clay of My command I made thee to appear, and have ordained for thy training every atom in existence and the essence of all created things. Thus, ere thou didst issue from thy mother's womb, I destined for thee two founts of gleaming milk eyes to watch over thee, and hearts to love thee. Out of My loving kindness, <p3> 'neath the shade of My mercy I nurtured thee, and guarded thee, by the essence of My grace and favour..." [I-1]
This and many similar passages in the Writings of Baha'u'llah indicate that God has created the mineral, the vegetable and the animal worlds for man's benefit and for his use. There is a delicate relationship between all levels of creation in which the lower kingdom serves the higher kingdom while the higher kingdom lives in harmony with the lower. Indeed, the world of nature is placed at man's disposal to enrich the quality of his life while on this earth, while man is duty bound to respect and preserve his environment.
God provides not only for man's physical well-being, but He also reveals Himself to him through His Messengers in order to develop his spiritual life. Through the influence of these Messengers humanity has passed through the stages of infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and today, as a result of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, is destined to come of age. The Messengers are similar to the teachers in the above analogy. They reveal progressively the teachings of God in accordance with the capacity of the people of their own age.
As the recipient of God's spiritual bounties, mankind has progressed in each age to the extent that it has been able to carry out the teachings of His Messengers and Prophets. As in the analogy where a child's progress depends on his willingness to obey the teacher and carry out his instructions, the spiritual advancement of the human soul is, to a great extent, dependent upon the receptivity of the individual and his readiness to obey his Lord. Should he submit to the will of God, be willing to obey the teaching of His Messengers, and open his heart to receive the outpouring of God's Revelation for the age he lives in, then he has been faithful to the Covenant of God. But if he fails to turn to God's Messengers and His Manifestation, he will become spiritually impoverished. This is true both for individuals and for society as a whole.
This eternal Covenant of God with man encompasses several distinguishable forms. The Baha'i scholar George Townshend, for instance, has identified seven types of covenant as being subsidiaries of the eternal Covenant. He outlines them as follows:
"1. The ... Covenant, beginning with Adam and closing with Baha'u'llah, between God and the whole human race.
2. Between God and each Messenger, assigning His Mission.
3. Between a Messenger and the faithful: Covenant of the next (or of a later) Manifestation.
4. Between the Messenger and the faithful: Ethical Covenant of faith and obedience.
5. Between the Messenger and the faithful: Covenant of immediate Successor. <p4>
6. Between the Messenger and a disciple.
7. Between the immediate Successor (e.g. the Centre of the Covenant) and the faithful: i. Covenant of continuing succession ii. Ethical Covenant" [I-2]
The question of successorship (nos. 3, 5 and 7 in Townshend's analysis) is of prime importance in the history of religion. A lack of consensus among the faithful has been one of the major causes of schism and disunity within religions and is one of the reasons why each Manifestation of God has been persecuted. This question can be divided into two aspects: the Greater Covenant and the Lesser Covenant. The Greater Covenant is that which a Manifestation of God makes with His followers concerning the next Manifestation. The Lesser Covenant is the one which a Manifestation of God makes concerning His immediate successor.
In this book we will discuss mainly three forms of the Covenant which are of great significance to the followers of Baha'u'llah:
1. The Covenant of the Bab concerning the Revelation of Baha'u'llah described as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest': the Greater Covenant in the Dispensation of the Bab.
2. The Covenant of Baha'u'llah concerning the appointment of Abdu'l-Baha as His successor; part of the Lesser Covenant.
3. The Covenant made by Abdu'l-Baha concerning Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice: also part of the Lesser Covenant.
These three themes correspond to the three main parts of this book.
In the great scheme of the Covenant of God, divine bounties reach humanity through the agency of the human soul. Thus, at this early stage of the book we will focus our attention on the nature of the soul, in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of this essential agent in the divine plan of the will of God for this age. <p4>
The Covenant and the Human Soul
The basic principle which governs the operation of the Covenant of God with man may be said to have been revealed by Baha'u'llah in the following passage in Hidden Words:
"Love Me that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. Know this, O Servant." [P-l]
It is clear from the above statement that there is a love relationship between God and man. But to receive the bounties of God's love, man must take the first steps. It is like opening a channel, and needs to be done by the individual in the first place.
The soul is a spiritual entity. It has no physical existence; one cannot observe or understand it through scientific or other material means. Its essence, its reality, are beyond the understanding and comprehension of man.
In a Tablet revealed in Baghdad and addressed to Mulla Hadiy-i-Qazvani,[1] a Letter of the Living who later became a follower of Mirza Yahya, Baha'u'llah refers to the human soul as a 'divinely ordained and subtle mystery' and the 'sign of the revelation of the All-Abiding, All-Glorious God'. He affirms that no one will ever know the essence of the soul:
[1 Concerning this Tablet, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, pp. 144-5]
"Wert thou to ponder in thine heart, from now until the end that hath no end, and with all the concentrated intelligence and understanding which the greatest minds have attained in the past or will attain in the future, this divinely ordained and subtle Reality, this Sign of the revelation of the All-Abiding, All-Glorious God, thou wilt fail to comprehend its mystery or to appraise its virtue." [P-2]
Although it is impossible for man, at least in this world, to discover the essence of his own soul, he can observe its powers and witness the expression of its attributes within himself. Belief in the soul, and knowledge of its existence and attributes, come to us <p6> originally through the words of the Manifestations of God. It is they who primarily impart to mankind the vision of spiritual realities.
In past dispensations humanity had not acquired the capacity to understand the spiritual realms of God. Christ confirmed this fact when He stated:
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you unto all truth..." [P-3]
This is why the Manifestations of old spoke about the soul but did not explain its nature or reveal any of its mysteries. Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, who was the last Messenger of God in the Prophetic Cycle and whose Revelation was the latest of all the older Dispensations, referred to the soul only in one short sentence in the Qur'an:
"They ask thee concerning the spirit. Say: The spirit (was created) at the command of my Lord. But you have no knowledge given unto you except a little." [P-4]
In this Dispensation, however, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha shed much light on the subject. In many Tablets they testify to the existence of the soul, describe it as an unknowable spiritual reality, acknowledge its exalted station, refer to it as a 'mighty sign of God', and reveal a great deal about its qualities and attributes, its immortality, its condition and its progress in the afterlife. So vast is the range of these Writings that a large volume could be compiled of all their utterances on the subject. Indeed, Baha'u'llah's explanations of the human soul are among the great contributions that He has made to religious knowledge, revealed in proportion to the capacity of the people of this age.
These explanations are limited to the description of the characteristics of the soul; in no way do they reveal the reality of the soul itself. Since it is a spiritual entity, the soul emanates from the spiritual worlds of God, and it is therefore impossible to describe its innermost essence in words; it cannot be understood by human intellect or other physical senses. Baha'u'llah confirms this in a Tablet addressed to a certain believer known as Abdu'r-Razzaq:
"Know, verily, that the soul is a sign of God, a heavenly gem whose reality the most learned of men hath failed to grasp, and whose mystery no mind, however acute, can ever hope to unravel...
"Verily I say, the human soul is, in its essence, one of the signs of God, a mystery among His mysteries. It is one of the mighty signs of the Almighty, the harbinger that proclaimeth the reality of all the worlds of <p7> God. Within it lieth concealed that which the world is now utterly incapable of apprehending." [P-5]
Nevertheless, a study of Baha'u'llah's Writings is enlightening. We learn from the Writings that the soul, being an emanation from the spiritual worlds of God, comes into existence at the time of conception, when it becomes associated with the body. The belief that the soul exists before conception is therefore contrary to the teachings of Baha'u'llah. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, states, 'the soul or spirit of the individual comes into being with the conception of his physical body'. [P-6] The soul, being exalted above entry or exit, ascent or descent, cannot be physically placed inside a body or have any connection with material things.
Baha'u'llah declares in the same Tablet to Abdu'r-Razzaq:
"Verily I say, the human soul is exalted above all egress and regress. It is still, and yet it soareth; it moveth, and yet it is still. It is, in itself, a testimony that beareth witness to the existence of a world that is contingent, as well as to the reality of a world that hath neither beginning nor end." [P-7]
The association of the soul and the body is similar to the association of light and the mirror. The light is not inside the mirror, but reflected on it from a different source. When the mirror breaks, the light remains unaffected.
When the soul becomes associated with the body, a human being with a unique identity is created. This creation has a beginning at the time of conception, but has no end. Abdu'l-Baha states: 'The spirit of man has a beginning, but it has no end; it continues eternally.' [P-8] The soul is thus immortal and will progress in the spiritual worlds of God for all eternity. Such a concept of everlasting life is truly a most uplifting vision for the human race. This thought of immortality can evoke in the heart of every believer the feelings of utmost joy and gratitude for having been endowed with eternal life by Almighty God. Another feature of this bounty is that God has bestowed an everlasting privilege upon the parents who become aware of, and rejoice in, being instrumental in bringing into this world children whose souls are destined to progress in the worlds of God throughout eternity.
To understand any spiritual reality, one needs to read the Holy Writings and meditate upon them. Another source from which the individual may learn is nature itself, through an examination of the principles of nature, provided he can relate his findings to the truths enshrined in the Holy Writings. The combination of the two can enable him to grasp a measure of the reality of any spiritual subject, including the human soul. A word of warning is needed, however, <p8> in that whereas the Holy Writings are self-sufficient sources for the understanding of spiritual truth, the study of the laws of nature will have to be harmonized with the Writings. Otherwise, by merely employing some principles of nature in one's study of spiritual life, the result could be misleading indeed.
A deeper understanding of religious truth may be realized when the individual recognizes the fact that God's creation is one entity. The spiritual and physical worlds are not separate entities, but parts of one realm of being. The laws and principles governing the world of nature are similar to those which operate in the spiritual worlds of God, in the world of religion and in the world of man. To give an example: we note a great similarity between the laws governing the life of a tree and those which motivate the life of man, both physically and spiritually. We note that the tree thrusts its roots deep into the soil and draws on the minerals in the earth for its food. The soil is inferior to the tree; the tree is nevertheless dependent upon it for its existence. In spite of this dependence, the tree grows in the opposite direction, away from the soil. As if disliking the soil, it raises up its branches high towards the sky. This is similar to man and his state of detachment from the material world when his soul aspires to spiritual things and renounces earthly desires.
By growing upwards, away from the soil, the tree becomes the recipient of the rays of the sun, the most precious thing in this physical world. As a result of the outpouring of energies released by the sun, the tree becomes verdant and produces beautiful blossoms and fruit. Of course, the growth of the tree is involuntary. But let us suppose that it had a choice and, because it loves the earth and is dependent on the soil, inclined its branches downwards and buried itself in the ground. Then it could no longer receive the rays of the sun; in the end, it would rot away.
The same principles apply to a human being who has to live in this world and work to earn a living, and who depends upon material things for his existence. God, however, has destined in His Covenant with man that the soul of man should become detached from the things of this world and aspire towards spiritual realms. But unlike the tree, which has no choice, man has free will. If he chooses to disregard the provisions of the Covenant and to fall in love with the world, its vanities and its material attractions, then he becomes a bondslave of earthly things and his soul, deprived of the power of faith, becomes impoverished.
On the other hand, when the individual aspires to spiritual things, turns to the Manifestation of God, and does not direct all his affections towards this mortal world, then his soul becomes illumined with the rays of the Sun of Truth and will fulfil the purpose <p9> for which it has been created. The above example showing the similarity between tree and man demonstrates that the physical and the spiritual worlds of God are related to each other by similar laws. It is therefore possible to discover some spiritual principles by examining physical laws. Similarly, the basic laws and teachings of a religion can be seen as the laws of nature in a higher realm. The difference is that as the laws of a lower kingdom are applied to a higher kingdom, certain features are added which are absent in the lower one. This fact was noted in the above example; the added feature is that man exercises his free will to decide his own destiny, while the tree grows involuntarily, the element of choice being absent in the vegetable kingdom.
In one of His Tablets [P-9] Baha'u'llah states that every created thing in this physical world has some counterpart in the worlds of God. In order to identify these, we can turn to the words and utterances of the Manifestations of God and be guided by their explanations. For example, the study of the Writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha leads us to believe that a counterpart of the Manifestation of God in this physical kingdom is the sun. As the sun pours out its energies upon this earth and is the cause of life, so is the Manifestation of God in relation to humanity. The study of some of the characteristics of the sun could help us to appreciate some of the powers and attributes of the Manifestation of God, to the extent of our human limitations.
We may ask what the physical counterpart of the soul is in this world. It seems from the study of the Writings that it is the embryo growing in the womb of a mother. From a study of the latter, we can deduce some attributes and characteristics of the former. We can observe striking similarities between the two; for example, we note that the embryo begins its life as one cell. There are no limbs and organs at first, but the cell has the capacity to multiply, and in the fullness of time become transformed into a perfect human body. Similarly the soul when it is first created is a 'heavenly gem'. It is without experience and its qualities and powers are latent within it, but it is capable of acquiring these latent qualities progressively in the course of a lifetime. God has decreed that the embryo develop limbs and organs while shielded within the womb. Similarly, He has ordained that the soul develop spiritual qualities in the course of its association with the body. It is in this life, this womb-world, that the soul can acquire divine virtues and perfections. If it so chooses, it can become the repository of knowledge, of wisdom, of love and all the other attributes of God.
The growth of limbs and organs in the embryonic life, and the development of spiritual qualities by the soul, are governed by the same principles. But there is a major difference. The growth of <p10> the embryo is involuntary and dictated by nature, while the soul has freedom of choice. This is an added dimension granted to the soul which does not exist in the physical world of nature.
In a Tablet revealed in honour of Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Khalil,[1] a believer of note from Qazvin, Baha'u'llah states:
[1 For further information about him, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, pp. 259-261.]
"And now, concerning thy question regarding the creation of man. Know thou that all men have been created in the nature made by God, the Guardian, the Self-Subsisting. Unto each one hath been prescribed a preordained measure, as decreed in God's mighty and guarded Tablets. All that which ye potentially possess can, however, be manifested only as a result of your own volition." [P-10]
Another similarity between the soul and the embryo is that the latter grows within the womb for only a short period of time. It is a transitory stage, not designed as a place to live in for ever. This world is also of limited duration for the soul. It is not a place of eternal residence; every human being will inevitably have to depart from it. The goal of life for every child is to die to the womb and be born into this world, its next world. So is the goal for the soul, whose ultimate destiny is to depart from this world and enter into the spiritual worlds of God.
Another similarity between the soul and the embryo is that the child must develop his limbs and organs in the womb of his mother. If he is born without some of these, he will be handicapped, for he is unable to acquire them in this life. The soul too must develop spiritual qualities in this world. The acquisition of wisdom, knowledge, love, humility and all other divine attributes is possible only in this earthly kingdom. We note that some limbs or organs seem to be useless in the womb-world. For instance, eyes are incapable of seeing there, but when the child is born, the light will bring vision to his eyes. The combination of the two -- eyes acquired in the womb, and the rays of light existing in this world -- endow a human being with vision. Similarly, the virtues and perfections which the soul has acquired in this world, combined with the conditions of the spiritual worlds which are unknown to us while on this mortal plane, will cause the soul to progress in the next life.
As long as a human being lives in this world, the soul and the body are associated with each other. When death takes place, this association comes to an end; the body will return to its origin, which is the earth. The soul also returns to its origin which is the spiritual worlds of God. The embryo begins its life as one cell, but ends up as a perfect human body by the time of its birth. The soul is the same. When it first emanates from the spiritual worlds of God, it has no <p11> powers. But if it has grown properly, lived a good life on this earth, and acquired spiritual qualities, then it returns in a state of might and glory to its own original habitation. Manifesting the signs of God and possessing divine attributes, it retains its own individuality and identity, and as Baha'u'llah promises, it will associate with God's Messengers and Chosen Ones in the realms above.
In the Tablet to Abdu'r-Razzaq, Baha'u'llah discloses the grandeur of the soul after its separation from the body, a soul which has walked in the path of its Lord in this life:
"When it [the soul] leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness." [P-11]
Here we see a vast contrast between the soul at the beginning, when it is first associated with the body at the time of conception, and at its consummation, when it returns to its origin in the spiritual worlds of God. At first devoid of all power, at the end it is the possessor of many attributes and spiritual qualities. The condition of the soul in the next world is, therefore, dependent on the acquisition of spiritual attributes, in the same way that the condition of the child born into this world depends on his healthy development in the world of the womb.
We learn from the Holy Writings and by looking at nature that God's creation is not finite: it is infinite in every respect. This is true of the physical universe, which is limitless in size. It is also true of the spiritual worlds of God. Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha have in many of their Tablets revealed that the soul of man will continually progress in the spiritual worlds which are countless in number and infinite in range. In one of His Tablets [P-12] Baha'u'llah states that all the spiritual worlds of God revolve around this world, and that in every world a particular condition has been decreed by God for each soul.
One of the fascinating mysteries of creation is the whereabouts of the next world, the spiritual domain which is mentioned in all the heavenly Books. The study of the Writings of Baha'u'llah and a look at nature will resolve this question. One of the principles of nature is that higher forms of life revolve around, and depend upon, the lowest. In this physical world we observe that all living things derive their sustenance from the mineral world, which is the lower kingdom. This earth, although the lowest form of life, gives birth to higher forms and may be regarded as a pivot round which the kingdoms of the vegetable, the animal and man revolve. Similarly, the spiritual worlds of God, as testified by Baha'u'llah in His Tablets, revolve around this world, the world of man. This means that the <p12> next world is not divorced from life in this world, but rather encompasses it. We notice in nature that while the child grows in the womb, he is, in reality, in this world. Only a small barrier separates the womb-world from this one. It is like a chicken inside an egg: before the egg breaks open, a thin shell acts as a barrier, but both the egg and the chicken are in this world from the beginning.
The child in the womb of the mother is unable to discover that the world into which he is destined to be born is amazingly close to him. This principle applies in the spiritual realms also. As longs as man dwells in the physical world he is unable to apprehend the features of the next world, which embraces the human world and all that it contains. Nor is he capable of visualising the grandeur and the splendour of heavenly kingdoms. It is only after its separation from the body that the soul will appreciate how close the spiritual world has been, and how it encompasses this physical world. Then it will realize that, as Baha'u'llah testifies in one of His Tablets, 'the world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother'. [P-13]
God has not granted to the unborn child the ability to discover the smallness of its temporary abode, or the vastness and the beauty of this world. Similarly, He has not endowed the human being, while on this earth, with the ability to perceive even to an infinitesimal measure the conditions of the spiritual worlds of God. If He had, the stability as well as the purpose of this life would have been completely undermined. Baha'u'llah states in one of His Tablets that should the station destined for a true believer in the world beyond be revealed to the extent of a needle's eye, every soul would expire in ecstasy. The story of Siyyid Isma'il of Zavarih, surnamed Dhabih (Sacrifice) who attained the presence of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad, is an example. Baha'u'llah complied with his plea and revealed to him a glimmer of the unknowable worlds of God. As a result of this experience, Dhabih could no longer bear to live in this world and took his own life.[1]
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, pp 101-103.]
Those who have passed into the next life abide in a realm which enfolds and embraces this life. The influence which pure and enlightened souls in the spiritual kingdom exert upon the world of humanity is the main cause of its progress, according to the teachings of Baha'u'llah. This truth may be appreciated if one looks at nature and examines the relationship of the unborn child to those who care for him in this world. There are a host of people who are deeply interested in the welfare of the unborn. First, there is the mother who bears the child, loves it, and is even willing to risk her life for its <p13> health and protection. Then, there is the father and many other people who are directly or indirectly involved in its welfare. But the child, so long as it is going through the embryonic stage of growth, is unaware of the love and care which are directed towards it. Similarly, those souls in the next world who are possessed of spiritual qualities are the instruments of man's welfare, development and growth on this earth. In many of His Writings Baha'u'llah has attributed man's progress in this world to the influence of the 'Concourse on high', the gathering of the Prophets and God's holy and chosen souls. He also indicates that when the believers in this Dispensation have shown extraordinary heroism and self-sacrifice in the path of God, these acts have caused great jubilation and rejoicing among the Concourse on high.[1]
[1 For an example, see the story of Badi', The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3, ch. 9. ]
In the same Tablet to Abdu'r-Razzaq, Baha'u'llah describes the influence of pure and holy souls upon mankind. These are His assuring words:
"Thou hadst, moreover, asked Me concerning the state of the soul after its separation from the body. Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will, assuredly, return and be gathered to the glory of the Beloved. By the righteousness of God! It shall attain a station such as no pen can depict, or tongue describe. The soul that hath remained faithful to the Cause of God, and stood unwaveringly firm in His Path shall, after his ascension, be possessed of such power that all the worlds which the Almighty hath created can benefit through him. Such a soul provideth, at the bidding of the Ideal King and Divine Educator, the pure leaven that leaveneth the world of being, and furnisheth the power through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Consider how meal needeth leaven to be leavened with. Those souls that are the symbols of detachment are the leaven of the world. Meditate on this, and be of the thankful." [P-14]
The influence which these holy souls exert upon humanity can only be for the good of mankind. Abdu'l-Baha states, 'God has never created an evil spirit...' [P-15] There can be no such thing as evil influences from the next world affecting anyone in this world. This is because the soul, when ascending to the next world, cannot carry with it 'bad' qualities. And since there is no evil in that realm, there can be no evil effects which could reach this world.
The soul carries with it divine attributes and spiritual qualities to the next world, but cannot take with it bad qualities for badness has no existence of its own; it is only the lack of goodness. In order to clarify this point further, let us look at the following examples. We may note that darkness has no real existence; it is the absence of light. <p14> It is the same with poverty; a poor man cannot claim that he carries his poverty around with him. What he has is very little money. There is no standard for measuring poverty; it can only be defined as lack of riches, and is measured by the standard of wealth. A bad person may be described as one who has very few good qualities. His soul is impoverished and therefore he can take only a very small measure of goodness with him to the spiritual worlds of God.
The degree of the progress of one's soul in the spiritual worlds of God depends upon the extent to which the individual has adorned his being with the 'ornaments of goodly character and praiseworthy virtues'. This is the main reason that God has sent His Manifestations, so that they can cast light upon man's path in this life and show him how to acquire spiritual qualities and heavenly attributes. We have seen that these attributes, which may be likened to spiritual limbs and organs, are needed in the next world for the continued progress of one's soul. Obedience to the teachings of God will endow the soul with divine attributes, otherwise the soul will return to the spiritual realms of God in a state of loss and impoverishment. In one of His Tablets Baha'u'llah reveals these weighty utterances:
"If it [the soul] be faithful to God, it will reflect His light, and will eventually, return unto Him. If it fail, however, in its allegiance to its Creator, it will become a victim to self and passion, and will, in the end, sink in their depths... Every soul that walketh humbly with its God, in this Day, and cleaveth unto Him, shall find itself invested with the honour and glory of all goodly names and stations." [P-16]
From the study of the Writings we gather that as in this world where there are degrees of existence such as the mineral, the vegetable, the animal and man -- and within each kingdom there are many divisions -- the soul will also progress in the spiritual worlds of God on different levels, depending on the qualities it has acquired in this life. The level in which the soul can abide in the next world is determined by its closeness to God and the spiritual attributes that it takes with it after its separation from the body. However, there is another determining factor, and that is the bounty of God. Through this the soul may be elevated, and its outpouring is beyond the comprehension of man.[1]
[1 For an example of this, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, p. 401.]
It is stated in the Writings of Baha'u'llah that the souls on a higher level will encompass those on a lower one, while the latter will not be able to comprehend the powers and realities of the former. In fact, the grading of human souls and their different stations is similar to the variety of creatures which God has created on this earth. We note that in this physical world also the lower kingdom is blind to the <p15> qualities of a higher one. For instance, while the three kingdoms are so closely linked together, breathing the same air and receiving the same sunshine, the vegetable does not understand the animal and the animal is incapable of really knowing the human being. Conversely, based on the same principles, we note that the higher kingdom dominates the lower ones. The animal has ascendancy over the vegetable, while man rules over the entire world of nature.
In a Tablet revealed in honour of one of His apostles, Zayn'ul-Muqarrabin,[1] Baha'u'llah reveals these thought-provoking words:
[1 For a short reference to his life, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, pp. 25-6.]
"And now concerning thy question whether human souls continue to be conscious one of another after their separation from the body...
"The people of Baha, who are the inmates of the Ark of God, are one and all well aware of one another's state and condition, and are united in the bonds of intimacy and fellowship. Such a state, however, must depend upon their faith and their conduct. They that are of the same grade and station are fully aware of one another's capacity, character, accomplishments and merits. They that are of a lower grade, however, are incapable of comprehending adequately the station, or of estimating the merits, of those that rank above them. Each shall receive his share from thy Lord. Blessed is the man that hath turned his face towards God, and walked steadfastly in His love, until his soul hath winged its flight unto God, the Sovereign Lord of all, the Most Powerful, the Ever-Forgiving, the All-Merciful.
"The souls of the infidels, however, shall -- and to this I bear witness -- when breathing their last be made aware of the good things that have escaped them, and shall bemoan their plight, and shall humble themselves before God. They shall continue doing so after the separation of their souls from their bodies.
"It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize all that their hands have wrought. I swear by the Day Star that shineth above the horizon of Divine power! They that are the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe, while they that live in error shall be seized with such fear and trembling, and shall be filled with such consternation, as nothing can exceed. Well is it with him that hath quaffed the choice and incorruptible wine of faith through the gracious favour and the manifold bounties of Him Who is the Lord of all Faiths..." [P-17]
The knowledge that souls will be divided in the next world, and that each one in accordance with its capacity will progress on its own level, can exert a considerable influence upon the individual to mend his ways in this life, to turn to God and consciously adorn his soul with the 'ornament of pure deeds and goodly character'. <p16>
Abdu'l-Baha has shed further light on this subject. Speaking to His guests at His dinner table in Akka, he said:
"As the divine bounties are endless, so human perfections are endless. If it were possible to reach a limit of perfection, then one of the realities of the beings might reach the condition of being independent of God, and the contingent might attain to the condition of the absolute. But for every being there is a point which it cannot overpass; that is to say, he who is in the condition of servitude, however far he may progress in gaining limitless perfections, will never reach the condition of Deity. It is the same with the other beings: a mineral, however far it may progress in the mineral kingdom, cannot gain the vegetable power; also in a flower, however far it may progress in the vegetable kingdom, no power of the senses will appear. So this silver mineral cannot gain hearing or sight; it can only improve in its own condition, and become a perfect mineral, but it cannot acquire the power of growth, or the power of sensation, or attain to life; it can only progress in its own condition.
"For example, Peter cannot become Christ. All that he can do is, in the condition of servitude, to attain endless perfections; for every existing reality is capable of making progress." [P-18]
From the above words we may conclude that the soul will continue to progress in the spiritual worlds of God on its own level, and that this progress is due to the bounty of God. The soul may also progress by means of prayers for the departed offered by those still in this life. Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha have revealed many prayers for this occasion. It is also stated in the Baha'i Writings that acts of charity in memory of the departed will uplift the condition of the soul. It is for this reason that individual Baha'is customarily commemorate the passing of their loved ones by holding a meeting of prayer and remembrance.
It is interesting to note that the early believers in the East during the days of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha never celebrated their own birthdays. They considered that such an act would imply self-glorification, a means of boosting one's ego. It never crossed their minds that a certain day was their birthday. So real and genuine was this attitude that a great many individuals did not know the exact date of their birth. In the absence of birth certificates, some parents would record the date of the birth of their children in a certain book, much as Westerners used the family Bible for the same purpose. Even then an individual would be deeply insulted if someone wanted to celebrate his birthday,[1] for the only persons whose birthday merited celebration were the Prophets and Chosen Ones of God. Instead of celebrating birthdays, however, these people held regular <p17> annual memorial meetings, inviting their friends to join in remembering one of their loved ones who had passed away. In such a meeting, they prayed for the progress of his soul, recounted his services to the Cause, described his qualities, recited Tablets revealed in his honour, if any, and offered charitable donations on his behalf. This practice of annual remembrance of the departed, which is not a binding obligation in the Baha'i Faith, is now followed by many Baha'i families. The organisation of such meetings is not usually the responsibility of the institutions of the Faith. They are arranged by individuals on the anniversaries of the passing of their loved ones.
[1 It must be noted that there is nothing in the Baha'i writings either to condemn the celebration of one's birthday or to encourage it. ]

The following are the words of Abdu'l-Baha as He spoke to His guests at His dinner table in Akka:
"Also a father and mother endure the greatest troubles and hardships for their children; and often when the children have reached the age of maturity, the parents pass on to the other world. Rarely does it happen that a father and mother in this world see the reward of the care and trouble they have undergone for their children. Therefore, children, in return for this care and trouble, must show forth charity and beneficence, and must implore pardon and forgiveness for their parents. So you ought, in return for the love and kindness shown you by your father, to give to the poor for his sake, with greatest submission and humility implore pardon and remission of sins, and ask for the supreme mercy.
"It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed -- that is to say, they may become the object of pardon through the bounty of God, not through His justice -- for bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved. As we have power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore, in that world also they can make progress. As here they can receive light by their supplications, there also they can plead for forgiveness and receive light through entreaties and supplications. Thus as souls in this world, through the help of the supplications, the entreaties and the prayers of the holy ones, can acquire development, so is it the same after death. Through their own prayers and supplications they can also progress, more especially when they are the object of the intercession of the Holy Manifestations." [P-19]
The spiritual qualities acquired by the soul in the course of a lifetime -- qualities such as knowledge, wisdom, humility, love and other virtues -- are acquired gradually. The individual grows in maturity with the passage of time. The spiritual growth of the soul is similar to the organic growth of living creatures. To return to the metaphor of the tree, whose life begins with the planting of a seed: it grows gradually, bringing forth branches, leaves, shoots and offshoots one after another, until the time comes when it produces its <p18> fruit. The stage of fruition may be said to constitute the crowning achievement of the tree; it is that stage in which the tree has fulfilled the purpose for which it was created. But the tree cannot produce its fruit by itself. It acts as a female and has to be pollinated by a male element which fertilizes its ovules. Other living creatures which produce their young also go through the same process of intercourse with their male counterparts.
The same is true of the soul. It comes into being at the time of conception, it gradually acquires divine qualities, but there comes a time when it has to produce its fruit. Not until the soul reaches this point can it be said to have fulfilled its destiny. This can happen when, following the above principle of male and female interaction, the soul assumes the function of the female and establishes a spiritual intercourse with another agency. If it chooses the material world as a partner, then the child born of that union will be a materialistic way of life which deprives the soul of its spiritual heritage. A great many people in the world allow themselves to fall in love with material things; consequently the soul is impoverished and although it is a spiritual entity, it becomes sullied with worldly affections and gives birth to materialism, an offspring unworthy of its high station. But the Covenant of God enjoins upon man to recognize His Manifestation and turn to Him. These are the words of Baha'u'llah as revealed in a prayer stating the purpose of creation:
"I bear witness, O my God, that Thou has created me to know Thee and to worship Thee..." [P-20]
By turning with devotion to Baha'u'llah, the Manifestation of God in this day, by submitting to His Will and becoming enamoured of Him, the soul becomes a fertile instrument and a worthy recipient for the outpouring of His Revelation. Through the establishment of a spiritual intercourse with the energizing forces of this Revelation, the soul becomes fertilized and will give birth to a noble offspring -- the spirit of faith. This is the ultimate and most glorious destiny for the soul, the purpose for which it is created.
In each Dispensation the Manifestations of God have bestowed the gift of faith on their followers. Christ referred to it as the 'second birth'. In this day the child of faith is conceived in the soul when a person's heart is touched by the love of Baha'u'llah and he becomes assured of the truth of His Revelation. And when it becomes evident that the individual has been illumined by the 'spirit of faith', he will need to take spiritual nourishment so that his new-born faith may be enabled to grow. This spiritual food is the Word of God, revealed in this day by Baha'u'llah. By reciting His Words regularly every day and every night, as He has ordained, and through obedience to His <p19> teachings, the spirit of faith will grow step by step and the believer will become steadfast in faith and assured and happy in his life. If he neglects this vital necessity, his faith will diminish in strength and he may even lose it altogether.
In many of His Tablets Baha'u'llah has extolled the station of a soul who has been endowed with the spirit of faith and confirms that if 'that station were to be unveiled to mankind, every beholder would be consumed away in his longing to attain it'. [P-21]
Referring to the station of a soul who has truly recognized Him, Baha'u'llah, in a Tablet, reveals these words:
"We dare not, in this Day, lift the veil that concealeth the exalted station which every true believer can attain, for the joy which such a revelation must provoke might well cause a few to faint away and die... "By the righteousness of the one true God! The very breath of these souls is in itself richer than all the treasures of the earth. Happy is the man that hath attained thereunto, and woe betide the heedless." [P-22]
So precious is the soul of a true believer in the estimation of God that Baha'u'llah states, in one of His Tablets [P-23] revealed in honour of one of the Afnans, that it is for the sake of His loved ones that God has created the heavens and the earth and all that is therein.
There are numerous Tablets[1]in which Baha'u'llah has disclosed the nature of the soul and described its main features. Notable among these is a Tablet revealed in Akka in honour of Abdu'l-Vahhab, a believer from Quchan in the Province of Khurasan. We cite part of this Tablet in these pages:
[1 Parts of these Tablets are translated by Shoghi Effendi and published in Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, nos. LXXVII, LXXVIII and LXXX (both parts of the same Tablet), LXXIX, LXXXI, LXXXII, LXXXIII and LXXXVI.]
"And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. The movement of My Pen is stilled when it attempteth to befittingly describe the loftiness and glory of so exalted a station. The honour with which the Hand of Mercy will invest the soul is such as no tongue can adequately reveal, nor any other earthly agency describe. Blessed is the soul which, at the hour of its separation from the body, is sanctified from the vain imaginings of the peoples of the world. Such a soul liveth and moveth in accordance with the Will of its Creator, and entereth the all-highest <p20> Paradise. The Maids of Heaven, inmates of the loftiest mansions, will circle around it, and the Prophets of God and His chosen ones will seek its companionship. With them that soul will freely converse, and will recount unto them that which it hath been made to endure in the path of God, the Lord of all worlds. If any man be told that which hath been ordained for such a soul in the worlds of God, the Lord of the throne on high and of earth below, his whole being will instantly blaze out in his great longing to attain that most exalted, that sanctified and resplendent station.... The nature of the soul after death can never be described, nor is it meet and permissible to reveal its whole character to the eyes of men. The prophets and Messengers of God have been sent down for the sole purpose of guiding mankind to the straight Path of Truth. The purpose underlying their revelation hath been to educate all men, that they may, at the hour of death, ascend, in the utmost purity and sanctity and with absolute detachment, to the throne of the Most High. The light which these souls radiate is responsible for the progress of the world and the advancement of its peoples. They are like unto leaven which leaveneth the world of being, and constitute the animating force through which the arts and wonders of the world are made manifest. Through them the clouds rain their bounty upon men, and the earth bringeth forth its fruits. All things must needs have a cause, a motive power, an animating principle. These souls and symbols of detachment have provided, and will continue to provide, the supreme moving impulse in the world of being. The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother. When the soul attaineth the Presence of God, it will assume the form that best befitteth its immortality and is worthy of its celestial habitation. Such an existence is a contingent and not an absolute existence, inasmuch as the former is preceded by a cause, whilst the latter is independent thereof. Absolute existence is strictly confined to God, exalted be His glory. Well is it with them that apprehend this truth." [P-24]
God loves to attract a soul to Himself, but there are many barriers interposed between man and his Creator. These are all in the nature of attachment to material, intellectual and spiritual things which prevent man from drawing near to his God.[1] These formidable barriers must be removed before man can draw near to God; it is for this purpose that God has sent His Messengers throughout the ages.
[1 Nearness to the Essence and Reality of God is impossible. By 'God' is meant God revealed to man, i.e. His Manifestation.]
In one of His Tablets [P-25] Baha'u'llah states that there are three barriers between man and God. He exhorts the believers to pass beyond these so that they may attain His Presence. The first barrier is attachment to the things of this world, the second is attachment to the rewards of the next world, and the third is attachment to the Kingdom of Names. <p21>
A believer becomes attached to the things of this world when he allows his material, intellectual and selfish interests to take precedence over the interests of the Cause of God. This does not mean that he has to forego his personal interests, but rather to use them in promoting his spiritual pursuits, and not to allow earthly things to come between him and God.
Since attachment to this world is a great barrier which prevents man from fulfilling his part in the Covenant of God, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha have exhorted their followers in many of their Tablets to become detached from earthly desires, to turn instead to God and obey His commandments.
"O My servants! Could ye apprehend with what wonders of My munificence and bounty I have willed to entrust your souls, ye would of a truth, rid yourselves of attachment to all created things, and would gain a true knowledge of your own selves -- a knowledge which is the same as the comprehension of Mine own Being. Ye would find yourselves independent of all else but Me, and would perceive, with your inner and outer eye, and as manifest as the revelation of My effulgent name, the seas of My loving-kindness and bounty moving within you. Suffer not your idle fancies, your evil passions, your insincerity and blindness of heart to dim the lustre, or stain the sanctity, of so lofty a station. Ye are even as the bird which soareth, with the full force of its mighty wings and with complete and joyous confidence, through the immensity of the heavens, until, impelled to satisfy its hunger, it turneth longingly to the water and clay of the earth below it, and, having been entrapped in the mesh of its desire, findeth itself impotent to resume its flight to the realms whence it came. Powerless to shake off the burden weighing on its sullied wings, that bird, hitherto an inmate of the heavens, is now forced to seek a dwelling-place upon the dust. Wherefore, O My servants, defile not your wings with the clay of waywardness and vain desires, and suffer them not to be stained with the dust of envy and hate, that ye may not be hindered from soaring in the heavens of My divine knowledge." [P-26]
This concept of detachment from material things is often misunderstood and is taken to mean renouncing the world. Many people think that the way to detachment is to shut oneself away in a monastery, lead an ascetic life, or live as a mendicant, careless of one's personal affairs and responsibilities.
None of these practices conform with the teachings of Baha'u'llah. In His second Tablet[1] to Napoleon III, Baha'u'llah, addressing the Christian monks, admonishes them in these words:
[1 ]See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah. vol. 3.
"O concourse of monks! Seclude not yourselves in churches and cloisters. Come forth by My leave, and occupy yourselves with that which will profit your souls and the souls of men. Thus biddeth you the <p22> King of the Day of Reckoning. Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, verily, is a befitting seclusion, were ye of them that perceive it. He that shutteth himself up in a house is indeed as one dead. It behoveth man to show forth that which will profit all created things, and he that bringeth forth no fruit is fit for fire. Thus counselleth you your Lord, and He, verily, is the Almighty, the All-Bounteous. Enter ye into wedlock, that after you someone may fill your place. We have forbidden you perfidious acts, and not that which will demonstrate fidelity." [P-27]
Attachment to this world may be described as anything which becomes a barrier between God and man, depriving the individual from drawing near to his Maker. It is clear from the Writings of Baha'u'llah that God has created this world for man alone. For instance, in The Hidden Words, Baha'u'llah declares:
"O Son of Dust! all that is in heaven and on earth I have ordained for thee except the human heart..." [P-28]
This means that the world and all that is therein is created for man. God wants him to benefit from its wealth, to exploit its resources wisely and in harmony with nature, to work and possess all the good things he can earn, and to enjoy all the legitimate pleasures that life bestows upon him. But at no time must he allow the things of this world to possess him and rule over his heart and soul.
Indeed, in this Dispensation Baha'u'llah has ordained work rendered in the spirit of service to mankind as worship of God. He enjoins upon man the duty of working for the betterment of the world and the building of a new world order on this planet. In one of His Tablets Baha'u'llah has revealed these exalted words:
"Should a man wish to adorn himself with the ornaments of the earth, to wear its apparels, or partake of the benefits it can bestow, no harm can befall him, if he alloweth nothing whatever to intervene between him and God, for God hath ordained every good thing, whether created in the heavens or in the earth, for such of His servants as truly believe in Him. Eat ye, O people, of the good things which God hath allowed you, and deprive not yourselves from His wondrous bounties. Render thanks and praise unto Him, and be of them that are truly thankful." [P-29]
One may be wealthy, yet detached from material things. Man can achieve this if he lives his life in accordance with the teachings of God. In one of His Tablets [P-30] Baha'u'llah states that the good things of this world and its beautiful products are all the manifestations of the attributes of God. To possess them will not become the cause of attachment to material things, provided the individual does not fix his affections upon them, nor allow himself to be possessed by them, <p23> because this world and all that is therein are like unto a passing shadow and transitory. He further explains that one meaning of attachment to this world is attachment to those who have denied Him and repudiated His Cause.
To appreciate the true meaning of detachment, let us examine the nature of a human being. We note that the animal nature in man makes him selfish. The instinct for survival drives him to find food, clothing and shelter for himself. He pursues comfort, wealth and well-being, and has an insatiable appetite for collecting any beautiful and pleasurable object that comes his way. All these, as well as his emotional, spiritual and intellectual pursuits are aimed at benefiting his own self. He is the master of his own life, a pivot around which circle all his material possessions as well as his intellectual pursuits. One day he finds the Cause of God, recognizes its truth, falls in love with it, and then he adds it, like his other possessions, to his collection. He remains the master figure in the centre and all his possessions, including the Faith, revolve around him and serve his interests. Such a person is attached to the things of this world, for he allows his own interests to take precedence over the interests of the Cause, and his own ego to rule over his spiritual side. He puts his religion on a par with his other pursuits and selfishly expects to benefit from it just as he benefits from his other possessions.
On the other hand, genuine detachment from earthly things is achieved when the individual makes the Cause of God the pivot of his life, so that all his personal and material interests may revolve around his Faith. In this case, he can benefit from his material possessions without being attached to them. And since the Cause of God is the prime motivating influence in his life, he will never act against the teachings of his Faith. Every step he takes in his daily activities will be in harmony with the commandments of God. When a person reaches this exalted position, the interests of the Faith take precedence over his personal interests. And when he arises to serve the Cause of God, he will be ready to meet the challenge whatever the cost. Such a person has reached the summit of detachment.
Becoming detached from the things of this world is often a painful process and involves sacrifice. But when the believer gives up something dear to him for the sake of the Cause of God, mysterious forces will be released which will cause the Faith to grow. To offer up one's time, to labour for the establishment of the Faith in a locality, to give up the comforts of home and to go as a pioneer to foreign lands, to offer up one's substance for the promotion of the Cause, to be persecuted for one's faith, and even to give one's life at the end -- all these sacrifices are meritorious in the sight of God and will undoubtedly bring victory to His Cause, provided one's <p24> motives are pure and sincere. That is the essential condition of loyalty and steadfastness in the Covenant of God -- purity of motive. Without it one's deeds are not acceptable by God. Baha'u'llah testifies to this truth in these words:
"O Children of Adam!
"Holy words and pure and goodly deeds ascend unto the heaven of celestial glory. Strive that your deeds may be cleansed from the dust of self and hypocrisy and find favour at the court of glory; for ere long the assayers of mankind shall, in the holy presence of the Adored one, accept naught but absolute virtue and deeds of stainless purity. This is the day-star of wisdom and of divine mystery that hath shone above the horizon of the divine will. Blessed are they that turn thereunto." [P-31]
As to the second barrier: we note in the Holy Writings that the purpose of the creation of man is that he may know God. One of the traditions of Islam states that in the beginning God was a 'Hidden Treasure', but desired to be discovered and recognized. He created man for this purpose. And now man has found God and turned to Him. Returning to the Short Obligatory Prayer which Baha'u'llah revealed for His followers to recite each day, we read: 'I bear witness O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee...'
Man, therefore, is created to serve his Lord and worship him with a pure heart, hoping to attain His good pleasure. The purpose is not that he receive reward for his actions. Man's deeds are thus praiseworthy in the sight of God when they are performed solely for His love and for no other reason. To this Baha'u'llah testifies in the Kitab-i-Aqdas: 'Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.' [P-32] In fact, when a believer turns to the Manifestation of God with true love, he cannot help but leave aside his personal interests. His attraction to the Manifestation is such that he will offer up everything to his Lord and will seek no benefits for himself.
If a man's actions are motivated by the thought that he may reap a reward for himself in the next world, then this is attachment, and a barrier between himself and God. To be detached means to do everything for the sake of God and to seek no recompense.
As to the third barrier: There are many references in the Writings of Baha'u'llah to the 'Kingdom of Names'. God, in His own essence, is exalted above attributes. However, in all His dominions and within each of His worlds, both spiritual and physical, He reveals the kingdom of His attributes. Every created thing manifests the names and attributes of God. In the spiritual world, these attributes are manifest with such intensity that man will never be able to comprehend them in this life. In the human world, however, these attributes <p25> appear within the 'Kingdom of Names' and man often becomes attached to these names.
In many of His Tablets Baha'u'llah exhorts His followers not to become the bond-slaves of the Kingdom of Names. The well-known Islamic saying, 'The Names come down from heaven', has many meanings. In this world every one of God's attributes is clad with a name, and every such name reveals the characteristics of that attribute. For instance, generosity is an attribute of God, and it manifests itself in human beings. However, a person who has this attribute often becomes proud of it and loves to be referred to as generous. When his generosity is acknowledged by other people, he becomes happy, and when it is ignored, he is unhappy. This is one form of attachment to the Kingdom of Names. Although this example concerns the name 'generosity', the same is true of all the names and attributes of God manifested within the individual. Usually man ascribes these attributes to his own person rather than to God and employs them to boost his own ego. For instance, a learned man uses the attribute of knowledge to become famous and feels gratified and uplifted when his name is publicized far and wide. Or there is the individual whose heart leaps with feelings of pride and satisfaction when he hears his name mentioned and finds himself admired. These are examples of attachment to the Kingdom of Names.
Human society at present exerts a pernicious influence upon the soul of man. Instead of allowing him to live a life of service and sacrifice, it is highly competitive and teaches him to pride himself on his accomplishments. From early childhood he is trained to develop his ego and to seek to exalt himself above others, in the ultimate aim of achieving self-importance, success and power.
The Revelation of Baha'u'llah aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names.
Abdu'l-Baha, the true Exemplar of the teachings of Baha'u'llah, demonstrated this form of detachment by His actions. He never in the course of His life wished to exalt His name, nor did He seek publicity for Himself. For instance, He had an immense dislike of being photographed. He said, ' have a picture of oneself is to emphasize the personality...'. During the first few days of His visit to London, He refused to be photographed. However, as a result of much pressure by the newspaper reporters, and persistent pleas by the friends to be allowed to take His photograph, Abdu'l-Baha acquiesced in order to make them happy.
The exalted titles conferred upon Him by Baha'u'llah are indicative <p26> of Abdu'l-Baha's lofty station. Yet Abdu'l-Baha never applied them to Himself. Instead, after the Ascension of Baha'u'llah, He took the title of Abdu'l-Baha (Servant of Baha) and urged the believers to call Him only by this name. True servitude at the threshold of Baha'u'llah was all He prized. These are some of His words as He describes with utter self-effacement the reality of His station:
"My name is Abdu'l-Baha. My qualification is Abdu'l-Baha. My reality is Abdu'l-Baha. My praise is Abdu'l-Baha. Thralldom to the Blessed Perfection[1] is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion... No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except Abdu'l-Baha. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory." [P-33]
[1 Baha'u'llah.]
One of the distinguishing features of Baha'u'llah's embryonic world order is that it does not harbour egotistical personalities. Baha'u'llah has conferred authority on its institutions, whether local, national or international, but the individuals who are privileged to serve on them are devoid of any authority. Unlike men who wield power in the world today and seek to acquire fame and popularity, members of Baha'i institutions cannot but manifest humility and self-effacement if they are to remain faithful to Baha'u'llah. Those who do not succeed, through immaturity or lack of faith, in living up to these standards are indeed attached to the Kingdom of Names and become deprived of the bounties of God in this age.
To sever oneself from the Kingdom of Names may prove to be the most difficult task for a Baha'i, and the struggle may indeed last a lifetime. If a man can only realize that his virtues are not intrinsically his own, but rather are manifestations of the attributes of God, then he is freed from the Kingdom of Names and becomes truly humble. Such a man will bestow divine perfections upon the world of humanity. This is the loftiest station that God has destined for man. To the extent that a believer succeeds in severing himself from these three forms of attachment, will he be fulfilling his part in the Covenant of God.
To achieve this exalted goal man needs to recognize the station of Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God for this age and then observe His commandments with clear vision, mature reflection and a prayerful attitude. This can be achieved through deepening one's knowledge of the Faith and in serving His Cause. It is then that the heart will become the recipient of the knowledge of God, and will attain certitude in its faith. It is then that obedience to the teachings of <p27> the Faith becomes wholehearted, as the individual grasps the significance of God's commandments, and comes to understand their wisdom, their excellence and their necessity. It is then that his thoughts, his vision, his aspirations, his words, and his deeds will all be in harmony with the Covenant of God. And it is then that his soul will acquire spiritual qualities and virtues. This is the ultimate outcome of obedience to the Covenant, which will enable the soul to progress in the spiritual worlds of God. <p29>
'Him Whom God shall make manifest' <p31>
The Covenant of the Bab
The Bab was an independent Manifestation of God Who inaugurated the Babi Dispensation. In several of his writings Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, extols the station of the Bab and describes at length the uniqueness of His Mission. The following is a brief extract from God Passes By:
"The Bab, acclaimed by Baha'u'llah as the 'Essence of Essences', the 'Sea of Seas', the 'Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve', 'from Whom God hath caused to proceed the knowledge of all that was and shall be', Whose 'rank excelleth that of all the Prophets', and Whose 'Revelation transcendeth the comprehension and understanding of all their chosen ones', had delivered His Message and discharged His mission. He Who was, in the words of Abdu'l-Baha, the 'Morn of Truth' and 'Harbinger of the Most Great Light', Whose advent at once signalized the termination of the 'Prophetic Cycle', and the inception of the 'Cycle of Fulfilment', had simultaneously through His Revelation banished the shades of night that had descended upon His country, and proclaimed the impending rise of that Incomparable Orb Whose radiance was to envelope the whole of mankind. He, as affirmed by Himself, 'the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things', 'one of the sustaining pillars of the Primal Word of God', the 'Mystic Fane', the 'Great Announcement', the 'Flame of that supernal Light that glowed upon Sinai', the 'Remembrance of God', concerning Whom 'a separate Covenant hath been established with each and every Prophet', had, through His advent, at once fulfilled the promise of all ages and ushered in the consummation of all Revelations." [1-1]
The Bab wielded the sceptre of an independent Manifestation of God. With a stroke of His pen He abrogated the laws of Islam, which were regarded as the most sacred and unassailable heritage bequeathed by the Prophet Muhammad to His followers. No one except a Manifestation of God has the authority to abrogate the laws of a former Dispensation, and this the Bab did. In their place He formulated new laws which were destined to be short-lived, and designed to be overtaken by the laws of Baha'u'llah. He thus founded an independent religion which spread throughout Persia so rapidly and with such dynamism as to revolutionize the lives of many a person in that land. <p32>
But the Bab's Mission was two-fold. He was also the harbinger of the Supreme Manifestation of God Whom He designated as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. However, we must bear in mind the following comment by Shoghi Effendi.
"Indeed the greatness of the Bab consists primarily, not in His being the divinely-appointed Forerunner of so transcendent a Revelation, but rather in His having been invested with the powers inherent in the Inaugurator of a separate religious Dispensation, and in His wielding, to a degree unrivalled by the Messengers gone before Him, the sceptre of independent Prophethood." [1-2]
Indeed, the Mission of the Bab was unique. Never in the history of religion do we find two independent Revelations appearing in such rapid succession. Only nine years separated the birth of these two Revelations. The two Manifestations were contemporaries; the Bab was two years[1] younger than Baha'u'llah. They were natives of the same country, spoke the same language, practised the same religion, followed the same social customs but lived about five hundred miles apart and never met each other in person. In fact there is a Tablet of Baha'u'llah addressed to Varqa[2] one of His great apostles, written in the words[3] of His amanuensis Mirza Aqa Jan, in which it is stated that the Bab had attained the presence of Baha'u'llah in person. [1-3] But Abdu'l-Baha has stated that they never met. As He is the authorized Interpreter of Baha'u'llah's Writings, we accept Abdu'l-Baha's statement that the Bab did not attain the presence of Baha'u'llah in person.
[1 There is a tradition attributed to Imam Ali in which he is reported to have said: 'I am two years younger than my Lord.' This is especially applicable to the Bab, whose name was Ali-Muhammad.]
[2 For a story of his illustrious life, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4, ch. 4.]
[3 Some Tablets of Baha'u'llah are composed in such a way that the whole or part of the Tablet is in the words of His amanuensis, but was in fact dictated by Baha'u'llah to appear as if composed by the amanuensis. Every word of these Tablets, from beginning to end, is from Baha'u'llah Himself. For more information see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, pp. 40-42.]

In a Tablet addressed to Shaykh Kazim-i-Samandar[1][1-4] Baha'u'llah states that at one time He revealed certain words addressed to the Bab, words which illumined all the Holy Books of God. Upon reading these words, the Bab was so carried away by the breezes of divine revelation that with His whole being He soared in the heaven of nearness to Baha'u'llah, and decided to present Himself before the face of His Lord. The revealed words exhilarated Him in such wise that no pen can record or tongue explain. Baha'u'llah asserts that for the protection of the Faith, this episode was not made public.
[1 For an account of his life, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3.]
The Bab's unique Mission in the history of religion is that He stood in between two religious cycles. With his advent He closed, on the one hand, the 'Prophetic Cycle', which began with Adam as the <p33> first Manifestation of God in recorded history and ended with the Dispensation of Islam and, on the other, He opened the 'Cycle of Fulfilment' whose duration, according to the Writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, will be at least five thousand centuries.
It is important to note that the mission of all the Manifestations of God in the prophetic cycle, up to and including Muhammad, was to prophesy the advent of the Day of God. Hence they are included in the 'Prophetic Cycle'. Muhammad was the last one among them and is therefore designated 'Seal of the Prophets'. Baha'u'llah's claim, on the other hand, makes it clear that He is not a Prophet in the category of those who prophesy, but His station is that of the Supreme Manifestation of God who inaugurates the 'Cycle of Fulfilment' and ushers in the Day of God whose advent had been so clearly foretold by all the Prophets gone before Him.
As we survey the Ministry of the Bab, which lasted a little over six years, we note that the most significant part of His Writings was devoted to establishing a mighty covenant with His followers concerning the Revelation of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' -- Baha'u'llah. Indeed, no Manifestation of God before Him has devoted so much of His Revelation to the subject of the Covenant. When we carefully study the Bayan[1] we note that on practically every page of that Book there is a mention of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', stating some aspect of His Revelation, but always extolling His station and mentioning His Name with a reverence which staggers the imagination. The Bab has mentioned 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' in the Persian Bayan more than three hundred times, and in the Arabic Bayan more than seventy. There are also references to Him without mentioning this designation. In several instances He identifies 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' with the designation ''Baha'u'llah'.
[1 The 'Mother-Book' of the Babi Dispensation.]
The announcement of the Revelation of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' is not limited to the Bayan. In the great majority of His Writings the Bab has directed the attention of the Babis to that great Revelation which was to follow Him, established a firm Covenant with them and directed all the forces of His Revelation towards the spiritual enrichment of the Babi community in order to rear a new race of men worthy to attain the presence of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', recognize His station and embrace His Cause.
The laws He promulgated, some very severe, were designed to shake up the lethargic people of Persia in general and to inflame His own followers with the zeal and fervour of a new and dynamic Faith <p34> in particular. In past Dispensations, the energies latent within God's Revelation have taken about a thousand years to be fully released and diffused gradually within human society. In the Dispensation of the Bab, however, the energies of a mighty Revelation had to be released within a very short period of time. Therefore, everything associated with His Faith, His laws, His teachings, His own public appearances, His Ministry, His personal life and His martyrdom were all characterized by a dynamism and forcefulness unparalleled in the annals of past religions, and which exerted a most potent and electrifying influence upon friend and foe alike.
The laws of the Bayan were promulgated for the sake of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. The aim of the Bab in revealing the laws of His Dispensation was to edify the souls of His followers and mould their conduct in such wise that they could be worthy to embrace the Cause of Baha'u'llah. In the Kitab-i-Asma', one of His celebrated Writings, He reveals these thought-provoking words.
"But for the sole reason of His[1] being present amongst this people, We would have neither prescribed any law nor laid down any prohibition. It is only for the glorification of His Name and the exaltation of His Cause that We have enunciated certain laws at Our behest, or forbidden the acts to which We are averse, so that at the hour of His manifestation ye may attain through Him the good-pleasure of God and abstain from the things that are abhorrent unto Him." [1-5]
[1 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.]
The Covenant that the Bab made with His followers concerning 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' was firm and irrevocable. His advent was unquestionable, assured as the mid-day sun. It was in the early days of His Revelation in Shiraz that He despatched Mulla Husayn, the first to believe in the Bab, to Tihran for the sole purpose of searching for and establishing contact with 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', the One Who was the Source of the Revelation of the Bab, the object of His adoration, and the One in Whose path He longed to lay down His life. Nabil-i-A'zam, the well-known Baha'i historian, relates the following account:
"To Mulla Husayn, as the hour of his departure approached, the Bab addressed these words: 'Grieve not that you have not been chosen to accompany Me on My pilgrimage to Hijaz. I shall, instead, direct your steps to that city which enshrines a Mystery of such transcendent holiness as neither Hijaz[1] nor Shiraz[2] can hope to rival." [1-6]
[1 Signifies the Islamic Faith. (A.T.)]
[2 Signifies the Babi Faith. (A.T.)]
The story of Mulla Husayn as he tries to find a trace of His Beloved in Tihran is fascinating. The hand of providence brought <p35> him into close contact with a certain Mulla Muhammad who became immensely attracted to Mulla Husayn and the Message of the Bab. The story, recorded in the words of this Mulla Muhammad in The Dawn-Breakers, is as follows:
"'What is your name, and which city is your home?' 'My name,' I replied, 'is Mulla Muhammad, and my surname Mu'allim. My home is Nur, in the province of Mazindaran.' 'Tell me,' further enquired Mulla Husayn, 'is there to-day among the family of the late Mirza Buzurg-i-Nuri, who was so renowned for his character, his charm, and artistic and intellectual attainments, anyone who has proved himself capable of maintaining the high traditions of that illustrious house?' 'Yea,' I replied, 'among his sons now living, one has distinguished Himself by the very traits which characterised His father. By His virtuous life, His high attainments, His loving-kindness and liberality, He has proved Himself a noble descendent of a noble father.' 'What is His occupation?' he asked me. 'He cheers the disconsolate and feeds the hungry,' I replied. 'What of His rank and position?' 'He has none,' I said, 'apart from befriending the poor and the stranger.' 'What is His name?' 'Husayn-'Ali.' 'In which of the scripts of His father does He excel?' 'His favourite script is shikastih-nasta'liq.' 'How does He spend His time?' 'He roams the woods and delights in the beauties of the countryside.' 'What is His age?' 'Eight and twenty.' The eagerness with which Mulla Husayn questioned me, and the sense of delight with which he welcomed every particular I gave him, greatly surprised me. Turning to me, with his face beaming with satisfaction and joy, he once more enquired: 'I presume you often meet Him?' 'I frequently visit His home,' I replied. 'Will you,' he said, 'deliver into His hands a trust from me?' 'Most assuredly,' was my reply. He then gave me a scroll wrapped in a piece of cloth, and requested me to hand it to Him the next day at the hour of dawn. 'Should He deign to answer me,' he added, 'will you be kind enough to acquaint me with His reply?' I received the scroll from him and, at break of day, arose to carry out his desire.
"As I approached the house of Baha'u'llah, I recognised His brother Mirza Musa, who was standing at the gate, and to whom I communicated the object of my visit. He went into the house and soon reappeared bearing a message of welcome. I was ushered into His presence, and presented the scroll to Mirza Musa, who laid it before Baha'u'llah. He bade us both be seated. Unfolding the scroll, He glanced at its contents and began to read aloud to us certain of its passages. I sat enraptured as I listened to the sound of His voice and the sweetness of its melody. He had read a page of the scroll when, turning to His brother, He said: 'Musa, what have you to say? Verily I say, whoso believes in the Qur'an and recognises its Divine origin, and yet hesitates, though it be for a moment, to admit that these soul-stirring words are endowed with the same regenerating power, has most assuredly erred in his judgment and has strayed far from the path of justice.' He spoke no more. Dismissing me from His presence, He charged me to take to Mulla Husayn, as a gift <p36> from Him, a loaf of Russian sugar and a package of tea,[1] and to convey to him the expression of His appreciation and love.
[1 Tea and that variety of sugar being extremely rare in Persia at that time, both were used as gifts among the higher classes of the population. (A.T.)]
"I arose, and, filled with joy, hastened back to Mulla Husayn, and delivered to him the gift and message of Baha'u'llah. With what joy and exultation he received them from me! Words fail me to describe the intensity of his emotion. He started to his feet, received with bowed head the gift from my hand, and fervently kissed it. He then took me in his arms, kissed my eyes, and said: 'My dearly beloved friend! I pray that even as you have rejoiced my heart, God may grant you eternal felicity and fill your heart with imperishable gladness.' I was amazed at the behaviour of Mulla Husayn. What could be, I thought to myself, the nature of the bond that unites these two souls? What could have kindled so fervid a fellowship in their hearts? Why should Mulla Husayn, in whose sight the pomp and circumstance of royalty were the merest trifle, have evinced such gladness at the sight of so inconsiderable a gift from the hands of Baha'u'llah? I was puzzled by this thought and could not unravel its mystery.
"A few days later, Mulla Husayn left for Khurasan. As he bade me farewell, he said: 'Breathe not to anyone what you have heard and witnessed. Let this be a secret hidden within your breast. Divulge not His name, for they who envy His position will arise to harm Him. In your moments of meditation, pray that the Almighty may protect Him, that, through Him, He may exalt the downtrodden, enrich the poor, and redeem the fallen. The secret of things is concealed from our eyes. Ours is the duty to raise the call of the New Day and to proclaim this Divine Message unto all people. Many a soul will, in this city, shed his blood in this path. That blood will water the Tree of God, will cause it to flourish, and to overshadow all mankind.'" [1-7]
The Bab had directed Mulla Husayn to send Him a letter and inform Him of that great Mystery which he was to discover in Tihran. That letter arrived on the night preceding 10 October 1844 when Quddus was present, with whom the Bab shared a number of its passages. Nabil-i-A'zam continues the story in these words:
"He sent his letter by way of Yazd, through the trustworthy partners of the Bab's maternal uncle who were at that time residing in Tabas. That letter reached the Bab on the night preceding the twenty-seventh day of Ramadan,[1] a night held in great reverence by all the sects of Islam and regarded by many as rivalling in sacredness the Laylatu'l-Qadr itself, the night which, in the words of the Qur'an, 'excelleth a thousand months'.[2] The only companion of the Bab, when that letter reached Him that night, was Quddus, with whom He shared a number of its passages.
[1 Corresponding with the night preceding the 10th October 1844 A.D.]
[2 The Laylatu'l-Qadr, meaning literally 'Night of Power', is one of the last ten nights of Ramadan, and, as is commonly believed, the seventh of those nights reckoning backward.] <p37>
"I have heard Mirza Ahmad[1] relate the following: 'The Bab's maternal uncle himself described to me the circumstances attending the receipt of Mulla Husayn's letter by the Bab: "That night I saw such evidences of joy and gladness on the faces of the Bab and of Quddus as I am unable to describe. I often heard the Bab, in those days, exultingly repeat the words, 'How marvellous, how exceedingly marvellous, is that which has occurred between the months of Jamadi and Rajab!' As He was reading the communication addressed to Him by Mulla Husayn, He turned to Quddus and, showing him certain passages of that letter, explained the reason for His joyous expressions of surprise. I, for my part, remained completely unaware of the nature of that explanation."'
[1 'The first to embrace the Faith in Khurasan was Mirza Ahmad-i-Azghandi, the most learned, the wisest, and the most eminent among the ulamas of that province.' (The Dawn-Breakers, p. 125)]
"Mirza Ahmad, upon whom the account of this incident had produced a profound impression, was determined to fathom its mystery. 'Not until I met Mulla Husayn in Shiraz,' he told me, 'was I able to satisfy my curiosity. When I repeated to him the account described to me by the Bab's uncle, he smiled and said how well he remembered that between the months of Jamadi and Rajab he chanced to be in Tihran. He gave no further explanation, and contented himself with this brief remark. This was sufficient, however, to convince me that in the city of Tihran there lay hidden a Mystery which, when revealed to the world, would bring unspeakable joy to the hearts of both the Bab and Quddus.'" [1-8]
The story of Baha'u'llah's immediate acknowledgement of the truth of the Message of the Bab, when He read a few lines of the Bab's newly-revealed Writings, may lead some to an erroneous conclusion that Baha'u'llah had no prior knowledge of the Bab's Revelation and that He was converted through reading a page of that historic scroll. Such a belief is contrary to many statements of the Bab and Baha'u'llah themselves. For the Bab has made it very clear in His Writings that every word revealed by Him had originated from 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', Whose station was exalted beyond any description. The spiritual link of divine revelation existed between the two. The only link which needed to be established was a physical one, and this was achieved by the visit of Mulla Husayn. In the Persian Bayan, the Bab states:
"And know thou of a certainty that every letter revealed in the Bayan is solely intended to evoke submission unto Him Whom God shall make manifest, for it is He Who hath revealed the Bayan prior to His Own manifestation. [1-9]
There are many passages in the Writings of the Bab similar to the above. Baha'u'llah also refers to the Revelation of the Bab as 'My Own previous Revelation'. The perusal of the Writings of the Bab will make it abundantly clear that His relationship with Baha'u'llah, <p38> Whom He designated as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', was similar to that of Christ with the 'Heavenly Father' Who is reported in the Gospels as the Source of Christ's Revelation.
The station of Baha'u'llah is that of the Supreme Manifestation of God, the inaugurator of a universal cycle.'[1] His Revelation is that of the Heavenly Father Himself. In order to appreciate this truth one could turn to the many references in the Holy Writings stating that God in His Essence is unknowable and exalted above any relationship with His creation. Baha'u'llah states that even the Prophets of God have no knowledge of His inner reality, His Essence. Speaking of God, Baha'u'llah explains:
[1 For more information on this topic see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, pp. 309-14.]
"From time immemorial, He, the Divine Being, hath been veiled in the ineffable sanctity of His exalted Self, and will everlastingly continue to be wrapt in the impenetrable mystery of His unknowable Essence... Ten thousand Prophets, each a Moses, are thunderstruck upon the Sinai of their search at God's forbidding voice, 'Thou shalt never behold Me!'; whilst a myriad Messengers, each as great as Jesus, stand dismayed upon their heavenly thrones by the interdiction 'Mine Essence thou shalt never apprehend!' [1-10]
And further, in His communion with God, Baha'u'llah proclaims:
"How bewildering to me, insignificant as I am, is the attempt to fathom the sacred depths of Thy knowledge! How futile my efforts to visualize the magnitude of the power inherent in Thine handiwork -- the revelation of Thy creative power! [1-11]
In another prayer Baha'u'llah clearly testifies to His inability to know the Essence of God or have any access to it.
"I swear by Thy Beauty, O King of eternity Who sittest on Thy most glorious Throne! He [Baha'u'llah] Who is the Day-Spring of Thy signs and the Revealer of Thy clear tokens hath, notwithstanding the immensity of His wisdom and the loftiness of His knowledge, confessed His powerlessness to comprehend the least of Thine utterances, in their relation to Thy most exalted Pen -- how much more is He incapable of apprehending the nature of Thine all-glorious Self and of Thy most august Essence! [1-12]
Although God in His Essence is inaccessible to His Prophets, He reveals Himself to Them through the instrumentality of His Kingdom of Revelation, or His Most Great Spirit. It is this 'Most Great Spirit of God' which is referred to by the Prophets of Israel as the Heavenly Father Whom Christ described as the Source of His Revelation. Baha'u'llah states in the Suriy-i-Haykal:[1] <p39>
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3, ch. 7.]
The Holy Spirit Itself hath been generated through the agency of a single letter revealed by this Most Great Spirit, if ye be of them that comprehend." [1-13]
The Holy Spirit is usually associated with the Manifestations of God. It is the Holy Spirit which has animated them all, and the Holy Spirit itself has been generated through the instrumentality of the 'Most Great Spirit', also referred to as the 'Primal Will'. Through it all creation has come into being and all Revelations have been sent down. This 'Most Great Spirit', which has existed from eternity and will continue to exist till eternity, had never been manifested to man directly. It had been the 'Hidden Mystery' and the 'Treasured Symbol' until the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. For the first time on this planet, this 'Most Great Spirit of God', which was the revealer of all past Dispensations, manifested itself directly Baha'u'llah. Therefore, every word that He uttered and every action He took originated not from His human personality, but were all manifestations of that Great Spirit. It is for this reason that any reference to Baha'u'llah is not a reference to a human being, but rather to the 'Most Great Spirit of God' which was manifested through Him. On the other hand, His human temple was so integrated with the forces of His Revelation that one cannot discard His human side altogether. The human and the spiritual were so thoroughly interwoven as to enable Him to communicate His great Revelation to mankind.
Whenever the individual comes to realize that in this day, and for the first time, the 'Most Great Spirit of God', the Revealer of all religious dispensations, has directly manifested Itself to man through Baha'u'llah, he may then be able to appreciate some of the significance of the following utterances revealed by Him extolling the greatness of His Revelation:
"The voice of the Son of Man is calling aloud from the sacred vale: 'Here am I, here am I, O God my God!' ... whilst from the Burning Bush breaketh forth the cry: 'Lo, the Desire of the world is made manifest in His transcendent glory!' The Father hath come." [1-14]
"Call out to Zion, O Carmel, and announce the joyful tidings: 'He that was hidden from mortal eyes is come! His all-conquering sovereignty is manifest; His all-encompassing splendour is revealed'..." [1-15]
"Verily I say! No one hath apprehended the root of this Cause. It is incumbent upon every one, in this day, to perceive with the eye of God, and to hearken with His ear. Whoso beholdeth Me with an eye besides Mine own will never be able to know Me. None among the Manifestations of old, except to a prescribed degree, hath ever completely apprehended the nature of this Revelation." [1-16] <p40>
"The purpose underlying all creation is the revelation of this most sublime, this most holy Day, the Day known as the Day of God, in His Books and Scriptures -- the Day which all the Prophets, and the Chosen Ones, and the holy ones, have wished to witness." [1-17]
"Every Prophet hath announced the coming of this Day, and every Messenger hath groaned in His yearning for this Revelation -- a revelation which, no sooner had it been revealed than all created things cried out saying, 'The earth is God's, the Most Exalted, the Most Great!'" [1-18]
"The soul of every Prophet of God, of every Divine Messenger, hath thirsted for this wondrous Day. All the divers kindreds of the earth have, likewise, yearned to attain it." [1-19]
"Be fair, ye peoples of the world; is it meet and seemly for you to question the authority of one Whose presence 'He Who conversed with God' (Moses) hath longed to attain, the beauty of Whose countenance 'God's Well-beloved' (Muhammad) had yearned to behold, through the potency of Whose love the 'Spirit of God' (Jesus) ascended to heaven, for Whose sake the 'Primal Point' (the Bab) offered up His life?" [1-20]
"He it is Who in the Old Testament hath been named Jehovah, Who in the Gospel hath been designated as the Spirit of Truth, and in the Qur'an acclaimed as the Great Announcement... But for Him no Divine Messenger would have been invested with the robe of prophethood, nor would any of the sacred scriptures have been revealed."[1-21]
"Naught is seen in My temple but the Temple of God, and in My beauty but His Beauty, and in My being but His Being, and in My self but His Self, and in My movement but His Movement, and in My acquiescence but His Acquiescence, and in My pen but His Pen, the Mighty, the All-Praised. There hath not been in My soul but the Truth, and in Myself naught could be seen but God... The Holy Spirit Itself hath been generated through the agency of a single letter revealed by this Most Great Spirit, if ye be of them that comprehend." [1-22]
It is important to note that the Manifestations of God have two sides, the human and the divine. All these attributes and designations refer not to the human side of Baha'u'llah, but to His divine side, the Spirit of God which motivated Him and of which He was a Mouthpiece.
It is not possible for man with his limited capacity to fathom the mysteries of Divine Revelation. Even those who have embraced the Cause of Baha'u'llah are bewildered at the immensity of His Mission and the exalted nature of His Revelation. Only the Chosen Ones of God who are endowed with divine power can claim to understand the awe-inspiring station of Baha'u'llah. Let us, therefore, turn to the Writings of the Bab, Himself a Manifestation of God, to get a true glimpse of the greatness of Baha'u'llah's Revelation: <p41>
"Of all the tributes I have paid to Him Who is to come after Me, the greatest is this, My written confession, that no words of Mine can adequately describe Him, nor can any reference to Him in My Book, the Bayan, do justice to His Cause." [1-23]
The Bab has clearly stated to His followers that His Revelation was entirely dependent upon 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' and that He was only a servant at His threshold. In His Qayyumu'l-Asma, the first emanations of His Pen, the Bab communes with Baha'u'llah in these words:
"Out of utter nothingness, O great and omnipotent Master, Thou hast, through the celestial potency of Thy might, brought me forth and raised me up to proclaim this Revelation. I have made none other but Thee my trust; I have clung to no will but Thy will." [1-24]
And in the same Book, He craves for martyrdom in the path of Baha'u'llah, Whom He addresses as the 'Remnant of God'.
"...O Thou Remnant of God! I have sacrificed myself wholly for Thee; I have accepted curses for Thy sake, and have yearned for naught but martyrdom in the path of Thy love. Sufficient witness unto me is God, the Exalted, the Protector, the Ancient of Days." [1-25]
In a Tablet which the Bab addressed to 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', He writes:
"This is an epistle from this lowly servant to the All-Glorious Lord -- He Who hath been aforetime and will be hereafter made manifest. Verily He is the Most Manifest, the Almighty." [1-26]
There are many passages in the Writings of the Bab in which He states that He will be the first to acknowledge the Cause of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' and bow before Him as a lowly servant. We cite a few examples:
"Were He to appear this very moment, I would be the first to adore Him, and the first to bow down before Him." [1-27]
'I, verily, am a believer in Him, and in His Faith, and in His Book, and in His Testimonies, and in His Ways, and in all that proceedeth from Him concerning them. I glory in My kinship with Him, and pride Myself on My belief in Him'. And likewise, He saith: 'O congregation of the Bayan and all who are therein! Recognize ye the limits imposed upon you, for such a One as the Point of the Bayan Himself hath believed in Him Whom God shall make manifest, before all things were created. Therein, verily, do I glory before all who are in the kingdom of heaven and earth.'" [1-28]
"'The whole of the Bayan is only a leaf amongst the leaves of His Paradise.' And likewise, He saith: 'I am the first to adore Him, and pride Myself on My kinship with Him.'" [1-29] <p42>
As we survey the Writings of the Bab, we come across innumerable passages in which He glorifies the station of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' in such wise that one becomes awe-struck at the sublimity of His words when He identifies Him as God personified. Before proceeding to quote a few such passages, it is important to recall the explanations given in previous pages concerning the station of Baha'u'llah, lest one may be misled to identify Him as the Inner Reality, the Essence of God. To come to such a conclusion would amount to blasphemy. Shoghi Effendi has clarified this point when he writes:
"Let no one meditating, in the light of the afore-quoted passages, on the nature of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, mistake its character or misconstrue the intent of its Author. The divinity attributed to so great a Being and the complete incarnation of the names and attributes of God in so exalted a Person should, under no circumstances, be misconceived or misinterpreted. The human temple that has been made the vehicle of so overpowering a Revelation must, if we be faithful to the tenets of our Faith, ever remain entirely distinguished from that 'innermost Spirit of Spirits' and 'eternal Essence of Essences' -- that invisible yet rational God Who, however much we extol the divinity of His Manifestations on earth, can in no wise incarnate His infinite, His unknowable, His incorruptible and all-embracing Reality in the concrete and limited frame of a mortal being. Indeed, the God Who could so incarnate His own reality would, in the light of the teachings of Baha'u'llah, cease immediately to be God." [1-30]
The following are utterances of the Bab gleaned from His various Writings as He extols the person of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. In the Persian Bayan, the Bab states that 'He Whom God shall make manifest' as the Mouthpiece of God will proclaim:
"Verily, verily, I am God, no God is there but Me, in truth all others except Me are My creatures. Say, O My creatures! Me alone, therefore, should ye fear." [1-31]
And again:
"He, verily, is the One Who, under all conditions, proclaimeth: 'I, in very truth, am God.'" [1-32]
"The glory of Him Whom God shall make manifest is immeasurably above every other glory, and His majesty is far above every other majesty. His beauty excelleth every other embodiment of beauty, and His grandeur immensely exceedeth every other manifestation of grandeur. Every light paleth before the radiance of His light, and every other exponent of mercy falleth short before the tokens of His mercy. Every other perfection is as naught in face of His consummate perfection, and every other display of might is as nothing before His absolute might. His <p43> names are superior to all other names. His good-pleasure taketh precedence over any other expression of good-pleasure. His pre-eminent exaltation is far above the reach of every other symbol of exaltation. The splendour of His appearance far surpasseth that of any other appearance. His divine concealment is far more profound than any other concealment. His loftiness is immeasurably above every other loftiness. His gracious favour is unequalled by any other evidence of favour. His power transcendeth every power. His sovereignty is invincible in the face of every other sovereignty. His celestial dominion is exalted far above every other dominion. His knowledge pervadeth all created things, and His consummate power extendeth over all beings." [1-33]
The Bab further testifies:
"I swear by the sanctified Essence of God that every true praise and deed offered unto God is naught but praise and deed offered unto Him Whom God shall make manifest.
"Deceive not your own selves that you are being virtuous for the sake of God when you are not. For should ye truly do your works for God, ye would be performing them for Him Whom God shall make manifest and would be magnifying His Name." [1-34]
And again:
"'Were He to make of every one on earth a Prophet, all would, in very truth, be accounted as Prophets in the sight of God.' And likewise, He saith: 'In the day of the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest all that dwell on earth will be equal in His estimation. Whomsoever He ordaineth as a Prophet, he, verily, hath been a Prophet from the beginning that hath no beginning, and will thus remain until the end that hath no end, inasmuch as this is an act of God. And whomsoever is made a Viceregent by Him, shall be a Viceregent in all the worlds, for this is an act of God. For the will of God can in no wise be revealed except through His will, nor His wish be manifested save through His wish.'" [1-35]
It has been stated in the above pages that man, and even the Prophets of God, have no access to the Inner Reality of God -- His Essence. From eternity all Revelations and His creation have come into being through the instrumentality of His 'Most Great Spirit' which was manifested on this planet for the first time through Baha'u'llah as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. The Bab, in the following pages, confirms that man in his effort to praise and adore God can only reach out to 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', the embodiment of that 'Most Great Spirit'.
"Say, He Whom God shall make manifest is indeed the Primal Veil of God. Above this Veil ye can find nothing other than God, while beneath it ye can discern all things emanating from God. He is the Unseen, the Inaccessible, the Most Exalted, the Best Beloved. <p44>
"If ye seek God, it behooveth you to seek Him Whom God shall make manifest..." [1-36]
And similarly He states:
"From the beginning that hath no beginning all men have bowed in adoration before Him Whom God shall make manifest and will continue to do so until the end that hath no end. How strange then that at the time of His appearance ye should pay homage by day and night unto that which the Point of the Bayan hath enjoined upon you and yet fail to worship Him Whom God shall make manifest." [1-37]
In the Persian Bayan the Bab states [1-38] that attaining unto the presence of God as promised in the Holy Books would be none other than attaining the presence of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest, for man has no access to the Essence of God.
In another passage [1-39] He mentions Baha'u'llah by name and categorically states that He is the 'Primal Will' of God. In several other instances the Bab refers to Baha'u'llah by name. In a celebrated passage in the Persian Bayan He states:
"Well is it with him who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Baha'u'llah and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayan." [1-40]
In the Kitab-i-Panj-Sha'n the Bab dearly identifies Baha'u'llah as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. He enquires, 'Do ye know Baha'u'llah or not? For He is the glory of Him Whom God shall make manifest.' [1-41]
It is known that Baha'u'llah assumed this title of 'Baha' at the Conference of Badasht,[1] a title which was confirmed by the Bab later. This title was exclusive to Him and no one else among the followers of the Bab was known by it. It is highly significant that prior to this conference the Bab had already revealed the Persian Bayan and in it He had identified Baha'u'llah by name as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.
[1 See The Dawn-Breakers.]
The Bab considered His own Revelation to be as a gift to 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. These are some of His utterances concerning the Bayan, the Mother Book of the Babi Dispensation.
"Suffer not yourselves to be shut out as by a veil from God after He hath revealed Himself. For all that hath been exalted in the Bayan is but as a ring upon My hand, and I Myself am, verily, but a ring upon the hand of Him Whom God shall make manifest -- glorified be His mention! He turneth it as He pleaseth, for whatsoever He pleaseth, and through <p45> whatsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, is the Help in Peril, the Most High." [1-42]
"The whole of the Bayan is only a leaf amongst the leaves of His Paradise." [1-43]
"The Bayan is from beginning to end the repository of all of His attributes, and the treasury of both His fire and His light." [1-44]
"I swear by the most holy Essence of God -- exalted and glorified be He -- that in the Day of the appearance of Him Whom God shall make manifest a thousand perusals of the Bayan cannot equal the perusal of a single verse to be revealed by Him Whom God shall make manifest." [1-45]
"I swear by the most sacred Essence of God that but one line of the Words uttered by Him is more sublime than the words uttered by all that dwell on earth. Nay, I beg forgiveness for making this comparison. How could the reflections of the sun in the mirror compare with the wondrous rays of the sun in the visible heaven?" [1-46]
"The year-old germ that holdeth within itself the potentialities of the Revelation that is to come is endowed with a potency superior to the combined forces of the whole of the Bayan." [1-47]
The Bab has clearly stated that the Bayan revolves around the words of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. In another passage in the same chapter [1-48] He warns His followers that the Bayan will not be pleased with them unless they bear allegiance to 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', Who is the Revealer of the Bayan and all the heavenly Books. The Bab also forbids the interpretation of the Bayan and states that only 'He Whom God shall make manifest' or those whom He endows with His knowledge can interpret the Words of God.
Knowing that the duration of His Dispensation was very short and the Revelation of Baha'u'llah was at hand, the Bab did not fix the Qiblih (Point of Adoration). He instead ordained that the Qiblih is 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' and that the faithful should turn to Him wherever He might be.
There are innumerable passages in the Bab's Writings exhorting His followers to be watchful, and as soon as the Supreme Manifestation of God reveals Himself, to recognize and follow Him immediately. He counsels them to allow no doubt to enter their minds when informed of the appearance of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. He warns them repeatedly to beware lest anything in the world, including the Bayan or any other of the Bab's Writings, should become a barrier between them and 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. The following utterances of the Bab, urging and pleading with His followers to be faithful to 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', are but a few quotations gleaned from among many. <p46>
"At the time of the manifestation of Him Whom God shall make manifest everyone should be well trained in the teachings of the Bayan, so that none of the followers may outwardly cling to the Bayan and thus forfeit their allegiance unto Him. If anyone does so, the verdict of 'disbeliever in God' shall be passed upon him." [1-49]
The Bab enjoined on His followers to read once every nineteen days Chapter VI:8 of the Bayan so that they might prepare themselves for the Revelation of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.
"Once every nineteen days this Chapter should be read, that haply they may not be veiled, in the time of the revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest...." [1-50]
"Beware, beware lest, in the days of His Revelation, the Vahid of the Bayan (eighteen Letters of the Living) shut thee not out as by a veil from Him, inasmuch as this Vahid is but a creature in His sight. And beware, beware that the words sent down in the Bayan shut thee not out as by a veil from Him." [1-51]
"O ye who are invested with the Bayan! Be ye watchful on the Day of Resurrection, for on that Day ye will firmly believe in the Vahid of the Bayan, though this, even as your past religion which proved of no avail, can in no wise benefit you, unless ye embrace the Cause of Him Whom God shall make manifest and believe in that which He ordaineth. Therefore take ye good heed lest ye shut yourselves out from Him Who is the Fountain-head of all Messengers and Scriptures, while ye hold fast to parts of the teachings which have emanated from these sources." [1-52]
"Whenever ye learn that a new Cause hath appeared, ye must seek the presence of its author and must delve into his writings that haply ye may not be debarred from attaining unto Him Whom God shall make manifest at the hour of His manifestation." [1-53]
"Recognize Him by His verses. The greater your neglect in seeking to know Him, the more grievously will ye be veiled in fire." [1-54]
"Let not names shut you out as by a veil from Him Who is their Lord, even the name of Prophet, for such a name is but a creation of His utterance." [1-55]
"Say, God shall of a truth cause your hearts to be given to perversity if ye fail to recognize Him Whom God shall make manifest; but if ye do recognize Him God shall banish perversity from your hearts..." [1-56]
The Bab repeatedly gave the year nine as the date of the appearance of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. The declaration of the Bab took place in the year 1260 AH (AD 1844). The year nine is 1269 AH, which began about the middle of October 1852 when Baha'u'llah had already been imprisoned for about two months in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran, the scene of the birth of His Revelation. <p47>
The following are a few passages concerning the year nine.
"'In the year nine ye will attain unto all good.' On another occasion He saith: 'In the year nine ye will attain unto the Presence of God.'" [1-57]
"Ere nine will have elapsed from the inception of this Cause, the realities of the created things will not be made manifest. All that thou hast as yet seen is but the stage from the moist germ until We clothed it with flesh. Be patient, until thou beholdest a new creation. Say: 'Blessed, therefore, be God, the most excellent of Makers!'" [1-58]
To Azim, a noted disciple, the Bab states:
"Wait thou until nine will have elapsed from the time of the Bayan. Then exclaim: 'Blessed, therefore, be God, the most excellent of Makers!'" [1-59]
In a Tablet to Mulla Baqir, a Letter of the Living, the Bab in the following passage intimates that he will attain the presence of God in eight years time. The Bab has stated categorically that by attaining the presence of God is meant attaining the presence of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. Mulla Baqir attained the presence of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad.
"Haply thou mayest in eight years, in the day of His Revelation, attain unto His Presence." [1-60]
It is in this same letter that the Bab testifies, in these words, to the exalted character of the Revelation of Him Whom God shall make manifest.
"I have written down in My mention of Him[1] these gem-like words: 'No allusion of Mine can allude unto Him, neither anything mentioned in the Bayan'... 'Exalted and glorified is He above the power of any one to reveal Him except Himself, or the description of any of His creatures. I Myself am but the first servant to believe in Him and in His signs, and to partake of the sweet savours of His words from the first-fruits of the Paradise of His knowledge. Yea, by His glory! He is the Truth. There is none other God but Him. All have risen at His bidding.'" [1-61]
[1 Him Whom God shall make manifest.]
The Bab has also referred to the year nineteen for the Revelation of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. This is a reference to the public declaration of Baha'u'llah in the Garden of Ridvan in Baghdad which occurred nineteen years after the inception of the Baha'i Era in 1844.
"The Lord of the Day of Reckoning will be manifested at the end of Vahid and the beginning of eighty." [1-62] <p48>
Each vahid is nineteen, and eighty is a reference to 1280 AH (1863). There is a remarkable statement by the Bab in His second Tablet to 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' in which He describes His utter submissiveness to Baha'u'llah and pleads with Him not to appear before nineteen years have elapsed from the inception of His Faith. These are His words:
"...the Bayan and such as bear allegiance to it are but a present from me unto Thee and to express my undoubting faith that there is no God but Thee, that the kingdoms of Creation and Revelation are Thine, that no one can attain anything save by Thy power and that He Whom Thou hast raised up is but Thy servant and Thy Testimony. I, indeed, beg to address Him Whom God shall make manifest, by Thy leave in these words: 'Shouldst Thou dismiss the entire company of the followers of the Bayan in the Day of the Latter Resurrection+F1 by a mere sign of Thy finger even while still a suckling babe, Thou wouldst indeed be praised in Thy indication. And though no doubt is there about it, do Thou grant a respite of nineteen years as a token of Thy favour so that those who have embraced this Cause may be graciously rewarded by Thee. Thou art verily the Lord of grace abounding." [1-63]
Although the Bab has made several references to the years nine and nineteen, nevertheless He makes it abundantly clear that the time of the advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' is entirely in His Own hands. Whenever He appears, all must follow Him. He warns His followers not to let any statement made in the Bayan or His other Writings become a cause of denying Him at the time of His Revelation.
"Were He to appear this very moment, I would be the first to adore Him, and the first to bow down before Him." [1-64]
The Bab exhorted His followers to adorn themselves with divine virtues and characters so as to be a cause of pleasure to 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. For example, He writes:
"O ye that are invested with the Bayan! Ye should perform such deeds as would please God, your Lord earning thereby the good-pleasure of Him Whom God shall make manifest. Turn not your religion into a means of material gain, spending your life on vanities, and inheriting thereby on the Day of Resurrection[1] that which would displease Him Whom God shall make manifest, while ye deem that what ye do is right. If, however, ye observe piety in your Faith, God will surely nourish you from the treasuries of His heavenly grace.
[1 In the Writings of the Bab, the 'Day of Resurrection' is a reference to the day of appearance of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.] <p49>
"Be ye sincere in your allegiance to Him Whom God shall make manifest, for the sake of God, your Lord, that perchance ye may, through devotion to His Faith, be redeemed on the Day of Resurrection." [1-65]
Anxious to ensure that none among His followers would act in such a way as to bring displeasure to Baha'u'llah, the Bab advised His followers not only to purify their hearts from attachment to the things of this world, but in addition, should be clean and tidy in their appearance and clothing so as not to offend Him in case they should meet Him in public. He also forbade the Babis to engage in heated arguments or disputes as practised in Islamic circles. The Muslim clergy in their seminars, while discussing religious subjects, would often enter into heated controversy which usually resulted in physical fighting. The Bab had warned His followers not to follow that example, because they might come in contact with 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' and their behaviour would displease Him. He exhorted them to be chaste in their writings and conversation, and always to be courteous in their manners. He admonishes them in the Bayan in these words:
" have been forbidden in the Bayan to enter into idle disputation and controversy, that perchance on the Day of Resurrection ye may not engage in argumentation, and dispute with Him Whom God shall make manifest." [1-66]
"In the Bayan God hath forbidden everyone to pronounce judgement against any soul, lest he may pass sentence upon God, his Lord, while regarding himself to be of the righteous, inasmuch as no one knoweth how the Cause of God will begin or end." [1-67]
The Bab testifies in the Bayan that the greatest proof of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' is the revelation of His Words. He further states that should anyone claim this station falsely, he will not be able to sustain it, as he will be powerless to adduce any proof. Nevertheless, for the sake of honouring the station of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', and in order to prevent anyone from mistakenly opposing His person the Bab warned His followers not to oppose anyone who might claim that station. He has clearly stated:
"Should any one make a statement, and fail to support it by any proof, reject him not." [1-68]
And again:
"O ye who are invested with the Bayan! Should ye be apprised of a person laying claim to a Cause and revealing verses which to outward seeming are unlikely to have been revealed by anyone else save God, the <p50> Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting, do not pass sentence against him, lest ye may inadvertently pass sentence against Him Whom God shall make manifest. Say, He Whom God shall make manifest is but one of you; He will make Himself known unto you on the Day of Resurrection. Ye shall know God when the Manifestation of His Own Self is made known unto you, that perchance ye may not stray far from His Path." [1-69]
As a token of respect for 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', Whose station is regarded in the Bayan as being far exalted above the comprehension of the believers, the Bab has forbidden His followers to ask any questions of Baha'u'llah, except those which are worthy of His station. He reveals in the Bayan:
"It is not permissible to ask questions from Him Whom God will make manifest, except that which well beseemeth Him. For His station is that of the Essence of divine Revelation... Should anyone desire to ask questions, he is allowed to do so only in writing, that he may derive ample understanding from His written reply and that it may serve as a sign from his Beloved. However, let no one ask aught that may prove unworthy of His lofty station. For instance, were a person to inquire the price of straw from a merchant of rubies, how ignorant would he be and how unacceptable. Similarly unacceptable would be the questions of the highest-ranking people of the world in His presence, except such words as He Himself would utter about Himself in the Day of His manifestation." [1-70]
In another instance He writes:
"When the Day-Star of Baha will shine resplendent above the horizon of eternity it is incumbent upon you to present yourselves before His Throne. Beware lest ye be seated in His presence or ask questions without His leave. Fear ye God, O concourse of the Mirrors.
"Beg ye of Him the wondrous tokens of His favour that He may graciously reveal for you whatever He willeth and desireth, inasmuch as on that Day all the revelations of divine bounty shall circle around the Seat of His glory and emanate from His presence, could ye but understand it.
"It behooveth you to remain silent before His Throne, for indeed of all the things which have been created between heaven and earth nothing on that Day will be deemed more fitting than the observance of silence." [1-71]
However, Baha'u'llah annulled this prohibition of the Bab. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas He stated that the believers were free to ask any question from Him.
The station of Baha'u'llah is so exalted in the sight of the Bab that He has directed His followers, as a sign of respect, to arise from their places when they hear the words 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. He also ordains in the Persian Bayan that in every meeting the Babis should leave a seat of honour vacant for Him. <p51>
In the same Book, the Bab makes a statement which reveals His sense of humour. He says that 'He Whom God shall make manifest' will also leave a seat of honour vacant in His own home, because the believers will not recognize Him! He will be inwardly amused by those who venerate His name while remaining veiled from Him at the time of His Revelation.
Innumerable are passages in the Writings of the Bab in which He extols the station of Him Whom God shall make manifest, portrays His person as majestic, awe-inspiring, incomparable and infinitely glorious, describes the inconceivable greatness of His Revelation, regards Himself as the lowliest servant at His threshold, recognizes Him as the Source of His own Revelation and the object of His adoration, and cherishes the desire to lay down His life in His path. Indeed, no Manifestation of God has ever made such a mighty Covenant with His followers regarding the Manifestation Who was to follow. <p52>
The Fulfilment of the Covenant of the Bab
The promise of the Bab, so unequivocally proclaimed concerning the appearance of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', was indeed fulfilled in the year nine (1852-53) with the birth of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran. Within that darksome dungeon, the Most Great Spirit of God descended upon the radiant soul of Baha'u'llah as He breathed the foul air of a filthy and pestilential underground pit, chained and fettered in the most appalling conditions and surrounded by criminals and assassins.[1] That the light of this mighty Revelation should break upon the world in that gloomy place and in such dramatic circumstances is a mystery that continues to baffle our imagination.
[1 See God Passes By.]
The Dispensation of the Bab had now come to its end, and His Covenant was fulfilled. For the believers who learned of it later on, the first glimmerings of this still newer Revelation appeared in the form of a sublime ode known by the Persian believers as Rashh-i-'Ama, revealed by the Tongue of Grandeur in that dungeon. The verses revealed in this soul-stirring poem announce, in joyous terms, the advent of the Day of God. Although only nineteen lines long, this ode is indeed a mighty book revealing the character, the potentialities, the power and the glory of a Revelation identified with God Himself and destined to usher in that Day of Days so emphatically prophesied by the Bab and foretold by former Manifestations of God.
Written in allusive language, the poem clearly proclaims the joy of Baha'u'llah's divine experience. It announces the glad-tidings of that release of spiritual energies of which He was the vehicle, and clearly identifies His Revelation with the Day foretold in Islam when the well-known saying 'I am He' would be fulfilled. 'I' signifies the Person of Baha'u'llah and 'He' is the designation of God Himself. This identity with God, as already discussed, is in the realm of His attributes and not of His Essence which is beyond the reach of His Manifestations. <p53>
The revelation of this joyful and wondrous poem at a time when Baha'u'llah was afflicted with unbearable and torturous sufferings is an indication of the power and glory with which, from its very inception, the Cause of Baha'u'llah had been endowed. For the first time in the recorded history of mankind a Revelation was born which was the culmination of all Revelations before it. The Supreme Manifestation of God, Baha'u'llah, now ushered in the Day of God and inaugurated a universal cycle[1] whose duration, according to His own testimony, was to be five thousand centuries.
[1 For more information, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, pp. 309-11.]
To enable us to grasp a small measure of Baha'u'llah's awe-inspiring station, and to review the statements and prophecies which the prophets of old have left to posterity, we can do no better than to quote the following passages from Shoghi Effendi concerning the Revelation of Baha'u'llah:
"He Who in such dramatic circumstances was made to sustain the overpowering weight of so glorious a Mission was none other than the One Whom posterity will acclaim, and Whom innumerable followers already recognize, as the Judge, the Lawgiver and Redeemer of all mankind, as the Organizer of the entire planet, as the Unifier of the children of men, as the Inaugurator of the long-awaited millennium, as the Originator of a new 'Universal Cycle', as the Establisher of the Most Great Peace, as the Fountain of the Most Great Justice, as the Proclaimer of the coming of age of the entire human race, as the Creator of a new World Order, and as the Inspirer and Founder of a world civilization.
"To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the 'Everlasting Father', the 'Lord of Hosts' come down 'with ten thousands of saints'; to Christendom Christ returned 'in the glory of the Father', to *Shi'ah Islam the return of the Imam Husayn; to Sunni Islam the descent of the 'Spirit of God' (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Shah-Bahram; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha.
"In the name He bore He combined those of the Imam Husayn, the most illustrious of the successors of the Apostle of God -- the brightest 'star' shining in the 'crown' mentioned in the Revelation of St. John -- and of the Imam Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, the second of the two 'witnesses' extolled in that same Book. He was formally designated Baha'u'llah, an appellation specifically recorded in the Persian Bayan, signifying at once the glory, the light and the splendour of God, and was styled the 'Lord of Lords', the 'Most Great Name', the 'Ancient Beauty' the 'Pen of the Most High', the 'Hidden Name', the 'Preserved Treasure', 'He Whom God will make manifest', the 'Most Great Light', the 'All-Highest Horizon', the 'Most Great Ocean', the 'Supreme Heaven', the 'Pre-Existent Root', the 'Self-Subsistent', the 'Day-Star of <p54> the Universe', the 'Great Announcement', the 'Speaker on Sinai', the 'Sifter of Men', the 'Wronged One of the World', the 'Desire of the Nations', the 'Lord of the Covenant', the 'Tree beyond which there is no passing'. He derived His descent, on the one hand, from Abraham (the Father of the Faithful) through his wife Katurah, and on the other from Zoroaster, as well as from Yazdigird, the last king of the Sasaniyan dynasty. He was moreover a descendant of Jesse, and belonged, through His father, Mirza Abbas, better known as Mirza Buzurg -- a nobleman closely associated with the ministerial circles of the Court of Fath-'Ali Shah -- to one of the most ancient and renowned families of Mazindaran.
"To Him Isaiah, the greatest of the Jewish prophets, had alluded as the 'Glory of the Lord', the 'Everlasting Father', the 'Prince of Peace', the 'Wonderful', the 'Counsellor', the 'Rod come forth out of the stem of Jesse' and the 'Branch grown out of His roots', Who 'shall be established upon the throne of David', Who 'will come with strong hands', Who 'shall judge among the nations', Who 'shall smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips slay the wicked', and Who 'shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth'. Of Him David had sung in his Psalms, acclaiming Him as the 'Lord of Hosts' and the 'King of Glory'...
"He alone is meant by the prophecy attributed to Gautama Buddha Himself, that 'a Buddha named Maitreye, the Buddha of universal fellowship' should, in the fullness of time, arise and reveal 'His boundless glory'. To Him the Bhagavad-Gita of the Hindus had referred as the 'Most Great Spirit', the 'Tenth Avatar', the 'Immaculate Manifestation of Krishna'.
"To Him Jesus Christ had referred as the 'Prince of this world', as the 'Comforter' Who will 'reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment', as the 'Spirit of Truth' Who 'will guide you into all truth', Who 'shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak', as the 'Lord of the Vineyard', and as the 'Son of Man' Who 'shall come in the glory of His Father' 'in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory', with 'all the holy angels' about Him, and 'all nations' gathered before His throne. To Him the Author of the Apocalypse had alluded as the 'Glory of Cod', as 'Alpha and Omega', 'the Beginning and the End', 'the First and the Last'. Identifying His Revelation with the 'third woe', he, moreover, had extolled His Law as 'a new heaven and a new earth', as the 'Tabernacle of God', as the 'Holy City', as the 'New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband', To His Day Jesus Christ Himself had referred as 'the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory'...
To Him Muhammad, the Apostle of God, had alluded in His Book as the 'Great Announcement', and declared His Day to be the Day whereon 'God' will 'come down' 'overshadowed with clouds', the Day whereon 'thy Lord shall come and the angels rank on rank', and 'The Spirit shall arise and the angels shall be ranged in order'...
"The Bab had no less significantly extolled Him as the 'Essence of Being', as the 'Remnant of God', as the 'Omnipotent Master', as the 'Crimson, <p55> all-encompassing Light', as 'Lord of the visible and invisible', as the 'sole Object of all previous Revelations, including the Revelation of the Qa'im Himself. He had formally designated Him as 'He Whom God shall make manifest', had alluded to Him as the 'Abha Horizon' wherein He Himself lived and dwelt, had specifically recorded His title, and eulogized His 'Order' in His best-known work, the Persian Bayan, had disclosed His name through His allusion to the 'Son of Ali, a true and undoubted Leader of men', had, repeatedly, orally and in writing, fixed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the time of His Revelation, and warned His followers lest 'the Bayan and all that hath been revealed therein' should 'shut them out as by a veil' from Him...
"'He around Whom the Point of the Bayan (Bab) hath revolved is come' is Baha'u'llah's confirmatory testimony to the inconceivable greatness and preeminent character of His own Revelation. 'If all who are in heaven and on earth', He moreover affirms, 'be invested in this day with the powers and attributes destined for the Letters of the Bayan, whose station is ten thousand times more glorious than that of the Letters of the Qur'anic Dispensation, and if they one and all should, swift as the twinkling of an eye, hesitate to recognize My Revelation, they shall be accounted, in the sight of God, of those that have gone astray, and regarded as "Letters of Negation".' 'Powerful is He, the King of Divine might', He, alluding to Himself in the Kitab-i-Iqan, asserts 'to extinguish with one letter of His wondrous words, the breath of life in the whole of the Bayan and the people thereof, and with one letter bestow upon them a new and everlasting life, and cause them to arise and speed out of the sepulchres of their vain and selfish desires.' 'This', He furthermore declares, 'is the king of days', the 'Day of God Himself, the 'Day which shall never be followed by night', the 'Springtime which autumn will never overtake', 'the eye to past ages and centuries', for which 'the soul of every Prophet of God, of every Divine Messenger, hath thirsted', for which 'all the divers kindreds of the earth have yearned', through which 'God hath proved the hearts of the entire company of His Messengers and Prophets, and beyond them those that stand guard over His sacred and inviolable Sanctuary, the inmates of the Celestial Pavilion and dwellers of the Tabernacle of Glory'...
"And last but not least is Abdu'l-Baha's own tribute to the transcendent character of the Revelation identified with His Father: 'Centuries, nay ages, must pass away, ere the Day-Star of Truth shineth again in its mid-summer splendour, or appeareth once more in the radiance of its vernal glory.' 'The mere contemplation of the Dispensation inaugurated by the Blessed Beauty', He furthermore affirms, 'would have sufficed to overwhelm the saints of bygone ages -- saints who longed to partake for one moment of its great glory.'" [2-1]
By the time Baha'u'llah was released from the Siyah-Chal, He had been already stripped of His vast possessions, His health impaired by the ill-treatment and hardships of life in the dungeon, His neck badly injured and His back bent by the weight of heavy chains; but His soul was in the utmost joy. He did not intimate to anyone His experience of Divine Revelation. Only Abdu'l-Baha, then nine years of age, <p56> intuitively recognized the spiritual transformation of His Father into a Manifestation of the Divine Being. The Greatest Holy Leaf, that noble and illustrious daughter of Baha'u'llah, has described her feelings after the release of her Father in these words:
"Jamal-i-Mubarak[1]had a marvellous divine experience whilst in that prison.
[1 Literally, Blessed Beauty, Baha'u'llah.]
"We saw a new radiance seeming to enfold him like a shining vesture, its significance we were to learn years later. At that time we were only aware of the wonder of it, without understanding, or even being told the details of the sacred event." [2-2]
It is important to note that although Baha'u'llah did not intimate His station to the Babis, several souls among them recognized Him as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' during the Ministry of the Bab, long before Baha'u'llah's imprisonment in the Siyah-Chal. Mulla Husayn, the one who first made contact with Him, was aware of His station. Likewise Quddus and Tahirih had discovered that He, and no one else, was the Promised One of the Bayan. Indeed, when we study the events that took place at the Conference of Badasht,[1]it becomes clear that these two outstanding disciples of the Bab had full knowledge of the station of Baha'u'llah. Some of those who took part in that conference were surprised to witness the expressions of utmost lowliness and humility by Quddus and Tahirih towards Baha'u'llah. The reverence which they showed to Him at Badasht by far exceeded the homage they paid to the Bab. Indeed, Tahirih has composed and left to posterity some beautiful poems in adoration of Baha'u'llah Whom she refers to by name, and regards Him as her Lord. [2-3] Similarly Quddus, at that same conference, mentioned Baha'u'llah by name in a treatise and paid tribute to His exalted station.
[1 See The Dawn-Breakers.]
Baha'u'llah Himself was fully aware of His station from childhood. In one of His Tablets [2-4] He describes that when He was very young He was overcome by a condition which completely affected His manners, His thoughts and His words.
A transfiguration took place, the ocean of utterance[1] began to surge within Him, and this condition, Baha'u'llah testifies, continued throughout His life.[2] Some may find this statement contrary to the belief that Baha'u'llah received the intimation of His station in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran. Abdu'l-Baha has explained in His Writings <p57> that a Manifestation of God is always a Manifestation. Even from childhood, long before He receives the call of Prophethood, He has all the powers of the Manifestation latent within Him. He describes this state as a lamp which is hidden under a bushel, its light hidden from the eyes of men. He also likens Him to a man who is asleep and does not reveal His powers until the hour strikes for the birth of His Mission.
[1 Baha'u'llah has often referred to the outpouring of His Revelation as the surging of the ocean of His utterance.]
[2 For a further discussion of this subject, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, pp. 346-9.]
It is not possible for man to fully understand the mysteries of divine Revelation and to appreciate the nature and the workings of the Manifestations of God. In the case of Baha'u'llah, however, we can discover from the records of His life and from His conduct that prior to the birth of His Revelation, He was fully aware of His exalted station. To cite one example:
One of the devoted disciples of the Bab was the celebrated Shaykh Hasan-i-Zunuzi.[1] The Bab had intimated to him that he would attain the presence of the Promised Husayn[2] in the city of Karbila where Shaykh Hasan used to live. Baha'u'llah visited Karbila in 1851, about one year before His imprisonment in the Siyah-Chal. In that city He met Shaykh Hasan and, as prophesied by the Bab, he intimated to him His exalted station. Nabil-i-A'zam tells the story as recounted to him by Shaykh Hasan.
[1 See The Dawn-Breakers.]
[2 It is believed in Islam that two Revelations will succeed one another. Shi'ah Islam expects that after the appearance of the Qa'im, the Promised Husayn will manifest Himself. It is noteworthy that Baha'u'llah's name was Husayn-'Ali.]
"Sixteen lunar months, less twenty and two days, had elapsed since the day of the martyrdom of the Bab, when, on the day of Arafih,[1] in the year 1267 A.H.,[2] while I was passing by the gate of the inner courtyard of the shrine of the Imam Husayn, my eyes, for the first time, fell upon Baha'u'llah. What shall I recount regarding the countenance which I beheld! The beauty of that face, those exquisite features which no pen or brush dare describe, His penetrating glance, His kindly face, the majesty of His bearing, the sweetness of His smile, the luxuriance of His jet-black flowing locks, left an indelible impression upon my soul. I was then an old man, bowed with age. How lovingly He advanced towards me! He took me by the hand and, in a tone which at once betrayed power and beauty, addressed me in these words: 'This very day I have purposed to make you known as a Babi throughout Karbila.' Still holding my hand in His, He continued to converse with me. He walked with me all along the market-street, and in the end He said: 'Praise be to God that you have remained in Karbila, and have beheld with your own eyes the countenance of the promised Husayn.' I recalled instantly the promise which had been given me by the Bab. His words, which I had regarded as referring <p58> to a remote future, I had not shared with anyone. These words of Baha'u'llah moved me to the depths of my being. I felt impelled to proclaim to a heedless people, at that very moment and with all my soul and power, the advent of the promised Husayn. He bade me, however, repress my feelings and conceal my emotions. 'Not yet', He breathed into my ears; 'the appointed Hour is approaching. It has not yet struck. Rest assured and be patient.' From that moment all my sorrows vanished. My soul was flooded with joy." [2-5]
[1 The ninth day of the month of Dhi'l-Hijjih.]
[2 October 5, 1851. ]
On that occasion, Baha'u'llah actually imparted to Shaykh Hasan the glad-tidings that the unveiling of His Revelation would take place in Baghdad.[1]
[1 See The Dawn-Breakers, p. 593.]
Although a few of the disciples of the Bab had the spiritual capacity to recognize Baha'u'llah as the Promised One of the Bayan, both before and after the birth of His Revelation in the Siyah-Chal, the believers in general were completely unaware of it. The Babi community was at that time experiencing the most harrowing persecution and sufferings. By the time of Baha'u'llah's imprisonment in the Siyah-Chal, over two years had passed since the Martyrdom of the Bab. Many of His outstanding followers had been mown down by an inveterate enemy. Every hope which the Babis entertained for the ascendancy and triumph of His Cause was dashed, and they were dispirited and dismayed. Baha'u'llah, the only leader Who inspired them with confidence and assurance, had, soon after the Martyrdom of the Bab, been advised to retire for a period of time to Karbila in Iraq. His sojourn lasted a little under a year and soon after His return He had been cast into the Siyah-Chal of Tihran in the most humiliating circumstances. And finally, He had been exiled to Iraq. When we consider the lack of a proper system of communication in Persia in those days, we can appreciate how the followers of the Bab were cut off and did not know where to turn for guidance.
The only leader they had been told to turn to was Mirza Yahya, but he spent most of this time in hiding. He was a fugitive, frightened and roaming around the countryside in disguise so that no one could contact him. When Baha'u'llah was imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal, a bloodbath of unprecedented ferocity was unleashed on the Babis. Anyone who had any connection with the Faith of the Bab was executed in the most cruel circumstances. Those who escaped the net were driven underground. They lived their lives confused and leaderless.
In order to appreciate the history of this particular time and the two decades which followed, we can do no better than to study <p59> closely the provisions which were made by the Bab during His lifetime concerning the leadership of the Babi community after His martyrdom until the appearance of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. This is where Mirza Yahya, entitled Subh-i-Azal (Morn of Eternity) plays a major role. <p60>
Mirza Yahya, the Nominee of the Bab
Mirza Yahya was a paternal half-brother of Baha'u'llah. He was about fourteen years younger, and when their father died he was only a boy of eight. He thus grew up under the care and protection of Baha'u'llah, Who paid special attention to his education and upbringing. When the Bab declared His Mission in 1844, Mirza Yahya was thirteen years old. When the Message of the Bab reached Baha'u'llah, He helped Mirza Yahya to recognize the station of the Bab and to embrace the newly-born Faith, and encouraged him to read the Writings of the Bab and become familiar with their style of composition.
A few months before the Bab was martyred in 1850, Sayyah, one of His distinguished disciples, attained the presence of Baha'u'llah in Tihran. On this occasion Baha'u'llah sent a communication to the Bab through Sayyah. Nabil-i-A'zam records this account:
"Ere the departure of Sayyah from Tihran, Baha'u'llah entrusted him with an epistle, the text of which He had dictated to Mirza Yahya, and sent it in his name. Shortly after, a reply, penned in the Bab's own handwriting, in which He commits Mirza Yahya to the care of Baha'u'llah and urges that attention be paid to his education and training, was received." [3-1]
Thus Mirza Yahya grew up under the guidance of Baha'u'llah and became conversant with the Writings of the Bab.
In those days the believers who were educated used to make handwritten copies of the holy Words. In order to deepen his understanding of the Writings of the Bab, Baha'u'llah especially assigned Mirza Yahya the task of transcribing them. Consequently Mirza Yahya learnt not only the style of the composition of the Bab's Writings, but was also able to write in the same fashion and imitate the Bab's handwriting -- an art which served him well some years later when he rebelled against Baha'u'llah, and by forging the Bab's handwriting interpolated his own words into the Bab's Writings to produce texts in his own favour.
The appointment by the Bab of Mirza Yahya as the leader of the Babi community took place on the advice of Baha'u'llah. Abdu'l-Baha <p61> states that some time after the death of Muhammad Shah it became evident that Baha'u'llah's fame had spread far and wide in Persia and it was essential to divert public attention away from His Person. To achieve this aim Baha'u'llah advised the Bab to nominate Mirza Yahya. This advice was communicated through the medium of a trusted believer, Mulla Abdu'l-Karim of Qazvin, otherwise known as Mirza Ahmad, who was able to make contact with the Bab. The appointment of Mirza Yahya, who was then in his late teens, had the obvious advantage of enabling Baha'u'llah to direct the affairs of the community behind the scenes through the instrumentality of Mirza Yahya, who, in reality, was merely the ostensible head until the advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.
The Babi community was not informed of the reasons behind this appointment. It must have come as a surprise to many when they realized that the appointee of the Bab was a youth in his teens, and those who knew his personality were aware of his shallowness and vanity. Apart from Mulla Abdu'l-Karim, the only other person who was privy to this secret arrangement was Baha'u'llah's faithful brother, Mirza Musa, entitled Aqay-i-Kalim. It must be stated here that the Bab in all His Writings urged the believers to be ready for the manifestation of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' and no one else. So emphatic was His advent and so close was the timing of His Revelation that the Bab never contemplated the appointment of a successor to Himself. Indeed, He confirms this in the Bayan, saying that in His Dispensation there was to be no mention of successorship. Yet Mirza Yahya, as we shall see later, broke the Covenant of the Bab and claimed to be His successor.
Mirza Yahya was devoid of outstanding qualities. He was easily influenced by people, ambitious and, above all, very timid by nature. At the age of nineteen he married his cousin and for some time they lived in the village of Takur in the province of Nur. The Babi community of Takur was one of the most thriving communities in Persia at the time. The reason for this was that as soon as the news of the Declaration of the Bab reached Baha'u'llah, He arose to teach the Faith to the members of His family and others in Nur. Many relatives and friends in that area embraced the Faith and through the influence of Baha'u'llah became staunch believers.
When the news of the Martyrdom of the Bab reached Mirza Yahya, he was so frightened for his own life that he disguised himself in the garb of a dervish and, leaving his wife and child behind, fled the mountains of Mazindaran. Soon after, Baha'u'llah left Persia for Iraq and Mirza Yahya could no longer avail himself of His protection and guidance. Thus he roamed the countryside in fear and trepidation. This behaviour, especially at a time when Baha'u'llah <p62> was absent from Persia, had a deadly effect upon the believers in the province of Nur. Through Mirza Yahya's cowardly behaviour and lack of faith in the religion of the Bab, many believers were disappointed in him as a leader, became disenchanted and left the Faith altogether.
This tragic situation brought great sorrow to Baha'u'llah. Some years later in Akka, He uttered these words on the subject as recounted by Nabil:
"God knows that at no time did We attempt to conceal Ourself or hide the Cause which We have been bidden to proclaim. Though not wearing the garb of the people of learning, We have again and again faced and reasoned with men of great scholarship in both Nur and Mazindaran, and have succeeded in persuading them of the truth of this Revelation. We never flinched in Our determination; We never hesitated to accept the challenge from whatever direction it came. To whomsoever We spoke in those days, We found him receptive to our Call and ready to identify himself with its precepts. But for the shameful behaviour of the people of Bayan, who sullied by their deeds the work We had accomplished, Nur and Mazindaran would have been entirely won to this Cause and would have been accounted by this time among its leading strongholds." [3-2]
When the attempt was made on the life of Nasiri'd-Din Shah by a few mentally disturbed Babis in 1852, hell broke loose upon the Babi community. Many of the followers of the Bab were martyred in the most cruel circumstances and Baha'u'llah, along with others, was imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal. The Shah ordered his Prime Minister, Mirza Aqa Khan,[1] who was a native of Nur himself, to send troops to Nur and arrest all the followers of the Bab in that area. The troops carried out their orders; some believers were killed and some were taken to the Siyah-Chal, their houses demolished and their properties confiscated. The house of Baha'u'llah, which was royally furnished, was turned into ruins. Its roof was destroyed and all items of exquisite furnishings confiscated. So terrified was Mirza Yahya as a result of these persecutions that he fled to Gilan in disguise and then to Kirmanshah in the west of Persia. There he decided to engage himself in a profession so that no one could identify him. He took work as a salesman with a certain Abdu'llah-i-Qazvini who was a maker of shrouds.
[1 He was related to Baha'u'llah through the marriage of his niece to Mirza Muhammad-Hasan, an elder half-brother of Baha'u'llah.]
Some months later Baha'u'llah and His family passed through Kirmanshah on their way to Baghdad. In Kirmanshah several people of rank and position came to visit Baha'u'llah and pay their respects, but Mirza Yahya was afraid to contact Him. Such was his state of mind that when Aqay-i-Kalim, Baha'u'llah's faithful brother, called <p63> on him, Mirza Yahya was apprehensive lest some one should recognize his true identity. After some persuasion by Aqay-i-Kalim, he went and visited Baha'u'llah, knowing that Baha'u'llah would extend to him His protection and guidance. Feeling secure in His presence, he expressed the desire to go to Baghdad and live alone, incognito, in a house close to Baha'u'llah's and engage in a trade there. Baha'u'llah gave him a small sum of money and he bought a few bales of cotton, disguised himself as an Arab and soon after Baha'u'llah's arrival in Baghdad, found his way to that city.
Being a master in the art of disguise, he arrived at Baha'u'llah's doorstep dressed as a dervish, kashkul (alms box) in hand. So well was he disguised that Aqay-i-Kalim, who answered the door, did not recognize him at first. He stayed for a few days in the house of Baha'u'llah, but asked that neither his identity nor his arrival in the city be divulged to the believers in Iraq. He was helped to secure a residence in the Arab quarter of the city where no Persians resided. There he spent his time in hiding during the day, emerging only at night when he would go to the house of Baha'u'llah, meet with Aqay-i-Kalim, and then return home in the late hours. He even had threatened that if anyone insisted on visiting him and revealing his identity, he would excommunicate him from the Babi community.
It must be noted that from the early days when the Bab announced him as the leader of the Babi community, Mirza Yahya, who was also a highly ambitious person, had entertained the thought of one day bypassing Baha'u'llah (who used to direct his activities) and independently asserting himself as the successor of the Bab. In those days before his rebellion, it was Baha'u'llah's practice to call Mirza Yahya into His presence to take down Baha'u'llah's words and communicate His message to the Babis in his own name as the leader of the Babi community.[1] But it is a well-known fact that whenever he entered into the presence of Baha'u'llah and came face to face with His majestic Person, he was unable to put forward his thoughts and became utterly speechless. Some individuals who were close to him have testified to this. Mirza Aqa Jan, Baha'u'llah's amanuensis, was at first surprised to find Mirza Yahya so helpless and mute in the presence of Baha'u'llah, until later he realized that Mirza Yahya was like anyone else in His presence.
[1 In one of His Tablets Baha'u'llah describes this period of the Faith. See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah. vol. 2, pp. 241-3.]
Many Babis, through their devotion to the Faith, were eager to meet Mirza Yahya since he had been nominated by the Bab, but very few succeeded and these were utterly disappointed after meeting him. To cite an example: Shaykh Salman,[1] honoured by Baha'u'llah <p64> as the 'Messenger of the Merciful' and one of the outstanding believers who for almost forty years carried Tablets and messages from Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha to the believers, was very eager to meet Mirza Yahya in the early days of Baha'u'llah's arrival in Baghdad. After much pleading by Shaykh Salman, Mirza Yahya agreed to meet him outside the city on a hilltop. When the interview took place, Mirza Yahya had nothing to say except trivialities. He was interested in the telegraph poles (a novelty in those days) and wanted Shaykh Salman to guess the distance between two poles for him! There were a few others who succeeded in meeting Mirza Yahya in Baghdad and they too recognized his ignorance and shallow-mindedness. Those few -- and there were not many -- who met him face to face knew that Mirza Yahya was merely the ostensible head appointed by the Bab for convenience.
[1 For an account of his services, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vols. 1 and 2.]
But the Babi community as a whole was not aware of the true situation. Many, in the earlier part of Baha'u'llah's sojourn in Baghdad, were attracted to him. But this attraction was only to a name, for he was inaccessible to everybody. Gradually, as the followers of the Bab turned to Baha'u'llah, the truth of the Faith began to dawn on them. Many travelled to Baghdad, attained His presence and were vivified by the majesty and the glory of His Person. Some of them recognized Him as the Promised One of the Bayan but were not allowed to divulge their belief to others. But soon after Baha'u'llah's arrival, great tests surrounded the Babi community. A severe crisis assailed the infant Faith of God from within and shook it to its very foundations for almost two decades. <p65>
The Breaking of the Bab's Covenant
Shortly after Mirza Yahya had settled in Baghdad, he decided to engage in a profession so as to hide his identity. At first he changed his headgear, adopting a large turban and assuming the name of Haji Aliy-i-Las-Furush.[1]He then took a shop in a dilapidated part of the city in a bazaar and started working. In the meantime, a man of great evil described by Baha'u'llah as 'the embodiment of wickedness and impiety', 'the prime mover of mischief' and 'one accursed of God', entered the scene to influence Mirza Yahya. He was the notorious Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani, known as the 'Antichrist of the Baha'i Revelation'. In the early days of the Faith this man was a student at a theological school in Isfahan, but was expelled for reprehensible conduct. He embraced the Faith during the early part of the Ministry of the Bab and later went to Karbila where he joined the ranks of the believers. In the Kitab-i-Iqan Baha'u'llah alludes to him as that 'one-eyed man, who ... is arising with the utmost malevolence against us'. Of him Shoghi Effendi writes:
[1 'Las Furush' means a dealer in silk. It is interesting that Mirza Yahya was known in official circles as Haji Ali until the end of his life.]
"The black-hearted scoundrel who befooled and manipulated this vain and flaccid man[1] with consummate skill and unyielding persistence was a certain Siyyid Muhammad, a native of Isfahan, notorious for his inordinate ambition, his blind obstinacy and uncontrollable jealousy. To him Baha'u'llah had later referred in the Kitab-i-Aqdas as the one who had 'led astray' Mirza Yahya, and stigmatized him, in one of His Tablets, as the 'source of envy and the quintessence of mischief, while Abdu'l-Baha had described the relationship existing between these two as that of 'the sucking child' to the 'much-prized breast' of its mother." [4-1]
[1 Mirza Yahya.]
Siyyid Muhammad was in Karbila when Baha'u'llah visited that city in 1851. As soon as he met Baha'u'llah, Whom he considered merely as another Babi, he was struck by His authority and majesty, and when he saw the marks of honour and reverence shown to Him by others he was filled with an uncontrollable envy which never left him till the end of his tragic life. <p66>
Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i,[1] an outstanding follower of the Bab, one of the Mirrors[2] of the Babi Dispensation who recognized the station of Baha'u'llah from the early days and became an ardent Baha'i, was in Karbila and also met Baha'u'llah there for the first time in 1851. The following is his spoken chronicle as he describes his meeting with Him at a gathering where Siyyid Muhammad was also present.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vols. 1, 2 and 3.]
[2 The Bab had exalted certain individuals to this rank.]
"...I was in Karbila when the news of the arrival of Baha'u'llah in that city reached me. The first person who gave me this information was Haji Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani.
"Before I attained His presence, I expected to find Him a youth of noble lineage, the son of a vizier, but not one endowed with immense knowledge or wisdom. Together with some friends I went to meet Baha'u'llah. As was their custom, my friends would not enter the room before me; so I went in first and occupied the seat of honour in that gathering.
"After we had exchanged greetings Baha'u'llah turned to those present and asked them what subjects they, the disciples of the late Siyyid,[1] usually discussed when they gathered in a meeting. Did they discuss the topics of religion as was current among men? What would they do if God manifested Himself to man, rolled up the old doctrines and philosophies, revealed a new set of teachings and opened up a new page in divine knowledge? What then would be their position? Baha'u'llah spoke for some time in this vein. It was not long before I realized that we, known as men of learning and knowledge, dwelt in the depths of ignorance, whereas He, Whom we considered to be only a youth, the son of a vizier, stood upon the highest pinnacle of understanding, knowledge and wisdom. After this experience, whenever I entered His presence, I would sit at His feet in absolute humility and refrain from speaking. I always listened attentively to Him in order to benefit from His knowledge and understanding. This attitude of mine, however, used to annoy my friend Siyyid Muhammad. Once he rebuked me, saying: 'Assuming that all agree that Jinab-i-Baha is of the same calibre as ourselves, why do you sit in silence and show so much humility towards Him?'
[1 Siyyid Kazim-i-Rashti (A.T.)]
"I pleaded with my friend not to be angry with me. I told him that I could neither specify a station for Him nor, God forbid, consider Him as one of us. I regarded Him as incomparable and unique." [4-2]
The high esteem in which Baha'u'llah was held by the Babis and the Shaykhis served to arouse in Siyyid Muhammad feelings of jealousy and inner animosity as well as a determination to counteract His supremacy and exalted position in the Babi community.
When Baha'u'llah was exiled to Iraq in 1853, the Babis were in great disarray. They were frightened and helpless people who since <p67> the martyrdom of the Bab had been driven underground. They did not dare associate with each other in public for fear of being persecuted. When Baha'u'llah arrived in Iraq, He inspired them to come out into the open and gradually through His wise and loving leadership the Babi community acquired a new lease of life. The ascendancy of Baha'u'llah in public and His rising prestige intensified the fire of jealousy which was now burning fiercely in Siyyid Muhammad's heart.
Describing the circumstances in which some of the followers of the Bab in Baghdad recognised the station of Baha'u'llah and turned to Him in adoration, Shoghi Effendi recounts the reaction shown by Siyyid Muhammad in these words:
"To these evidences of an ever deepening veneration for Baha'u'llah and of a passionate attachment to His person were now being added further grounds for the outbreak of the pent-up jealousies which His mounting prestige evoked in the breasts of His ill-wishers and enemies. The steady extension of the circle of His acquaintances and admirers; His friendly intercourse with officials including the governor of the city; the unfeigned homage offered Him, on so many occasions and so spontaneously, by men who had once been distinguished companions of Siyyid Kazim; the disillusionment which the persistent concealment of Mirza Yahya, and the unflattering reports circulated regarding his character and abilities, had engendered; the signs of increasing independence, of innate sagacity and inherent superiority and capacity for leadership unmistakably exhibited by Baha'u'llah Himself -- all combined to widen the breach which the infamous and crafty Siyyid Muhammad had sedulously contrived to create." [4-3]
Knowing Mirza Yahya's weaknesses and fully aware of his ambitions, this scheming Siyyid allied himself closely with him. His influence upon Mirza Yahya was as effective as it was satanic. As a result of this close association, Mirza Yahya began to sow the seeds of doubt in the minds of those who had become Baha'u'llah's ardent admirers and were attracted to His Person. By various means, sometimes openly and sometimes in a subtle way, he began to try to discredit Baha'u'llah and misrepresent His motives in reviving the declining fortunes of the Babi community.
While in hiding, Mirza Yahya employed a Persian merchant named Abu'l-Qasim as an intermediary between himself and the believers. As the nominee of the Bab, he began, with the help of Siyyid Muhammad and through Abu'l-Qasim, to disseminate his baneful and misguided directives to all the Babis in Baghdad. As this campaign of misrepresentation gathered momentum, the fortunes of the Faith began to decline, and many Babis became confused and disenchanted. <p68>
It was during these days, too, that Siyyid Muhammad and Mirza Yahya found a way to legitimize their own foul conduct in the community. This they did by abusing the proclamation which had been made at Badasht concerning the abrogation of the laws of Islam.[1] They claimed that the Babi Dispensation had lifted the bounds (Kasr-i-Hudud) which the laws of God had imposed upon the faithful. This refers to the annulment of the laws of Islam which had indeed been swept away through the Dispensation of the Bab, and not to the bounds of human decency and morality. Mirza Yahya misinterpreted this 'lifting of the bonds' to mean the abrogation of moral principles as well. Thus he began to commit many reprehensible acts. For instance, he ordered his servant to assassinate several outstanding individuals among the Babis, as we shall see.
[1 See God Passes By, p. 403, and The Dawn-Breakers, pp. 293-8.]
Baha'u'llah is referring to this misleading concept when He thus admonishes the believers in the Kitab-i-Aqdas:
"We verily have commanded you to refuse the dictates of your evil passions and corrupt desires and not to transgress the bounds which the Pen of the Most High hath fixed..." [4-4]
Although only a few years had elapsed since the birth of their Faith, the Babis in Persia were bitterly divided among themselves, mainly for theological reasons. In Qazvin, the home of Tahirih, where a large number of Babis resided, there were four sects, each bearing a name. One was identified with Quddus, another with Tahirih, another with Mirza Yahya, and one known as Bayanis, the followers of the Book of the Bayan.
In the meantime the situation in Iraq grew worse. Encouraged by Siyyid Muhammad, Mirza Yahya made the preposterous claim of being the successor of the Bab -- a position never contemplated by Him. Indeed, He categorically states in the Persian Bayan [4-5] that He appoints no successor to Himself. As a result of such harmful propaganda and acts of treachery and deceit, which kindled dissension among the believers, 'the fire of the Cause of God', as testified by Nabil, 'had been well-nigh quenched in every place'. [4-6]
It is important to recognise that every religion has had its beginnings characterized by the onrushing forces of divine Revelation vivifying the souls of men as in a spring season. But at the end of the Dispensation winter sets in and the spiritual energies die down. This process, in older Dispensations, lasted several centuries. For example, the springtime of Christianity, which lasted about three years during the Ministry of Jesus, was followed by the summer season a few centuries later when the Christian religion flourished. But with the advent of Muhammad, it lost its vitality and spiritual <p69> potency. The advent of a new Dispensation brings about the close of the older one.[1] All past religions have gone through this cycle of spring, summer and winter, and the Dispensation of the Bab is no exception. The only difference is that whereas this cycle in older religions lasted several centuries, in the case of the Bab's it took only a decade for the spiritual winter to set in. Shoghi Effendi describes eloquently the rise and fall of the Babi religion:
[1See the Kitab-i-Iqan.]
"In sheer dramatic power, in the rapidity with which events of momentous importance succeeded each other, in the holocaust which baptized its birth, in the miraculous circumstances attending the martyrdom of the One Who had ushered it in, in the potentialities with which it had been from the outset so thoroughly impregnated, in the forces to which it eventually gave birth, this nine-year period may well rank as unique in the whole range of man's religious experience. We behold, as we survey the episodes of this first act of a sublime drama, the figure of its Master Hero, the Bab, arise meteor-like above the horizon of Shiraz, traverse the sombre sky of Persia, from south to north, decline with tragic swiftness, and perish in a blaze of glory. We see His satellites, a galaxy of God-intoxicated heroes, mount above that same horizon, irradiate that same incandescent light, burn themselves out with that self-same swiftness, and impart in their turn an added impetus to the steadily gathering momentum of God's nascent Faith." [4-7]
Baha'u'llah, in some Tablets revealed in that period, foreshadows the appearance of severe tests and trials as a result of the machinations of Mirza Yahya and Siyyid Muhammad. In one Tablet He utters these words of warning:
"The days of tests are now come. Oceans of dissension and tribulation are surging, and the Banners of Doubt are, in every nook and corner, occupied in stirring up mischief and in leading men to perdition..." [4-8]
In the Tablet of Qullu't-Ta'am, Baha'u'llah alludes to His intention to depart from Baghdad;[1] this He did when tests and tribulations reached a climax. Without informing anyone, including the members of His family, He left Baghdad for the mountains of Kurdistan. This was in April 1854.[2] In the Kitab-i-Iqan He writes these thought-provoking words:
[1 For a more detailed study, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, p. 55.]
[2 For details of Baha'u'llah's withdrawal to the mountains of Kurdistan, see God Passes By.]
"In the early days of Our arrival in this land, when We discerned the signs of impending events, We decided, ere they happened, to retire... By the righteousness of God! Our withdrawal contemplated no return, and Our separation hoped for no reunion. The one object of Our retirement was to avoid becoming a subject of discord among the faithful, a source of disturbance unto Our companions, the means of injury to any soul, or <p70> the cause of sorrow to any heart. Beyond these, We cherished no other intention, and apart from them, We had no end in view." [4-9]
The absence of Baha'u'llah for about two years resulted in the swift decline and near extinction of the Babi community. Under the leadership of Siyyid Muhammad and Mirza Yahya, it had degenerated completely. Unlike the glorious days of a decade earlier, when its heroes and martyrs had demonstrated the vitality of their faith and the purity of their motives, the so-called followers of the Bab in Iraq during Baha'u'llah's retirement had sunk to the lowest depths of degradation and perversity. They were known to be in the forefront for thievery, highway robbery and murder for hire.
Mirza Yahya, disguised as a shopkeeper and sometimes hidden in a house, emboldened by the absence of Baha'u'llah and directed by Siyyid Muhammad, embarked upon some of his cowardly activities, both within and outside the Babi community. As we shall see later, the atrocities which were committed in his name and on his orders constitute some of the most shameful events in the history of the Faith, events which helped to bring about the near extinction of the Babi religion.
It must be noted that in order to preserve the integrity of the Faith, Baha'u'llah for several years neither questioned the validity of Mirza Yahya's appointment as the leader of the Babi community, nor announced the nullification of his leadership to that community. Indeed, when He departed for the mountains of Kurdistan, He directed the members of His own family to treat Mirza Yahya with consideration and to obey him. The following account by the Greatest Holy Leaf, depicting the hardships and difficulties suffered by the Holy Family during Baha'u'llah's absence, throws light on their relationship with this unfaithful brother of Baha'u'llah, and reveals some of his reprehensible conduct.
"At length my father decided to leave Baghdad for a time. During his absence, Subh-i-Azal[1] could convince himself whether or not the Babis desired to turn their faces to him as their leader, as he, in the petty conceit of a small mind and undisciplined nature, asserted, would, if given an opportunity, prove to be the case.
[1 Mirza Yahya.]
"Before my father left for his retreat into the wilderness, he commanded the friends to treat Subh-i-Azal with consideration. He offered him and his family the shelter and hospitality of our house.
He asked Mirza Musa, my mother and me, to care for them and to do everything in our power to make them comfortable. Our grief was intense when my father left us. He told none of us either where he was going or when he would return. He took no luggage, only a little rice, and some coarse bread. <p71>
"So we, my mother, my brother Abbas and I, clung together in our sorrow and anxiety.
"Subh-i-Azal rejoiced, hoping to gain his ends, now that Jamal-i-Mubarak was no longer present.
"Meanwhile, he was a guest in our house. He gave us much trouble, complaining of the food. Though all the best and most dainty things were invariably given to him.
"He became at this time more than ever terrified lest he should one day be arrested. He hid himself, keeping the door of our house locked, and stormed at anybody who opened it.
"As for me, I led a very lonely life, and would have liked sometimes to make friends with other children. But Subh-i-Azal would not permit any little friends to come to the house, neither would he let me go out!
"Two little girls about my own age lived in the next house. I used to peep at them; but our guest always came and shouted at me for opening the door, which he promptly locked. He was always in fear of being arrested, and cared for nothing but his own safety.
"We led a very difficult life at this time as well as a lonely one. He would not even allow us to go to the Hammam to take our baths. Nobody was permitted to come to the house to help us, and the work therefore was very hard.
"For hours every day I had to stand drawing water from a deep well in the house; the ropes were hard and rough, and the bucket was heavy. My dear mother used to help, but she was not very strong, and my arms were rather weak. Our guest never helped.
"My father having told us to respect and obey this tyrannical person, we tried to do so, but this respect was not easy, as our lives were made so unhappy by him.
"During this time the darling baby brother, born after our arrival in Baghdad, became seriously ill. Our guest would not allow a doctor, or even any neighbour to come to our help.
"My mother was heart-broken when the little one died; even then we were not allowed to have anybody to prepare him for burial.
"The sweet body of our beautiful baby was given to a man, who took it away, and we never knew even where he was laid. I remember so clearly the sorrow of those days.
"A little while after this, we moved into a larger house -- fortunately Subh-i-Azal was too terrified of being seen, if he came with us -- so he preferred to occupy a little house behind ours. We still sent his food to him, also provided for his family, now increased, as he had married another wife, a girl from a neighbouring village.
"His presence was thus happily removed from our daily life; we were relieved and much happier." [4-10]
During Baha'u'llah's absence, the news reached Baghdad of the martyrdom of a certain believer of Najaf-Abad, near Isfahan. Mirza Yahya was highly alarmed, fearing that an outbreak of persecution could lead the enemies of the Faith to him, the nominee of the Bab, <p72> and take his life. With these thoughts in mind, he decided to change his residence. With the help of a certain Mirza Aliy-i-Tabrizi, he bought a consignment of shoes, disguised himself as a Jew and went to Basra where he remained for some time and occupied himself in his newly-found profession of shoe merchant. Later, when he realized that there was no need for alarm, he returned to Baghdad.
It was during this period under the leadership of Mirza Yahya, inspired by his wicked advisor Siyyid Muhammad, that some of the most heinous atrocities were committed. Mirza Asadu'llah of Khuy, surnamed Dayyan by the Bab and one of His outstanding followers, was murdered on Mirza Yahya's orders. Another victim was Mirza Ali-Akbar, a paternal cousin of the Bab.
Dayyan was referred to by the Bab as the repository of the trust of God, and the treasury of His knowledge. He was also promised to be the third person to believe in 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. When Mirza Yahya claimed to be the successor of the Bab, Dayyan wrote an epistle in which he refuted his claims, quoting many passages from the Writings of the Bab in support of his argument. This bold and truthful epistle angered Mirza Yahya, who replied by writing his inflammatory book known as Mustayqiz (Sleeper Awakened). In it he severely condemns Dayyan, whom he refers to as the 'father of calamities'. He also rebukes another believer of note, a certain Siyyid Ibrahim, who was an admirer of Dayyan and whom he stigmatizes as 'the father of iniquities'. He also calls on the Babis to take the lives of these two. Not satisfied with this condemnation, Mirza Yahya despatched his servant Mirza Muhammad-i-Mazindarani to Adhirbayjan with explicit orders to murder Dayyan. In the meantime Dayyan had left for Baghdad, and Mirza Yahya's servant had to return.
Upon his arrival in Baghdad, Dayyan was confronted with great antagonism by the Babis who were spurred on by Mirza Yahya's denunciation of him. This was during the time when Baha'u'llah was in Baghdad. Knowing that the life of Dayyan was in danger, Baha'u'llah called the believers to His house one by one and rebuked them for their behaviour toward Dayyan. In the meantime Dayyan attained the presence of Baha'u'llah, and as the Bab had promised, recognized His Person as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. A few days later, Dayyan was murdered by that same servant of Mirza Yahya. This tragic crime brought great sorrow to the heart of Baha'u'llah. It is significant that on that day, a sandstorm of exceptional severity swept over the city of Baghdad and obscured the light of the sun for some hours.
Not satisfied with this iniquitous crime, Mirza Yahya turned his attention to the admirers of Dayyan and issued instructions to kill <p73> them also. The next victim was Mirza Ali-Akbar, the cousin of the Bab, who was murdered by the same Mirza Muhammad. Baha'u'llah pays tribute to Dayyan in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf and describes this tragic episode in some detail.[1]
[1 See Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 174-6.]
These criminal activities by Mirza Yahya were matched only by certain acts of infamy which he committed, bringing dishonour to the Cause of the Bab. He betrayed the honour of the Bab while Baha'u'llah was in Kurdistan by marrying Fatimih, the Bab's second wife,[1] and after a few days giving her in marriage to Siyyid Muhammad. When Baha'u'llah learnt of this shameful act, His grief knew no bounds. In several Tablets He has severely condemned this outrageous betrayal by one who professed to be the nominee of the Bab. In the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf; He states:
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, p. 262.]
"Reflect a while upon the dishonour inflicted upon the Primal Point. Consider what hath happened. When this Wronged One, after a retirement of two years during which He wandered through the deserts and mountains, returned to Baghdad, as a result of the intervention of a few, who for a long time had sought Him in the wilderness, a certain Mirza Muhammad-'Ali of Rasht came to see Him, and related, before a large gathering of people, that which had been done, affecting the honour of the Bab, which hath truly overwhelmed all lands with sorrow. Great God! How could they have countenanced this most grievous betrayal? Briefly, We beseech God to aid the perpetrator of this deed to repent, and return unto Him. He, verily, is the Helper, the All-Wise." [4-11]
Those who were in close contact with Mirza Yahya were fully aware of his immoderate sexual appetites.
In the Epistle of the Son of the Wolf; Baha'u'llah alludes to this when He addresses Hadiy-i-Dawlat-Abadi[1] in these words.
[1 Successor of Mirza Yahya. For details see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4.]
"Regardest thou as one wronged he who in this world was never dealt a single blow, and who was continually surrounded by five of the handmaidens of God? And imputest thou unto the True One, Who, from His earliest years until the present day, hath been in the hands of His enemies, and been tormented with the worst afflictions in the world, such charges as the Jews did not ascribe unto Christ? Hearken unto the voice of this Wronged One, and be not of them that are in utter loss." [4-12]
Abdu'l-Baha mentions that one of Mirza Yahya's preoccupations was to marry one wife after another. He mentions eleven wives. But some historians have accounted for three more.
When Baha'u'llah was in the mountains of Kurdistan, Mirza Yahya was driven by an insatiable appetite to satisfy his base and carnal desires. In one of His Tablets Baha'u'llah describes an episode <p74> which brings further shame to his already shameful career. Mirza Yahya sent a message to a certain believer, Aqa Muhammad-Karim, asking for the hand of his daughter in marriage. The parents of the girl refused to comply, and instead gave their daughter in marriage to a certain Abu'l-Qasim who had been in the service of Mirza Yahya for some years. No sooner had this happened than Mirza Yahya ordered the elimination of Abu'l-Qasim, and he was never seen again.
As a result of such atrocities, which were committed in the name of religion, the Babi community was utterly degraded in the eyes of the public. When Baha'u'llah returned from the mountains of Kurdistan the Babis were dispirited and spiritually as dead. Once again Baha'u'llah took the reins of the Cause in His hands. He breathed new life into the dying community of the Bab, and through His loving advice and exhortations, both verbally and in writing, He raised the morale of the believers in Baghdad and the neighbouring towns. Baha'u'llah Himself testified to these words:
"After Our arrival, We revealed, as a copious rain, by the aid of God and His Divine Grace and mercy, Our verses, and sent them to various parts of the world. We exhorted all men, and particularly this people, through Our wise counsels and loving admonitions, and forbade them to engage in sedition, quarrels, disputes and conflict. As a result of this, and by the grace of God, waywardness and folly were changed into piety and understanding, and weapons converted into instruments of peace." [4-13]
Abdu'l-Baha also states:
"Baha'u'llah after His return (from Sulaymaniyyih) made such strenuous efforts in educating and training this community, in reforming its manners, in regulating its affairs and in rehabilitating its fortunes, that in a short while all these troubles and mischiefs were quenched, and the utmost peace and tranquillity reigned in men's hearts." [4-14]
This transformation of spirit and the ascendancy of the community in Iraq and Persia, in spite of Mirza Yahya, continued until the end of Baha'u'llah's stay in that country.
The outpouring of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad began to vivify the community of the Bab not only in Iraq, but also in Persia where thousands of Babis had been left leaderless. The many Tablets and Epistles which flowed from the Pen of the Most High, especially the Kitab-i-Iqan and Hidden Words, inspired the believers and breathed a new spirit into their souls. At the same time, the evidences of ascendancy and grandeur which were increasingly manifested by Baha'u'llah served to inflame the fire of jealousy which was smouldering in the heart of Mirza Yahya. Since he could never find the courage to utter a word of opposition to Baha'u'llah <p75> whenever he came into His presence, he sowed the seeds of doubt in the minds of believers and spread false rumours concerning Baha'u'llah among the community in Persia.
The person who conceived and carried out these misguided plans aimed at discrediting Baha'u'llah was Siyyid Muhammad. To cite one example, soon after the Kitab-i-Iqan was revealed in honour of Haji Siyyid Muhammad, the uncle of the Bab, several copies were made and circulated among the believers. This book came as a shattering blow to Mirza Yahya, who could see the overpowering influence of this outstanding work among the friends. Siyyid Muhammad circulated rumours that the Kitab-i-Iqan was the work of Mirza Yahya which had been published in Baha'u'llah's name. The following is an interesting account by Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali,[1] who was then one of the followers of the Bab in Persia.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2.]
"Although I was persecuted several times in Isfahan and suffered great hardships and ill-treatment, I was happy, on fire with the Faith, attracted and in love with the Writings and Tablets of the Bab, especially the Persian Bayan. I made two copies of this Book. The more I read it the more eager I became to read further. In those days everyone was convinced that the coming of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' was at hand. I often used to say ... that if the Dispensation of the Bab ... were not followed immediately by the Dispensation of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest', then all the Writings, Tablets and testimonies of the Bab would remain unfulfilled and were useless. I did not have a heartfelt regard for Azal.[1] I used to remark, 'What is the difference between the hidden Azal and the Hidden Qa'im?...'[2]Furthermore, I regarded his writings to be truly nonsensical, except of course his quotations from the Writings of the Bab which were exalted words. However, I used to be condemned by my own conscience for these thoughts, as I had imagined my own understanding to be above that of other people. Then two holy Tablets from the Blessed Beauty ... arrived in honour of Zaynu'l-Muqarrabin[3] and Aqa Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Tambaku-Furush[4] from Isfahan. These Tablets captivated me and I became enamoured of the utterances of Baha'u'llah.
[1 Mirza Yahya.]
[2 Shi'ah Islam believes that the Qa'im, the Promised One, is living in a hidden city where no one can have access to Him, and that He will manifest Himself at the appointed hour. (A.T.)]
[3 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, p. 255. (A.T.)]
[4 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, pp. 370-73. (A.T.)]
"Later ... Haji Siyyid Muhammad, the uncle of the Bab ... came for a visit to Isfahan and brought with him the Kitab-i-Iqan, revealed in answer to his own questions. As a result of reading the Kitab-i-Iqan, I became a thousand times more enchanted with the blessed utterances of the Ancient Beauty. I used to mention quite openly that I regarded Baha'u'llah's magnanimity, His unique and incomparable reality, the power of <p76> His utterance, the sway of His pen and the persuasiveness of His proofs to be supernatural and the greatest and foremost miracle of all.
"But some people were not pleased with my views and would intimate to me that the Kitab-i-Iqan had been written by Azal.
"Even Mir Muhammad-'Aliy-i-'Attar, one of the early believers, called on me and told me in confidence that 'since the Bab had always given the glad tidings of the coming of "Him Whom God shall make manifest", has not laid down any conditions or specified any time for His advent, has enjoined upon all to accept and acknowledge Him as soon as He reveals Himself, has prohibited investigation, caution or delay [in accepting His Message], has condemned to hell-fire [those who do not recognize Him], has strictly forbidden the seeking of proofs from Him, and has regarded Himself as the servant and forerunner of "Him Whom God shall make manifest", all these have prompted Jinab-i-Baha[1] to claim this position for Himself. He has imprisoned Azal and sometimes has whipped him to make him answer His questions. These answers are recorded by Jinab-i-Baha and published in His own name. Siyyid Muhammad has journeyed twice from Baghdad to Isfahan on behalf of Azal and has confidentially told the faithful about his loneliness and the wrongs he has suffered!'
[1 Baha'u'llah.]
"My amazement at hearing this knew no bounds. I stated that it was impossible and I had never heard such nonsense and vain assertions. The words and passages in the Kitab-i-Iqan were of a style easy to apprehend yet impossible to imitate. The words of Azal were neither weighty nor eloquent..." [4-15]
Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali describes his observations and experiences as he travelled around Persia soon after the revelation of the Kitab-i-Iqan. The following is a summary of his words:
"I was watchful for the advent of the Supreme Manifestation of God, 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. The hypocrisy, lies and machinations of Mir Muhammad-'Ali and Siyyid Muhammad were as clear as the sun to me. Therefore I decided to leave Isfahan.
"Although I was most eager to attain the presence of the Day-Star of Revelation,[1] I was apprehensive lest my coming in contact with the two hypocrites Siyyid Muhammad and Mulla Rajab-'Ali,[2] who were in Karbila and Baghdad, might somehow affect my soul and conscience. Therefore for a period of five or six years I travelled around Persia... With great difficulties and hardship I visited many places, sometimes on foot, sometimes riding, but I was in the utmost joy. I spoke everywhere about the Revelation of the Bab and gave the glad-tidings that the advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' was at hand. In many towns I was persecuted, beaten and imprisoned...
[1 Baha'u'llah.]
[2 A brother of the second wife of the Bab. He became a follower of Mirza Yahya.]
"In Shiraz I met Haji Siyyid Muhammad, the uncle of the Bab, and some other believers... They were filled with love for Him and were <p77> joyously awaiting the Revelation of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. There was no mention of Azal... The late Aqa Siyyid Abdu'r-Rahim-i-Isfahani had made certain extracts from the Bayan and other books of the Bab through which he used to prove that Baha'u'llah, exalted be His glory, was the Promised One of the Bayan, that Azal was only a name without a reality, like a body without a soul. As a result of such pronouncements Aqa Siyyid Abdu'r-Rahim was denounced by some. He used to give us the following account.
"'After the martyrdom of the Bab when Azal had become famous, I travelled from Isfahan to Tihran with the express purpose of meeting him. In the bazaar I met Baha'u'llah, the Day-Star of Revelation, the Speaker on Sinai ... the mention of whose name has adorned the Books and Tablets of the Bab. I attained His presence at a time when His glory was hidden behind a myriad veils of light. He asked me if I had come to meet Azal? I answered in the affirmative. I had actually attained the presence of Baha'u'llah before this at Badasht. I had recognized His glory and greatness, His uniqueness and magnanimity by the manner in which Quddus and Tahirih used to bow before Him. I also knew the deeds and actions of Azal; nevertheless since he was known as the nominee of the Bab I considered meeting with him as a means of nearness to God. I went, in the company of Baha'u'llah, to His house. He asked for tea to be served. Thereupon Azal brought the samovar and served the tea. He was standing in the presence of Baha'u'llah, from Whose tongue were flowing the rivers of wisdom and knowledge. After drinking tea, Baha'u'llah rose, and turning to Azal said, "He has come to see you", and then went into the inner court of the house. Azal sat down, I bowed and expressed my devotion to him, but he had nothing to say to me.'" [4-16]
The news of Baha'u'llah's imminent departure from Baghdad to Istanbul disturbed and frightened Mirza Yahya. He who had hidden himself from the public eye in Baghdad over the years and who, in spite of his iniquitous deeds, relied heavily on Baha'u'llah's protection and loving kindness, found himself suddenly plunged into a grievous situation. The thought of remaining alone in Baghdad was deeply distressing to him. Baha'u'llah advised him that since he was free to travel, he should proceed to Persia, and there disseminate the Writings of the Bab among the believers. It is to be noted that through Baha'u'llah's directive these Writings had been transcribed by Mirza Yahya some years before and were ready to be taken to Persia. But he had no interest in teaching the Cause of the Bab or disseminating its Holy Scriptures. He refused to comply with Baha'u'llah's advice on the grounds that the authorities in Persia were ruthlessly persecuting the Babis and therefore his life would be in great danger if he went there.
At one point Mirza Yahya decided to flee to India, or Abyssinia (Ethiopia), where he thought he would be left alone, free of <p78> persecution. But soon he changed his mind and resigned himself to remaining in Iraq. He asked Baha'u'llah to arrange the building of a secure hiding place for him. He wanted a cottage to be built in a garden situated in Huvaydar in the vicinity of Baghdad, which was owned by Shaykh Sultan. Baha'u'llah acceded to his request and asked Shaykh Sultan, who was one of His devoted Arab followers, to build the cottage for him. But as the building work proceeded Mirza Yahya felt increasingly insecure, and eventually cancelled his plans in favour of going to Istanbul incognito. However, he made it clear that he did not intend to travel with Baha'u'llah, for he was very suspicious of the intention of the authorities in inviting Baha'u'llah to Istanbul. He feared that Baha'u'llah and His companions might be either handed over to Persian officials or killed on the way.
To go on this long journey he needed a passport. Not wishing to identify himself to the authorities, he sent a certain Haji Muhammad-Kazim, who resembled him, to the government house to procure a passport for him in his newly-assumed name of Mirza Aliy-i-Kirmanshahi. He then proceeded to Mosul in disguise accompanied by an Arab servant, and reached there before Baha'u'llah's caravan arrived in that city.
It is noteworthy that Baha'u'llah had allowed Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani to be included in the party which accompanied Him to Istanbul. It appears that whenever possible Baha'u'llah ensured that the trouble-makers and those who were not inwardly faithful to Him were not left at large among the believers. He often kept such people close to His own Person so as to be able to check their mischief. Although Siyyid Muhammad was a treacherous individual causing untold difficulties for Baha'u'llah and His devoted companions, he was never barred, while in Baghdad, from attaining His presence or taking part in the gatherings of the believers. By allowing him to accompany Him in His exile, Baha'u'llah protected the believers in Iraq and elsewhere from his satanic influence. Of course the faithful companions of Baha'u'llah, both those who travelled with Him and those who remained behind, were fully aware of the iniquitous deeds of that evil and hypocritical individual who used to pretend, whenever he came into their gatherings, to be a loyal believer himself.
Mirza Yahya waited in Mosul until Baha'u'llah's caravan arrived. There he sent his servant to inform Aqay-i-Kalim (Baha'u'llah's most faithful brother, known also as Mirza Musa) of his whereabouts in the city. Abdu'l-Baha in one of His Tablets tells the story in these words: <p79>
"When we reached Mosul, and a camp was set up on the bank of the Tigris, where the notables of the town flocked group after group to come into His blessed presence [Baha'u'llah's], on a midnight that aforementioned Arab, Zahir, came to say that his Honour [Mirza Yahya] was staying at an inn outside the city, and wished to meet someone. My uncle, Mirza Musa, went there at midnight and met him. Mirza Yahya asked about his family, and was told that they were there and had their own tent and he could visit them. He said that he did not at all consider it advisable to do so, but he would accompany the caravan with which his family too would be travelling. Thus he continued to Diyarbakr, a black cord around his head, and a begging-bowl in his hand, consorting only with the Arabs and the Turks in the caravan. At Diyarbakr, he sent word that he would visit his family at night and join the main body of the caravan in the morning. That was done. Since Haji Siyyid Muhammad knew him, he gave out that he was a Persian dervish, an acquaintance of his, and visited him, but other friends because they had never seen him [Mirza Yahya], did not recognize him." [4-17]
Mirza Yahya, who was now introducing himself as Haji Ali, pretended that he did not know anybody in the party, including Baha'u'llah, and claimed to be returning from Mecca. He was not recognized by most of the companions because he had been living in disguise and hiding himself from the believers while in Iraq. The crafty Siyyid Muhammad had the nerve to introduce Mirza Yahya as a dervish friend of his to Baha'u'llah's companions, but these soon discovered his real identity as they approached their destination. Thus Mirza Yahya, whose wives were among the female group travelling with Baha'u'llah, accompanied them until they reached the shores of Istanbul. There his identity was disclosed and everyone knew who he was. But during his stay in Istanbul, Mirza Yahya did not dare to reveal his true identity to the authorities. To Shamsi Big, who was appointed by the government to act as host to Baha'u'llah, he introduced himself as a servant in His household, and sometimes used to sleep in the servants' quarters to prove his case.
When Baha'u'llah was exiled to Adrianople, Mirza Yahya and Siyyid Muhammad went with Him. Baha'u'llah, in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, mentions that Mirza Yahya followed Him from place to place:
"Wherever this Wronged one went Mirza Yahya followed Him... The Siyyid of Isfahan, however, surreptitiously duped him. They committed that which caused the greatest consternation." [4-18]
Soon after his arrival in Adrianople, Mirza Yahya realized that there was no longer any danger to his life, because within a short period of time Baha'u'llah had won the respect and admiration of the dignitaries, including the Governor of Adrianople. The inhabitants <p80> of the city showed such a spirit of friendliness and co-operation toward the exiled community that Baha'u'llah instructed the believers to engage in some work or profession and integrate themselves into the community. Since there was no apparent reason for persecution of the Baha'is, Mirza Yahya, emboldened by Siyyid Muhammad, decided to emerge from his self-imposed seclusion.
Through his constant association with Siyyid Muhammad and a certain Haji Mirza Ahmad-i-Kashani, an infamous mischief-maker notorious for his vulgar conduct and foul language, Mirza Yahya began to openly sound his rebellion against Baha'u'llah. He who always felt so insignificant when he came face to face with Baha'u'llah and fell speechless in His presence, was now, prompted by his wicked lieutenant, to rise up against Him and attempt to wrest the leadership of the community from His hands.
To achieve this long-cherished ambition, Mirza Yahya embarked upon a plan which involved him in further acts of crime. He decided that the only way to accomplish his goal was to take Baha'u'llah's life, for he knew that he had neither the courage nor the personality to confront Him. Indeed, it was not unthinkable for a man who had already masterminded the assassination of several believers in Baghdad, including the Bab's own cousin, to contemplate ways and means of taking Baha'u'llah's life.
The first attempt on the life of Baha'u'llah was carried out by Mirza Yahya's own hands when he poisoned Him with a deadly substance. Shoghi Effendi describes this shameful episode in these words:
"Desperate designs to poison Baha'u'llah and His companions, and thereby reanimate his own defunct leadership, began, approximately a year after their arrival in Adrianople, to agitate his mind. Well aware of the erudition of his half-brother, Aqay-i-Kalim, in matters pertaining to medicine, he, under various pretexts, sought enlightenment from him regarding the effects of certain herbs and poisons, and then began, contrary to his wont, to invite Baha'u'llah to his home, where, one day, having smeared His tea-cup with a substance he had concocted, he succeeded in poisoning Him sufficiently to produce a serious illness which lasted no less than a month, and which was accompanied by severe pains and high fever, the aftermath of which left Baha'u'llah with a shaking hand till the end of His life. So grave was His condition that a foreign doctor, named Shishman, was called in to attend Him. The doctor was so appalled by His livid hue that he deemed His case hopeless, and, after having fallen at His feet, retired from His presence without prescribing a remedy. A few days later that doctor fell ill and died. Prior to his death Baha'u'llah had intimated that doctor Shishman had sacrificed his life for Him. To Mirza Aqa Jan, sent by Baha'u'llah to visit him, the doctor had stated that God had answered his prayers, and that after his death a certain Dr. Chupan, whom he knew to be reliable, should, whenever necessary, be called in his stead." [4-19] <p81>
Despite this heinous crime, Baha'u'llah advised His followers not to spread the news of the poisoning. But Mirza Yahya lost his nerve and shamefully accused Baha'u'llah of trying to poison him, and as a result, the story had to be told. The believers and those who were in close contact with them then became aware that the poison administered by Mirza Yahya had been the cause of Baha'u'llah's serious illness. Here we can see the contrast between light and darkness, between truth and falsehood, Baha'u'llah's sin-covering eye and Mirza Yahya's corruption and wickedness.
This episode created deep turmoil and agitation within the community. Some time passed and the situation was beginning to simmer down when another serious attempt by Mirza Yahya to assassinate Baha'u'llah brought about an unprecedented commotion within the community, resulting in the final parting of the ways between Baha'u'llah and His unfaithful half-brother.
This time Mirza Yahya made plans to carry out his sinister designs in the public bath[1] frequented by Baha'u'llah. For some time he began to show favours to Ustad Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Salmani,[1] a barber who served in the household of Baha'u'llah and was His bath attendant. Eventually he intimated to Salmani in a subtle way that he could render a great service to the Cause if he were to assassinate Baha'u'llah while attending Him in the bath.
[1 Public baths, known in The West as Turkish baths, were the only type available to people in those days because houses had no baths built in them. These baths, with their warm and steamy atmosphere, were used by people as a place to wash and relax for hours. This meant that a public bath was a place for social occasions where people gathered, exchanged news and discussed many topics. In these baths people were not fully naked and wore loin-cloths. Often, friends used to go to the bath on the same day in order to spend time together. The baths provided customers with attendants who washed them and performed other services such as the applying of henna, shaving and massaging. Important people usually had their own bath attendants.]
[2 For a story of his life and services, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, p 155. Salmani should not be confused with Shaykh Salman.]
The following is a summary translation of Salmani's memoirs describing this shameful incident:
"One day I went to the bath and awaited the arrival of the Blessed Beauty. Azal[1] arrived first. I attended to him and applied henna. He began to talk to me. For some time he had been trying hard to make me his follower, but he was doing this in a secret way. He said to me: 'Last night I dreamt that someone had a sweeping brush in his hand and was sweeping the area around me.'[2] He gave me to understand that this person was the Blessed Beauty. From the tone of his conversation, I knew that he wanted me to do something for him, but he did not tell me anything and soon left the bath...
[1 Mirza Yahya.]
[2 The connotation of these words in Persian is that Baha'u'llah was a humble servant of Mirza Yahya.] <p82>
"I was deep in my thoughts concerning the words of Azal. I did not understand his purpose in implying that the Blessed Beauty was sweeping the floor around him. However, it was quite clear that he wanted me to carry out a special task for him. At the same time I noted that Haji Mirza Ahmad was trying to convert me to follow Azal. During the course of several days he persisted in trying to win me over." [4-20]
As we have mentioned above, Haji Mirza Ahmad was a close associate of Siyyid Muhammad. Salmani stood firm and forcefully rejected Haji Mirza Ahmad's persuasive arguments in support of Mirza Yahya. In the end Salmani became very angry and verbally attacked Haji Mirza Ahmad, using harsh and unspeakably offensive language. This confrontation was reported to Baha'u'llah who revealed a Tablet[1] addressed to Haji Mirza Ahmad and instructed His amanuensis, Mirza Aqa Jan, to read it aloud in the gathering of the believers. Salmani continues the story of Mirza Yahya's treachery in his memoirs:
[1 Part of the Tablet of Ahmad in Persian (not to be confused with the celebrated Tablet of Ahmad in Arabic) is translated by Shoghi Effendi and published in Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, CLII and CLIII. For details see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, ch. 6.]
"He said, 'A certain Mirza Na'im, the former Governor of Nayriz, killed many believers and perpetrated many crimes against the Cause.' He then praised courage and bravery in glowing terms. He said that some were brave by nature and at the right time they would manifest that quality in their actions. He then continued the story of Mirza Na'im. 'From the persecuted family of the believers there remained a young boy aged ten or eleven. One day, when Mirza Na'im went into the bath, this boy went in with a knife. As he was coming out of the water, the boy stabbed him and ripped his belly open. Mirza Na'im screamed and his servants who were in the ante-room rushed in. They went for the boy, attacked and beat him. Then they went to see how their master was. The boy, although wounded, rose up and stabbed him again.' Azal praised courage again and said, 'How wonderful it is for a man to be brave. Now, see what they are doing to the Cause of God. Everybody harms it, everyone has arisen against me, even my brother. I have no comfort whatsoever and am in a wretched state.' His tone implied that he, the nominee of the Bab, was the wronged one, and his Brother (I take refuge in God!) was the usurper and aggressor. Then he once more praised courage and said that the Cause of God needed help. In all this talk, the tone of his remarks, the story of Mirza Na'im, the praise of courage and his encouragement to me, he was in fact telling me to kill Baha'u'llah.
"The effect of all this upon me was so disturbing that in all my life I had never felt so shattered. It was as if the whole building was falling upon my head. I was frightened; without uttering a word I went out to the ante-room. My mind was in a state of the utmost agitation. I thought to myself that I would go inside and cut Azal's head off regardless of consequences. Then I thought, to kill him is easy, but perhaps I would <p83> offend the Blessed Beauty. One thing which prevented me from carrying out my intention was the thought that if I killed him and then went into the presence of the Blessed Beauty, and He asked me why I had killed him, what answer could I give?
"I returned to the bath and being extremely angry, I shouted at him 'Go and get lost, clear off!' He whimpered and trembled and asked me to pour water over him. I complied. Washed or unwashed he went out in a state of great trepidation, and I have never seen him since.
"My state of mind, however, was such that nothing could calm me. As it happened, that day the Blessed Beauty did not come to the bath, but Aqa Mirza Musay-i-Kalim [Baha'u'llah's faithful brother] came. I told him that Azal had set me on fire with his sinister suggestion. Aqa Mirza Musa said: 'He has been thinking of this for years, this man has always been thinking in this way. Do not pay any attention to him.' He counselled me to disregard the whole thing and went inside the bath.
"However, when my work was finished in the bath, I went to the Master[1] and reported to Him what Mirza Yahya had told me, and how I was filled with rage and wanted to kill him ... the Master said, 'This is something that you alone know. Do not mention it to anyone, it is better that it remain hidden.' I then went to Mirza Aqa Jan, reported the details of the incident, and asked him to tell Baha'u'llah. He returned and said 'Baha'u'llah says to tell Ustad Muhammad-'Ali not to mention this to anyone.'
[1 Abdu'l-Baha.]
"That night I collected all the writings of Azal and went to the tearoom[1] of Baha'u'llah's house and burnt them all in the brazier. Before doing so, I showed them to seven or eight of the believers who were present. They all saw that they were the writings of Azal. They all protested to me and asked me the reason for doing this. I said, 'Until today I esteemed Azal highly, but now he is less than a dog in my sight.'" [4-21]
[1 Reception room of Baha'u'llah where the believers usually gathered.]
It must be remembered that because of Baha'u'llah's sin-covering eye and His loving kindness toward Mirza Yahya, and because he was His half-brother, the faithful believers treated him with respect and consideration. But after these vicious attacks on Baha'u'llah, it was natural for them to turn their backs on him. After Salmani failed to keep the details of the incident to himself, the news spread and created a great upheaval in the community.
It was at this point that Baha'u'llah decided to formally declare to Mirza Yahya, as the nominee of the Bab, His claim to be the Author of a new Revelation, the Person of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'[1] foretold by the Bab. Of course, Mirza Yahya was well aware of Baha'u'llah's declaration in the Garden of Ridvan and the <p84> Tablets which had been subsequently revealed by Him. But now the time had come for the Supreme Manifestation of God to formally announce His station to the one who was nominated by the Bab to be the leader of His followers until the advent of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'.
[1 In Persian, this designation is much more insulting than it sounds in English.]
In order to communicate this message to Mirza Yahya, Baha'u'llah revealed the Suriy-i-Amr (Surih of Command) in His own handwriting[1] and instructed His amanuensis Mirza Aqa Jan to take the Tablet to Mirza Yahya, read it aloud, and demand a conclusive reply from him. On becoming apprised of the contents of the Tablet and the claims of Baha'u'llah, Mirza Yahya indicated that he needed some time during which to meditate on the subject. The following day he sent a message to Baha'u'llah that he himself had become the recipient of divine Revelation and it was incumbent upon all to obey and follow him.
[1 The facsimile of the first page of this Tablet in the handwriting of Baha'u'llah appears as the frontispiece of The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2. A mere glance at this page will indicate that the hand of Baha'u'llah was terribly shaky soon after His being poisoned by Mirza Yahya.]
Such a claim maintained by so perfidious a person evoked the wrath of God, and brought about the eventual split between Baha'u'llah and Mirza Yahya. It must be remembered that the majority of the believers in Adrianople were faithful to Baha'u'llah and up till then had been used to associate freely with Mirza Yahya and a small number of his henchmen; now the situation changed.
Mirza Yahya's response to the Suriy-i-Amr was a clear signal for parting of the ways. Baha'u'llah, who was then residing in the House of Amru'llah, changed His residence to the House of Rida Big. This was on 10 March 1866. Only the members of His own family and one servant moved to this house and He allowed no one else to attain His presence. As a result, the community of exiles was cut off from His Blessed Person and left entirely on its own. This withdrawal, similar to His withdrawal to the mountains of Kurdistan a few years earlier, plunged the community into a grievous state and created severe tests and trials for the believers. On the other hand, it afforded each one of the exiles the opportunity to choose between Baha'u'llah and His unfaithful brother.
Baha'u'llah's faithful followers, those lovers of His beauty, became dispirited. The light had departed from their midst and they were enveloped in a darkness which obscured their vision and left them helpless and disconsolate. Aqay-i-Kalim, Baha'u'llah's faithful brother who carried the weight of responsibility during Baha'u'llah's retirement in the House of Rida Big, has recounted to Nabil these words: <p85>
"That day witnessed a most great commotion. All the companions lamented in their separation from the Blessed Beauty." [4-22]
Another witness to those grievous days has recorded:
"Those days were marked by tumult and confusion. We were sore-perplexed and greatly feared lest we be permanently deprived of the bounty of His presence." [4-23]
Even those who were unfaithful to Him felt disturbed by His withdrawal, as they knew only too well that it was through His guiding influence that they were living in relative safety and security. These men were now left to their own devices and soon were engulfed in a most troublesome situation created by their own hands.
The retirement of Baha'u'llah to the House of Rida Big and His refusal to meet with any of the exiles created a situation in which everyone was left by himself to decide his own spiritual destiny. Those few who were inclined towards Mirza Yahya congregated together and began to launch their attacks on the faithful ones, while the rest occupied their time mostly in prayer and devotions, supplicating God to relieve them of their grievous plight of separation from their Lord.
Before taking up residence in the House of Rida Big, Baha'u'llah ordered His brother Aqay-i-Kalim to send half of all the furniture, bedding and utensils to the house of Mirza Yahya. He also sent him certain historic relics such as the rings of the Bab, His seals and manuscripts. These were the items which the Bab had sent to Baha'u'llah prior to His martyrdom and which were coveted by Mirza Yahya. Baha'u'llah also asked Darvish Sidq-'Ali, one of His faithful followers, to act as a servant in the household of Mirza Yahya. Although loathe to serve the one who was in his sight the embodiment of deceit and falsehood, this devoted soul wholeheartedly obeyed Baha'u'llah and engaged himself in Mirza Yahya's service. Soon other circumstances relieved him of this most unpleasant task. As already mentioned, those few individuals who were weak and vacillating in their faith joined Mirza Yahya and, emboldened by the absence of Baha'u'llah, began their contemptible activities against the Faith of God.
Mirza Yahya and Siyyid Muhammad started a vigorous letter-writing campaign to discredit Baha'u'llah in the eyes of the believers and the authorities. They loaded their letters with lies and disgraceful calumnies, accusing Baha'u'llah of those very crimes which they themselves had committed, and disseminated them far and wide among the believers in Persia and Iraq. These slanderous letters disturbed the Babi community and confused many. Some weaker believers lost their faith altogether; a small number were inclined <p86> toward Mirza Yahya. A few wrote to Baha'u'llah for clarification as a result of which several Tablets were revealed in this period describing the true state of affairs. However, the majority of the believers remained faithful to the Cause of Baha'u'llah. These souls arose with determination and dedication to vindicate the truth of the Cause of God. Many of them, such as Nabil-i-A'zam, Munib+F1 and Ahmad-i-Yazdi[1] travelled throughout Persia, championed the Cause of Baha'u'llah and defended it notably against the onslaught of the unfaithful.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2 for accounts of these two. ]
It was through Mirza Yahya's own actions that the news of his infidelity to the Cause of God was effectively communicated to the community in Persia and signalized the permanent rupture between him and his illustrious Brother. While Baha'u'llah had withdrawn Himself from the community in Adrianople, Siyyid Muhammad and Mirza Yahya were actively engaged in damaging His reputation in government circles. The latter sent a petition to the Governor Khurshid Pasha and his assistant, Aziz Pasha. It was couched in obsequious language, contained false statements about Baha'u'llah and was aimed at discrediting Him in the eyes of the Governor who was one of His ardent admirers.
Later, the Governor shared this letter with Baha'u'llah and its contents became known to the believers. Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, who arrived in Adrianople a few months after this shameful episode, writes concerning Mirza Yahya's petition to the authorities in these words:
"When Azal arose in hostility with his satanic spirit to oppose and challenge the Blessed Beauty, through calumnies and false accusations, he wrote a letter to the Governor of Adrianople. We all saw this letter. It opened with these words: 'May my soul and body be a sacrifice to thee.' It went on to say: 'O thou Aziz,[1] we come to you in destitution, grant us some corn.' He continues falsely to accuse the Ancient Beauty of having cut off his livelihood.
[1 Aziz Pasha.]
"The opening sentence of his letter, the statement of his needs, and the complaints all demonstrate that God cannot be confused with man, and that there is no likeness between the two. We see the contrast, for instance, in these words of the Ancient Beauty as He addressed the late Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz:[1] 'O thou Ra'is [Chief], hearken to the voice of God, the Supreme Ruler, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. He verily calleth between earth and heaven and summoneth mankind to the scene of effulgent glory.'
[1 This Tablet is actually addressed to Ali Pasha the Grand Vizir of the Sultan.]
"In this blessed Tablet, He prophesies that the Sultan would lose his throne and the country would pass out of his hands... To return to our <p87> subject: Baha'u'llah had, through an intermediary, proved to the Governor that these allegations [by Mirza Yahya] were false and, in a message, explained to him that these calumnies were designed to hurt and humiliate Him." [4-24]
Concerning these distasteful events, Shoghi Effendi writes:
"...He [Baha'u'llah] was soon after informed that this same brother [Mirza Yahya] had despatched one of his wives to the government house to complain that her husband had been cheated of his rights, and that her children were on the verge of starvation -- an accusation that spread far and wide and, reaching Constantinople, became, to Baha'u'llah's profound distress, the subject of excited discussion and injurious comment in circles that had previously been greatly impressed by the high standard which His noble and dignified behaviour had set in that city." [4-25]
Some time later in a Tablet[1] to Shaykh Salman, Baha'u'llah reveals the agony of His heart during this period, and recounts the calumnies of Mirza Yahya concerning his share of the government allowance which was always divided equitably between the exiles. In this Tablet He explains that had it not been for the sake of His companions in exile, He would have never accepted any allowance from the authorities. Indeed, soon after these heart-rending events, Baha'u'llah refused to draw this allowance, and sometimes had to sell some of His belongings in order to provide for His daily needs.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, ch. 13 and vol. 1 pp. 109-13.]
As a result of the many calumnies which were circulating in Adrianople and were extremely hurtful to Him and His loved ones, Baha'u'llah ended His retirement which had lasted about two months and came forward to check the misdeeds of His wicked opponents. It was at this time that Siyyid Muhammad-i-Isfahani was finally and effectively expelled from the community and the parting between Baha'u'llah and Mirza Yahya became official; it was referred to as 'the Most Great Separation'. The two-month withdrawal of Baha'u'llah was an act of Providence in that it identified the unfaithful. When Baha'u'llah emerged from His withdrawal every one of the exiles knew to which side he belonged. The few who gathered around Mirza Yahya intensified their evil activities and spread their shameful calumnies further to the heart of the Ottoman Empire, poisoning the minds of the Grand Vizir and the Sultan against Baha'u'llah.
The announcement by Baha'u'llah of 'the Most Great Separation' had an electrifying effect on the community of believers in Persia. The great majority of the followers of the Bab, estimated by Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali in his immortal Bihjatu's-Sudur to be about <p88> ninety-nine percent, embraced the Cause of Baha'u'llah. From that time onward those who followed Mirza Yahya were identified as the breakers of the Covenant of the Bab and became known as Azalis. At the same time the followers of Baha'u'llah were designated as the people of Baha, the Baha'is. <p89>

The Triumph of the Covenant of the Bab
The separation between Baha'u'llah and Mirza Yahya was a clear signal for the followers of Baha'u'llah to dissociate themselves from Mirza Yahya and those who had gathered around him. Mirza Yahya was now living with his family in a separate house and Siyyid Muhammad among the Muslims. For about eighteen months these two continued to devise ways and means of discrediting Baha'u'llah and His faithful companions. They spread calumnies and falsehoods among the citizens of Adrianople and the authorities in Istanbul, all aimed at undermining the foundations of the Cause of God and tarnishing the good reputation and honour of its Author. In Persia too, Mirza Yahya distributed among the believers his letters loaded with untrue stories. The confusion created by his venomous statements gave rise to much conflict and disturbance in that community.
About one-and-a-half years passed and Mirza Yahya's intrigues and machinations had reached their climax when suddenly the hand of God struck him down, brought about his doom and degraded him in the eyes of his supporters and the authorities in Adrianople. The incident which precipitated this downfall was entirely of his own making.
Siyyid Muhammad was heavily engaged in his activities aimed at discrediting Baha'u'llah in public. In the course of his plottings he came up with the idea of arranging a public confrontation between Baha'u'llah and Mirza Yahya. In advocating this confrontation, Siyyid Muhammad was confident that Baha'u'llah would never accept such a challenge, because he had observed over the years that Baha'u'llah usually did not seek to appear in public. He also knew of His forbearance and sin-covering attitude whenever He was confronted with those who opposed Him. For these reasons he apprised his Muslim associates of his plans.
This type of public confrontation, known in Islam as Mubahilih, goes back to the days of Muhammad when a deputation of the unbelievers of Najran in Medina challenged the Prophet to a confrontation. It is a challenge between truth and falsehood. The two <p90> parties come together face to face and it is believed that in such a confrontation the power of truth will destroy the ungodly.
Siyyid Muhammad confidently asserted to the Muslim community that whereas Mirza Yahya was ready and willing to take part in a public confrontation, Baha'u'llah was not.
While these wild statements were circulating in Adrianople, the believers in Persia were in a state of agitation because of Mirza Yahya's false propaganda. One of the believers from Shiraz, a certain Mir Muhammad-i-Mukari (driver of beasts of burden) came to Adrianople. This believer had accompanied the Bab from Baghdad as a caravan-driver to Mecca and later Baha'u'llah from Baghdad to Istanbul.
Mir Muhammad was of the opinion that a public confrontation would help to clarify the situation. He urged Siyyid Muhammad to induce Mirza Yahya to meet Baha'u'llah in a public place for all to see. And he himself promised to invite Baha'u'llah to accept the challenge. This he did and Baha'u'llah responded positively to his request.
Shoghi Effendi describes this episode in these words.
"Foolishly assuming that his illustrious Brother would never countenance such a proposition, Mirza Yahya appointed the mosque of Sultan Salim as the place for their encounter. No sooner had Baha'u'llah been informed of this arrangement than He set forth, on foot, in the heat of midday, and accompanied by this same Mir Muhammad, for the aforementioned mosque, which was situated in a distant part of the city, reciting, as He walked, through the streets and markets, verses, in a voice and in a manner that greatly astonished those who saw and heard Him.
"'O Muhammad!', are some of the words He uttered on that memorable occasion, as testified by Himself in a Tablet, 'He Who is the Spirit hath, verily, issued from His habitation, and with Him have come forth the souls of God's chosen ones and the realities of His Messengers. Behold, then, the dwellers of the realms on high above Mine head, and all the testimonies of the Prophets in My grasp. Say: Were all the divines, all the wise men, all the kings and rulers on earth to gather together, I, in very truth, would confront them, and would proclaim the verses of God, the Sovereign, the Almighty, the All-Wise. I am He Who feareth no one, though all who are in heaven and all who are on earth rise up against Me.... This is Mine hand which God hath turned white for all the worlds to behold. This is My staff; were We to cast it down, it would, of a truth, swallow up all created things.' Mir Muhammad, who had been sent ahead to announce Baha'u'llah's arrival, soon returned, and informed Him that he who had challenged His authority wished, owing to unforeseen circumstances, to postpone for a day or two the interview. Upon His return to His house Baha'u'llah revealed a Tablet, wherein He recounted what had happened, fixed the time for the postponed interview, sealed the Tablet with His seal, entrusted it to Nabil, and instructed him to <p91> deliver it to one of the new believers, Mulla Muhammad-i-Tabrizi, for the information of Siyyid Muhammad, who was in the habit of frequenting that believer's shop. It was arranged to demand from Siyyid Muhammad, ere the delivery of that Tablet, a sealed note pledging Mirza Yahya, in the event of failing to appear at the trysting-place, to affirm in writing that his claims were false. Siyyid Muhammad promised that he would produce the next day the document required, and though Nabil, for three successive days, waited in that shop for the reply, neither did the Siyyid appear, nor was such a note sent by him. That undelivered Tablet, Nabil, recording twenty-three years later this historic episode in his chronicle, affirms was still in his possession, 'as fresh as the day on which the Most Great Branch had penned it, and the seal of the Ancient Beauty had sealed and adorned it', a tangible and irrefutable testimony to Baha'u'llah's established ascendancy over a routed opponent." [5-1]
Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, the celebrated Baha'i teacher, was in Adrianople at the time and recounts the events as he witnessed them on that memorable day. The following is a summary translation of his memoirs:
"The meeting was to be on Friday at the mosque of Sultan Salim at the time of the congregational prayer when the Muslims gather inside in great numbers... Mir Muhammad-i-Mukari from Shiraz who was a Babi ... could not imagine that Azal had broken the Covenant. So he begged the Blessed Beauty to enlighten him. Baha'u'llah said to him that if ever Azal came face to face with Him at a meeting-place, then he could consider Azal's claims to be true. Mir Muhammad accepted this statement as a criterion for distinguishing between truth and falsehood, and he endeavoured to bring this meeting about.
"The news and date of the confrontation became known among the peoples of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions in the city. All of them had heard of the miracles of Moses and the story of His confrontation with Pharaoh. And now they were expecting the meeting face to face in the mosque between His Holiness the Shaykh Effendi [a designation by which the people called Baha'u'llah to express their reverence for Him] and Mirza Ali who had denied Him. [For fear of being recognized, Azal had called himself by this name.] Therefore, from the morning of Friday until noon, a large multitude drawn from the followers of these three religions had thronged the area between the house of Amru'llah ... and the entrance to the mosque. The crowd was so large that it was difficult to move about. Baha'u'llah, the Day-Star of Glory, emerged from His home ... and as He passed through the crowd, people showed such reverence as is difficult to describe. They greeted Him with salutations, bowed and opened the way for Him to pass. Many of them prostrated themselves at His feet and kissed them. Baha'u'llah, the countenance of majesty and omnipotence, in acknowledgement greeted the crowd by raising His hands (as was customary among the Ottomans), and expressed His good wishes. This continued <p92> all the way to the mosque. As soon as He entered the mosque, the preacher, who was delivering his discourse, became speechless or perhaps he forgot his words. Baha'u'llah went forward, seated Himself and then gave permission for the preacher to continue. Eventually the preaching and prayers came to an end. But Azal did not turn up. We heard that he had feigned illness and asked to be excused.
"In every city in the Ottoman Empire there are Mawlavis, who are dervishes and follower of Mawlavi [Jalali'd-Din-i-Rumi], the author of Mathnavi. Every Friday they hold their services in their takyihs [centres of congregation] when they whirl around their master and chant certain words in unison. Inside its chambers some play music and sing delightful melodies. When Baha'u'llah was about to leave the mosque He said: 'We owe a visit to the Mawlavis. We had better go to their takyih.' As He rose to go, the Governor of Adrianople and other dignitaries, together with the divines, availed themselves of the opportunity to be in His presence and so they accompanied Him. As a token of their humility and courtesy, the Governor, the Shaykhu'l-Islam,[1] the ulama [divines and men of learning] and other dignitaries walked four or five steps behind Baha'u'llah while the stream of His utterance was flowing.[2] Sometimes, through His grace and loving-kindness, Baha'u'llah would stop and beckon the Governor and the others to walk in front. But they would refuse to do so. In this way, with majesty and glory born of God, Baha'u'llah arrived in the takyih. At that time the Shaykh of the Mawlavis was standing in the centre and the dervishes were circling around and chanting. As soon as their eyes beheld Him, they all stopped their service without any reason. They bowed and showed their respect for Him and became absolutely silent. Baha'u'llah then seated Himself and permitted others who were with Him to be seated. He then gave permission to the Shaykh to resume his service again.
[1 The head of the Muslim ecclesiastical institution in the city. (A.T.)]
[2 When an important person walked it was considered discourteous if his subordinates walked in front of, or abreast of him except at night when someone carried a lantern before him. In order to show their humility they always walked a few steps behind. This is how, for example, the oriental believers conducted themselves when they were walking with Bah‡'u'll‡h Abdu'l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi. (A.T.)]
"The news was widely circulated in Adrianople that when Shaykh Effendi[1] had entered the mosque the preacher was unable to deliver his sermon and when he went to the takyih, the dervishes and their leader forgot their words and stopped their service. The following evening some believers attained His presence and I was among them... Baha'u'llah made these remarks: 'When We entered the crowded mosque, the preacher forgot the words of his sermon, and when We arrived inside the takyih, the dervishes were suddenly filled with such awe and wonder that they became speechless and silent. However, since people are brought up in vain imaginings, they foolishly consider such events as supernatural acts and regard them as miracles!'"[2] [5-2]
[1 Baha'u'llah (A.T.)]
[2 These are not the exact words of Baha'u'llah, but convey their import. (A.T.)] <p93>
Mirza Yahya was now discredited in the eyes of many in Adrianople. In Persia the news of this episode spread among the believers. A Tablet known as Lawh-i-Mubahilih, addressed to Mulla Sadiq-i-Khurasani and describing this event, reached the Baha'i community in that land and caused some wavering souls among the friends to recognize the power and majesty of Baha'u'llah in breaking up, once and for all, this great 'idol' of the Babi community. This dramatic downfall of Mirza Yahya was, as testified by Shoghi Effendi, clearly foretold by St Paul in the following passage.
"Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God...
"And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume
with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His
coming..." [5-3]
The tragic downfall of this perfidious figure who betrayed his Lord and rose up against Him coincided with an unprecedented outpouring from the Supreme Pen. The verses of God were sent down in great profusion and resulted, soon afterwards, in the proclamation of His Message to the kings and rulers of the world.
In the following passages Shoghi Effendi describes this prodigious outpouring of divine verses.
"The 'Most Great Idol' had at the bidding and through the power of Him Who is the Fountain-head of the Most Great Justice been cast out of the community of the Most Great Name, confounded, abhorred and broken. Cleansed from this pollution, delivered from this horrible possession, God's infant Faith could now forge ahead, and, despite the turmoil that had convulsed it, demonstrate its capacity to fight further battles, capture loftier heights, and win mightier victories.
"A temporary breach had admittedly been made in the ranks of its supporters. Its glory had been eclipsed, and its annals stained forever. Its name, however, could not be obliterated, its spirit was far from broken, nor could this so-called schism tear its fabric asunder. The Covenant of the Bab, to which reference has already been made, with its immutable truths, incontrovertible prophecies, and repeated warnings, stood guard over that Faith, insuring its integrity, demonstrating its incorruptibility, and perpetuating its influence.
"Though He Himself was bent with sorrow, and still suffered from the effects of the attempt on His life, and though He was well aware a further banishment was probably impending, yet, undaunted by the blow which His Cause had sustained, and the perils with which it was encompassed, <p94> Baha'u'llah arose with matchless power, even before the ordeal was overpast, to proclaim the Mission with which He had been entrusted to those who, in East and West, had the reins of supreme temporal authority in their grasp. The day-star of His Revelation was, through this very Proclamation, destined to shine in its meridian glory, and His Faith manifest the plenitude of its divine power.
"A period of prodigious activity ensued which in its repercussions outshone the vernal years of Baha'u'llah's ministry. 'Day and night', an eye-witness has written, 'the Divine verses were raining down in such number that it was impossible to record them. Mirza Aqa Jan wrote them as they were dictated, while the Most Great Branch was continually occupied in transcribing them. There was not a moment to spare.' 'A number of secretaries', Nabil has testified, 'were busy day and night and yet they were unable to cope with the task. Among them was Mirza Baqir-i-Shirazi.... He alone transcribed no less than two thousand verses every day. He laboured during six or seven months. Every month the equivalent of several volumes would be transcribed by him and sent to Persia. About twenty volumes, in his fine penmanship, he left behind as a remembrance for Mirza Aqa Jan.' Baha'u'llah, Himself, referring to the verses revealed by Him, has written: 'Such are the outpourings ... from the clouds of Divine Bounty that within the space of an hour the equivalent of a thousand verses hath been revealed.' 'So great is the grace vouchsafed in this day that in a single day and night, were an amanuensis capable of accomplishing it to be found, the equivalent of the Persian Bayan would be sent down from the heaven of Divine holiness.' 'I swear by God!' He, in another connection has affirmed, 'In those days the equivalent of all that hath been sent down aforetime unto the Prophets hath been revealed.' 'That which hath already been revealed in this land (Adrianople),' He, furthermore, referring to the copiousness of His writings, has declared, 'secretaries are incapable of transcribing. It has, therefore, remained for the most part untranscribed.'" [5-4]
The story of Mirza Yahya's tragic career would not be complete without referring, however briefly, to his writings. He wrote several books and epistles which are the greatest testimony to the shallowness of his knowledge and understanding. They consist of a series of nonsensical words which baffle the imagination of any reader. One may read a few pages without following the subject matter, as in most cases there is none; instead the reader will find vain repetitions and absurdities. Fortunately, some of his writings are kept in famous museums available for anyone to read and discover the depth of the author's ignorance and foolishness.
The casting out of Mirza Yahya and his followers from the community of the Most Great Name brought about the gradual downfall of this perfidious figure and his ultimate extinction in later years. In the summer of 1868 the Edict of Sultan Abdu'l-'Aziz condemned Baha'u'llah to life-long imprisonment in the fortress-city of Akka in the Holy Land and Mirza Yahya to the island of Cyprus. <p95>
Mirza Aqa Jan, Baha'u'llah's amanuensis, has written in a Tablet [5-5] an interesting episode relating to the island of Cyprus, known to the ancient Turks as the Isle of Satan. He states that he received a letter in Akka from a friend who was of foreign nationality. In this letter his correspondent had quoted two traditions which were translated into Arabic from an ancient Greek book, which he does not identify. The following is a summary translation of these two. The first tradition:
"Soon will the Satan appear in the Isle of Q [Qibris, i.e. Cyprus] and will prevent people from attaining to the presence of the Lord. When that time comes turn ye towards the Holy Land wherefrom the sweet savours of God will be wafting."
The second:
"The Satan will appear in the island related to him. He is short in stature, heavily bearded. He has a small countenance, a narrow chest, and greenish-yellow eyes. The hair on his back resembles that of a camel and on his chest is similar to that of a goat. When he should come, turn toward Carmel, the holy vale, the gathering place of mankind, this snow-white spot."
It is affirmed in this Tablet that all these physical features were clearly evident in Mirza Yahya.
It is significant that through the operation of the divine Will, Baha'u'llah's enemies became instrumental in fulfilling the age-old prophecies concerning the advent of the Lord in the Holy Land. Shoghi Effendi describes the exile of Baha'u'llah in these words.
"Within the confines of this holy and enviable country, 'the nest of all the Prophets of God', 'the Vale of God's unsearchable Decree, the snow-white Spot, the Land of unfading splendour', was the Exile of Baghdad, of Constantinople and Adrianople condemned to spend no less than a third of the allotted span of His life, and over half of the total period of His Mission. 'It is difficult', declares Abdu'l-Baha, 'to understand how Baha'u'llah could have been obliged to leave Persia, and to pitch His tent in this Holy Land, but for the persecution of His enemies, His banishment and exile.'
"Indeed such a consummation, He assures us, had been actually prophesied 'through the tongue of the Prophets two or three thousand years before'. God, 'faithful to His promise', had, 'to some of the Prophets' 'revealed and given the good news that the "Lord of Hosts should be manifested in the Holy Land"'. Isaiah had, in this connection, announced in his Book: 'Get thee up into the high mountain, O Zion that bringest good tidings; lift up thy voice with strength, O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings. Lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah: "Behold your God! Behold the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him."' David, in his Psalms, had predicted: 'Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory.' 'Out of Zion, the <p96> perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence.' Amos had, likewise, foretold His coming: 'The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall mourn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.'" [5-6]
Mirza Yahya was confined in the city of Famagusta until 1878 when the island passed out of Turkish rule and came under the British. He then decided to remain in Cyprus and receive a pension from the British Government. This he did and lived freely on that island until his death in 1912. During this time he achieved nothing significant in his life. Abdu'l-Baha, in one of His talks, [5-7] describes how in all these years Mirza Yahya did not succeed in converting a single soul on that island to his cause. Instead he spent his life in the company of his many wives and was father to several ill-bred children of low intelligence and capacity. Shoghi Effendi describes Mirza Yahya's fate in these words:
"Nor can this subject be dismissed without special reference being made to the Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of the Bab, Mirza Yahya, who lived long enough to witness, while eking out a miserable existence in Cyprus, termed by the Turks 'the Island of Satan', every hope he had so maliciously conceived reduced to naught. A pensioner first of the Turkish and later of the British Government, he was subjected to the further humiliation of having his application for British citizenship refused. Eleven of the eighteen 'Witnesses' he had appointed forsook him and turned in repentance to Baha'u'llah. He himself became involved in a scandal which besmirched his reputation and that of his eldest son, deprived that son and his descendants of the successorship with which he had previously invested him, and appointed, in his stead, the perfidious Mirza Hadiy-i-Dawlat-Abadi, a notorious Azali, who, on the occasion of the martyrdom of the aforementioned Mirza Ashraf, was seized with such fear that during four consecutive days he proclaimed from the pulpit-top, and in a most vituperative language, his complete repudiation of the Babi Faith, as well as of Mirza Yahya, his benefactor, who had reposed in him such implicit confidence. It was this same eldest son who, through the workings of a strange destiny, sought years after, together with his nephew and niece, the presence of Abdu'l-Baha, the appointed Successor of Baha'u'llah and Centre of His Covenant, expressed repentance, prayed for forgiveness, was graciously accepted by Him, and remained, till the hour of his death, a loyal follower of the Faith which his father had so foolishly, so shamelessly and so pitifully striven to extinguish." [5-8] <p97>
1. The Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha <p99>
Abdu'l-Baha, the Centre of the Covenant
The Covenant made by the Manifestation of God with His followers concerning His immediate successor is known as the Lesser Covenant. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas and later in His Will and Testament known as the Kitab-i-'Ahd, Baha'u'llah made such a covenant with His followers. Through these writings Baha'u'llah established a mighty and irrefutable covenant unprecedented in the annals of past religions. Never before has a Manifestation of God left behind an authoritative statement in which He has explicitly directed His people to turn to someone as His successor, or follow a defined system of administration for governing the religious affairs of the community.
The Gospels are silent on the question of successorship. Only a vague and inconclusive statement, '...thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church', has led some to consider Peter as Christ's successor. Such a claim, which is not upheld by a clear and unequivocal declaration in the Gospels, has resulted in bitter conflicts throughout the checkered history of Christianity. As a result the religion founded by Christ has been divided into major sects from the early centuries, and these have multiplied in the course of time.
A similar situation arose in Islam. The story of Muhammad and the references He is reported to have made to Ali, His cousin and son-in-law, at Ghadir-i-Khumm is recounted by both the Shi'ah and Sunni sects of Islam, and each interprets it differently. The story is as follows:
Having completed the rites of pilgrimage to Mecca in the last year of His life, Muhammad, on His way back to Medina, ordered the large concourse of His followers to stop at a place known as Ghadir-i-Khumm. In that vast plain a number of saddles were stacked up, making an improvised pulpit from which Muhammad delivered an important address to the congregation. There, He is reported to have taken Ali by the hand and said, 'Whoever considers Me as his Lord, then Ali is also his Lord.'
This is only a verbal statement, but the Shi'ah sect considers it to be authoritative and an indication that Ali is the lawful successor to <p100> the Prophet. But the majority of the Islamic people, the Sunnis, reject this view. The followers of Muhammad were divided into these two major sects almost immediately after His passing. The dire conflicts and fierce turmoils which have engulfed the nation of Islam ever since were, as testified by Abdu'l-Baha, the consequence of the bitter division which occurred after the death of the Prophet.
One of the distinguishing features of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, then, is that its Author has established a mighty covenant with His followers concerning His successor, a covenant whose characteristics are delineated by Baha'u'llah Himself, a covenant written in His own hand, unequivocal in the provisions it has made for the future of His Cause, and acknowledged as an authentic document even by those who violated it. It is through this divinely ordained instrument alone that the unity of the Baha'i community is preserved, the purity of its teachings safeguarded, and the incorruptibility of its institutions guaranteed. 'This is a Day that shall not be followed by night,' is Baha'u'llah's own testimony in this regard.
When God reveals Himself to man through the Prophet, the Words which the Prophet utters are supremely creative and a source of essential life to human souls. Revelation of the Word of God by His Manifestation resembles the downpouring of rain. In the same way that showers in the spring season vivify the world of nature, the Word of God penetrates the hearts of men and imparts to them the spirit of faith. This process goes on as long as the Revelation of the Prophet lasts, and ceases with His passing.
During the rainy season the green pastures are refreshed directly, and when the rain stops, one can be revived by the waters of a pool which that rain has created. Likewise, when the Manifestation of God is no longer with man, the Words He has left behind become the source of spiritual life for the believers. Thus the Gospels for the Christians and the Qur'an for the Muslims have acted as the spiritual reservoir of the water of life and the repository of God's teachings for them. We observe, however, that if people have free access to a reservoir, and are allowed to use it without limitation or to immerse themselves in it, the purity of the water will be lost and after some time it will be fully adulterated.
In older Dispensations, the Manifestations of God left their words to posterity, and in most cases the gist of these words were recorded and compiled, so constituting the Holy Books of the major religions. But since there was no provision made for further guidance, the followers were left free to interpret the utterances as they pleased. History shows that as a result of this freedom, people disagreed in their understanding of the teachings. The followers grossly interfered with the Word of God; they compromised the laws and precepts <p101> which were promulgated by the Prophet. Man-made dogmas and rituals were added, human innovations and practices were introduced and, as in the analogy of the reservoir, the purity of the teachings was lost.
It was because of this freedom to interpret the words of the Prophet and the freedom to interfere in His teachings that differences appeared among the followers. Schisms took place and sects and denominations were created within a religion. The unity and love which had existed among the followers during the lifetime of the Founder of the religion disappeared after Him and in the course of time were replaced by enmity and contention.
In this Dispensation the Revelation of the Word of God has taken a different form altogether. Whereas in former times the words of the Prophets, in most cases, were recorded years after their revelation, the words of Baha'u'llah were taken down by His amanuensis the moment they were uttered. In some cases even He Himself inscribed the verses revealed to Him. These writings, usually referred to as Sacred Text, or Tablets, are preserved and safeguarded and their authenticity assured.
One distinguishing feature is the vastness of this Revelation of Baha'u'llah. The words have been revealed with such profusion that -- as Baha'u'llah Himself testifies -- were His Writings to be compiled, they would produce no less than one hundred volumes of Holy Scripture for mankind in this age. The analogy of the pool is no longer apt. More appropriate would be the analogy of an ocean created when the Words of God were sent down as copious rain.
The Qur'an consists of over six thousand verses and was revealed by Muhammad in twenty-three years. The speed of the Revelation of the words of Baha'u'llah[1] was about one thousand verses in an hour! For example, the Kitab-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude), one of the most important of Baha'u'llah's Writings, was revealed in the course of just a few hours. During the forty-year Ministry of Baha'u'llah the world of humanity was immersed in an ocean of Divine Revelation whose latent energies are destined to revitalize the whole of mankind.
[1 For more information on the manner of revelation of Tablets, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol 1, pp. 23-4.]
Another distinguishing feature of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah is that the Word of God, sent down for the spiritualization and guidance of man, has not been simply handed over to him freely, as in past Dispensations. To no one is given the right to interpret His words, to add even a dot, or to take one away. Baha'u'llah has sealed off the ocean of His Revelation from all intruders. On the one hand, <p102> He has revealed the Word of God for the benefit of all mankind; on the other, He does not allow anyone to interfere with it. The manner in which He has resolved these two contrasting features is through the institution of the Covenant.
God has in this day vouchsafed to humanity two priceless gifts. One is the Revelation itself, supreme over all things, the other is an instrument to shield the Revelation. The one is manifested through Baha'u'llah, the other fulfilled through Abdu'l-Baha. To revert to the analogy: Baha'u'llah has brought the water of life and created the ocean, while Abdu'l-Baha acts as a mighty wall around it.
This wall -- the Covenant -- prevents any intruder from polluting the waters of the Revelation and thus preserves its purity and vitality. Hence, the appointment of Abdu'l-Baha as the sole authoritative Interpreter of the Writings of Baha'u'llah provides the guarantee for the incorruptibility of the revealed Word.
Instead of allowing man to interpret His Writings and act upon them as he likes, Baha'u'llah has released the outpourings of His Revelation within the person of Abdu'l-Baha who received them on behalf of all mankind. He became the recipient of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah and the authorized interpreter of His words. His soul embraced every virtue and power which that Revelation conferred upon Him, virtues and powers which, through the operation of the institution of the Covenant, are to be vouchsafed progressively to humanity in the course of this Dispensation, and which are the cause of the social, the intellectual and spiritual development of man on this planet until the advent of the next Manifestation of God.
Abdu'l-Baha acts in this analogy as a receptacle. Before a receptacle is filled, it must first be empty. If it contains anything, even a minute quantity of any substance, that substance will pollute the pure water which is poured into it. One of the most glorious aspects of the Cause of Baha'u'llah is that the person of Abdu'l-Baha had so surrendered His will to that of Baha'u'llah that He was utterly empty of self. He had nothing to express or manifest in His being except self-effacement and absolute servitude.
When Abdu'l-Baha was a child in Baghdad, Baha'u'llah intimated to Him His own Station and unfolded the Mission with which God had entrusted Him. On hearing such a declaration, Abdu'l-Baha, who had already felt intuitively the glory and the radiance which emanated from His Father, instantly acknowledged the truth of His Cause, prostrated Himself at His feet and in humility and earnestness begged Baha'u'llah to grant Him the privilege of laying down His life in His path.
The Person of Abdu'l-Baha and His servitude to Baha'u'llah, His Lord, are inseparable. A true servant abides in the depths of lowliness <p103> and humility, and not in the heights of glory. The greater the measure of servitude, the lower will be the position of the individual. By virtue of His station, Abdu'l-Baha occupies the lowest plane of servitude, a plane to which no other human being can ever descend. Baha'u'llah is the Manifestation of glory and is at the summit of majesty. Abdu'l-Baha is at the opposite pole of servitude and utter selflessness. Baha'u'llah may be likened to the peak of a mountain, Abdu'l-Baha as the lowest valley. When water pours down from the mountain top it will all accumulate in the deepest valley. In like manner, the Word of God, sent down from the Heaven of Divine Utterance, so permeated the person of Abdu'l-Baha that He became a worthy carrier of the energies latent within the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. His whole being became the incarnation of every goodly virtue, a stainless mirror reflecting the light of glory cast upon Him by Baha'u'llah.
Abdu'l-Baha states that there are three stations in this vast creation: the station of God, which is unapproachable, the station of the Manifestations of God, which is equally inaccessible, and the station of man. The only station befitting man is that of servitude. To the extent that the individual believer abides on the plane of servitude, he will grow closer to God and become the recipient of His power, grace and bounties. Abdu'l-Baha reached the lowest depths of servitude, hence He became the embodiment of all divine qualities and attributes. Although He genuinely considered Himself a servant of the servants of Baha'u'llah, He manifested a majesty and grandeur which no other human being could ever hope to possess. Abdu'l-Baha was not a Manifestation of God, but by virtue of being the Repository of Baha'u'llah's Revelation, He had all the powers of the Manifestation conferred upon Him. He knew the secrets of the hearts of men and His words were creative.
The Most Great Infallibility mentioned by Baha'u'llah is inherent in the Manifestation of God and no one can share in it.[1] Abdu'l-Baha did not possess this, but Baha'u'llah conferred upon Him infallibility. The Manifestation of God is like a sun which generates its own heat and light; it does not receive them from an outside source. But the moon does not possess its own light; it receives it from the sun and reflects it on the earth. Similarly, Baha'u'llah acts as the Sun of Truth and Abdu'l-Baha as the Moon of this Dispensation.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol 4, pp. 143, 145, 149-53.]
It would be a mistake to consider Abdu'l-Baha as an ordinary human being who persevered in His efforts until He emptied Himself of selfish desire and consequently was appointed by Baha'u'llah as His Successor. Such a concept is contrary to the belief of those <p104> who have embraced the Faith of Baha'u'llah. Abdu'l-Baha was created by God for the sole purpose of becoming the recipient of God's Revelation in this age. We shall never know His real station, because He was the 'Mystery of God', a title conferred upon Him by Baha'u'llah. He was the priceless gift of Baha'u'llah to mankind.
In the Suriy-i-Ghusn Baha'u'llah testifies to this truth:
"We have sent Him[1] down in the form of a human temple. Blest and sanctified be God Who createth whatsoever He willeth through His inviolable, His infallible decree. They who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch, are lost in the wilderness of error, are consumed by the heat of worldly desires, and are of those who will assuredly perish." [6-1]
[1 Abdu'l-Baha]
When Abdu'l-Baha was in His early teens in Baghdad, Baha'u'llah designated Him as 'the Master'. Other titles conferred upon Him in His youth are all indicative of a mysterious Being who is the Centre of Baha'u'llah's Covenant.
In elucidation of Abdu'l-Baha's station, Shoghi Effendi writes:
"That Abdu'l-Baha is not a Manifestation of God, that He gets His light, His inspiration and sustenance direct from the Fountain-head of the Baha'i Revelation; that He reflects even as a clear and perfect Mirror the rays of Baha'u'llah's glory, and does not inherently possess that indefinable yet all-pervading reality the exclusive possession of which is the hallmark of Prophethood; that His words are not equal in rank, though they possess an equal validity with the utterances of Baha'u'llah; that He is not to be acclaimed as the return of Jesus Christ, the Son Who will come 'in the glory of the Father' -- these truths find added justification, and are further reinforced, by the following statement of Abdu'l-Baha, addressed to some believers in America.... 'You have written that there is a difference among the believers concerning the "Second Coming of Christ". Gracious God! Time and again this question hath arisen, and its answer hath emanated in a clear and irrefutable statement from the pen of Abdu'l-Baha, that what is meant in the prophecies by the "Lord of Hosts" and the "Promised Christ" is the Blessed Perfection (Baha'u'llah) and His holiness the Exalted One (the Bab). My name is Abdu'l-Baha. My qualification is Abdu'l-Baha. My reality is Abdu'l-Baha. My praise is Abdu'l-Baha. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion... No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except Abdu'l-Baha. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory.'" [6-2]
It is beyond the scope of this book to describe Abdu'l-Baha's divine attributes or to recount the numerous stories left behind by a host of believers, admirers, and even some of His adversaries, all of whom have paid unmistakable tribute to His superhuman powers, <p105> His unfailing love, His selflessness, His servitude, His magnanimity and all the other virtues which He manifested throughout His life. Numerous books have been written extolling Abdu'l-Baha's Christ-like example. A few excerpts will suffice to inform those who are not as yet aware of His vibrant and magnetic personality.
Shaykh Ahmad-i-Ruhi,[1] a follower of Mirza Yahya and an inveterate enemy of the Faith, was stigmatized by Baha'u'llah as a 'foreboder of evil'. He was notorious for acting treacherously to tarnish the honour and good name of the Blessed Beauty. Notwithstanding, this same Shaykh Ahmad once announced from the pulpit that if there was one proof by which Baha'u'llah could substantiate His claims to Prophethood, it would be that He reared a Son such as Abbas Effendi.[2]
[1 For some details of his iniquitous activities in Istanbul, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4, pp. 399-402.]
[2 Abdu'l-Baha]
Professor Edward G. Browne of Cambridge, the noted Victorian orientalist, has left to posterity the following account of his meeting the Master for the first time in Akka in 1890.
"Seldom have I seen one whose appearance impressed me more. A tall strongly-built man holding himself straight as an arrow, with white turban and raiment, long black locks reaching almost to the shoulder, broad powerful forehead indicating a strong intellect combined with an unswerving will, eyes keen as a hawk's, and strongly-marked but pleasing features -- such was my first impression of Abbas Efendi, 'the master' (Aka) as he par excellence is called by the Babis. Subsequent conversation with him served only to heighten the respect with which his appearance had from the first inspired me. One more eloquent of speech, more ready of argument, more apt of illustration, more intimately acquainted with the sacred books of the Jews, the Christians, and the Muhammadans, could, I should think, scarcely be found even amongst the eloquent, ready, and subtle race to which he belongs. These qualities, combined with a bearing at once majestic and genial, made me cease to wonder at the influence and esteem which he enjoyed even beyond the circle of his father's followers. About the greatness of this man and his power no one who had seen him could entertain a doubt." [6-3]
Abdu'l-Baha's knowledge and eloquence, mentioned by Professor Browne, were not acquired at schools. They were conferred upon Him by Baha'u'llah. The history of Abdu'l-Baha's life clearly demonstrates that apart from going to an old-fashioned preparatory school for about one year in Tihran when He was approximately seven years of age, He had no opportunity to attend school. At the age of eight, when Baha'u'llah was imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal and His wealth was confiscated, the family was completely stripped of its <p106> possessions, deprived of its comfort and robbed of all its privileges. In those circumstances there was no way that Abdu'l-Baha could have continued His schooling. Soon afterwards, when He was hardly nine years of age, He accompanied His Father into exile. From then on Abdu'l-Baha was engulfed by tribulations and sufferings making it impossible for Him to continue His formal education.
In spite of this, Abdu'l-Baha surpassed the most learned of His times. Men of consummate knowledge and culture, both Persian and Arab, have testified to Abdu'l-Baha's superb erudition and learning. In the West too, He manifested such loving-kindness and wisdom in every field of human activity that a great many people were drawn to Him. In His contact with philosophers, scientists, ecclesiastics and others in Europe and America, Abdu'l-Baha showed a profound understanding of the most complex issues, and often made authoritative statements which evoked the admiration and sometimes the amazement of those concerned.
When Abdu'l-Baha was in His early teens in Baghdad, many notables and divines recognized His unusual insight and wisdom and became His admirers. To cite an example of His innate knowledge, once He attended a gathering of some learned divines in that city. When the origin of a certain word was being questioned, everyone agreed that it was Persian except Abdu'l-Baha, who, although He was not educated in the Arabic tongue, declared it to be Arabic, and suggested it be looked up in the dictionary. To everyone's amazement, they, who were all well-versed in the Arabic language, discovered that Abdu'l-Baha was right.
Ali Shawkat Pasha was one of the high-ranking dignitaries of Iraq. He made a request to Baha'u'llah for the elucidation of the inner significance of a certain tradition of slam which describes the purpose of God in creating man. The voice of God proclaims in this tradition: 'I was a hidden Treasure, I loved to be known, hence I created man to know Me.'
Baha'u'llah instructed Abdu'l-Baha, who was in His adolescence, to write a commentary on this tradition. In obedience to His Father, Abdu'l-Baha wrote a lengthy, profound and illuminating treatise which astounded the Pasha and aroused his admiration and respect for this youthful person. But Shawkat Pasha was not the only one who recognized the greatness of Abdu'l-Baha. There were many who became aware of His extraordinary knowledge and wisdom, and some, including the renowned Haji Siyyid Javad-i-Karbila'i,[1] concluded that one of the unmistakable proofs of the truth of the Mission of Baha'u'llah was that His son Abdu'l-Baha had written <p107> such a profound and significant treatise, shedding new light on this important tradition.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vols. 1 and 2.]

From a literary point of view the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, both in Arabic and Persian, are considered by scholars to be of the highest standard. The beauty of His style, the eloquence of His words, the flow and lucidity of His composition and the profundity of His utterances move the reader and uplift the soul.
There are innumerable stories left behind by Westerners who came into contact with Abdu l-Baha, either in the Holy Land or in Europe and America.
Major Wellesley Tudor-Pole, a British officer who met Abdu'l-Baha in Palestine on many occasions, has written a great deal about the Master. The following is a brief excerpt:
"Although of a little less than medium height, Abdu'l Baha made an impression on all who met him by his dignity, friendliness, and his aura of spiritual authority. His blue-grey eyes radiated a luminosity of their own and his hands were beautiful in their grace and healing magnetism. Even his movements were infused with a kind of radiance...
"The most abiding impression I received from intimate contact with him was his immense breadth of outlook, permeated with the spirit of deep and loving kindness. Whatever the topic under discussion -- ranging from religion to the weather, from sunsets to the flowers, from ethics to personal behaviour, Abdu'l Baha always struck the universal note, the note of Oneness as between the Creator and all His creation, great or small...
"He was a man of great spiritual stature and prophetic vision and I shall always cherish the affection he bestowed upon me and the inspiration that his life and example have given to me ever since he first came into my life in 1908." [6-4]
Horace Holley, an American Baha'i later appointed as one of the Hands of the Cause of God, met Abdu'l-Baha for the first time in the summer of 1911. He described his memorable meeting with the Master in these words:
"He displayed a beauty of stature, an inevitable harmony of attitude and dress I had never seen nor thought of in men. Without having ever visualized the Master, I knew that this was he. My whole body underwent a shock. My heart leaped, my knees weakened, a thrill of acute, receptive feeling flowed from head to foot. I seemed to have turned into some most sensitive sense-organ, as if eyes and ears were not enough for this sublime impression. In every part of me I stood aware of Abdul Baha's presence. From sheer happiness I wanted to cry -- it seemed the most suitable form of self-expression at my command. While my own personality was flowing away, even whilst I exhibited a state of complete humility, a new being, not my own, assumed its place. A <p108> glory, as it were, from the summits of human nature poured into me, and I was conscious of a most intense impulse to admire. In Abdul Baha I felt the awful presence of Baha'o'llah, and, as my thoughts returned to activity, I realized that I had thus drawn as near as man now may to pure spirit and pure being...
"During our two days' visit, we were given unusual opportunity of questioning the Master, but I soon realized that such was not the highest or most productive plane on which I could meet him... I yielded to a feeling of reverence which contained more than the solution of intellectual or moral problems. To look upon so wonderful a human being, to respond utterly to the charm of his presence -- this brought me continual happiness. I had no fear that its effects would pass away and leave me unchanged... Patriarchal, majestic, strong, yet infinitely kind, he appeared like some just king that very moment descended from his throne to mingle with a devoted people..." [6-5]
Howard Colby Ives, a Unitarian Minister who later embraced the Baha'i Faith, went to see Abdu'l-Baha when He was in New York. A number of friends also had gathered in a hotel room for the same purpose. This is the account he wrote of that first memorable meeting with the Master.
"So I was somewhat withdrawn from the others when my attention was attracted by a rustling throughout the room. A door was opening far across from me and a group was emerging and Abdu'l-Baha appeared saying farewell. None had any eyes save for Him. Again I had the impression of a unique dignity and courtesy and love. The morning sunlight flooded the room to center on His robe. His fez was slightly tilted and as I gazed, His hand, with a gesture evidently characteristic, raised and, touching, restored it to its proper place. His eyes met mine as my fascinated glance was on Him. He smiled and, with a gesture which no word but 'lordly' can describe, He beckoned me. Startled gives no hint of my sensations. Something incredible had happened. Why to me, a stranger unknown, unheard of, should He raise that friendly hand? I glanced around. Surely it was to someone else that gesture was addressed, those eyes were smiling! But there was no one near and again I looked and again He beckoned and such understanding love enveloped me that even at that distance and with a heart still cold a thrill ran through me as if a breeze from a divine morning had touched my brow!
"Slowly I obeyed that imperative command and, as I approached the door where still He stood, He motioned others away and stretched His hand to me as if He had always known me. And, as our right hands met, with His left He indicated that all should leave the room, and He drew me in and closed the door. I remember how surprised the interpreter looked when he too was included in this general dismissal. But I had little thought then for anything but this incredible happening. I was absolutely alone with Abdu'l-Baha. The halting desire expressed weeks ago was fulfilled the very moment that our eyes first met. <p109>
"Still holding my hand Abdu'l-Baha walked across the room towards where, in the window, two chairs were waiting. Even then the majesty of His tread impressed me and I felt like a child led by His father, a more than earthly father, to a comforting conference. His hand still held mine and frequently His grasp tightened and held more closely. And then, for the first time, He spoke, and in my own tongue. Softly came the assurance that I was His very dear son.
"What there was in these simple words that carried such conviction to my heart I cannot say. Or was it the tone of voice and the atmosphere pervading the room, filled with spiritual vibrations beyond anything I had ever known, that melted my heart almost to tears? I only know that a sense of verity invaded me. Here at last was my Father. What earthly paternal relationship could equal this? A new and exquisite emotion all but mastered me. My throat swelled. My eyes filled. I could not have spoken had life depended on a word. I followed those masterly feet like a little child.
"Then we sat in the two chairs by the window: knee to knee, eye to eye. At last He looked right into me. It was the first time since our eyes had met with His first beckoning gesture that this had happened. And now nothing intervened between us and He looked at me. He looked at me! It seemed as though never before had anyone really seen me. I felt a sense of gladness that I at last was at home, and that one who knew me utterly, my Father, in truth, was alone with me.
"As He looked such play of thought found reflection in His face, that if He had talked an hour not nearly so much could have been said. A little surprise, perhaps, followed swiftly by such sympathy, such understanding, such overwhelming love -- it was as if His very being opened to receive me. With that the heart within me melted and the tears flowed. I did not weep, in any ordinary sense. There was no breaking up of feature. It was as if a long-pent stream was at last undammed. Unheeded, as I looked at Him, they flowed.
"He put His two thumbs to my eyes while He wiped the tears from my face; admonishing me not to cry, that one must always be happy. And He laughed. Such a ringing, boyish laugh. It was as though He had discovered the most delightful joke imaginable: a divine joke which only He could appreciate.
"I could not speak. We both sat perfectly silent for what seemed a long while, and gradually a great peace came to me. Then Abdu'l-Baha placed His hand upon my breast saying that it was the heart that speaks. Again silence: a long, heart-enthralling silence. No word further was spoken, and all the time I was with Him not one single sound came from me. But no word was necessary from me to Him. I knew that, even then, and how I thanked God it was so.
"Suddenly He leaped from His chair with another laugh as though consumed with a heavenly joy. Turning, He took me under the elbows and lifted me to my feet and swept me into His arms. Such a hug! No mere embrace! My very ribs cracked. He kissed me on both cheeks, laid His arm across my shoulders and led me to the door. <p11O>
"That is all. But life has never been quite the same since." [6-6]
These few personal impressions give us glimpses of the noble life of the One Who was appointed by Baha'u'llah as the Centre of His Covenant. Not only did Abdu'l-Baha direct the affairs of the Cause as the successor of the Manifestation of God, but also He was the most effective influence during Baha'u'llah's ministry in promoting and safeguarding the vital interests of an infant and struggling Faith. It is significant that the birth of Baha'u'llah's Revelation did not take place until the Person of Abdu'l-Baha, that Vehicle designed to receive and contain its energising forces, was present in the world as a child.
The Bab states [6-7] that the advent of a Manifestation of God depends upon the existence of a person -- the first believer -- who has the capacity to understand and embrace His Cause. Should such an individual be found among mankind God will immediately reveal Himself and will not postpone His Revelation, even for a fraction of a minute. The Bab gives the example of His own Revelation and states that since the appearance of Muhammad God had been watching for a person to appear and become the recipient of His Message and that it took 1260 lunar years until Mulla Husayn acquired the capacity to know Him. The Bab further asserts that had Mulla Husayn been ready to acknowledge the truth of His Cause one moment earlier than he did, He would have correspondingly revealed Himself to him that much sooner.
The birth of Baha'u'llah's Revelation occurred at a time when Abdu'l-Baha, though a mere child, was able to perceive intuitively the glorious Mission with which His Father was invested. It seems also providential that Abdu'l-Baha was born on the same day that the Bab declared His Mission to Mulla Husayn. It is significant indeed that as the Declaration of the Bab, the Herald of Baha'u'llah, took place on that memorable evening, so did the birth of the Person who was destined to become the recipient of His great Revelation.
As Abdu'l-Baha grew up, the scope of His activities increased. Innumerable were the outstanding services He rendered His Father in Baghdad, Adrianople and Akka. He represented Baha'u'llah on many occasions as His deputy, defending the interests of the Faith before the public and acting as a mighty shield to protect Him from His enemies. <p111>

The Family of Baha'u'llah
At the passing of Baha'u'llah in 1892 the Baha'i community was plunged into such a state of grief and consternation as it had never experienced before. The light of divine Revelation, which had shone forth for forty years, was now withdrawn, and the believers tasted the bitter agony of separation from their Lord. Their only source of consolation was the Person of Abdu'l-Baha who, as the Centre of Baha'u'llah's Covenant, succeeded in imparting new life and vigour to the body of the Cause of God and who called on the believers to arise and spread the healing message of Baha'u'llah to the people of the East and the West. Within a short period of time the fringes of the five continents of the globe were illumined with the splendours of the light of the Faith.
Stupendous as was this progress of the Cause during the Ministry of the Master, the onslaught of the unfaithful from within the community and especially the fierce opposition of most of the members of Baha'u'llah's family to the Centre of the Covenant, created an unprecedented tempest. This raged furiously within the community for several decades and threatened to disrupt its unity and shake its divinely ordained but young and vulnerable institutions. The fierce onslaught of the Covenant-breakers upon the Cause of God on the one hand, and their eventual extinction on the other, constitute the most dramatic episodes in the ministries of Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. These are some of the darkest pages in the history of the Faith, and yet they cast light upon the mysterious forces operating within the Cause of God, forces that tear down every obstacle in the onward march of the Cause toward its ultimate victory. They clearly demonstrate the vitality and the indestructibility of the Faith and serve to delineate the pattern of crisis and victory which characterises its future growth and development throughout the world.
In order to study the Covenant of Baha'u'llah and grasp its significance, it is necessary to examine the manner in which Baha'u'llah conducted His personal life and the way He communicated His Message to mankind. A common feature of the Manifestations of God is that they appear among people without making a great <p112> display of their divine power, knowledge or glory. They seem to be ordinary people with all the human characteristics. Inwardly they are invested with divine knowledge and power, but it is against the law of God for them to reveal these qualities to the generality of mankind, for if they do, all human beings will witness their awesome glory, will bow before their majesty and submit their will entirely to God's Viceregent on earth. Should this happen, man would become a puppet of God and lose his free will; everyone would follow the path of truth not by his own volition, but by capitulating to the irresistible power of the Manifestation of God. By the force of God's command, all would obey His Teachings and would live a goodly life; no one could have the choice to be different and there would be no wickedness. If this were to happen, man would become devoid of the power of creativity, and turn into a creature whose actions were controlled from a higher realm. Then the principles of justice, of reward and punishment would become inoperative and meaningless in society. This is one of the reasons why a Manifestation of God conceals His glory and powers behind the veil of His human characteristics. Only those who have spiritual eyes can see a glimpse of His radiant Light and recognize His station; the great majority of the people fail to discover His inner spiritual reality. In this way man can exercise his free will to accept or to reject the Message of God, to live in accordance with His teachings or to disobey Him.
We therefore observe that a Manifestation of God has two sides: human and divine. It is the human side which veils the splendours of the divine light that shine within His Person. A Manifestation of God is subject to all human characteristics. He has to eat, sleep, and carry on His life like any other person. These limitations of human nature become barriers for people in recognizing Him as the Manifestation of God. One of these barriers is the question of marriage. This is an especially great obstacle for many of Christian background, who have been brought up to believe that celibacy befits a holy person and that marriage is inappropriate for a Manifestation of God. Perhaps this attitude stems from the fact that Christ did not seem to have been married when He declared His Mission. However Christ Himself did not speak against marriage. On the other hand should one attribute a lack of sexual urge to a holy person, this would amount to a physical deficiency rather than a virtue, for the Manifestations of God are perfect in body as in spirit. That Christ did not marry is probably because His Ministry was short and that for most of it He was homeless, going from place to place until He was crucified.
Since the Manifestations of God share with the people all characteristics of human nature, it follows that they may live a normal <p113> life, engage in a profession, have a home, marry and raise a family. They also possess all the human sentiments and emotions. They are sensitive beings with feelings of joy and sadness, of pain and comfort, of likes and dislikes. What distinguishes them from the rest of mankind is that their spiritual side completely dominates their physical nature, and they are absolutely detached from the material world.
Another feature of the life of a Manifestation of God is that He lives in accordance with the laws and conventions of the society to which He belongs. He eats the same type of food, wears the same type of clothes, and carries out the same customs as the rest of the people of His culture and background. He does not live His life in the pattern of a future society which will emerge centuries later as a result of His teachings and about which He has full knowledge. For example, during the Ministry of Jesus two thousand years ago. Christ lived in a manner similar to the Israelites of the time. He did not project Himself out of that society and did not live a different pattern of life from that of the age He lived in.
By following the customs of the people of His own land, the Manifestation of God does not appear conspicuously different from the rest of the people, and this is how His glory is hidden behind His human facade. In this way, His contemporaries look upon Him as an ordinary man.
Baha'u'llah belonged to a noble family of Tihran. His father, Mirza Abbas-i-Nuri, known as Mirza Buzurg, held a very important ministerial position in the court of the Shah, and was regarded in high esteem by the dignitaries of the realm. Circumstances of family life in Islamic countries were totally different from those of present-day Western society. The law of Islam concerning polygamy was in force, allowing men to have a maximum of four wives at the same time. Mirza Buzurg married four wives and had three concubines and fifteen children -- five daughters and ten sons. Baha'u'llah was born on 12 November 1817 in Tihran. His mother, Khadijih Khanum, the second wife of Mirza Buzurg, had a son and two daughters from a previous marriage. As a result Baha'u'llah had eleven brothers and seven sisters.[1] Some of them became steadfast believers, some followed Mirza Yahya, while others remained indifferent or died before Baha'u'llah's declaration in the Garden of Ridvan .
[1 For more details, see Balyuzi, Baha'u'llah, The King of Glory, pp. 13-14.]
Baha'u'llah received an elementary education in His childhood in Tihran. The nobility of those days usually employed the services of a teacher at home to tutor their children. The main subjects were calligraphy, the study of the Qur'an and the works of the Persian <p114> poets. This type of schooling ended after only a few years when the child was in his early teens. Baha'u'llah's education did not go further than this: He Himself testifies in His Tablet to Nasiri'd-Din Shah that He did not attend any school in His life:
"O king! I was but a man like others, asleep upon My couch, when lo, the breezes of the All-Glorious were wafted over Me, and taught Me the knowledge of all that hath been. This thing is not from Me, but from One Who is Almighty and All-Knowing. And He bade Me lift up My voice between earth and heaven, and for this there befell Me what hath caused the tears of every man of understanding to flow. The learning current amongst men I studied not; their schools I entered not. Ask of the city wherein I dwelt, that thou mayest be well assured that I am not of them who speak falsely. This is but a leaf which the winds of the will of thy Lord, the Almighty, the All-Praised, have stirred. Can it be still when the tempestuous winds are blowing? Nay, by Him Who is the Lord of all Names and Attributes! They move it as they list." [7-1]
It is beyond the scope of this book to dwell on Baha'u'llah's eventful life during the years of His youth. Some of these stories are already published. [7-2] For the purpose of studying the Covenant, however, it is necessary to become informed of Baha'u'llah's marriages and His children. Baha'u'llah had married three wives before the declaration of His Mission in 1863. As has already been stated, the Manifestation of God conducts His personal life according to the customs of the time. Polygamy was a normal practice in those days; indeed, it would have been abnormal for a man who belonged to the nobility to be monogamous in that society.
In order to appreciate this subject, it is essential to become familiar with the Islamic world of the nineteenth century. Among the Muslim communities of the Middle East, women lived entirely under the domination of men and were not allowed to take part in public affairs. Girls grew up in the home of their parents, lived most of their time indoors and had no contact with the public. When they were given in marriage to their husbands (an event over which they had no control) they moved into a different house and spent most of their time in complete seclusion until they died. No man, except a very close relative, was ever allowed to see the face of a woman. She had to wear a chadur[1] and veil her face. When a male guest arrived at a home, all the women had to retire into the inner apartment, their sanctuary where no strange man would ever be admitted. It was considered a sin for a woman to show her face to any man.
[1 A large piece of cloth which covers the entire body from top to toe and is wrapped around one's clothes.]
Another restriction was that women, especially unmarried girls, were not supposed to talk to men. Neither would they be permitted <p115> to go out for shopping or other services; these were the exclusive function of men. Such an act would have necessitated women taking part in public affairs and coming into contact with men. So strict was this practice that if ever a woman was seen talking to a strange man she would receive very severe punishment from her parents or husband. The stigma attached to this behaviour was so repugnant that sometimes the poor victim would commit suicide.
Some Muslim clergy in Persia are known to have inflicted torturous chastisements upon a man who was accused of talking to a woman. Usually a much more severe punishment awaited a non-Muslim man if he was ever found speaking to a Muslim woman.
Women in those days had no status in the community. They were treated as if they were part of the furniture. Some members of the clergy went as far as to claim that women had no souls, much as Christian theologians had done seven hundred years earlier. Within such a society a woman's life was spent almost entirely within the four walls of a house, caring for her family and all the menfolk who lived there. It was very rare for a young girl to receive any education. The great majority of women were illiterate and were therefore left out of the mainstream of human progress and civilization.
Even the few who received some education were circumscribed in their activities. For instance, the renowned Tahirih, the heroine of the Babi Dispensation, usually sat behind a curtain in order to take part in the seminars conducted by her teacher Siyyid Kazim, for it was considered unchaste for a women to sit among men. How revolutionary, then, was her act of proclamation at the Conference of Badasht when she appeared in the gathering of men unveiled and seated herself beside Quddus. It is hardly surprising that as a result of her action several Babis present at the conference left the Faith of the Bab altogether. One person went so far as to cut his own throat after observing Tahirih breaking, even momentarily, one of the most cherished Islamic practices of segregation between the sexes. The following account by Nabil-i-A'zam vividly portrays the scenes of alarm among the participants.
"...when suddenly the figure of Tahirih, adorned and unveiled, appeared before the eyes of the assembled companions. Consternation immediately seized the entire gathering. All stood aghast before this sudden and most unexpected apparition. To behold her face unveiled was to them inconceivable. Even to gaze at her shadow was a thing which they deemed improper, inasmuch as they regarded her as the very incarnation of Fatimih,[1] the noblest emblem of chastity in their eyes.
[1 The daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, she is considered to be the holiest woman in Islam.] <p116>
"Quietly, silently, and with the utmost dignity, Tahirih stepped forward and, advancing towards Quddus, seated herself on his right-hand side. Her unruffled serenity sharply contrasted with the affrighted countenances of those who were gazing upon her face. Fear, anger, and bewilderment stirred the depths of their souls. That sudden revelation seemed to have stunned their faculties. Abdu'l-Khaliq-i-Isfahani was so gravely shaken that he cut his throat with his own hands. Covered with blood and shrieking with excitement, he fled away from the face of Tahirih. A few, following his example, abandoned their companions and forsook their Faith. A number were seen standing speechless before her, confounded with wonder." [7-3]
It was the parents' responsibilities to arrange marriages for their children. Usually the parties most concerned had no say in the arrangement; it was customary to betrothe boy and girl soon after they were born. When the boy reached his late teens, he had to marry; the couple had no choice in the matter. There was no question of the partners loving each other before their marriage; the boy was not even allowed to see the face of his bride until after the wedding. If the two parties were not betrothed so young, the parents would usually seek a bride for their son once he was in his teens. This was done by a female member of the family, such as a mother or a sister. Once the choice was made, by them, the marriage could take place. All the young man knew about his future wife was a figure wrapped in a chadur and heavily veiled. Perhaps his female relatives had described to him what his bride really looked like!
The parents were also responsible for providing their son with his livelihood, his home and all his needs -- including a wife, who would be given to him as a matter of routine!
In the western world today, a couple meet and get to know one another, fall in love and get married. But in the time of Baha'u'llah this was not the case in the East, and often not in the West either. 'Love' took second place to family duty, appropriate social ties and questions of inheritance.
But although a couple were not in a position to choose their partners in marriage and had no possibility of knowing and loving each other, the reader must not believe that all marriages were devoid of love and unity. It is not difficult to visualize the case of a couple unacquainted with each other initially, who develop a bond of friendship, love and harmony after marriage. Yet within such an atmosphere, the domineering position of the husband was noticeably upheld as he exercised unquestioned authority over his wife.
In these circumstances all the responsibility of running the home -- which entailed hard labour in those days -- was left to the wife, who would be lucky if there were other female members of the family to <p117> help her in her duties. It was considered improper to employ a maid to assist in the work, since only a woman who was a close relative could be admitted into the household. However, since polygamy was commonly practised, a man could usually marry up to four wives, and they were expected to assist each other in managing the family home. This often became a necessity where the husband was a wealthy and influential person and had to maintain a large household and conduct a life-style befitting his station in society. Usually it was the first wife who would seek out, or give her consent for, the person who was to become the second wife.
It is clear that marriage customs in Persia during the nineteenth century were not by any stretch of the imagination comparable to those of the present-day in most parts of the world. The mere mention of polygamy today will raise in people's minds such things as sex, lustfulness, corruption and unchastity. But this was not true in the case of people who contracted marriages according to Islamic law over a hundred years ago. Men practiced polygamy not necessarily because of lust but because they were conducting their lives within a society which had established certain customs and conventions to which all had to conform. Thus, a young man happily submitted his will to that of his parents and carried out their wish in marrying someone of their choosing; thereafter he contracted further marriages as a routine matter.
Baha'u'llah married Asiyih Khanum in Tihran in 1251 AH (1835) when He was over eighteen years of age. Asiyih Khanum, later surnamed Navvab by Baha'u'llah, was a daughter of a nobleman, Mirza Isma'il-i-Vazir. Her date of birth is not known. She was a most noble and faithful follower of Baha'u'llah who served her Lord till the end of her life in 1886. There were seven children of the marriage, four of whom died in childhood. The other three were Abbas, entitled the 'Most Great Branch', 'Abdu'l-Baha'; Fatimih, entitled Bahiyyih Khanum, the Greatest Holy Leaf; and Mihdi, entitled 'the Purest Branch'.
The second wife of Baha'u'llah, whom He married in Tihran in 1849, was Fatimih Khanum, usually referred to as Mahd-i-'Ulya. She was a cousin of Baha'u'llah, and gave birth to six children of whom four survived. They were one daughter, Samadiyylh, and three sons, Muhammad-Ali, Diya'u'llah and Badi'u'llah. These four, along with their mother, violated the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. Mahd-i-'Ulya died in 1904.
The third wife, Gawhar Khanum, was not known by any other title. Her dates of birth, marriage and death are not known. Her marriage took place some time in Baghdad before the declaration of Baha'u'llah's Mission. While Navvab and Mahd-i-'Ulya travelled <p118> with Him in all His exiles, Gawhar Khanum remained in Baghdad with her brother, Mirza Mihdiy-i-Kashani.[1] For some years she was among the Baha'i refugees in Mosul,[2] and later went to Akka at Baha'u'llah's instruction. She gave birth to one daughter, Furughiyyih; mother and daughter both became Covenant-breakers after the passing of Baha'u'llah.
[1 See Abdu'l-Baha, Memorials of the Faithful, p- 95.]
[2 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2.]
It is appropriate at this juncture to clarify a point which has puzzled the minds of many, namely the lack of detailed information about the wives of Baha'u'llah. Here again, one has to consider the social circumstances of the time. As has already been stated, women in those days took no part in public affairs; their entire lives were spent at home in private life. To enquire into the life of a woman was considered to be unethical, even insulting. It was discourteous to ask even the name of someone's wife. She would be usually referred to as the 'person in the house', or, if she had a son, she could be called 'mother of...'. Within such a society historians (always male) usually did not, and could not, invade the privacy of women by delving into their lives. Otherwise, they could highly offend the men folk!
Although one would not find such practices in Baha'u'llah's household, and those believers who were close to Him had come in contact with the female members of His family, nevertheless, owing to the customs of the time and the privacy to which women in general were entitled, very little has been recorded about their lives by oriental historians of the Faith.
Navvab, honoured by Baha'u'llah by the designation 'The Most Exalted Leaf', was truly an embodiment of nobility. She was utterly detached from the things of the world and most faithful to the Cause of God. Navvab's deep attachment to the Cause of Baha'u'llah was one of her great distinguishing features. She had a compassionate and loving nature, was patient, humble and utterly resigned to the will of Baha'u'llah. She suffered a great deal at the hands of those in the family who later broke the Covenant. Her faith in Baha'u'llah, whom she knew as the Supreme Manifestation of God, was resolute and unshakeable. She served her Lord with exemplary devotion and complete self-effacement. Her daughter, the Greatest Holy Leaf, has described her in these words:
"I wish you could have seen her as I first remember her, tall, slender, graceful, eyes of dark blue -- a pearl, a flower amongst women.
"I have been told that even when very young, her wisdom and intelligence were remarkable. I always think of her in those earliest days of my <p119> memory as queenly in her dignity and loveliness, full of consideration for everybody, gentle, of a marvellous unselfishness, no action of hers ever failed to show the loving-kindness of her pure heart; her very presence seemed to make an atmosphere of love and happiness wherever she came, enfolding all comers in the fragrance of gentle courtesy." [7-4]
In one of His Tablets Baha'u'llah bestows upon Navvab the unique distinction of being His perpetual consort in all the worlds of God. The following passages gleaned from the Writings of Baha'u'llah clearly demonstrate the glory with which He invested her:
"The first Spirit through which all spirits were revealed, and the first Light by which all lights shone forth, rest upon thee, O Most Exalted Leaf, thou who hast been mentioned in the Crimson Book! Thou art the one whom God created to arise and serve His own Self, and the Manifestation of His Cause, and the Day-Spring of His Revelation, and the Dawning-Place of His signs, and the Source of His commandments; and Who so aided thee that thou didst turn with thy whole being unto Him, at a time when His servants and handmaidens had turned away from His Face.... Happy art thou, O My handmaiden, and My Leaf, and the one mentioned in My Book, and inscribed by My Pen of Glory in My Scrolls and Tablets.... Rejoice thou, at this moment, in the most exalted Station and the All-highest Paradise, and the Abha Horizon, inasmuch as He Who is the Lord of Names hath remembered thee. We bear witness that thou didst attain unto all good, and that God hath so exalted thee, that all honour and glory circled around thee.
"O Navvab! O Leaf that hath sprung from My Tree, and been My companion! My glory be upon thee, and My loving-kindness, and My mercy that hath surpassed all beings. We announce unto thee that which will gladden thine eye, and assure thy soul, and rejoice thine heart. Verily, thy Lord is the Compassionate, the All-Bountiful. God hath been and will be pleased with thee, and hath singled thee out for His own Self, and chosen thee from among His handmaidens to serve Him, and hath made thee the companion of His Person in the day-time and in the night-season.
"Hear thou Me once again ... God is well-pleased with thee, as a token of His grace and a sign of His mercy. He hath made thee to be His companion in every one of His worlds, and hath nourished thee with His meeting and presence, so long as His Name, and His Remembrance, and His Kingdom, and His Empire shall endure. Happy is the handmaid that hath mentioned thee, and sought thy good-pleasure, and humbled herself before thee, and held fast unto the cord of thy love. Woe betide him that denieth thy exalted station, and the things ordained for thee from God, the Lord of all names, and him that hath turned away from thee, and rejected thy station before God, the Lord of the mighty throne.
"O faithful ones! Should ye visit the resting-place of the Most Exalted Leaf, who hath ascended unto the Glorious Companion, stand ye and <p120> say: 'Salutation and blessing and glory upon thee, O Holy Leaf that hath sprung from the Divine Lote-Tree! I bear witness that thou hast believed in God and in His signs, and answered His Call, and turned unto Him, and held fast unto His cord, and clung to the hem of His grace, and fled thy home in His path, and chosen to live as a stranger, out of love for His presence and in thy longing to serve Him. May God have mercy upon him that draweth nigh unto thee, and remembereth thee through the things which My Pen hath voiced in this, the most great station. We pray God that He may forgive us, and forgive them that have turned unto thee, and grant their desires, and bestow upon them, through His wondrous grace, whatever be their wish. He, verily, is the Bountiful, the Generous. Praise be to God, He Who is the Desire of all worlds; and the Beloved of all who recognize Him." [7-5]
Abdu'l-Baha in a Tablet states that the 54th chapter of Isaiah refers to Navvab, the Most Exalted Leaf, whose 'seed shall inherit the Gentiles', and whose husband is the 'Lord of Hosts'. Abdu'l-Baha also refers to the verse, 'For more are the children of the desolate, than the children of the married wife', and states that this refers to Navvab. This is part of the 54th chapter:
"Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.
"Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;
"For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.
"Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth...
"For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
"For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit...
"For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee...
"For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.
"O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
"And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones. <p121>
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children ... whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake." [7-6]
Abdu'l-Baha goes on to bear witness to the sufferings of Navvab and extol her wonderful qualities:
"And truly the humiliation and reproach which she suffered in the path of God is a fact which no one can refute. For the calamities and afflictions mentioned in the whole chapter are such afflictions which she suffered in the path of God, all of which she endured with patience and thanked God therefor and praised Him, because He had enabled her to endure afflictions for the sake of Baha. During all this time, the men and women (Covenant-breakers) persecuted her in an incomparable manner, while she was patient, God-fearing, calm, humble and contented through the favour of Her Lord and by the bounty of her Creator." [7-7]
The three members of the family of Navvab occupy the highest rank in the Faith. Abdu'l-Baha is of course the Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah, the Perfect Exemplar and the embodiment of all divine virtues. His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf, is regarded as the noblest woman in this Dispensation and its outstanding heroine.
Even a brief outline of her life is outside the scope of this book; the following passages must suffice. They allow us a few glimpses of her saintly life[1] -- a life laden with unbearable sufferings in the path of Baha'u'llah and dedicated to the service of His Cause. These are the words of Baha'u'llah as He showers His loving bounties upon His Greatest Holy Leaf.
[1 For a more detailed study of her life see Bahiyyih Khanum, The Greatest Holy Leaf (Baha'i World Centre, 1982).]
"Let these exalted words be thy love-song on the tree of Baha, O thou most holy and resplendent Leaf: 'God, besides Whom is none other God, the Lord of this world and the next!' Verily, We have elevated thee to the rank of one of the most distinguished among thy sex, and granted thee, in My court, a station such as none other woman hath surpassed. Thus have We preferred thee and raised thee above the rest, as a sign of grace from Him Who is the Lord of the throne on high and earth below. We have created thine eyes to behold the light of My countenance, thine ears to hearken unto the melody of My words, thy body to pay homage before My throne. Do thou render thanks unto God, thy Lord, the Lord of all the world.
"How high is the testimony of the Sadratu'l-Muntaha for its leaf; how exalted the witness of the Tree of Life unto its fruit! Through My remembrance of her a fragrance laden with the perfume of musk hath been diffused; well is it with him that hath inhaled it and exclaimed: 'All praise be to Thee, O God, my Lord the most glorious!' How sweet thy <p122> presence before Me; how sweet to gaze upon thy face, to bestow upon thee My loving-kindness, to favour thee with My tender care, to make mention of thee in this, My Tablet -- a Tablet which I have ordained as a token of My hidden and manifest grace unto thee." [7-8]
In another Tablet He testifies to her faithfulness and devotion to His Cause.
"O My Leaf! Hearken thou unto My Voice: Verily there is none other God but Me, the Almighty, the All-Wise. I can well inhale from thee the fragrance of My love and the sweet-smelling savour wafting from the raiment of My Name, the Most Holy, the Most Luminous. Be astir upon God's Tree in conformity with thy pleasure and unloose thy tongue in praise of thy Lord amidst all mankind. Let not the things of the world grieve thee. Cling fast unto this divine Lote-Tree from which God hath graciously caused thee to spring forth. I swear by My life! It behoveth the lover to be closely joined to the loved one, and here indeed is the Best-Beloved of the world." [7-9]
In many Tablets Abdu'l-Baha too pays tribute to the purity and nobility of her soul. For example, He writes to her in these words:
"O thou my affectionate sister! In the day-time and in the night-season my thoughts ever turn to thee. Not for one moment do I cease to remember thee. My sorrow and regret concern not myself; they centre around thee. Whenever I recall thine afflictions, tears that I cannot repress rain down from mine eyes..." [7-10]
On the occasion of her ascension to the Kingdom on high in 1932, Shoghi Effendi, grief-stricken at the loss of that noble heroine of the Faith, wrote a most moving eulogy. The following are a few excerpts from his celebrated letter to the Baha'is of the world.
"It would take me too long to make even a brief allusion to those incidents of her life, each of which eloquently proclaims her as a daughter, worthy to inherit that priceless heritage bequeathed to her by Baha'u'llah. A purity of life that reflected itself in even the minutest details of her daily occupations and activities; a tenderness of heart that obliterated every distinction of creed, class and colour; a resignation and serenity that evoked to the mind the calm and heroic fortitude of the Bab; a natural fondness of flowers and children that was so characteristic of Baha'u'llah; an unaffected simplicity of manners; an extreme sociability which made her accessible to all; a generosity, a love, at once disinterested and undiscriminating, that reflected so clearly the attributes of Abdu'l-Baha's character; a sweetness of temper; a cheerfulness that no amount of sorrow could becloud; a quiet and unassuming disposition that served to enhance a thousandfold the prestige of her exalted rank; a forgiving nature that instantly disarmed the most unyielding enemy -- these rank among the outstanding attributes of a saintly life which history will acknowledge as having been endowed with a celestial potency that few of the heroes of the past possessed... <p123>
"Dearly-beloved Greatest Holy Leaf! Through the mist of tears that fill my eyes I can clearly see, as I pen these lines, thy noble figure before me, and can recognize the serenity of thy kindly face. I can still gaze, though the shadows of the grave separate us, into thy blue, love-deep eyes, and can feel in its calm intensity, the immense love thou didst bear for the Cause of thine Almighty Father, the attachment that bound thee to the most lowly and insignificant among its followers, the warm affection thou didst cherish for me in thine heart. The memory of the ineffable beauty of thy smile shall ever continue to cheer and hearten me in the thorny path I am destined to pursue. The remembrance of the touch of thine hand shall spur me on to follow steadfastly in thy way. The sweet magic of thy voice shall remind me, when the hour of adversity is at its darkest, to hold fast to the rope thou didst seize so firmly all the days of thy life...
"Whatever betide us, however distressing the vicissitudes which the nascent Faith of God may yet experience, we pledge ourselves, before the mercy-seat of thy glorious Father, to hand on, unimpaired and undivided, to generations yet unborn, the glory of that tradition of which thou has been its most brilliant exemplar.
"In the innermost recesses of our hearts, O thou exalted Leaf of the Abha Paradise, we have reared for thee a shining mansion that the hand of time can never undermine, a shrine which shall frame eternally the matchless beauty of thy countenance, an altar whereon the fire of thy consuming love shall burn for ever." [7-11]
The third child of Navvab was her noble and long-suffering son, the Purest Branch. He was the one who, in the prime of youth, offered up his life in the path of his Lord.[1] In a prayer revealed after his martyrdom Baha'u'llah makes the following statement which Shoghi Effendi describes as astounding:
[1 For a more detailed study of his life, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3.]
"I have, O my Lord, offered up that which Thou hast given Me, that Thy servants may be quickened and all that dwell on earth be united." [7-12]
It is at once significant and mysterious that the unity of mankind, the pivot around which all the teachings of Baha'u'llah revolve, would come into being as a result of the sacrifice of the Purest Branch. Here are Baha'u'llah's words after that tragic event:
"At this very moment, My son is being washed before My face, after Our having sacrificed him in the Most Great Prison. Thereat have the dwellers of the Abha Tabernacle wept with a great weeping, and such as have suffered imprisonment with this Youth in the path of God, the Lord of the promised Day, lamented. Under such conditions My Pen hath not been prevented from remembering its Lord, the Lord of all nations. It summoneth the people unto God, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful. This is the day whereon he that was created by the light of Baha has suffered <p124> martyrdom, at a time when he lay imprisoned at the hands of his enemies.
"Upon thee, O Branch of God! be the remembrance of God and His praise, and the praise of all that dwell in the Realm of Immortality, and of all the denizens of the Kingdom of Names. Happy art thou in that thou hast been faithful to the Covenant of God and His Testament, until Thou didst sacrifice thyself before the face of thy Lord, the Almighty, the Unconstrained. Thou, in truth, hast been wronged, and to this testifieth the Beauty of Him, the Self-Subsisting. Thou didst, in the first days of thy life, bear that which hath caused all things to groan; and made every pillar to tremble. Happy is the one that remembereth thee, and draweth nigh, through thee, unto God, the Creator of the Morn.
"Glorified art Thou, O Lord, my God! Thou seest me in the hands of Mine enemies, and My son blood-stained before Thy face, O Thou in Whose hands is the kingdom of all names. I have, O my Lord, offered up that which Thou hast given Me, that Thy servants may be quickened and all that dwell on earth be united. Blessed art thou, and blessed he that turneth unto thee, and visiteth thy grave, and draweth nigh, through thee, unto God, the Lord of all that was and shall be... I testify that thou didst return in meekness unto thine abode. Great is thy blessedness and the blessedness of them that hold fast unto the hem of thy outspread robe... Thou art, verily, the trust of God and His treasure in this land. Erelong will God reveal through thee that which He hath desired. He, verily, is the Truth, the Knower of things unseen. When thou wast laid to rest in the earth, the earth itself trembled in its longing to meet thee. Thus hath it been decreed, and yet the people perceive not.... Were We to recount the mysteries of thine ascension, they that are asleep would waken, and all beings would be set ablaze with the fire of the remembrance of My Name, the Mighty, the Loving." [7-13]
Indeed, the prophecy of Isaiah concerning Navvab, whose 'husband' is 'the Lord of Hosts', has been fulfilled.
"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." <p125>

The Arch-breaker of Baha'u'llah's Covenant
The history of Baha'u'llah's family has two contrasting features: one of glory and faithfulness, the other of dishonour and treachery. Navvab, her two sons Abdu'l-Baha and the Purest Branch, and her daughter the Greatest Holy Leaf, shine brilliantly above the horizon of Baha'u'llah's Revelation and occupy immeasurably exalted positions within His Cause. The rest of the family including Mahd-i-'Ulya, Gawhar Khanum and their sons and daughters, all became darkened and perished spiritually; they sank miserably into ignominy and oblivion. This contrast of light and darkness, of good and evil in Baha'u'llah's own family is one of the most thought-provoking and mysterious features of His Ministry. His eldest Son was made the perfect Mirror reflecting His light, and the Centre of His mighty Covenant, while at the same time another son turned into the 'centre of sedition' and the arch-breaker of that same Covenant. Some thoughts on this mystery are offered elsewhere in this book.[1]
[1 See below, pp 130-34.]
This arch-breaker of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah is Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the eldest son of Baha'u'llah's second wife Mahd-i-'Ulya. He was born in Baghdad in the first year of Baha'u'llah's arrival there. From the early days of his youth, he found that he could not rise to the level of Abdu'l-Baha, who was nine years his senior. He lacked those spiritual qualities which distinguished his eldest brother, who became known as the Master from the early days in Baghdad.
The most essential prerequisites for the spiritual survival of all those who were close to Baha'u'llah were humility, self-effacement and utter nothingness in His presence. If these qualities were missing in an individual, he would be in great danger of spiritual downfall and eventual extinction.
While Abdu'l-Baha, the Greatest Holy Leaf, the Purest Branch, and their illustrious mother were all embodiments of servitude and selflessness, Muhammad-'Ali, his brothers and sister, together with their mother, were the opposite. Although the latter group were all <p126> sheltered beneath Baha'u'llah's protection, and flourished through the outpouring of His favours, in reality they were the victims of selfish desires and worldly ambitions. During Baha'u'llah's lifetime they were subdued by His authority and kept under control through His admonitions. At the same time, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his brothers were the recipients of a great many favours from the believers who, because of their love for Baha'u'llah, honoured and revered them too. Thus these three sons acquired an undeserved prestige and basked in the sunshine of their Father's glory and majesty.
Inwardly, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was a faithless person, and he led his two younger brothers in the same direction. But outwardly he utilized the power of the Faith and the resources of the community to bolster up his own image in the eyes of the followers of Baha'u'llah. He emerged as an important person in the service of his Father by transcribing some of His Tablets and by the use of calligraphy of which he was a master. From the days of his youth he entertained the ambition to occupy a position of eminence within the Faith, a position similar to that of Abdu'l-Baha, who, from early on, had distinguished Himself among the entire family.
In Muhammad-'Ali's childhood Baha'u'llah conferred upon him the power of utterance, and this became obvious as he grew up. But instead of utilizing 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 Baha'u'llah's permission disseminated them among some of the Persian Baha'is, introducing them as verses of God which, he claimed, were revealed to him. He intimated to the believers that he was a partner with Baha'u'llah in divine Revelation. Several believers in Qazvin were influenced by him and drawn to him. This created a great controversy in Qazvin, and resulted in disunity among some of the believers there. The city of Qazvin was already notorious for its different factions among the Babis, and there were some followers of Mirza Yahya actively disseminating false propaganda against the followers of Baha'u'llah.
Now, in the midst of these conflicting groups, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's claim to be the revealer of the verses of God [8-1] brought about an added confusion among the followers of Baha'u'llah. In his writings, which are of considerable length, the teen-age Muhammad-'Ali refers to himself, among other things, as 'the King of the spirit', 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 <p127> 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'.
Such preposterous claims, such a display of personal ambition, evoked the wrath of Baha'u'llah, who rebuked him vehemently and chastised him with His own hands. The controversy in Qazvin continued for some time. Three believers in particular fell under the spell of Muhammad-'Ali; they were Mirza Abdu'llah, Haji Hisan and his brother, Aqa Ali. These three and a few others, who considered their youthful candidate to be a partner with Baha'u'llah and of equal station to His, entered into argument with several believers who refuted their claims. Shaykh Kazim-i-Samandar,[1] a tower of strength for the Baha'is 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.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3, pp. 88-91.]
This controversy prompted Haji Muhammad-Ibrahim, entitled Khalil, to write a letter to Baha'u'llah begging Him to clarity 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. Baha'u'llah responded by revealing a Tablet in his honour, known as the Lawh-i-Khalil (Tablet of Khalil).[1] In it 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.
[1 Parts of this Tablet are translated by Shoghi Effendi in Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, XXXIII, XXXVIII, LXXVII, and CXXVII.]
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali did not live up to these standards. Apart from his shameful claim of equality with Baha'u'llah, he became a source of sedition in the community, inflicted severe injuries upon the Cause of God, and after Baha'u'llah's ascension, broke His Covenant and rose up to extinguish the light of His Faith.
In the Tablet of Khalil Baha'u'llah alludes to Abdu'l-Baha in terms which immensely exalt Him above the others. He refers to Him as One among His sons 'from Whose tongue God will cause the signs <p128> of His power to stream forth', and as the One Whom 'God hath specially chosen for His Cause'. [8-2]
In another Tablet revealed at this time [8-3] when a few believers had been influenced by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's claim, Baha'u'llah 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:
"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." [8-4]
In this Tablet He 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, Baha'u'llah 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-Baha's utter self-effacement. Many believers during Baha'u'llah's Ministry used to write letters to Abdu'l-Baha, but He would not respond to them. For instance, Mirza Ali-Muhammad-i-Varqa,[1] who was later martyred, wrote a great many letters to Him. To none of these did Abdu'l-Baha send a reply. At the end Varqa wrote to Mirza Aqa Jan, Baha'u'llah's amanuensis, and complained. When Baha'u'llah was informed about this He summoned Abdu'l-Baha to His presence, and directed Him to send a reply to Varqa. Abdu'l-Baha wrote a brief letter to him saying that when the Pen of the Most High is moving upon His Tablets, how could Abdu'l-Baha be expected to write? Indeed, whatever Abdu'l-Baha wrote during the lifetime of Baha'u'llah was directed by Him and received His sanction. This episode alone demonstrates the vast difference between the two: Abdu'l-Baha, a true servant, humble and lowly <p129> before His Lord; Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, ambitious, vain and faithless.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4.]
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's claim was not the only sign pointing to his ambitious nature, craving for leadership from this early age. His daily behaviour, even during Baha'u'llah's lifetime, gave clear indications of his lack of spirituality and purity of motive, and his jealousy of Abdu'l-Baha was apparent to those who were close to him. As Mirza Muhammad-'Ali grew older, he acquired greater prestige among the believers. He thrived on the special consideration shown him by Baha'u'llah's followers in order to honour his Father. But many of Baha'u'llah's disciples who had spiritual eyes soon discovered his real nature and found him devoid of those divine virtues and spiritual qualities which 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. For instance, Haji Muhammad Tahir-i-Malmiri[1] has described in his memoirs his first meeting with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali a day after he arrived in Akka to attain the presence of Baha'u'llah in 1878.
[1 The father of the present author. See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1.]
"When we arrived in Haifa ... we were taken to the home of Aqa Muhammad-Ibrahim-i-Kashani. He had been directed by Baha'u'llah to make his residence in Haifa, to handle the distribution of letters and to give assistance and hospitality to Baha'i pilgrims. When Baha'u'llah was informed that the three of us had arrived, He advised, through Mirza Aqa Jan ... that in Akka I should stay with my brother Haji Ali.[1] We were driven from Haifa to Akka in Abdu'l-Baha's carriage. I was taken to Haji Ali's residence, which was situated in the Khan-i-Suq-i-Abiyad (White Market), in close proximity to the residence of Mirza Musa, Baha'u'llah's brother, and several other Baha'is such as Nabil-i-A'zam... That day I was most happy. Joy and ecstasy filled my soul. The next day, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, accompanied by his two brothers, Mirza Diya'u'llah and Mirza Badi'u'llah, came to Nabil-i-A'zam's quarters to meet me. Very eagerly my brother and I went there to meet them. But no sooner had I met Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and Mirza Badi'u'llah than I became depressed and all the joy in my heart was transformed into sadness and grief. I was distressed ... and bitterly disappointed with myself. I was wondering what had happened so suddenly that, in spite of all the eagerness and excitement which had filled my being on arrival in Akka, I had become so utterly gloomy and dispirited. I was convinced at that time that I had been rejected by God..."
[1 See The Baha'i World, vol. IX, pp. 624-5, article on Haji Ali Yazdi. (A.T.)]
"I was plunged into such a state of distress and anguish that I wanted to leave that gathering forthwith, but did not dare to do so. In my heart I was communing with God ... anxiously awaiting for the visitors to <p130> leave so that I could go out and try to find a solution for my sad condition. I noticed that whereas my brother and Nabil-i-A'zam were enjoying themselves talking most happily with these sons of Baha'u'llah, I was in a state of mental turmoil and agony throughout the meeting... After about an hour, when the visitors were leaving, my brother thanked them most warmly and joyfully."
"In the evening he informed me that we were to go and attain the presence of the Master in His reception room. Although depressed and grief-stricken as a result of meeting Muhammad-'Ali, I went with him. As soon as I came into the presence of the Most Great Branch, a new life was breathed into me. My whole being was filled with such joy and felicity that all the agonies and disturbances of the past vanished in an instant.
"A few days later my brother invited me to go with him to meet Mirza Muhammad-'Ali again, but in spite of much persuasion on his part I refused to go... During the period that I stayed in Akka, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali came several times to the residence of Nabil-i-A'zam, but I always found some excuse not to go there."
Among Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's misdeeds during the lifetime of Baha'u'llah was his altering the text of the Holy Writings. Since he was highly skilled in the art of calligraphy, Baha'u'llah sent him from Akka on a mission to India to help print a book containing 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.[1] The book was printed in the handwriting of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali by the printing firm of Nasiri, which was part of a business organisation established in Bombay by a few members of the Afnan family. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali took advantage of this opportunity and betrayed Baha'u'llah by changing certain passages in this book which alluded to Abdu'l-Baha's exalted station. He altered the text so cleverly that all references to Him were totally eliminated. Of course, this treacherous act of interpolation was soon exposed by comparing these passages with the authentic Writings of Bah‡'u'll‡h.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3.]
And yet, the Blessed Beauty, in spite of Muhammad-'Ali's reprehensible conduct, conferred upon him a rank next to that of Abdu'l-Baha. These are the words of Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i-'Ahd, His Will and Testament:
"Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad-'Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [Abdu'l-Baha]. He is in truth, the Ordainer, the All-Wise. We have chosen 'The Greater' after 'The Most Great,' as decreed by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed." [8-5] <p131>
This passage brought about many tests and misunderstandings. Some of the believers who had been in close contact with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali knew him to be deceitful and materialistic, and avid for power. Others, reading the several condemnatory passages which Baha'u'llah had written about him, were sure that he was a perfidious individual who was related to Baha'u'llah only physically and had no spiritual relationship with Him. These people were deeply puzzled when they observed that Baha'u'llah had chosen such a person to succeed Abdu'l-Baha. For it was concerning Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that Baha'u'llah had issued this ominous warning in one of His Tablets:
"By God, the True One! Were We, for a single instant, to withhold from him the outpourings of Our Cause, he would wither, and would fall upon the dust." [8-6]
To such a person, Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i-'Ahd grants the right to succeed Abdu'l-Baha. And indeed, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali publicly claimed this successorship both during the Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha and after His Ascension. Referring to him Shoghi Effendi states:
"He it was who had the impudence and temerity to tell Abdu'l-Baha to His face that just as Umar had succeeded in usurping the successorship of the Prophet Muhammad, he, too, felt himself able to do the same. He it was who, obsessed by the fear that he might not survive Abdu'l-Baha, had, the moment he had been assured by Him that all the honour he coveted would, in the course of time, be his, swiftly rejoined that he had no guarantee that he would outlive Him." [8-7]
We may ask ourselves two questions. Why did the provision in Baha'u'llah's Book of the Covenant for Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's successorship not materialize, and why did Baha'u'llah grant such an exalted station to so perfidious a person? To resolve these puzzling questions, it is necessary to meditate on the nature of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah and try to discover its distinctive and challenging features.
One of these features comes to light when we reflect upon the creative power of the utterances of Baha'u'llah. In one of His Tablets He reveals these exalted words:
"Every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God is endowed with such potency as can instill new life into every human frame, if ye be of them that comprehend this truth. All the wondrous works ye behold in this world have been manifested through the operation of His supreme and most exalted Will, His wondrous and inflexible Purpose. Through the mere revelation of the word 'Fashioner', issuing forth from His lips and proclaiming His attribute to mankind, such power is released as can generate, through successive ages, all the manifold arts which the hands <p132> of man can produce. This, verily, is a certain truth. No sooner is this resplendent word uttered, than its animating energies, stirring within all created things, give birth to the means and instruments whereby such arts can be produced and perfected. All the wondrous achievements ye now witness are the direct consequences of the Revelation of this Name. In the days to come, ye will, verily, behold things of which ye have never heard before. Thus hath it been decreed in the Tablets of God, and none can comprehend it except they whose sight is sharp. In like manner, the moment the word expressing My attribute 'The Omniscient' issueth forth from My mouth, every created thing will, according to its capacity and limitations, be invested with the power to unfold the knowledge of the most marvellous sciences, and will be empowered to manifest them in the course of time at the bidding of Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Knowing. Know thou of a certainty that the Revelation of every other Name is accompanied by a similar manifestation of Divine power. Every single letter proceeding out of the mouth of God is indeed a mother letter, and every word uttered by Him Who is the Well Spring of Divine Revelation is a mother word, and His Tablet a Mother Tablet. Well is it with them that apprehend this truth." [8-8]
Thus we can be assured that due to the creative power of the Word of God every event Baha'u'llah has foreshadowed in His Tablets has either taken place already, or will come about in the future. Indeed, a careful study of His Writings reveals that many of His promises have been fulfilled. However, there are exceptions to this, and these are related to the subject of the Covenant. The appointment of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in the Kitab-i-'Ahd is one of these exceptions, whereby Baha'u'llah's purpose, His implied wish, appeared not to materialize.
The main reason for the non-fulfilment of certain provisions of this momentous document, is that this Covenant, like any covenant, is a reciprocal agreement between two parties. In this case one party is Baha'u'llah, and the other, His followers. In general, the outcome of any agreement between two parties depends upon the manner in which each party fulfils his commitments. If one side fails to carry out his obligations as set out in the contract, the other side will no longer be bound to honour his. For example, let us say that a landlord and a tenant draw up a lease. As long as the tenant pays his rent and meets his other responsibilities, the landlord has no reason to cancel the contract, but if the former fails to discharge his liabilities, the latter will have no choice but to cancel the lease and possibly institute eviction proceedings!
The Covenant of Baha'u'llah as formulated in the Kitab-i-'Ahd also has two distinct sides. One side is the Almighty, who provides the spiritual energies for the achievement of His purpose, and who rules over His creatures. The other side is His servants, the recipients of <p133> His grace, who abide by His bidding. This Covenant necessitates an interaction between the two parties. As in the analogy of the landlord and the tenant, if the followers of Baha'u'llah, the recipients of His grace, had faithfully carried out what was expected of them in this Covenant, then every provision of the Kitab-i-'Ahd would have been fulfilled and the plan of God, as ordained by Baha'u'llah, would have materialized. But they did not. The Covenant was broken by no less a person than Mirza Muhammad-'Ali himself, who rose up against the Centre of the Cause. Consequently, the plan of God as envisaged by Baha'u'llah was changed, and Shoghi Effendi, the eldest grandson of Abdu'l-Baha, was appointed as Guardian of the Faith to succeed Him. The same argument may hold for the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha in which the question of a successor to Shoghi Effendi did not materialize.[1]
[1 See Appendix 1.]
The other question, concerning the appointment of such a disloyal person to so exalted a position, may be resolved by a careful examination of another essential feature of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah; namely, the non-interference of each party in the functions of the other. The two parties to this Covenant are not of equal station. After all, the station of Baha'u'llah is awe-inspiring and the believers are but humble servants. However, God in His justice gives His creatures the opportunity to carry out their duties without His interference; they are given free will to behave as they please. Of course, He has full knowledge of how each individual will behave in discharging the obligations which the Covenant of Baha'u'llah has placed on him, but He leaves the person free to play his part, and He does not judge him before he commits an error. This is similar to the relationship between a teacher and pupil. In the course of teaching his students the teacher will usually come to know the ability and capacity of each one. Suppose that he finds one of his pupils to be inattentive to his work and negligent in his school duties. He may be certain that his pupil is going to fail his examinations, but foreknowledge of that failure does not entitle the teacher to prevent the student from taking part in them. It is the student's prerogative to sit for examinations and no one has the right to deprive him of that privilege.
This analogy helps to clarify the statement about Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in the Kitab-i-'Ahd. Baha'u'llah was fully aware of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's shortcomings, yet, as the second surviving son of Baha'u'llah, it was his birthright to occupy a station next to that of Abdu'l-Baha. God did not pronounce judgement on him before his rebellion against the Cause. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was given the <p134> chance to mend his ways and take his rightful position within the Faith but he failed, as in a test, and thus perished spiritually.
Had Mirza Muhammad-'Ali remained a true and steadfast believer, had he lived a life of humility and self-effacement, had he devoted all his efforts to the promotion of the Cause and detached himself from earthly things, and had he followed in the footsteps of the Master and emulated the One who was the supreme Exemplar of the teachings of Baha'u'llah, then who could have been more suited than he, a son of Baha'u'llah, to take over the reins of the Cause of God after Abdu'l-Baha? But he did not fulfil any of these conditions, and deprived himself of the bounties which could have been vouchsafed to him by Baha'u'llah.
Through his intense jealousy of Abdu'l-Baha and his lack of spiritual qualities, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali sought throughout his life to undermine the position of Abdu'l-Baha and usurp His God-given station as the Centre of the Covenant. During the lifetime of Baha'u'llah he was impotent to achieve the evil promptings of his heart, because the overshadowing power of Baha'u'llah and His overwhelming authority frustrated his ambitions. But as we shall see later, he rebelled against the Covenant immediately after the passing of Baha'u'llah and arose in opposition to Abdu'l-Baha, its Centre. <p135>
The Relationship of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha
During His Ministry Baha'u'llah showered His unfailing bounties upon Abdu'l-Baha, that Being Whom He had created to be the Centre of His Covenant and the Interpreter of His Word.
It must be remembered that the relationship of Baha'u'llah and the members of His family who remained faithful to the Cause was not like the relationship which exists between members of ordinary families. Normally, a father and a son at home have a very intimate and informal attitude towards each other. But in the case of Baha'u'llah and His faithful children, it was very different indeed, although that intimate relationship of father and son did exist. However, the station of Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God completely overshadowed His position as a physical father. Abdu'l-Baha, the Greatest Holy Leaf and the Purest Branch looked upon Baha'u'llah not merely as their father, but as their Lord, and because they had truly recognized His station, they acted at all times as most humble servants at His threshold. Abdu'l-Baha always entered the presence of Baha'u'llah with such genuine humility and reverence that no one among His followers could express the spirit of lowliness and utter self-effacement as He did. The humility of Abdu'l-Baha as He bowed before His Father, or prostrated Himself at His feet, demonstrated the unique relationship which existed between this Father and His faithful sons and daughter.
When Baha'u'llah moved to the Mansions of Mazra'ih and Bahji, Abdu'l-Baha stayed in Akka. Whenever He went to attain the presence of His Father, He dismounted from His steed when He approached the Mansion, because he considered it disrespectful for a servant to be riding when he visited his lord.
While Abdu'l-Baha showed such lowliness and humility, the outpouring of love and admiration by Baha'u'llah for His Son knew no bounds. His pleasure and joy when Abdu'l-Baha visited Him at the Mansion were evident. So eager was He to receive Abdu'l-Baha with marks of honour that He would despatch a contingent of the <pl36> believers, including His sons, to distant fields outside the Mansion as a welcoming party, while He Himself would be standing on the balcony to watch Him arrive.
One of the reasons that Abdu'l-Baha stayed in Akka and did not move with the Blessed Beauty to the Mansions of Mazra'ih and Bahji was that His half-brother Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, and Mahd-i-'Ulya his mother, were so jealous of Him. By staying away from Baha'u'llah, who cherished His eldest Son and extolled His station in glowing terms, Abdu'l-Baha hoped to somewhat dampen their fires of jealousy. This separation from Baha'u'llah was painful to Abdu'l-Baha, who nevertheless voluntarily deprived Himself of the bounty of the presence of His Lord in order to pacify His unfaithful brothers. There were also times when Baha'u'llah missed His Most Great Branch. On several occasions He even wrote in His own handwriting asking Him in tender and loving language to come and visit Him. No pen can describe the true relationship which existed between these two. The outpouring of infinite love and admiration by Baha'u'llah, and the manifestation of absolute humility and utter nothingness by Abdu'l-Baha are beyond the experience and understanding of ordinary men.
In many of His Tablets Baha'u'llah writes in glowing terms of the station of Abdu'l-Baha. The following passages are gleaned from a wide range of His Writings, some of which are written in His own hand.
In the Suriy-i-Ghusn (Surih of the Branch),[1] He exalts the station of Abdu'l-Baha in these words:
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2.]
"There hath branched from the Sadratu'l-Muntaha this sacred and glorious Being, this Branch of Holiness; well is it with him that hath sought His shelter and abideth beneath His shadow. Verily the Limb of the Law of God hath sprung forth from this Root which God hath firmly implanted in the Ground of His Will, and Whose Branch hath been so uplifted as to encompass the whole of creation. Magnified be He, therefore, for this sublime, this blessed, this mighty, this exalted Handiwork! ...Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance; for verily He is the most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you; and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from Him hath turned away from My Beauty, hath repudiated My Proof, and transgressed against Me. He is the Trust of God amongst you, His charge within you, His manifestation unto you and His appearance among His favoured servants..." [9-1]
In another Tablet in His own handwriting, Baha'u'llah thus addresses Abdu'l-Baha: <p137>
"O Thou Who art the apple of Mine eye! My glory, the ocean of My loving-kindness, the sun of My bounty, the heaven of My mercy rest upon Thee. We pray God to illumine the world through Thy knowledge and wisdom, to ordain for Thee that which will gladden Thine heart and impart consolation to Thine eyes." [9-2]
In yet another Tablet, these verses have been revealed by Him:
"The glory of God rest upon Thee, and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee. Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it with him that sweareth fealty to Thee; the fire of hell torment him who is Thine enemy." [9-3]
And again:
"We have made Thee a shelter for all mankind, a shield unto all who are in heaven and on earth, a stronghold for whosoever hath believed in God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. God grant that through Thee He may protect them, may enrich and sustain them, that He may inspire Thee with that which shall be a wellspring of wealth unto all created things, an ocean of bounty unto all men, and the dayspring of mercy unto all peoples." [9-4]
When Abdu'l-Baha was on a visit to Beirut, Baha'u'llah expressed sorrow because of separation from Him in these words:
"Praise be to Him Who hath honoured the Land of Ba (Beirut) through the presence of Him round Whom all names revolve. All the atoms of the earth have announced unto all created things that from behind the gate of the Prison-city there hath appeared and above its horizon there hath shone forth the Orb of the beauty of the great, the Most Mighty Branch of God -- His ancient and immutable Mystery -- proceeding on its way to another land. Sorrow, thereby, hath enveloped this Prison-city, whilst another land rejoiceth... Blessed, doubly blessed, is the ground which His footsteps have trodden, the eye that hath been cheered by the beauty of His countenance, the ear that hath been honoured by hearkening to His call, the heart that hath tasted the sweetness of His love, the breast that hath dilated through His remembrance, the pen that hath voiced His praise, the scroll that hath borne the testimony of His writings." [9-5]
The bounties which Baha'u'llah showered upon Abdu'l-Baha were not confined to these and the other Tablets which streamed from His Pen. Innumerable were the occasions both public and private in which He poured out His praise upon Abdu'l-Baha, described His divine attributes in glowing terms, and paid tribute to His noble deeds among the people. Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali,[1] that Spiritual giant immortalized by the title 'The Angel of Carmel', has recorded the following reminiscences of one of his memorable audiences when Baha'u'llah spoke about the important role Abdu'l-Baha <p138> played in shielding Him from the pressures of the outside world.
[1 For his story see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2. These are not to be taken as the exact words of Baha'u'llah; they are only recollections of His utterances by Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali. ]
"During the days of Baghdad We ourself used to visit the coffee house[1]and meet with everyone. We associated with people whether they were in the community or outside, whether acquaintances or strangers, whether they came from far or near.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3, pp. 250-51. (A.T.)]
"We considered those who were distant from us to be near, and the strangers as acquaintances. We served the Cause of God, supported His Word, and exalted His Name. The Most Great Branch [Abdu'l-Baha] carried out all these services, withstood all the difficulties, and endured the sufferings and calamities to a great extent in Adrianople, and now to a far greater extent in Akka. Because while in Baghdad, to all appearances We were not a prisoner, and the Cause of God had hardly enjoyed a fame it does today. Those who opposed it and the enemies who fought against it were comparatively few and far between.
"In Adrianople We used to meet with some of the people and gave permission to some to attain Our presence. But while in the Most Great Prison We did not meet with anyone[1] and have completely closed the door of association with the people. Now the Master has taken upon Himself this arduous task for Our comfort. He is a mighty shield facing the world and its peoples, and so He has relieved Us [from every care]. At first He secured the Mansion of Mazra'ih for Us and We stayed there, then the Mansion of Bahji. He is so occupied in the service of the Cause that for weeks He does not find the opportunity to come to Bahji. We are engaged in meeting with the believers and revealing the verses of God, while He labours hard and faces every ordeal and suffering. Because to deal and associate with these people is the most arduous task of all." [9-6]
[1 Non-Baha'is (A.T.]
Mirza Mahmud-i-Kashani,[1] a trusted follower of Baha'u'llah who was in His service from the days of Baghdad and accompanied Him to Adrianople and Akka, has recounted in his memoirs his recollection of the words of Baha'u'llah as He spoke to a number of believers about the exalted station of Abdu'l-Baha. Following is a summary translation of his notes:
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, p. 288.]
"...The word Aqa (The Master) was a designation given to Abdu'l-Baha.
I recall that one day when Baha'u'llah was in the Garden of
Vashshash which was a delightful place situated outside Baghdad, which
He occasionally used to visit, someone referred to certain individuals as
the Aqa.[1] On hearing this Baha'u'llah was heard to say with a commanding
voice: 'Who is the Aqa? There is only one Aqa, and He is the Most
Great Branch.'
[1 As a common noun the word 'Aqa' in the Persian language is used as a title before a name. It is similar to 'Mr' in English. But if it is used on its own as a proper noun it signifies the exalted position of a person.] <p139>
"Baha'u'llah said the same thing again in the Garden of Ridvan in Akka... On that occasion, someone addressed Mirza Muhammad-'Ali as Aqa, whereupon Baha'u'llah admonished him saying: 'There is one and only one Aqa and He is the Most Great Branch, others should be addressed by their names'...
"Many a time I was in the presence of Baha'u'llah when the Master was also present. Because of His presence Baha'u'llah would be filled with the utmost joy and gladness. One could see His blessed countenance beaming with delight and exultation so lovingly that no words can adequately describe it. Repeatedly He would laud and glorify the Master, and the mere mention of His name would suffice to evoke an indescribable feeling of ecstasy in the Person of the Blessed Beauty. No pen is capable of fully describing this. In many of His Tablets Baha'u'llah has extolled the station of Abdu'l-Baha..."
Haji Mirza Habibu'llah-i-Afnan, a younger son of Aqa Mirza Aqa entitled Nuru'd-Din,[1] one of the distinguished members of the Afnan family, has written in his memoirs some interesting stories of his pilgrimage in 1891. The following is an extract from his notes summarized and translated:
[1 For a detailed account of his life and services see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4.]
"One evening we were informed that the Beloved of the World [Baha'u'llah] intended to visit the Garden of Junaynih[1] and had directed that all the pilgrims and resident Baha'is accompany Him in the morning. That night we could not sleep because we were so excited ... that we should have the bounty of being in His holy presence for several hours the next day. At the hour of dawn we faced His blessed room and engaged in prayers and devotions. Before sunrise we all assembled outside the gate of the Mansion. It took about one hour until His Blessed Person came downstairs and mounted a white donkey... All the believers followed Him on foot to the garden. One of the local believers, Haji Khavar, was a tall man. He walked alongside Baha'u'llah and held an umbrella over His head as a protection against the heat of the sun. The air was refreshing as we arrived in the garden... His Blessed Person was extremely happy that day and each one of the friends received his share of the bounties from His presence. We had lunch in the garden, then we assembled together and attained His presence.
[1 A garden situated in the north of Akka, near the Mansion of Mazra'ih.]
"It was at that time that Abdu'l-Baha arrived from Akka. The Blessed Beauty said, 'The Master is coming, hasten to attend Him'... On those days Baha'u'llah used to sow the seeds of loyalty and servitude toward 'Him Whom God hath purposed' [Abdu'l-Baha] in the hearts of the believers and explained the lofty station and hidden reality of the Master to all.
Attended by everyone, Abdu'l-Baha came with great humility into the presence of the Blessed Beauty. Then the Tongue of Grandeur uttered words to this effect, 'From morning until now this garden was not pleasant, <p140> but now with the presence of the Master it has become truly most delightful.' Then, turning to the Master, He remarked, 'You should have come in the morning.' Abdu'l-Baha responded, 'The Governor of Akka and some residents had requested to meet with Me. Therefore I had to receive and entertain them.' Baha'u'llah, with a smiling face, said, 'The Master is our shield. Everybody here lives in the utmost comfort and peace. Association with the outside people such as these is very, very difficult. It is the Master who stands up to everything, and prepares the means of comfort for all the friends. May God protect Him from the evil of the envious and the hostile.'"[1]
[1 These are not to be taken as the exact words of Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha. (A.T.)] <p141>
The Appointment of Abdu'l-Baha
Innumerable are the occasions on which Baha'u'llah has extolled the station of Abdu'l-Baha and praised His outstanding qualities. But at no time during His Ministry did Baha'u'llah disclose to His followers the position of Abdu'l-Baha as His Successor and the Centre of His Covenant. He kept this a well-guarded secret, and to no one did He intimate that Abdu'l-Baha would be ministering the affairs of the Cause after Him. The only two references in His Writings on the question of successorship may be found in the Kitab-i-Aqdas (The Most Holy Book). In these passages He alludes in language meaningful, profound and eloquent to the One who will become the Centre of the Cause after Him, but does not explicitly mention His name; only indicates that He has issued from Him.
"When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root." [10-1]
"When the Mystic Dove will have winged its flight from its Sanctuary of Praise and sought its far-off goal, its hidden habitation, refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock." [10-2]
It is known that Ali-Muhammad Varqa, the renowned Apostle of Baha'u'llah, asked Him about the identity of the person alluded to in the above verses. In a Tablet [10-3] addressed to Varqa, Baha'u'llah indicated that the intended person was the Most Great Branch, and after Him the Greater Branch. But this disclosure was not shared with the Baha'i community.
These words were revealed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas nineteen years before the Ascension of Baha'u'llah. During these years, no one who read these passages had any doubt as to the identity of the one 'Whom God had purposed, Who had branched from this Ancient Root'. It was obvious to all, especially to every member of Baha'u'llah's family, that this was a reference to Abdu'l-Baha and no one else. <p142>
The only document which explicitly announced Abdu'l-Baha as the Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah and the One to Whom all must turn after His Ascension was the Kitab-i-'Ahdi (The Book of My Covenant) which was published among the believers only after His passing. This historic document was probably written at least one year before the Ascension of Baha'u'llah, for it is alluded to in the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf as the 'Crimson Book'. Baha'u'llah kept His Will and Testament secret, retained it in His own possession and did not share its contents with anyone during His lifetime. But there is evidence to suggest that He had intimated its contents to Abdu'l-Baha.
Baha'u'llah entrusted the Kitab-i-'Ahd to Abdu'l-Baha during His last illness before His Ascension and informed the members of His family a few days before He departed from this world that in a document entrusted by Him to Abdu'l-Baha, He had commended them all to His care. The first time the Kitab-i-'Ahd was read aloud in the presence of a number of friends was on the ninth day after the Ascension of Baha'u'llah, and soon afterwards its text was released to the believers.
Since it is so essential to the study of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah, the text of the Kitab-i-'Ahd is given here.
"Although the Realm of Glory hath none of the vanities of the world, yet within the treasury of trust and resignation we have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless heritage. Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added such cares as they entail. By God! In earthly riches fear is hidden and peril is concealed. Consider ye and call to mind that which the All-Merciful hath revealed in the Qur'an: 'Woe betide every slanderer and defamer, him that layeth up riches and counteth them.'[1] Fleeting are the riches of the world; all that perisheth and changeth is not, and hath never been, worthy of attention, except to a recognized measure.
[1 Qur'an 104:1-2.]
"The aim of this Wronged One in sustaining woes and tribulations, in revealing the Holy Verses and in demonstrating proofs hath been naught but to quench the flame of hate and enmity, that the horizon of the hearts of men may be illumined with the light of concord and attain real peace and tranquillity. From the dawning-place of the divine Tablet the day-star of this utterance shineth resplendent, and it behoveth everyone to fix his gaze upon it: We exhort you, O peoples of the world, to observe that which will elevate your station. Hold fast to the fear of God and firmly adhere to what is right. Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men. Lofty is the station of man! Not long ago this exalted Word streamed <p143> forth from the treasury of Our Pen of Glory: Great and blessed is this Day -- the Day in which all that lay latent in man hath been and will be made manifest. Lofty is the station of man, were he to hold fast to righteousness and truth and to remain firm and steadfast in the Cause. In the eyes of the All-Merciful a true man appeareth even as a firmament; its sun and moon are his sight and hearing, and his shining and resplendent character its stars. His is the loftiest station, and his influence educateth the world of being.
"Every receptive soul who hath in this Day inhaled the fragrance of His garment and hath, with a pure heart, set his face towards the all-glorious Horizon is reckoned among the people of Baha in the Crimson Book. Grasp ye, in My Name, the chalice of My loving-kindness, drink then your fill in My glorious and wondrous remembrance.
"O ye that dwell on earth! The religion of God is for love and unity; make it not the cause of enmity or dissension. In the eyes of men of insight and the beholders of the Most Sublime Vision, whatsoever are the effective means for safeguarding and promoting the happiness and welfare of the children of men hath already been revealed by the Pen of Glory. But the foolish ones of the earth, being nurtured in evil passions and desires, have remained heedless of the consummate wisdom of Him Who is, in truth, the All-Wise, while their words and deeds are prompted by idle fancies and vain imaginings.
"O ye the loved ones and the trustees of God! Kings are the manifestation of the power, and the daysprings of the might and riches, of God. Pray ye on their behalf. He hath invested them with the rulership of the earth and hath singled out the hearts of men as His Own domain.
"Conflict and contention are categorically forbidden in His Book. This is a decree of God in this Most Great Revelation. It is divinely preserved from annulment and is invested by Him with the splendour of His confirmation. Verily He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.
"It is incumbent upon everyone to aid those daysprings of authority and sources of command who are adorned with the ornament of equity and justice. Blessed are the rulers and the learned among the people of Baha. They are My trustees among My servants and the manifestations of My commandments amidst My people. Upon them rest My glory, My blessings and My grace which have pervaded the world of being. In this connection the utterances revealed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas are such that from the horizon of their words the light of divine grace shineth luminous and resplendent.
"O ye My Branches! A mighty force, a consummate power lieth concealed in the world of being. Fix your gaze upon it and upon its unifying influence, and not upon the differences which appear from it.
"The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: 'When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient <p144> Root.' The object of this sacred Verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu'l-Baha]. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Powerful. Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad-'Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [Abdu'l-Baha]. He is in truth the Ordainer, the All-Wise. We have chosen 'the Greater' after 'the Most Great', as decreed by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All Informed.
"It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsan, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others.
O ye My Aghsan, My Afnan and My Kindred! We exhort you to fear God, to perform praiseworthy deeds and to do that which is meet and seemly and serveth to exalt your station. Verily I say, fear of God is the greatest commander that can render the Cause of God victorious, and the hosts which best befit this commander have ever been and are an upright character and pure and goodly deeds.
"Say: O servants! Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord. We fain would hope that the people of Baha may be guided by the blessed words: 'Say: all things are of God.' This exalted utterance is like unto water for quenching the fire of hate and enmity which smouldereth within the hearts and breasts of men. By this single utterance contending peoples and kindreds will attain the light of true unity. Verily He speaketh the truth and leadeth the way. He is the All-Powerful, the Exalted, the Gracious.
"It is incumbent upon everyone to show courtesy to, and have regard for the Aghsan, that thereby the Cause of God may be glorified and His Word exalted. This injunction hath time and again been mentioned and recorded in the Holy Writ. Well is it with him who is enabled to achieve that which the Ordainer, the Ancient of Days hath prescribed for him. Ye are bidden moreover to respect the members of the Holy Household, the Afnan and the kindred. We further admonish you to serve all nations and to strive for the betterment of the world.
"That which is conducive to the regeneration of the world and the salvation of the peoples and kindreds of the earth hath been sent down from the heaven of the utterance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. Give ye a hearing ear to the counsels of the Pen of Glory. Better is this for you than all that is on the earth. Unto this beareth witness My glorious and wondrous Book." [10-4]
Those who are unfamiliar with the history and origins of the Cause of Baha'u'llah, or who have a superficial understanding of His Faith, may find it strange that whereas Baha'u'llah explained every subject to His followers and clarified every question which they raised, He did not specifically name His successor during His lifetime. It is customary, and indeed essential, for a monarch to nominate his heir to the throne. In this way his subjects will have <p145> every opportunity to become familiar with their future head of state and orientate themselves towards him. What were the reasons that prevented Baha'u'llah from doing that? Could He not have announced to the entire Baha'i community the appointment of Abdu'l-Baha as the Centre of His Covenant during His own days? Looking at it purely from a human point of view, it appears that had Baha'u'llah made such an appointment during His lifetime, all the differences which arose after His Ascension could have been avoided. He, as the Manifestation of God, had the wisdom and authority to settle every misunderstanding, to suppress any opposition, to establish the position of Abdu'l-Baha in the minds and hearts of the believers on a firm foundation, and to ensure the loyal support of all the members of His family towards His successor.
But Baha'u'llah did none of these things. He did not disclose the identity of the person who was to succeed Him, but kept it a well-guarded secret that had to be divulged only after His passing. As we shall see later, Abdu'l-Baha also did the same thing in relation to His successor. He did not reveal the identity of Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Cause of God during His own lifetime. That also was a well-guarded secret which was disclosed only when His Will and Testament was read. It is true that Abdu'l-Baha intimated to one or two individuals the identity of His successor, but the generality of the Baha'i community remained unaware of this.
That the identity of the Centre of the Covenant was kept secret and revealed only after the ascension of Baha'u'llah constitutes one of the most important features of the Covenant. A deeper understanding of this Covenant depends upon the individual appreciating the manifold wisdoms hidden in this act of Baha'u'llah. Not until one grasps the purpose and significance of such secrecy in the appointment of the successor, be he Abdu'l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi, or the Universal House of Justice, will the believer be able to acquire a true comprehension of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah in all its aspects.
Although such an understanding must come about primarily through the believer himself meditating upon the Holy Writings, studying the history of the Covenant, its genesis, and its workings, and praying that his heart may become the recipient of divine knowledge, yet the following explanation may throw some light on this important subject.
The main function of the Manifestation of God is to reveal the teachings of God for the age in which He appears. In so doing, He is ready to explain to His followers the meaning and purpose of His Revelation and to solve any difficult questions for them. Both in His association with the believers and in His Tablets, Baha'u'llah was <p146> always ready to explain the significances which were enshrined in His Writings. Many of His Tablets were revealed in response to the various questions which were asked by His followers and, at times, by others. These questions ranged from weighty religious and spiritual matters to unimportant minor problems which affected the lives and activities of the friends. To all these questions Baha'u'llah responded by expounding His teachings, interpreting the Scriptures of the past, clarifying many of their abstruse passages and statements, revealing the mysteries surrounding some of His profound utterances, delineating the features of His New World Order, giving details of the application of His laws and ordinances, and explaining, in simple terms, the verities of His Faith to those who requested further elucidation.
However, on one subject Baha'u'llah remained silent: designating the person who was to succeed Him. There are many wisdoms in this. Let us return yet again to the analogy of the teacher. It is the teacher's duty to impart knowledge to his pupils and help them in their work, and he is always ready to explain the various subjects to his pupils and answer their questions. But on one occasion he must remain silent and refrain from helping them or answering their questions: namely, on the examination day. On that day the students are left on their own and will have to find the answers by themselves. Only those who pass the examinations are elevated to a higher class, and those who fail are not.
The history of the Faith demonstrates that the Covenant has always provided great tests for the believers. The Bab gave the glad-tidings of the coming of 'Him Whom God shall make manifest' but did not reveal specifically His identity. Baha'u'llah kept the appointment of Abdu'l-Baha a secret, and so the Kitab-i-'Ahd became, in the terms of the above analogy, the examination paper for the believers. The winds of tests began to blow immediately once the contents of that historic document were published. As we shall see later, the community of the Most Great Name was engulfed in a tempest of unprecedented severity. Many souls who were unfaithful and ambitious broke the Covenant and arose with all their might to wrest the leadership of the Cause from the hand of Abdu'l-Baha, persisting in their ignoble activities for years until, by their own deeds, they brought about their own extinction.
These tests[1] associated with so mighty an institution as the Covenant are inevitable and constitute an inseparable feature of the Cause of Baha'u'llah for all time. Similar tests appeared when the <p147> contents of the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha were made public. Some ambitious people, among them most of the members of Abdu'l-Baha's own family, who sought leadership and proved to be insincere in their faith, broke the Covenant and rose up against Shoghi Effendi. Here again, the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha became an examination paper for the believers.
[1 For a fuller discussion of tests in this life see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3. See also below pp. 364-5.]

After the passing of Shoghi Effendi, too, the winds of tests blew and some misguided and egotistical personalities broke away and were cast out of the community of the Most Great Name. This time the non-existence of a will and testament by Shoghi Effendi became the examination paper.
The Covenant of Baha'u'llah will continue to provide the testing ground for the followers of Baha'u'llah. Those few who may succumb to the dictates of their own selfish desires and arise in opposition to the divinely-ordained institutions of the Faith will cut themselves off the tree of the Cause of God and will wither and perish in time. Indeed, one of the distinguishing features of the Faith of Baha'u'llah is that although many of its outstanding followers rebelled against the Covenant and tried with all their might to undermine its foundations, they did not succeed in creating schisms and breaking the unity of the community. <p148>
The Breaking of Baha'u'llah's Covenant
The passing of Baha'u'llah on 28 May 1892 in the Mansion of Bahji marks the beginning of the most turbulent epoch within the Baha'i community, an epoch which witnessed the onslaught of the unfaithful against the Cause on a far greater scale than any so far encountered in the course of its eventful history, including the rebellion of Mirza Yahya. The blessed remains of Baha'u'llah were not yet laid to rest when Mirza Muhammad-'Ali revealed his true self. Up till then he had given the appearance of being loyal to his Father and to Abdu'l-Baha, but now he launched his ignoble plans to undermine the foundation of the Covenant and overthrow Abdu'l-Baha, its Centre.
In a celebrated Tablet, the Lawh-i-Hizar Bayti (Tablet of One Thousand Verses) Abdu'l-Baha describes the grievous events which occurred immediately before and just after the ascension of Baha'u'llah. He states that during the days of Baha'u'llah's illness, He, Abdu'l-Baha, was in attendance on His blessed Person by day and by night, most of the time in a state of deep sorrow and depression. One day as He lay in His sick-bed, Baha'u'llah ordered Abdu'l-Baha to gather all those of His papers which were in the room and place them in two special cases. It was Baha'u'llah's practice that whenever He left the Mansion for Akka or elsewhere, He used to put all His papers in these large cases. Aware of the implications of this command, Abdu'l-Baha was shaken to the very depths of His being. As He hesitated to comply, Baha'u'llah reiterated His orders. With trembling hands and tearful eyes, Abdu'l-Baha was beginning to gather the papers when Majdu'd-Din entered the room.
Majdu'd-Din was a son of Baha'u'llah's faithful brother Aqay-i-Kalim, but he was utterly different from his father. The most treacherous among the family, he was the most formidable enemy of Abdu'l-Baha. Indeed, as we shall see later, he was the backbone, if not the principal instigator, of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the arch-breaker of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah.
In this Tablet, Abdu'l-Baha further describes the agony of His heart as He forced Himself to gather Baha'u'llah's papers. Seeing <p149> Majdu'd-Din, Abdu'l-Baha asked for his assistance, so that this task, so extremely painful to Him, might be soon finished. When all the papers, the seals and other items had been locked into the cases, Baha'u'llah said to Abdu'l-Baha, 'These two now belong to you.' These words, implying the approach of the final hours of Baha'u'llah's earthly life, pierced Abdu'l-Baha's heart like an arrow.
When the ascension took place, Abdu'l-Baha's grief knew no bounds. The shock He sustained as a result of this calamitous event was so intense that He found it difficult to describe it. He says that in the morning, along with His brother, He began the task of preparing the remains for burial. When they were about to wash Baha'u'llah's blessed body, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali suggested to Abdu'l-Baha that since the floor would become wet, it would be better to take the two cases out of the room into Badi'u'llah's [1] room. Abdu'l-Baha was at that point in such a state of shock and grief that He was almost unconscious of His surroundings. He never thought that behind this suggestion could be a treacherous plot designed to rob Him of that precious trust.
[1 The youngest brother of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali.]
He agreed, and the two cases were taken out and that was the last He saw of them.
The sacred remains were laid to rest that same day. Abdu'l-Baha was disconsolate and heartbroken. He says that for three consecutive days and nights He could not rest a single moment. He wept for hours and was in a state of unbearable grief. The Light of the World had disappeared from His sight and all around Him had been plunged into darkness. On the fourth night after the ascension, He arose from His bed around midnight and walked a few steps hoping that it might help to bring a measure of tranquillity to His agonized heart. As He began to pace the room, He saw through the window a scene His eyes could scarcely believe. His unfaithful brothers had opened the cases and were looking through Baha'u'llah's papers, those papers which had been entrusted to Him!
Abdu'l-Baha was deeply disturbed by the treachery of His brothers so soon after the ascension of their Father. This act of unfaithfulness committed so dishonourably against the most sacred trust of God, inflicted further pain and suffering upon His sorrow-laden heart. He returned to His bed immediately after this incident, for He did not wish His brothers to know He had seen them interfering with the contents of the cases. At this point Abdu'l-Baha thought to Himself that since His brothers had not seen the Will and Testament of Baha'u'llah, which was in Abdu'l-Baha's possession, they were trying to find some document among His Writings with <p150> which to justify their intended action of undermining the foundation of the Cause of God and creating a division within the ranks of its avowed supporters. However, Abdu'l-Baha hoped, when they saw the Will and Testament, their efforts would be frustrated and they would then return His trust to Him.
But alas, this did not happen! The Kitab-i-'Ahd was read by Aqa Riday-i-Qannad[1] on the ninth day after the ascension of Baha'u'llah in the presence of nine witnesses chosen from among Baha'u'llah's companions and members of Baha'u'llah's family, including Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. On the afternoon of the same day it was read by Majdu'd-Din in the Shrine of Baha'u'llah before a large company of the friends, consisting of the Aghsan, the Afnan, the pilgrims and resident believers. Abdu'l-Baha says that after the Kitab-i-'Ahd was read and its contents noted, some rejoiced with exceeding gladness and some grieved with great sorrow. The faces of the faithful were illumined with the light of joy, and those of the falsehearted were covered in the dust of despondency and gloom. Abdu'l-Baha states that on that day the foundations of Covenant-breaking were laid, the ocean of vain imagining began to surge, and the fire of dissension and strife was lit, its flame burning more fiercely with the passage of time and consuming the hearts and souls of the faithful in its tormenting heat.
[1 For a brief account of his life, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2. ]
Soon after that historic day when the Kitab-i-'Ahd was read, one of the Afnan asked Abdu'l-Baha to use one of Baha'u'llah's blessed seals to seal a Tablet which had been revealed by Baha'u'llah in his honour. When Abdu'l-Baha asked His brothers to give Him the seals of Baha'u'llah which had been placed in the cases, they pleaded ignorance, saying they did not know anything about the two cases! Bewildered and perplexed by such a remark, Abdu'l-Baha was plunged further into sorrow and grief. He describes how His whole being began to tremble when He heard such a response from His brothers, and knew that great tests and trials lay ahead.
Indeed the Kitab-i-'Ahd had the same effect on the believers as an examination paper does on the pupils: divided into two categories, those who pass and those who fail. As soon as the contents of the Kitab-i-'Ahd were made public the community was divided into two. Those who remained faithful to its sacred provisions rose to exalted realms of certitude and entered the ark of salvation. Those who violated the provisions were spiritually cast out of the community and returned to the deadly abodes of their own self and passions.
Although the violation of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah began in earnest immediately after His ascension, Abdu'l-Baha did not <p151> disclose the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, and a host of others who followed him in the Holy Land, to the believers in the East or the West. He tried, as He put it, to stop the foul odour of Covenant-breaking from spreading. He endured in silence for about four years all the suffering and humiliation that they heaped upon Him, as well as their onslaught against the Cause of which He was the only Centre. During these years He endeavoured to His utmost to guide these wayward people, who were intent upon destroying the Edifice of the Cause of God, to the path of truth and to infuse into their dying souls the breath of life. But they were haughty and vainglorious, and His loving counsels and admonitions did not penetrate the hardness of their hearts. At the end it was they themselves who disseminated their evil suggestions and vain imaginings among the believers.
The whole story of the violation of the Covenant by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was initially made public by himself. Soon the disease spread through Persia and later in the West, and the plague of Covenant-breaking encompassed the community of the Most Great Name everywhere. Consequently Abdu'l-Baha wrote innumerable Tablets in which He told the story of Covenant-breaking, unmasked the ugly face of this misguided rebellion, named the violators of the Covenant, demonstrated their unfaithfulness and their evil designs and expatiated on His own sufferings at their hands. He elucidated in great detail the basic principles of the Covenant, its origins, its power and its indestructibility. He also urged the believers to remain steadfast in the Covenant, and inspired them to scale loftier heights in service to His Cause.
It is appropriate here to define the term Covenant-breaker. A believer who recognizes Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God for this age will wholeheartedly obey His teachings and commandments. One of these commandments is to turn to Abdu'l-Baha as the Centre of His Covenant, to be submissive to Him and abide by His bidding. The same is true in relation to Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. A true believer, therefore, is one who believes in Baha'u'llah and follows those upon whom He has placed the mantle of authority. A Covenant-breaker is one who while professing to believe in Baha'u'llah arises in active opposition to Him; or to the Centre of the Covenant, Abdu'l-Baha, or to Shoghi Effendi; or today to the Universal House of Justice.
Baha'u'llah has described those who break the Covenant as 'birds of night'. This description is very apt because these birds dislike the rays of the sun; if there is light somewhere they flee from it, preferring the darkness. This is the nature of a Covenant-breaker. He perceives the spiritual power and ascendancy of the Centre of the <p152> Cause, but cannot bring himself to submit to His authority. Instead he rises in opposition against the One whom he knows to be invested with the potency of Baha'u'llah's Revelation.
In the days of Baha'u'llah, the authority to expel Covenant-breakers was vested in Himself; later it devolved upon Abdu'l-Baha as the Centre of the Covenant, and then upon Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Cause. At present, should anyone break the Covenant, his expulsion would be by decision of the Hands of the Cause of God residing in the Holy Land, subject to the approval of the Universal House of Justice.
It is interesting at this juncture to refer briefly to Mirza Badi'u'llah, the youngest son of Baha'u'llah who joined hands with his older brother Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, violated the Covenant and rose up in opposition to Abdu'l-Baha. Some years passed and he, for reasons of his own, went to Abdu'l-Baha, repented his wrongdoings and begged Abdu'l-Baha to forgive him. With that loving-kindness characteristic of the Master, he was forgiven. On that occasion he wrote and published an epistle addressed to the Baha'i world, in which he described some of the iniquitous activities of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. However, Mirza Badi'u'llah's change of heart lasted for only a short time. He allied himself again with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and resumed his nefarious activities against the Centre of the Covenant. This son of Baha'u'llah, who survived his commander-in-chief Mirza Muhammad-'Ali by many years, inflicted much pain and suffering upon both Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.
In his 'epistle of repentance' Mirza Badi'u'llah reveals among other things some of the ignoble works perpetrated by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali immediately after the Ascension of Baha'u'llah. The following is a summary translation of this episode.
"During His last illness, Baha'u'llah directed Abdu'l-Baha to place His papers and Tablets in two special large cases... These were entrusted by Him to Abdu'l-Baha.... When the time came to wash the sacred body of Baha'u'llah, they brought water in the room. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali said to Abdu'l-Baha 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-Baha 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 Baha'u'llah, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali asked me to give him the keys so that he might open the cases. He said: 'Baha'u'llah 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 <p153> Shu'a'u'llah[1] 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 Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah, 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[2] was against the Cause of Baha'u'llah 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!
[1 He was a son of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali; see below pp. 277 and 419.]
[2 Abdu'l-Baha.]
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-Baha and that if he were to publish it, the credibility of Abdu'l-Baha 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. Until, one day, he took out of the case a blessed Tablet which was revealed before Baha'u'llah's imprisonment in the Most Great Prison and gave it to me to read. In it Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah 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-Baha, 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.'
...After 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 matter." [11-1]
In his 'epistle of repentance', Mirza Badi'u'llah discloses further acts of interpolation of the Holy Tablets. He states that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali interpolated some of the Tablets which were addressed to the Babis who had rebelled against Baha'u'llah. These <p154> Tablets were condemnatory in tone, and he interpolated them in such a way as to make them appear to condemn the person of Abdu'l-Baha.
Thus the Covenant-breakers began their shameful careers with acts of deceit, falsehood and corruption of the Text. As the years went by, they intensified their nefarious activities against the Cause of God and its divinely appointed Centre. They created a temporary breach in the ranks of the believers, and caused heart-rending sufferings for Abdu'l-Baha and His loved ones. But in the end they were overwhelmed by the power of the Covenant, and the only traces they left behind are the stains of their unfaithfulness imprinted upon the pages of the history of the Cause. <p155>
'The Day that Shall Not Be Followed by Night'
The Kitab-i-'Ahd has been the most vital and momentous instrument for safeguarding and strengthening the foundations of the Cause of Baha'u'llah. On the one hand it tested the faithfulness of the believers, separating the good from the evil; on the other, it provided the means for protecting the unity and ensuring the wholesomeness of the community. It has been and will continue to be the guarantor of the invincibility of the institutions of the Faith and the means of the fulfilment of the words of Baha'u'llah that 'this is the day that shall not be followed by night'.
Shoghi Effendi describes the Kitab-i-'Ahd in these words:
"To direct and canalize these forces let loose by this Heaven-sent process, and to insure their harmonious and continuous operation after His ascension, an instrument divinely ordained, invested with indisputable authority, organically linked with the Author of the Revelation Himself, was clearly indispensable. That instrument Baha'u'llah had expressly provided through the institution of the Covenant, an institution which He had firmly established prior to His ascension. This same Covenant He had anticipated in His Kitab-i-Aqdas, had alluded to it as He bade His last farewell to the members of His family, who had been summoned to His bed-side, in the days immediately preceding His ascension, and had incorporated it in a special document which He designated as 'the Book of My Covenant', and which He entrusted, during His last illness, to His eldest son Abdu'l-Baha.
"Written entirely in His own hand; unsealed on the ninth day after His ascension in the presence of nine witnesses chosen from amongst His companions and members of His Family; read subsequently, on the afternoon of that same day, before a large company assembled in His Most Holy Tomb, including His sons, some of the Bab's kinsmen, pilgrims and resident believers, this unique and epoch-making Document, designated by Baha'u'llah as His 'Most Great Tablet', and alluded to by Him as the 'Crimson Book' in His 'Epistle to the Son of the Wolf', can find no parallel in the Scriptures of any previous Dispensation, not excluding that of the Bab Himself. For nowhere in the books pertaining <p156> to any of the world's religious systems, not even among the writings of the Author of the Babi Revelation, do we find any single document establishing a Covenant endowed with an authority comparable to the Covenant which Baha'u'llah had Himself instituted." [12-1]
By this momentous document the station of Abdu'l-Baha as the Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah was announced to the believers. What was only implicit in the Kitab-i-Aqdas was now made explicit in the Kitab-i-'Ahd. The passage, 'Turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root', revealed in the former Book, was now clearly stated to mean Abdu'l-Baha. Baha'u'llah unequivocally affirms:
"The object of this sacred Verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch.[1]
[1 One of Abdu'l-Baha's titles given to Him by Baha'u'llah was 'The Most Mighty Branch'. After the ascension of Baha'u'llah, however, Abdu'l-Baha chose the title of Abdu'l-Baha (Servant of Baha'u'llah) and asked the believers to refer to Him only by this name.]
This clear appointment of Abdu'l-Baha as the Centre of Covenant safeguards the unity of the Baha'i community and protects it against schism and all manner of division. No other religious dispensation, including that of the Bab, has brought into being an instrument designed to so ensure the unity of its community. Through the institution of the Covenant, the mighty stronghold of the Cause of God has become invincible in spite of the powerful assaults launched against it over a long period of time by the Covenant-breakers. As we shall see later in this book, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his supporters viciously attacked the Cause of God with such ferocity that the opposition made against the faithful in previous Dispensations fades into insignificance compared to it. In spite of this, the Covenant-breakers failed miserably and the Covenant of Baha'u'llah triumphed.
It was not so in past religions. For instance, as we look back upon the history of Islam we note that after the Prophet passed away, His followers almost immediately became divided into the two major sects of Sunni and Shi'ah. It has been stated already in this book that Muhammad had made a verbal statement appointing Ali-Ibn-i-Abu Talib, known as Imam Ali, as His Successor. But this appointment became a controversial subject as Muhammad left behind no document to support it.
There is an episode widely spoken of, especially among the Shi'ahs, concerning the last days of Muhammad's earthly life. It is claimed that as He lay in His death-bed, four of His outstanding followers were sitting at His bedside. They were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Abu Bakr was the father-in-law of the Prophet, <p157> and Ali was His cousin and son-in-law. Muhammad is reported to have called for writing materials, wishing to leave some guidance for His followers. But the scheming Umar, a shrewd tactician, did not allow the wish of the Prophet to be realized. He said that the Prophet, so near the time of His death, was not of sound mind and therefore no writing material should be given to Him. The Shi'ahs, who follow Imam Ali, claim that had the Prophet been allowed to write His will he would have confirmed the verbal statement He had made at Ghadir-i-Khumm concerning the appointment of Ali as His Successor.
When Muhammad passed away, Umar rallied the majority of the followers around the old and ailing Abu Bakr who enjoyed a great deal of prestige among the people. He became the first Khalif (Caliph) of Islam. Two years later when Abu Bakr died, Umar became the second Khalif and soon under his direction the military conquests of the Muslims began. Through the influence exerted by Umar the great majority of the followers of Muhammad, the Sunnis, rejected the claims of Imam Ali to successorship.
It is a fundamental belief of the Baha'is that Imam Ali was the lawful successor of the Prophet of Islam. After him his lineal male descendants known as the 'holy Imams' led the Shi'ah community until the year 260 AH. Baha'u'llah regarded the Imams as the legitimate successors of the Prophet, acknowledged the value of their work in the elucidation of the Qur'an, confirmed many of their sayings as recorded in the books of 'Ahadith' (traditions), quoted several of these in His Writings, interpreted their words, extolled their station (especially that of Husayn, the third Imam) in glowing terms, and referred to them as 'those unquenchable lights of divine guidance' [12-2] and 'those lamps of certitude'. [12-3]
Through his misguided opposition to Ali, Umar frustrated the intentions of Muhammad as to His successorship and the direction of the affairs of Islam. Imam Ali attempted to assert his position as Muhammad's verbally designated successor and the expounder of the Words of God as revealed in the Qur'an. But the response of Umar to this claim was his fateful remark: 'The Book of God is sufficient unto us.' This short statement has echoed through the centuries and ages until Abdu'l-Baha, in His celebrated Tablet, the Lawh-i-Hizar Bayti (Tablet of One Thousand Verses), described its woeful consequences. Abdu'l-Baha states that it was this very statement which caused the foundation of the religion of God in the Islamic Dispensation to be shattered and the ignoble worshippers of self and passion to rule over the righteous souls. It became a deadly weapon with which the Imam Ali himself was martyred, which caused great divisions within the nation of Islam, and which changed <p158> the loving spirit of that nation to that of warriors armed with sword and weapons. As a result of this statement, the head of Imam Husayn, the most illustrious of the Imams, was decapitated on the plain of Karbila, the other holy Imams were inflicted with great sufferings, imprisonment and death, and the blood of countless innocent souls was shed for well-nigh twelve hundred years.
Abdu'l-Baha further affirms that this statement uttered by Umar was transformed into the hundreds of bullets centuries later which pierced the breast of the Bab in Tabriz, that this statement became the chains which were placed around the blessed neck of Baha'u'llah, and brought about the untold sufferings inflicted upon Him in the course of His successive exiles.
All these and many more atrocities committed during the Islamic dispensation Abdu'l-Baha attributes to the influence of the simple statement 'The Book of God is sufficient unto us'. It deprived the greater part of the Islamic nation from the wealth of spiritual knowledge which the holy Imams imparted to their followers through their interpretation and elucidation of the many abstruse passages in the Qur'an, as well as their illuminating prophecies concerning the advent of the Qa'im, the Promised One of Islam.
The course of history itself changed as a result of Umar's opposition to Imam Ali. The successful breaking of the Covenant of Muhammad by Umar through his refusal to submit to Imam Ali as the lawful successor of the Prophet and the interpreter of His words, brought about, according to Abdu'l-Baha, the direst of consequences for many nations and peoples. Who knows in what manner the Faith of Islam would have spread and its community developed had all the followers remained faithful to the wishes of Muhammad and followed Imam Ali as His lawful successor? Abdu'l-Baha implies in the above Tablet that if the nation of Islam had been faithful to Ali, many of the atrocities and cruelties committed since the passing of Muhammad could have been mitigated or avoided.
Abdu'l-Baha wrote the Tablet of Hizar Bayti to Jalil-i-Khu'i,[1] a
believer who was being drawn into the Covenant-breakers' net in the
province of Adhirbayjan. The reason why Abdu'l-Baha dwells at
length in this Tablet on the episode of Umar and explains the dire
results of his action in leading the people away from the lawful
successor of Muhammad is in order to demonstrate the evils of
Covenant-breaking and the tragic consequences of the violation of
the Kitab-i-'Ahd, Baha'u'llah's Will and Testament.
[1 See below, p. 166.]

In past Dispensations the Prophets did not establish a firm and unequivocal Covenant with their followers concerning their successors, <p159> nor did they leave behind clear guidance as to how to conduct the affairs of the community after their departure from this world. Consequently, religions became divided into many sects resulting in conflicts and disunity among the followers. But the non-existence of a clear Covenant and lack of guidance should not be construed as a failure on the part of the Founders of religions. To attribute to the Manifestations of God a lack of understanding, of vision and knowledge, is tantamount to attributing shortcomings and imperfections to God Himself. That the Manifestations of God are possessed of divine knowledge and are infallible in their actions constitutes the bedrock of faith and belief in God.
We may ask ourselves, then, why did the Founders of the past religions leave no clear guidance for their followers and what were the reasons which prevented them from making a Covenant in writing as did Baha'u'llah?
A careful study of the history of religions will enable us to realize that the Manifestations of old, those embodiments of God's attributes, did not make an unequivocal written Covenant with their followers because of the immaturity of the people of the age, who could not have sustained the rigours, the tests and the strict discipline which the observance of such a Covenant would inevitably have required. Mankind has gone through the stages of infancy, childhood and adolescence. This is the day of the coming of age of humanity. For the Manifestations of God in past ages to establish a written Covenant with their followers would have been like giving a child new clothes and expecting him to keep them clean and tidy forever. It is obvious that he will not be able to comply. A child may roll in mud and stain his clothes, but that is normal for his age: he cannot realistically be assigned a responsibility that he will be unable to undertake. One cannot ask a child to be accountable beyond his stage of development. Only when he comes of age will he become accountable for his actions according to adult expectations.
Some of the qualities which are essential for remaining faithful to the Covenant are humility and self-abnegation, steadfastness in one's faith and unquestioned loyalty to the Centre of the Cause, the Successor to the Prophet. The acquiring of these spiritual qualities and the living in accordance with them place great responsibilities on the believers. God therefore relieved the followers of past religions of this burden, knowing that it was beyond their capacity at that time to be held responsible for observing the terms of the Covenant. However, now that mankind is destined to come of age in this day, God has for the first time established a mighty and irrefutable Covenant, and required His servants to obey His commandments and be answerable for their deeds. <p160>
In spite of the many divisions, schisms and sects formed in past religions, and the great conflicts which ensued as a result, each division flourished and gained strength with the passage of time. For instance, Christians divided themselves into several denominations, and these multiplied as the years went by. Yet the tree of Christianity blossomed even after acquiring several more branches, and each one remained verdant and flourishing. The denominations have survived centuries of conflict and bloodshed. This turmoil and discord within the communities were the growing pains of humanity characteristic of the period of childhood, through which it was passing, and Christ in His all-encompassing wisdom did not impose upon His followers a Covenant whose terms would have been beyond their capacity.
Islam experienced similar conflicts in its turbulent history. Although it is the most recent of the older religions, yet Muhammad's followers were not sufficiently mature to be given a firm Covenant, similar to that established by Baha'u'llah, requiring them to obey strictly the Prophet's commandments and above all, not to create divisions within their ranks.
There was another feature in Islam which it is important to understand. Since Muhammad had made a verbal declaration concerning the station of Imam Ali implying that he was to be His successor, as we have already stated, the majority of the Muslims violated the wishes of their Prophet, rejected Ali, and for centuries dominated over those who had followed him. Baha'u'llah explains in the Tablet of Salman[1]that the domination of the unfaithful over the faithful in the Islamic Dispensation was a pre-destined phenomenon which was foreshadowed in a verse of the Qur'an: 'There is none other God but God.' This phrase contains the most fundamental truth upon which the religion of Islam is based. It is the cardinal statement of faith which every Muslim must make in order to declare his belief in Islam. Baha'u'llah states that there is a mystery hidden in this verse which no one had been able to discover until He revealed it in this Day.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, ch. 13.]
In this Tablet, Baha'u'llah affirms that God, through His wisdom, so worded this phrase that the letter of negation in it ('none') precedes that of affirmation. He thus attributes the domination of the unfaithful over the faithful in the Dispensation of Islam to the mysterious influence of this sacred phrase, which appears repeatedly in the Qur'an. Therefore, as a result of the creative influence of this phrase ever since it was revealed by Muhammad, the violators of His unwritten Covenant -- those who rejected Ali and represented by the letters of negation -- ruled over His faithful followers. All the <p161> suffering which the hands of the unfaithful -- those who disregarded Muhammad's wishes and opposed His intended successor -- inflicted upon the steadfast Muslims was indeed the fulfilment of the hidden significance of this utterance of Muhammad. He must have known, through the mystery enshrined in the verse, 'There is none other God but God', that His followers would be incapable of maintaining their unity after Him. God had, through His wisdom, so destined that the froward and the insincere took precedence over the obedient and the faithful.
Referring to this phrase, Baha'u'llah in the same Tablet proclaims in majestic and powerful language that in this day He has removed the letter of negation which had been placed before that of affirmation. This phrase, which the Prophet of Islam regarded as the cornerstone of His Faith, is now in the Dispensation of Baha'u'llah symbolically replaced by the affirmative phrase 'He is God'. This signifies that the Author of this Faith holds within His own hands the reins of authority, and, unlike the Dispensations of the past, no one will have the power to wrest it from Him. Hence the assurance in His Writings that this is 'the Day which shall not be followed by night'.
In another of His Tablets He reveals these reassuring words:
"The Hand of Omnipotence hath established His Revelation upon an unassailable, an enduring foundation. Storms of human strife are powerless to undermine its basis, nor will men's fanciful theories succeed in damaging its structure." [12-4]
There is yet another mystery in the Tablet of Salman: while effecting the removal of the letter of negation and replacing it with that of affirmation, Baha'u'llah indicates that He will be issuing the command for this change and communicating it to the believers at a later time. After the ascension of Baha'u'llah, the believers who were steadfast in the Covenant were convinced that the command for removing the letter of negation as described in the Tablet of Salman was none other than the Kitab-i-'Ahd, the Will and Testament of Baha'u'llah.
Through this mighty document the Covenant of Baha'u'llah was established and its Centre appointed. The proof that the letter of negation has been removed is that in this Dispensation the Covenant-breakers have never been, nor will they ever be, able to undermine the unity of the followers of Baha'u'llah or to seize the reins of authority from the divinely ordained institutions which are charged by Baha'u'llah to direct the affairs of His Cause. History has so far confirmed this, and it is one of the distinguishing features of this Dispensation. There have been many powerful attacks launched <p162> against the Centre of the Cause from within. Those who rebelled against Abdu'l-Baha were not ignorant or senseless people. On the contrary, most of them were intelligent and capable; some were highly knowledgeable teachers, immensely respected by the Baha'i community in Persia. In the Holy Land too, some members of the family of Baha'u'llah were knowledgeable and powerful men. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, who so prided himself on his talents, was a master of calligraphy, which in those days carried great prestige in the community. He also exerted great influence over people. The ceaseless efforts of the Covenant-breakers at the time of Abdu'l-Baha to destroy the edifice of the Cause of God appeared to many to be successful at first, but as we have seen, all of them, together with their misguided notions and theories, were thrown into the abyss of extinction and perished miserably.
The Kitab-i-'Ahd has been referred to by Baha'u'llah as the Crimson Book.[1] He used this term in alluding to it about a year before His ascension, in His Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. This designation is not used exclusively to refer to the Kitab-i-'Ahd, but that Tablet is certainly a document which became instrumental in testing the faith of every believer, resulting in separation between the pure in heart and the insincere. Everything revealed in this mighty document may be summarized in one short phrase: 'Turn toward'.
[1 'Crimson' implies, among other things, tests and sacrifice.]
"When the ocean of My presence has ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root." [12-5]
The spiritual forces released by the Revelation of Baha'u'llah for forty years were thus vouchsafed to Abdu'l-Baha. His words, although not of the same rank, have the same validity as the Words of Baha'u'llah. Everything that Baha'u'llah had brought to mankind was deposited within the soul of Abdu'l-Baha and to receive these the believers had to 'turn toward' Him. This act of 'turning' is the pivot round which the Covenant of Baha'u'llah revolves for all time, and steadfastness in the Covenant will be determined by the extent to which a believer readily turns to the Centre of the Cause.
To recognize the station of Baha'u'llah and believe in Him as the Supreme Manifestation of God is the first and the most essential step for man in his journey to his spiritual abode. But belief in Baha'u'llah will not be acceptable to God unless the believer turns to the Centre of the Covenant, is submissive to Him and wholeheartedly carries out His commandments. Moreover, this magical phrase 'turn toward' is not limited to the Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha only. It is applicable <p163> for all time. After the passing of Abdu'l-Baha, the believers had again to 'turn toward' Shoghi Effendi, and today toward the Universal House of Justice.
To emphasize this important feature of the Covenant the following analogy may be helpful. An aircraft flies in the air because its engines create a special condition which enables the machine to fly; without them the craft will not move. Similarly, belief in Baha'u'llah as the Supreme Manifestation of God in this age uplifts the soul and enables it to soar into the spiritual realms. A believer's faith in Baha'u'llah thus acts like the engine in the above analogy. But a powerful engine, however needed, cannot ensure the safety of an aircraft or its smooth landing at its destination. There is a need for the navigational signals which a modern aircraft receives from the control tower to determine its direction, height and speed, and the pilot obeys these instructions almost blindly until the machine lands safely. Without navigational aids and the readiness of the pilot to follow these signals, there is every likelihood that a disaster will take place.
Similarly, faith in Baha'u'llah is not completely sufficient unto itself. The believer has to faithfully obey the guidance he receives from the Centre of the Cause. During the Ministry of Baha'u'llah, it was to Him that the believers turned for guidance. Later it was Abdu'l-Baha who became the Centre for this guidance, after Him Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, and today the Universal House of Justice. If someone reaches the pinnacle of faith and certitude in the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, but refuses to follow the guidance of Abdu'l-Baha, of Shoghi Effendi, or the House of Justice, he cannot be considered a true believer. Those who regarded themselves to be followers of Baha'u'llah but arose actively in opposition to Abdu'l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi were pronounced as Covenant-breakers and cast out of the Community of the Most Great Name.
It is the same today. Those who claim to be believers, accepting the station of Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, but who oppose the Universal House of Justice, are treated in the same way. The imperative necessity of removing such people from the community will become clear as we continue the story. <p164>
Principal Covenant-Breakers during the Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha
When the Kitab-i-'Ahd was read no one among the family of Baha'u'llah or the believers questioned its authenticity. Even Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the chief violator of its provisions, accepted the fact that the Will and Testament was in the handwriting of Baha'u'llah Himself. Nevertheless, as has already been stated, this unfaithful brother tried very hard through interpolation and corruption of the writings of Baha'u'llah and by forging documents, to discredit the person of Abdu'l-Baha. At the same time he began to sow seeds of doubt concerning Abdu'l-Baha in the minds of the believers in the Holy Land through misrepresentation. At first this rebellion was covert, but it gathered momentum during the first few years of Abdu'l-Baha's Ministry until it turned into a most vicious campaign of open hostility and opposition towards Him, creating the most serious crisis in the history of the Faith since the ascension of Baha'u'llah.
In order to survey, however briefly, the nefarious activities of the Covenant-breakers during Abdu'l-Baha's Ministry, it is necessary to mention a few individuals who were the props and mainstay of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in his activities. Foremost among them in the Holy Land was Majdu'd-Din, the son of Aqay-i-Kalim, the noble brother of Baha'u'llah. He was the backbone, the motivating force behind Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. He had married Samadiyyih, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's sister, and was a bitter enemy of Abdu'l-Baha. Abdu'l-Baha prophesied that Majdu'd-Din would live a long life to see the triumph of the Cause and the frustration of his evil plots. This prophecy was fulfilled: he lived to be over a hundred years old and saw the birth of the Administrative Order, the child of the Covenant, and the strengthening of its foundations by Shoghi Effendi. Majdu'd-Din died in 1955, two years after the Ten Year Crusade was launched by the Guardian, having witnessed the indisputable ascendancy of the Covenant and the extinction of his hopes and evil designs. <p165>
Another ally and close companion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was his youngest brother Mirza Badi'u'llah. We have already described the story of his short-lived repentance.[1] His shameful activities against the Centre of the Covenant, and his opposition at a later date to Shoghi Effendi will be referred to in the following pages. It is interesting to note that Mirza Badi'u'llah also lived a long life and died at an advanced age.
[1 See above, pp. 152-3.]
Baha'u'llah's other son, Mirza Diya'u'llah, was a vacillating person who wavered in his allegiance to the Centre of the Covenant; he was easily manipulated and became a willing tool in the hands of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. He lived in the Mansion of Bahji along with the rest of the family, all of whom were affected by the spirit of Covenant-breaking. Mirza Diya'u'llah died in 1898 not very long after the passing of Baha'u'llah. He did not live to take an effective part in all the hostile activities which his brother was conducting against Abdu'l-Baha. After his death Abdu'l-Baha said that He had forgiven him.
Apart from these members of Baha'u'llah's family who rose up against Abdu'l-Baha, there were others in the Holy Land who joined hands with them. Notorious among them was Mirza Aqa Jan, Baha'u'llah's amanuensis, who had fallen from grace during the last months of Baha'u'llah's Ministry.[1]His rebellion against the Centre of the Covenant wiped out his forty-year record of service to Baha'u'llah and stained the annals of the Faith.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, pp. 41-42.]
Another opponent of the Covenant was Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini. He first attained the presence of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad; some years later he went to Adrianople and remained in the service of Baha'u'llah there. He was among those who accompanied Him to Akka, was the recipient of His boundless favours, transcribed His Writings, and was entitled 'Ismu'llahu'l-Javad' (The Name of God Javad) by Him. Muhammad-Javad was an arrogant man who after the ascension of Baha'u'llah betrayed his Lord and became one of the adversaries of Abdu'l-Baha in spite of Abdu'l-Baha's efforts to protect him from Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's wicked designs. Although he was devoid of knowledge and learning, he attacked the Centre of the Covenant in his venomous writings which contain many inaccuracies, falsehoods and calumnies.
At the same time as the believers in the Holy Land were being tested by the disease of Covenant-breaking, a number of outstanding teachers of the Faith in Persia who were ambitious for the leadership of that community also defected and rose up in opposition against the Centre of the Covenant. The main source of rebellion was the <p166> proud and egotistical Jamal-i-Burujirdi. For many years during Baha'u'llah's Ministry this ambitious and deceitful man was foremost among the teachers of the Faith and his fame had spread throughout the community. Baha'u'llah concealed his faults, revealed many Tablets in his name, entitled him 'Ismu'llahu'l-Jamal' (The Name of God Jamal), exhorted him to faithfulness and purity of motive, at times admonished him for those of his actions which were harmful to the Faith, and overlooked his shortcomings with forbearance and magnanimity. However, his hypocrisy was known to those who were close to him. Before embracing the Faith of Baha'u'llah, Jamal had been a learned mujtahid from the town of Burujird. Many Baha'is in Persia who could not see his deceitful and egotistical nature looked upon him as a man of God and treated him with great respect. It was after the passing of Baha'u'llah that Jamal showed his true colours, rejected the Covenant and rebelled against its Centre.
There were other teachers of the Faith in Persia who were also proud and ambitious. Notorious among them was Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji entitled by Baha'u'llah 'Ismu'llahu'l-Mihdi' (The Name of God Mihdi). He too was treated with loving kindness and forbearance by Baha'u'llah, was an eloquent teacher of the Cause and highly esteemed by the believers. Jalil-i-Khu'i was another well-known believer, for whom Baha'u'llah revealed the Tablet of Ishraqat. These men and several others who were engaged in the service of the Cause during Baha'u'llah's Ministry but who in their hearts lusted for glory and leadership of the community, were tested through the institution of the Covenant. They failed to comply with the provisions of the Kitab-i-'Ahd, broke the Covenant and were expelled from the community.
Those who are unfamiliar with the workings of the Faith of Baha'u'llah may find it difficult to understand the reasons why these hypocritical, proud and ambitious men were not cast out of the community by Baha'u'llah Himself during His lifetime since He was well aware of their corruption and deceit. To appreciate this important point, one must remember that although the Manifestation of God continually urges the believers to purify their motives in the service of the Cause and exhorts them to remove every trace of hypocrisy from their hearts, He does not question those motives. Rather He looks upon them with a sin-covering eye and instead of examining their hearts to find their faults and shortcomings, He calls upon them to serve His Cause and praises them when they do so. Through the outpouring of loving kindness and encouragement He seeks to improve the character of those who have embraced His Cause. Only if a believer arises to actively oppose the Centre of the Cause will he then need to be cast out of the community. <p167>
Jamal, and others like him who later became Covenant-breakers, were assiduously serving the Cause during Baha'u'llah's Ministry. They did not rise up to oppose His Cause or His Person. Consequently, they received His blessings and favours continually. However, when the provisions of the Kitab-i-'Ahd were announced and the faithful were separated from the unfaithful, they cut themselves off from the body of the Cause of God.
One of the main factors which turns a believer into a Covenant-breaker is ambition to become prominent in the community, to rise to a high station within the Faith. This is the common objective of most Covenant-breakers. Such individuals have not realized that the only station which God has destined for man is that of servitude -- servitude to God and servitude to his fellow-man. Baha'u'llah has abolished priesthood and to no one has He given any authority to rule over others. There are no individual leaders in the Baha'i community, and the Faith does not harbour egotistical personalities. Of course there are learned Baha'is, outstanding teachers, administrators and pioneers, but none of these people, however outstanding, can exert authority over the community. Their greatness is in their humility, servitude and self-effacement. Those who rebelled against the Covenant did not understand or pay attention to this principle, of such importance to the Covenant of God with man.
In this life we note that opposites attract each other like the poles of a magnet. God and man may be said to be positioned on the two opposite poles. God is the Sovereign Lord of all, and man a humble servant, hence there is a force of attraction between the two. 'I loved thy creation, hence I created thee', [13-1] is the voice of God addressing His servants. God is the possessor of all divine attributes. But by reason of His Sovereignty, He cannot be humble. The best gift, then, which man can offer to God is the only one which He does not already possess, namely, humility and servitude. These are the most befitting attributes for man. The lordship of God and the servitude of man are opposites bound together by the force of love. On the other hand, we note in the analogy of the magnet that similar poles repel each other. Therefore, should an individual, having recognized a Manifestation of God, aspire to reach His station or attempt to appear equal with Him, such an act will provoke the wrath of God and there will be a force of repulsion between the two parties. This is Covenant-breaking.
In the Tablet of the Holy Mariner,[1] whose main theme is the Covenant, Baha'u'llah confirms that should man be desirous to rise to that level which is beyond him and which is solely ordained for <p168> God's Chosen Ones, he will be cast out from the realms on high. These are His words:
[1 The full text of this Tablet, with an explanation of its significance, is given in The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, ch. 14.]
"...They have desired to ascend unto that state which the Lord hath ordained to be above their stations.
"Whereupon the burning meteor cast them out from them that abide in the Kingdom of His Presence,
"And they heard the Voice of Grandeur raised from behind the unseen pavilion upon the Height of Glory:
"'O guardian angels! Return them to their abode in the world below.
"'Inasmuch as they have purposed to rise to that sphere which the wings of the celestial dove have never attained...'"
Mirza Yahya through his actions proved to be the fulfilment of these words, for he longed to take the place of Baha'u'llah and, indeed, when formally apprised in Adrianople of Baha'u'llah's claim he made his counterclaim and announced himself as the bearer of a new Revelation.
Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was the same. He knew the station of Abdu'l-Baha as the Centre of the Covenant, the One to whom all believers must turn. Yet he wanted to be a partner with Abdu'l-Baha. The fact that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali rose up with all his power to oppose Abdu'l-Baha is a clear sign that he considered himself equal to the Master.
A child will never challenge a giant to a fight, because he knows that he is no match for the giant. But a man who chooses to fight with another, must of necessity regard himself to be possessed of at least the same strength as his opponent. The very act of opposition by one party is in itself an indication that it considers itself to be on a par with the other. All those who became Covenant-breakers were in this category. They rose up in opposition against the Centre of the Cause, but in reality their opposition amounted to exalting themselves to a position from which they were able to encounter Abdu'l-Baha and challenge His authority. Consequently, as in the analogy of the poles of the magnet, they were rejected and cast out of the community of the Most Great Name.
Another feature of these episodes of Covenant-breaking which has puzzled many people is the fact that almost the entire family of Baha'u'llah defected. Why is it that those who were nearest to Him, who were members of His household, His sons and daughters, should be foremost among the violators of His Covenant? In normal circumstances when a person attains a prominent position in the community, it is often the family members who rally around him and lend their whole-hearted support. But in the case of Baha'u'llah, <p169> it was the reverse, and as we shall see, a similar situation was created within the family of Abdu'l-Baha after His passing. To appreciate the reasons for this, we observe once again that the proper attitude of a believer towards the Manifestation of God should be a true demonstration of servitude, self-effacement and complete obedience. Whenever these qualities are absent, a barrier will be created between man and God. In such a case the believer may be associating with the Manifestation of God in person, yet because of this barrier, he will not be able to appreciate His glory or become enchanted with His Revelation.
One might, by way of analogy, compare such believers to those who, with no knowledge of mathematics, go to hear an eminent mathematician expounding his theories. Obviously, they are not able to understand him or appreciate his brilliant work. They can see him in no other light than that of an ordinary human being whose words are incomprehensible to them. So they begin to judge the scientist by their own standards and consequently remain unmoved by his intellectual powers. The closer they are to him, the better they can see his personal and human nature, which acts as a barrier and hides his greatness from them. Only those who understand mathematics can appreciate the real genius of the scientist. In their view, his scientific knowledge outweighs his human characteristics, and therefore they do not focus their attention on his outward appearance and human limitations.
This analogy sheds light on the Covenant-breaking by most members of Baha'u'llah's family and on the reasons for their unfaithfulness to Him. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his kinfolk who followed him did not possess that spiritual quality which makes a man humble and enables him to recognize the splendours of God's Revelation in this day. Because of their ambitious nature and their lack of spirituality and self-effacement, their inner eyes were blinded -- unable to discern Baha'u'llah's spiritual powers. They could see Him only with their outward eyes, and because they were closest to Him, they saw Him as an ordinary human being. They found Him to be, in their estimation, just a great man and nothing more. In reality they had not recognized Baha'u'llah as a Manifestation of God. As long as Baha'u'llah was among them, they were subdued by His authority and at the same time basked in the sunshine of His favours and were accorded honours and privileges by His followers. But after His ascension, these same members of His family turned their backs on Him and broke His Covenant. <p170>
Clandestine Opposition to the Covenant
That Abdu'l-Baha did not disclose the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, or of those who followed him, to the Baha'is outside the Holy Land for about four years was made possible because the rebellion was at first covert and only those who were close to the Holy Family were aware of it. As the years went by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali became more vociferous in his opposition and the news of his dissension gradually leaked out. During these four years Abdu'l-Baha instructed that all letters written by the believers in the Holy Land addressed to the friends in Persia had to be submitted to Him for approval. He usually placed His seal on the letters if the contents met with His approval. Even most of the dissidents used to comply. In this way Abdu'l-Baha tried to contain this deadly disease of Covenant-breaking within the Holy Land. During this four-year period He made every effort to guide these misguided souls to the straight path of truth. He even intimated to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that since Baha'u'llah had appointed him to succeed Abdu'l-Baha[1] he could achieve his heart's desire at a later time. But Mirza Muhammad-'Ali is reported to have responded: 'How can I be sure that I shall survive you?'
[1 For the significance and the far-reaching consequences of this appointment by Baha'u'llah, see above, pp. 131-4.]
Unfortunately, the more Abdu'l-Baha showered loving counsel upon the Covenant-breakers, the more haughty and rebellious they became. At last it was they themselves who announced their rebellion by distributing their messages of calumny and falsehood to the believers in the East. They made subtle remarks in their letters to Persia designed to undermine the faith of the believers in the person of Abdu'l-Baha. The following is a summary translation of an account given by Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, that renowned teacher of the Faith of Baha'u'llah, of a letter he received in Persia from Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini, one of the Covenant-breakers resident in the Holy Land. <p171>
"Since the days of Baha'u'llah in Adrianople I had a close relationship with Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini. He was my correspondent through whom I used to dispatch my letters to His Holy Presence. I received a confidential letter from Javad [during the early years of Abdu'l-Baha's ministry] in which he advised me that in my letters to the friends, I should not write the usual words, 'May my life be a sacrifice for you', nor begin my letters [to Abdu'l-Baha] with words of praise or supplication to Him. Neither should I address them to any single Ghusn (Branch),[1] instead they should be addressed to the Aghsan (Branches).
[1 A designation by which a male descendant of Baha'u'llah is known. Aghsan is the plural.]
"The perusal of this letter indicated to me that some form of secret opposition to the Centre of the Covenant was taking place and that Muhammad-Javad himself was one of the dissidents...
"In reply I wrote him a letter in which I rejected his proposals and stated that unless Abdu'l-Baha made such a demand, I would not pay any attention to such advice. I also told him not to write to me again. Since Muhammad-Javad did not respond to my letter I was assured that the birds of darkness were on the move and the clamour of the foreboders of evil would be heard soon. I felt certain that Javad and Jamal-i-Burujirdi were both secretly involved, so with all my heart and soul I used to pray on their behalf so that they might return to the path of truth. I kept this matter confidential, but it never occurred to me that the source of sedition was Mirza Muhammad-'Ali along with other members of Baha'u'llah's family, because I did not think they were so foolish and egotistical." [14-1]
Soon after these developments, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, with Abdu'l-Baha's permission, proceeded to the Holy Land. En route he visited the believers in many towns and villages including Ishqabad, Baku, Nakhjavan, Ganjih and Tiflis (Tbilisi). Everywhere he found the believers steadfast in the Covenant, enchanted by the utterances of Abdu'l-Baha in His Tablets, and serving the Faith with enthusiasm and devotion. Being assured in his heart that severe tests and trials were about to engulf the community, Haji in his contact with the believers encouraged them to turn with heart and soul to no one but the Master, to regard His words and utterances to be as valid as the words of Baha'u'llah Himself, and to refrain from any action which ran counter to His good-pleasure. The loving counsels of Haji were warmly welcomed everywhere, and the believers vowed to remain steadfast in the Covenant, come what may.
When Haji arrived in Beirut he stayed with a devoted believer, Aqa Muhammad-Mustafay-i-Baghdadi, who intimated to him the opposition and rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and a few others, contained so far by Abdu'l-Baha within the family and a small circle of friends. Immediately upon his arrival at the pilgrim house in Akka, Haji wrote a letter to the Master. He talks about his letter, <p172> tells the story of attaining the presence of Abdu'l-Baha and of other events associated with his pilgrimage during those turbulent months. This is a summary translation of his reminiscences:
"...In this letter I stated that I do not turn to anybody except the Master, and I do not wish to meet with any believer except those whom the Beloved wishes me to meet. Even praying at the Holy Shrine of Baha'u'llah and circumambulating that exalted spot around which circle in adoration the Concourse on High, are dependent on the will of the Master. Praise and thanksgiving be to God that on the day of my arrival I was given the privilege of praying at and circumambulating the Shrine in the presence of Abdu'l-Baha who chanted the Tablet of Visitation Himself. In what a radiant condition I found myself, and to what heights of spirituality I was carried as a result of this experience, are impossible for me to describe. With my inner eyes I saw the Heavenly Kingdom, witnessed the Blessed Beauty, exalted be His glory, seated upon the Throne of His Majesty and Authority, and was assured of the penetration of His Holy Word in the hearts of men...
"Through the flattery and empty compliments of some hypocrites, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, in the prime of his youth, entertained the thought of rebellion, cherished the inordinate ambition of becoming great, and lusted for leadership. He therefore put together some absurd passages and referred to them as Revelations from God and secretly despatched them far and wide.[1] And, when his mischievous deeds and the corrupt intentions hidden in his heart were disclosed, the Pen of Glory revealed a Tablet stating that He had conferred upon Mirza Muhammad-'Ali the power of utterance, that he was only as a leaf of the divine lote-tree, and that if the holy breezes of His Revelation were to cease to waft over him he would, as a dry leaf, fall upon the earth and perish. In reality he was already spiritually cut off in those days [in Adrianople], but it was hidden from the eyes because He Who conceals the faults of men had covered it up.
[1 This relates to his activities in Adrianople, see above, pp. 126-7, and also The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2, pp. 259-61.]
"It was obvious that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had not truly repented after committing these misdeeds. On the contrary, he and a few others were watering the tree of his rebelliousness. They were secretly engaged in intrigues and satanic ambitions. Some believers were aware of their condition, but for the sake of God they did not reveal it. This situation continued until the last years of the Ministry of the Day-Star of the World [Baha'u'llah], when Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini and Jamal-i-Burujirdi secretly united with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in their plots to create discord and dissension within the community. They succeeded in enlisting a few others within their fold. These two men convinced Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that since the bulk of the believers in Persia were looking up to them, he would become the one to whom all would turn and he could present himself as the Centre of the Cause. Their deceitfulness <p173> and hypocrisy were fully disclosed through their misdeeds after the setting of the Sun of Truth.
"As the Day-Star of the Incomparable Beauty hid itself from the eyes of men, and began to shed its light from the Realm of Glory upon the peoples of the world, and His confirmations and assistance were showered upon the Centre of His Covenant, these unfaithful ones began to promote their designs. When they came in contact with the believers, whether residents or pilgrims, they opened the subject of the oneness of God saying that God is one, there is no partner with Him, and the Most Great Infallibility belongs to Him, exalted be His Glory.[1] The believers were surprised and bewildered at such statements. They could not understand to whom they were imputing their strange suggestions, for no one had claimed to be a partner with God or be a possessor of the Most Great Infallibility.
[1 One of the shameful accusations which the Covenant-breakers spread around was that Abdu'l-Baha had claimed to be a Manifestation of God. They even went further and accused Him of claiming the station of divinity for Himself. This was the reason why they were talking about partnership with God.]
"These insinuations continued until the believers noticed that Abdu'l-Baha treated Mirza Muhammad-'Ali with much greater respect than at the time of Baha'u'llah. On the other hand, the Arch-breaker of the Covenant and his entourage had considerably lessened the measure of honour and respect that they humbly used to show the Master in the days of the Blessed Beauty. Added to this treatment, the Covenant-breakers through their words and deeds and by subtle hints were attempting to belittle the Master and to dishonour Him. When the believers realized this, they kept away from the unfaithful and as far as possible did not seek to associate with them in private.
"Two devoted believers, Aqa Muhammad-Riday-i-Shirazi[1] and Mirza Mahmud-i-Kashani, went together to meet Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. They showed the utmost respect to him, and in a spirit of humility and loving kindness counselled him with genuine concern. By giving some hints or relating certain stories, they conveyed to him the dire consequences of his rebellion. But instead of taking to heart their admonitions, and heeding their loving advice to change his ways, he was hurt that they counselled him in this manner.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah. vol. i, pp. 288-9.]
"The Master continued to overlook Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's wrong-doings and treated him with the utmost love and kindness in spite of his rebellion. Whereas in the days of the Blessed Beauty Mirza Muhammad-'Ali showed so much respect to Abdu'l-Baha that he would not take a seat in His presence without His permission, now it was different; it was the Master who as a sign of loving respect would arise from His seat when he or his associates arrived in a gathering. At first Abdu'l-Baha's counsels were given to them in private, through hints and suggestions which pointed the way to their everlasting salvation and glory. But since through their rebellion they gradually tore apart the veil which had until then concealed their wrongdoings, the Master began to counsel them <p174> publicly in words such as these: 'Do not by your actions quench the fire and extinguish the light of God. Take not a step that would lead to degradation of the Word of God. Do not behave in such a way as to cause the enemies to rejoice and the loved ones to lament.'[1] Abdu'l-Baha warned them lovingly and repeatedly about the dire consequences of their evil doings, but all these counsels fell on deaf ears and they followed the path of pride, hate and rebellion.
[1 These are not the exact words of Abdu'l-Baha, but convey the gist of what He said on that occasion.]
"About three months after my arrival in the Holy Land, the Master sent me to Egypt. Since Abdu'l-Baha had warned the friends not to discuss the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, I addressed a letter to him when I was in Egypt, the gist of which was as follows: 'The people of Baha expected that after the setting of the Sun of Truth, you would show the same measure of humility, submissiveness and obedience to the Centre of the Covenant that you demonstrated in the Holy Presence of Baha'u'llah. We have all observed that in the days of the Blessed Beauty, you would not have taken your seat in the presence of the Master without His permission. Each time that He came to Bahji to attain the presence of His beloved Father, you along with others, as commanded by Baha'u'llah, went as a welcoming party as far as the Garden of Jammal[1] to greet Him. Now we see that when any one of you arrives in the room, it is the Master who as a token of respect for you arises from His seat and will not sit down until the person takes his seat.
[1 Properties lying at the south entrance to the Mansion.]
"We have also noticed that when His blessed Person arrives at Bahji after having walked[1] all the way from Akka as a token of His utter humility to the sacred Threshold, not only do you refuse to go out to welcome Him, but after He enters the Sacred Shrine, those who are in your company come down the steps of the Mansion slowly one by one and go towards the Shrine, and you yourself are the last one to appear. Again, when He has come out of the Shrine and is about to depart for Akka, you walk away towards the Mansion before being dismissed from His presence.[2] Indeed, you are back inside the Mansion before He leaves. Now that you do not go to welcome Him at the entrance of the Garden of Jammal, you could at least ask permission to leave His presence, or wait outside the Shrine until He departs.
[1 It is an expression of humility and self-effacement for a servant to walk to his master and not to go to him riding.]
[2 It was considered highly discourteous for a man to take his seat in the presence of an eminent person without his permission. Similarly it was discourteous to leave his presence before being dismissed. The believers always observed the utmost courtesy when they came into the presence of Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.]
"In the past you always addressed Him as 'the Master', but now refer to Him as 'my brother'. We are surprised and do not know the reason for all this humiliating treatment to which you have subjected His blessed Person. Is your contemptuousness because of all the services that He has rendered to the Cause and to the Person of the Blessed Beauty? Or is it because He was the One who brought about your exaltation and honour <p175> among the people, and enabled you to live in the utmost comfort and luxury? While you enjoyed a life of pleasure, and engaged in pastimes such as hunting and other recreations, His blessed Person did not have a moment to rest. Do you behave toward Him in a disdainful manner because it was He who, from the early days of the rising of the Day-Star of the World [Baha'u'llah] from the horizon of Tihran and Iraq, was the Master and the leader of all the people of Baha? Or is your behaviour towards Him due to all the sufferings and hardships that were, and are, being inflicted upon His blessed Person from every quarter? He has stood up with the utmost firmness and strength in resisting the onslaught of the enemy and has, singly and alone, exerted every effort in the promotion of the word of God and the diffusion of its fragrances, while you are conducting a life of luxury and spending your time in riding and sightseeing. Does the particular text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas which was later confirmed in the Kitab-i-'Ahd, that all the Aghsan must turn to Him, and gird up their loins in His obedience, provide justification for you to belittle His exalted station?
"Besides all this, when this servant and other believers notice the extraordinary loving kindness and humility the Centre of the Covenant shows to you, while you appear proud and haughty before His peerless and incomparable Person, what conclusion do we reach? In the light of all this, whom should we regard as a true believer in the Blessed Beauty, and whom should we consider steadfast in His Covenant?
"The believers have endured all manner of oppression. They have suffered imprisonment and exile and been inflicted with hardship and persecution. These souls will not deviate from the straight path. They will cling fast to the Covenant of Baha'u'llah and its Centre, He 'who hath branched from this Ancient Root'. They will not loosen their hold on that 'excellent and priceless heritage' which Baha'u'llah has bequeathed to His heirs..." [14-2]
Some time later, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali returned to Akka and from there was directed by Abdu'l-Baha to proceed to Persia via Bombay. The day before his departure, Abdu'l-Baha asked him to pay a visit to the Mansion of Bahji for the purpose of saying farewell to the family of Baha'u'llah.
At this juncture we recall that Abdu'l-Baha and His family did not live in the Mansion of Bahji but that the rest of Baha'u'llah's family resided there. Only some rooms on the ground floor were reserved for Abdu'l-Baha's use whenever He visited the Mansion. Even these were taken over by the Covenant-breakers once their opposition to Him was intensified and became public. It was then that Abdu'l-Baha took over a few rooms known as the pilgrim house, in the vicinity of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, for His own use. Here He rested after the fatigue of the journey from Akka. He also received the believers in that house. The Mansion was occupied by the Covenant-breakers for several decades after the Master's passing and it was <p176> Shoghi Effendi who succeeded in driving them out and cleansing that hallowed spot from their pollution.
Abdu'l-Baha intimated to Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali that when he visited the Mansion to say farewell, he would be invited by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali to meet with him in private. Abdu'l-Baha advised the Haji that should he receive such an invitation, he should accept and with great humility say whatever his heart and conscience dictated to him. This is how the Haji records the story of the interview.
"It was late at night that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali summoned me to his room. He asked his son Shu'a'u'llah, who was present, to leave, because he wanted to talk to me confidentially. After much conversation, he said: 'I wish to ask you a question in confidence. Don't you think that I could have also inherited what my brother [Abdu'l-Baha] has inherited from the Blessed Beauty?'
"I said to him: 'In all His references to Abdu'l-Baha, the Blessed Beauty has assigned to Him all the exalted names and praiseworthy attributes. He enjoined on us all to show forth, for the exaltation of His Cause, the utmost love and humility toward His Person. In the Kitab-i-'Ahd, He has clearly stated: 'It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My kindred to turn, one and all, their faces toward the Most Mighty Branch.' Therefore to the extent that you show forth humility, self-effacement and utter nothingness to His blessed Person [Abdu'l-Baha], you will accordingly acquire the exalted qualities you wish to have. Based on the same principle, you will lose these qualities to the extent that you lessen the measure of your humility and submissiveness toward Him. The reason for this is that all the praise and honour which are bestowed upon you by Baha'u'llah are dependent upon certain conditions. Certain verses of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and their further elucidation in the Kitab-i-'Ahd are as unequivocal and clear as the sun in mid-sky. God forbid, if for one moment in your heart you might think the passage in the Kitab-i-'Ahd ought to have directed the Aghsan, the Afnan and others to turn their faces to Ghusn-i-Akbar [The Greater Branch, i.e. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali). It is clear that you do not possess what the Master possesses. God, exalted be He, does not act hypocritically, nor does He create means of division among people. It is impossible for the One True God to entrust the guardianship of His Cause to two individuals at the same time... Apart from all this, who is it in this world of being that can claim to rival the Master on any level?'
"I was talking on these lines when he arose from his seat saying it was time to go to bed, so I left him." [14-3]
The campaign of opposition to Abdu'l-Baha led by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali acquired greater momentum as the years went by. Soon after the passing of Baha'u'llah, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, who had already won the support of most members of Baha'u'llah's <p177> family, began secretly to undermine the faith of the believers in Akka, to weaken their love and loyalty toward the Master and eventually win them over to his own camp. He and his associates knew those who were steadfast in the Covenant and those who were weak, simple-hearted, or proud and ambitious. They by-passed the former and concentrated on sowing the seeds of doubt in the hearts of the latter, adopting different methods to achieve their purpose. In all these they hid themselves under the cloak of hypocrisy and did their best to pose as the most devoted, the most pious and the most humble Baha'is in the land. For example, one way of misleading a simple-hearted Baha'i was for a few agents of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali to get close to him individually, and establish bonds of friendship with him. Each one of them posed as the most humble followers of Abdu'l-Baha, and in the course of conversation they praised the Master with unusual exaggeration. For instance they would say that He was a Manifestation of God, that His station was equal to Baha'u'llah's, that He was the embodiment of divinity Himself and that in their prayers they turn to Him instead of turning to God. One after the other would convey to the individual such preposterous thoughts and assure him falsely that Abdu'l-Baha had claimed such a station for Himself. When they were sure that the loyal Baha'i was beginning to have doubts about Abdu'l-Baha's station, they would then despatch other persons to him who would disprove and strongly criticize those fabricated claims which they had slanderously attributed to Abdu'l-Baha. In this way through deceit and falsehood, they would weaken the faith of the believer to a point where he would be invited to join a group of dissidents.
Another trick played by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was to shower praise upon an outstanding teacher of the Faith who was steadfast in the Covenant. Consequently, some believers would conclude that the famous Baha'i teacher must have joined the ranks of the Covenant-breakers. This could result in the defection of some weak and uninformed believers. Once, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's associates published a paper in which they paid great tribute to the famous Baha'i scholar Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, and extolled him in superlative terms. No sooner was Mirza Abu'l-Fadl informed of this than he wrote an open letter saying that they had no right to praise him and that this action alone had exposed their hypocrisy, for he was abhorred in their sight. If any praise was due to him, it ought to come from the friends of Abdu'l-Baha. He handed this letter to the Master who directed that it be read aloud at a meeting of the friends.
There were other ways through which the Covenant-breakers succeeded by deceitful practices in gathering a number of the Baha'is around themselves. At the same time, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had <p178> established secret links with Jamal-i-Burujirdi and a few others in Persia. Together they had designed a strategy to make their rebellion public and divide the community of the Most Great Name at a propitious time.
As we have stated before, for four years Abdu'l-Baha had done everything in His power to guide these people to the straight path, and He did not reveal their breaking of the Covenant to the Baha'is outside the Holy Land. However, after four years of strengthening their position, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his party felt that it was time to unmask themselves. They did this by printing letters loaded with falsehoods, misleading statements, and calumnies against the Centre of the Covenant, posing themselves as the voice of truth trying to purify the Cause which they shamelessly claimed to have been polluted by those who were faithful to Abdu'l-Baha. In his propaganda, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali did not contest the authenticity of the Kitab-i-'Ahd, rather he expressed his grievance that he had been barred from partnership with Abdu'l-Baha in directing the affairs of the Cause. He wanted to share with Him the station of the Centre of the Covenant.
It was as a result of these letters by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that Abdu'l-Baha in His Tablets began openly to refer to the breaking of the Covenant by His unfaithful brother; from then on, right up to the end of His life, He explained in innumerable Tablets the significance of the Covenant and urged the friends to remain steadfast in the Cause of God.
Concerning the dispatch for the first time of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's letters to Persia, Dr Yunis Khan-i-Afrukhtih, one of the faithful secretaries of the Master, relates the following story.
"Abdu'l-Baha often used to say: 'One day Mirza Diya'u'llah[1] came to see Me. I noticed he was looking at his fingers which were stained with ink and was expecting Me to comment on them. I did not say anything, so he himself volunteered the information, saying, "Last night until the early hours of the morning we were engaged in writing letters and gelatine printing, consequently my fingers have been stained. My brother [Mirza Muhammad-'Ali] had written a letter of which we printed several copies and sent them away this morning." I asked him: Did you really write and dispatch them? And when he answered in the affirmative, I said: I swear by the Righteousness of God, a day shall come when Mirza Muhammad-'Ali would wish that his fingers had been cut off so that he could not have taken the pen to announce his breaking of the Covenant. For four years I have concealed this matter so that the beloved of God might not learn of your unfaithfulness to the Covenant. It is now beyond my power to conceal it any longer. You have announced yourselves to the believers." [14-4]
[1 The younger brother of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali.] <p179>
The family of Baha'u'llah, those who became Covenant-breakers, were leading a very comfortable life in the Mansion of Bahji. During Baha'u'llah's lifetime, His three sons and His amanuensis Mirza Aqa Jan had hoarded a great many valuable gifts which the believers had presented to Baha'u'llah. These gifts Baha'u'llah had declined to accept for Himself. He was detached from all earthly possessions, and so were Abdu'l-Baha, His mother and His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf. Mirza Aqa Jan coveted these gifts, and so did Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. Consequently these individuals had amassed considerable wealth. Indeed, as we shall see later in this book, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his brothers at one time plotted to take Mirza Aqa Jan's life in order to take over his possessions.
After the passing of Baha'u'llah, the family lived prosperously. Abdu'l-Baha continued for many years to send funds and large supplies of food to the inhabitants of the Mansion; He sent them everything they needed to make them comfortable. The three brothers, their families and close relatives all enjoyed a life of luxury and leisure. The following is a summary translation of Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali's remarks on the above subject.
"All the gifts that the Master received, as well as the funds relating to the Huququ'llah, He used to send to the Mansion for the upkeep of the family. Also He had bought for them a number of horses of the best breed which were kept in the stables at the Mansion. The Covenant-breakers often spent their time riding and hunting. When they went to Akka, they rode horses[1] flanked on each side by ten or twelve armed horsemen as guards. In this way they impressed everyone. They entered the city with a pomp and grandeur usually reserved for the governor and the chiefs. In contrast to this, the Master often used to walk and occasionally rode a donkey as He went alone to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. Thus they considered themselves victorious when they reflected on their outward pomp and glory, while they regarded Abdu'l-Baha's lowliness and simplicity as a sign of His weakness and defeat...
[1 In those days important people rode horses and this was a sign of their eminence in the community. Ordinary people either walked or rode donkeys.]
"The Master had instructed Aqa Faraju'llah, who was His caterer, to send to the Mansion any amount of food and other supplies which the Covenant-breakers requested. But they used to demand five or six times more than their needs. They were determined to take excessive funds from the Master so as to make Him helpless and force upon Him the humiliation of borrowing money from the people. In spite of all this, Abdu'l-Baha ensured that they received large supplies of food, clothing, and other necessities of life. Moreover, every gift which was sent to Him Abdu'l-Baha would dispatch to the Mansion, and many of the funds which He received as Huququ'llah were given to them. These manifestations of generosity and compassion which Abdu'l-Baha showered upon <p180> them in spite of their malevolence were interpreted by them as fear and helplessness. Consequently the more they received His gracious gifts and favours, the more haughty they became, and progressively intensified their opposition to His blessed Person." [14-5]
During the early years of their rebellion, the Covenant-breakers noticing on the one hand their own prosperity and apparent success in converting a considerable number to their side, and Abdu'l-Baha's humility and loving generosity on the other, were convinced that theirs would be a victorious outcome. Dr Yunis Khan recounts:
"I heard several times from the Master saying: 'Once I was counselling Majdu'd-Din+F1 and trying to guide him in a spirit of love and compassion. I admonished him to abandon the path of error, and warned him of the remorseful consequences of his deeds. But I spoke to him with such fervour that tears came to My eyes. Then I noticed that upon seeing my emotions, Majdu'd-Din was scornfully smiling at Me, thinking in his heart how well I had been defeated! Thereupon I raised my voice at him saying "O wretched one! My tears were shed when, out of pity, I reflected upon your miserable state, and not for myself. Did you think I had become helpless and impotent because of my pleading to you?"'" [14-6]
Abdu'l-Baha's patience and loving kindness, demonstrated in the above story, were thus interpreted by the Covenant-breakers as weakness. This misconception, coupled with the notion that theirs was a life of prosperity and honour, while Abdu'l-Baha and His family were living an austere life burdened by having to supply the exorbitant expenses they demanded, emboldened the Covenant-breakers to step up their campaign of misrepresentation against Abdu'l-Baha. In this, they received encouragement from the enemies of the Faith, as well as from the aides and deputies of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in Persia. <p181>
Mirza Aqa Jan
On the fifth anniversary of the Ascension of Baha'u'llah, Mirza Aqa Jan, Baha'u'llah's amanuensis, threw in his lot with the Covenant-breakers and became one of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's most powerful tools. He created a great disturbance among the believers which brought suffering and anguish to the heart of Abdu'l-Baha for some time.
Mirza Aqa Jan had been the first person to believe in Baha'u'llah as 'Him Whom God shall make manifest'. He did not belong to the learned class, having only an elementary education. In his youth he used to make soap and sell it for a living. Soapmaking was a humble trade in those days, and it was often carried out in the home by people who were not well educated. Mirza Aqa Jan went to Iraq soon after the arrival of Baha'u'llah in that country, and his first meeting with Him took place in the house of a friend in Karbila.
There in the presence of Baha'u'llah he sensed a great spiritual power emanating from Him, a power that transformed his whole being. He was the first one to whom Baha'u'llah gave an intimation of the as yet unrevealed glory of His station. He also chose him as His personal servant and gave him the title of Khadim (servant), and later Khadimu'llah (servant of God).
At the same time that Mirza Aqa Jan was the 'servant in attendance', he was empowered by Baha'u'llah to act as His amanuensis in spite of his inadequate education. This he did till the end of the Ministry of Baha'u'llah. This man indeed served Baha'u'llah assiduously for years in the triple functions of secretary, servant and companion. In the whole range of Baha'u'llah's companions, there was nobody so close to Him as Mirza Aqa Jan. He was for years a channel of communication between Baha'u'llah and the believers. It was a common practice for the believers to send their petitions or letters to Mirza Aqa Jan who would then present them to Baha'u'llah.
During Baha'u'llah's retirement to the mountains of Kurdistan, Mirza Aqa Jan was engaged for some time in the service of Mirza <p182> Yahya who wanted him to go to Tihran on a secret mission to assassinate Nasiri'd-Din Shah. Mirza Aqa Jan accepted this criminal mission, and soon after his arrival in Tihran managed to obtain access to the court of the Shah in the guise of a labourer. However, having failed to carry out his sinister intention and realizing the extent of his folly, he returned to Baghdad. When Baha'u'llah came back from His solitary retirement in the mountains of Kurdistan, Mirza Aqa Jan begged Baha'u'llah's forgiveness for his part in Mirza Yahya's evil scheme and was then permitted to resume his services to Baha'u'llah.
As we have seen, being very close to the Manifestation of God can be spiritually fatal to anyone who is not detached from the things of this world. Only those who are humble, utterly self-effacing and without any trace of ambition, yearning only for His good-pleasure, can survive in His presence. Mirza Aqa Jan did not have these qualities. In the course of his service to Baha'u'llah, and as the years went by, he became proud of himself and at times caused displeasure to Baha'u'llah through his misconduct. At such times, Abdu'l-Baha used to rebuke him and plead with Baha'u'llah to forgive his wrongdoings. There were even occasions when Abdu'l-Baha chastised him with His own hand because of the serious nature of his conduct toward Baha'u'llah.
In spite of all these shortcomings, Mirza Aqa Jan worked very hard and for years was engaged day and night in taking down the words which were revealed by Baha'u'llah. His 'revelation writings'[1] are a testimony to the onrushing forces of the Revelation of the words of God, which were sent down with a rapidity and profusion unprecedented in the history of religion. It was close to the end of His earthly life that, deeply displeased with Mirza Aqa Jan's unbefitting behaviour at the time, Baha'u'llah dispensed with his services and dismissed him from His presence.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, ch. 3.]
It is interesting that God establishes His Faith in the world with the help of the most unsuitable people. Mirza Aqa Jan was neither a learned person capable of assuming the awesome responsibility of an amanuensis to the Manifestation of God, nor did he have those qualities which are essential for serving Him. Abdu'l-Baha also had some individuals who worked very closely with Him; among them were a few who proved to be both unfaithful and incompetent servants. Indeed, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha were both surrounded by a number of close companions who later became Covenant-breakers. Yet, in spite of this serious handicap of working with incompetent, unfaithful, and sometimes dangerous individuals, God promotes His Faith, and thereby demonstrates His power and <p183> omnipotence to His servants. The Revealers of the Word of God in past Dispensations have testified to this. In the Gospels we read:
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." [15-1]
And in the Qur'an:
"We wished to favour those who were weak in the land and make them leaders and heirs." [15-2]
Even today, when almost one hundred and fifty years have passed since the birth of the Faith, the Baha'i community -- in spite of its inadequate resources as compared with mankind's enormous resources in every field -- is growing all over the world. The institutions of the Faith are established in many parts of the globe and the foundations of its Administrative Order, destined in the fullness of time to emerge as a world order for the unification of the human race, are being laid everywhere by men and women who in most cases are devoid of fame, social standing, power or authority.
During his years of service to Baha'u'llah, Mirza Aga Jan had accumulated some wealth by requesting Baha'u'llah to let him have some of the gifts which the believers had sent to Him. As we have seen, Baha'u'llah mostly gave away these offerings to individuals. Mirza Aqa Jan had also acquired some properties with the cooperation of the three sons of Baha'u'llah who were highly attached to material things.
Soon after the ascension of Baha'u'llah, the Covenant-breakers led by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali plotted to take Mirza Aqa Jan's life in order to gain possession of his properties. Their pretext was that because of his unfaithfulness to Baha'u'llah towards the end of His earthly life, he had to be put to death. Dr Yunis Khan-i-Afrukhtih, a devoted believer who served Abdu'l-Baha as a secretary for nine years in Akka, and was acclaimed by Shoghi Effendi as a 'herald of the Covenant', and 'trusted secretary' of the Master, has left to posterity a most interesting account concerning Mirza Aqa Jan's later years in Akka around 1897. The following is a summary translation of some extracts from his memoirs describing his first meeting with Mirza Aqa Jan and of the events which took place on the fifth anniversary of the ascension of Baha'u'llah, when a great tragedy was quietly and effectively diverted:
"At the time of the passing of Baha'u'llah, Mirza Aqa Jan, who had fallen from grace, was living an ignominious life. However, as a result of Baha'u'llah's generosity, he had a reasonable income. The Covenant-breakers had secretly resolved to take his life. Probably the reason for this was either to seize his properties or because Baha'u'llah had not been <p184> pleased with his conduct towards the end of His life. Mirza Aqa Jan discovered their plot and went immediately to Abdu'l-Baha, begged forgiveness for his misdeeds and took refuge in His house...
"...On most occasions when we were summoned to the presence of Abdu'l-Baha in His reception room, I noticed that an old man, short in stature, with a white beard and brown complexion, arrived in the room after everyone else. First he would prostrate himself at the threshold of the room [Abdu'l-Baha's], then he would enter, bow to the waist and, when Abdu'l-Baha acknowledged him, sit at the threshold. I was curious to know who this person was and several times it occurred to me that when I left the room I should inquire of the resident believers as to his identity. For some time, however, I forgot to ask. This was due to the fact that we were so intoxicated by the wine of the Master's bounteous utterances that when we left Him we were not in a mood to talk to each other.
"One day I was sitting [in the presence of Abdu'l-Baha] very close to the entrance of the room. I saw the old man arriving. At first he prostrated himself at the entrance to the corridor, then approached the room and again prostrated himself at the threshold. He then entered, bowed low before Abdu'l-Baha and stood there until Abdu'l-Baha indicated to him to be seated, whereupon he sat with downcast eyes near the door... By this time I was very curious to know who this person was, and why I had not seen him among the believers in the town.
"When we all left the presence of the Master, I noticed that this man went into the inner section of the house. I asked someone about him and was told that he was Mirza Aqa Jan... I questioned my friends further, asking what Mirza Aqa Jan was doing here. Is he not, I asked, the person who was rejected by Baha'u'llah and whom the Covenant-breakers were intent upon murdering? They told me that he had now taken refuge in the house of the Master. In those days I often thought about Mirza Aqa Jan, who had fallen from grace, and wondered what would happen to him in the end. How little did I know then that, in a fortnight's time, he would play an important and unforgettable role in the arena of the Cause and that I myself would be one of the spectators..." [15-3]
Haji Aliy-i-Yazdi,[1] also a resident in Akka since the early days of Baha'u'llah's arrival in that city, was fully informed about Mirza Aqa Jan's involvement with the Covenant-breakers. In his memoirs, he has recorded his story. The following is a summary translation of his account:
[1 The paternal uncle of the author. For his life story, see The Baha'i World, vol. IX, p. 625. ]
"Some time after Mirza Aqa Jan was permitted by Abdu'l-Baha to take refuge in His house, the ill-fated standard of Covenant-breaking was upraised. The Aghsan[1] began to regret the departure of Mirza Aqa Jan from their midst. They thought that if he were present among them, with his cooperation they could influence more believers to join the <p185> Covenant-breakers. They deplored his absence among them, and tried over a long period of time to devise a plan for arranging his return to the Mansion of Bahji where he had been originally living. After some time, through careful planning, Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini[2] managed to meet Mirza Aqa Jan when the latter was shopping at a certain bakery. He conversed with him there for a considerable period of time and urged him to leave the house of the Master and return to Bahji. But he did not succeed in winning him over.
[1 In this context, it means Abdu'l-Baha's unfaithful brothers.]
[2 See above, pp. 165, 170-1.]
"At this point the Aghsan and a few others including Majdu'd-Din and Javad-i-Qazvini consulted together and decided to address a letter to Mirza Aqa Jan purported to be on behalf of all the Baha'is of Persia. The gist of the letter was as follows: 'O Khadem![1] how long will you remain silent? For how long should we tarry in the wilderness of error? All of us look for your guidance and turn to you to hear your counsel. This is because you are aware of all things, you were the amanuensis of Baha'u'llah. Everyone is now awaiting to hear from you. We know that the Aghsan are not as informed as you are. You are responsible for all the wrongs that the believers go through because you remain silent. The differences which have arisen after the Ascension of Baha'u'llah have made all the Baha'is of Persia bewildered and perplexed. Because of your silence you are responsible for this distressing situation. All our eyes are turned to you and our ears are waiting to hear from you.'
[1 Literally 'servant', the appellation by which Mirza Aqa Jan was called.]
"The Aghsan sent the above draft to Mulla Husayn-i-Jahrumi[1] who was residing in Bombay, India, and instructed him to copy it in his own handwriting and post it to Mirza Aqa Jan, care of the Archbreaker of the Covenant. This he did and when the letter arrived, they decided that he should receive it personally. They arranged to hand the letter to him in the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. Usually when Mirza Aqa Jan went to the Shrine, he would sit down for about an hour, close his eyes and raise his hands upwards saying prayers. One day when he was seated in this manner, the daughter of Samandar[2] inconspicuously placed the letter in his hands. Later, he opened his eyes and saw the letter, but did not know who had placed it there.
[1 A notorious Covenant-breaker.]
[2 She was the wife of Mirza Diya'u'llah, son of Baha'u'llah. Her father was Shaykh Kazim-i-Samandar, one of the Apostles of Baha'u'llah. After the death of Diya'u'llah, the Covenant-breakers kept his widow against her will at Bahji, and when her father went to take her home with him, he was viciously attacked and badly beaten by order of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and
+F4 was thrown out of Bahji. Abdu'l-Baha advised Samandar not to pursue the matter.]
"He took the letter with him to Akka. We can guess what kind of thoughts must have come to him when he read it. He imagined that as soon as he made a statement, all the believers in Persia would respond positively to him. The fire of pride and rebellion began to burn within his heart. He then intimated to Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvini his intention to give a feast on the anniversary of the Ascension of Baha'u'llah, invite all the believers to it, and there release some important news and announce to them certain vital matters. <p186>
"Some time passed and the anniversary of the Ascension drew near. He made all the arrangements for the feast. When the time arrived, and the believers had assembled, he stood up and began his talk. He explained that when he was utterly oblivious of himself and his surroundings at the Shrine, a letter came down from heaven and landed in his hands. He then started reading it when some believers stopped him, saying that his story was nothing but vain imaginings, and that everyone must turn to the Centre of the Covenant. Through his action, he was about to create a great upheaval, when suddenly the Master arrived at the scene and quenched this fire which was about to engulf everyone."
Dr Yunis Khan elaborates the story. The following is a summary translation of his words:
"As we were approaching the anniversary of the Ascension of Baha'u'llah, the friends seemed depressed with heavy hearts. Their usual enthusiasm and joy was not evident any more. There appeared to be some dark event on the horizon. The tone of the Master's utterances was also different. The friends attributed all this to the approaching anniversary of the Ascension. We were informed that on that anniversary the believers would commemorate the passing of Baha'u'llah by keeping vigil and staying awake the whole night, that before the dawn, they would all go to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, and that on the following day a feast would be given in the name of Mirza Aqa Jan.
"On the evening of the anniversary, all the believers resident in Haifa and Akka who were able to take part attended a special commemoration meeting which was held in the Pilgrim House [at Akka]. Prayers and Tablets were chanted in the presence of the Master... Before the dawn we were summoned by the Master who gave to each one of us a glass containing rose-water and a lighted candle. In this way we all walked in an orderly manner in a procession towards the gate of the city on our way to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. We were all in a state of grief and sorrow. The Master was walking along with us. He ordered two or three believers who had melodious voices to take turns and chant some prayers and poems of Baha'u'llah on the way. Our souls were truly carried away to the realms beyond as we walked with tearful eyes towards the Holy Shrine.
"We all entered the Shrine, and as directed by the Master, we poured the rose-water on the flowerbed in the small garden and pushed the lighted candles into the soil. Grief-stricken and with the utmost humility we stood as the Master chanted the Tablet of Visitation. As He chanted, as always tears flowed from His eyes. We all wept aloud with Him and when He retired to another room, we could not control our weeping... After He had gone we kept on praying in the Shrine.
"In the morning, we went to the pilgrim house situated on the ground floor of the Mansion,[1] had our own morning tea and rested for some time... Once again we went to the Shrine and prayed. Then we came <p187> out, had lunch and rested for a while. We all felt spiritually tired, our hearts were heavy and our thoughts agitated. We noticed the Covenant-breakers were actively moving around with a few non-Baha'is. It did not take long before we discovered their evil conspiracy designed to create a great upheaval for Us." [15-4]
[1 This was before the Covenant-breakers took over these rooms. See p. 175 above.]
In order to appreciate the seriousness of the events which would have disrupted the affairs of the community and placed Abdu'l-Baha's life in danger had the Covenant-breakers' plans materialized, we should note that when the Covenant-breakers realized that they were no longer in a position to take Mirza Aqa Jan's life, as he had sought asylum in the house of Abdu'l-Baha, they decided to exploit him instead for their own purposes. While he was living in the house of Abdu'l-Baha, the Covenant-breakers secretly established contact with him and together they made a plan of action against Abdu'l-Baha. Dr Yunis Khan writes the story:
"...The Covenant-breakers decided to take advantage of Mirza Aqa Jan's situation to create trouble and mischief [for Abdu'l-Baha]... They succeeded in establishing a secret link with him and urged him to help them in stirring up sedition among believers. They maintained communication with him, and, over a long period, devised a plan to create discord and disturbance within the community. Since Mirza Aqa Jan had been Baha'u'llah's amanuensis and had recorded the words of God as they were revealed, he was induced to arise and himself lay claim to divine revelation.
"As a result of their promptings, Mirza Aqa Jan, this ill-fated man, worked for a long time to prepare some writings. In these he claimed that in a dream he had attained the presence of Baha'u'llah and had become the recipient of divine revelation and inspiration. These writings contained passages which invoked the wrath of God upon certain believers and were intended to be delivered to them.
"Mirza Aqa Jan even claimed that he had received a Tablet from heaven written in green ink, in which he was commanded to save the Faith from the hands of infidels. The false accusations and calumnies with which he charged Abdu'l-Baha, the Centre of the Covenant, were much worse than those which Covenant-breakers had already brought against Him. It was arranged that on a certain day, which should be the time of revolt, Mirza Aqa Jan would hand all these papers written in the same style as his 'Revelation writings' to the Covenant-breakers who would then have them transcribed, as in the days of Baha'u'llah, in the handwriting of Mirza Majdu'd-Din[1], and disseminated among the Baha'is." [15-5]
[1 See above, pp. 164, 180.]
Dr Yunis Khan in his memoirs goes on to explain that the Covenant-breakers had decided to put their plans into operation on the day of the anniversary of the Ascension of Baha'u'llah. They <p188> knew that all the believers would then be assembled outside the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, and so they planned with Mirza Aqa Jan that he should speak openly against Abdu'l-Baha in that gathering, in order to create tension and unrest. At the same time the Covenant-breakers made arrangements for a certain Yahya Tabur Aqasi to be present on that day. He was a high-ranking government official hostile to Abdu'l-Baha; he was heavily bribed by the Covenant-breakers and was very friendly towards them. His function was to remain out of sight until the expected disturbances had broken out, when he and his men would appear on the scene and take action against the believers. He would then send a report against Abdu'l-Baha to the government authorities in Constantinople and request His banishment from the Holy Land. That would also give the Covenant-breakers the opportunity to take possession of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah which was in Abdu'l-Baha's custody.
We turn again to the memoirs of Dr Yunis Khan who describes the sequence of events which took place in the afternoon of that day:
"Having had afternoon tea, everyone was on the point of going to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, when we heard that Mirza Aqa Jan wished to speak and that there were chairs placed for us in front of the Mansion.
"This old man who was always prostrating himself at the feet of Abdu'l-Baha was now standing on a stool so that he might be seen by all... As he spoke I noticed that he was far from coherent and I waited to catch the import of his words, but eventually became frustrated... I could see that he was filled with fear and was trembling, but I could hear only a few words now and then, such as: 'As I prostrated myself, I fell asleep...' 'The Blessed Beauty told me...' 'This letter in green ink was handed to me...' 'Why are you sitting idle?' 'Why, why?' Having abstained from sleep the night before, and having now to listen to such ridiculous talk, I became impatient and left. Mirza Mahmud-i-Kashani, a resident believer, protested to Mirza Aqa Jan and soon there was an uproar." [15-6]
Dr Yunis Khan adds that just then, Mirza Ali-Akbar, son of Mishkin-Qalam and a steadfast believer, hurriedly ran to Abdu'l-Baha's room and informed Him of the incident. As soon as Abdu'l-Baha arrived with an angry countenance, Mirza Aqa Jan ran towards the Shrine and entered it shouting abuse, followed by the same Mirza Ali-Akbar who confronted him inside. In the course of some struggle which ensued between the two, a few bundles of paper consisting of Mirza Aqa Jan's writings, which had been tied around his waist and hidden inside his cloak, fell to the ground. By this time Abdu'l-Baha had entered the Shrine and ordered Mirza Ali-Akbar to take possession of the papers. These were written in Mirza Aqa Jan's hand, imitating the style of Baha'u'llah's writings in a wrathful tone. <p189> Addressed to many believers, they contained passages highly condemnatory of Abdu'l-Baha, attacking Him in most shameful language.
As a result of Abdu'l-Baha's presence, and as He went toward the Shrine, the believers followed Him and in absolute calm and with a sense of profound reverence stood outside. The hostile government officials headed by Yahya Tabur Aqasi, who were viewing these events from behind the windows of the room of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and waiting for a struggle to ensue between the Baha'is and the Covenant-breakers so that they could charge the former with disturbance of the peace, were disappointed, as were their fellow-conspirators.
After this event Mirza Aqa Jan openly threw in his lot with the Covenant-breakers and became one of their ablest supporters. Some time later, they arranged for him to reside in the very building of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. He lived there till his death in 1901. As a result of this reprehensible action enabling such a perfidious figure as Mirza Aqa Jan to live within the confines of the holiest spot on this earth, Abdu'l-Baha did not permit the faithful believers to enter the Shrine during this period. He Himself used to pray outside the Holy Precincts.
One of the most beautiful scenes depicting Abdu'l-Baha's profound humility, reverence and utter nothingness as He approached the Shrine of Baha'u'llah is described by Dr Yunis Khan in his memoirs. He recounts details of Abdu'l-Baha's visits to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah during the first few years after the Ascension of His beloved Father. Abdu'l-Baha had directed the believers to visit the Holy Shrine in the afternoons of Fridays and Sundays and He Himself often joined them. Arrangements were made for them to be taken from Akka to Bahji, usually in Abdu'l-Baha's two carriages[1] which made several journeys to transport the entire community. The Master Himself often used to walk the entire distance. When the believers had all assembled, they would be summoned by Abdu'l-Baha to enter the Shrine. One by one, with absolute devotion and in complete silence, they entered, while Abdu'l-Baha filled the palm of the hand of each person with rose-water, with which they refreshed themselves. When everyone had entered, Abdu'l-Baha would chant the Tablet of Visitation with such fervour and devotion that all hearts were uplifted and souls exhilarated.
[1 One larger carriage known as the 'American Carriage' could take up to nine, the other, only four.]
Dr Yunis Khan further describes that the visit to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah on Holy Days was much more ceremonious and was <p190> conducted with such dignity and spirituality that the inhabitants of Akka and the neighbouring towns were deeply touched by the devotion of the Baha'is. The government officials, judges and other dignitaries were so impressed with the spirit which animated the believers as they walked together toward the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, that they longed to join their procession and partake of the spiritual bounties which were conferred upon them by Abdu'l-Baha.
The following is a summary translation of Dr Yunis Khan's account:
"On the day of the Baha'i festivals, a large quantity of pots filled with flowers intended for the Shrine of Baha'u'llah were brought to the outer apartment of the house of Abdu'l-Baha. All the pilgrims and resident believers dressed in their best clothes would assemble outside the house at a certain time (usually about two hours before sunset, or at other times when the heat of the sun was not unbearable). The procession to the Shrine would then start. The believers walked two by two, each person carrying a flower-pot on his shoulder. In later years, because of the opposition of the Covenant-breakers, the procession would start outside the gate of the city of Akka where the flower-pots were also placed.
"While carrying a flower-pot on His shoulders, the Blessed Person of Abdu'l-Baha, like the commander of an army, walked sometimes in the front and sometimes beside the procession and issued various instructions on the way. Usually two or three people who had melodious voices were directed by Him to chant, one after the other, some poems of Baha'u'llah or other suitable verses related to a particular Baha'i festival which famous Baha'i poets had written. In this way, solemnly and with great dignity, they would walk slowly towards the Shrine of Baha'u'llah.
"As soon as that Holy Place became visible to the eye, all would halt at the behest of the Master ... while someone would chant a prayer. To what spiritual worlds one would be carried at this time is impossible for me to describe... As the believers approached the Shrine, the flower-pots were handed in, and another prayer chanted. Then all would retire to a room where refreshments would be served. When all had rested and refreshed themselves, they would be summoned by Abdu'l-Baha to enter the Shrine. The Tablet of Visitation would be chanted as usual by Abdu'l-Baha. Then the believers were allowed to sit down to chant prayers and Tablets..." [15-7]
Dr Yunis Khan mentions that it was when the Covenant-breakers intensified their attacks against the Cause that they took possession of the room on the ground floor of the Mansion where the believers usually assembled. As a result, the believers moved to a house (pilgrim house) near the Mansion where the same facilities were provided for them. He recounts that as time went on, the Master obtained about one hundred large copper vessels for carrying water. Thus the believers were enabled to take water from a nearby spring <p191> and carry the vessels on their shoulders to water the flower-beds which Abdu'l-Baha had made around the Shrine. He considered this service to be so meritorious that He Himself used to accompany the friends to the spring and carry a water-vessel on His own shoulder.
Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali recalls many scenes in which Abdu'l-Baha was seen to be carrying heavy vessels of water on His shoulder for watering the flowers and shrubs in the garden around the Shrine. So strenuous was this task for the Master that sweat could be seen pouring from His face as He carried this heavy burden. The same chronicler has recounted that on several occasions, He was seen gathering soil, placing it inside His cloak and carrying the load on His shoulders to where He was making some flower-beds in the small garden He had created with His own hands in order to beautify the approaches to the Holy Shrine.
Dr Habib Mu'ayyad, another faithful secretary of Abdu'l-Baha, writes in his memoirs that when a few years later a mechanical pump was installed in the garden near the Shrine, Abdu'l-Baha used to pump water from the well with His own hands. Dr Mu'ayyad recalls that on a certain day in 1914, Abdu'l-Baha, who was then seventy years of age, moved the handle of the pump for 19 minutes non-stop and stored a great deal of water for later use in the gardens!
Returning to the story of Mirza Aqa Jan, we have noted that as long as he used the building of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah as his residence, the Master did not allow the believers to enter it. Instead of praying inside the Shrine, Abdu'l-Baha, accompanied by the believers, would stand outside in the small garden and chant the Tablet of Visitation, following which Abdu'l-Baha and the believers would sit on the ground near the Shrine and recite prayers. But Mirza Aqa Jan, who was a very vulgar man, often caused a disturbance for those who had assembled to pray. Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, recalling one of those occasions when Abdu'l-Baha together with a large number of believers, including Haji himself, had gone to pray at the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, recounts the following story:
"After saying the Tablet of Visitation and circumambulating the Holy Shrine, the Master, in great humility and self-effacement sat on the ground outside, and the friends sat in rows behind Him. As Mirza Mahmud-i-Kashani[1] began to chant a prayer, Mirza Aqa Jan, wearing a white shroud, ran out of the Shrine bare-headed and bare-foot muttering some words and like a drunkard staggering to the right and to the left, came toward us. As he walked in the middle of the rows where we were sitting, one of the Covenant-breakers came by the order of the Centre of Sedition [Mirza Muhammad-'Ali] and took him away. When he left him, <p192> Mirza Aqa Jan came back again. The same person took him away for the second time. These comings and goings were repeated five or six times. At the end, the order was issued from the same Source of Sedition to hold him in front of the Shrine. Thereupon, Mirza Aqa Jan, turning his face toward the assembled friends, began to hurl unspeakable insults at them in loud and offensive language." [15-8]
[1 An old and faithful companion of Abdu'l-Baha.]
In his memoirs, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali quotes some of the words which this notorious man had shouted at the top of his voice in the presence of Abdu'l-Baha, words which were not only vulgar and offensive but which were blasphemous in relation to Baha'u'llah whom He had served for almost forty years. Such a man was honoured and respected by the Covenant-breakers and was regarded as one of their best agents for fomenting discord and spreading sedition within the community. <p193>
Discrediting the Centre of the Covenant
As Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's campaign of discrediting Abdu'l-Baha in the eyes of the Baha'is gathered momentum, he began to direct his attention to the non-Baha'i public, fertile ground for spreading false accusations against Him. It was much easier to poison the minds of those who, although they knew the Master, were not spiritually close to Him. The Covenant-breakers invented several stories of different kinds and began to propagate them among influential people, those who held important positions in Akka and neighbouring towns. Thus they completely disregarded the interests of the Faith they claimed to believe in, and acted in a manner that clearly demonstrated their disbelief in Baha'u'llah and their denunciation of His Cause.
One of the most shameful pieces of propaganda was their accusation that Abdu'l-Baha had cut off their livelihood by withholding funds and provisions to which they were entitled. Nothing could have been further from the truth. As has been stated before, Abdu'l-Baha used to send to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali a great part of the funds which He received from the believers in Persia. He also had made ample arrangements for all members of Baha'u'llah's family to receive food and other provisions, amounting to many times more than their needs. Whereas the Master and His family lived a life of austerity, His unfaithful brothers and the rest of Baha'u'llah's family lived luxuriously in the Mansion of Bahji. Despite all this, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his younger brothers used to complain to people that they were destitute and their families on the verge of starvation.
It must be remembered that in all the years that Abdu'l-Baha lived in Akka no one except a few enemies had ever doubted His exalted character, His magnanimity, His loving kindness and generosity towards the inhabitants of the Holy Land in general and Akka in particular. He was a compassionate father to all, a refuge for the poor, a true guide for the rich and a wise counsellor for the rulers of the land. But now because of the falsehoods invented by the <p194> Covenant-breakers, people who were hitherto great admirers of Abdu'l-Baha became at first confused and in the course of time when similar accusations were repeated, became disillusioned and lost their faith and confidence in Him altogether.
In order to deceive people into believing that he had become destitute, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali used to send his sons, dressed in rags, to the homes of important people where they begged for money. They pretended that they did not have even a loaf of bread in their home and that the whole family was on the verge of starvation. In spite of the fact that they were living a life of luxury due to the care and protection of Abdu'l-Baha, they were yet accusing Him of withholding their source of livelihood. Dr Yunis Khan tells an interesting story, summarised below:
"One of the deceitful schemes contrived by Covenant-breakers after the ascension of Baha'u'llah was that, on the one hand, they placed a great financial burden on Abdu'l-Baha by receiving exorbitant sums of money from Him, and on the other, claimed poverty, destitution and hunger. At the same time they spread false rumours among the believers (in Persia) that some of Abdu'l-Baha's companions had stolen His seals, with which they were issuing receipts for Huququ'llah[1] and pocketing the proceeds. The Master often told us that the Covenant-breakers had done this so that the believers might stop sending funds and cause financial hardships for Him.
[1 For information about Huququ'llah, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4.]
"Their claims of poverty however, became so serious ... that eventually they began to beg. They continued in carrying out this shameful practice of begging from people both high and low, and consequently they brought about great degradation for the Cause of God... Whenever they received a gift of money from the Master they would intensify their begging operation. When the news of such activities reached Abdu'l-Baha, He would usually be overcome with grief and sorrow. To cite an example:
"One afternoon, when a number of visitors and resident believers had assembled in the Biruni [outer apartment] of the house of Abdu'l-Baha, a certain respectable Shaykh (his name I do not recall) arrived. He was well known to the Master and trusted by Him. He was held in high esteem by the people of Syria and Palestine and was a successful merchant in these regions. Since he was a pious man, he had been appointed by the Ottoman government as the Mufti of Akka, and was a centre of attention to all the people. He sat next to the Master and after a brief exchange of greetings he began to convey some information to Abdu'l-Baha by whispering into His ear.
"At this time everyone was silently gazing upon the face of the Master. His countenance displayed various modes of expression -- anger, astonishment and a mild smile. When the whispering came to an end, Abdu'l-Baha ... asked the Shaykh to recount his story to the assembled friends <p195> ... which he did in these words: 'A certain honoured person [one of the dignitaries known to the Master] came to see me in my office this morning... I noticed he was very sad and depressed... After much persuasion on my part he said: "A person [Abdu'l-Baha] whom up to now I considered to be equal to a Prophet of God is, today, in my sight ..." He did not finish the sentence.
"'After much insistence on my part, promising that I should keep his story confidential, he continued: "Today I met Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. He complained bitterly about his brother, Abbas Effendi.[1] He told me many stories which deeply surprised and saddened me... This poor man is now destitute... He is in need of daily bread. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali told me that his children were today crying for a piece of bread and he could not provide for them... I was so shaken and upset hearing Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's story that I was about to give him some money, but decided instead to send him some wheat..."
[1 Abdu'l-Baha.]
"'When his story was finished, not wishing to disclose to my friend that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had a credit account with me, and that I keep his money for him in my bank, I said to him, "There is no need for you to send wheat or other provisions. Please go and tell Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that he can come to me for funds up to a thousand Liras." My friend, who did not understand me, said, "Mirza Muhammad-'Ali is a respectable person, he will never beg for money."
"Realizing that my friend could not see that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had been lying to him, I decided to disclose to him the true situation. I said to him, "Please go to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and tell him that the Shaykh says that he should take a fraction of the sixty Liras he received the other day from his office and purchase some bread for his children." My friend still could not understand, he said, "If Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had even a piece of bread to eat, he would not have come to me in such a state of degradation and humility." At this point I opened my safe and showed him a cheque which bore Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's signature and which I had cashed for him only the day before. I said, "Now that you have seen the cheque with his signature go and tell Mirza Muhammad-'Ali that he should be ashamed of himself feigning poverty and resorting to beggary. Tell him that no one will be deceived by his imposture."
"'Upon seeing the cheque, my friend was stunned. He was overcome by an inner agitation which showed itself outwardly in his face. He was so highly disturbed that for a few minutes he remained speechless. Then, with tears flowing down his face, he said, 'What a fool I have been. I was deceived by this Satan, and uttered some disparaging remarks about my Lord. Now how can I atone for this transgression." He then asked me to come here and beg forgiveness for him, saying "I will go myself later to the presence of Abdu'l-Baha and will kiss the hem of His garment."'[1]
[1 This action signifies the expression of the utmost humility toward a person.]
"Before leaving us, the Shaykh said to Abdu'l-Baha: 'My Lord, in this world you have no enemy except Your own brother.' <p196>
"When the Shaykh departed, the Master spoke about the Covenant-breakers and said that they had girded up their loins for the extinction of the Cause of God. He spoke in this vein for a short time and when He saw that the friends were all becoming sad, He changed the subject and with His soul-stirring utterances, He gave us the glad tidings of the ascendency of the Cause of God in the future. He categorically stated that ere long these dark clouds would be dispersed, the domain of the Covenant-breakers would be rolled up, and assured us that the Cause of God would not become the plaything of children. He told us to ponder upon the activities of the Covenant-breakers. Because of their enmity toward Him, they go through so much degradation and abasement, appear in the guise of beggars, and solicit alms for themselves. Yet, they have achieved nothing except to bring upon themselves further humiliation and dishonour." [16-1]
There are innumerable accounts left by Abdu'l-Baha's friends describing similar activities by the Covenant-breakers. Haji Ali Yazdi[1 ] who was one of the resident Baha'is in Akka during the days of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha and lived long to serve the Cause of God during Shoghi Effendi's ministry, recounts a similar story. He writes:
[1 See above, p. 184.]
"One day when the Master received from Adasiyyih a large quantity of wheat, the annual income from a certain property, He sent it all to the Mansion of Bahji, but Mirza Muhammad-'Ali returned it to Him. At the same time, he sent a petition to the local government complaining that Abdu'l-Baha owed him his share of the annual income of that same property which he had earlier refused to accept, and pleaded with the authorities to intervene so that he could remedy a serious shortage of food in his household.
"This ignoble action was so manifestly provocative that even some of his supporters warned him that government intervention would harm the Cause. He is reported to have said, 'Which harm is greater, this one or Abdu'l-Baha's claim that He is a Manifestation of God, that Baha'u'llah and the Bab are His forerunners, and that He is determined to eliminate the Cause of Baha'u'llah and establish instead His own Cause and new teachings?'
"This petition was sent purely to humiliate the Master. The officer in charge sent for Abdu'l-Baha and acquainted Him of His brother's claim. Whereupon, Abdu'l-Baha summoned Aqa Rida Qannad who was in charge of His domestic affairs and who in the presence of the officer produced the books and determined the full annual income, which amounted to five hundred and twenty Liras. It was further determined that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's share was only eighty Liras. But Abdu'l-Baha informed the officer that upon getting a receipt from Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, He would be glad to pay him the full amount of five <p197> hundred and twenty Liras to be transferred to him through the government officer. A messenger was sent by the officer to inform Mirza Muhammad-'Ali of the offer and to ask him to sign the document.
"A day later, Abdu'l-Baha was again invited to the government office and handed a receipt, which, although it was issued by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, bore a signature which had no resemblance to his. Abdu'l-Baha refused to accept it and the officer in charge rebuked the messenger and ordered him to return to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and get a genuine signature this time. When the document arrived a second time Abdu'l-Baha was again invited to the office. Again it was the same story. The signature was not genuine. This time the officer became very angry because of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's deceitful action. He apologized to Abdu'l-Baha and offered to sign the receipt himself and send the money to its recipient -- an offer which was accepted by Him."
All these things were done to inflict humiliation upon the Master and to hurt Him as much as possible. For many years the Covenant-breakers carried out this type of campaign to discredit Abdu'l-Baha, not knowing that falsehood can never survive and that the power of truth will prevail in the end. Of course, the Cause of God became victorious through the potency of the Covenant, and the Covenant-breakers by their actions extinguished their own spiritual life. But in the meantime, until they finally became impotent, they created a great disturbance within the community. Not satisfied with sowing the seeds of disunity among the Baha'is, not content with spreading falsehood among the inhabitants of Akka and the neighbouring lands, they took their tales of woe to foreign nationals too. Disguised as paupers, they claimed to have been treated cruelly by Abdu'l-Baha.
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 several years in the Holy Land. Mrs Oliphant, a staunch Christian committed to the defence of the Christian 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-Baha 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-Baha. 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-Baha might serve as ammunition in her opposition to the Faith and to the Master as its Head. And this is exactly the way it happened. <p198>
The following few passages gleaned from Mrs Oliphant's book show the extent to which the calumnies and falsehoods which Mirza Badi'u'llah had uttered played into the hands of its author, who used them to discredit the Cause of Baha'u'llah.
"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 peculiar...
"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." [16-2]
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-Baha, the perfect Exemplar of the teachings of Baha'u'llah and a stainless Mirror reflecting His light, established a noble example for man to follow in this Dispensation. These disparaging remarks about the Master, whose virtuous life of service to humanity has been acclaimed by friends 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.
Another act of treachery which that prime mover of mischief Mirza Muhammad-'Ali perpetrated soon after the defection of Mirza Aqa Jan was the drawing up of an official indictment against Abdu'l-Baha replete with preposterous accusations. This he did with the help of Tabur Aqasi,[1] the chief of police whom he had bribed heavily. The case was taken to a court in Akka; there were five main complaints which the sons of Baha'u'llah lodged against Abdu'l-Baha. They claimed that:
[1 See above pp. 188-9.]
1. Baha'u'llah was only a holy man who did not claim to be a prophet. He spent His time in seclusion, prayer and meditation, <p199> whereas Abdu'l-Baha for political ends had exalted the station of His Father to that of a Supreme Manifestation of God, and of the Essence of Divinity.
2. Abdu'l-Baha did not deal with them in accordance with the provisions of Baha'u'llah's Will and Testament.
3. They had been deprived of their right to inherit a vast estate left behind by their Father, Baha'u'llah.
4. None of the gifts or funds which were sent in the name of Baha'u'llah were given to them.
5. Abdu'l-Baha had caused thousands of their friends in Persia and India to turn against them and shun their company.
Such reckless action by members of Baha'u'llah's family against the Cause which they privately claimed to uphold, whose Author they knew was not just a 'holy man', but One who had proclaimed His mission to the kings and rulers of the world as the Promised One of all ages, exposes the hypocrisy of the Covenant-breakers, their treachery and their utter faithlessness in the Cause of God. These characteristics are true of the Covenant-breakers of the past, present and future. They are cut off from the tree of the Cause and as such are devoid of faith and spiritual life. They never shirk from employing any means, however degrading and nefarious, to undermine the foundations of the Cause and rob the believers of their faith.
In taking his case to court, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali never imagined that in defence of the Cause Abdu'l-Baha would go so far as to read aloud the contents of the Kitab-i-'Ahd, Baha'u'llah's Will and Testament, in the courtroom. By reading parts of this momentous document, Abdu'l-Baha made it clear that the station of Baha'u'llah was not merely that of a 'holy man' who spent His time in prayer and meditation. Rather, he was the Lord of all men calling the peoples of the world to carry out His teachings and exhorting them to unity and fellowship.
It is reported that in the presence of the officials Abdu'l-Baha openly declared His own position as the Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah, the Promoter of His Cause and the Interpreter of His teachings, the One to whom the Aghsan, the Afnan, the kindred of Baha'u'llah and all the believers must turn. He explained that since the Covenant-breakers had arisen against Him they had violated the provisions of Baha'u'llah's Will, and consequently the believers had cut off their relationship with them. He is reported to have told the officials that for four years He had not disclosed their rebellion to the believers, but that the Covenant-breakers themselves had announced to the Baha'i world their opposition to Him and had thereby cut themselves off from the Baha'i community. <p200>
He refuted the other claims of His brothers just as forcefully Quoting the Kitab-i-'Ahd, He demonstrated that they were not entitled to receive any of the Funds of the Faith which were donated by the believers, for Baha'u'llah in that document states: '...God hath not granted them any right to the property of others'. On the question of inheritance, Abdu'l-Baha stated that Baha'u'llah had lived a life of austerity and had left no estate for anyone to inherit. He is reported to have quoted the celebrated passage from the Kitab-i-'Ahd, 'Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added such cares as they entail. By God! in earthly riches fear is hidden and peril is concealed.'
However, Abdu'l-Baha confirmed that there were two priceless items in Baha'u'llah's possession -- one a rare copy of the Qur'an and the other a set of prayer beads -- and that both these items of inestimable value had been seen by a few dignitaries of Akka. These two unique possessions of Baha'u'llah had been taken by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and were kept by him. These and other personal effects of Baha'u'llah such as His garments were distributed by him to various officials to serve as chattels of bribery and at the same time provide a means of humiliating Abdu'l-Baha. For Mirza Muhammad-'Ali knew that the Master considered Baha'u'llah's personal belongings to be sacred and that they should be preserved with reverence. Therefore, in order to hurt Abdu'l-Baha, he gave Baha'u'llah's prayer beads to one of the enemies of the Faith and persuaded him to try to show them to Him. It is reported that one day this man showed the beads to Abdu'l-Baha and asked Him if He could put a price on them, to which He responded that their value depended on who was using them.
On another occasion Mirza Muhammad-'Ali gave Baha'u'llah's cloak and a pair of His spectacles to the Deputy Governor of Haifa as a bribe and urged him to wear them when he visited the Master. This he did, and appeared before Abdu'l-Baha brazenly spectacled and wearing Baha'u'llah's cloak. Soon afterwards however, this man was dismissed from his post and met with some misfortune. He then went to Abdu'l-Baha, begged forgiveness for his shameful behaviour and confessed that he had been urged by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali to act as he did. Abdu'l-Baha showered His kindness and generosity upon him, and helped him to resolve his difficulties. This was always Abdu'l-Baha's way -- to extend a helping hand with all His love to those enemies who had wronged Him and inflicted sufferings upon Him. The above episode of the court case was widely publicized and once again the Covenant-breakers were frustrated in their actions and failed to humiliate the Master. <p201>
Abdu'l-Baha in Action
While all these calumnies were circulating in Akka and the neighbouring areas, Abdu'l-Baha, through His exemplary life, dispelled the gloom resulting from the falsehoods which had been surrounding the community of the Most Great Name. During this time, when He Himself was the target of dire afflictions and sufferings, He cast upon everyone around Him the light of truth, of divine virtues and spiritual teachings.
Although we can never understand the reality of Baha'u'llah, the Manifestation of God, or of Abdu'l-Baha, the Most Great Mystery of God and the Centre of His Covenant, we can observe some of their superhuman characteristics. Unlike a human being whose mind can only deal with one subject at a time, Abdu'l-Baha, who had all the powers of Baha'u'llah conferred upon Him, was free from this limitation. Usually a person becomes overwhelmed when afflicted by sufferings or faced with insurmountable obstacles. Under such circumstances even men of outstanding ability show their weakness and reveal their human frailty. They try to cope with one problem at a time, and they often seek the help of experts and advisors to help them make a decision.
Not so with Abdu'l-Baha. In the first place He acted independently, for no individual was qualified to advise or assist Him in His manifold activities. His soul was not bound by the limitations of the world of humanity, and His mind was not overwhelmed when faced with a host of problems simultaneously. In the midst of calamities, when the ablest of men would have succumbed to pressure, He remained detached, while directing His attention to whatever He desired. This is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the Manifestation of God and His Chosen Ones. Baha'u'llah has explained this in the Kitab-i-Iqan, quoting the celebrated Islamic passage: 'Nothing whatsoever keepeth Him from being occupied with any other thing.'[1]
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 1, pp. 262-3 and below, p. 206.] <p202>
Although the Manifestations of God and these specially chosen ones such as Abdu'l-Baha feel the agony of sufferings inflicted on them by their enemies, and their human nature experiences pain both mental and physical, their souls are not affected by any man-made affliction. They abide in a realm far beyond the ken of mortal men, and wield the spiritual sceptre of authority and power with which they rule over humanity. These powers are at first hidden from the eyes of most people, but with the passage of time humanity observes the influence of their word and the spread of their Faith.
Thus we observe that at a time when Abdu'l-Baha was suffering grievously at the hands of the Covenant-breakers and was continually confronted by the implacable enmity of His unfaithful brothers, He was occupied day and night with the promotion of the Cause throughout the world. Unaffected by the onslaught of the Covenant-breakers, His love and encouragement continued to be showered in great profusion upon the believers in both the East and the West. No amount of opposition was capable of deterring Him from His purpose. At a time when He was being attacked on every side by the Covenant-breakers, and the believers were dispirited and disconsolate, He cheered the friends, strengthened their faith, assured them of the invincibility of the Covenant and widened their vision to see the greatness of the Cause and its ultimate victory.
Abdu'l-Baha's trusted secretary and confidant Dr Yunis Khan has left to posterity his reminiscences of the Master during this most turbulent period of His Ministry. The following is a summary translation of his celebrated memoirs.
"In those days when the showers of sedition and conspiracy were raining down, and the storms of tests and trials were blowing with fury, a fierce hurricane was raging around the Ark of the Cause of God. But it was the Centre of the Covenant who was at the helm. Through the potency of His words and the authority of His directives, He was navigating the Sacred Ark toward the shores of salvation. The sway of His pen and the influence of His utterances were both means whereby He was guiding the people to the highway of blissfulness and prosperity. In the same way that the traces of His pen are imprinted for all time upon the pages of His Tablets, His blessed words were engraved upon the hearts of those who were privileged to hear Him and their recollections were transmitted from heart to heart. His utterances in those days were as varied as His Writings.
"In His talks He often used to share with us many glad tidings of the future progress of the Cause of God. He likened our days of anguish and sadness to the early days of Christianity and Islam which had also been very turbulent; but these religions were later exalted in the land. Similarly, He assured us in clear terms of the ascendancy and victory of <p203> the Cause of Baha'u'llah... His utterances on the future of the Cause were delivered with eloquence and effectiveness and were imbued with a power and authority born of the heavenly realms such that they penetrated the depths of our hearts. Our souls were so assured and uplifted that we, His hearers, did not have to imagine forthcoming events. Rather, we found ourselves experiencing all the bountiful happenings of the future. The eternal glory and ultimate successes of the Cause of God were so vividly portrayed by Him that the passage of time was irrelevant, for we saw the past, present and the future at the same time. All of this was because the promises of the Master concerning the ascendancy of the Cause were absolutely clear, explicit and irrevocable... Now [after a few decades] many of the prophecies of Abdu'l-Baha have already been fulfilled, for instance who could ever have imagined that the small village of Haifa would become, within so short a period, as foreshadowed by Abdu'l-Baha, a great city and an important port..." [17-1]
Dr Yunis Khan describes how Abdu'l-Baha, in the midst of intense suffering at the hand of the Covenant-breakers, earnestly prayed that yet more suffering and hardship might descend upon Him. As tribulations increased, His desire to bear them increased correspondingly. He often used to speak about illustrious martyrs such as Varqa, and then, in a joyous and excited tone, He would express His heartfelt desire to lay down His life in the path of Baha'u'llah. So moving were His words that all His loved ones who heard Him were overcome with emotion, their souls uplifted and their hearts filled with a new spirit of sacrifice in their readiness to follow in the footsteps of their Beloved.
Another of Abdu'l-Baha's exhortations, according to Dr Yunis Khan, concerned the ordinance of teaching the Faith versus steadfastness in the Covenant. Of course, teaching the Cause of God is the most meritorious of all deeds and is described by Him as 'the head corner-stone of the foundation itself'. Teaching the Cause is the primary and the most vital duty of a believer. Yet during those perilous times when the Covenant-breakers were actively engaged in spreading their venomous propaganda within the community, and were trying with all their power to break up the unity of the Baha'is, the Master advised the believers that deepening the friends in the subject of the Covenant and assisting them to remain firm in their faith took precedence over teaching. He explained that Baha'u'llah had ordained that when serving the Faith one must act with wisdom, taking into consideration the particular circumstances existing at a given time.
He likened the work of the friends in those days to that of building a house while the Covenant-breakers were trying to raze it to the ground. In such circumstances, instead of adding another storey to <p204> the house, all efforts must be directed to the protection of the structure itself. He assured those who were privileged to hear Him of the advent of a day when the foundation of the Cause of God would be secure and safe, and promised that when that time came He would direct the believers to engage once again in actively teaching the Cause of God.
During those turbulent years when the Covenant-breakers were engaged in making mischief in the Holy Land, the believers' only refuge was the shelter of Abdu'l-Baha's presence. He could be likened to a vast ocean at whose shores His loved ones gathered in order to receive a portion of its life-giving waters. Each believer received his share in accordance with his capacity. Some who had come empty-handed merely enjoyed seeing that vast and fathomless ocean. Others who had more capacity had come with a vessel in hand, and each one received a draught of the water of life. Still others, yet unsatisfied, immersed themselves in that ocean and found some of the inestimable pearls of wisdom and knowledge which lay concealed in its depths.
That ocean -- the person of Abdu'l-Baha -- appeared in various forms on different occasions. At times it was calm, at others surging with mighty waves. When it was calm, every beholder would find himself in a state of joy and tranquillity. When its billowing waves surged, it cast gems of inestimable value upon the shores. At such times, the utterances of Abdu'l-Baha captivated the hearts of His loved ones, who were carried away into spiritual realms utterly oblivious of their own selves and wholly devoted to Him. The effect of the presence of Abdu'l-Baha upon the believers cannot be adequately explained by the above analogy. Suffice it to say that the pure in heart who attained His presence were transformed into a new creation; they became spiritual giants who championed the Cause of the Covenant and defended it with heroism and sacrifice.
Dr Yunis Khan in his memoirs asserts that the mere glance of Abdu'l-Baha upon a believer released mysterious forces which at times were capable of transforming the life of the individual. This is a summary of his observations as he describes the various effects of the Master's glances:
"One glance, which thankfully did not appear except on rare occasions was that of wrath and anger. It reflected the wrath of God from which one had to flee for refuge to Him...
"There was a glance of love and compassion which was evident at all times. It conferred life and brought joy to everyone...
"Another glance was that which enchanted the hearts and attracted the souls. I observed many a time in the narrow and dark streets of Akka, that with one look, the strangers were so attracted to Abdu'l-Baha as to <p205> follow Him until He dismissed them. This particular glance has many aspects which I am not in a position to describe...
"There was a glance by which He expressed His satisfaction and pleasure to a person, as if to say, 'I am pleased with you.' This glance was shown to both the obedient and the rebellious.
"Another glance was one which released great spiritual potency. If ever He cast such a glance upon a person, that person's greatest wish would have been granted, if he so desired. But who is it that in such an atmosphere could have any desire other than to seek the good-pleasure of His Lord? I myself have seen this type of a glance many a time. In this mood, one longs for sufferings in the path of God. And, some like Varqa have, under the influence of this glance, gone to the field of martyrdom.[1]
[1 For a story of his life see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4.]
"There was a glance through which a person realized that all that was hidden in his heart, whether of the past or of the future, was known to the Master.
"Above all, there was a glance which, if ever it was directed to an individual, caused that individual to become the recipient of knowledge and understanding. At one time we all saw two believers who were enchanted by this glance and became the possessors of divine knowledge. One was Fadil-i-Shirazi,[1] the other Shaykh Ali-Akbar-i-Quchani..."[2] [17-2]
[1 An outstanding teacher of the Faith.]
[2 He was martyred during Abdu'l-Baha's Ministry.]
It can be seen from these reminiscences that the person of Abdu'l-Baha strengthened the faith of His loved ones who attained His presence through the spiritual powers conferred upon Him by Baha'u'llah, and thus enabled them to withstand the onslaught of the Covenant-breakers. This privilege was the experience of those believers who were resident in the Holy Land and the pilgrims who arrived from time to time. But the great majority of the friends who were living in other parts of the world received their spiritual sustenance from the Master through the innumerable Tablets which flowed from His pen.
Again we turn to Dr Yunis Khan's memoirs for a glimpse of the manner in which Abdu'l-Baha wrote Tablets or dictated them in the presence of the believers.
"There are various accounts by Baha'i pilgrims and visitors concerning the revelation of Tablets by Abdu'l-Baha. Some have said that at the time of revelation their souls were transported into realms of the spirit while their whole beings were shaking with excitement. Others have testified that they saw with their own eyes that while the Master was entertaining believers and non-believers and speaking to them in Turkish He was, at the same time, dictating His Tablets in Arabic and the secretary was taking down His words. Some have said that they saw the Master Himself writing Tablets in Arabic while speaking in Turkish to the <p206> friends. Others have seen Him writing a Tablet in His own hand in Persian, while at the same time dictating one to His secretary in Arabic. Some speak of the unusual speed of His writing as well as the majesty of His utterances. There are no exaggerations in the above statements. Each person has described his observations in accordance with his own understanding...
"The revelation of Tablets had a greater effect on the believers than other experiences in the presence of Abdu'l-Baha. His Tablets were written in the following manner. Whenever Abdu'l-Baha was freed from His various daily engagements, He summoned Mirza Nuru'd'Din, His secretary, and began dictating to him. At times He would simultaneously review the Tablets previously revealed, inscribed and ready for His signature. It was on such occasions that He wrote and dictated at the same time. He was truly the embodiment of the verse: 'Nothing whatsoever keepeth Him from being occupied with any other thing.' There was no thought or action which could distract Him.
"As the revelation of Tablets continued, the believers, who were usually gathered in the room below, or in the Pilgrim House, or walking in the streets of Akka, were all eager to attain the presence of the Master and hear His words as He dictated to His secretary in answer to letters He had received. When summoned, they would arrive and be seated. After greeting them lovingly, the revelation of Tablets would begin. Sometimes He would dictate in a loud, clear voice, sometimes He would chant His dictation in the same melodious voice as He chanted the Tablet of Visitation at the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. As a result of this marvellous experience, those present were immersed in the sea of astonishment. Some would find that their questions were answered, and some learned a lesson from this heavenly experience. As the revelation of the Tablets continued, all became exhilarated and turned their hearts and souls to the Kingdom on high.
"But alas, such meetings of fellowship and love would often be interrupted by visiting strangers. The house of the Master was open to all. There being no guards posted at the gate, people would come in. If the new arrivals were not antagonistic toward the Faith and were worthy to listen to the exalted words of the Master, then after welcoming them and showing His loving kindness to each one, He would resume dictating His words to His secretary. But if they were not worthy, or if they overcrowded the room, the Master dismissed the believers and dealt with the situation as He deemed proper. This was how Abdu'l-Baha dictated to His secretary.
"But most of the time He wrote the Tablets with His own hand in the circumstances described above. Whenever He was free, He would take the pen and begin to write. But as He did not wish the believers who were assembled in the room to become tired or bored, He would talk to them while He was writing... As others arrived, He would welcome each and shower upon all His loving kindness, and yet His pen was moving. Occasionally he would read aloud what He was writing. There were also periods of silence. The Master, as He continued to write, often <p207> broke the silence saying: 'Talk among yourselves, I will be able to hear you.' However, the believers were so carried away by His peerless Beauty that they would remain silent.
"Only the new arrivals, those who had not been invited, such as some Arab Shaykh, or an Ottoman dignitary, would break the silence. After the usual greetings and words of welcome which befitted the guests, the pen of Abdu'l-Baha would begin to move while He conversed with them. Whenever there was silence, He would ask the newly arrived guest to broach a subject and discuss it together. Then He Himself entered the conversation... Sometimes the guests conducted heated arguments and yet throughout the noise and clamour they created, the Master's Pen kept on moving on His Tablets...
"My purpose in describing the revelation of the Tablets in detail is to enable the people to appreciate the manner in which these Tablets, which uplift the souls and exhilarate the hearts, were written under such difficult and trying circumstances. Another amazing aspect of these Tablets is that it was not only the believers, who heard the Master reciting them, who were inspired, but also the deniers and mischief-makers, who were deeply moved and humbled by this experience." [17-3] <p208>
Covenant-breaking in Persia
Soon after the ascension of Baha'u'llah, when Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's rebellion became known in private circles within the family, secret contacts were established between him and a number of eminent teachers of the Faith in Persia, those who were corrupt and ambitious individuals and who lusted for leadership in the community. Thus, from the very start, the Arch-breaker of the Covenant sowed the seeds of dissension in the hearts of those who were egotistical by nature and were disposed to disloyalty and faithlessness. Some among these misguided people played their part very well in that for a number of years they did not disclose to anyone their true intentions. They mingled with the faithful believers and posed as loyal defenders of the Covenant.
Notorious among them was Jamal-i-Burujirdi, the most prominent among the Covenant-breakers in Persia. It will be helpful for the study of the spread of Covenant-breaking in Persia to dwell at some length on the infamous life of this man who considered himself the chief representative of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali in that country.[1]
[1 We have already told the stories of Jamal-i-Burujirdi and Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji in The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 2; a certain amount of repetition is inevitable here.]
Before embracing the Faith during the Ministry of Baha'u'llah, Jamal was an accomplished Muslim clergyman. He was knowledgeable, a notable orator. When he accepted the Faith, he did not relinquish those practices which were characteristic of the Muslim clergy. For instance, he continued to wear cleric's robes, and never gave up the trait of superiority and pride which had been ingrained upon his character in his former days. He continued his customary Islamic practice of making his hands available for those believers who would wish to kiss them. He used to explain that although Baha'u'llah had forbidden the kissing of hands in this Dispensation, Jamal had decided that in the circumstances prevailing at the time, such a practice would be conducive to the exaltation of the Cause! Yet, in spite of all this, when he entered the Faith, the believers in <p209> Persia gathered around him, for he was a man of learning and knowledge.
It must be understood that in those days the people of Persia -- most of whom were illiterate -- were brought up to follow the clergy. In Islamic countries, men of learning were highly revered by the masses. There is no clergy in the Faith of Baha'u'llah, but He has exhorted His followers to honour the truly learned in the Cause, those whose knowledge and learning have not become the cause of pride and self-glorification.
No doubt it is concerning such people that Baha'u'llah has revealed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas:
"Happy are ye, O ye the learned ones in Baha. By the Lord! Ye are the billows of the Most Mighty Ocean, the stars of the firmament of Glory, the standards of triumph waving betwixt earth and heaven. Ye are the manifestations of steadfastness amidst men and the daysprings of Divine Utterance to all that dwell on earth. Well is it with him that turneth unto you and woe betide the froward." [18-1]
A person who is truly learned in the Faith is one who reaches such heights of detachment that he sincerely regards his learning as utter nothingness compared with the truths of the Cause of God. He becomes the embodiment of humility and self-effacement. Unfortunately Jamal did not fall into this category of 'the learned ones in Baha'; he was a deceitful and hypocritical man who longed for glory. Yet the great majority of the believers did not realize this; they considered him a man of God and treated him with great respect.
Till the end of His earthly life Baha'u'llah showered His bounties upon Jamal. He concealed his faults and shortcomings and instead exhorted him to righteousness and piety. In one of His Tablets, [18-2] Baha'u'llah explains that through His attribute 'the Concealer', He has concealed the faults and shortcomings of many deceitful men, who, as a result, have thought that the Manifestation of God was ignorant of their evil deeds. These men did not realize that, through the knowledge of God, Baha'u'llah was fully aware of their wrongdoings. The sin-covering eye of God did not disclose their iniquities, and only when they were about to rise up against the Centre of the Cause and involve themselves in activities which harmed the Faith, did Baha'u'llah expel them from the community of the Most Great Name.
In a Tablet to a certain Muhammad-'Ali, Baha'u'llah reveals these exalted words:
"I swear by the beauty of the Well-Beloved! This is the Mercy that hath encompassed the entire creation, the Day whereon the grace of God hath permeated and pervaded all things. The living waters of My mercy, O <p210> Ali, are fast pouring down, and Mine heart is melting with the heat of My tenderness and love. At no time have I been able to reconcile Myself to the afflictions befalling My loved ones, or to any trouble that could becloud the joy of their hearts.
"Every time My name 'the All-Merciful' was told that one of My lovers hath breathed a word that runneth counter to My wish, it repaired, grief-stricken and disconsolate to its abode; and whenever My name 'the Concealer' discovered that one of My followers had inflicted any shame or humiliation on his neighbour, it, likewise, turned back chagrined and sorrowful to its retreats of glory, and there wept and mourned with a sore lamentation. And whenever My name 'the Ever-Forgiving' perceived that any one of My friends had committed any transgression, it cried out in its great distress, and, overcome with anguish, fell upon the dust, and was borne away by a company of the invisible angels to its habitation in the realms above.
"By Myself, the True One, O Ali! The fire that hath inflamed the heart of Baha is fiercer than the fire that gloweth in thine heart, and His lamentation louder than thy lamentation. Every time the sin committed by any one amongst them was breathed in the Court of His Presence, the Ancient Beauty would be so filled with shame as to wish He could hide the glory of His countenance from the eyes of all men, for He hath, at all times, fixed His gaze on their fidelity, and observed its essential requisites." [18-3]
Because of his knowledge and learning, Jamal emerged as one of the most famous teachers of the Faith during the Ministry of Baha'u'llah, Who overlooked his shortcomings, revealed many Tablets in his honour, and entitled him Ismu'llahu'l-Jamal (The Name of God Beauty). His fame spread throughout the community, and the believers flocked to the meetings in which he was present.
Jamal displayed much pride in his association with the believers. He was a vain and conceited person who sacrificed everything to his own fame and popularity. In one of His talks [18-4] to the friends in Haifa, Abdu'l-Baha is reported to have said that Jamal was so proud that he did not allow the believers to sit in his presence. In order to show their respect, they had to stand to hear him speak. Once, an old man who was not a believer had come to one of his meetings to investigate the Faith. When he saw everyone was standing, he had to obtain special permission from Jamal to sit down, for he was an old person and could not stand on his feet for long. Abdu'l-Baha said that it was a good thing that Jamal was finally expelled, as he was like unto a poison to the Baha'i community. He said that the Cause of God was like an ocean which cleanses itself by casting upon its shores the dead bodies and loathsome objects which are no use to it.
It is a well-known story among the believers who knew him closely, that when he went to visit his friends, after knocking on the <p211> door, when the owner of the house asked 'Who is it?', he used to respond: 'This is Jamal-i-Mubarak' (The Blessed Beauty), a title which is exclusively used to designate Baha'u'llah.
In his writings he used to refer to himself in such superlative terms that if the reader were unaware of the identity of the writer, he could easily mistake the author for Baha'u'llah glorifying His divine station in exalted terms. For example, his name being Jamal (Beauty), he prefaced one of his letters in these words:
"Verily, Jamalu'l-'Ilm (Beauty of Knowledge) has manifested himself with the power of truth."
And he closed this letter with these words:
"Verily, God has opened to my face the door of all knowledge. It is fitting that you seek my advice in all things... For in truth I am the most learned of the divines on this earth..."
These preposterous claims were made by this man during the time that he was regarded as one of the outstanding teachers of the Faith. Baha'u'llah often exhorted him to moderation, chastity and piety.
Although most believers were unable at first to see through the hypocrisy of Jamal, or tolerated him because Baha'u'llah through His sin-covering eye concealed his shortcomings, there were some who recognized his true nature at first sight. There were even some who found him so unbearable that they confronted him in different ways. One such a person was Ustad Muhammad-'Aliy-i-Salmani, that devoted believer who for many years acted as a servant in the household of Baha'u'llah, serving Him as a barber and bath-attendant and who had not been able to keep silent about Mirza Yahya's faithlessness.[1] Although uneducated, he has left behind verses of poetry written in adoration of Baha'u'llah of which critics have acknowledged the beauty, lucidity and profundity. Believers who recite them become uplifted and inspired. His words, deep and full of significance, move the soul and open before one's eyes vistas of love and adoration for Baha'u'llah.
[1 See above pp. 81-3.]
There was another side to Salmani's personality. He was a brave and outspoken person who could at times use rough and offensive language. He was also very perceptive of people's motives and character. The following is a story from Salmani's memoirs which describes his immediate reaction upon meeting Jamal-i-Burujirdi for the first time. This meeting took place in the outer apartment of the house of Baha'u'llah in Adrianople where Jamal was seated in anticipation of being ushered into His presence. <p212>
"One day I brought water into the outer apartment of the house of Baha'u'llah where I learnt that Aqa Jamal-i-Burujirdi had arrived. I went into the reception room and found him seated in a corner, clad in an aba [cloak] and wearing a large turban.[1] He held his hands in such a way that if anyone was so inclined he could kiss them![2] He had not yet attained the presence of Baha'u'llah. That creature was a peculiar looking priest.
[1 Muslim priests wore turbans; the greater the turban, the more important the priest. Jamal during his Baha'i career did not discard his turban and priestly attire. (A.T.)]
[2 Muslims showed great respect towards the priests who used to display their hands for the public to kiss. Baha'u'llah has forbidden the kissing of hands. (A.T.)]
"I used to consider myself to be a schemer and a man of cunning. So I walked in, uttered a casual greeting of 'Allah-u-Abha', and without paying any attention to him sat at the other end of the room. Then I lay down on the floor and after some time arose and sat down again. I did all this to hurt his vanity for he was a pompous man who was seated in the reception room of the Blessed Beauty with an air of superiority and a greatly inflated ego. After having treated him disrespectfully in this manner, I looked at him for a while and then said, 'How are you?' He merely shook his head at me. I then left him there and went about my own duties until the afternoon when they brought the news that he was summoned to the presence of Baha'u'llah. I went in and called him to follow me. I took him to the inner apartments of the house, we went up the stairs into Baha'u'llah's room. The Purest Branch[1] was standing in the presence of the Blessed Beauty.
[1 Mirza Mihdi, the youngest brother of Abdu'l-Baha who later died in Akka. His death is regarded by Baha'u'llah as His own sacrifice. For further details see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3. (A.T.)]
"I stood at the entrance to the room. Jamal went in pretending to be trembling all over and then fell on the ground, this was a mere act. The Blessed Beauty was seated; the Purest Branch went forward to help Jamal to his feet. But Baha'u'llah stopped him, saying 'Leave him alone, he will get up himself.' After a while he arose; he sat at first and then stood up. Baha'u'llah afterwards dismissed him from His presence and did not say anything. Jamal ... stayed for a few days, then Baha'u'llah sent him back to Persia. This man was corrupt from the beginning, his aim was nothing but leadership..." [18-5]
Jamal was one of those who read the text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas soon after it was revealed. Baha'u'llah permitted him to copy some excerpts and share them with the believers. According to his own testimony, he asked Baha'u'llah to make him exempt from obedience to the laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Baha'u'llah granted him his wish and conveyed to him that he was free and did not have to obey the laws of that book. It is interesting to note that on one occasion when he was boasting about the freedom which Baha'u'llah had granted him, someone recited these words of the Kitab-i-Aqdas to him: 'Know ye that the embodiment of liberty and its symbol is the animal.' <p213>
Since Jamal considered himself superior to others, he rose up against several outstanding teachers of the Faith during the lifetime of Baha'u'llah. He opposed the Hands of the Cause who were appointed by Baha'u'llah, was highly jealous of Mirza Ali-Muhammad Varqa, one of the illustrious Apostles of Baha'u'llah, and, since he considered himself an authority in the Faith, he worked very hard until he prevented Varqa from settling in Tihran where Jamal resided at the time.
The lust for leadership had so possessed him that he rose up against any of the teachers of the Faith who became successful in service to the community. For example, on one occasion, two outstanding believers, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali and Ibn-i-Asdaq (who was later appointed by Baha'u'llah as a Hand of His Cause), were on their way to the province of Khurasan to meet the believers and teach the Cause. Jamal became highly jealous of these two men. Secretly he warned the friends to keep away from them and introduced them with a vulgar term as two 'foreboders of evil'. This action evoked the wrath of Baha'u'llah. The veil of concealment which for years had protected Jamal in the hope that he would repent was now rent asunder. The sin-covering eye of God which through loving-kindness had watched over him for so long was withdrawn. In a wrathful Tablet Baha'u'llah condemned the actions of Jamal and severely rebuked him for his behaviour. Jamal, however, survived this great blow, which for a time, shattered his prestige and reputation among the friends. He was a master of hypocrisy and soon managed to regain his position as one of the renowned teachers of the Faith in the community.
When the ascension of Baha'u'llah took place Jamal became very tense and agitated. When he saw the first message which Abdu'l-Baha sent to the Baha'is of the East, he dismissed it by saying, 'The Aghsan[1] are young and immature.' This remark was a reference to 'Abdu'l-Baha. Jamal was the first among the Baha'is of Persia to travel to the Holy Land, very soon after the ascension. He went there without seeking permission from Abdu'l-Baha, met with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, stayed there for a few months, and returned to Persia. From that time onwards, his attitude and feelings disturbed the hearts of those who came in close contact with him. The words and counsels of Abdu'l-Baha exhorting him to servitude and detachment went unheeded. The poison of Covenant-breaking had been effectively injected into his whole being by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, and, although outwardly he professed loyalty to Abdu'l-Baha, inwardly he was preparing himself for the day when he would <p214> become the head of the Faith in Persia. To this end, he influenced certain individuals in each province to act as his representatives. This was not difficult for him to achieve, since several teachers of the Faith in different parts of the country were his supporters, and, as the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was kept a secret for a few years, Jamal had no choice but to continue his activities within the Baha'i Community.
[1 The male descendants of Baha'u'llah.]
During the early years of the Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha, the Hands of the Cause and Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali had come to the conclusion that Jamal was disloyal to the Covenant, and they used to confront him in different ways, but Abdu'l-Baha tried His utmost to keep him within the fold so as to protect the faithful from his satanic influence. Some time before the election of the first Spiritual Assembly of Tihran[1] Abdu'l-Baha asked the four Hands of the Cause to establish a consultative council consisting of themselves and a few prominent teachers of the Faith. When the Hands did not include Jamal in their meetings he became indignant and openly attacked the Hands in such unspeakably offensive language that the believers became deeply disturbed and were apprehensive of the consequences of such open confrontations.
[1 For more details about the formation of this first Spiritual Assembly in the Baha'i world, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4, pp. 290-93.]
At this juncture, through the mediation of certain believers including Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, the Hands decided to include Jamal in their consultative meetings for the sake of the unity of the Cause. However, when invited to take part, he made his acceptance conditional upon his becoming the chairman of the Consultative Council, and he demanded that, similar to the Hands, he should have the right of casting two votes. In order to pacify this egotistical man, the Hands accepted his terms, and Jamal thrived as chairman of the Council for a period.
Over the course of several decades Jamal had captured the attention of many admirers. For example, many believers in the city of Qazvin were his staunch supporters and he considered that city to be his stronghold and refuge in time of need. He was also very popular among the believers in the province of Mazindaran. His position as the chairman of the Council boosted his standing in the Faith and the believers in these communities rallied around him in every way possible.
In the meantime, Abdu'l-Baha continued to exhort Jamal to steadfastness in the Covenant, and to purity of motive. The Tablets addressed to him during this period are indicative of His loving concern for Jamal's spiritual survival. But, alas, in the end Jamal lost <p215> this battle. When the rebellion of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali became public knowledge and his circular letters misrepresenting the station of Abdu'l-Baha reached the Baha'is of Persia, Jamal threw in his lot with the Arch-breaker of the Covenant. By transferring his loyalty to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, Jamal expected to become the indisputable head of the Faith in Persia, a position which had been promised him by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali himself, but after Jamal became involved in activities against the Covenant, he was expelled from the Faith by Abdu'l-Baha. No sooner did the believers become informed of this than the entire Baha'i community in Persia, with the exception of a handful of people, shunned his company. Those very few individuals who joined him in his odious activities were likewise cast out of the community and also isolated.
The manner in which the believers swiftly cut their association with Jamal came as a surprise to many an observer. For example, he was rejected by almost the entire community in Qazvin, where he had his most ardent admirers. The same thing happened in Mazindaran. While the believers had previously given him respect and veneration, after his defection he was shunned so effectively that he could not find even one family to offer him hospitality in that province. In some places, for example in Adhirbayjan, he found a few individuals who harboured him, but he and his dwindling associates swiftly sank into oblivion.
At the height of Jamal's popularity and success, Abdu'l-Baha wrote him a Tablet in which He emphasized the importance of steadfastness in the Covenant. In this Tablet He states [18-6] that in this day the confirmations of Baha'u'llah will reach only those who are firm in the Covenant. He affirms that even should the embodiment of the Holy Spirit fail to turn to the Centre of the Covenant, it will become a dead body, whereas a child who remains steadfast in the Covenant will be assisted by the hosts of the Supreme Concourse. Ironically, this Tablet of Abdu'l-Baha found its fulfilment in Jamal and his few assistants, who withered away spiritually.
Notorious among Jamal's lieutenants was Jalil-i-Khu'i, who acted for some time as his agent in Adhirbayjan. The Tablet of Ishraqat was revealed by Baha'u'llah in honour of Jalil. It was to him that Abdu'l-Baha wrote the celebrated Tablet known as Lawh-i-Hizar Bayti (Tablet of One Thousand Verses)[1]in order to protect Jalil from the venomous influence of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. In this Tablet Abdu'l-Baha explains the basis of the Covenant, describes its vital role in preserving the unity of the Faith, relates the causes of disunity among the followers of older religions, and lays great emphasis on <p216> the importance of firmness in the Covenant in order to preserve unity in this dispensation.
[1 See above, pp. 205-7.]
In this Tablet Abdu'l-Baha recounts the following story. A certain King of Syria wrote a letter ordering the Governor of Aleppo to count the Jews in his town. By the time the letter reached the Governor a fly had deposited a dot on the word 'Ihsu' (count), and it read 'Ikhsu' (castrate). Consequently, because of the adding of a dot, a tragic injustice was committed and all the males of the Jewish community in that city were castrated. Abdu'l-Baha uses this story to illustrate the importance of adhering to the sacred Text, not to add man-made interpretations to it, neither adding a dot or taking one away. He thus refers to the treachery of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali who was at the time busy corrupting the Writings of Baha'u'llah.
The Lawh-i-Hizar Bayti[1] is one of the most momentous Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha concerning the Covenant and its significance in this Dispensation. It was revealed by the Master in the year 1315 AH (1897-8), a time of great agitation in the Holy Land when the Covenant-breakers were actively looking for any material with which to criticize the Master. Since Abdu'l-Baha in this Tablet had equated the activities of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali to that of Umar, the second Caliph of Islam, He knew that if the Tablet fell into the hands of the Covenant-breakers, it would add fuel to the fire. Therefore He sent a trusted servant of the Cause, Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarghani to Tabriz, the capital of Adhirbayjan, with instructions to read aloud the full contents of the Tablet to Jalil, but not to hand him a copy. Jalil heard this highly enlightening Tablet in full but, alas, the lust of leadership had blinded his eyes and stopped his ears. He continued with his rebellion, but soon witnessed the futility of his efforts and died in ignominy.
[1 This Tablet has not yet been translated into English.]
There were a few other teachers who also rebelled against the Covenant in Persia. Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji was one. Like Jamal he was also a learned man and a very capable teacher of the Faith. Baha'u'llah had conferred upon him the title of Ismu'llahu'l-Mihdi (The Name of God Mihdi) and revealed many Tablets in his honour. Siyyid Mihdi was a native of Dahaj in the province of Yazd. He attained the presence of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad, Adrianople and Akka and received His unfailing bounties. Like Jamal, he travelled widely throughout Persia and was much honoured by the believers. Yet people who were endowed with discernment found him to be insincere, egotistical and deeply attached to the things of this world. Notable among those who have written their impressions of him is Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, who also wrote about Jamal-i-Burujirdi. A <p217> perusal of his narratives makes it clear that these two men had at least one thing in common, namely their insatiable lust for leadership. For example, Siyyid Mihdi always entered Baha'i gatherings with an air of superiority. He loved to have a retinue of the faithful walk behind him, and at night he was preceded by a number of believers who carried lanterns for him. As there was no public lighting in those days, people carried lanterns at night. Important men had their servants carry a lantern in front of them. This made a spectacular scene in those days; for normally only one servant or friend with a lantern accompanied a prominent person at night. In Siyyid Mihdi's case some believers even vied with each other to perform this service, and Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali recalls an evening when no less than fourteen men, with lanterns in hand, escorted him to a meeting!
Men such as these always fall. The Faith of Baha'u'llah does not harbour people who are egotistical and seek to glorify themselves. Its hallmark is servitude, and the standard it demands is sincerity and purity of motive. It is not therefore surprising that, like Jamal, Siyyid Mihdi was toppled to the ground when the winds of tests began to blow. He ultimately broke the Covenant of Baha'u'llah, and, in the hope of becoming one of the undisputed leaders of the Faith in Persia, joined hands with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and rebelled against the appointed Centre of the Cause of God. When this became known in Persia, the believers left him to his own devices, and soon his glory was turned into abasement. In response he at first made a great deal of clamour and noise within the community, which agitated the minds of many, but the power of the Covenant finally swept him into the abyss of ignominy and cleansed the Faith from his pollution.
Seldom in the history of the Cause do we find an occasion when the power of the Covenant manifested itself with such intensity and effectiveness as it did in Persia after the expulsion from the Faith of those who rebelled against the Centre of the Covenant. The speed with which the pollution of Covenant-breaking was removed from the community of the Most Great Name in the Cradle of the Faith was truly spectacular. The reaction of the believers in that country to the news of the defection of some of the great teachers of the Faith such as Jamal and others was to shun them almost immediately. No less significant was the fact that the entire Baha'i community of Persia, with the exception of a very few individuals, remained loyal to the Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. The efforts of the Covenant-breakers in misleading the believers were so ineffective that towards the end of Abdu'l-Baha's Ministry there was hardly a soul anywhere in that vast community who could be labelled as a Covenant-breaker. <p218>
This magnificent achievement was due primarily to the devotion and attachment of the believers to the Cause, and further, to the untiring activities of some of the most loyal and learned teachers of the Faith who deepened the believers in the subject of the Covenant. These holy souls, 'the learned ones in Baha' whom He describes as 'the billows of the most Mighty Ocean', and 'the stars of the firmament of Glory', were the Hands of the Cause of God as well as some outstanding teachers like Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Amin, Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl and several others. Soon after the ascension of Baha'u'llah these souls travelled extensively throughout Persia and met with the entire community. In spite of the lack of modern transport facilities these steadfast souls travelled by donkey to every town and village, and met with every believer either individually or in gatherings. They explained the verities of the Faith to them in great detail, helped them to study many of the Tablets of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, discussed the significances enshrined in the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the Kitab-i-'Ahd, and convincingly clarified any questions which they raised. These devoted teachers of the Cause were so imbued with the love of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, that wherever they went they imparted that same love to the believers. They were truly 'a river of life eternal' to the loved ones of God and were instrumental in strengthening the faith of the believers and confirming them in the Covenant of Baha'u'llah.
Although Covenant-breaking did not become an issue in Persia itself, the believers in that country were aware of the perfidy of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant and his associates in conducting their disgraceful intrigues against Abdu'l-Baha in the Holy Land. These ignoble activities became instrumental in increasing the love that the Baha'is entertained in their hearts for the Master. The more the Covenant-breakers inflicted sufferings upon Him, the more intense became this love, and as the Baha'is turned with more devotion to Abdu'l-Baha they became more successful in their teaching activities, and consequently the community expanded considerably during those days.
Another outcome of this love for the Master was the manner in which the believers in Persia referred to Him in glowing terms and praised His station in laudatory language. Whereas He considered Himself a servant of Baha'u'llah, the believers called Him by those exalted designations which the Pen of Baha'u'llah had conferred upon Him, designations such as 'The Master', 'The Most Great Mystery of God', 'The Most Mighty Branch', 'The Limb of the Law of God', the Being 'round Whom all names revolve', and several others. This made Abdu'l-Baha very unhappy. Indeed, Abdu'l-Baha always emphasized His station as one of servitude to the <p219> Blessed Beauty. In his memoirs Dr Yunis Khan reports Abdu'l-Baha as saying that He does not claim a station for Himself, but that Baha'u'llah had conferred upon Him a special bounty, that His words became creative and that whatever He says will come to pass.
Soon after the ascension of Baha'u'llah there were differences among the believers concerning the station of Abdu'l-Baha. Some regarded Him as having the same identity as Baha'u'llah -- a belief which runs counter to the basic verities enshrined within the Faith -- and in several Tablets Abdu'l-Baha clarified His own position. He explained that although He was the Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah and the Interpreter of His words, He was nevertheless a lowly servant at the threshold of Baha'u'llah. In one of His Tablets Abdu'l-Baha writes:
"This is my firm, my unshakable conviction, the essence of my unconcealed and explicit belief -- a conviction and belief which the denizens of the Abha Kingdom fully share: The Blessed Beauty is the Sun of Truth, and His light the light of truth. The Bab is likewise the Sun of Truth, and His light the light of truth... My station is the station of servitude -- a servitude which is complete, pure and real, firmly established, enduring, obvious, explicitly revealed and subject to no interpretation whatever... I am the Interpreter of the Word of God; such is my interpretation." [18-7]
At one time Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, to whom we have referred previously, wrote a letter to Abdu'l-Baha and asked Him to explain the significance of Baha'u'llah's utterances in the Suriy-i-Ghusn and other Tablets including certain verses in the Mathnavi concerning the exalted station of the Branch. In reply, Abdu'l-Baha wrote a Tablet in which He announced His station of servitude most eloquently and besought the Almighty to immerse Him in the ocean of servitude. He then made the following statement:
"I am according to the explicit texts of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the Kitab-i-'Ahd the manifest Interpreter of the Word of God... Whoso deviates from my interpretation is a victim of his own fancy... I affirm that the true meaning, the real significance, the innermost secret of these verses, of these very words, is my own servitude to the sacred Threshold of the Abha Beauty, my complete self-effacement, my utter nothingness before Him. This is my resplendent crown, my most precious adorning. On this I pride myself in the kingdom of earth and heaven. Therein I glory among the company of the well-favoured!" [18-8]
The following is a summary translation of Dr Yunis Khan's recollections concerning Abdu'l-Baha's station of servitude.
"As the Covenant-breakers intensified their campaign of trouble-making for the Master and went on belittling His station, many of the steadfast believers, due to their enormous love for Him, exaggerated His <p220> station. Eventually all this resulted in a situation that if a believer was moved, for instance, to compose a poem about Abdu'l-Baha's servitude, he would assuredly become the recipient of the Master's unbounded favours and bounties. But if, on the contrary, he would sing His praises and exalt His name, He would be displeased, and even ask the writer to repent and beg forgiveness.
"The only station that He retained for Himself was that of the appointed Interpreter of the Writings of Baha'u'llah. And this He did so that if a person ever sought to glorify His station by referring to the many exalted titles by which Baha'u'llah had designated Him, He then would merely say, 'I am the Interpreter of the Words of God and my interpretation of all these designations is Abdu'l-Baha (Servant of Baha'u'llah)'... At one stage He wrote many Tablets and prayers concerning His own station of servitude. Among them was a prayer which is now used as a Prayer of Visitation for Abdu'l-Baha. Concerning this prayer He wrote, 'Whoso reciteth this prayer with lowliness and fervour will bring gladness and joy to the heart of this servant; it will be even as meeting Him face to face.'
"In this prayer He describes His station of servitude in such lowly terms: 'Lord! Give me to drink from the chalice of selflessness; with its robe clothe me, and in its ocean immerse me. Make me as dust in the pathway of Thy loved ones, and grant that I may offer up my soul for the earth ennobled by the footsteps of Thy Chosen ones in Thy path, O Lord of Glory in the Highest.'
O dear reader! Most of the believers know this prayer by heart and are in the habit of reciting it every morning, this is why this servant has not quoted its full text here. My appeal to you now is to recite this prayer[1] first and then read the following which is entitled:
[1 Tablet of Visitation revealed by Abdu'l-Baha, in most Baha'i prayer books.]
"The Story of a Bitter-Sweet Experience
"In those days when the friends in Persia were aflame with the fire of love, and at the same time, they were, with a spirit of forbearance, burning in that fire of envy and hatred, of calumny and slander created by the people of malice and the Covenant-breakers, Baha'i poets and people of letters in that country used to write poems in praise and glorification of Abdu'l-Baha. In laudatory and most eloquent language they used to acclaim His exalted station.
"But we, the resident Baha'is of Akka, the spot round which the Concourse on High circle in adoration, were very careful not to breathe a word about the station of sovereignty and lordship of the blessed Person of Abdu'l-Baha. We knew well that He had often advised the poets that instead of singing His praise they ought to exalt His station of servitude and utter self-effacement.
"During this time, one day I received a letter from one of the handmaidens of God... This letter, composed in verse, and laudatory in its tone, was addressed to Abdu'l-Baha in the form of a supplication to the holy presence of God. I handed the poem to the Master as He was <p221> coming down the steps of the house in front of the sea. I thought it was the right moment to give it to Him. He had hardly read one or two lines when He suddenly turned His face towards me and with the utmost sadness and a deep sense of grief said: 'Now even you hand me letters such as this! , Don't you know the measure of pain and sorrow which overtakes me when I hear people addressing me with such exalted titles? Even you have not recognized me! If you have not appreciated this, then what can be expected of others? Don't you see all that I do day and night, and everything I write in my letters... I swear by Almighty God that I consider myself lowlier than each and every one of the loved ones of the Blessed Beauty. This is my firm conviction... Tell me if I am wrong. This is my greatest wish. I don't even wish to make this claim, because I dislike every claim. He then turned towards the Qiblih and said, 'O Blessed Beauty, grant me this station'...
"Abdu'l-Baha spoke angrily in this vein with such vigour that my heart almost stopped. I had a sensation of choking, my whole body became numb. Truly, I felt that life was going out of me. Not only was the power of speech taken from me, but energy for breathing seemed to have gone also. I wished the earth would open and swallow me up so that I might never again see my Lord so grief-stricken as this. Truly for a moment I was not present in this world. Only when the Master resumed His walking down the stairs, the sound of His shoes jolted me. I quickly followed Him. I heard Him say: 'I told the Covenant-breakers that the more they hurt me, the more will the believers exalt my station to the point of exaggeration...'
"Now that the blame was removed from the believers and placed on the Covenant-breakers, I somewhat regained consciousness and a little life. I listened carefully to His words, but my thoughts were elsewhere. I now understood that it was the iniquities and transgressions perpetrated by these ruthless Covenant-breakers which had produced a strong reaction among the believers who could not control their feelings and sentiments.
"This bitter experience of mine was ended now. The Master was pacing up and down the hall and speaking more about the machinations of the Covenant-breakers. But I was not in a position to think properly or meditate deeply. I was very perturbed that I had brought such grief upon the Master, and I did not know what to do. Then I heard Him say: 'This is in no way the fault of the friends. They say these things because of their steadfastness, their love and devotion...' Again my thoughts were directed to His words. Then I heard Him say to me: 'You are very dear to Me, etc...[1] From these utterances I realized that it was always the Master's way never ever to allow a soul to be hurt. And now this was a time for giving me comfort and encouragement. The pressure in my heart was now released. All the anguish pent up in me was gone. I burst into tears which flowed in great profusion upon my cheeks and I listened more carefully. I heard His utterances as He showered His bounties upon <p222> me in such heartwarming and affectionate terms that they went far beyond the normal limits of encouragement. So much loving kindness and favour He bestowed upon me that when I considered my limited capacity and worth, I could not bear to hear Him; therefore I never allowed those words to enter into my memory. Nevertheless, I was filled with such an indescribable joy and ecstasy that I wished the doors of heaven would open and I could ascend to the Kingdom on high.
[1 It is obvious that through his modesty and humility Dr Yunis Khan does not wish to reveal all the praise and encouragement which the Master had showered upon him.]
"When He dismissed me from His presence I went towards the Pilgrim House in such a state of intoxication and excitement that I walked all around the streets of Akka, not knowing where I was going!
"And now, my dear reader, you can see how a bitter experience turned into a sweet one, and how it all ended. The earth did not open up to swallow me, neither did the heavens open to let me go up! And, so I can write down the stories of those days and in memory of His radiant countenance may say to you: 'Allah-u-Abha!'" [18-9] <p223>
Building the Shrine of the Bab
In the early part of the year 1900 Abdu'l-Baha began to build the foundations of the Shrine of the Bab and consequently Haifa became the focal point of His attention. The Master rented three houses in Haifa. One was for Himself and the occasional visit by members of His family. Another was a four-roomed house for Eastern pilgrims. One room in this house was set aside for the Master Himself, one for the office of Haji Siyyid Taqiy-i-Manshadi,[1] and the other two for the use of pilgrims. A third house with four rooms was suitably furnished for the increasing number of Western pilgrims who had begun to visit Abdu'l-Baha from late 1898. Up to the year 1900 there were several pilgrims who stayed in these houses, but once Abdu'l-Baha began to build the Shrine on Mount Carmel, He discouraged Baha'is from coming on pilgrimage[2]and so the houses remained for the most part untenanted. 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:
[1 This believer served Baha'u'llah and the Master in the Holy Land for many years. See Memorials of the Faithful, p. 54.]
[2 See below, p. 243.]
"The work of building the foundation of the Shrine of the Bab was proceeding well. The Blessed Master used to come to Haifa frequently for supervision of the construction work. He would stay a few days during which the Baha'is and non-Baha'is attained His presence...
"Certain changes had taken place during the three or four years preceding the year 1900.
"1. Mirza Aqa Jan ... had passed away.
"2. Mirza Diya'u'llah, the vacillating son of Baha'u'llah ... had also passed away.
"3. 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...
"4. The Covenant-breakers had given up their earlier practice of demanding payment of their expenses from the Master; consequently, the <p224> 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 unfaithful brothers.
"5. 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.
"6. During the past three years, groups of pilgrims from both the East and the West had 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 are not so frequent these days.
"7. The Covenant-breakers, who had not succeeded in their previous intrigues against Abdu'l-Baha, began to create fresh trouble by causing alarm among the mischievous elements of the population. They misrepresented Abdu'l-Baha's plans for the construction of the mausoleum of the Bab.
"8. Two of the Covenant-breakers made attempts on the life of Abdu'l-Baha. One had, on two different occasions, placed poison in a jug of drinking water used by Him. This was discovered in time. The other one carried a dagger hidden under his clothes with the intention of taking His life, but did not succeed in his attempt. Later both men regretted their actions. Abdu'l-Baha forgave one and turned a blind eye to the other." [19-1]
The construction of the Shrine of the Bab was the greatest undertaking during the opening years of the twentieth century. This was a sacred task which Baha'u'llah during the last years of His life had specifically asked Abdu'l-Baha 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 land were completed and ownership passed to Abdu'l-Baha, 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-Baha offered to pay a very large sum for it, the owner was determined not to sell. Abdu'l-Baha was heard to make the following remark 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 in position. 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 property." [19-2] <p225>
Dr Yunis Khan heard Abdu'l-Baha say that when the owner offered his land, he begged the Master to forgive him, saying that His brothers had urged him not to sell and had promised to pay twice as much as Abdu'l-Baha. The Master at first declined to purchase the property, the owner insisted and at the end prostrated himself at the feet of Abdu'l-Baha and begged Him to take the land free of charge. Thereupon Abdu'l-Baha summoned Aqa Riday-i-Qannad, who was in charge of His financial affairs, and directed him to make the necessary arrangements for the purchase of the plot at a fair price.
As soon as He purchased the site which had been blessed by the footsteps of the Ancient Beauty, Abdu'l-Baha focused all His attention on the building work. So deeply was He committed to erecting a worthy mausoleum for the Martyr-Prophet of the Faith, that according to the testimony of some of His loved ones He used to speak enthusiastically about it every day. His frequent visits to Haifa were for the sole purpose of supervising the work, and the believers resident in Haifa used to assemble on Mount Carmel to attain His presence. At that time, when there was nothing on the site but heaps of stones and mud, the Master often spoke to them joyously about the future of that blessed spot. He prophesied that the Shrine and the gardens around it would become the most beautiful and majestic spectacle on the mountain. So emphatic and clear were His words about the future of the Shrine that the believers who heard Him speak were able to visualize its grandeur and beauty with their mind's eye.
Some years later, Abdu'l-Baha is reported by Dr Habib Mu'ayyad to have spoken the following words at a time when Mount Carmel was still a largely uninhabited heap of rocks, and the Shrine consisted of only six rooms built of stone. Today much of His vision has been fulfilled:
"On one occasion when Abdu'l-Baha was strolling in the gardens [near the Shrine of the Bab] His eyes were focused upon the sea and the city of Akka for some time. After a few moments of silence, He said, 'I have seen many places abroad, but nowhere has the fresh air and the beautiful scenery of the Shrine of the Bab. Ere long this mountain will become habitable. Many fine buildings will be built on it. The Shrine of the Bab will be constructed in the most exquisite fashion and will appear with the utmost beauty and magnificence. Terraces will be built from the bottom of the mountain to the top. Nine terraces from the bottom to the Shrine and nine terraces from the Shrine to the summit. Gardens with colourful flowers will be laid down on all these terraces. A single street lined with flower beds will link the seafront to the Shrine. Pilgrims who arrive by ship will be able to see the dome of the Shrine from a long distance out at sea. The kings of the earth, bare-headed, and the queens, will walk up the <p226> street of the Shrine carrying bouquets of flowers. With bowed heads they will arrive as pilgrims, and prostrate themselves at the sacred threshold..."[1] [19-3]
[1 These are not the exact words of Abdu'l-Baha, but they are very close to what He said. (A.T.)]
The same chronicler has recounted that on another occasion Abdu'l-Baha spoke on the same subject to a number of believers in the Holy Land:
"...The future of Mount Carmel is very bright. I can see it now covered all over with a blanket of light. I can see many ships anchored at the Port of Haifa. I can see the kings of the earth with vases of flowers in their hands walking solemnly toward the Shrine of Baha'u'llah and the Bab with absolute devotion and in a state of prayer and supplication. At the time that they put a crown of thorns on His head, Christ could see the kings of the earth bowing before Him, but others could not see this. "And now I can see not only powerful lamps which will floodlight this mountain brightly, but I can also see Houses of Worship, hospitals, schools, homes for the handicapped, orphanages and all the other humanitarian institutions erected on Mount Carmel." [19-4]
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 being continually frustrated in their devious activities and forced to witness the ascendancy of the Covenant, particularly the arrival of pilgrims from the West, were aroused to inflict yet another blow upon the Master.
It was in the year 1901 that Abdu'l-Baha, in the course of His talks with the believers, foresaw the approach of some impending tribulation which 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 devising and that only later would He Himself become a target of their schemes. Abdu'l-Baha 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-Baha was visiting Haifa frequently, when suddenly a great upheaval occurred in Akka. On 20 August <p227> 1901 the believers celebrated the anniversary of the Declaration of the Bab (according to the lunar calendar) at the Shrine of Baha'u'llah at Bahji. On His return to Akka, Abdu'l-Baha 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-Baha of the contents 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 which had been imposed upon Baha'u'llah and His companions in the Most Great Prison were to be re-introduced. Furthermore, none of the believers themselves were to be allowed to leave the city and all their activities had to be monitored by the authorities.
Although in the early days of Baha'u'llah's arrival in Akka such restrictions were enforceable, now, after so many years, when the Master had become the object of the love and adoration of the people, it was impossible to enforce this edict fully. Indeed, the Governor himself, who was a great admirer of Abdu'l-Baha, had been so embarrassed by the order that he had 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 'letter of confession'[1] 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-Baha. 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 informing them of large gatherings in Akka, and the comings and goings of Americans whom he described as military advisers.
[1 See above, pp. 152-3.]
It is known that Majdu'd-Din took expensive gifts for the Governor as a bribe, and asked his help in bringing about Abdu'l-Baha's deportation. Indeed, at other times and in the course of their several appeals to the government authorities in Syria, the Covenant-breakers had 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 one thousand two hundred Liras to Yahya Tabur Aqasi,[1] that inveterate enemy of the Faith, and used the whole sum in bribes to officials. <p228>
[1 See above, pp. 188-9, 224.]
Majdu'd-Din arrived back from his mission 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 incarceration be reimposed upon Abdu'l-Baha, His brothers and His followers. 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-Baha was fulfilled: His brothers were the first to fall into their own trap.
The Master, as always, submitted Himself to the cruelties which His enemies had inflicted upon Him. He accepted the new restrictions in a spirit of radiant acquiescence. The greatest deprivation for Him was His separation from the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, 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-Baha continued to direct the affairs of the Baha'i world in both East and 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 Baha'u'llah.
As to 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 release. But his letters were left unanswered. However, Abdu'l-Baha 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 secured their freedom. 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.
As to the cause of the restrictions, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali: he at first flatly denied having had any communication with the Governor of Damascus and Majdu'd-Din did likewise. 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 Baha'i scholar, but the truth soon surfaced. Haji Aliy-i-Yazdi[1] has described in his memoirs the circumstances which exposed the treachery <p229> 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. The latter was a high-ranking military officer friendly towards Abdu'l-Baha. It appears that the second petition was presented in response to a question raised by Fariq Pasha, who wanted to know the nature of disagreements between Abdu'l-Baha and His brothers.
[1 See above, pp. 184-5.]
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 Baha'u'llah; they sent this document along with their petition. In this document they composed, in the name of Baha'u'llah, certain complimentary passages in praise of Umar, the second Caliph of Sunni Islam. In so doing, they made it seem that Baha'u'llah 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-Baha condemned Umar in strong terms. In their petition they then alleged that Abdu'l-Baha was inciting His followers to arise in enmity against the Sunnis, whereas the rest of Baha'u'llah's family were admirers of Umar and the Sunni community.
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-Baha, 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 Majdu'd-Din.
When these preposterous activities came to light, it 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 Baha'u'llah. These simple-hearted men, who had been for so long deceived by the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, went to Abdu'l-Baha, 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 the most holy and truthful person, worthy of being emulated by all, and on the other, shamelessly announced Baha'u'llah and himself to be followers of Sunni Islam. Of course, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali knew only too well that Baha'u'llah 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 Baha'u'llah has extolled in His Writings, were the <p230> 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-Baha. He was a master in the art of falsification, and, as we shall see later in this book, he 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 imposing this new incarceration was Majdu'd-Din's petition, the Covenant-breakers became subdued and chastened for some time. However, once released from the bondage of 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 therefore considered this a victory, and foolishly thought that the end of Abdu'l-Baha and His leadership was in sight. Little did they know that light cannot be put out by darkness and the power of God cannot be made ineffective through the opposition of the ignoble among men. <p231>
Years of Incarceration
During the years of His confinement in the city of Akka Abdu'l-Baha 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 Baha'u'llah in their service to the Cause, urging them to remain steadfast in the Covenant and 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-Baha's instruction and guidance, the foundation stone of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar[1] in Ishqabad was laid. This was the first Baha'i House of Worship in the world.
[1 Literally, 'Dawning Place of the Mention of God', a Baha'i House of Worship.]
Another significant development during this period was the breathing of a new spirit of dedication and steadfastness in the Baha'i community in both the East and the West. This spirit was particularly 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-Baha had been made a prisoner, many of the public were moved to sympathize with the Cause. The friendly Governor of Akka made several attempts to persuade Abdu'l-Baha 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-Baha to accompany him on a visit to the <p232> Shrine of Baha'u'llah. 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 mentioned earlier.
When the party arrived at Bahji, the Covenant-breakers witnessed the majestic figure of Abdu'l-Baha 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-Baha's ascendancy were dashed.
As the year 1902 went by, pilgrims from the East and West were permitted by Abdu'l-Baha to come again. 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 divine love ignited by the Master in their hearts. As we look back upon those perilous years we note that far from impeding the progress of the Faith, Abdu'l-Baha's incarceration in the city of Akka, with all the hardships it entailed, coincided with an upsurge of the activities of the friends and the expansion of the community throughout the world.
Eye-witnesses have testified that during this agitated period in His life He used to pen no less than ninety Tablets per day in His own hand. It was the outpouring of these Tablets in such profusion that was chiefly responsible for the expansion of the Faith and the exhilaration and upliftment of the believers everywhere.
As these developments were taking place in the Baha'i world, the Covenant-breakers resumed their malicious propaganda against the Master. In 1904 fresh adversities appeared on the horizon. The Covenant-breakers had assiduously plotted until the friendly Governor of Akka was replaced by one who was hostile toward Abdu'l-Baha. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali took full advantage of this and stirred up mischief among certain elements of the population who had shown their opposition toward the Master. As a result, newspapers in Syria and Egypt wrote disturbing reports about Him, and the partisans of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali fanned into flame all the unfounded allegations these articles contained.
These activities culminated in the Arch-breaker of the Covenant finally drawing up an official indictment against the Master. In it he brought false and outrageous accusations against Him, and through bribery gathered a number of signatures from certain inhabitants of Akka to support his case. This document was sent to the authorities in Istanbul, the Seat of Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid, in the hope that the <p233> Sultan, who was a despot, might take measures to destroy Abdu'l-Baha.
As a result of all this, it did not take very long before a Commission of Enquiry arrived in Akka. The news spread immediately and agitation seized the inhabitants of the city. Spies were planted in the neighbourhood and the approaches to the house of the Master were watched day and night. For the protection of the Faith and the community, Abdu'l-Baha advised most of the believers to leave Akka and seek residence elsewhere. At the same time, pilgrimage by the believers was also temporarily halted.
Abdu'l-Baha was summoned by the Commission to face charges brought against Him by the violators of the Covenant. He visited the members of the Commission several times, and ably refuted the false accusations. He disproved each one of these in such a masterly way as to leave no doubt about their spurious nature. His explanations, spoken with majesty and eloquence, were so convincing that the members of the Commission had no choice but to dismiss the case and return home. Once again Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his fellow conspirators were frustrated. Their shameful public encounter with the Master brought no benefit to them; instead it had cost them large sums of money in bribes.
As the year 1904 drew to a close, the Master's situation gradually returned to normal, the believers returned to their homes in Akka, and even pilgrimages were resumed. On one occasion, when a few pilgrims were seated in His presence, Abdu'l-Baha described His suffering at the hands of the Covenant-breakers. The stories He recounted were so heart-rending that all who heard Him were deeply distressed. At this point Dr Yunis Khan asked the Master to tell him how long these Covenant-breakers would continue to oppose Him. Abdu'l-Baha is reported to have said that in four years' time they would become impotent to act against Him. He then stated that whereas in the future some vestige would remain of Mirza Yahya's followers in the world, no trace would be left of these Covenant-breakers. And indeed, as we shall see in the forthcoming pages, this prophecy of Abdu'l-Baha has been fulfilled.
In one of His talks the Master is reported to have said that God always assisted the Covenant-breakers during His Ministry and enabled them to make every possible breach in the stronghold of the Cause, so that the Master might stop them all, and thus ensure that others in the future would be unable to do likewise.
The years 1905 and 1906 passed without major incident, although Abdu'l-Baha was continually harassed by these enemies of the Faith and had to take appropriate measures to protect the Cause from their various manoeuvres. In the meantime the political situation in the <p234> heart of the Ottoman Empire was becoming increasingly unstable, and the Sultan correspondingly alarmed. He was known to be nervous of any popular movement in the country and had shown himself ruthless in dealing with dissidents.
The Covenant-breakers, who had lost hope of carrying out their evil plots, were heartened by the political situation in Istanbul. They now decided to take advantage of the Sultan's weakness and play on his fears and suspicions. All they had to do was to re-open their case against Abdu'l-Baha and send their complaints anew to the court of the Sultan. This they did, but their last major onslaught against the Master proved to be a complete failure.
In their petition, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates reaffirmed their false claim that whereas Baha'u'llah was merely a holy man and an admirer of Sunni Islam, Abdu'l-Baha had condemned the Sunni Faith and claimed the station of Prophethood for Himself. They also charged that Abdu'l-Baha had not only acquired vast tracts of land in Akka and neighbouring villages, and had gathered a large following in the Holy Land, but that He had also built a mighty fortress on Mount Carmel,[1] had made a banner of 'Ya Baha'u'l-Abha' and raised it among the inhabitants, had received American and other Western military advisers[2] at His home, and was about to overthrow the government. Such inflammatory claims, made at a time when the government was apprehensive of revolt by some of the Turkish factions, disturbed the mind of the Sultan, who immediately ordered a new Commission of Enquiry to be despatched to Akka. This Commission, consisting of four officials, arrived in the winter of 1907. They had in their possession all the papers relating to the previous Commission of Enquiry, which had, ironically enough, found all the allegations against Abdu'l-Baha to be baseless.
[1 This refers to the building of the Shrine of the Bab.]
[2 This refers to Western pilgrims.]
The Commission assumed full authority in the administration of the City, dismissed the Governor of Akka who was friendly toward Abdu'l-Baha, and even disregarded the orders from the Governor of the Province of Syria who wielded supreme authority over the region. The members of the Commission then established direct contact with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates, and planned their course of action in consort with them. They took as their residence the house of Abdu'l-Ghani Baydun, a wealthy and influential man who was living in close proximity to the Mansion of Bahji and had friendly association with the violators of the Covenant.
Their first act was to again plant a number of spies around the house of Abdu'l-Baha. They then began to obtain testimonies from <p235> those very enemies who had put their signature to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's original petition to the authorities. With the assistance of the Covenant-breakers, the members of the Commission even sought to bring pressure upon people to testify against the Master. In this way, through intimidation, people were forced to give false testimony while a local grocer who refused to comply was put in jail. Thus the inhabitants of the city were afraid to approach the house of the Master, lest they become incriminated by the authorities. Even the poor of Akka, whom Abdu'l-Baha had succoured always, did not dare to come in contact with Him.
At one point the members of the Commission paid a visit to Mount Carmel, examined the six-room building of the Shrine, noted its massive walls, and commented on its extraordinary strength. Later in their report, they confirmed the Covenant-breakers' allegation that Abdu'l-Baha had indeed built a fortress on a strategic location on the mountain! They also endorsed the other charges which had been brought against Him. Soon rumours began to circulate far and wide that the Commission was about to exile the Master to Fizan in Tripolitania, situated in the middle of the desert in North Africa.
During this period the Master remained unperturbed and confident. He continued to write His Tablets to the Baha'is of the East and the West, spent some time in planting a few trees in His small garden, and to the astonishment of some notables of Akka who considered His banishment to be imminent, was seen to be attending to repairs of His rented house. Their surprise was further intensified when they learned that He had bought and stored fuel for the winter.
The members of the Commission, who were actively engaged in preparing their report in collaboration with the Covenant-breakers, sent one of their agents to Abdu'l-Baha inviting Him to meet with them, but He declined the invitation, saying that the Commission was biased against Him, and as such there was no point in meeting with its members. At the same time He had made it clear, as on previous occasions, that He was ready to submit Himself to whatever decision they made and reminded them that His greatest ambition was to follow in the footsteps of His Lord the Bab and die a martyr's death.
Abdu'l-Baha Himself mentioned this episode in a talk to the friends The following is the gist of what He said:
"Upon their arrival, the Commission of Enquiry invited Me to meet with them, but I declined. They sent a certain official by the name of Hikmat Big to persuade Me to call on them. This agent begged Me, and even hypocritically brought tears to his eyes, pleading with Me to meet with <p236> members of the Commission even for a short time. I told him that since they had come to investigate accusations against Me, it would be better that I did not meet them. I told him that they had already sent a report to the capital, and I had sent a letter to Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid through Shaykh Badru'd-Din, the gist of which was as follows:
"'The members of the Commission have come to Akka, but I have not met with them. I understand that they have made a report in which they have levelled several accusations against Me and for this I am grateful. Their main complaints are as follows:
"1. That I have rebelled against the government and established My own.
"2. That I have built fortifications on Mount Carmel.
"3. That with the help of Mirza Dhikru'llah[1] I have hoisted a banner with the inscription of 'Ya Baha'u'l-Abha' [O Glory of the Most Glorious] among the inhabitants including the Bedouins.
[1 The son of Mirza Muhammad-Quli, the faithful half-brother of Baha'u'llah who remained steadfast in the Covenant after the ascension of Baha'u'llah.]
"4. That two-thirds of the land in Akka is owned by Me.
"The reason that I am grateful to the members of the Commission for the above accusations is that by their first complaint, they have, in reality, praised Me and attributed great powers to Me. How can a prisoner and an exile establish a new government? Anyone who could do that deserves to be congratulated.
"Similarly, by their second complaint they have also commended Me by ascribing to Me extraordinary capabilities. It would be a miracle for one who is a captive in the hands of the authorities to build fortifications strong enough to be capable of withstanding bombardment by powerful naval ships.
"But one is surprised by their third complaint, for how is it that the many government agents posted all over the country have failed to see the banner which has allegedly been hoisted among the inhabitants of these lands? Perhaps, during the last two years these officials have been asleep, or some angels have blinded their eyes.
"Concerning the fourth complaint, that I own most of the land in Akka and neighbouring villages, I am willing to sell them all for the small sum of one thousand liras.'" [20-1]
That Abdu'l-Baha wrote this letter in such ironic language is indicative of the depravity of those with whom He was dealing. In the meantime, events were moving to a climax in which it was almost certain that Abdu'l-Baha would be exiled or put to death. The atmosphere was becoming more tense with every passing day.
There is an interesting account of an Italian who was Acting Consul for Spain at this time. He was an admirer of the Master and his wife was friendly with the family of Abdu'l-Baha. This man and his relatives were the chief agents of an Italian shipping company. When he was informed that Abdu'l-Baha's life was in danger, he came to the Master in the dead of night and offered to transport Him <p237> out of the Holy Land to a safe spot. He even delayed a particular ship's departure for a few days in the hope of rescuing Him. Abdu'l-Baha took the unusual step of inviting some of the elders of the Baha'i community in Akka, including the celebrated Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali, to consult together and give their opinion on this offer. It is amusing to see how Abdu'l-Baha wanted to test these people and teach them a lesson. The group unanimously decided to advise the Master to accept the offer of the Italian friend and leave the Holy Land for a place of safety. Abdu'l-Baha looked at them disapprovingly, and reminded them that running away had never been the practice of the Chosen Ones of God. His Lord the Bab had offered up His life, so how could He do otherwise? As a result of this episode, each one of the group recognized his own shortsightedness and lack of understanding of the spirit of the Faith.
Then, one day, late in the afternoon, the members of the Commission of Enquiry boarded their ship in Haifa and headed towards Akka. The sun was setting as the ship sailed closer to the prison city. Everyone in Haifa and Akka was certain that the ship was on its way to take Abdu'l-Baha on board as a prisoner. In the meantime, Abdu'l-Baha was calmly pacing the yard in His house, and the believers, extremely perturbed, were nervously watching the approaching ship. Suddenly, to their great relief, the ship changed course, headed out to sea and sailed towards Istanbul.
In one of His Tablets Abdu'l-Baha states that at that moment the guns of God went into action, removed the chains from the neck of Abdu'l-Baha and placed them on the neck of Abdu'l-Hamid, the Sultan of Turkey. This was a reference to the ultimate fate of the Sultan, who narrowly escaped death when returning from the mosque on a fateful Friday that same year. A bomb which was meant for him exploded, killing and injuring others, and it was this event which prompted the authorities to recall the members of the Commission. Some months later, the 'Young Turk' Revolutionaries demanded from the Sultan the release of all political prisoners. This was done, and in the summer of 1908 Abdu'l-Baha was freed. A few months later the tyrannical Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid was deposed. Abdu'l-Baha's total freedom after forty years of imprisonment thus enabled Him to fulfil one of the most important undertakings of His Ministry, the interment of the remains of the Bab, the Martyr-Prophet of the Faith, in the Shrine built by Him on Mount Carmel.[1]
[1 For more detailed information on this see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 3, Appendix 1, also vol. 1, p. 268. ]
In one of His Tablets to the believers in Persia, Abdu'l-Baha describes some of the events in the Holy Land during this period. <p238>
"O ye the cherished loved ones of Abdu'l-Baha! It is a long time now since my inward ear hath heard any sweet melodies out of certain regions, or my heart been gladdened; and this despite the fact that ye are ever present in my thoughts and standing clearly visible before my sight. Filled to overflowing is the goblet of my heart with the wine of the love I bear you, and my yearning to set eyes upon you streameth like the spirit through my arteries and veins. From this it is clear how great is my affliction. At this time and throughout this tempest of calamities now tossing its waves to high heaven, cruel and incessant darts are being hurled against me from every point of the compass, and at every moment, here in the Holy Land, terrifying news is received, and every day bringeth its quota of horror. The Centre of Sedition had imagined that it needed but his arrogant rebellion to bring down the Covenant and Testament in ruins; it needed but this, so he thought, to turn the righteous away from the Holy Will. Wherefore he sent out far and wide his leaflets of doubt, devising many a secret scheme. Now he would cry out that God's edifice had been subverted and His divine commands annulled, and that accordingly, the Covenant and Testament was abolished. Again he would set himself to sighing and groaning that he was being held a prisoner and was kept hungry and thirsty day and night. Another day he would raise an uproar, saying that the oneness of God had been denied, since another Manifestation had been proclaimed, prior to the expiration of a thousand years.
"When he saw that his calumnies had no effect, he gradually formed a plan to incite a disturbance. He began stirring up mischief, and went knocking at every door. He started making false accusations to the officials of the Government. He approached some of the foreigners, made himself their intimate, and together with them prepared a document and presented it to the Seat of the Sultanate, bringing consternation to the authorities. Among the many slanderous charges was this, that this hapless one had raised up a standard of revolt, a flag bearing the words Ya Baha'u'l-Abha; that I had paraded this throughout the countryside, to every city, town and village, and even among the desert tribes, and had summoned all the inhabitants to unite under this flag.
"O my Lord, verily I seek refuge with Thee from the very thought of such an act, which is contrary to all the commandments of Baha'u'llah, and which would indeed be a mighty wrong that none but a grievous sinner would ever perpetrate. For Thou hast made it incumbent upon us to obey the rulers and kings.
"Another of his slanders was that the Shrine on Mount Carmel was a fortress that I had built strong and impregnable -- this when the building under construction compriseth six rooms -- and that I had named it Medina the Resplendent, while I had named the Holy Tomb[1] Mecca the Glorified. Yet another of his calumnies was that I had established an independent sovereignty, and that -- God forbid! God forbid! God forbid! -- <p239> I had summoned all the believers to join me in this massive wrongdoing. How dire, O my Lord, is his slander!
[1 At Bahji.]
"Yet again, he claimeth that since the Holy Shrine hath become a point visited by pilgrims from all over the world, great damage will accrue to this Government and people. He, the Centre of Sedition, averreth that he himself hath had no hand in all these matters, that he is a Sunni of the Sunnites and a devoted follower of Abu-Bakr and Umar, and regardeth Baha'u'llah as only a pious man and a mystic; all these things, he saith, were set afoot by this wronged one.
"To be brief, a Commission of Investigation was appointed by the Sultan, may the glory of his reign endure. The Commission journeyed hither and immediately upon arrival betook themselves to the house of one of the accusers. They then summoned the group who, working with my brother, had prepared the accusatory document and asked them whether it was true. The group explained the contents of the document, stated that everything they had reported therein was nothing but the truth, and added further accusations. Thus they functioned at one and the same time as plaintiffs, witnesses, and judge.
"The Commission hath now returned to the seat of the Caliphate, and reports of a most frightful nature are coming in daily from that city. However, praised be God, Abdu'l-Baha remaineth composed and unperturbed. To none do I bear ill will because of this defamation. I have made all my affairs conditioned upon His irresistible Will and I am waiting, indeed in perfect happiness, to offer my life and prepared for whatever dire affliction may be in store. Praise be to God, the loving believers also accept and remain submissive to God's Will, content with it, radiantly acquiescent, offering thanks.
"The Centre of Sedition hath imagined that once the blood of this wronged one is spilled out, once I have been cast away on the wide desert sands or drowned in the Mediterranean Sea -- nameless, gone without trace, with none to tell of me -- then would he at last have a field where he could urge his steed ahead, and with his mallet of lies and doubts, hit hard at the polo ball of his ambitions, and carry off the prize.
"Far from it! For even if the sweet musk-scent of faithfulness should pass, and leave no trace behind, who would be drawn by the stench of perfidy? And even if some gazelle of heaven were to be ripped apart by dogs and wolves, who would go running to seek out a ravening wolf? Even should the day of the Mystic Nightingale draw to its close, who would ever lend his ear to the raven's croak, or the cawing of the crow? What an empty supposition is his! What a foolish presumption! 'Their works are like the vapour in a desert which the thirsty dreameth to be water, until when he cometh unto it, he findeth nothing.'[1]
[1 Qur'an 24:39.]
"O ye loved ones of God! Be ye firm of foot, and fixed of heart, and through the power of the Blessed Beauty's help, stand ye committed to your purpose. Serve ye the Cause of God. Face ye all nations of the world with the constancy and the endurance of the people of Baha, that all men <p240> may be astounded and ask how this could be, that your hearts are as well-springs of confidence and faith, and as mines so rich in the love of God. Be ye so, that ye shall neither fail nor falter on account of these tragedies in the Holy Land; let not these dread events make you despondent. And if all the believers be put to the sword, and only one be left, let that one cry out in the name of the Lord and tell the joyous tidings; let that one rise up and confront all the peoples of the earth...
"O ye loving friends! Strive ye with heart and soul to make this world the mirror-image of the Kingdom, that this nether world may teem with the blessings of the world of God, that the voices of the Company on high may be raised in acclamation, and signs and tokens of the bounties and bestowals of Baha'u'llah may encompass all the earth..." [20-2]
Abdu'l-Baha's dramatic release from confinement was the greatest blow that the Covenant-breakers had ever sustained in their entire period of opposition of the Master. It signalized the approaching end of their satanic endeavours to uproot from within the very foundations of the Cause of God. Abdu'l-Baha's prophecy, uttered in 1904, that in four years' time they would become impotent, was thus fulfilled.
During these turbulent and perilous years of incarceration great dangers had faced the Cause of God, and Abdu'l-Baha had written in many of His Tablets about the sufferings which were inflicted on Him by His faithless brothers in this period. The threat from the Commission of Enquiry was not the only danger. One of the disgraceful accusations made by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali against Abdu'l-Baha was that Abdu'l-Baha claimed to be a new Manifestation of God following Baha'u'llah. They made a plan to take His life, pointing to the following passage in the Kitab-i-Aqdas as justification:
"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!" [20-3]
Abdu'l-Baha's Will and Testament was penned by Him during these fateful years. In the following passage Abdu'l-Baha mentions one of the sons of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, Shu'a'u'llah, as one who was aware of this plan to take His life:
"In like manner, the focal Centre of Hate hath purposed to put Abdu'l-Baha 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 <p241> 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-Baha! 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." [20-4]
Here too from the Will and Testament are Abdu'l-Baha's words which speak eloquently of the perils threatening His life:
"O dearly beloved friends! I am now in very great danger and the hope of even an hour's life is lost to me. I am thus constrained to write these lines for the protection of the Cause of God, the preservation of His Law, the safeguarding of His Word and the safety of His Teachings. By the Ancient Beauty! This wronged one hath in no wise borne nor doth he bear a grudge against any one; towards none doth he entertain any ill-feeling and uttereth no word save for the good of the world. My supreme obligation, however, of necessity, prompteth me to guard and preserve the Cause of God. Thus, with the greatest regret, I counsel you saying: -- Guard ye the Cause of God, protect His law and have the utmost fear of discord." [20-5]
Surrounded thus by enemies within and without, Abdu'l-Baha in the Will and Testament now appointed His grandson Shoghi Effendi, who was then a young child, as the Guardian of the Cause. At this same time He also wrote a Tablet [20-6] of great significance to Haji Mirza Muhammad-Taqi, the Vakilu'd-Dawlih, the cousin of the Bab. He was a distinguished believer who was designated by Abdu'l-Baha as one of the '...four and twenty elders which sat before God on their seats...' mentioned in the Revelation of St John the Divine.[1] In this Tablet He intimates to the Vakilu'd-Dawlih the great dangers which have surrounded His person, and urges him to make arrangements, when and if it becomes necessary, for the election of the Universal House of Justice. To bring this about, He directs him to gather the Afnan[2] and the Hands of the Cause in one place and establish this institution in accordance with the provisions of His Will and Testament.
[1 Revelation, ch. 11. Of the other twenty-three 'elders', only nineteen have been named by 'Abdu'l-Baha i.e. the Bab and eighteen Letters of the Living.]
[2 The kinsmen of the Bab and those of His wife.] <p242>
It is in the same Tablet that He gives the glad-tidings of the progress of the Cause, emphasizes its greatness, foretells the appearance of dire opposition by the nations of the world, and assures its followers of ultimate victory. The following passage is part of this Tablet translated into English by Shoghi Effendi:
"How great, how very great is the Cause! How very fierce the onslaught of all the peoples and kindreds of the earth. Ere long shall the clamour of the multitude throughout Africa, throughout America, the cry of the European and of the Turk, the groaning of India and China, be heard from far and near. One and all, they shall arise with all their power to resist His Cause. Then shall the knights of the Lord, assisted by His grace from on high, strengthened by faith, aided by the power of understanding, and reinforced by the legions of the Covenant, arise and make manifest the truth of the verse: 'Behold the confusion that hath befallen the tribes of the defeated!'" [20-7]
These ominous events, the struggle between the forces of light and darkness, foreshadowed in such clear and unequivocal terms, have not as yet taken place except in the Cradle of the Faith, where the onslaught of the people against the persecuted Baha'i community has continued from time to time since its birth in 1844. The opposition which, according to the above prophecy is to take place on a universal scale, will have a far greater effect in the promotion of the Cause of Baha'u'llah than that which past persecutions have ever produced. The Founders of the Faith and the Guardian of the Cause have, in many of their writings, described the dire opposition which the infant Faith of God will encounter from its enemies, both secular and ecclesiastic, prophesying stupendous victories which will be won as a result of this opposition.
In one of His Tablets Baha'u'llah states:
"Behold how in this Dispensation the worthless and foolish have fondly imagined that by such instruments as massacre, plunder and banishment they can extinguish the Lamp which the Hand of Divine power hath lit, or eclipse the Day Star of everlasting splendour. How utterly unaware they seem to be of the truth that such adversity is the oil that feedeth the flame of this Lamp! Such is God's transforming power. He changeth whatsoever He willeth; He verily hath power over all things..." [20-8]
The following are the words of Abdu'l-Baha describing the onslaught of the peoples of the world upon the Faith:
"This day the powers of all the leaders of religion are directed towards the dispersion of the congregation of the All-Merciful, and the shattering of the Divine Edifice. The hosts of the world, whether material, cultural or political are from every side launching their assault, for the Cause is <p243> great, very great. Its greatness is, in this day, clear and manifest to men's eyes." [20-9]
Shoghi Effendi has also foreshadowed in many of his writings the advent of severe opposition to the Cause of God on a universal scale. We cite a few passages:
"The resistless march of the Faith of Baha'u'llah ... propelled by the stimulating influences which the unwisdom of its enemies and the force latent within itself, both engender, resolves itself into a series of rhythmic pulsations, precipitated, on the one hand, through the explosive outbursts of its foes, and the vibrations of Divine Power, on the other, which speed it, with ever-increasing momentum, along that predestined course traced for it by the Hand of the Almighty." [20-10]
"We cannot believe that as the Movement grows in strength, in authority and in influence, the perplexities and the sufferings it has had to contend with in the past will correspondingly decrease and vanish. Nay, as it grows from strength to strength, the fanatical defendants of the strongholds of orthodoxy, whatever be their denomination, realizing the penetrating influence of this growing Faith, will arise and strain every nerve to extinguish its light and discredit its name. For has not our beloved Abdu'l-Baha sent forth His glowing prophecy from behind the prison walls of the citadel of Akka -- words so significant in their forecast of the coming world turmoil, yet so rich in their promise of eventual victory..." [20-11]
"Nor should a survey of the outstanding features of so blessed and fruitful a ministry omit mention of the prophecies which the unerring pen of the appointed Centre of Baha'u'llah's Covenant has recorded! These foreshadow the fierceness of the onslaught that the resistless march of the Faith must provoke in the West, in India and in the Far East when it meets the time-honoured sacerdotal orders of the Christian, the Buddhist and Hindu religions. They foreshadow the turmoil which its emancipation from the fetters of religious orthodoxy will cast in the American, the European, the Asiatic and African continents." [20-12]
"For let every earnest upholder of the Cause of Baha'u'llah realize that the storms which this struggling Faith of God must needs encounter, as the process of the disintegration of society advances, shall be fiercer than any which it has already experienced. Let him be aware that so soon as the full measure of the stupendous claim of the Faith of Baha'u'llah comes to be recognized by those time-honoured and powerful strongholds of orthodoxy, whose deliberate aim is to maintain their stranglehold over the thoughts and consciences of men, this infant Faith will have to contend with enemies more powerful and more insidious than the cruellest torture-mongers and the most fanatical clerics who have afflicted it in the past. What foes may not in the course of the convulsions that shall seize a dying civilization be brought into existence, who will reinforce the indignities which have already been heaped upon it!" [20-13] <p244>
"Fierce as may seem the onslaught of the forces of darkness that may still afflict this Cause, desperate and prolonged as may be that struggle, severe as may be the disappointments it may still experience, the ascendancy it will eventually obtain will be such as no other Faith has ever in its history achieved..." [20-14] <p245>
Covenant-breaking in the West
We now go back a few years to return to Akka at the close of the nineteenth century. As we have seen, the Covenant-breakers were becoming very frustrated, for they found themselves impotent to arrest the progress of the Cause of God. The news of the expansion of the Faith, especially the conversion of a number of souls in the Western world, had caused the fire of jealousy to burn more fiercely within their breasts. In December 1898 the first party of western pilgrims had arrived in the Holy Land and attained the presence of Abdu'l-Baha. For the first time these newly enrolled believers came in contact with the magnetic personality of the Master. They felt the warmth of His genuine love and compassion and saw the light of divine spirit shining from His countenance.
May Bolles Maxwell, who was among them, describes her impressions of meeting Abdu'l-Baha for the first time in these words:
"In a moment I stood on the threshold and dimly saw a room full of people sitting quietly about the walls, and then I beheld my Beloved. I found myself at His feet, and He gently raised me and seated me beside Him, all the while saying some loving words in Persian in a voice that shook my heart. Of that first meeting I can remember neither joy nor pain nor anything that I can name. I had been carried suddenly to too great a height; my soul had come in contact with the Divine Spirit; and this force so pure, so holy, so mighty, had overwhelmed me. He spoke to each one of us in turn of ourselves and our lives and those whom we loved, and although His Words were so few and so simple they breathed the Spirit of Life to our souls...
"We could not remove our eyes from His glorious face: we heard all He said; we drank tea with Him at His bidding; but existence seemed suspended, and when He arose and suddenly left us we came back with a start to life: but never again, thank God, to the same life on this earth! We had 'beheld the King in His beauty. We had seen the land which is very far off.'" [21-1]
Another disciple of Abdu'l-Baha, Mrs Thornburgh-Cropper, writes: <p246>
Upon arrival[1] we went to an hotel, where we remained until nightfall as it was too dangerous for us, and for Abdu'l-Baha, ... for strangers to be seen entering the city of sorrow.
[1 In Haifa.]
"We took a carriage after the night had fallen, and drove along the hard sand by 'way of the sea beyond Jordan', which led us to the gates of the prison city. There our trusted driver arranged for us to enter. Once inside we found the friends who were awaiting us, and we started up the uneven stairs that led to Him. Someone went before us with a small piece of candle, which cast strange shadows on the walls of this silent place.
"Suddenly the light caught a form that at first seemed a vision of mist and light. It was the Master which the candle-light had revealed to us. His white robe, and silver, flowing hair, and shining blue eyes gave the impression of a spirit, rather than of a human being. We tried to tell Him how deeply grateful we were at His receiving us. 'No,' He answered, 'you are kind to come...'
"Then He smiled, and we recognized the Light which He possessed in the radiance which moved over His fine and noble face. It was an amazing experience. We four visitors from the Western world felt that our voyage, with all its accompanying inconvenience, was a small price to pay for such treasure as we received from the spirit and words of the Master, Whom we had crossed mountain and seas and nations to meet. Thus began our work to 'spread the teachings', to 'mention the Name of Baha'u'llah, and acquaint the world with the Message'." [21-2]
During their short visit these pilgrims became galvanized by the soul-stirring words of the Master. They were utterly devoted to Him and longed to serve Him and the Cause He represented with unflinching loyalty and faithfulness. These souls showed such radiance and heavenly joy as a result of meeting Abdu'l-Baha that the Covenant-breakers became inflamed with rage and envy; their gloom and disappointment knew no bounds. They had to find a way to counteract these developments and to devise a plan to impede the progress of the Cause in the West. At last Mirza Muhammad-'Ali discovered a means whereby he could attempt to disrupt the unity of the believers in America.
Among the party from the West which came to visit the Master was a man by the name of Ibrahim Khayru'llah. He was a Lebanese Christian who had embraced the Cause in Egypt during Baha'u'llah's lifetime and had moved to the United States in 1892. Two years later he succeeded in converting Thornton Chase, the first western Christian to embrace the Faith of Baha'u'llah, and the Master referred to Khayru'llah as 'Baha's Peter'. For a few years Khayru'llah taught the Faith to several souls in various parts of the United States. He was the only teacher to whom the believers turned for enlightenment in that vast country. <p247>
During the time that Khayru'llah was turning to Abdu'l-Baha and was loyal to Him, he had succeeded in converting several people to the Faith. In one of his letters to the Master he expresses profound loyalty to Him and gives the news of the conversion of several souls in America. The following is a translation of this letter, which he wrote in 1897.
"To the sacred court of my Master and the Master of the entire world ... may my soul be a sacrifice unto the dust of His pathway; After offering obedience and servitude unto the sacred threshold of my Master, I beg to state that the believers in these regions and I greet the morn immersed in the sea of your bounties, and meet the night with the grace of your mercy which encompasses the East and the West of the earth, because you have turned unto them and unto me the glances of your favour. You have revealed of divine verses three Tablets: one for the believers in America, one for Antun Effendi Haddad, and the last one for your servant, who forever and ever, lowly and poor, awaits the generous dispensations of his bountiful Lord... Enclosed with this petition are seventy-four petitions from those who have recently come into the Faith of God, and shall soon send other petitions. Seekers who wish to hear the Word of God and come into the knowledge of truth arrive in large numbers..." [21-3]
But here is an example of how pride and ambition can extinguish the fire of faith which burns in the heart of a believer. There is nothing more vital for a follower of Baha'u'llah who becomes successful in teaching the Cause than genuine humility, utter self-effacement and complete servitude toward the loved ones of God. But alas, Khayru'llah was vain and egotistical. As the years went by and he saw the fruit of his teaching work multiply, he became proud and entertained the thought of dividing the Baha'i world into two parts, he becoming the leader of the Baha'is of the West, and Abdu'l-Baha that of the East!
While nurturing these selfish ambitions in his heart, he arrived in Akka and met the Master for the first time. He felt His majesty and authority as well as His love and compassion. For a short while He showed his subordination to Abdu'l-Baha who one day took him to Mount Carmel and there laid the foundation stone of the mausoleum of the Bab on the site purchased by Him and chosen by Baha'u'llah Himself.
In the meantime, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali had discovered signs of ambition and egotism in Khayru'llah which he exploited to the full. Soon a clandestine relationship was established between the two and Khayru'llah became a tool in the hand of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. He joined the infamous band of Covenant-breakers, rose up in opposition against Abdu'l-Baha, disseminated his misgivings among the <p248> friends, and published far and wide some of his own ideologies. His defection brought great tests for the believers in the West, but the vast majority of the American Baha'is remained faithful to the Cause.
The news of Khayru'llah's defection brought sorrow to the heart of Abdu'l-Baha, who tried to save him as he was heading toward his spiritual downfall. In 1901 the Master asked Abdu'l-Karim-i-Tihrani, a merchant from Cairo who had taught the Faith to Khayru'llah, to go to the United States especially to make this faltering soul realize the error of his ways. When his mission failed Abdu'l-Baha sent Haji Mirza Hasan-i-Khurasani in that same year for the same purpose. He also could not help. When Haji Mirza Hasan returned, Mirza Asadu'llah-i-Isfahani was despatched to the United States. He was the one who had previously been commissioned by Abdu'l-Baha to transport the remains of the Bab to the Holy Land, a task which he had carried out with great success. He had a link with the Holy Family since he had married a sister of Munirih Khanum, the wife of Abdu'l-Baha. Although he tried to help Khayru'llah remain faithful to the Covenant, sadly, a few years later, he himself and his son Dr Farid (Fareed) likewise became Covenant-breakers.
It is interesting to note that in spite of all Khayru'llah's attempts to mislead those whom he had earlier helped to embrace the Faith, he did not succeed in bringing about a schism in the community. As in Persia, the believers remained loyal to the Covenant of Baha'u'llah, and thereafter refused to associate with their teacher. This can be credited to a great extent to the arrival in the United States of the celebrated Baha'i scholar Mirza Abu'l-Fadl in 1901. The visit of this eminent teacher, which was undertaken at the behest of Abdu'l-Baha, lasted for about two years. During this period, Mirza Abu'l-Fadl dedicated himself fully to the task of deepening the believers in verities of the Faith of Baha'u'llah. He spent many hours, day and night, discussing various aspects of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, its history, its teachings, its laws and its Covenant, which he pointed out was the guarantor of the unity of the Community. In the course of these discussions he was able to clarify those subjects which had hitherto been obscure to the American Baha'is. In this he was assisted by Ali-Kuli Khan, who acted as his interpreter. Thus, as a result of Mirza Abu'l-Fadl's teaching work, the believers in America became filled with the spirit of faith and vitality, and many among them were transformed into spiritual giants of this Dispensation.
Khayru'llah, who craved power and continued to struggle to become the leader of the Baha'i community in the West, was being continually urged by the Arch-breaker of the Covenant to foment discord and contention among the believers, and the efforts of <p249> prominent Baha'i teachers to purify his heart and mind from the poison of Covenant-breaking failed. Abdu'l-Baha expelled him from the community and commented that as a result of his violation of the Covenant he would be reckoned as dead, and that soon the repugnant odour of his deeds would repel people everywhere. In 1917 Khayru'llah wrote a letter to Professor Edward Browne of Cambridge which is indicative of his despair:
"The Baha'i movement in America became slow and dull since the sad dissension reached the West nineteen years ago. I thought then that to call the people to this Great Truth was equivalent to inviting them into a quarrel. But the visit of Abbas Efendi Abdu'l-Baha to this country, his false teachings, his misrepresentation of Baha'ism, his dissimulation, and the knowledge that his end is nigh, aroused me to rise up for helping the work of God, declaring the Truth, and refuting the false attacks of theologians and missionaries. Now I am struggling hard to vivify the Cause of God, after its having received by the visit of Abbas Efendi a death-blow." [21-4]
On the other hand, as the years went by, the Message of Baha'u'llah spread throughout the United States and Canada. It reached the continent of Europe, where a nucleus of Baha'i communities was established in several countries including Britain, France and Germany. When Abdu'l-Baha was freed from His forty-year confinement He travelled to the West and openly proclaimed the Message of Baha'u'llah to the people of Europe and America. So powerful was the influence He exerted on the hearts of the people that great numbers flocked to churches and public halls to gaze upon His countenance and hear Him speak. The believers in the West who came into contact with the person of Abdu'l-Baha were transformed spiritually and magnetized by His all-encompassing love. Abdu'l-Baha laid such a solid foundation, specially in North America, that a few years later He conferred upon that community a measure of primacy in the execution of His Tablets of the Divine Plan.[1]
[1 A series of fourteen Tablets addressed to American believers, which constitute a charter for the teaching work throughout the world.]
Shoghi Effendi describes the significance of Abdu'l-Baha's travels to the West and the power of the Covenant in these words:
"Abdu'l-Baha's historic journeys to the West, and in particular His eight-month tour of the United States of America, may be said to have marked the culmination of His ministry, a ministry whose untold blessings and stupendous achievements only future generations can adequately estimate. As the day-star of Baha'u'llah's Revelation had shone forth in its meridian splendour at the hour of the proclamation of His Message to the rulers of the earth in the city of Adrianople, so did the Orb of His Covenant mount its zenith and shed its brightest rays when <p250> He Who was its appointed Centre arose to blazon the glory and greatness of His Father's Faith among the peoples of the West.
"That divinely instituted Covenant had, shortly after its inception, demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt its invincible strength through its decisive triumph over the dark forces which its Arch-Breaker had with such determination arrayed against it. Its energizing power had soon after been proclaimed through the signal victories which its torch-bearers had so rapidly and courageously won in the far-off cities of Western Europe and the United States of America. Its high claims had, moreover, been fully vindicated through its ability to safeguard the unity and integrity of the Faith in both the East and the West. It had subsequently given further proof of its indomitable strength by the memorable victory it registered through the downfall of Sultan Abdu'l-Hamid, and the consequent release of its appointed Centre from a forty-year captivity. It had provided for those still inclined to doubt its Divine origin yet another indisputable testimony to its solidity by enabling Abdu'l-Baha, in the face of formidable obstacles, to effect the transfer and the final entombment of the Bab's remains in a mausoleum on Mt. Carmel. It had manifested also before all mankind, with a force and in a measure hitherto unapproached, its vast potentialities when it empowered Him in Whom its spirit and its purpose were enshrined to embark on a three-year-long mission to the Western world -- a mission so momentous that it deserves to rank as the greatest exploit ever to be associated with His ministry." [21-5]
Abdu'l-Baha's success in proclaiming the Cause to multitudes in the West, and the tributes which were paid Him by people of power and influence likewise came as the most paralysing blow to Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates. In one of His Tablets written in this period, Abdu'l-Baha refers to the Covenant-breakers, who were on the retreat, as 'blind creatures that dwell beneath the earth'. The following is part of this Tablet:
"O ye loved ones of God! Praise be to Him, the bright banner of the Covenant is flying higher every day, while the flag of perfidy hath been reversed, and hangeth at half-mast. The benighted attackers have been shaken to their core; they are now as ruined sepulchres, and even as blind creatures that dwell beneath the earth they creep and crawl about a corner of the tomb, and out of that hole, from time to time, like unto savage beasts, do they jibber and howl. Glory be to God! How can the darkness hope to overcome the light, how can a magician's cords hold fast 'a serpent plain for all to see'? 'Then lo! It swallowed up their lying wonders.'[1] Alas for them! They have deluded themselves with a fable, and to indulge their appetites they have done away with their own selves. They gave up everlasting glory in exchange for human pride, and they sacrificed greatness in both worlds to the demands of the insistent self. <p251> This is that of which We have forewarned you. Ere long shall ye behold the foolish in manifest loss." [21-6]
[1 Qur'an 26:31; 26:44; the reference is to Moses's rod, and the enchanters.]
In many of His Tablets Abdu'l-Baha assured the believers that in the end the Covenant-breakers who rose up against Him during His Ministry would fail utterly and perish in disgrace. For instance, in a Tablet we find this prophecy:
"The case of all of them resembleth the violation of the Covenant by Judas Iscariot and his followers. Consider: hath any result or trace remained after them? Not even a name hath been left by his followers and although a number of Jews sided with him it was as if he had no followers at all. This Judas Iscariot who was the leader of the apostles betrayed Christ for thirty pieces of silver. Take heed, O ye people of perception!
"At this time these insignificant violators will surely betray the Centre of the Covenant for the large sum which by every subtle means they have begged. It is now thirty years since Baha'u'llah ascended, and in that time these violators have striven with might and main. What have they achieved? Under all conditions those who have remained firm in the Covenant have conquered, while the violators have met defeat, disappointment and dejection. After the ascension of Abdu'l-Baha, no trace of them shall remain. These souls are ignorant of what will happen and are proud of their own fancies." [21-7]
Shoghi Effendi briefly describes the doom of those few individuals who struggled with all their might to wrest the reins of the Cause from the hands of Abdu'l-Baha, and to subvert the Divine Edifice which the Lord had reared for all mankind.
"... he [Mirza Muhammad-'Ali] who, from the moment the Divine Covenant was born until the end of his life, showed a hatred more unrelenting than that which animated the afore-mentioned adversaries of Abdu'l-Baha, who plotted more energetically than any one of them against Him, and afflicted his Father's Faith with a shame more grievous than any which its external enemies had inflicted upon it -- such a man, together with the infamous crew of Covenant-breakers whom he had misled and instigated, was condemned to witness, in a growing measure, as had been the case with Mirza Yahya and his henchmen, the frustration of his evil designs, the evaporation of all his hopes, the exposition of his true motives and the complete extinction of his erstwhile honour and glory. His brother, Mirza Diya'u'llah, died prematurely; Mirza Aqa Jan, his dupe, followed that same brother, three years later, to the grave; and Mirza Badi'u'llah, his chief accomplice, betrayed his cause, published a signed denunciation of his evil acts, but rejoined him again, only to be alienated from him in consequence of the scandalous behaviour of his own daughter. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's half-sister, Furughiyyih, died of cancer, whilst her husband, Siyyid Ali, passed away from a heart attack before his sons could reach him, the eldest being subsequently stricken in the prime of life, by the same malady. Muhammad-Javad-i-Qazvani, a <p252> notorious Covenant-breaker, perished miserably. Shu'a'u'llah who, as witnessed by Abdu'l-Baha in His Will, had counted on the murder of the Centre of the Covenant, and who had been despatched to the United States by his father to join forces with Ibrahim Khayru'llah, returned crestfallen and empty-handed from his inglorious mission. Jamal-i-Burujirdi, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's ablest lieutenant in Persia, fell a prey to a fatal and loathsome disease; Siyyid Mihdiy-i-Dahaji, who, betraying Abdu'l-Baha, joined the Covenant-breakers, died in obscurity and poverty, followed by his wife and his two sons; Mirza Husayn-'Aliy-i-Jahrumi, Mirza Husayn-i-Shiraziy-i-Khurtumi and Haji Muhammad-Husayn-i-Kashani, who represented the arch-breaker of the Covenant in Persia, India and Egypt, failed utterly in their missions; whilst the greedy and conceited Ibrahim-i-Khayru'llah, who had chosen to uphold the banner of his rebellion in America for no less than twenty year, and who had the temerity to denounce, in writing, Abdu'l-Baha, His 'false teachings, His misrepresentations of Bahaism, His dissimulation', and to stigmatize His visit to America as 'a death-blow' to the 'Cause of God', met his death soon after he had uttered these denunciations, utterly abandoned and despised by the entire body of the members of a community, whose founders he himself had converted to the Faith, and in the very land that bore witness to the multiplying evidences of the established ascendancy of Abdu'l-Baha, Whose authority he had, in his later years, vowed to uproot.
"As to those who had openly espoused the cause of this arch-breaker of Baha'u'llah's Covenant, or who had secretly sympathized with him, whilst outwardly supporting Abdu'l-Baha, some eventually repented and were forgiven; others became disillusioned and lost their faith entirely; a few apostatized, whilst the rest dwindled away, leaving him in the end, except for a handful of his relatives, alone and unsupported. Surviving Abdu'l-Baha by almost twenty years, he who had so audaciously affirmed to His face that he had no assurance he might outlive Him, lived long enough to witness the utter bankruptcy of his cause, leading meanwhile a wretched existence within the walls of a Mansion that had once housed a crowd of his supporters; was denied by the civil authorities, as a result of the crisis he had after Abdu'l-Baha's passing foolishly precipitated, the official custody of his Father's Tomb; was compelled, a few years later, to vacate that same Mansion, which, through his flagrant neglect, had fallen into a dilapidated condition; was stricken with paralysis which crippled half his body; lay bedridden in pain for months before he died; and was buried according to Muslim rites, in the immediate vicinity of a local Muslim shrine, his grave remaining until the present day devoid of even a tombstone -- a pitiful reminder of the hollowness of the claims he had advanced, of the depths of infamy to which he had sunk, and of the severity of the retribution his acts had so richly merited." [21-8] <p253>
The Baha'i Attitude to Covenant-Breaking
Covenant-breaking is a deadly spiritual disease, and never before in the history of religion have its pernicious effects been brought to light. In this Dispensation however, the position of the Covenant-breakers and their spiritual condition have been exposed and fully examined. As we have described in a previous chapter,[1] Covenant-breaking provokes the wrath of God. Therefore, when a believer breaks the Covenant, his spiritual life-line is cut off. Although he may have great knowledge of the teachings and the history of the Faith, and may have had a brilliant record of service to the Cause, he becomes a lifeless being. Spiritually he turns blind and deaf, and his heart turns cold and bereft of faith. In reality he is not the same person any more. This is the reason why the violators of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah acted in the way they did.
[1 See above, p. 167.]
We observe in nature that water can only flow from a high level to a lower one. It cannot flow to a point on the same level or on a higher one. Similarly, in order for a believer to receive the bounties of God from on high, he must be positioned at the opposite end of the scale, to be lowly, humble and self-effacing. This the Covenant-breakers were not. They aspired to be equal to the Centre of the Covenant, and thus the spiritual energies released by God could not reach them, and they became deprived of the outpouring of the spirit of faith. Their lives, once guided by the Light of Truth, were now based on falsehood. Deception, intrigue, dishonesty and violence became their way of life. These vices have proved throughout the ages to be the weapons which the ungodly uses against the righteous. But in the end they are obliterated by the power of truth.
These unholy characteristics are not exclusive to the violators at the time of Abdu'l-Baha. The Covenant-breakers who opposed Shoghi Effendi, and those who appeared after his passing, conducted their shameful careers in the same manner.

It is necessary here to distinguish between the enemies of the Faith and Covenant-breakers. The former attack the Cause of God mainly <p254> through ignorance, and perhaps they will be forgiven by God. The latter, however, know where the Source of Truth is, but are unable to turn to it; instead, for their own selfish reasons, they knowingly rise up against it. To inflict harm upon a human being is reprehensible in the sight of God, and perhaps can be forgiven by Him. But to wilfully oppose the Cause of the Almighty and strike at its roots, as the violators of the Covenant do, are grave transgressions which are unforgivable. Christ, for example, describes this as a 'sin against the Holy Ghost'. The subject of Covenant-breaking was frequently broached by the Master according to Dr Yunis Khan's testimony. In order to protect the community from their poisonous influence, He used to speak about their schemes and intrigues, their plots and conspiracies. He often likened Covenant-breaking to a contagious disease: the only way to prevent it from spreading was to confine the patient and place him in quarantine. He used to explain that physical health is not contagious. The health of one individual has no effect on another individual. But an infectious disease spreads rapidly and can affect a multitude. Abdu'l-Baha often explained that the protection of the believers from the deadly disease of Covenant-breaking was imperative, and could be achieved only by cutting off association with them.
In one of His last messages to the American believers, Abdu'l-Baha warned them of the consequences of association with the Covenant-breakers. He cabled them:
"He who sits with leper catches leprosy. He who is with Christ shuns Pharisees and abhors Judas Iscariot. Certainly shun violators..." [22-1]
In many of their Tablets Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha have warned the believers emphatically to avoid associating with the Covenant-breakers. In His Will and Testament, Abdu'l-Baha admonishes them in these words:
"One of the greatest and most fundamental principles of the Cause of God is to shun and avoid entirely the Covenant-breakers, for they will utterly destroy the Cause of God, exterminate His Law and render of no account all efforts exerted in the past." [22-2]
In answer to a question Abdu'l-Baha wrote:
"Thou hadst asked some questions; that why the blessed and spiritual souls, who are firm and steadfast, shun the company of degenerate persons. This is because, that just as bodily diseases ... are contagious, likewise the spiritual diseases are also infectious. If a consumptive should associate with a thousand safe and healthy persons, the safety and health of these thousand persons would not affect the consumptive and would not cure him of his consumption. But when this consumptive associates <p255> with those thousand souls, in a short time the disease of consumption will infect a number of those healthy persons. This is a clear and self-evident question." [22-3]
To check the spread of this spiritual disease, it is necessary not only to shun the Covenant-breakers, but also to expel them from the community in the same way that a cancerous growth is cut out of the body. As has already been stated, the Prophets of old did not establish a firm and explicit Covenant[1]with their followers, and so the adherents of past religions did not experience a discipline which necessitated the cutting off of one's association with the violators. A look at the history of religions, a history which clearly reveals the many schisms which have taken place, will amply demonstrate the danger. If, in this Dispensation, the Covenant-breakers had not been expelled and had been allowed to associate freely with the believers, certainly after a short period of time the Baha'i community too would have been divided into sects as in other religions, its unity, which is its distinguishing feature, would have been destroyed forever and its goal of establishing the oneness of mankind on this planet brought to naught.
[1 See above, pp. 99, 158.]
In order to appreciate this matter, let us examine some of the laws of nature as applied to a human body. The Cause of God may be likened to the body of man. When healthy, the body can withstand manifold external pressures. It can endure extremes of temperature, overcome thirst and hunger, defend itself when confronted with hardship, and preserve its wholesomeness against the effects of disease. Similarly the Cause of Baha'u'llah can withstand the onslaught of its external enemies and can resist every opposition from its adversaries. All the persecutions whereby thousands of its followers were martyred have failed to extinguish its light, break up its unity or undermine its rising institutions.
On the other hand, a healthy person can be fatally afflicted if poison is allowed to enter his blood stream and circulate within it. Such an intrusion, if allowed to take place, will undoubtedly end the person's life. Nature has provided certain organs inside the body, an immune system which removes the unwanted poisonous substances from the blood stream and discharges them at intervals, thus cleansing the body from their deadly effects and ensuring its health and well-being.
It is the same with the Cause of God. Baha'u'llah has provided an instrument for casting out from the community any individual who, while claiming to be a believer, opposes the Centre of the <p256> Cause and tries to remain in the community to disrupt its foundations. When the unwholesome elements, those egotistical personalities who lust for power and are ready to sacrifice the religion of God to their own selfish desires, are expelled from the Faith, the community, cleansed from the poison of Covenant-breaking, acquires a fresh vitality and vigour, and is enabled to maintain its health, and continue its forward march toward ultimate victory.
During the days of Baha'u'llah the authority to expel Covenant-breakers was vested in Himself alone. Later it devolved upon Abdu'l-Baha, as the Centre of the Covenant, and then upon Shoghi Effendi, as the Guardian of the Cause. Today this expulsion would take place by decision of the Hands of the Cause of God[1] residing in the Holy Land, subject to the approval of the Universal House of Justice.
[1 The functions of the Hands of the Cause, as defined in the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, are mainly the protection and propagation of the Faith. Those now living were appointed by the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi.]
It is important to realize that no one is lightly or hurriedly declared a Covenant-breaker by the Centre of the Cause. Great efforts are made to enlighten the individual and guide him to the path of truth. Only when every possible effort to save him from his spiritual downfall has failed will he be expelled from the community. For example, Abdu'l-Baha made every endeavour during the first few years of His Ministry to change the attitude of His unfaithful brothers; only after they failed to heed His counsels and intensified their rebellion did He announce them as Covenant-breakers and cast them out of the community.
Never before has a Manifestation of God created the instrument whereby the breakers of His Covenant, those who oppose the Centre of the Cause from within the community, are cast out. This is one of the unique features of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, providing a means by which the Cause of God is purged from the impurities which may force their way in from time to time.
In one of His Tablets Abdu'l-Baha describes the Covenant-breakers as dead bodies which the ocean casts out on its shores:
"The tests of every dispensation are in direct proportion to the greatness of the Cause, and as heretofore such a manifest Covenant, written by the Supreme Pen, hath not been entered upon, the tests are proportionately more severe. These trials cause the feeble souls to waver while those who are firm are not affected. These agitations of the violators are no more than the foam of the ocean, which is one of its inseparable features; but the ocean of the Covenant shall surge and shall cast ashore the bodies of the dead, for it cannot retain them. Thus it is seen that the ocean of the <p257> Covenant hath surged and surged until it hath thrown out the dead bodies -- souls that are deprived of the Spirit of God and are lost in passion and self and are seeking leadership. This foam of the ocean shall not endure and shall soon disperse and vanish, while the ocean of the Covenant shall eternally surge and roar...
"From the early days of creation down to the present time, throughout all the divine dispensations, such a firm and explicit Covenant hath not been entered upon. In view of this fact is it possible for this foam to remain on the surface of the ocean of the Covenant? No, by God! The violators are trampling upon their own dignity, are uprooting their own foundations and are proud at being upheld by flatterers who exert a great effort to shake the faith of feeble souls. But this action of theirs is of no consequence; it is a mirage and not water, foam and not the sea, mist and not a cloud, illusion and not reality. All this ye shall soon see." [22-4]
Those who are expelled from the Faith as Covenant-breakers are left to their own devices. The believers will never oppose them in their activities and they are left free to continue their actions against the Cause of God. But the history of the Faith demonstrates that by their very opposition to the Centre of the Faith they sow the seeds of their own extinction, and after a while fade away ignominiously. Their position is like that of a branch once it is cut off from the tree. At first it is green and appears to have some life, but as it has no root, it will inevitably wither and die.
Severing association with Covenant-breakers must not be confused with acts of opposition or hatred toward them. Dr Yunis Khan recounts a story of Abdu'l-Baha which throws light on this subject. The following is a summary translation of a part of his memoirs:
"Sometimes in the course of His talks, Abdu'l-Baha used to explain that Covenant-breaking exerts an evil influence upon the conduct and morals of the public. The seed of sedition which the Covenant-breakers have sown among the people is capable of inclining the world of humanity toward ungodliness and iniquity. Therefore, the believers must manifest righteousness and divine virtues in their lives, so as to remove the foul odour of this rebellion from the world. At the same time they will have to be vigilant and resourceful lest the Covenant-breakers influence public opinion, because whenever their foul breath reaches a certain area, it impairs the spiritual nostrils of the people and obscures their vision. Consequently these people are unable to inhale the sweet savours of holiness, or to behold the effulgence of the divine light...
"One of the important duties enjoined upon the loved ones of God is to make every endeavour to prevent the Covenant-breakers from infiltrating the Baha'i community...
"Abdu'l-Baha quoted Baha'u'llah as saying that should one who is a follower of Mirza Yahya be living in a town, the foul odour of his presence will linger for a long time in that town and the progress of the <p258> Cause of God will be impeded there. The Master gave the example of the City of Kirman[1] and said that the breath of the Covenant-breakers [Muhammad-'Ali and his associates], which is none other than the tempting of Satan, is far more deadly than that of the followers of Mirza Yahya...
[1 A city in Persia where some notorious Azalis (followers of Mirza Yahya) were living.]
"One day when this servant and two other friends were in Abdu'l-Baha's presence, He was talking in the same vein about Covenant-breakers... At one point I remembered an incident which happened in Tihran, and in order to support His arguments, I said: 'A new school has recently been opened in Tihran, and Hubbu'llah, a son of the notorious Jamal-i-Burujirdi [father and son were both Covenant-breakers], was being considered for employment as a teacher. As soon as we heard of this, the Hands of the Cause, two other friends and myself consulted together in a meeting and agreed to do everything in our power to prevent the appointment of Hubbu'llah to this post. We sent a certain individual to persuade the school authorities not to appoint him...'
"I had not yet finished my sentence, when Abdu'l-Baha interrupted me and instead of praising our action, said: 'Do you mean to say that you consulted together and decided to stop a Covenant-breaker earning a living? This is not the way to serve the Cause of God. In matters connected with one's livelihood there should be no differentiation between a believer and a Covenant-breaker. The loved ones of the Abha Beauty must be the signs of the bounty of God among the people. They should, like the sun, illumine the world, and like the clouds of the spring season rain down upon everything. They must not look upon the capacity and worthiness of the individual...' Abdu'l-Baha spoke in this vein to us for some time and I hung my head in shame!" [22-5]
In many of their Tablets Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha exhorted the believers to show the utmost kindness to all, including their enemies, and to pray for them.
In His Will and Testament Abdu'l-Baha counsels His loved ones in these words:
"Wherefore, O my loving friends! Consort with all the peoples, kindred and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness; that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Baha, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancour may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity. Should other peoples and nations be unfaithful to you show your fidelity unto them, should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them, should they keep aloof from you attract them to yourself, should they show their enmity be friendly towards them, should they poison your lives, sweeten their souls, should they inflict a wound upon you, be a salve to their sores. Such are the attributes of the sincere! Such are the attributes of the truthful!" [22-6] <p259>
Whereas association with the peoples of the world is enjoined on the Baha'is, the Covenant-breakers are a legitimate exception. They are cast out of the community and shunned by the believers, but to hate, oppose or confront them is against the teachings of Baha'u'llah. The above story by Dr Yunis Khan demonstrates that Baha'is are forbidden to take any measures designed to harm the Covenant-breakers or obstruct their personal work and activities. On the contrary, knowing that these people are misguided and ignorant of the truth, the believers should overlook and forgive their transgressions. Following in the foot-steps of the Master, they are encouraged to feel the utmost compassion toward them in their hearts, for they are aware that unless these misguided souls change their ways, their plight will be disastrous and their end perilous. Since they do not associate with Covenant-breakers, the only way they can help them is to pray that they may be guided to the pathway of truth. Indeed, a number of Covenant-breakers have recognized their folly, repented to the Centre of the Cause, been forgiven and welcomed back into the Baha'i community. The following prayer of Abdu'l-Baha for the Covenant-breakers, who had inflicted untold sufferings upon Him for almost three decades, demonstrates that although the Baha'is shun these sick souls, they do not bear antagonism or hatred toward them in their hearts.
"I call upon Thee, O Lord my God! with my tongue and with all my heart, not to requite them for their cruelty and their wrong-doings, their craft and their mischief, for they are foolish and ignoble and know not what they do. They discern not good from evil, neither do they distinguish right from wrong, nor justice from injustice. They follow their own desires and walk in the footsteps of the most imperfect and foolish amongst them. O my Lord! Have mercy upon them, shield them from all afflictions in these troubled times and grant that all trials and hardships may be the lot of this Thy servant that hath fallen into this darksome pit. Single me out for every woe and make me a sacrifice for all Thy loved ones. O Lord, Most High! May my soul, my life, my being, my spirit, my all be offered up for them. O God, my God! Lowly, suppliant and fallen upon my face, I beseech Thee with all the ardour of my invocation to pardon whosoever hath hurt me, forgive him that conspired against me and offended me, and wash away the misdeeds of them that have wrought injustice upon me. Vouchsafe unto them Thy good gifts, give them joy, relieve them from sorrow, grant them peace and prosperity, give them Thy bliss and pour upon them Thy bounty.
"Thou are the Powerful, the Gracious, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting!" [22-7]
It is helpful at this juncture to clarify the difference between Covenant-breakers and those who withdraw from the Faith of <p260> Baha'u'llah. There are always a small number of individuals who recognize Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God, embrace His Faith, and even become active members of the community, but later, for some reason, change their minds and withdraw from the Faith. Such individuals are not Covenant-breakers. The Baha'is will maintain friendly relationships with such people and respect their decision to withdraw their membership in the Faith. Baha'u'llah has enjoined upon His followers to associate with them in a spirit of love and fellowship.
There is another category of believers who become deprived of their administrative rights by the sanction, at the present time, of the National Spiritual Assemblies. This happens when the individual flagrantly breaks certain laws of Baha'u'llah which are related to social or administrative activities and by so doing brings disgrace upon the Faith. Although not Baha'is in good standing, these people are nevertheless part of the community and may, under certain conditions, regain their administrative rights.
Abdu'l-Baha has described Covenant-breaking as a contagious disease and therefore counselled the believers for the sake of their own salvation and the unity of the community, to cut their association from Covenant-breakers and have no personal contact with them. By the same token, the believers are also strongly discouraged from reading their propaganda, for their words also can inject poison into the mind. When Mirza Muhammad-'Ali distributed his false propaganda against the Centre of the Covenant, the recipients in Persia who were loyal to the Faith used to return his communications to him sealed and unread. The same is true today.
By their fidelity, courage, and faith, the believers during the Ministries of Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi rallied around the Centre of the Cause, guarded the stronghold of the Faith, protected it from the onslaught of the Covenant-breakers, and prevented them from spreading their venom among the believers. Thus they handed down to later generations a world-wide community whose unity is firmly established and the invincibility of its rising institutions fully demonstrated. <p261>
Fostering Steadfastness in the Covenant
One of the most important teachings of Baha'u'llah is the unfettered search after truth. By this is meant that the individual is duty bound to search after truth prayerfully and without prejudice until, it is hoped, he is enabled to recognize Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God for this age, and to embrace His Cause. There is nothing more precious and more vital for a Baha'i than his faith in Baha'u'llah. But faith is a relative term. Its intensity varies in individuals and is dependent upon the extent to which one has recognised the station of Baha'u'llah as the Supreme Manifestation of God.
Once a believer embraces the Cause of Baha'u'llah, he will have unlimited scope in the investigation of the many truths enshrined in the Revelation; this path of exploration in the teachings can continue until the end of one's life. Shoghi Effendi has made it 'the first obligation' of a believer to deepen his understanding of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. These are his words:
"To strive to obtain a more adequate understanding of the significance of Baha'u'llah's stupendous Revelation must, it is my unalterable conviction, remain the first obligation and the object of the constant endeavour of each one of its loyal adherents. An exact and thorough comprehension of so vast a system, so sublime a revelation, so sacred a trust, is for obvious reasons beyond the reach and ken of our finite minds. We can, however, and it is our bounden duty to seek to derive fresh inspiration and added sustenance as we labour for the propagation of His Faith through a clearer apprehension of the truths it enshrines and the principles on which it is based." [23-1]
When the individual recognizes Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God, a spark of faith is ignited in his heart. At first a faint glimmer of light, this spark must be allowed to become a fire of ever-growing intensity, for it is then that the believer will fall in love with Baha'u'llah. But how can a person who has just embraced this belief draw closer to Baha'u'llah, fan into flame the spark of his faith and increase his love for Him day by day?
It is stated in Islam, and Baha'u'llah confirms and reiterates this, that 'Knowledge is a light which God casteth into the heart of <p262> whomsoever He willeth.' The statement that the heart is the dawning-place of the knowledge of God may sound strange to some, because it is commonly thought that the mind is the vehicle for acquiring knowledge and not the heart. But faith and knowledge of God, like seeds, are planted first in the heart. It is only afterwards that the mind grasps the truth and begins to understand it. In the end it is the interaction of the two -- the heart and the mind -- which brings confirmation and certitude to the soul.
Although in some cases a believer's faith in Baha'u'llah may come to him through an intellectual approach, its intensification and growth day by day cannot continue purely by intellectual pursuits. And if a person's faith does not increase with the passage of time it is like a child which is born but fails to grow. Such a person is very likely to feel a measure of doubt in his innermost heart concerning the Faith, and may experience great conflicts in his mind, especially when he goes through tests. Although intellectually he may accept Baha'u'llah as a Manifestation of God and may even be well versed in His Writings, he will not be able to have that absolute certitude which endows a human being with spiritual qualities and confers upon him perpetual contentment, assurance and happiness.
The heart is the focal point of warmth and love. It is characteristic of the heart to fall in love with another party, but it is the individual who finds and chooses that party. If he turns his affections to the material world, his heart will very easily become attached to material things. But if he turns to God and spiritual things, then his heart can fall in love with his Creator, provided he fulfils one condition stated by Baha'u'llah:
"O Son of Being!
"Thy heart is My home; sanctify it for My descent. Thy spirit is My place of revelation; cleanse it for my Manifestation." [23-2]
How can one sanctify the heart? In another passage, Baha'u'llah explains:
"O Son of Dust!
"All that is in heaven and earth I have ordained for thee, except the human heart, which I have made the habitation of My beauty and glory; yet thou didst give My home and dwelling to another than Me; and whenever the manifestation of My holiness sought His own abode, a stranger found He there, and, homeless, hastened unto the sanctuary of the Beloved..." [23-3]
And again:
"O My Friend in Word!
"Ponder a while. Hast thou ever heard that friend and foe should abide in one heart? Cast out then the stranger, that the Friend may enter His home." [23-4] <p263>
To acquire faith, then, and enable the revelation of God to shine within the heart, one must cast out the 'stranger'. This 'stranger' is man's attachment to this world. The most formidable type of attachment, and the most harmful, is attachment to one's own self. It manifests itself mainly in the form of pride in one's own knowledge and in other accomplishments such as rank and position. It is the love of one's own self that renders the individual opinionated, self-centred, proud and egotistical, and in fact denudes him of spiritual qualities. Such a person has indeed harboured within his heart a great enemy, namely, the 'stranger', referred to by Baha'u'llah. Even if he becomes a Baha'i, he will find it difficult to derive spiritual upliftment from the Writings of Baha'u'llah because attachment to his own self has become a barrier between him and God.
To read the Writings purely with the eye of intellect, while proudly regarding oneself as a being endowed with great qualities and accomplishments, undoubtedly closes the door to the bounties and confirmations of Baha'u'llah, and His words therefore cannot influence the heart. Of course when a person truly recognises Baha'u'llah as the Manifestation of God he becomes humble before Him, and this is one of the main prerequisites for driving the 'stranger', step by step, out of one's heart. 'Humble thyself before Me, that I may graciously visit thee ...' is Baha'u'llah's clear admonition to man.
"Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold My beauty; stop thine ears, that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet melody of My voice; empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge; and sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth..." [23-5]
There is a beautiful Persian story in verse which elucidates this point quite vividly. It concerns a drop of rain falling down from the clouds. The drop knew itself to be the water of life, the most precious element that God had created, and so it was proud of itself. Boasting all the way down it suddenly saw that it was falling into an ocean beneath. Suddenly it recognised its own insignificance and exclaimed: 'If this exists then what am l?!' When the ocean heard this expression of humility it attracted the drop to itself and, as a reward, made it a companion of the pearl.
The following is part of one of the obligatory prayers by Baha'u'llah. Though very brief, it is reminiscent of the story of the drop and the ocean, and serves as a perfect confession of who we are:
"I bear witness, O my God, that Thou has created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth..." [23-6] <p264>
The daily recital of any of the three obligatory prayers can act as a mighty weapon in the spiritual battle against one's own self, a battle that every believer must fight in order to subdue his greatest enemy and drive the 'stranger' away. The recital of the obligatory prayer, which is enjoined upon every believer by Baha'u'llah and constitutes one of the most sacred rites of the Faith, is a major factor in enabling a soul to recognise its own importance in relation to its Creator and to acknowledge its own shortcomings.
The saying of obligatory prayers, coupled with the daily reciting of the Holy Writings as ordained by Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and a deeper study of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, will enable the believer to gain a glimpse of the majesty and grandeur of the Blessed Beauty. Like the drop when it saw the ocean, he will become humble and self-effacing. The 'stranger' will be driven out and the heart filled with the spirit of God's Faith. It is at this stage that the believer will be tested.
Tests are an integral part of life. Even in the physical world there are tests: for example, we note that when there is movement there is also resistance; the faster one moves, the greater the resistance. Therefore, a fast-moving object meets enormous resistance from the air because of its sheer speed.
This is true in a spiritual sense too. When the individual recognizes the station of Baha'u'llah and embraces His Cause, he is tested in many ways, often without realizing it. Each time he is successful in passing a test, he will acquire greater spiritual insight and grow stronger in faith. He will then come closer to God and will be elevated to a higher level of service; next time his tests will be more difficult. We are not always able to pass a test, but God in His mercy will provide the opportunity to overcome the barriers on another occasion. But if through attachment to this world the ego dominates, one's faith will be weakened and one may even lose it altogether.
For no matter how strongly an individual may believe in Baha'u'llah, and however intense may be his love for Him, his faith will depend upon the extent to which he is willing and eager to obey His laws, teachings and commandments. Indeed, man's part in the Covenant is to first recognize and then wholeheartedly obey the Manifestation of God in every respect.
Many people today frown upon the word 'obedience'. In present-day society, in which all moral and spiritual values are declining, the concept of obedience is usually associated with dictatorship, tyranny, religious fanaticism and narrow-mindedness. Often this view is held by educated men and women who are otherwise open-minded and intelligent. These people come from all walks of life; some belong to religious movements with liberal leanings, others may be humanist, <p265> agnostic or atheists. They have keenly observed the terrible consequences which blind obedience to various political regimes or religious hierarchies has engendered, and they are fearful of any movement, whether religious or secular, which demands absolute obedience to its commandments.
Baha'is consider these people to be worthy of praise and admiration, fully sympathize with their views and appreciate their apprehension. They are not to be blamed for their attitude towards the subject. The fault lies within religious and political institutions; even a cursory study of the old established religions, now broken up into so many differing sects, indicates that their leaders have strayed far from the path which their Founders originally laid down for them. Many of these leaders have misrepresented the true religion of God, misunderstood its purpose, misinterpreted its teachings, adulterated its verities, compromised its principles, fabricated its dogmas, and, for expediency and selfish benefit, paid only lip service to its spiritual truths. There are today millions of people, followers of the world's major religions, who have fallen into the trap of outdated religious doctrines which they do not comprehend, but who blindly accept and follow their leaders.
No wonder that Baha'u'llah has condemned religious leaders in such strong terms as these:
"The source and origin of tyranny have been the divines. Through the sentences pronounced by these haughty and wayward souls the rulers of the earth have wrought that which ye have heard... The reins of the heedless masses have been, and are, in the hands of the exponents of idle fancies and vain imaginings. Those decree what they please." [23-7]
In the Kitab-i-Iqan, He states:
"Leaders of religion, in every age, have hindered their people from attaining the shores of eternal salvation, inasmuch as they held the reins of authority in their mighty grasp. Some for the lust of leadership, others through want of knowledge and understanding, have been the cause of the deprivation of the people." [23-8]
In another passage in the same book He deplores the state of those who blindly follow their religious leaders:
"And the people also, utterly ignoring God and taking them for their masters, have placed themselves unreservedly under the authority of these pompous and hypocritical leaders, for they have no sight, no hearing, no heart of their own to distinguish truth from falsehood." [23-9]
The new spirit of the age breathing into the minds and hearts of men in this century has awakened many of them to this tragedy. Religious leaders have so distorted the truth of their religions that their voices, which in olden days inspired multitudes, are now heard <p266> by these people with various degrees of indifference or hostility. Consequently, a great many people today have broken the shackles which religious leaders had placed on their minds and succeeded in freeing themselves from this bondage. Many are disillusioned with religion altogether, some are lukewarm followers, while others have swelled the ranks of agnostics and atheists. Most of these people are honest thinkers who have come as a result of their bitter experience to denounce the doctrine of obedience to the teachings of a religion.
It is not only the leaders of the established religions who, by misrepresenting the teachings of their Faiths, have alienated the people. We also come across many a 'false prophet' who, out of love for leadership and personal gain, has appeared in the guise of a 'holy man', announcing himself as a saviour of men and founder of a religious sect, advocating some sensational or corrupt and immoral practice. He then attracts simple-minded or ignorant persons to his cause, exploits them for his own benefit, holds them tight in the clutches of his authority and rules over their minds and souls. It is this kind of blind obedience which is abhorred by every discerning person.
On the other hand, man in his daily life wholeheartedly obeys the directive of individuals or institutions that speak with the voice of truth. He is willing to accept authority which is credible and trustworthy in his view. For instance, a motorist will unhesitatingly follow the sign-post on a road until he reaches his destination. This blind following is due to his faith in the authority of the body which has set up the signposts. Similarly, a patient will willingly allow a surgeon to operate on a cancerous growth because he has faith in his diagnosis.
There will be a similar response if one recognizes the truth of the Cause of God. Once recognized as credible, obedience to the teachings will not be difficult to achieve. Since man's part in the Covenant of God is obedience to His teachings, it is clear that he cannot fulfil his obligation unless he recognizes the truth of His Revelation. It is highly significant that the first subject which Baha'u'llah has chosen to expound in the Kitab-i-Aqdas is the part man has to play in this Covenant with his Creator. The following is the opening paragraph of the Most Holy Book:
"The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof, hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe <p267> every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Source of Divine inspiration." [23-10]
So we see that what is required of man in this Covenant is two-fold: to recognize the Manifestation of God as the source of all good and then to follow His commandments.
As has already been stated, one of the most important commandments of Baha'u'llah is to turn to the Centre of His Covenant after Him. This injunction has been revealed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Kitab-i-'Ahd, and other Tablets. In the Suriy-i-Ghusn Baha'u'llah refers to Abdu'l-Baha in these words:
"Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance; for verily He is the most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you; and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from Him hath turned away from My Beauty, hath repudiated My Proof, and transgressed against Me. He is the Trust of God amongst you, His charge within you, His manifestation unto you and His appearance among His favoured servants... We have sent Him down in the form of a human temple. Blest and sanctified be God Who createth whatsoever He willeth through His inviolable, His infallible decree. They who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch, are lost in the wilderness of error, are consumed by the heat of worldly desires, and are of those who will assuredly perish." [23-11]
Therefore, to a true Baha'i who is steadfast in the Covenant, obedience to the utterances of Abdu'l-Baha is obedience to God. Recognition of the station of Baha'u'llah and believing in Him, important as they are, will not be a sufficient guarantee of one's faith unless one remains loyal and steadfast in His Covenant. One of the distinguishing features of the Faith of Baha'u'llah is that He has not abandoned His followers to their own devices. He has left in their midst a source of divine guidance to which they can turn. He conferred His divine powers and authority upon Abdu'l-Baha and made a firm covenant with the believers to follow and obey Him with absolute devotion and love. This covenant was extended to include Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. Therefore faith in Baha'u'llah is not a mere acknowledgement of His divine message, but involves, in addition, obedience and faithfulness to those upon whom He has conferred the mantle of infallibility.
It is natural for a human being to accept and follow those teachings with which he is already in agreement. The measure of man's steadfastness in the Covenant, however, may be determined by the individual's response to teachings or statements in Baha'i Holy Writings which may be contrary to his way of thinking. Should a <p268> believer who comes across such a teaching, unhesitatingly and at once acknowledge that he must be wrong in his understanding of the subject, and that the words of Baha'u'llah and His teachings are the truth born of the Revelation of God for this age, such a soul is truly firm in the Covenant. Of course, the individual may go through conflicts in his mind resulting from his inability to understand the wisdom of a particular statement; he should not despair, for through prayer and action he may in time recognise the truth of the point that caused him such a problem earlier.
By the time the Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha was drawing to a close,
the communities of the East and the West had grown steadily and the
believers had been deepened in the subject of the Covenant. Firmness
in the Covenant was the most commonly discussed topic among the
friends in those days. Indeed, Abdu'l-Baha had bestowed upon them
a most precious heritage: a wealth of knowledge and understanding
of the Covenant, its significance and its vital link with the faith of the
Those who have reached the pinnacle of faith and recognize the station of Baha'u'llah with absolute certitude -- that He and no one else is God's Viceregent on earth -- cannot but render instant and exact obedience to every one of His commandments. In a spirit of love and devotion, they will also show the same measure of obedience and submissiveness to the words of Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, and to the directives of the Universal House of Justice. The following words of Baha'u'llah revealed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas establish for all time the criterion for constancy and firmness in His Covenant:
"Were He to decree as lawful the thing which from time immemorial
had been forbidden, and forbid that which had, at all times, been
regarded as lawful, to none is given the right to question His authority.
Whoso will hesitate, though it be for less than a moment, should be
regarded as a transgressor." [23-12]
Steadfastness in the Covenant is a relative term, and its intensity varies in each individual. The measure of a believer's firmness in the Covenant depends upon the extent to which he will readily acknowledge the truth of the utterances of Baha'u'llah or of those upon whom He has conferred infallibility.
Dr Yunis Khan, that trusted secretary of the Master who was immortalized by the designation 'herald of the Covenant', has, in his precious memoirs, left for posterity some examples of firmness in the Covenant. The following is a summary translation of a story which describes the aftermath of the defection of Mirza Aqa Jan to the Covenant-breakers, when a great many of his defamatory letters fell <p269> into the hands of Abdu'l-Baha.[1] It is a story which demonstrates the intensity of Dr Yunis Khan's faith in the Master and his utter submission to His word.
[1 See above, pp. 187-9.]
"After the rebellion of Mirza Aqa Jan, his many letters written in denunciation of the Covenant were scattered all over a table in the reception room of Abdu'l-Baha, and the friends used to read some of them and become aware of the machinations and plots of the troublemakers and stirrers of mischief... In those days when He visited the reception room, Abdu'l-Baha would often say something about these letters. One day, as He was looking at them, His attention was drawn to a certain letter which He picked up and read aloud; He showed its seal and signature to the friends who were present. As I was standing at the far end of the room, He called me to come forward and see the signature for myself. As a gesture of humility I bowed and went a little forward. He again called me to come close and see it. I took one step forward and bowed, meaning that it was not necessary for me to see as I believed that the words of the Master were true. Thereupon for the third time He emphatically ordered me to go forward and see the signature with my own eyes. This time I complied with His command.
"After this experience my mind was troubled and I became very concerned. I wanted to know what was the wisdom of the Master in insisting that I must see the signature with my own eyes, because I did not believe in my eyes as much as I believed in the words of the Master. My vision might make mistakes but His words were the truth of God's Revelation. For a long time I was worried that perhaps I did not have enough faith. I used to pray about this, until years later the wisdom of it became clear to me..." [23-13]
Dr Yunis Khan explains that some time later when he returned to Tihran he became aware that some of the believers were confused about Mirza Aqa Jan. One day Dr Yunis Khan met a certain Prince who was a believer of wide repute, but who could not understand that Mirza Aqa Jan had been unfaithful and had written many defamatory letters addressed to various Baha'is. Dr Yunis Khan continues the story:
"I said to the Prince that I had seen the letters myself, indeed I was ordered by the Master to examine Mirza Aqa Jan's signature and seal. He said 'Did you really see it with your own eyes?' When I answered in the affirmative, he said: 'I trust in your words; you have dispelled my doubts. I am so relieved.' I said to him: 'You don't know how relieved I am!' Then I told him the story of the anguish of my heart." [23-14]
Dr Yunis Khan then realized that the Master's insistence that he see the signature with his own eyes had not meant that he was not firm in the Covenant, but was rather necessary in order to strengthen the faith of this other believer.<p271>
2. The Formative Age <p273>
The Close of the Heroic Age
As we survey the Ministry of Abdu'l-Baha, we are struck by the evidences of unprecedented victories which had been won in both East and West as a direct result of the establishment of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. The overshadowing power of divine authority born of that Covenant and released to the community of the Most Great Name by Abdu'l-Baha over a period of almost three decades, had endowed the believers with a new vitality. That same power had also confounded both the Covenant-breakers and their non-Baha'i allies. The Centre of the Covenant Himself, though surrounded by a host of unfaithful, cruel and devious relatives and other individuals who had broken the Covenant and were assiduously trying to eliminate Him, had established His ascendancy over His adversaries and demonstrated the invincibility of the Cause. He had built for posterity that solid foundation upon which the unity of the Baha'i community is now based, and invested the believers with the impregnable armour of the Covenant which Baha'u'llah has bequeathed to His followers for the protection of their Faith.
During Abdu'l-Baha's Ministry the message of Baha'u'llah had reached the Western world, but adherents of the Cause were few in number in most parts of the globe. Had the violators of the Covenant remained faithful, the Cause of God would have achieved greater victories and vast numbers would have embraced the Faith. The breaking of the Covenant, as we have already stated,[1] caused the course of history to change. However, because of the greatness of this Revelation which has ushered in the Day of God, the Covenant-breakers did not succeed in changing the character of the Faith, or in altering the course of its progress. Their action has only resulted in slowing down its growth and delaying the spread of its Message.
[1 See above. pp. 156-9.]
In one of His Tablets, Abdu'l-Baha confirms that the onward march of the Faith had been slowed down by the action of the Covenant-breakers. These are His words: <p274>
"...This musk-scented breeze[1] shall perfume the nostrils of the people of the world, and this spirit shall resuscitate the dead.
[1 The Message of Baha'u'llah.]
"The offensive odour of violation hath temporarily arrested the onward movement of the Cause, for otherwise the divine teachings, like unto the rays of the sun, would immediately spread and permeate all regions." [24-1]
Shoghi Effendi has summarized some of the major achievements of the Cause during the Ministry of the Master in the following passage:
"Through Him the Covenant, that 'excellent and priceless Heritage' bequeathed by the Author of the Baha'i Revelation, has been proclaimed, championed and vindicated. Through the power which that Divine Instrument had conferred upon Him the light of God's infant Faith had penetrated the West, had diffused itself as far as the Islands of the Pacific, and illumined the fringes of the Australian continent. Through His personal intervention the Message, Whose Bearer had tasted the bitterness of a life-long captivity, had been noised abroad, and its character and purpose disclosed, for the first time in its history, before enthusiastic and representative audiences in the chief cities of Europe and of the North American continent. Through His unrelaxing vigilance the holy remains of the Bab, brought forth at long last from their fifty-year concealment, had been safely transported to the Holy Land and permanently and befittingly enshrined in the very spot which Baha'u'llah Himself had designated for them and had blessed with His presence. Through His bold initiative the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of the Baha'i world had been reared in Central Asia, in Russian Turkistan, whilst through His unfailing encouragement a similar enterprise, of still vaster proportions, had been undertaken, and its land dedicated by Himself in the heart of the North American continent. Through the sustaining grace over-shadowing Him since the inception of His ministry His royal adversary had been humbled to the dust, the arch-breaker of His Father's Covenant had been utterly routed, and the danger which, ever since Baha'u'llah had been banished to Turkish soil, had been threatening the heart of the Faith, definitely removed. In pursuance of His instructions, and in conformity with the principles enunciated and the laws ordained by His Father, the rudimentary institutions, heralding the formal inauguration of the Administrative Order to be founded after His passing, had taken shape and been established. Through His unremitting labours, as reflected in the treatises He composed, the thousands of Tablets He revealed, the discourses He delivered, the prayers, poems and commentaries He left to posterity, mostly in Persian, some in Arabic and a few in Turkish, the laws and principles, constituting the warp and woof of His Father's Revelation, had been elucidated, its fundamentals restated and interpreted, its tenets given detailed application and the validity and indispensability of its verities fully and publicly demonstrated. Through the warnings He sounded, an unheeding humanity, steeped in materialism and forgetful of <p275> its God, had been apprized of the perils threatening to disrupt its ordered life, and made, in consequence of its persistent perversity, to sustain the initial shocks of that world upheaval which continues, until the present day, to rock the foundations of human society. And lastly, through the mandate He had issued to a valiant community, the concerted achievements of whose members had shed so great a lustre on the annals of His own ministry, He had set in motion a Plan which, soon after its formal inauguration, achieved the opening of the Australian continent, which, in a later period, was to be instrumental in winning over the heart of a royal convert to His Father's Cause, and which, today, through the irresistible unfoldment of its potentialities, is so marvellously quickening the spiritual life of all the Republics of Latin America as to constitute a befitting conclusion to the records of an entire century." [24-2]
With the passing of Abdu'l-Baha on 28 November 1921, the most glorious period in the history of the Faith, described by Shoghi Effendi as the 'heroic' or 'Apostolic' age, came to an end. The most precious seed of the community of the Most Great Name, planted in the soil of human society by the hand of the Blessed Beauty and watered by the blood of countless martyrs of the Faith, had germinated; by the time of the ascension of Abdu'l-Baha it had grown sufficiently to attract the allegiance of a number of followers. The stage was now set for the further growth of the Baha'i community in the succeeding years of the 'Formative Age', destined to flourish in the fullness of time as a world community embracing the peoples and nations of the world in one common Faith. Concerning that consummation in the development of the Baha'i world community Shoghi Effendi writes:
"The Age that had witnessed the birth and rise of the Faith had now closed. The Heroic, the Apostolic Age of the Dispensation of Baha'u'llah, that primitive period in which its Founders had lived, in which its life had been generated, in which its greatest heroes had struggled and quaffed the cup of martyrdom, and its pristine foundations been established -- a period whose splendours no victories in this or any future age, however brilliant, can rival -- had now terminated with the passing of One Whose mission may be regarded as the link binding the Age in which the seed of the newborn Message had been incubating and those which are destined to witness its efflorescence and ultimate fruition.
"The Formative Period, the Iron Age, of that Dispensation was now beginning, the Age in which the institutions, local, national and international, of the Faith of Baha'u'llah were to take shape, develop and become fully consolidated, in anticipation of the third, the last, the Golden Age destined to witness the emergence of a world-embracing Order enshrining the ultimate fruit of God's latest Revelation to mankind, a fruit whose maturity must signalize the establishment of a world civilization and the formal inauguration of the Kingdom of the Father upon earth as promised by Jesus Christ Himself." [24-3] <p276>
Although the passing of Abdu'l-Baha was a harbinger of a new Age which was to usher in the systematic development and consolidation of the Baha'i Community, its immediate effect upon the believers was that of a paralysing blow striking them down and plunging them into agony. The loss of the Master was a calamity to the grief-stricken and inconsolable community. Added to this tragic bereavement was a deep sense of anxiety which seized the minds and hearts of the followers of Baha'u'llah immediately after Abdu'l-Baha's passing. This bitter ordeal, which lasted for no less than forty days, ended with the announcement by the Greatest Holy Leaf of the appointment of Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Faith, as set out in the Will and Testament of the Master.
During the short period separating the ascension of the Master and the announcement of Shoghi Effendi's appointment, the perturbing thought uppermost in the minds of some of the believers was the position of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. Was he going to succeed Abdu'l-Baha as laid down in the Kitab-i-'Ahd, the Will and Testament of Baha'u'llah? Some were confused, wondering how the provisions of this momentous document could be allowed to materialize when the very person who had assiduously tried to undermine the foundation of the Cause of God for almost thirty years was none other than Muhammad-'Ali himself. But the great majority of the believers knew that because of his deviation from the Faith, his appointment was null and void. We have discussed this particular subject in more detail in Chapter 8 describing the circumstances through which Mirza Muhammad-'Ali's appointment by Baha'u'llah was not fulfilled.
Soon after Abdu'l-Baha's ascension, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali published far and wide his claim that according to the text of the Kitab-i-'Ahd he was now Abdu'l-Baha's successor. Not only did he publish this claim among the Persian Baha'i community, but he also announced himself as the successor of Baha'u'llah in an Egyptian newspaper. The Baha'is of Egypt responded to his statement by publishing a refutation of his claims in the same newspaper. The following account by Muhammad Said Adham, an Egyptian believer, describes the events which took place during those anxiety-filled days:
"The beauty of the Beloved disappeared and the hearts are melted by this great calamity. Our only hope is to raise the banner of the Covenant, and with all righteousness, unity and servitude we serve His sublime threshold.
"A few days later the great violator addressed the Bahais through the columns of the Arabic newspapers, calling upon them to follow him, according, as he stated, to the will of BAHA'ULLAH, pretending, in his call, that although he had been separated from his brother by God's destiny, <p277> yet the filial relationship and hearty sensations were strong in his heart, and he tried outwardly to show sorrow for the passing of Abdul-Baha. One of his only two followers in Alexandria confirmed his call on a page of the same paper, but the House of Spirituality in Cairo replied and contested both statements, stating in effect that this violator is not recognized at all by the Bahais, and since he has violated the Covenant of BAHA'ULLAH for thirty years, he is not considered among the Bahais, and has not the authority to speak in their behalf, for all the affairs of the Bahais are now directed by the Houses of Spirituality, all over the world, whose members are elected and who will come under the control of the House of Justice, and they are the only representatives of the Bahais. And this violator is not a Bahai in the true sense of the word and according to the dictates of BAHA'ULLAH. This reply was given especially for the benefit of the public, to give them correct information and to prove to them that the violators are not Bahais and were cut off thirty years ago by their disobedience to the command of BAHA'ULLAH to turn, after His departure, to the Centre of the Covenant, Abdul-Baha, and by their harmful actions to the Cause.
The reply produced the desired effect and we, individually, spread it among the inquirers and thus enlarged the circle of its influence." [24-4]
In the United States of America a public statement was issued by Shu'a'u'llah, that son of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant who had been involved in the conspiracy to put Abdu'l-Baha to death. In it he invited the American Baha'is to turn to his father who, he claimed, was the legitimate successor of Baha'u'llah after Abdu'l-Baha. His call was utterly ignored by the believers in the West.
In Persia, with the exception of a few Covenant-breakers, the Baha'i community paid no attention to Muhammad-'Ali's circular letters claiming successorship of Abdu'l-Baha. The publication of the Will and Testament among the believers brought much comfort and consolation to their hearts; they realised that the Master had not abandoned them, but rather had left the custodianship of the Cause of God in the hands of Shoghi Effendi, His eldest grandson, whom He appointed as the Guardian of the Faith and the Interpreter of the Holy Writings.
When Abdu'l-Baha passed away in Haifa, Shoghi Effendi was studying at Oxford University in England. The news of the ascension of Abdu'l-Baha came to him as a shattering blow, so much so that when he was informed of it he collapsed and fell flat on the ground. We read the following account by Ruhiyyih Khanum in her immortal work The Priceless Pearl.
"The address of Major Tudor Pole, in London, was often used as the distributing point for cables and letters to the Baha'is. Shoghi Effendi himself, whenever he went up to London, usually called there. On 29 November 1921 at 9.30 in the morning the following cable reached that office: <p278>
"Cyclometry London
"His Holiness Abdu'l-Baha ascended Abha Kingdom. Inform friends.
Greatest Holy Leaf
"In notes he made of this terrible event and its immediate repercussions Tudor Pole records that he immediately notified the friends by wire, telephone and letter. I believe he must have telephoned Shoghi Effendi, asking him to come at once to his office, but not conveying to him at that distance a piece of news which he well knew might prove too much of a shock. However this may be, at about noon Shoghi Effendi reached London, went to 61 St James' Street (off Piccadilly and not far from Buckingham Palace) and was shown into the private office. Tudor Pole was not in the room at the moment but as Shoghi Effendi stood there his eye was caught by the name of Abdu'l-Baha on the open cablegram lying on the desk and he read it. When Tudor Pole entered the room a moment later he found Shoghi Effendi in a state of collapse, dazed and bewildered by this catastrophic news. He was taken to the home of Miss Grand, one of the London believers, and put to bed there for a few days. Shoghi Effendi's sister Rouhangeze (sic) was studying in London and she, Lady Blomfield and others did all they could to comfort the heart-stricken youth." [24-5]
In a letter to a Baha'i friend written a few days after the passing of the Master, Shoghi Effendi shares with him his thoughts about Abdu'l-Baha and informs him of his plans:
"The terrible news has for some days so overwhelmed my body, my mind and my soul that I was laid for a couple of days in bed almost senseless, absent-minded and greatly agitated. Gradually His power revived me and breathed in me a confidence that I hope will henceforth guide me and inspire me in my humble work of service. The day had to come, but how sudden and unexpected. The fact however that His Cause has created so many and such beautiful souls all over the world is a sure guarantee that it will live and prosper and ere long will compass the world! I am immediately starting for Haifa to receive the instructions He has left and have now made a supreme determination to dedicate my life to His service and by His aid to carry out His instructions all the days of my life.
"The friends have insisted on my spending a day or two of rest in this place with Dr. Esslemont after the shock I have sustained and tomorrow I shall start back to London and thence to the Holy Land.
"The stir which is now aroused in the Baha'i world is an impetus to this Cause and will awaken every faithful soul to shoulder the responsibilities which the Master has now placed upon every one of us.
"The Holy Land will remain the focal centre of the Baha'i world; a new era will now come upon it. The Master in His great vision has consolidated His work and His spirit assures me that its results will soon be made manifest. <p279>
"I am starting with Lady Blomfield for Haifa, and if we are delayed in London for our passage I shall then come and see you and tell you how marvellously the Master has designed His work after Him and what remarkable utterances He has pronounced with regard to the future of the Cause.
"With prayer and faith in His Cause, I am your well-wisher in His service,
From Shoghi Effendi's other statements it is clear that although he knew that an envelope addressed to him by the Master was awaiting his return to the Holy Land, he had no prior knowledge at this time that he was appointed by Abdu'l-Baha in His Will and Testament as the Guardian of the Faith, the Interpreter of the Word of God, and the One to whom all were bidden to turn. Such a heavy burden, so suddenly and unexpectedly laid upon his shoulders, came to him as a further shock not less agonizing than the earlier one caused by the news of Abdu'l-Baha's passing. <p280>
Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Faith
Shoghi Effendi was born on 1 March 1897 into the household of Abdu'l-Baha in the prison city of Akka. He was a descendant of both Baha'u'llah and the Bab. His mother Diya'iyyih Khanum was the eldest daughter of Abdu'l-Baha. His father Mirza Hadi Shirazi was an Afnan, a grandson of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, who was a cousin of the mother of the Bab and a brother of His wife. Thus Abdu'l-Baha describes Shoghi Effendi as 'the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the twin surging seas ... the blest and sacred bough that hath branched out from the twin holy Trees." [25-1]
Knowing full well the glorious mission which the Almighty had destined for His first grandson, Abdu'l-Baha extended to him from the time he was born a special measure of care and love, and kept him under the wings of His protection. A few of those who had been admitted to the presence of Baha'u'llah and who were endowed with spiritual insight observed that the same relationship which existed between Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha[1] was also apparent between Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. That deep sense of humility and utter nothingness which Abdu'l-Baha manifested toward His Father and which was reciprocated by Him through an outpouring of bounty and love, was likewise established between the young grandchild and his beloved Master. But in order to avoid creating jealousy in the family, Abdu'l-Baha was cautious of openly showing the intensity of His love for Shoghi Effendi. In spite of this, those believers who were endowed with discernment had noticed this special relationship and had no doubt that the reins of the Cause of God would one day be placed in the hands of Shoghi Effendi.
[1 See above, ch. 9.]
Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali and Dr Yunis Khan were among these enlightened believers. The famous poet and devoted promoter of the Cause Andalib saw signs of his future glory as Shoghi Effendi lay in his cradle, and he composed a most delightful lullaby, a song of praise and victory for him. Abdu'l-Baha conferred upon His first <p281> grandchild the name 'Shoghi (one who longs), but commanded everyone to add the title 'Effendi'[1] after his name. He even told the father of Shoghi Effendi not to call him merely 'Shoghi'. The Master Himself called him Shoghi Effendi when he was only a child, and wrote this prayer which reveals His cherished hopes for the future of His first grandchild.
[1 'Effendi' is a title which is given to people as a term of respect.]
"...O God! This is a branch sprung from the tree of Thy mercy. Through Thy grace and bounty enable him to grow and through the showers of Thy generosity cause him to become a verdant, flourishing, blossoming and fruitful branch. Gladden the eyes of his parents, Thou Who giveth to whomsoever Thou willest, and bestow upon him the name Shoghi so that he may yearn for Thy Kingdom and soar into the realms of the unseen!" [25-2]
From his early childhood, Shoghi Effendi developed a passionate love for Abdu'l-Baha. Their relationship was unlike that between any other child and his grandfather; it was a spiritual force, a heavenly power which linked Shoghi Effendi with his beloved Master. It was this degree of attachment and humble devotion which was reminiscent of Abdu'l-Baha's own attitude toward Baha'u'llah. Mrs Ella Goodall Cooper, one of the distinguished believers of the West who attained the presence of Abdu'l-Baha in Akka in 1899, has recounted her impressions of Shoghi Effendi as a child when he came into a room to pay his respects to the Master. This took place in the house of Abdu'llah Pasha.
"One day ... I had joined the ladies of the Family in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf for early morning tea, the beloved Master was sitting in His favourite corner of the divan where, through the window on His right, He could look over the ramparts and see the blue Mediterranean beyond. He was busy writing Tablets, and the quiet peace of the room was broken only by the bubble of the samovar, where one of the young maidservants, sitting on the floor before it, was brewing the tea.
"Presently the Master looked up from His writing with a smile, and requested Ziyyih Khanum to chant a prayer. As she finished, a small figure appeared in the open doorway, directly opposite Abdu'l-Baha. Having dropped off his shoes he stepped into the room, with his eyes focused on the Master's face. Abdu'l-Baha returned his gaze with such a look of loving welcome it seemed to beckon the small one to approach Him. Shoghi, that beautiful little boy, with his exquisite cameo face and his soulful appealing, dark eyes, walked slowly toward the divan, the Master drawing him as by an invisible thread, until he stood quite close in front of Him. As he paused there a moment Abdu'l-Baha did not offer to embrace him but sat perfectly still, only nodding His head two or three <p282> times, slowly and impressively, as if to say -- 'You see? This tie connecting us is not just that of a physical grandfather but something far deeper and more significant.' While we breathlessly watched to see what he would do, the little boy reached down and picking up the hem of Abdu'l-Baha's robe he touched it reverently to his forehead, and kissed it, then gently replaced it, while never taking his eyes from the adored Master's face. The next moment he turned away, and scampered off to play, like any normal child... At that time he was Abdu'l-Baha's only grandchild ... and, naturally, he was of immense interest to the pilgrims." [25-3]
This attitude of humility and profound reverence toward the Master was one of the most outstanding features of the life and personality of Shoghi Effendi till the end of his life.
When Shoghi Effendi was a child, a Persian believer asked Abdu'l-Baha about the future of the Cause after Him. In a Tablet He wrote;
"...Know verily that this is a well-guarded secret. It is even as a gem concealed within its shell. That it will be revealed is predestined. The time will come when its light will appear, when its evidences will be made manifest, and its secrets unravelled." [25-4]
Another believer from America wrote to the Master that from the study of the Bible one gathers that the prophecy of Isaiah 'a little child shall lead them' [25-5] relates to the time after Abdu'l-Baha, and wanted to know if this referred to a real person who would succeed Him. In answer to this, the following Tablet was written:
"O Maidservant of God!
"Verily, that child is born and is alive and from him will appear wondrous things that thou wilt hear of in the future. Thou shalt behold him endowed with the most perfect appearance, supreme capacity, absolute perfection, consummate power and unsurpassed might. His face will shine with a radiance that illumines all the horizons of the world; therefore forget this not as long as thou dost live inasmuch as ages and centuries will bear traces of him.
Upon thee be greetings and praise Abdu'l-Baha Abbas" [25-6]
Dr Yunis Khan, who was not aware of this Tablet, once received a letter from an American believer saying that some of the friends had heard that the one who would succeed the Master had been born recently. At first, Dr Yunis Khan found it very difficult to mention this to Abdu'l-Baha, because he could not bring himself to think of a day when the Master would pass away. After some days, he mentioned the question timorously and in a low voice, whereupon Abdu'l-Baha responded in the affirmative and said: 'The triumph of the Cause of God is in his hands.' <p283>
Shoghi Effendi grew up in the household of Abdu'l-Baha under His care and protection, but his childhood years were spent in Akka during the time when the Master and His family were incarcerated within the walls of the City and subjected to violent opposition by the Covenant-breakers. Great dangers surrounded the Holy Family. Thus Shoghi Effendi experienced, from the early years of his life, the venomous assaults launched against the Cause by the violators of the Covenant. When at one point the situation in Akka became too dangerous and unbearable, Abdu'l-Baha sent Shoghi Effendi to Haifa with his nurse; here he lived until the Master was released from imprisonment and the Holy Family moved there permanently.
Concerning Shoghi Effendi's schooling Ruhiyyih Khanum writes:
"Shoghi Effendi entered the best school in Haifa, the College des Freres, conducted by the Jesuits. He told me he had been very unhappy there. Indeed, I gathered from him that he never was really happy in either school or university. In spite of his innately joyous nature, his sensitivity and his background -- so different from that of others in every way -- could not but set him apart and give rise to many a heart-ache; indeed, he was one of those people whose open and innocent hearts, keen minds and affectionate natures seem to combine to bring upon them more shocks and suffering in life than is the lot of most men. Because of his unhappiness in this school Abdu'l-Baha decided to send him to Beirut where he attended another Catholic school as a boarder, and where he was equally unhappy. Learning of this in Haifa the family sent a trusted Baha'i woman to rent a home for Shoghi Effendi in Beirut and take care of and wait on him. It was not long before she wrote to his father that he was very unhappy at school, would refuse to go to it sometimes for days, and was getting thin and run down. His father showed this letter to Abdu'l-Baha Who then had arrangements made for Shoghi Effendi to enter the Syrian Protestant College, which had a school as well as a university, later known as the American College in Beirut, and which the Guardian entered when he finished what was then equivalent to the high school. Shoghi Effendi spent his vacations at home in Haifa, in the presence as often as possible of the grandfather he idolized and Whom it was the object of his life to serve. The entire course of Shoghi Effendi's studies was aimed by him at fitting himself to serve the Master, interpret for Him and translate His letters into English." [25-7]
Shoghi Effendi received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Beirut in 1918. He was then able to return to Haifa and serve the Master, which he did uninterruptedly, day and night, with a devotion that knew no bounds. Not only did he serve Him as secretary and translator of His Tablets into English, he also attended to many other duties which he took upon himself in order to assist the Master in His manifold activities. He did this with characteristic sincerity, promptness, and thoroughness, and brought great joy to <p284> the heart of the Master. The following story told by Ruhiyyih Khanum demonstrates Shoghi Effendi's earnestness and perseverance in his work throughout his life.
"Although the Master's work had now increased to such an extent that many people were engaged in constantly serving and assisting Him, there can be no doubt that no one compared with Shoghi Effendi. I remember the Guardian telling me of how (I believe it must have been in early 1920) one of the old American Baha'is had sent a gift to the Master of a Cunningham automobile; notice of its arrival at the quayside in port came just as the weekend commenced and the Master gave Shoghi Effendi instructions to see that it was cleared and delivered to the house. Shoghi Effendi told me that although the next day there were no high officials in the port and it was not a business day, he succeeded in getting the car delivered and when it arrived he went to the Master and informed Him it was outside the door. He said the Master was very surprised and immensely pleased and asked him how he had succeeded in doing this. Shoghi Effendi told Him he had taken the papers and gone to the homes of various officials, asking them to sign the documents and give the necessary orders for the car of Sir Abdu'l-Baha Abbas to be delivered to Him at once. This was typical of the way Shoghi Effendi did his work throughout his entire life. He always wanted everything done at once, if not sooner, and everything he had any personal control over progressed at that speed." [25-8]
For a period of two years, until 1920, Shoghi Effendi was the constant companion of Abdu'l-Baha. He accompanied his grandfather when He visited high ranking government officials or religious dignitaries, and saw how the Master treated His friends and dealt with His enemies. In all these encounters, Shoghi Effendi observed the manner in which Abdu'l-Baha conducted Himself, with that majesty and authority which were characteristic of His Person. This period, which brought Shoghi Effendi so close to the Master and linked his heart with His, were among the most fertile years of his life. But this intimate association, in the course of which Abdu'l-Baha bountifully endowed the future Guardian of the Cause of God with special powers and capacities, irrevocably came to an end when it was decided that Shoghi Effendi should enter Oxford University in England to perfect his English in order to achieve his heart's desire to better translate the Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha and other holy writings.
Shoghi Effendi left the Holy Land in the spring of 1920 and began his studies at Balliol College in the autumn of that year. During his short stay in Oxford -- a little over one year -- he concentrated all his energies on mastering the English language. But he could not complete his education, for the plan of God cut across his plans in a most painful way when Abdu'l-Baha passed away. <p285>
Accompanied by his sister Ruhangiz and by Lady Blomfield, Shoghi Effendi sailed from England on 16 December and arrived in Haifa on the 29th, one month after the passing of the Master. The agony of bereavement had taken its toll, and Shoghi Effendi was physically a broken man. So frail was he that he had to be assisted up the steps of his home on his arrival. Grief-stricken by the absence of the Master, he then had to be confined to bed for a number of days.
The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha was awaiting the arrival of Shoghi Effendi to be opened. Concerning this, Ruhiyyih Khanum writes:
"When Abdu'l-Baha so unexpectedly and quietly passed away, after no serious illness, the distracted members of His family searched His papers to see if by chance He had left any instructions as to where He should be buried. Finding none, they entombed Him in the centre of the three rooms adjacent to the inner Shrine of the Bab. They discovered His Will -- which consists of three Wills written at different times and forming one document -- addressed to Shoghi Effendi. It now became the painful duty of Shoghi Effendi to hear what was in it; a few days after his arrival they read it to him. In order to understand even a little of the effect this had on him we must remember that he himself stated on more than one occasion, not only to me, but to others who were present at the table of the Western Pilgrim House, that he had had no foreknowledge of the existence of the Institution of Guardianship, least of all that he was appointed as Guardian; that the most he had expected was that perhaps, because he was the eldest grandson, Abdu'l-Baha might have left instructions as to how the Universal House of Justice was to be elected and he might have been designated the one to see these were carried out and act as Convenor of the gathering which would elect it." [25-9 ]
The belief that the Universal House of Justice would come into being immediately after the passing of Abdu'l-Baha was not uncommon among the Baha'is. Many of them thought this would happen, and soon after Shoghi Effendi's appointment a few ambitious individuals such as Avarih and Ahmad Sohrab[1] tried to insist that the House of Justice should be formed without delay. It is interesting to note that the Master, when in America, spoke to a few friends about the protection of the Faith and the role of the Universal House of Justice in securing this. Here is a summary translation of His words as recorded by Mirza Mahmud Zarqani, the faithful chronicler of His journeys to the West:
[1 See below, chs. 30 md 31.]
"In the car, on the way to the hotel, Abdu'l-Baha expressed His deep concern about the future of the Cause and said: 'I have endured hardships on this journey in order that no breaches may take place within the Cause of God. But I am not optimistic about the turn of events after Me. If I <p286> were certain that all would be well, I would not have left the Holy Land, I would have stayed there close to the Holy Shrine. After the martyrdom of the Bab, the Cause of God for the first time came under strong attack by Mirza Yahya. Another time after the ascension of Baha'u'llah it was severely assailed by the Covenant-breakers. I am now afraid that after Me some egotistical persons might make fresh attempts to introduce divisions within the community of the friends. If the time were propitious, the House of Justice could be brought into being and it would protect the Cause.'" [25-10]
The Master knew well that Covenant-breakers old and new would renew their onslaught against the Cause of God. From the way the institutions of the Faith have developed since the ascension of Abdu'l-Baha, it can be seen that it was not timely then to establish the Universal House of Justice straight away. In His wisdom He knew that the Faith first needed a Guardian, whose purpose would be, on the one hand, to lay the foundation of the Administrative Order for future generations to build upon, and, on the other, to wipe out the evils of Covenant-breaking in the Holy Land.
Although the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha was read out to Shoghi Effendi soon after his arrival in Haifa, it had to be formally presented to the members of the Family and others in the Holy Land. On 3 January 1922 in the presence of nine persons, mainly senior members of Abdu'l-Baha's family, and in Shoghi Effendi's absence the Will and Testament was read aloud, and its seal, signature and handwriting were shown to them. Later, the Greatest Holy Leaf sent cables to Persia and America -- the two major communities at that time -- informing them that according to the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi was appointed 'Guardian of the Cause of God'.
A major source of consolation and support for Shoghi Effendi from the time he returned to the Holy land until the end of her earthly life in 1932 was the Greatest Holy Leaf, the adored sister of Abdu'l-Baha. She, the most outstanding woman in the Baha'i Dispensation, was a tower of strength for everyone. And now that the Master had gone to His heavenly abode, the burden of many responsibilities, and, especially in the early days, the protection of the Guardian from the assaults of the Covenant-breakers, were placed upon her shoulders.
Ruhiyyih Khanum writes:
"Immediately after these events Shoghi Effendi selected eight passages from the Will and circulated them among the Baha'is; only one of these referred to himself, was very brief and was quoted as follows. 'O ye the faithful loved ones of Abdu'l-Baha! It is incumbent upon you to take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi... For he is, after Abdu'l-Baha, the <p287> guardian of the Cause of God, the Afnan, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause and the beloved of the Lord must obey him and turn unto him.' Of all the thundering and tremendous passages in the Will referring to himself, Shoghi Effendi chose the least astounding and provocative to first circulate among the Baha'is. Guided and guiding he was from the very beginning. [25-11]
The Baha'i world was now embarking upon a new age, but as in those days after the ascension of Baha'u'llah when the community had entered a prolonged period of tests and trials, the Will and Testament likewise provided the same challenges to the Baha'is. We have discussed in some detail the significance of the Will and Testament of Baha'u'llah, and that of Abdu'l-Baha, and how these two Wills acted as examination papers for the followers of Baha'u'llah. Before they were issued, every believer was part of the community of the Most Great Name, and there was no division, but after their contents became known; the unfaithful failed the tests of the Covenant; they were cast out and the community was purged.
The news of Shoghi Effendi's appointment as Guardian of the Cause of God was hailed by the entire Baha'i world. There were nevertheless some faithless individuals, motivated by their ambition to emerge as leaders of the community, who arose in opposition to Shoghi Effendi and despite all his efforts to save them, proved unrepentant and were expelled from the community. However, it took some time before these egotistical personalities surfaced and launched their attacks.
There was another category of people, who, although they did not openly oppose Shoghi Effendi in those early days, ultimately revealed their lack of faith in him as the Guardian of the Cause of God. These included most of the members of Abdu'l-Baha's family. They failed to see Shoghi Effendi in the light of Abdu'l-Baha's Will and Testament in which he is referred to, among other things, as the 'Sign of God', the 'expounder of the Words of God' and the 'Light that ... shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance'. These people contended that since Shoghi Effendi was only a youth, he ought to establish the House of Justice so that it could assist him in his work. In later years, one by one, the members of the family rose up against Shoghi Effendi, violated the Covenant, and were responsible for the greatest of sufferings which were inflicted upon him during his ministry.
But the immediate opposition came from the old, established Covenant-breakers, especially Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, his brother and his associates. These unscrupulous men, who during the latter part of Abdu'l-Baha's Ministry had became demoralized, with no choice but to creep into the limbo of ignominy and defeat, raised <p288> their heads once again when they saw a youth of twenty-five years of age at the helm. They thought they could wrest the leadership of the Baha'i community from him, but soon discovered that they were gravely mistaken.
The Arch-breaker of the Covenant in the Holy Land, and a few of his supporters in America and Persia, actively tried to create division within the Community. Shortly before Shoghi Effendi's arrival in Haifa, the Greatest Holy Leaf sent a cable to the American believers which read: NOW IS PERIOD OF GREAT TESTS. THE FRIENDS SHOULD BE FIRM AND UNITED. NAKESEENS[1] STARTING ACTIVITIES THROUGH PRESS, OTHER CHANNELS ALL OVER WORLD. SELECT COMMITTEE OF WISE COOL HEADS TO HANDLE PRESS PROPAGANDA IN AMERICA. [25-12]
[1 Covenant-breakers.]
At the same time as Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was calling on the Baha'is to follow him as Abdu'l-Baha's successor, he took ruthless action to take over the custody of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah for himself. Ruhiyyih Khanum describes this:
"Shortly after Abdu'l-Baha's ascension, this disgruntled and perfidious half-brother had filed a claim, based on Islamic law (he who pretended he had still a right to be the successor of Baha'u'llah!), for a portion of the estate of Abdu'l-Baha which he now claimed a right to as His brother. He had sent for his son, who had been living in America and agitating his father's claims there, to join him in this new and direct attack on the Master and His family. Not content with this exhibition of his true nature he applied to the civil authorities to turn over the custodianship of Baha'u'llah's Shrine to him on the grounds that he was Abdu'l-Baha's lawful successor. The British authorities refused on the grounds that it appeared to be a religious issue; he then appealed to the Muslim religious head and asked the Mufti of Akka to take formal charge of Baha'u'llah's Shrine; this dignitary, however, said he did not see how he could do this as the Baha'i teachings were not in conformity with Shariah law. All other avenues having failed he sent his younger brother, Badiullah, with some of their supporters, to visit the Shrine of Baha'u'llah where, on Tuesday, 30 January, they forcibly seized the keys of the Holy Tomb from the Baha'i caretaker, thus asserting Muhammad Ali's right to be the lawful custodian of his Father's resting-place. This unprincipled act created such a commotion in the Baha'i Community that the Governor of Akka ordered the keys to be handed over to the authorities, posted guards at the Shrine, but went no further, refusing to return the keys to either party." [25-13]
Since Shoghi Effendi had arrived in Haifa, the shock of the announcement of his appointment as the Guardian of the Faith, coupled with the terrible ordeal of the passing of the Master, were taking their toll on his health. He was so crushed under the weight of <p289> bereavement that he could not even attend a memorial meeting for the Master which was held in His residence forty days after His ascension. Three weeks later, this latest transgression by the Covenant-breakers in laying hands on the sacred Shrine of Baha'u'llah Himself, came as a further blow.
Although the seizure of the key of the Shrine by this bitterest enemy brought further shock and sorrow to the tender and sensitive heart of Shoghi Effendi, yet, in spite of his physical weakness, the evidence of divine guidance was apparent in his actions, actions characterised by a resolve and a wisdom which called to mind the wisdom of Abdu'l-Baha and His penetrating foresight. Shoghi Effendi appealed to the government for the return of the key, but his absence from the Holy Land, which lasted about eight months, postponed the issue. He pursued this matter with great diligence until full rights of possession were restored to him by the authorities. Ruhiyyih Khanum writes in greater detail about this episode:
"The matter which concerned Shoghi Effendi most, however, was the Shrine of Baha'u'llah at Bahji. The keys of the inner Tomb were still held by the authorities; the right of access to other parts of the Shrine was accorded Baha'is and Covenant-breakers alike; the Baha'i custodian looked after it as before, and any decision seemed in a state of abeyance. Shoghi Effendi never rested until, through representations he made to the authorities, backed by insistent pressure from Baha'is all over the world, he succeeded in getting the custody of the Holy Tomb back into his own hands. On 7 February 1923 he wrote to Tudor Pole: 'I have had a long talk with Col. Symes and have fully explained to him the exact state of affairs, the unmistakable and overwhelming voice of all the Baha'i Community and their unshakable determination to stand by the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha. Recently sent a message to Muhammad Ali requiring from him the sum of .108. for the expenses of the policeman, contending that he being the aggressor is liable to this expense. So far he has not complied with this request and I await future developments with deep anxiety.'
"The following day Shoghi Effendi received this telegram from his cousin, who was in Jerusalem:
"His Eminence Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, Haifa.
"Letter received immediate steps taken the final decision by the High Commissioner is in our favour the key is yours." [25-14]
As time went on, the pressures from the Covenant-breakers increased. At the same time, there were some whom Abdu'l-Baha had befriended, but who did not take Shoghi Effendi's leadership seriously because they thought he could never manage to govern the affairs of the Faith after Abdu'l-Baha. These people created an uneasy situation within the Family by their negative attitude. For <p290> instance, when they noticed that Shoghi Effendi was not following the practice of Abdu'l-Baha in attending the mosque every Friday, and that he wore European clothes, they gradually distanced themselves from the Baha'i community.
It is important to note at this juncture that although Shoghi Effendi did not find it appropriate in his day, there had been great wisdom in Abdu'l-Baha's attendance at the mosque during His Ministry. At the time of Baha'u'llah's arrival, the people of Akka considered a man who did not attend a mosque or a church to be an infidel. The Faith had neither formulated its teachings and laws, nor was its true identity known to the inhabitants of the Holy Land. It had been presented to the population as a misguided sect of unbelievers. In these circumstances, refusal to go to the mosque would have stigmatized Baha'u'llah and His companions as infidels. By attending the mosque they came to be regarded in the eyes of the public as believers in God. One of the useful by-products of attending the mosque was that Abdu'l-Baha established a marvellous relationship with the people, and in time emerged, in the words of an admirer, as the 'Master of Akka'.
Bearing in mind his ill-health and the weight of the custodianship of so mighty a Cause which was so suddenly placed upon his shoulders, the pressures which were building up around Shoghi Effendi were intolerable. Under such circumstances he decided to leave the Holy Land for a temporary period during which he hoped to pray and commune with his Beloved in solitude, to regain his strength and confidence, and return to the duties which were awaiting him at the World Centre. He announced his decision in a letter he wrote in English to the Baha'is of the West, and in a similar one in Persian to the Baha'is of the East.
"He is God!
"This servant, after that grievous event and great calamity -- the ascension of His Holiness Abdu'l-Baha to the Abha Kingdom -- has been so stricken with grief and pain and so entangled in the troubles (created) by the enemies of the Cause of God, that I consider my presence here, at such a time and in such an atmosphere, is not in accordance with the fulfillment of my important and sacred duties.
"For this reason, unable to do otherwise, I have left for a time the affairs of the Cause, both at home and abroad, under the supervision of the Holy Family and the headship of the Greatest Holy Leaf -- may my soul be a sacrifice to her -- until, by the Grace of God, having gained health, strength, self-confidence and spiritual energy, and having taken into my hands, in accordance with my aim and desire, entirely and regularly the work of service, I shall attain to my utmost spiritual hope and aspiration.
The servant of His Threshold,
Shoghi" [25-15] <p291>

At so crucial a time in the history of the Faith, the direction of the affairs of the Cause by the Holy Family headed by the Greatest Holy Leaf is yet more evidence of the invincibility of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. As we look back upon those critical days so soon after the passing of the Master, when the Covenant-breakers had embarked upon their relentless campaign of opposition, the departure of Shoghi Effendi from the Holy Land seemed, if we look at it from a human point of view, to provide an opportunity for the Covenant-breakers to manoeuvre divisions within the community. But there were no such ill effects. Although the Guardian had left, the believers remained united and steadfast in the Covenant. They rallied around the Greatest Holy Leaf, that noble figure who bore the weight of so great a responsibility during Shoghi Effendi's absence, and who handed the reins of the Cause back to him on his return. Through her writings she instilled the spirit of confidence into the Baha'i community and directed the manifold efforts of the believers. These writings, addressed to the Baha'is of the East and the West, are inspiring, eloquent and soul-stirring. In their lucidity, profundity and style, they are similar to the Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha. In them the Greatest Holy Leaf urges the Baha'is to remain firm in their faith and steadfast in their love for the Guardian of the Cause of God. From the moment the Master passed away until her last breath, the Greatest Holy Leaf poured out upon Shoghi Effendi her loving support and protection. To attempt to recount her noble activities and splendid leadership during this period is beyond the scope of this book; suffice it to say that having rendered devoted services to Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha during the Heroic Age of the Faith, she played a vital role in the Formative Age. She was instrumental in helping to bring about a transition from that former Age into the latter. During Shoghi Effendi's absence from the Holy Land, she prepared the Baha'i world for the advent of a new day in the fortunes of the Faith, and after his return she continued to support him in the work of the building of Baha'u'llah's new World Order. <p292>
Building the Foundations of the Administrative Order
When the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha was circulated among the friends, many who studied its provisions reached the conclusion that the formation of the Universal House of Justice had to take place at an early date. Indeed, in January 1922, soon after the announcement of his appointment as the Guardian of the Faith was made Shoghi Effendi wrote a very inspiring letter to the Baha'is of Persia [26-1] in which he indicated that he would be sending them detailed arrangements for the establishment of the Universal House of Justice.
Shortly before Shoghi Effendi's departure for Europe, a number of prominent Baha'is visited the Holy Land at his invitation. They impressed upon him the necessity of bringing into being the House of Justice. This opinion, as we have seen, was shared by most members of Abdu'l-Baha's family as well as some high-ranking government officials. Most likely the government authorities were concerned about Shoghi Effendi's ability to govern the affairs of the Baha'i world single-handed. This lack of faith by non-Baha'is was understandable, but from the members of the family it revealed a sign of weakness in the Covenant.
Apart from his own thoughts, the pressure of public opinion for the establishment of the House of Justice must have exercised Shoghi Effendi's mind for some time, but the guidance of Baha'u'llah and His protection, as promised by Abdu'l-Baha, were always vouchsafed to the Guardian, and his decisions were divinely guided. It did not take long before Shoghi Effendi decided that the time was not ripe for the formation of the Universal House of Justice. In retrospect it can be seen that such an august institution needed a solid foundation upon which it could be built. The Local Spiritual Assemblies[1] which are the foundation of this Supreme Institution <p293> were weak and very few in number, and National Spiritual Assemblies,[2] the pillars upon which it had to be erected, were non-existent.
[1 The Local Spiritual Assembly is a council of nine members elected by the Baha'is in a locality. It is the body which has jurisdiction over the affairs of the local Baha'i community.]
[2 The National Spiritual Assembly is elected by the national community through its delegates; it has jurisdiction over the affairs of the Baha'i community in a country or region.]
It must be remembered that towards the end of Abdu'l-Baha's Ministry, there were only a few rudimentary local Baha'i institutions in America and Persia.[1]They were loosely organised, and the believers had no conception of the real function of a Local Spiritual Assembly, nor did they have any experience in the art of Baha'i consultation. In these circumstances, Shoghi Effendi wisely concentrated his attention on the building of the local and national institutions of the Faith which were later to buttress and support the structure of the international institutions. Although he was physically under a great deal of strain and stress, nevertheless Baha'u'llah's protection was surrounding him. With the unshakeable resolve and determination which were characteristic of him, and before departing for Europe in April 1922, Shoghi Effendi sent verbal messages to Germany and Britain to form Local Spiritual Assemblies and to arrange for the election of a National Assembly in each country. To the United States he sent a message to transform the body known as 'Executive Board' into a legislative institution. As we look back upon these early days of Shoghi Effendi's ministry, we may see these actions as initial steps towards the erection of the framework of the Administrative Order of Baha'u'llah.
[1 For a detailed account of the formation of the first Spiritual Assembly in the Baha'i world, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4, pp. 290-3.]
On his return to the Holy Land in December 1922, Shoghi Effendi, recovered from his fatigue, refreshed and re-invigorated, took over the reins of the Cause of God and actively dedicated himself to the task of directing the many activities of the Baha'i communities in the East and the West. From the start he found himself in need of a competent secretariat for English and Persian letters. The only person who responded to his call for such service was the renowned Dr John Esslemont who served the Guardian with the utmost devotion, zeal and enthusiasm until his untimely death in 1925 robbed Shoghi Effendi of one of his ablest assistants. Although he tried to invite others to undertake a similar service, there were no suitable candidates available anywhere in the Baha'i world.
There were very few believers, if any, who had the vision and the experience needed to work with Shoghi Effendi in his efforts to build the foundations of the institutions of the Faith around the world. Although there were a number of outstanding scholars of the Faith in Persia who had studied all the Holy Writings available to them and were well versed in the history of the Faith as well as in the <p294> Scriptures of older religions, it is highly unlikely that any of them had perceived the significance of the institutions of the Faith, the inevitability of their rise and the emergence of the Administrative Order of Baha'u'llah, the framework of His World Order for mankind. These learned Baha'is were fully conscious of the importance of the Spiritual Assemblies, which Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha had emphasized. But probably none of them realized that the Local Spiritual Assembly was destined to become the primary institution of the Administrative Order, of which very little was known at the time. Nor did anyone realize that the institutions of the Faith would become channels for the flow of the spiritual forces latent within the Revelation of Baha'u'llah.
It becomes clear now only after the lapse of many decades how little the early Baha'is understood the basic principles of Baha'u'llah's Administrative Order, whose foundations Shoghi Effendi had begun to build. This is perhaps the main reason why Shoghi Effendi could not find a single believer who sufficiently understood the nature of the work which he had set himself to carry out, and who was free to come to the Holy Land and assist him. In the West, for example, there was Horace Holley, an able administrator who had grasped the significance of what Shoghi Effendi was doing, and would serve him faithfully in the important work of building the local and national institutions of the Faith in America. But because of his work there, he could not be spared to go to the Holy Land to assist Shoghi Effendi.
It is important to realize that whoever was given the privilege to work with the Guardian was never in a position to make a decision for him. It was he and he alone who directed the affairs of the Cause. Unlike world leaders who usually authorize their subordinates to make decisions, Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi were the sole decision-makers, because they alone were the recipients of divine guidance and no one else was. Indeed, the writings of Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi are all products of that infallible guidance which was conferred upon them by the Author of the Faith Himself.
In order to comprehend the workings and development of the Administrative Order of Baha'u'llah, one should study its genesis. It goes back to the Author of the Faith Himself. A distinguishing feature of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah is that the Word of God, sent down for the spiritualization and guidance of man, has been preserved in its original purity and freed from every manner of human interference. This vast and glorious Revelation is not subject to man's meddling, for to no one is given the right to tamper with His Word or His teachings. <p295>
In a previous chapter[1] we stated that the revelation of the Word of God may be likened to the rain which falls and creates a pool which in this analogy represents the repository of the Word of God -- of the holy scriptures of each religion. In this Dispensation, the outpourings of the words of Baha'u'llah have been so copious as to create a veritable ocean of Revelation, and Baha'u'llah sealed off this ocean from all intruders. During His lifetime, He Himself proffered the Water of Life to the peoples of the world, and after His passing, the outpouring of His Revelation was channelled through the person of Abdu'l-Baha. He it was who was created especially by God to act after the passing of Baha'u'llah as a container and reservoir for this great ocean. Baha'u'llah did not simply hand over His word and His Revelation free for all to manipulate. Rather, He entrusted them to Abdu'l-Baha and enjoined upon all the believers to turn to Him in order to receive their portion of the bounties of God which were enshrined within His Revelation. To no one did He give the right to interpret His words, to add or take away even a dot from His Writings. Using the above analogy, this mighty ocean was placed within the Person of Abdu'l-Baha, who acted as a wall around it and sealed it off from man's interference. So thoroughly did He embody the Revelation of Baha'u'llah within His soul that after the ascension of Baha'u'llah, it was only through Abdu'l-Baha that the redeeming power of His Faith and the spiritual energies He had released could flow to mankind.
[1 See above, pp. 100-102.]
Despite the many unscrupulous attempts to break through the walls which protected that ocean, despite those several outstanding followers of the Faith who rebelled against the Centre of the Covenant in order to promote their own selfish desires, to introduce their own ideas into the teachings, to divide the Faith of God and consequently to contaminate the heavenly stream of the Word of God, the Covenant of Baha'u'llah was based on a firm foundation and the walls around the ocean -- the Covenant -- were impregnable. This great ocean surged within the soul of Abdu'l-Baha for twenty-nine years, and He bestowed its life-giving waters upon thousands of men and women throughout the East and the West. He left for posterity the unadulterated Word of God free of every trace of distortion or defilement.
God in His everlasting Covenant has bestowed upon mankind two priceless gifts. One is the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, which is supreme over all things; the other, His Centre of the Covenant. He has given man both the ocean and the receptacle for it. These two gifts are God's part in His Covenant. Man's part is to draw the life-giving <p296> waters of His Revelation from this reservoir. But how was it possible for this objective to be achieved after the passing of Abdu'l-Baha? To bring this about, the Master delineated in His Will and Testament the outlines of a marvellous scheme: the institutions of the Administrative Order, designed to provide access to this spiritual reservoir.
The believers in the Formative Age had now to play their part, as bidden by Abdu'l-Baha, in the building up of the institutions of the Faith which were to act as channels for carrying the energies released by the Revelation of Baha'u'llah to every part of the planet. The raising of these institutions is to be regarded as the role that man has to fulfil in the eternal Covenant which God has made with him in this Dispensation.
Knowing their inadequacy and immaturity, Abdu'l-Baha did not leave the believers alone in this task. He gave them Shoghi Effendi, whom He extolled as a pearl, unique and priceless, the Sign of God on earth, the Guardian of the Cause of God and the Expounder and Interpreter of His Word. The blue-print of the institutions, local, national and international -- the channels designed to carry the water of life -- had been given by Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha. Shoghi Effendi's task then was that of the builder. In the same way as a city engineer distributes clean water to each home from the reservoir by means of the pumping station and the use of main ducts and local pipes, the world-vitalizing forces of the Faith of Baha'u'llah pour out from its World Centre through the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice into the National Spiritual Assemblies and through these to the Local Spiritual Assemblies all over the planet. Thus the water of life, deposited within the ocean of Baha'u'llah's Revelation and protected by the institution of the Covenant, is carried to the peoples of the world through the national and local institutions of the Faith without being adulterated by man.
In the course of his thirty-six years of Guardianship, Shoghi Effendi acted, in terms of the above analogy, as the pumping station, connecting the ocean of Baha'u'llah's Revelation to the National and Local Assemblies. Today this function is performed by the Universal House of Justice, and the world-vivifying forces of the Faith stream out from this divinely ordained institution into a vast network of Assemblies, bestowing spiritual life upon multitudes in every part of the world. Concerning the significance of these divinely ordained channels, Shoghi Effendi makes this remarkable statement:
"The moment had now arrived[1] for that undying, that world-vitalizing Spirit that was born in Shiraz, that had been rekindled in Tihran, that had been fanned into flame in Baghdad and Adrianople, that had been carried <p297> to the West, and was now illuminating the fringes of five continents, to incarnate itself in institutions designed to canalize its outspreading energies and stimulate its growth." [26-2]
[1 The beginning of the Formative Age.]
The 'world-vitalizing spirit' mentioned by Shoghi Effendi is generated by the Revelation of Baha'u'llah and is the cause of the quickening of mankind. It is the vivifying energies released by this spirit which penetrate the hearts of men and enable them to recognize the station of Baha'u'llah and embrace His Faith.
This statement by Shoghi Effendi conferred a completely new insight upon the followers of Baha'u'llah in every land. It became evident to them that whereas in the Heroic Age[1] this 'world-vitalizing spirit' which bestowed spiritual life upon the believers had been released by Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha Themselves, in the Formative Age this same spirit reaches humanity through the instrumentality of the local, national and international institutions of the Faith. It follows therefore, that in this day, a Local Spiritual Assembly becomes a channel through which the forces of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah can reach a locality. Once this institution is established, the believers in that locality can bring this 'world-vitalizing spirit' into contact with the people, thus enabling its life-giving energies to enter their hearts.
[1 The period covering the Ministries of the Bab, Baha'u'llah, and Abdu'l-Baha, 1844-1921.]
The usual process by which an individual is influenced by the Message of Baha'u'llah and becomes assured of its truth is through the instrumentality of a Baha'i teacher, or by reading some literature on the Faith. But in the final analysis, what makes a person a confirmed Baha'i is the spirit of the Faith which touches his heart. This spirit flows today through the Spiritual Assembly and permeates the locality where this institution is established. The Spiritual Assembly thus plays a vital part in releasing the spiritual energies emanating from the ocean of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah in a town, city or village.
Should there be no Spiritual Assembly in a locality, a Baha'i group[1] will provide this channel, for it is an institution which is destined to evolve into a Spiritual Assembly. The same is true of a Baha'i centre[2] when the lone individual acts as a nucleus of an Assembly. It can be seen therefore that the institution of the Spiritual Assembly is the essential element in the propagation of the Faith of Baha'u'llah throughout the world. The other element is the individual Baha'i, who is the means for diffusing 'divine fragrances' among the people. All this demonstrates that the local, national and international institutions of the Faith, the carriers of the 'world-vitalizing <p298> spirit', are an essential means for the propagation of the Faith, its establishment in every land, and its emergence in the fullness of time.
[1 A Baha'i group consists of two to eight believers in a locality.]
[2 A Baha'i centre is a locality in which one believer resides.]

It took several years for the Baha'is to appreciate the significance of the Local and National Spiritual Assemblies and their relationship to the institution of the Universal House of Justice. A clear picture emerged when Shoghi Effendi built a monument over the grave of the Greatest Holy Leaf on Mount Carmel. He described this monument as a symbol of the Administrative Order. It consists of a base, symbolic of the Local Spiritual Assemblies, a number of columns placed upon the base, symbolic of the National Spiritual Assemblies, and a dome built upon these representing the Universal House of Justice. The weight of this supreme institution of the Faith of Baha'u'llah is placed upon the National Spiritual Assemblies which in turn rest upon the Local Spiritual Assemblies. This interdependence of the institutions of the Administrative Order, which is built from the grass roots upwards (and not from the top down!) demonstrates that, in the absence of Local and National Spiritual Assemblies, it was not possible for Shoghi Effendi to arrange for the election of the Universal House of Justice.
The Administrative Order is the nucleus and the pattern of the promised World Order of Baha'u'llah which must come into being in the distant future; this Administrative Order has been developing since the ministry of Shoghi Effendi began in 192'. It is functioning today and is concerned with the affairs of the Baha'i community, but the writings of Shoghi Effendi make it clear that it is destined in the fullness of time to evolve into that new World Order designed to govern the whole of the human race under one universal Faith. It is important to note that Baha'u'llah Himself revealed the principles of His new World Order and ordained the establishment of some of its institutions. Abdu'l-Baha, in His Will and Testament, created further institutions and thus filled the gaps which Baha'u'llah had deliberately left open. Like an architect, Abdu'l-Baha, in this important document, delineated the features of the Administrative Order and appointed Shoghi Effendi to be its builder.
Barely two months had passed from the passing of the Master when Shoghi Effendi, grief-stricken and disconsolate, and encompassed by a number of distressing problems including bitter opposition from Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and the 'old' Covenant-breakers, turned his attention to the two major communities of the Baha'i world, Persia and America. In January 1922 he wrote important letters to these two communities in which he urged the believers in tender and moving language to arise in service for the triumph of His Cause. The following excerpts from his first letter to the friends in <p299> North America demonstrate his extraordinary capacity to rise above the intense afflictions which had assailed him from every direction, to entirely detach himself from his other cares and to turn his attention to the vital issues of enthusing the believers and assuring them of the promise of divine assistance.
"Dearly beloved brethren and sisters in Abdu'l-Baha:
"At this early hour when the morning light is just breaking upon the Holy Land, whilst the gloom of the dear Master's bereavement is still hanging thick upon the hearts, I feel as if my soul turns in yearning love and full of hope to that great company of His loved ones across the seas, who now share with us all the agonies of His separation.
"...the shock has been too terrible and sudden for us all to recover from in so short a time, but whenever we recall His Sayings and read His Writings, hope springs in our hearts and gives us the peace that no other material comfort can give.
"How well I remember when, more than two years ago, the Beloved Master turning to a distinguished visitor of His, who was seated by Him in His garden, suddenly broke the silence and said: -- 'My work is now done upon this plane; it is time for me to pass on to the other world.' Did He not in more than one occasion state clearly and emphatically: -- 'Were ye to know what will come to pass after Me, surely would ye pray that my end be hastened.' In a Tablet sent to Persia when the storm raised years ago by that Committee of Investigation was fiercely raging around Him, when the days of His incarceration were at their blackest, He reveals the following: -- 'Now in this world of being, the Hand of Divine Power hath firmly laid the foundations of this all-highest Bounty and this wondrous Gift. Gradually whatsoever is latent in the inner-most of this Holy Cycle shall appear and be made manifest, for now is but the beginning of its growth and the dayspring of the revelation of its Signs. Ere the close of this Century and of this Age, it shall be made clear and manifest how wondrous was that Springtide and how heavenly was that Gift!'
"With such assuring Utterances and the unmistakable evidences of His sure and clear knowledge that His end was nigh, is there any reason why the followers of His Faith, the world over, should be perturbed? Are not the prayers He revealed for us sufficient source of inspiration to every worker in His Cause? Have not His instructions paved before us the broad and straight Path of Teaching? Will not His now doubly effective power of Grace sustain us, strengthen us and confirm us in our work for Him? Ours is the duty to strive by day and night to fulfil our own obligations and then trust in His Guidance and never failing Grace. Unity amongst the friends, selflessness in our labours in His Path, detachment from all worldly things, the greatest prudence and caution in every step we take, earnest endeavour to carry out only what is His Holy Will and Pleasure the constant awareness of His Presence and of the example of His Life, the absolute shunning of whomsoever we feel to be an enemy of the Cause ... these, and foremost among them is the need for unity, appear to me as our most vital duties, should we dedicate our lives for His <p300> service. Should we in this spirit arise to serve Him, what surer and greater promise have we than the one His Glorious Father, Baha'u'llah, gives us in His Most Holy Book: -- 'Verily, We behold you from Our Realm of Effulgent Glory, and shall graciously aid whosoever ariseth for the triumph of Our Cause with the hosts of the Celestial Concourse and a company of Our chosen angels.'" [26-3]
Shoghi Effendi thus embarked upon the building of the foundations of the Administrative Order. Issuing his second letter to the friends in America as early as March 1922, a little over three months after the passing of Abdu'l-Baha, he began a programme of education of the believers in the art of Baha'i administration. In this letter, Shoghi Effendi calls on the American believers to recognize 'the full significance of this Hour of Transition', calls on them to set aside 'minor considerations' and to 'present a solid united front to the world animated by no other desire but to serve and propagate His Cause'. He emphasizes the importance of having Local Spiritual Assemblies 'in every locality where the number of adult declared believers exceeds nine', and advocates the establishment, through indirect election by the believers, of a National Body to administer 'the spiritual activities of the body of the friends in that land'. He quotes the words of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha describing the duties and functions of the Spiritual Assemblies, the attitude of those who take counsel together, the spirit that must animate them during consultation, and the steps they must take to bring about unity, love and harmony among the members of the Assembly. Indeed, Baha'i consultation is one of the most important subjects which Shoghi Effendi dwells upon in this letter.
He quotes parts of a celebrated Tablet by Abdu'l-Baha which may be regarded as a charter for the functioning of every Spiritual Assembly in the Baha'i world:
"The prime requisites for them that take counsel together are purity of motive, radiance of spirit, detachment from all else save God, attraction to His Divine Fragrances, humility and lowliness amongst His loved ones, patience and long-suffering in difficulties and servitude to His exalted Threshold. Should they be graciously aided to acquire these attributes, victory from the unseen Kingdom of Baha shall be vouchsafed to them. In this day, assemblies of consultation are of the greatest importance and a vital necessity. Obedience unto them is essential and obligatory. The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. Should any one oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. If after discussion, a decision be carried <p301> unanimously well and good; but if, the Lord forbid, differences of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail.
"The first condition is absolute love and harmony amongst the members of the assembly. They must be wholly free from estrangement and must manifest in themselves the Unity of God, for they are the waves of one sea, the drops of one river, the stars of one heaven, the rays of one sun, the trees of one orchard, the flowers of one garden. Should harmony of thought and absolute unity be non-existent, that gathering shall be dispersed and that assembly be brought to naught. The second condition: -- They must when coming together turn their faces to the Kingdom on High and ask aid from the Realm of Glory. They must then proceed with the utmost devotion, courtesy, dignity, care and moderation to express their views. They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one's views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden. The honoured members must with all freedom express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth, and should differences of opinion arise a majority of voices must prevail, and all must obey and submit to the majority. It is again not permitted that any one of the honoured members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously, though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced. In short, whatsoever thing is arranged in harmony and with love and purity of motive, its result is light, and should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness.... If this be so regarded, that assembly shall be of God, but otherwise it shall lead to coolness and alienation that proceed from the Evil One. Discussions must all be confined to spiritual matters that pertain to the training of souls, the instruction of children, the relief of the poor, the help of the feeble throughout all classes in the world, kindness to all peoples, the diffusion of the fragrances of God and the exaltation of His Holy Word. Should they endeavour to fulfil these conditions the Grace of the Holy Spirit shall be vouchsafed unto them, and that assembly shall become the centre of the Divine blessings, the hosts of Divine confirmation shall come to their aid, and they shall day by day receive a new effusion of Spirit." [26-4]
The pattern of the institutions of the Faith was thus to be first built up in North America, which he referred to as 'the Cradle of the Administrative Order'. Later, Baha'i institutions in other countries were to be fashioned on the same model. This was a noteworthy action, which as the years went by proved to be of vital importance for the development of the institutions of the Faith throughout the world. Shoghi Effendi's directives, embodied in his letters, for the establishment and proper functioning of spiritual assemblies and other agencies of the Faith, were issued in the course of several years <p302> and were implemented and put into practice first by the North American community, thus creating a suitable pattern for other communities to adopt.
In the early years of the Guardianship there were two major Baha'i communities in the world: Persia and North America. Persia was the Cradle of the Faith. The twin Manifestations of God, the Bab and Baha'u'llah, had appeared in that country when its people were sunk in the depths of ignorance and perversity, but from within such a corrupt nation God raised up heroes and heroines, men and women who were transformed into spiritual giants and who became immortalized through their sacrificial deeds during the Heroic Age of the Faith. Through this transformation the power of God and the influence of His word could be demonstrated to the peoples of the world.
Now, in the Formative Age, this same process was to be repeated in the West. Shoghi Effendi decided to build up the institutions of the new world order in North America, a continent which despite its spirit of enterprise and benevolence, was 'notorious', he said, for its political and social corruption. Once again God's omnipotence was to be demonstrated, through the building up of the Faith's nascent institutions within such a materialistic society. Concerning this development, Shoghi Effendi writes:
"In the light of this fundamental principle it should always be borne in mind, nor can it be sufficiently emphasized, that the primary reason why the Bab and Baha'u'llah chose to appear in Persia, and to make it the first repository of their Revelation, was because, of all the peoples and nations of the civilized world, that race and nation had, as so often depicted by Abdu'l-Baha, sunk to such ignominious depths, and manifested so great a perversity, as to find no parallel among its contemporaries. For no more convincing proof could be adduced demonstrating the regenerating spirit animating the Revelations proclaimed by the Bab and Baha'u'llah than their power to transform what can be truly regarded as one of the most backward, the most cowardly, and perverse of peoples into a race of heroes, fit to effect in turn a similar revolution in the life of mankind. To have appeared among a race or nation which by its intrinsic worth and high attainments seemed to warrant the inestimable privilege of being made the receptacle of such a Revelation would in the eyes of an unbelieving world greatly reduce the efficacy of that Message, and to detract from the self-sufficiency of its omnipotent power. The contrast so strikingly presented in the pages of Nabil's Narrative between the heroism that immortalized the life and deeds of the Dawn-Breakers and the degeneracy and cowardice of their defamers and persecutors is in itself a most impressive testimony to the truth of the Message of Him Who had instilled such a spirit into the breasts of His disciples. For any believer of that race to maintain that the excellence of his country and the innate <p303> nobility of its people were the fundamental reasons for its being singled out as the primary receptacle of the Revelations of the Bab and Baha'u'llah would be untenable in the face of the overwhelming evidence afforded so convincingly by that Narrative.
To a lesser degree this principle must of necessity apply to the country which has vindicated its right to be regarded as the cradle of the World Order of Baha'u'llah. So great a function, so noble a role, can be regarded as no less inferior to the part played by those immortal souls who, through their sublime renunciation and unparalleled deeds, have been responsible for the birth of the Faith itself. Let not, therefore, those who are to participate so predominantly in the birth of that world civilization, which is the direct offspring of their Faith, imagine for a moment that for some mysterious purpose or by any reason of inherent excellence or special merit Baha'u'llah has chosen to confer upon their country and people so great and lasting a distinction. It is precisely by reason of the patent evils which, notwithstanding its other admittedly great characteristics and achievements, an excessive and binding materialism has unfortunately engendered within it that the Author of their Faith and the Centre of His Covenant have singled it out to become the standard-bearer of the New World Order envisaged in their writings. It is by such means as this that Baha'u'llah can best demonstrate to a heedless generation His almighty power to raise up from the very midst of a people, immersed in a sea of materialism, a prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing forms of racial prejudice, and notorious for its political corruption, lawlessness and laxity in moral standards, men and women who, as time goes by, will increasingly exemplify those essential virtues of self-renunciation, of moral rectitude, of chastity, of indiscriminating fellowship, of holy discipline, and of spiritual insight that will fit them for the preponderating share they will have in calling into being that World Order and that World Civilization of which their country, no less than the entire human race, stands in desperate need. Theirs will be the duty and privilege, in their capacity first as the establishers of one of the most powerful pillars sustaining the edifice of the Universal House of Justice, and then as the champion-builders of that New World Order of which that House is to be the nucleus and forerunner, to inculcate, demonstrate, and apply those twin and sorely-needed principles of Divine justice and order -- principles to which the political corruption and the moral license, increasingly staining the society to which they belong, offer so sad and striking a contrast.
Observations such as these, however distasteful and depressing they may be, should not, in the least, blind us to those virtues and qualities of high intelligence, of youthfulness, of unbounded initiative, and enterprise which the nation as a whole so conspicuously displays, an which are being increasingly reflected by the community of the believers within it. Upon these virtues and qualities, no less than upon the elimination of the evils referred to, must depend, to a very great extent, the ability of that community to lay a firm foundation for the country's future role in ushering in the Golden Age of the Cause of Baha'u'llah." [26-5] <p304>
In the first sixteen years of his Guardianship Shoghi Effendi devoted his efforts to teaching the principles of Baha'i administration patiently and with the utmost love and perseverance to the Baha'is of the East and the West. He taught them how to build spiritual assemblies, how to serve on them, and how to reinforce and consolidate their foundations. In the course of innumerable letters which he wrote in English and Persian to individuals as well as to Assemblies during this period, he explained the significance of the Administrative Order, the role of the institutions of the Faith in Baha'i communities, and their future emergence as the framework of the new World Order of Baha'u'llah.
In pursuit of this he elaborated on various aspects of the functioning of these Assemblies, the manner of their election, the election of delegates to the National Convention and their responsibilities in electing the National Spiritual Assembly, the relationship which must bind the Local to the National bodies, the management of the Baha'i Fund, and other details which ensure, on the one hand, uniformity of practice in the Baha'i world on matters of principle, and on the other, diversity on issues of a secondary nature.
It is important to state at this juncture that during the thirty-six years of his Guardianship and as a consequence of his building the foundations of the Administrative Order, Shoghi Effendi did not add anything to, or take anything from, the teachings, laws and principles which Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha had promulgated. In his capacity as the authorized Interpreter of the Word of God, and as the Guardian of the Cause appointed by Abdu'l-Baha, he applied those teachings and ordinances to the structuring of the Baha'i community, and implemented those directives which Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha had either implicitly or explicitly issued in Their Writings for the building up of these institutions. These, he explained were to be the channels for the flow of the spiritual forces released by the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. Indeed, Shoghi Effendi did not make pronouncements or issue explanations or directives on matters which were not already included in the Sacred Text. He referred these to the Universal House of Justice, which is authorized by Baha'u'llah to legislate on those subjects which are either obscure, or not mentioned in the Writings.
It did not take very long for the believers in both the East and the West to realize that the day had now dawned for the structuring of the Baha'i community throughout the world. In the Heroic Age of the Faith, the believers were so enamoured of Baha'u'llah that they hardly paid any attention to anything but Him; they were intoxicated by the wine of His presence. Many of the early believers who had come in contact with Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha had become <p305> new creations endowed with divine qualities and ablaze with His love. These souls were oblivious of themselves, so wholly were they attracted to Baha'u'llah. Most of them did not know much about the laws and the teachings of the Faith, but they were so carried into the realms of the spirit by His all-swaying power that they willingly offered up their lives for their Beloved.
But now in the Formative Age, it was time to put into practice some of the teachings and ordinances of Baha'u'llah whose purpose was building the foundations of His new World Order. Through Shoghi Effendi's guidance, new vision and new insight were bestowed upon the believers. They began to appreciate the workings of the Faith, and many souls rendered valuable service in establishing Local and National Spiritual Assemblies in various parts of the world. During these first sixteen years of the Guardianship a growing number of Local Spiritual Assemblies were established in many countries, and no less than eight National Spiritual Assemblies were formed in the five continents.
Among other events which took place during this period, the most grievous was the passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf in July 1932. The anguish her death brought to the heart of Shoghi Effendi is indescribable. She had been the only source of solace, encouragement and real support for him in the family. In the course of a few years after her passing, almost the entire family of Abdu'l-Baha broke the Covenant one after another and rose up against him. Forsaken and betrayed, Shoghi Effendi earned the enormous weight of the responsibilities of the Cause, alone, until, in 1937, he took as his consort Ruhiyyih Khanum, the only daughter of Mr and Mrs Sutherland Maxwell, and she assisted him ably till the end of his life in 1957.
This union brought special joy to the hearts of the American believers. In answer to their message of congratulations, Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada.
"Deeply moved by your message. Institution of Guardianship, head cornerstone of the Administrative Order of the Cause of Baha'u'llah, already ennobled through its organic connection with the Persons of Twin Founders of the Baha'i Faith, is now further reinforced through direct association with West and particularly with the American believers, whose spiritual destiny is to usher in the World order of Baha'u'llah. For my part I desire to congratulate community of American believers on acquisition of tie vitally binding them to so weighty an organ of their Faith." [26-6]
The achievements of the Faith and the important events which took place during these first sixteen years of the Guardianship are numerous. Notable among them was the verdict of the highest <p306> ecclesiastical court in Egypt issued on 10 May 1925 declaring the Faith to be heretical in character, and wholly incompatible with Islam. This document was hailed as a victory by the Guardian because it acknowledged that the Faith is an independent religion, and that it is as different from Islam as Islam is from either the Christian or Jewish Faiths.
Another event which created great agitation in the Baha'i world occupied much of Shoghi Effendi's time, and brought anxiety to him was the seizure of the House of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad by the Shi'ah community there. This resulted in the submission of a petition to the Council of the League of Nations. After a great many deliberations by that body, a resolution upholding the claim of the Baha'i Community to that House was issued, but was not implemented by the government concerned.
Among the glorious victories in this period were the teaching exploits of Martha Root, who travelled several times around the world and proclaimed the message of Baha'u'llah in a spirit of selfless devotion and self-sacrifice to a great many people. This culminated in Queen Marie of Romania's acknowledgement of the truths enshrined in the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. In one of her letters to Shoghi Effendi this noble Queen wrote these moving words:
"Indeed a great light came to me with the Message of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha. It came as all great messages come at an hour of dire grief and inner conflict and distress, so the seed sank deeply... We pass on the Message from mouth to mouth and all those we give it to see a light suddenly lighting before them and much that was obscure and perplexing becomes simple, luminous and full of hope as never before... With bowed head I recognize that I too am but an instrument in greater Hands and rejoice in the Knowledge..." [26-7]
Other significant developments during this period were the growth of organized youth activities; the enlargement of Baha'i endowments and properties in the Holy Land, the United States and Persia; the acquisition of historic sites connected with the Faith in Persia; the formation of an International Baha'i Archives, and the implementation of the ordinance of the Nineteen Day Feast as enjoined by Baha'u'llah. Although the injunction of the Nineteen Day Feast had been well known to the believers in Persia from the days of the Bab, yet it was not strictly observed. The followers of Baha'u'llah in those days used to hold meetings quite frequently at their homes, but these were not organized at nineteen-day intervals. It was Shoghi Effendi who encouraged the regular observance of the Feast, explained its significance as the bedrock of the Baha'i community and delineated its main features as the spiritual, the administrative and social parts. <p307>
The Expounder of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah
Of all the work the Guardian did during his ministry, the greatest and the most enduring contribution to the Cause of Baha'u'llah may be said to be his writings, which derive their excellence from the Revelation itself. Shoghi Effendi received his inspiration from the utterances of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, which are revealed in the greatest majesty and eloquence and have produced a new and wonderful style in both Persian and Arabic literature. They inspired Baha'i scholars and writers, who were not only uplifted by the profundity of their words but were enchanted with the new style and new terminologies, which they tried to emulate in their own works. But no one was able to achieve this as Shoghi Effendi did. He grew up in the school of Baha'u'llah's and Abdu'l-Baha's writings, he imbibed the essence of their words in such wise that his writings possess a special potency, born of the utterances of the Author of the Faith and of the Centre of His Covenant.
The writings of Shoghi Effendi, looking at them from a literary point of view alone, are truly superb. The eloquence and beauty of his compositions in Persian and Arabic are breathtaking. Although English was not his mother tongue, his writings in that language have been acclaimed by scholars to be remarkable in their expressiveness, forcefulness and fluency. The following passages demonstrate the descriptive power of his inspired pen. Recounting the episode of the Bab, he writes:
"We behold, as we survey the episodes of this first act of a sublime drama, the figure of its Master Hero, the Bab, arise meteor-like above the horizon of Shiraz, traverse the sombre sky of Persia from south to north, decline with tragic swiftness, and perish in a blaze of glory. We see His satellites, a galaxy of God-intoxicated heroes, mount above that same horizon, irradiate that same incandescent light, burn themselves out with that self-same swiftness, and impart in their turn an added impetus to the steadily gathering momentum of God's nascent Faith." [27-1] <p308>
On the occasion of the passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf, he writes:
"Whatever betide us, however distressing the vicissitudes which the nascent Faith of God may yet experience, we pledge ourselves, before the mercy-seat of thy glorious Father, to hand on, unimpaired and undivided, to generations yet unborn, the glory of that tradition of which thou hast been its most brilliant exemplar.
"In the innermost recesses of our hearts, O thou exalted Leaf of the Abha Paradise, we have reared for thee a shining mansion that the hand of time can never undermine, a shrine which shall frame eternally the matchless beauty of thy countenance, an altar whereon the fire of thy consuming love shall burn forever." [27-2]
These passages, so beautifully composed, speak for themselves. Those Baha'is who have studied Shoghi Effendi's works realize that he was under the guidance of Baha'u'llah, his pen inspired by Him. Thousands of letters to individuals, Spiritual Assemblies, and Baha'i communities throughout the world poured from that pen, expounding the teachings and laws of the Faith. These letters are a priceless heritage for generations to come, until the end of this Dispensation .
The only work that Shoghi Effendi wrote originally as a book is God Passes By. A masterpiece, it is a concise history filled with vivid detail of the significant events of the first Baha'i century; it covers the ministries of the Bab, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, as well as the birth and development of the Administrative Order. In his masterly style, Shoghi Effendi has condensed many volumes of material within the compass of a few hundred pages. Almost every line of this book is laden with information superbly gleaned, without apparent effort, from numerous historical documents and narratives. It is also profusely and delicately laced with quotations from the vast reservoir of the writings of the Central Figures of the Faith.
The importance attached to God Passes By is not merely due to the historical detail which it contains. Being the Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi was more qualified than anyone else to write such a book on Baha'i history, because the art of writing any history lies not merely in describing events, but in relating them to each other, putting them in their proper context and in interpreting their influence in society.
As the unerring interpreter of Baha'u'llah's Writings, Shoghi Effendi was endowed with a unique capacity to understand and appreciate the Revelation of Baha'u'llah to an extent that no other human being can ever hope to achieve. Therein lies the unique nature of God Passes By. In it he elucidates every major event in the light of <p309> the Revelation of Baha'u'llah and injects into every subject a measure of the truth of the Faith. In the course of writing the accounts of the lives of the Central Figures of the Cause and their disciples, he explains the true motives behind their actions, comments on the effect of these actions, puts into right perspective the heroism and self-sacrifice of the Babi and Baha'i martyrs, enumerates the victories and the crises that the Faith has encountered, recounts the downfall of its enemies, demonstrates the unfoldment of its world-embracing institutions and foreshadows its future destiny.
Shoghi Effendi's matchless translations of the writings of the Bab, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, from Persian and Arabic into English, are another priceless gift to the world. There is no doubt for the Baha'is that these superb renderings, which have evoked the praise and appreciation of so many outstanding scholars, were not due to Shoghi Effendi's academic attainments alone, but were influenced by the guidance of Baha'u'llah which was vouchsafed to him during his ministry. The modes of expression and the composition of sentences in the Persian and Arabic languages are different from those in English. There are also many words in these two languages for which there are no English equivalents. Shoghi Effendi has overcome these difficulties so successfully that, without losing any thought or concept of the original, he conveys the meaning faithfully in elegant English fully comprehensible to the reader, while at the same time retaining the special flavour of their original form. In translating the Holy Writings Shoghi Effendi has left for posterity a priceless, well-endowed model. The words, phrases and sentences he has used to translate the writings of the Central Figures of the Faith are extensively consulted and used by those who, since his passing, have been engaged in the task of rendering the matchless utterances of Baha'u'llah, the Bab and Abdu'l-Baha into English.
The major translations by Shoghi Effendi of the writings of Baha'u'llah include the Hidden Words, the Kitab-i-Iqan, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations of Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf and numerous passages which he quoted in his own writings. Although not holy scripture, The Dawn-Breakers, the history of the first few years of the Faith by Nabil-i-A'zam was also masterfully edited and translated by Shoghi Effendi. The publication of this monumental work in 1932 contributed greatly to a deeper understanding of the life and Revelation of the Bab.
The writings of Shoghi Effendi in Persian and English, although not in the same category as the Tablets of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, have greatly enriched Baha'i literature. In expounding and interpreting the revealed Word, as he was empowered to do by <p310> Abdu'l-Baha in the Will and Testament, he clarified many of the abstruse and mysterious passages in the Writings of the Central Figures of the Faith. A source of inspiration for the believers, his letters addressed to individuals and Spiritual Assemblies provide a vast reservoir of guidance which will assist and enlighten the Baha'i community until the end of this Dispensation in its endeavours to build up and maintain the world-embracing institutions of the new Order of Baha'u'llah and usher in the Golden Age of His Faith.
In the early days of his ministry, when the believers in East and West were engaged in promoting the Faith and establishing its institutions, Shoghi Effendi turned his attention to the community in Persia in order to initiate the process of the implementation of the laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. The friends in that country were subjected to sporadic outbursts of persecution, resulting in the martyrdom of many. Having built up the framework of the Administrative Order throughout many towns and villages where Local Spiritual Assemblies were functioning, he gave the Persian believers this special task of great importance to the Cause.
Shoghi Effendi refers to the Kitab-i-Aqdas as 'the Charter of the future world civilization'. The laws revealed in that Book are one of the pillars upon which the World Order of Baha'u'llah rests. The other pillar is the principles of the Faith which were revealed by Baha'u'llah in His Tablets and especially elucidated by Abdu'l-Baha in the course of His travels in the West. That the laws and the principles of the Faith are the two basic parts of the World Order is borne out by Shoghi Effendi's statement: 'Behind the walls of the prison fortress of Akka the Bearer of God's newborn Revelation had ordained the laws and formulated the principles that were to constitute the warp and woof of His World Order.'" [27-3]
The concept of religious law as the mainstay of a religion is not often fully appreciated by followers of other religions, including Christians. This is perhaps because the Message of Christ was primarily the establishment of spiritual teachings among His followers, and He did not lay down many laws. On the other hand, a great emphasis is placed upon religious law in Islam, as in Judaism. The laws promulgated by the Prophet of Islam play an important role in His religion, and obedience to them is considered by Muslims to be conducive to the good pleasure of God. For over a thousand years the people of Persia were accustomed to observe the laws of Islam, and considered it to be an act of devotion to God.
Because of their Islamic background, the believers in Persia were very well suited to put into practice some of the laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. Not only were they accustomed to observing religious law, <p311> but they also had access to the Kitab-i-Aqdas, which the believers in the West did not. However, during the Ministries of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha the Baha'is were so overwhelmed by the outpouring of the Word of God and so oblivious of everything except their Beloved, that it was as if they were not living in this world. Their thoughts were focused on the glory of Baha'u'llah's Revelation; they spent their energies in teaching their fellow men. In these circumstances they did not dwell much on the laws and ordinances of the new Dispensation.
In addition, there were the exhortations of Baha'u'llah not to exceed the bounds of wisdom if they were to implement any of His laws. For instance, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas Baha'u'llah has forbidden His followers to use the public baths of Persia, because in those days they were extremely filthy.[1] Yet when one of the believers urged the friends to observe this commandment, Baha'u'llah stopped him doing this, and advised the friends not to implement this injunction of the Kitab-i-Aqdas at that time, because if they were to keep away from the public baths the enemies of the Faith would become agitated and this would result in increased persecution of the friends. There were other instances where the implementation of the laws of the Aqdas was either unwise, untimely or utterly impractical.
[1 See above, p. 81, for a note on the public baths.]
For these and other reasons, the Baha'is during the Heroic Age of the Faith were not very inclined (with the exception of some spiritual ordinances such as obligatory prayer and fasting) to carry out the laws of Baha'u'llah. They lived their lives by following the customs, traditions and laws of older religions. For instance, they married according to the laws of their former religion, depending on their backgrounds. Those who came from a Muslim background followed the laws of Islam and had Islamic marriage ceremonies, while those of Jewish or Zoroastrian origin followed the marriage ceremonies of those religions. In other fields too the believers observed the various religious laws which were practised by the nation.
It was Shoghi Effendi who began the implementation of some of the laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas in Persia in the early days of his ministry. He directed the Local Spiritual Assemblies in that country to begin to apply certain of these laws. In the course of his ministry, he elaborated a great deal on their application, explained many intricacies connected with them, urged the Spiritual Assemblies never to compromise when enforcing the laws, counselled them to uphold the standard of justice and impartiality in all cases, and advocated the imposition of sanctions in the form of deprivation of <p312> voting rights on those who flagrantly violated the laws, or who through their misdeeds brought disgrace upon the Faith.
For more than three decades in innumerable letters to the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies as well as to individuals in Persia, Shoghi Effendi elucidated the details of the laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. He thus built up in this particular field a great reservoir of knowledge and experience in the application of the laws which will be of great value in the future when the whole Baha'i world will be in a position to put into practice the laws of this new Dispensation.
As a result of the observance of certain Baha'i laws the believers in Persia were able to distance themselves from old religious practices and instead identify themselves with the new World Order. For instance, the Baha'i marriage ceremony took the place of Islamic, Jewish or Zoroastrian ceremonies. It is interesting to note that since the Baha'i marriage ceremony was not recognized legally by the government of Persia, and since the Baha'is refused to have any other religious ceremony to legalize their marriage, the couple had to face certain deprivations in their lives, and at one time the newly wedded husband had to serve a few months' sentence in prison. In spite of these difficulties, Shoghi Effendi urged the believers to remain steadfast and not to bow to government pressure, for in this way they could demonstrate the independent character of the Faith to the public.
It is important at this juncture to mention that Baha'is are enjoined to obey the government on matters which deal with the administration of their Faith or with matters of secondary importance. But on matters of faith and spiritual subjects they prefer to die rather than renounce their beliefs. The observance of the laws of Baha'u'llah by the members of the community brought in its wake a vitality, a solidarity and a new identity to the Baha'i community of Persia.
In certain cases Shoghi Effendi urged the friends of Persia not to compromise on basic principles, even if it meant great hardship. One example is the closure of all Baha'i schools in various towns in Persia in 1934 by order of the government as a direct result of the refusal by the believers to keep the schools open on Baha'i holy days. There were Baha'i schools for boys and separate ones for girls in most major cities and sometimes there were more than two schools in a town. Baha'i schools, which were owned and controlled by the Baha'is, were usually known as the best-run schools in the country and many non-Baha'i pupils attended them. Their closure came as a blow to Baha'is and non-Baha'is alike, but a compromise in order to enable the government to re-open the schools was unthinkable to Shoghi Effendi, for it was against the law of Baha'u'llah requiring suspension of work on Baha'i holy days. <p313>
The laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas were not enforced in the West during the earlier part of the ministry of Shoghi Effendi. Later, when the American Baha'i community began to build up the institutions of the Faith, he introduced a few of the laws of Baha'u'llah as basic and essential for the communities in the Western world. Thus in 1935 he wrote, through his secretary, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada:
"He feels it his duty to explain that the Laws revealed by Baha'u'llah in the Aqdas are, whenever practicable and not in direct conflict with the Civil Laws of the land, absolutely binding on every believer or Baha'i institution whether in the East or in the West. Certain laws, such as fasting, obligatory prayers, the consent of the parents before marriage, avoidance of alcoholic drinks, monogamy, should be regarded by all believers as universally and vitally applicable at the present time. Others have been formulated in anticipation of a state of society, destined to emerge from the chaotic conditions that prevail today. When the Aqdas is published this matter will be further explained and elucidated. What has not been formulated in the Aqdas, in addition to matters of detail and of secondary importance arising out of the application of the laws already formulated by Baha'u'llah, will have to be enacted by the Universal House of Justice. This body can supplement but never invalidate or modify in the least degree what has already been formulated by Baha'u'llah. Nor has the Guardian any right whatsoever to lessen the binding effect, much less to abrogate the provisions of so fundamental and sacred a Book." [27-4] <p314>
The Administrative Order in Action
In North America, the scene of the building of the pattern of the Administrative Order, the institutions of the Faith had grown and developed to such an extent after sixteen years of receiving guidance and direction from the Guardian that in 1937 he was able to launch the first Seven Year Plan of the American Baha'i Community. This highly significant enterprise opened a fresh chapter in the history of the Formative Age. The main goals of the Plan were 'the permanent establishment of at least one centre in every state of the American Republic and in every Republic of the American Continent' as well as the resumption of work for completion of the exterior ornamentation of the Baha'i House of Worship at Wilmette, temporarily halted for lack of funds during the recession of the 1930s. This historic Plan entrusted by Shoghi Effendi to the North American Community marks the initial phase of the first epoch[1] of the fulfilment of the Tablets of the Divine Plan of Abdu'l-Baha. These Tablets, fourteen in all, written by the Master during the First World War and addressed to the Baha'is in various States of America and one to Canada, are the Charter for teaching the Faith of Baha'u'llah throughout the world and a mandate conferred by Abdu'l-Baha upon the North American Community.
[1 Not to be confused with 'epochs' of the Formative Age. See below, pp. 373-5.]
When Shoghi Effendi called upon the American believers to execute the Seven Year Plan the Baha'i community was still in the early stages of its development. It might be compared to a child which stands on its own feet for the first time. His mother, excited and proud, holds his hand and encourages him to take a few steps, only to see him fall down. Again she lifts the child up and with much reassurance and love takes his hand and helps him to take another step, until he can at last walk by himself. This is almost what Shoghi Effendi did with the North American Baha'i Community in the early stages of its development. He gave them a Plan, and for seven years he lovingly held their hands, supported them in their difficulties, <p315> guided every step they took and poured his encouragement upon them, until in 1944, the Centenary of the birth of the Faith in Persia, the Plan was successfully won.
In this Plan Shoghi Effendi introduced two basic strategies which have been carried out ever since throughout the Baha'i world for teaching the Cause and building its institutions. One is the dispatch of a believer -- a Baha'i pioneer -- to a territory; the pioneer engages in teaching the Cause until enough people embrace the Faith to be able to establish a Local Spiritual Assembly. The other is the systematic formation of Spiritual Assemblies in various localities, so that at the end of a Plan a specific number of Assemblies have been established. The Seven Year Plan served as a model for all the other teaching plans that followed. The two invariable elements of every Plan so far have been the planting of the banner of the Faith in localities where there are no Baha'is, and the establishment of a number of Spiritual Assemblies in a country or a region.
It took quite a long time for the Baha'is throughout the world to appreciate the significance of the American Seven Year Plan. One reason for this was the lack of an efficient system of communication, especially during the war years. By the time the goals of the Plan were triumphantly won, coinciding with the world-wide celebration on 23 May 1944 of the centenary of the birth of the Faith, the number of Local Spiritual Assemblies in the United States had almost doubled, the number of localities in which Baha'is were residing had considerably increased, the nucleus of the institutions of the Administrative Order had been established in every republic of Latin America, and the exterior ornamentation of the only House of Worship in the Western world had been completed.
The news of these victories created excitement throughout the Baha'i world. It awakened the Baha'is of other lands to the significance of these marvellous developments in the Americas, opening their eyes to the pattern of methodical expansion and consolidation of the institutions of the Faith which had taken place as a result of this first teaching Plan devised and initiated by Shoghi Effendi and carried out by the Baha'i community in the Cradle of the Administrative Order. Such glorious achievements by the American Baha'is, who for most of the seven-year period were bitterly handicapped through the formidable difficulties of the war years, inspired the believers in other parts of the world, and created an upsurge of enthusiasm and confidence in their hearts.
The first Baha'i community to turn to the Guardian was the British, who sent a cable to him during their National Convention of 1944 and asked for a similar plan in the British Isles. To this Shoghi Effendi responded favourably; he gave them a Six Year Plan to end <p316> in 1950. Other national plans followed within two to three years. As each National Assembly reached a state of readiness, Shoghi Effendi gave them a plan mainly designed to increase the number and consolidate the foundation of Local Assemblies, to open up virgin territories to the Faith, and to multiply the number of localities in which Baha'is resided in that country.
Foremost among these was the second Seven Year Plan of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada, whose duration marked the second phase of the first Epoch[1] of the Divine Plan of Abdu'l-Baha. This teaching Plan began in 1946 and incorporated some major international goals, including the establishment of Local Spiritual Assemblies in ten countries of Western Europe, the formation of three National Spiritual Assemblies in the Western Hemisphere, and the interior ornamentation of the House of Worship in Wilmette. These were successfully accomplished in 1953. Other national plans carried out at the same time were the Indian Four-and-a-Half Year Plan followed by a Nineteen Month Plan, the Persian Forty-Five Month Plan, the Australian Six Year Plan, the Iraqi Three Year Plan, the Egyptian Five Year Plan, the German Five Year Plan, and the Canadian Five Year Plan. Each of these Plans either ended in 1950, the hundredth anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Bab, or in 1953, the Holy Year, the centenary of the birth of Baha'u'llah's Revelation in the Siyah-Chal of Tihran.
[1 See above, p. 314, and below, p. 319. ]
Prior to the launching of these national plans, the Baha'is were mostly active only in their own towns or villages. They taught the Faith to the local people, rendered their services to the Cause locally, were thinking in local terms and involved themselves in local activities. They did not have a sense of a national Baha'i identity, and were not concerned with Baha'i activities in other towns within their country. Although there were Baha'i communities in many localities, there was no proper cohesion between them. The national Baha'i community as a dynamic unit embracing the whole nation and pulsating with inter-assembly activities had not yet come into being. However, these national plans provided the means for active communication between the communities in each country, and afforded believers the opportunity to take part in Baha'i activities outside their own local communities. Thus a sense of Baha'i national identity was gradually created in the minds of the believers and their local outlook changed into a national one. Parallel with this, the means of communication were also improved in most countries during this period, resulting in more effective co-operation and cohesion between local communities. A similar transformation took <p317> place during the Ten Year Crusade[1] when the national Baha'i communities found themselves integrated into one international Baha'i community. Here again the activities which had been carried out on a national level were extended during the Crusade to include the whole world and as a result the Baha'i international community with all its agencies came into being.
[1 See below, pp. 318-21.]
In 1950 the Guardian announced the launching of a Two Year Plan for Africa. This Plan proved to be of special significance in the development of the institutions of the Faith world-wide. The responsibility for its execution was given to the British National Spiritual Assembly with the co-operation of the National Spiritual Assemblies of the United States, Persia, and Egypt. This was the first inter-Assembly co-operation in the Baha'i world, paving the way for the launching in 1953 of the Ten Year Crusade during which every National Spiritual Assembly in the Baha'i world took part in a world-encircling Plan. The Two Year Africa Plan was announced to the British Community by the Guardian on the eve of their triumphant conclusion of the Six Year Plan. It was to be launched in 1951, but the British believers began its implementation almost immediately after its announcement in 1950. A year later Shoghi Effendi wrote the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles a letter of great import. We quote an excerpt here:
"The magnificent spirit of devotion and the initiative and resourcefulness demonstrated in recent months by a triumphant community, in its eagerness to launch, ahead of the appointed time, the enterprise destined to carry the fame of its members and establish its outposts as far afield as the African Continent, merit the highest praise. By their organising ability, by their zeal in enlisting the collaboration of their sister communities in the African, the American and Asiatic continents for the effective prosecution of this epoch-making enterprise; by the tenacity, sagacity and fidelity which they have displayed in the course of its opening phase; by their utter consecration and their complete reliance on the One Who watches over their destiny, they have set an example worthy of emulation by the members of Baha'i communities in both the East and the West.
"The despatch of the first pioneer to Tanganyika, signalising the inauguration of the African campaign, following so closely upon the successful termination of the Six Year Plan, will be recognised by posterity as the initial move in an undertaking designed to supplement and enrich the record of signal collective services rendered by the members of this community within the confines and throughout the length and breadth of its homeland. On it, however great the support it will receive from its sister communities in the days to come, will devolve the chief responsibility of guiding the destinies, of supplying the <p318> motive power, and of contributing to the resources of a crusade which for the first time in Baha'i history, involves the collaboration, and affects the fortunes, of no less than four National Assemblies, in both Hemispheres and within four continents of the globe.
"On the success of this enterprise, unprecedented in its scope, unique in its character and immense in its spiritual potentialities, must depend the initiation, at a later period in the Formative Age of the Faith, of undertakings embracing within their range all National Assemblies functioning throughout the Baha'i World, undertakings constituting in themselves a prelude to the launching of world-wide enterprises destined to be embarked upon, in future epochs of that same Age, by the Universal House of Justice, that will symbolise the unity and coordinate and unify the activities of these National Assemblies." [28-2]
These words of Shoghi Effendi were truly prophetic, for they alluded to a time when the Guardian would not be there to launch other teaching plans after the Ten Year Crusade, and to the fact that these would be formulated by the Universal House of Justice. The Africa Plan resulted in spectacular advances for the Faith: the Cause of God was introduced for the first time into several countries of that vast continent, and large numbers of the African peoples embraced the Faith.
At a time when the Guardian was subjected to unbearable pressures due to the unfaithfulness of many of the Master's family, these unprecedented victories in Africa brought great joy to his heart, a joy that remained with him till the end of his life.
The victories won in Africa, together with the triumphant conclusion of all the national plans, endowed the Community of the Most Great Name with enormous potentiality for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith on a world-wide scale. The national communities had by then acquired the vision and the capacity to take part in the first, and greatest ever, international Plan, designated as the Ten Year Crusade, which was launched by the Guardian in 1953. He referred to this Plan as a 'spiritual venture, at once arduous, audacious, challenging, unprecedented in scope and character in the entire field of Baha'i history'. [28-3] The concept of the spiritual conquest of the virgin territories on the planet, as well as the formation of forty-eight new National Spiritual Assemblies and many other goals[1] specified in detail by Shoghi Effendi astonished the Baha'i world and staggered the imagination of the believers everywhere. The following excerpts from the exhilarating Message announcing the launching of the Ten Year Spiritual Crusade to the Baha'i world by the Guardian in October 1952 demonstrates his world-embracing vision <p319> and dynamism, and the fervour with which he inspired the Baha'is of the world to arise and bring victory to the Cause of God:
[1 For information about details of the goals of the Ten Year Crusade, see Messages to the Baha'i World.]
"Feel hour propitious to proclaim to the entire Baha'i world the projected launching on the occasion of the convocation of the approaching Intercontinental Conferences on the four continents of the globe the fate-laden, soul-stirring, decade-long, world-embracing Spiritual Crusade involving the simultaneous initiation of twelve national Ten Year Plans and the concerted participation of all National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha'i world aiming at the immediate extension of Baha'u'llah's spiritual dominion as well as the eventual establishment of the structure of His administrative order in all remaining Sovereign States, Principal Dependencies comprising Principalities, Sultanates, Emirates, Shaykhdoms, Protectorates, Trust Territories, and Crown Colonies scattered over the surface of the entire planet. The entire body of the avowed supporters of Baha'u'llah's all-conquering Faith are now summoned to achieve in a single decade feats eclipsing in totality the achievements which in the course of the eleven preceding decades illuminated the annals of Baha'i pioneering.
"The four-fold objectives of the forthcoming Crusade, marking the third and last phase of the initial epoch of the evolution of Abdu'l-Baha's Divine Plan are destined to culminate in the world-wide festivities commemorating the fast-approaching Most Great Jubilee. First, development of the institutions at the World Centre of the Faith in the Holy Land. Second, consolidation, through carefully devised measures on the home front of the twelve territories destined to serve as administrative bases for the operations of the twelve National Plans. Third, consolidation of all territories already opened to the Faith. Fourth, the opening of the remaining chief virgin territories on the planet through specific allotments to each National Assembly functioning in the Baha'i world.
"The projected historic, spiritual venture, at once arduous, audacious, challenging, unprecedented in scope and character in the entire field of Baha'i history, soon to be set in motion, involves:... Adoption of preliminary measures to the construction of Baha'u'llah's Sepulchre in the Holy Land.
"Doubling the number of countries within the pale of the Faith through planting its banner in the remaining Sovereign States of the planet as well as the remaining virgin Territories mentioned in Abdu'l-Baha's Tablets of the Divine Plan, involving the opening of forty-one countries on the Asiatic, thirty-three on the African, thirty on the European, twenty-seven on the American continents. Over twofold increase in the number of languages into which Baha'i literature is translated, printed or in process of translation -- forty in Asia, thirty-one in Africa, ten each in Europe and America, to be allocated to the American, British, Indian and Australian Baha'i communities, including for the most part those into which Gospels have been already translated. Doubling the number of Mashriqu'l-Adhkars, through the initiation of the construction of one on the Asiatic and the other on the European continent. The acquisition of <p320> the site of the future Mashriqu'l-Adhkar on Mount Carmel. The purchase of the land for eleven future Temples, three on the American, three on the African, two on the Asiatic, two on the European, one on the Australian continents. The erection of the first dependency of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in Wilmette. The development of the functions of the institution of the Hands of the Cause. The establishment of a Baha'i Court in the Holy Land, preliminary to the emergence of the Universal House of Justice... Extension of international Baha'i endowments in the Holy Land, on the plain of Akka and the slopes of Mount Carmel. Construction of international Baha'i Archives in the neighbourhood of the Bab's Sepulchre... More than quadruple the number of National Spiritual Assemblies -- twenty-one on the American, thirteen on the European, ten on the Asiatic, three on the African and one on the Australian continents. Multiply seven-fold national Haziratu'l-Quds, their establishment in the capital cities of the chief Sovereign States and chief cities of the principal Dependencies of the planet -- twenty-one in America, fifteen in Europe, nine in Asia, three in Africa, one in New Zealand. Framing national Baha'i constitutions, and establishment of national Baha'i endowments in same capitals and cities of same States and Dependencies.
"More than quintuple the number of incorporated National Assemblies -- twenty-one in America, thirteen in Europe, twelve in Asia, three in Africa, one in Australasia. The establishment of six national Baha'i Publishing Trusts -- two in America, two in Asia, one in Africa, one in Europe.
Current Baha'i history must henceforth, as second decade of second Baha'i century opens, move rapidly and majestically as it has never moved before since the inception of the Faith over a century ago. Earthly symbols of Baha'u'llah's unearthly Sovereignty must needs, ere the decade separating the two memorable Jubilees draws to a close, be raised as far north as Franklin beyond the Arctic Circle and as far south as the Falkland Islands, marking the southern extremity of the western hemisphere, amidst the remote, lonely, inhospitable islands of the archipelagos of the South Pacific, the Indian and Atlantic oceans, the mountain fastnesses of Tibet, the jungles of Africa, the deserts of Arabia, the steppes of Russia, the Indian Reservations of North America, the wastelands of Siberia and Mongolia, amongst the Eskimos of Greenland and Alaska, the Negroes of Africa, Buddhist strongholds in the heart of Asia, amongst Lapps of Finland, the Polynesians of the South Sea Islands, Negritos of the archipelagos of the South Pacific Ocean.
"The broad outlines of the world-encircling plan were divinely revealed. Its course was chartered by Abdu'l-Baha's infallible Pen. Its shining goals have been set. The requisite administrative machinery has been created. Signal has been given by the Author of the Plan, its Supreme Commander. The Lord of Hosts, the King of Kings has pledged unfailing aid to every crusader battling for His Cause. Invisible battalions are mustered, rank upon rank, ready to pour forth reinforcements from on high. Baha'u'llah's army of light is standing on the threshold of the Holy Year. Let them, as they enter it, vow with one voice, one heart, one soul, never <p321> to turn back in the entire course of the fateful decade ahead until each and every one will have contributed his share in laying on a world-wide scale an unassailable administrative foundation for Baha'u'llah's Christ-promised Kingdom on earth, swelling thereby the chorus of universal jubilation wherein earth and heaven will join as prophesied by Daniel, echoed by Abdu'l-Baha: 'on that day will the faithful rejoice with exceeding gladness.'" [28-4] <p322>
Vital Developments at the World Centre
One of the most important developments in the period of Shoghi Effendi's ministry is the appointment in 1951 of the first contingent of the Hands of the Cause of God: twelve in all. This institution was created by Baha'u'llah towards the end of His Ministry when He appointed four Hands of the Cause[1] charged with the responsibility of teaching and promoting the interests of the Faith. Abdu'l-Baha describes the duties of the Hands of the Cause in these words:
[1 For details of these appointments see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4, p. 277.]
"The obligation of the Hands of the Cause of God are to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men and to be, at all times and under all conditions, sanctified and detached from earthly things. They must manifest the fear of God by their conduct, their manners, their deeds and their words." [29-1]
The four Hands appointed by Baha'u'llah served during the ministry of Abdu'l-Baha. Abdu'l-Baha did not appoint any Hands; He only conferred this rank upon a few posthumously. However, He authorized Shoghi Effendi to appoint Hands during his ministry. Shoghi Effendi waited thirty years before he implemented the wishes of the Master, although he nominated some posthumously during this period. As we look back upon the early years of the Guardianship, we observe a lack of maturity on the part of the main body of the believers as they strove to build up the institutions of the Faith under the direction of the Guardian himself. But after thirty years of active participation in Baha'i activities, the Baha'is around the world had acquired sufficient capacity to derive benefit from the institution of the Hands, who played a magnificent role in the acceleration of the development of the Administrative Order towards the end of the Guardian's ministry and beyond.
Three of the Hands were invited by Shoghi Effendi to serve at the World Centre while the remainder were to discharge their responsibilities on a continental basis. Later, from time to time, Shoghi Effendi elevated a number of individuals to the rank of Hand of the <p323> Cause. He appointed altogether thirty-one Hands, [29-2] twenty-seven of whom were still living at the time of his passing in 1957. The presence of the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land serving the Guardian during the last six years of his life proved to be a significant development in the unfoldment of the Administrative Order, for it as a prelude to the time when the Hands had to take the responsibility of administering the affairs of the Faith for a short period after the passing of Shoghi Effendi.
Another significant development in the unfoldment of the Administrative Order was the establishment at the World Centre of the Faith of the International Baha'i Council, whose members were appointed by Shoghi Effendi. It was established in 1951; its membership was increased to eight in 1952 and to nine in 1953. Of this institution Shoghi Effendi writes:
"Hail with thankful, joyous heart at long last the constitution of International Council which history will acclaim as the greatest event shedding lustre upon second Epoch of Formative Age of Baha'i Dispensation potentially unsurpassed by an enterprise undertaken since inception of Administrative Order of Faith on morrow of Abdu'l-Baha's ascension, ranking second only to glorious immortal events associated with Ministries of the Three Central Figures of Faith..." [29-3]
Concerning the functions of the International Council Shoghi Effendi writes:
"Nascent Institution now created is invested with threefold function: first, to forge link with authorities of newly emerged State; second, to assist me to discharge responsibilities involved in erection of mighty superstructure of the Bab's Holy Shrine; third, to conduct negotiations related to matters of personal status with civil authorities." [29-4]
The International Baha'i Council, working under the direction of Shoghi Effendi, rendered him valuable services in carrying out some of the important tasks in the Holy Land. This resulted in the further strengthening of the World Centre of the Faith. The manner in which the International Baha'i Council carried out its duties is described in The Priceless Pearl by Ruhiyyih Khanum:
"...In its functions the International Baha'i Council acted as that Secretariat the Guardian, so many years earlier, had desired to establish; its members received their instructions from him individually, in the informal atmosphere of the dinners at the Pilgrim House table, and not formally as a body; its meetings were infrequent as all its members were kept constantly busy with the many tasks allotted to them by the Guardian himself. Skilfully Shoghi Effendi used this new institution to create in the minds of government and city officials the image of a body of an international character handling the administrative affairs at <p324> World Centre. It was no concern of the public how much or how little that body had authority; we who were on it knew Shoghi Effendi was everything; the public, however, began to see an image which could evolve later into the Universal House of Justice." [29-5]
In his writings Shoghi Effendi attached great importance to the International Council, which was to evolve by stages into the Universal House of Justice. The first stage was the Council in its initial form as an appointed body. The second stage was its becoming an elected body. This took place in 1961, during the Custodianship of the Hands of the Cause, when the National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world elected a nine-member Council. The third stage was for the Council to be transformed into the International Baha'i Court[1] in Israel, and the fourth stage was to be the election and the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. The third stage did not materialize because when the Hands of the Cause, after the passing of Shoghi Effendi, investigated the matter through legal channels they found that the prerogatives and privileges which could legally be granted to a Baha'i Court were inadequate or unbefitting the prestige of the Faith. The International Council continued its service until 1963 when it ceased to exist with the election of the Universal House of Justice.
[1 In Islamic countries and in Israel there are religious courts legally recognized to administer legal matters in the context of religious law.]
The presence of the Hands of the Cause and members of the International Baha'i Council in the Holy Land who were engaged in rendering various forms of service to Shoghi Effendi unfortunately did not reduce his work-load. On the contrary, it increased it. Towards the latter part of Shoghi Effendi's ministry the Baha'i world had grown enormously, the institutions of the Faith, both local and national, had multiplied. The World Centre had also grown. The building of the Shrine of the Bab, the Terraces and the Archives, the work of the beautification of the Gardens in Haifa and Bahji, as well as the strengthening of ties with the government: all these developments brought in their wake heavier burdens to be borne by Shoghi Effendi during the later part of his ministry. One of his most momentous achievements was the construction of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab. This was the culmination of a historic process which, beginning with Baha'u'llah's Revelation of the Lawh-i-Karmil[1] (Tablet of Carmel) toward the end of His earthly life, was accelerated during the Master's ministry through the construction of the original building on Mount Carmel and the interment of the holy remains of the Bab in one of its chambers. It was fulfilled in 1953 through the building of a majestic mausoleum <p325> which enshrines the edifice built by the Master, in whose centre is deposited the sacred dust of the Martyr-Prophet of this Dispensation.
[1 See The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4.]

In 1951, halfway through building the superstructure of the Shrine, Shoghi Effendi wrote an illuminating letter to the Baha'is of the world about the sacredness of that holy Spot. The following is an excerpt:
"I cannot at this juncture overemphasize the sacredness of that holy dust embosomed in the heart of the Vineyard of God, or overrate the unimaginable potencies of this mighty institution founded sixty years ago, through the operation of the Will of, and the definite selection made by, the Founder of our Faith, on the occasion of His historic visit to that holy mountain, nor can I lay too much stress on the role which this institution, to which the construction of the superstructure of this edifice is bound to lend an unprecedented impetus, is destined to play in the unfoldment of the World Administrative Centre of the Faith of Baha'u'llah and in the efflorescence of its highest institutions constituting the embryo of its future World Order.
"For, just as in the realm of the spirit, the reality of the Bab has been hailed by the Author of the Baha'i Revelation as 'The Point round Whom the realities of the Prophets and Messengers revolve', so, on this visible plane, His sacred remains constitute the heart and centre of what may be regarded as nine concentric circles, paralleling thereby, and adding further emphasis to the central position accorded by the Founder of our Faith to One 'from Whom God hath caused to proceed the knowledge of all that was and shall be', 'the Primal Point from which have been generated all created things'.
The outermost circle in this vast system, the visible counterpart of the pivotal position conferred on the Herald of our Faith, is none other than the entire planet. Within the heart of this planet lies the 'Most Holy Land', acclaimed by Abdu'l-Baha as 'the Nest of the Prophets' and which must be regarded as the centre of the world and the Qiblih of the nations. Within this Most Holy Land rises the Mountain of God of immemorial sanctity, the Vineyard of the Lord, the Retreat of Elijah, Whose return the Bab Himself symbolizes. Reposing on the breast of this holy mountain are the extensive properties permanently dedicated to, and constituting the sacred precincts of, the Bab's holy Sepulchre. In the midst of these properties, recognized as the international endowments of the Faith, is situated the most holy court, an enclosure comprising gardens and terraces which at once embellish, and lend a peculiar charm to, these sacred precincts. Embosomed in these lovely and verdant surroundings stands in all its exquisite beauty the mausoleum of the Bab, the shell designed to preserve and adorn the original structure raised by Abdu'l-Baha as the tomb of the Martyr-Herald of our Faith. Within it this shell is enshrined that Pearl of Great Price, the holy of holies, those chambers which constitute the tomb itself, and which were constructed <p326> by Abdu'l-Baha. Within the heart of this holy of holies is the tabernacle the vault wherein reposes the most holy casket. Within the vault rests the alabaster sarcophagus in which is deposited that inestimable jewel, the Bab's holy dust. So precious is this dust that the very earth surrounding the edifice enshrining this dust has been extolled by the Centre of Baha'u'llah's Covenant, in one of His Tablets in which He named the five doors belonging to the six chambers which He originally erected after five of the believers associated with the construction of the Shrine, as being endowed with such potency as to have inspired Him in bestowing these names, whilst the tomb itself housing this dust He acclaimed as the spot round which the Concourse on high circle in adoration." [29-6]
Of the exquisite beauty of this Shrine Shoghi Effendi writes:
"...The Queen of Carmel enthroned on God's Mountain, crowned in glowing gold, robed in shimmering white, girdled in emerald green, enchanting every eye from air, sea, plain and hill." [29-7]
The Shrine of the Bab, referred to in the Tablet of Carmel as the 'City of God' and the 'celestial Kaaba', is the spiritual Centre of the Faith of Baha'u'llah on Mount Carmel. The administrative Centre is alluded to in the same Tablet as the sailing of 'His Ark'[1] upon that Mountain. This Ark has been described by the Guardian as the Ark of the Laws of God. The world administrative centre of the Faith was brought into being by Shoghi Effendi in stages. In 1932 the remains of the Greatest Holy Leaf were laid to rest in close proximity to the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel. Later, in 1939 the remains of the Purest Branch and Navvab, his mother, were transferred to that same spot. This momentous event was a prelude to the establishment, around the resting places of these exalted souls, of a series of buildings comprising the world administrative headquarters of the Faith of Baha'u'llah. Concerning this Shoghi Effendi wrote:
[1 Not to be confused with the buildings of the Arc on Mount Carmel around which the edifices of the world administrative centre are to be built.]
"The transfer of the sacred remains of the brother and mother of our Lord and Master Abdu'l-Baha to Mount Carmel and their final interment within the hallowed precincts of the Shrine of the Bab, and in the immediate neighbourhood of the resting place of the Greatest Holy Leaf, constitute, apart from their historic associations and the tender sentiments they arouse, events of such capital institutional significance as only future happenings, steadily and mysteriously unfolding at the world centre of our Faith, can adequately demonstrate." [29-8]
In the following passages Shoghi Effendi describes the nature, the significance and the future glory of the world administrative centre of the Faith. On the occasion of the successful termination of <p327> negotiations for the acquisition of a certain plot of property on Mount Carmel he writes:
"The ownership of this plot will now enable us to locate the site, excavate the foundations, and erect the structure, of the International Baha'i Archives ... which will serve as the permanent and befitting repository for the priceless and numerous relics associated with the Twin Founders of the Faith, with the Perfect Exemplar of its teachings and with its heroes, saints and martyrs, and the building of which constitutes one of the foremost objectives of the Ten-Year Plan.
"The raising of this Edifice will in turn herald the construction, in the course of successive epochs of the Formative Age of the Faith, of several other structures, which will serve as the administrative seats of such divinely appointed institutions as the Guardianship, the Hands of the Cause, and the Universal House of Justice. These Edifices will, in the shape of a far-flung arc, and following a harmonizing style of architecture, surround the resting-places of the Greatest Holy Leaf, ranking as foremost among the members of her sex in the Baha'i Dispensation, of her Brother, offered up as a ransom by Baha'u'llah for the quickening of the world and its unification, and of their Mother, proclaimed by Him to be His chosen 'consort in all the worlds of God'. The ultimate completion of this stupendous undertaking will mark the culmination of the development of a world-wide divinely-appointed Administrative Order whose beginnings may be traced as far back as the concluding years of the Heroic Age of the Faith.
"This vast and irresistible process, unexampled in the spiritual history of mankind, and which will synchronize with two no less significant developments -- the establishment of the Lesser Peace and the evolution of Baha'i national and local institutions -- the one outside and the other within the Baha'i world -- will attain its final consummation, in the Golden Age of the Faith, through the raising of the standard of the Most Great Peace, and the emergence, in the plenitude of its power and glory, of the focal Centre of the agencies constituting the World Order of Baha'u'llah. The final establishment of this seat of the future Baha'i World Commonwealth will signalize at once the proclamation of the sovereignty of the Founder of our Faith and the advent of the Kingdom of the Father repeatedly lauded and promised by Jesus Christ." [29-9]
Shoghi Effendi began the building of the International Archives in 1954 and completed it by 1957. This was another remarkable accomplishment at the World Centre, a building majestically raised at the extreme end of the Arc on Mount Carmel, and enshrining within its walls the most precious relics of the Founders of the Faith as well as other historical materials of great value.
One of the distinguishing features of the Faith of Baha'u'llah is that unlike the Islamic or Christian Faiths, its spiritual and administrative centres are located in one area. The Shrine of Baha'u'llah and that of <p328> the Bab constitute the spiritual centre, and the various buildings around the Arc on Mount Carmel its administrative centre. These two are thus combined together in one spot. In Islam the two centres were separated: the spiritual centre was in Mecca, while the Islamic institutions invested with temporal power were removed from Arabia to other lands. The same was true of Christianity when its main churches, the centres for the administration of the community, were removed from the Holy Land, its spiritual centre.
During the thirty-six years of his ministry Shoghi Effendi created, from the very limited resources which were at his disposal, a befitting World Centre in which the Holy Shrines and other holy places were preserved and in some cases restored in the most dignified way. A special feature of Baha'i holy places and other institutions at the World Centre is that most are surrounded by gardens, especially laid out to grace and embellish them. This practice takes its origin from Baha'u'llah, who was greatly attracted by the beauty of nature. In spite of their meagre resources, the believers of His days tried wherever possible to create simple yet beautiful surroundings for Him. They even brought flowering trees and shrubs from lands as far away as Persia and planted them in the Garden of Ridvan outside Akka, that Baha'u'llah loved to visit after so many years of incarceration within the walls of the City.
Abdu'l-Baha during His Ministry laid out small gardens around the Shrine of Baha'u'llah and the Bab. Shoghi Effendi enlarged these and made new and extensive gardens all over Mount Carmel and in Bahji. He himself designed and created these exquisite formal gardens around the Shrines and other Monuments which are so admired by the public. The Shrine of the Bab and the gardens around it were further enhanced when Shoghi Effendi built nine terraces on the hillside below the Shrine, as Abdu'l-Baha had envisaged.
In spite of these successes in Haifa, Shoghi Effendi experienced great difficulties in his efforts to extend and beautify the gardens surrounding the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. The Mansion of Bahji which 'God hath ordained as the most sublime vision of mankind' and where Baha'u'llah had spent the last twelve years of His life, had been occupied by the Covenant-breakers for almost forty years since the passing of Baha'u'llah. It had fallen into such a pitiful state of disrepair that the roof had caved in in many places and its rooms were largely abandoned. Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, who used it as his personal residence, had no choice but to ask Shoghi Effendi to repair the building. In 1929 the building was vacated and repair work began immediately. Shoghi Effendi restored the Mansion to its original state, furnished it with beautiful carpets, placed in its rooms various photographs and some original items associated with Baha'u'llah, as <p329> well as bookcases filled with Baha'i literature in many languages. He then invited the British High Commissioner to view the Mansion with him. It was on the occasion of that visit that the High Commissioner decided that the Mansion was a holy site for the Baha'is and a place of pilgrimage for them. Thus the custody of this sacred place was transferred to Shoghi Effendi, and Mirza Muhammad-'Ali was not allowed in the Mansion again.
At the sides of the Mansion and near the Shrine of Baha'u'llah there were several houses which had been built by the Covenant-breakers over the years. It was a disgrace to build such houses around such holy precincts, and it had been Shoghi Effendi's aim for many years to demolish and cleanse the area from the pollution of Covenant-breakers. This was achieved in two stages: one in 1952, the other in the last year of Shoghi Effendi's life. Ruhiyyih Khanum writes in The Priceless Pearl as follows:
"I remember how, in spite of the fact that Shoghi Effendi had possession of the Mansion, he was constantly irked, until the very end of his life, by the fact that Covenant-breakers still occupied the adjacent house. The night of the Ascension of Baha'u'llah, when the Guardian, at the head of the Baha'i men, would proceed to His Shrine after visiting the room in the Mansion in which He had passed away, he was obliged to pass in front of the room where the Covenant-breakers were keeping their own vigil and often they would make audible comments on him as he passed, adding to the distress of a night that was already distressing enough in its associations....
"From the time, in January 1923, when he had written to the eldest son of Baha'u'llah's daughter requesting him to make a definite pronouncement that whatever the legal rights of these Afnans might be the Shrine at Bahji because of its nature belonged to the Baha'i Movement, until the end of his life, Shoghi Effendi struggled to place on an unshakeable foundation the legal position of this Sacred Spot, in spite of the opposition of that tainted band of relatives who resisted his every effort for over thirty years. It was due to the mysterious workings of Providence that after the War of Independence, through the mass exodus of the Arabs, including many enemies of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi was able to at last emerge triumphant from this long struggle. In 1952 the long-coveted lands surrounding the Tomb and Mansion of Baha'u'llah, amounting to over 145,000 square metres, were obtained. As early as 1931 Shoghi Effendi had endeavoured to get the Government to requisition part of this land -- which had originally belonged to the Mansion property but had been usurped by the Muslim friends and supporters of Muhammad Ali -- but it had refused to intervene and the asking price was over ten times the market value of the land. The Guardian had to wait over twenty years until the fortunes of war brought it back to its rightful owners. In addition to this both the Pilgrim House, which had been under the control of Abdu'l-Baha since the ascension of Baha'u'llah, and <p330> a building known as the Tea House of the Master, where He often entertained the believers -- including the first group of pilgrims from the West -- were acquired by the Guardian during the last years of his life." [29-10]
One of the Covenant-breakers had built a blacksmith's shop next to the eastern wall of the Holy Tomb. There were also stables which had been built between the Mansion and the Shrine. Shoghi Effendi removed these unsightly buildings. He created an inner court between the block of buildings in which the Holy Tomb is situated, and the wall of the Mansion Garden. Toward the south of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, there was a small one-storey building with five rooms which was in ruins. It had been in Baha'i possession during the days of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha. When Shoghi Effendi began to demolish this building, the Covenant-breakers served the custodian of the Shrine with a stay order from the Haifa Court on the grounds that they had a small share in the property.
The bitterness of the Covenant-breakers was motivated by Majdu'd-Din, then a few years short of a hundred and paralyzed, who was living in one of the houses in close proximity to the Mansion. A struggle ensued led by the notorious Sadijih,[1] a daughter of Badi'u'llah. This lasted for a long time, the legal action initiated by the Covenant-breakers took its course, until they had the temerity to summon the Head of the Faith himself as a witness in court. It was at this point that as a result of Shoghi Effendi's appeal to the Government stating that the matter was a religious issue, the case was lifted from the civil court, and orders were issued in 1952 directly from the Government in favour of Shoghi Effendi.
[1 See below, p. 365.]
Within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the official order, the half-demolished building was razed to the ground. The following statement by the International Baha'i Council in Haifa describes the amazing transformation which took place in the vicinity of the Shrines:
"...Servants, Arab labourers and Baha'i pilgrims had scattered the stones of the building in a blast of joy.
"One week later the Guardian of the Cause, who went over to Bahji himself to supervise the work, had created, in time for the night of the Ascension of Baha'u'llah a beautiful entrance, into what is now called the Holy Court leading to the Shrine. In front of the Mansion, and in the very spot where the ruined house had stood, a wide expanse of garden sprung from the dust, marble vases, carved white Carrara marble ornaments, lamp posts, cypress trees, borders, pebbled walks -- lo! like a dream they spread before the eyes of the Baha'is. Indeed the Arab labourers would quote to each other the old saying: 'The ring of Solomon <p331> has been found!', which stems from a tradition that the king lost his ring, and that whoever found it and turned it on his finger -- whatever he wished for would materialize instantly.
"Without the innocent remark thrown out by the Guardian one day as he left Bahji after visiting the Holy Tomb to the keeper: 'Bring labourers and destroy these ruins,' and which he made because he could no longer tolerate this dilapidation so near the Holy Shrine, and because he desired to build a befitting entrance at the end of the Garden adjacent to the Shrine, which had never had, for sixty years, any entrance, befitting or otherwise, the Covenant-breakers would not have once again been routed, suffered defeat and lost many of the privileges they enjoyed for sixty years in respect to visiting the Holy Shrine."
The final stage in securing the government order for the demolition of the rest of the houses situated in close proximity to the Mansion and occupied by the few remaining Covenant-breakers took place in 1957. This will be described later in this book.
Outside Akka stands the Mansion of Mazra'ih, which served as Baha'u'llah's residence after His release from the Prison City. This building was a religious endowment, and after much effort Shoghi Effendi secured, in 1950, the sanction of the highest government authority to lease[1]it to the Baha'i Community as a Holy Place. Shoghi Effendi furnished the Mansion befittingly, beautified the gardens around it and opened it for pilgrims to visit. The work of restoration and furnishing of the Holy Places and other institutions, as well as the extension and beautification of gardens in Haifa and Bahji, occupied a great part of Shoghi Effendi's time and effort, and is one of his most outstanding achievements during the thirty-six years of his Guardianship. To describe all these labours in detail is beyond the scope of this book. Ruhiyyih Khanum writes:
[1 The Mansion is now owned by the Baha'i World Centre.]
"The development of the World Centre of the Faith under the aegis of the Guardian represents one of the major achievements of his life and can only be compared in importance to the spread and consolidation of the Cause itself throughout the entire globe. Of the unique significance of this Centre Shoghi Effendi wrote that it was: '...the Holy Land -- the Qiblih of a world community, the heart from which the energizing influences of a vivifying Faith continually stream, and the seat and centre around which the diversified activities of a divinely appointed Administrative Order revolve'." [29-11] <p332>
Rebellion in the East against the Guardian
The ministry of Shoghi Effendi was characterized on the one hand by the release of the enormous spiritual forces which resulted in the building of the institutions of the Administrative Order and the achievement of momentous victories unprecedented in the annals of the Faith, and on the other hand by the anguish, tribulation and untold suffering which he endured at the hands of the enemies of the Faith, both from within and without, throughout the thirty-six years of the Guardianship. These two contrasting aspects of his ministry -- one the superb achievements of the Cause, the other, the cruel pains he underwent -- are inseparable parts of his life, and thus portray the enormous pressures which were brought to bear upon him during each and every day of his ministry.
One of the titles of Baha'u'llah is the Wronged One of the World, and this title could well be applied to Shoghi Effendi too, for he suffered in silence the torments inflicted on him by those who were closest to him. Whereas Baha'u'llah's main enemies had been the divines of Islam and the despotic monarchs of Persia and Turkey, the main adversaries of Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi were the Covenant-breakers. Abdu'l-Baha, unlike Shoghi Effendi, did not always remain silent when sufferings were heaped upon Him. In His writings and public appearances He disclosed the evil-doings of the Covenant-breakers and thus frustrated their wicked schemes to some extent. But Shoghi Effendi acted differently; he did not follow Abdu'l-Baha's pattern of life as a public figure. He concentrated on his work of directing the affairs of the Cause and building the institutions of the Faith mainly through correspondence. In so doing, he privately endured the onslaught of the enemies from within with resignation and forbearance.
We recall that towards the end of Abdu'l-Baha's ministry, the band of old Covenant-breakers had to curtail their ignoble activities and retire into their dens as a result of the unprecedented progress of <p333> the Faith in the east and the west as well as the magnetic personality of Master which had subdued their vigour. But when the Master was succeeded by Shoghi Effendi, they re-appeared on the scene and took advantage of the intense shock of the passing of Abdu'l-Baha which caused the Guardian's illness and necessitated his temporary departure from the Holy Land. With renewed energy, these unfaithful men and women unleashed their attacks on the Cause of God and its youthful leader.
We have already seen how in the early days of Shoghi Effendi's ministry, this infamous band of old Covenant-breakers, led by Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, made a fierce assault on the sacred institutions of the Faith including the seizure, by Mirza Badi'u'llah, of the keys of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah from its faithful custodian. As the years went by, they intensified their opposition to Shoghi Effendi and were subsequently strengthened when most members of Abdu'l-Baha's family joined them. Hand in hand, they rose up against the Guardian of the Cause of God and fought him with all their venom and hatred until the end of his life.
The opposition to the Guardian was not limited to Covenant-breakers residing in the Holy Land. Several believers raised their heads in violation of the Covenant in other parts of the world and began their onslaught against him from the early days of his ministry. One of the age-old factors which led certain believers to violate the Covenant of Baha'u'llah was their ambition and pride in wanting to become leaders of the community and obtain important positions in the Cause. The truth, however, is that the Baha'i community has no leaders as such, and those who are elected or appointed to an administrative office are expected to be servants of the Cause -- those who will manifest the qualities of self-effacement, humility and detachment from the things of this world. An inherent characteristic of the Faith of Baha'u'llah is that it does not harbour egotistical personalities. Its watchword is the servitude which was so exemplified by Abdu'l-Baha in His life. His supplication to God was to give Him 'to drink from the chalice of selflessness' and to make Him as 'dust' in the pathway of the loved ones of God.
Considering the exalted attribute of 'servitude' which must govern the activities of the friends, as exemplified by Abdu'l-Baha, it is not surprising to witness the eventual downfall of those who, either through their folly or their ambition and pride, tried with all their power to introduce into the Faith of Baha'u'llah the concepts of leadership and dominance, and to create the cult of personality within its ranks. These people in their struggle for power brought about severe crises in the community; they violated the Covenant, <p334> rose up against Shoghi Effendi and, in the end, tragically destroyed themselves .
Soon after Shoghi Effendi assumed the office of the Guardianship, and while there was widespread expectation among the Baha'is of the immediate establishment of the Universal House of Justice, some egotistical personalities longed to become members of that august institution. One such person in the East was Abdu'l-Husayn, entitled by Abdu'l-Baha as Avarih (Wanderer). In the West it was Ahmad Sohrab. Both men were prominent teachers of the Faith in Persia and North America respectively, and both had one thing in common: a passionate love of leadership.
Avarih was a native of the village of Taft in the Province of Yazd. Before he embraced the Faith he was a Muslim clergyman. Soon after becoming a follower of Baha'u'llah he was recognized by the believers to be a man of learning and knowledge, and not long after that he became renowned as one of the erudite teachers of the Faith. For several years, he travelled around Persia, Iraq and Egypt, and became one of the most respected and famous Baha'is of the East as he employed his talents in teaching and writing for the Faith. Abdu'l-Baha, who was fully aware of the vices and corrupt practices of this man, did not prevent him from serving the Cause, and as long as he acted faithfully in relation to the Faith, He encouraged him, praised his work, and wrote several Tablets in his honour.
However, from the beginning of his Baha'i involvement, he displayed a pride and vanity which puzzled those Baha'is who were in close contact with him. They could not reconcile the quality and goodness of his service to the Cause with his egotistical behaviour, and were surprised when they came across some of his despicable habits such as smoking opium in secret, a practice that Baha'u'llah had strictly forbidden. However, the rank and file of the believers were drawn to him, and during the time when he was actively teaching the Faith and promoting its interests he became renowned among the Baha'is as the foremost teacher of the Cause in the community and the outstanding personality within its ranks.
Shortly after the passing of Abdu'l-Baha, a number of prominent Baha'is from several countries were invited to go to the Holy Land in order that Shoghi Effendi might discuss the affairs of the Cause with them. Avarih was one of them, but he arrived late and so missed the discussions. However, he did have the opportunity to talk about various matters with Shoghi Effendi. One of the dreams entertained by Avarih was to become a member of the Universal House of Justice. He knew that if there were to be an election of this body, he would most likely be elected, as he was one of the foremost teachers <p335> of the Faith in Persia and well-known even in some communities in the West.
Avarih was an outright hypocrite who had endeared himself to the friends. This he did by writing letters, full of loving exhortation couched in moving language, which he used to disseminate among the believers in both the East and the West. He wrote one such letter in April 1923 addressed to the annual Convention of the Baha'is of the United States of America. Although he had no faith in Shoghi Effendi and was about to undermine his position as the Guardian of the Faith, yet he used to write to Baha'i communities extolling his station in superlative terms and urged the friends to turn to him and remain steadfast in the Covenant.
Considering himself to be an erudite and knowledgeable Baha'i, and regarding Shoghi Effendi as young and inexperienced, Avarih advised him in Haifa to arrange for the establishment of the Universal House of Justice at an early stage. Shoghi Effendi clearly explained to him that the election of that body had to wait until such time as local and national Spiritual Assemblies could be formed in various countries and were fully functioning. But Avarih was not satisfied with this explanation and was still determined to press his point of view.
After Avarih's short stay in the Holy Land, Shoghi Effendi advised him to proceed to England where he was to help the believers deepen their knowledge of the Faith. He arrived there some time in January 1923, and after a short stay he went to Egypt where he succeeded in publishing two volumes of the book[1] he had written on the history of the Faith. He achieved this aim with the help of certain believers early in September 1923.
[1 Kawakib'ud-Durriyyih (Brilliant Stars).]
During the few months that he remained in Cairo, he created dissension and disunity among the believers to such an extent that the Spiritual Assembly of Cairo complained to Shoghi Effendi. Thus he was again invited to go to the Holy Land. Avarih questioned the authenticity of the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha but was satisfied with it when he was shown the original copy in Abdu'l-Baha's handwriting. He then met with the Greatest Holy Leaf and reiterated to her his opinion that Shoghi Effendi should be advised to call for the election of the Universal House of Justice. He is reported to have uttered a veiled threat that if his demand were not acted upon, he would have no choice but to arouse the Baha'is of Persia to rebel against the Guardian.
In the meantime, he wrote letters to the believers expressing his dissatisfaction with the way the affairs of the Cause were being <p336> conducted. When he arrived in Persia, he began propagating his misconceived ideas aimed at creating division among the friends there. In May 1924 the Spiritual Assembly of Tihran sought guidance from the Guardian as to how to deal with Avarih. The response was that the friends must be protected from his misguided intentions, and a few days later the Greatest Holy Leaf sent the following message to the Trustee of the Huququ'llah, Haji Abu'l-Hasan entitled Amin.
"The question of Avarih has surely come to your attention. In spite of the fact that last year, the first time that he visited this sacred Spot, he was shown the greatest kindness and love, and he was the object of every consideration and care, and everything was done to help him in every way; that when he left for Europe, as the reason for his visit was to teach the Faith, and he was favoured and praised by the Guardian, the friends in England showed him reverence to what was really an exaggerated degree, and received him with the warmest hospitality -- that is, no one failed in showing him the utmost regard -- still, when he returned to Cairo and busied himself with publishing his book, as it became apparent later on, he put the Assembly and the friends at odds, stirred up the mischief himself and then secretly wrote here and there that there was trouble in Cairo, and presented the situation so as to further his own ends.
"The beloved Guardian at once laid hold of every possible means to quiet the dissension in Cairo, but it proved impossible because Avarih, using all kinds of devices, prevented the reconciliation of the Assembly and the friends in that city. When the Guardian could endure this no longer and there was nothing more that he could do, with deep regret he left the Holy Land. His letter clearly shows how heavy was his heart.
"Later, Avarih left Egypt and came again to the Holy Land, and the interesting thing is that the moment he left, the misunderstandings among the friends in Cairo disappeared, and Baha'i affairs went forward again in proper fashion, so that it became perfectly clear that he had been the cause of the disruption.
"From here, too, he began to send out letters, and it would only grieve you to tell of the falsehoods and calumnies they contained. In Beirut, too, his talks and his actions were the same, and he spread the word that, God forbid, there is dissension everywhere. Accordingly, in order to protect the Cause of God, a telegram was sent to Baghdad, citing these words of the Ancient Beauty -- exalted be His glory: 'Place not your trust in every new arrival, and believe not every speaker.' As a result, when he reached Baghdad, and wished to stir up mischief there, the friends, with great dignity and firmness, restrained him, and avoided his company.
The point is that although such talk and such behaviour have no effect and no importance whatsoever, and do not merit our attention, still this disloyalty of his in these days of trial and sorrow is such that, unable to <p337> bear the situation any longer, this grieved and helpless one has felt obliged to set down a brief account of what actually took place." [30-1]
This clear violation of the Covenant isolated Avarih from the believers. Even his wife left him and refused to associate with him. Soon he changed his tactics and wrote a series of letters to various members of Abdu'l-Baha's family saying that there had been misunderstandings and suggested that if Shoghi Effendi was willing to arrange an annual income for him, he would be willing to alter his attitude and stop his activities against the Covenant of Baha'u'llah.
Covenant-breaking is a spiritual disease and those who are affected by it are victims of their own selfish ambitions. It is only through a real awakening of the soul and recognizing one's transgressions against God that a Covenant-breaker can find the urge to repent, and when the repentant is sincere, God will forgive his past and restore his spiritual health. Indeed, there were a number of Covenant-breakers who were forgiven in this way by Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.
However, in the several letters Avarih wrote asking for reinstatement there was no expression of repentance. When there was no positive response to his letters, he unveiled his satanic nature and wrote most abusive letters to Shoghi Effendi in which he used rude and offensive language and vowed to destroy the Faith of Baha'u'llah altogether. There was never among the Covenant-breakers during Shoghi Effendi's ministry a man so vile and hypocritical as he.
Covenant-breakers usually oppose the Centre of the Faith, but most of them have claimed to be believers in Baha'u'llah. However, in this case Avarih rebelled against the Faith itself. This he did despite the fact that he had spent more than two decades teaching the Cause of Baha'u'llah and had published voluminous writings declaring its truth and testifying to the authenticity of the message of its Founder. He joined hands with the Muslim clergy and Christian missionaries in attacking the Faith in Persia. He disseminated far and wide a series of his despicable publications against the Faith. In foul language, he attacked every aspect of the Faith, misrepresented its aims, and uttered slanders about its Central Figures whom he attacked in most distasteful terms. 'The volumes', Shoghi Effendi writes, 'which a shameless apostate composed and disseminated ... in his brazen efforts not only to disrupt that Order [Administrative Order] but to undermine the very Faith which had conceived it proved ... abortive.'" [30-2]
In one of his letters to the Baha'is of Persia who had completely ignored the activities of this ignoble man, Shoghi Effendi referred to Avarih as a dead body which the surging ocean of the Cause of God <p338> had cast upon its shores and thus cleansed itself from its pollution. A few years later, Shoghi Effendi introduced the episode of Avarih to the Baha'is of the West in these words:
"To the Honoured Members of the Baha'i National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the West.
:My dear fellow-workers:
"With feelings of burning indignation I find myself impelled to acquaint you with various events that have recently transpired in Persia. Though in their immediate effect these happenings may prove gravely disquieting to the followers of the Faith in Persia and elsewhere, yet they cannot but eventually contribute to the strengthening and purification of the Cause we steadfastly love and serve.
"I refer to the treacherous conduct of a professed adherent of the teaching of Baha'u'llah, by the name of Abdu'l-Husayn Avarih, hitherto regarded as a respected teacher of the Cause, and not unknown by a few of its followers in Europe. Of a nature and character whom those who have learned to know him well have never ceased to despise, even in the brightest days of his public career in the Cause, he has of late been driven by the force of circumstances which his shortsightedness has gravely miscalculated to throw off the mask which for so many years hid his hideous self.
"The sudden removal of the commanding personality of our beloved Abdu'l-Baha; the confused consternation that seized His followers in the years immediately succeeding His passing; the reputation which to superficial eyes he had acquired by his travels in Europe; the success attending his voluminous compilation of the history of the Cause -- these and other circumstances emboldened him to launch a campaign of insinuation and fraud aiming at the eventual overthrow of the institutions expressly provided by Baha'u'llah. He saw clearly his chance in the complete disruption of the Cause to capture the allegiance if not of the whole world-wide Baha'i community of at least a considerable section of its followers in the East.
"No sooner had his evil whisperings reached the ears of the loyal and vigilant followers of Baha'u'llah, than they arose with overwhelming force and unhesitating determination to denounce him as a dangerous enemy seeking to undermine the faith and sap the loyalty of the adherents of the Cause of God. Shunned by the entire body of the believers, abandoned by his life-long and most intimate friends, deserted by his wife, separated from his only child, refused admittance into even his own home, denied of the profit he hoped to derive from the sale and circulation of his book, he found to his utter amazement and remorse his best hopes irretrievably shattered.
Forsaken and bankrupt, and in desperate rage, he now with startling audacity sought to expose to friend and foe, the futility and hollowness which he attributed to the Cause, thereby revealing the depths of his own <p339> degradation and folly. He has with bitter hatred conspired with the fanatical clergy and the orthodox members of foreign Missions in Tihran, allied himself with every hostile element in the Capital, directed with fiendish subtlety his appeal to the highest dignitaries of the State and sought by every method to secure financial assistance for the furtherance of his aim.
"Not content with an infamous denunciation of the originality and efficacy of the teachings and principles of the Cause, not satisfied with a rejection of the authenticity of the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, he has dared to attack the exalted person of the Author and Founder of the Faith, and to impute to its Forerunner and true Exemplar the vilest motives and most incredible intentions.
"He has most malignantly striven to revive the not unfamiliar accusation of representing the true lovers of Persia as the sworn enemies of every form of established authority in that land, the unrelenting disturbers of its peace, the chief obstacles to its unity and the determined wreckers of the venerated faith of Islam. By every artifice which a sordid and treacherous mind can devise he has sought in the pages of his book to strike terror in the heart of the confident believer, to sow the seeds of doubt in the mind of the well-disposed and friendly, to poison the thoughts of the indifferent and to reinforce the power of the assaulting weapon of the adversary .
"But, alas! he has laboured in vain, oblivious of the fact that all the pomp and powers of royalty, all the concerted efforts of the mightiest potentates of Islam, all the ingenious devices to which the cruellest torture-mongers of a cruel race have for well-nigh a century resorted, have proved one and all impotent to stem the tide of the beloved Faith or to extinguish its flame. Surely, if we read the history of this Cause aright, we cannot fail to observe that the East has already witnessed not a few of its sons, of wider experience, of a higher standing, of a greater influence, apostatize their faith, find themselves to their utter consternation lose whatsoever talent they possessed, recede swiftly into the shadows of oblivion and be heard of no more." [30-3]
Owing to his political activities, Avarih at one time fell into public disgrace, and at an advanced age was exiled by order of the government to the city of Yazd where he lived an ignominious life. Shoghi Effendi predicted that Avarih would live to a very old age in order to witness with his own eyes the progress of the Faith throughout the world. Indeed he lived to be about one hundred years of age, and witnessed the rising prestige of the Faith, the inauguration of the Holy Year in 1953, the completion of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab, the launching of the Ten Year Crusade and the convocation of several international conferences at which a host of teachers and pioneers arose to bring the Message of Baha'u'llah to many virgin territories and establish the institutions of His Faith all over the globe. <p340>
After Avarih died, Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable on 16 December 1953 to the Baha'i world:
"Following the successive blows which fell with dramatic swiftness two years ago upon the ring-leaders of the fast dwindling band of old Covenant-breakers at the World Centre of the Faith, God's avenging hand struck down in the last two months, Avarih, Fareed and Falah, within the cradle of the Faith, North America and Turkey, who demonstrated in varying degrees, in the course of over thirty years, their faithlessness to Abdu'l-Baha.
"The first of the above named will be condemned by posterity as being the most shameless, vicious, relentless apostate in the annals of the Faith, who, through ceaseless vitriolic attacks recorded in voluminous writings and close alliance with its traditional enemies, assiduously schemed to blacken its name and subvert the foundations of its institutions.
"The second, history will recognize as one of the most perfidious among the kinsmen and the interpreters of the Centre of the Covenant, who, driven by ungovernable cupidity, committed acts causing agonies of grief and distress to the beloved Master and culminating in open association with breakers of Baha'u'llah's Covenant in the Holy Land.
"The third will be chiefly remembered for his pride, obstinacy and insatiable ambition impelling him to violate the spiritual and administrative precepts of the Faith.
"All three, however blinded by perversity, could not have failed to perceive, as their infamous careers approached their end, the futility of their opposition, the measure of their own loss and the degree of progress and consolidation of the triumphant administrative order so magnificently celebrated in the course of the festivities of the recently concluded Holy Year." [30-4]
'Ringleaders' mentioned in the above cable is a reference to Badi'u'llah, Shu'a'u'llah and Musa, the youngest brother and the two sons of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant respectively. Badi'u'llah died in 1950, following which Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States about him and his two nephews.
Badi'u'llah, brother and chief lieutenant of archbreaker of divine Covenant, has miserably perished after sixty years' ceaseless, fruitless efforts to undermine the divinely-appointed Order, having witnessed within the last five months the deaths of his nephews Shoa and Musa, notorious standard-bearers of the rebellion associated with the name of their perfidious father." [30-5]
As to Fareed and Falah, whose names are included along with that of Avarih: they were two long-standing Covenant-breakers. Falah was a resident of Iskandarun, Turkey, a proud and arrogant man who misled a number of his relatives in that city, and remained unrepentant till the end of his life. <p341>
Dr Amin Fareed was related to the Holy Family. His mother was the sister of Munirih Khanum, the wife of Abdu'l-Baha. His father, Mirza Asadu'llah, a native of Isfahan, was charged by Abdu'l-Baha with bringing the remains of the Bab to the Holy Land, a task which he performed successfully. Fareed's career consisted of a series of acts of treachery and despicable conduct. Although Abdu'l-Baha paid every attention to his education and sent him to America where he studied at the University of Chicago and qualified as a medical doctor, he did not remain faithful to the Centre of the Covenant. He accompanied Abdu'l-Baha to the United States, where he acted as His interpreter, but secretly he was engaged in activities which brought disgrace to the Faith. Knowing that Abdu'l-Baha's policy in the West was that of not accepting financial contributions from the believers, he began to solicit funds clandestinely in the name of the Master and having stolen His seal, he used to issue receipts which carried the stamp of Abdu'l-Baha on them. This, and other dishonourable conduct by Fareed, brought great sorrow to the heart of Abdu'l-Baha in such wise that at times His body would be visibly trembling with rage. The Master eventually expelled Fareed from the community. He joined hands with the Covenant-breakers, and at the end destroyed his spiritual life and that of his father who, in spite of much service to the Cause, allied himself with his ignoble son.
Avarih, like all the other Covenant-breakers, utterly failed in his endeavours to arrest the progress of the Faith or dampen the zeal of its adherents. The only beneficial outcome of his rebellion was that a few unscrupulous and corrupted persons, who claimed allegiance to the Faith, gravitated around him. They too rebelled against the Covenant and were cast out of the Community of the Most Great Name, thereby cleansing it from the pollution of their evil influence.
One such person was the evil-minded Hasan-i-Niku, a close friend of Avarih. He was a teacher of the Faith who had spent some time in India and who visited Shoghi Effendi in Haifa at the end of 1923. He was an ambitious man who looked for leadership in the Baha'i community, and when he did not find it he followed the same path as Avarih. He published three volumes in which he attacked the Faith most viciously, attributed appalling things to the Founders of the Faith, totally misrepresenting its tenets in a language full of bitterness, hate and falsehood. He was ignored by the believers, and his hopes of discrediting the Faith and breaking up the solidarity of its adherents were frustrated.
Another notorious Covenant-breaker in Persia who became a close associate of Avarih was Faydu'llah Subhi who for a number of years served the Master as His secretary. He was a vacillating person who on more than one occasion rebelled against the institutions of <p342> the Faith and each time repented, only to resume his opposition to the Cause again. Although he was brought up in a Baha'i family, he fell victim to the influence of Avarih. His father tried hard to save him from his spiritual extinction, but he remained adamant and continued in his odious activities against the Cause. He sustained a prolonged campaign of shameful vilification not only against the Guardian but also against Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha. At the height of his rebellion, he wrote a letter to Ayatu'llah Burujirdi, a high-ranking Muslim cleric, in which he repented of having taken part in Baha'i activities in his earlier days. He used very offensive language against Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice in this letter which demonstrated the depraved character of this man, who remained in the abyss of ignominy and godlessness till the end of his life. All he left behind is the memory of his vile language and despicable conduct.
The defection of Avarih in Persia resulted in the expulsion from the Faith of a handful of unfaithful persons who were influenced by his propaganda. In the same way that all impurities are discharged at intervals from the body of man to keep it healthy, the process of expulsion of the Covenant-breakers had a cleansing effect upon the Baha'is of Persia. It invigorated the community and gave it the extra stimulus necessary to expand and consolidate the institutions of its divinely-ordained Administrative Order.
Another notorious Covenant-breaker who caused agitation among the Egyptian Baha'is was an Armenian by the name of Fa'iq who rebelled against Shoghi Effendi and tried to create an alternative organisation to the Administrative Order. He conceived the idea of establishing a 'Scientific Society' -- an experiment which ended in utter failure. The friends dissociated themselves from him. He was left to his own devices, and thus deprived himself of the bounty of faith and died a Covenant-breaker. <p343>
Rebellion in the West
While this handful of Covenant-breakers in Persia was agitating in the early days of Shoghi Effendi's ministry to arrest the onward march of the Faith and dishonour its Founders, a similar situation was brought about in the West. It started as soon as the contents of the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha became known to the community. The first person to react was Ahmad Sohrab, who had served for some time as the Master's secretary and interpreter. One of the believers, Mrs Nellie French, has recounted the reaction of Ahmad Sohrab when she communicated to him the contents of the Will. He was intensely agitated. His face turned black and pacing back and forth, he exclaimed: 'This cannot be. Shoghi Effendi knows nothing about the Cause. He was never with Abdu'l-Baha as I have been. I am the one who should have been appointed.'
When Mirza Abu'l-Fadl was in the United States of America, he used to live alone in his apartment, and the friends were concerned about his health. Ali-Kuli Khan[1] has described the circumstances which led to the despatch of Ahmad Sohrab to America in order to act as a servant to Mirza Abu'l-Fadl. He writes:
[1 An eminent Baha'i teacher; see Gail, Summon Up Remembrance.]
"That is how it was. Mirza sick from not eating, and unable to adjust to American food and American life. He would not let me serve him in any way. If we went shopping, he would not even let me carry the packages. Finally I wrote to the Master, because the responsibility for his life and work was more than I could bear, and I told of the difficulty of expediting Mirza's book and described everything just as it was. Then I added that it might be a Persian attendant, who could prepare food for Mirza and look after his needs, would solve the problem. When I had come through Port Sa'id on my way to America, there was a boy around fifteen who worked in Ahmad Yazdi's store there. His name was Ahmad-i-Isfahani (later he took the name of Sohrab). This boy had begged me to request the Master to send him to America. I now suggested that he come here to look after Mirza. The Master sent him here, to serve Mirza and return with him to <p344> the East. However, when Mirza sailed for home in 1904 -- with the MacNutts, Mrs. Julia Grundy, and the Woodcocks and their daughter -- Ahmad-i-Isfahani did not accompany him. He remained in the United States until 1912, when the Master Himself took him back to the East, although he seemed loath to go." [31-1]
While in America, Ahmad became proficient in English and, when the Master went to the United States, he served Him as interpreter. However, from the beginning, Ahmad showed signs of insincerity and faithlessness. Many a time his behaviour brought deep sorrow to the heart of Abdu'l-Baha. But he remained with Him throughout the journey, and later when he went to Haifa, he continued to serve Him as a secretary. The Master knew that Ahmad would rebel against the Centre of the Cause after Him and had intimated this to one or two persons who were close to Him.
At the tine of Abdu'l-Baha's passing, Ahmad had become well-known among the believers of the West. Having emerged as a prominent Baha'i, he, like Avarih, wanted the establishment of the Universal House of Justice immediately after the passing of Abdu'l-Baha. And as Shoghi Effendi began to create local and national Spiritual Assemblies instead, Ahmad opposed the move. With the help of a certain wealthy woman, Mrs Lewis Stuyvesant (Julie) Chanler, he formed an organisation known as 'The New History Society', and made a great deal of propaganda to recruit members. He used the name and teachings of the Faith to attract people to his cause, clearly denouncing Shoghi Effendi's directives for the building of the Administrative Order. He also created the 'Caravan of East and West', the chief activity of which was international correspondence.
Ahmad Sohrab, who was referred to by the believers as 'Avarih of the West', tried to create a new sect of his own based on the teachings of Baha'u'llah. He did not question the authenticity of the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, but maintained that Shoghi Effendi had erred in his function as the Guardian of the Faith. He made great efforts to penetrate the American Baha'i community in order to undermine the foundation of the local and national Spiritual Assemblies and to establish himself in place of Shoghi Effendi, but he utterly failed. The Baha'is remained faithful to the Covenant; they shunned him entirely, and with the passage of time his hopes were dashed and his plans and activities bore no fruit whatsoever. At the height of his endeavours, Shoghi Effendi wrote the following to the American National Spiritual Assembly through his secretary:
"In regard to the activities of Ahmad Sohrab, Shoghi Effendi has already stated that such attacks, however perfidious, do not justify the friends <p345> replying or taking any direct action against them. The attitude of the National Spiritual Assembly should be to ignore them entirely..." [31-2]
A common pattern of behaviour of most Covenant-breakers is that at first they claim to be devoted and sincere Baha'is but later they demonstrate by their actions that they are not. For instance, those who broke the Covenant during Shoghi Effendi's Ministry declared their faith in Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha in the early stages but as time went on and they foresaw the bankruptcy of their position they compromised and progressively distanced themselves from their earlier practices and assertions. In almost every case the new Covenant-breakers joined hands with the old ones whom they had previously denounced. For example, Ahmad Sohrab at first did not have anything to do with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates, whom he regarded as enemies of Abdu'l-Baha. But at a later time, when he noticed the ascendancy of the Cause of God, he forged links of friendship and co-operation with them. He even went further and denounced Abdu'l-Baha, whom he used to regard in the early days of his rebellion as the Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah and whose writings he used to quote in his public pronouncements.
In 1954, the year that witnessed the extraordinary expansion of the Faith when hundreds of Baha'i pioneers had settled in virgin territories of the globe, Ahmad Sohrab, incensed by the growth and consolidation of the institutions of the Cause world-wide, visited the Holy Land, went to the home of some of the old Covenant-breakers, held meetings there and gave them his support and encouragement. He publicly announced that Baha'u'llah had appointed two successors, Abdu'l-Baha and Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, and charged that Abdu'l-Baha had disobeyed the Will of Baha'u'llah, taken charge of the affairs of the Cause and eliminated Muhammad-'Ali.
At a press conference in Haifa he told the reporters that Abdu'l-Baha was a Muslim. And when they questioned this, he reiterated his statement, and asserted that he was indeed a Muslim. Such a statement by one who used to preach that Baha'u'llah was the new Manifestation of God and Abdu'l-Baha His successor, reveals the extent of his hypocrisy and falsehood.
In another interview in Tel Aviv, Ahmad introduced himself as the secretary of Abdu'l-Baha and His leading disciple. One of the reporters reminded him that Abdu'l-Baha had left a Will, and asked, if Ahmad was sincere in his devotion to Abdu'l-Baha, how was it that he was not working with the present world Baha'i community? Ahmad acknowledged the authenticity of the Will of the Master and accepted the fact that Abdu'l-Baha had appointed Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Faith. But he said that while the Master <p346> apparently thought Shoghi Effendi would make a good Guardian of the Faith, this had not been the case, and the problem was now how to get rid of Shoghi Effendi.
Having failed to make an impression upon the public in the Holy Land, Ahmad's hopes of weakening the position of Shoghi Effendi were dashed. Frustrated and embittered, he and his associates sought by every means to exploit some of the contentious claims which surfaced from time to time against the Guardian from the Covenant-breakers in the Holy Land. For instance, when Shoghi Effendi in 1956 demolished one of the houses situated in close proximity to the Shrine of Baha'u'llah, Mrs Chanler sent a petition to the President of Israel in which she supported the claim of one of the Covenant-breakers to the property and introduced the latter as the representative in the Holy Land of a group of people whom she described as 'free Baha'i'.
Activities such as this continued until the end of Shoghi Effendi's Ministry, but they produced no positive results for Ahmad. On the contrary, toward the end of his life, the movement which he had created and spent so much effort in promoting was near extinction. It completely disintegrated after his death in 1958. All endeavours which this misguided man exerted over several decades to undermine the Cause of God brought forth quite the opposite effect of stimulating its growth. The Message of Baha'u'llah had reached the furthest corners of the earth, and by then the institutions of His Faith were established in most countries and territories of the globe.
In 1941, when Ahmad was at the height of his rebellion, Shoghi Effendi wrote of him in these words:
"And now more particularly concerning the prime mover of this latest agitation, which, whatever its immediate consequences, will sooner or later come to be regarded as merely one more of those ugly and abortive attempts designed to undermine the foundation, and obscure the purpose, of the Administrative order of the Faith of Baha'u'llah. Obscure in his origin, ambitious of leadership, untaught by the lesson of such as have erred before him, odious in the hopes he nurses, contemptible in the methods he pursues, shameless in his deliberate distortions of truths he has long since ceased to believe in, ludicrous in his present isolation and helplessness, wounded and exasperated by the downfall which his own folly has precipitated, he, the latest protagonist of a spurious cause, cannot but in the end be subjected, as remorselessly as his infamous predecessors, to the fate which they invariably have suffered.
"Generated by the propelling and purifying forces of a mysterious Faith, born of delusion or malice, winning a fleeting notoriety derived from the precarious advantages of wealth, fame or fortune, these movements sponsored by deluded, self-seeking adventurers find themselves, sooner <p347> or later, enmeshed in the machinations of their authors, are buried in shame, and sink eventually into complete oblivion.
"The schism which their foolish leaders had contrived so sedulously to produce within the Faith, will soon, to their utter amazement, come to be regarded as a process of purification, a cleansing agency, which, far from decimating the ranks of its followers, reinforces its indestructible unity, and proclaims anew to a world, sceptical or indifferent, the cohesive strength of the institutions of that Faith, the incorruptibility of its purposes and principles, and the recuperative powers inherent in its community life." [31-3]
After his death, the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, who were acting as custodians of the Faith prior to the establishment of the Universal House of Justice, sent the following telegram to the Baha'i world on 28 April 1958.
"Sohrab, relentless enemy faith after witnessing for third of a century the irresistible spread of the Holy Cause, in forty-five hundred centres under guidance beloved Guardian, died the first of Ridvan, every hope frustrated, every plan extinguished, every ambition thwarted. This striking evidence of God's avenging wrath on the one hand and on the other the unfailing protection of the community and institutions reared by the beloved Guardian inspires believers to arise and serve with renewed courage and dedication to insure the complete success of the crusade." [31-4]
Another person who rose up in opposition to Shoghi Effendi and to the establishment of the institutions of the Faith was Mrs Ruth White in the United States; she was an old believer and had visited Abdu'l-Baha in the Holy Land in 1920. She claimed that the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha was not authentic, and she created much agitation in the community by attacking the National Spiritual Assembly whose establishment she considered to be against the teachings and wishes of Abdu'l-Baha. For several years Mrs White persevered in her determination to prevent the establishment of the institutions of the Faith. She wrote a letter to the United States Postmaster General and asked him, among other things, to prohibit the National Spiritual Assembly from 'using the United States Mails to spread the falsehood that Shoghi Effendi is the successor of Abdu'l-Baha and the Guardian of the Cause'.
Mrs White wrote many letters to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States and Canada, as well as to some believers. In these she vehemently objected to the directives of Shoghi Effendi and the administration of the Cause through the local and national institutions. One of Mrs White's converts was Dr Herrigel, a founder member of the German Baha'i community. He <p348> too rejected the authority of the Will and Testament and became numbered among the Covenant-breakers.
Mrs White also wrote a letter to the High Commissioner for Palestine in which she completely misrepresented the position of Shoghi Effendi. But the authorities in the Holy Land were well aware of the facts and did not heed her appeals.
It is interesting to note that no one who has studied the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, with the exception of Mrs White and a few others whom she influenced, has ever questioned its authenticity. Even other Covenant-breakers who rose up against Shoghi Effendi did not agree with her. Ahmad Sohrab and Subhi had both served Abdu'l-Baha as His secretary. They never questioned the authenticity of the Will. Neither did Muhammad-'Ali or Badi'u'llah, or other enemies who were looking for any flaws they could find with which to attack the Guardian of the Faith.
It must be remembered that the Will and Testament was written in Abdu'l-Baha's handwriting and bore His seal. The Will and Testament was very familiar to the Persian believers. This is because Abdu'l-Baha had written innumerable Tablets in His own hand and almost every Baha'i family in Persia had been the recipient of these Tablets. When the photostat text of the Will and Testament was sent to Persia and elsewhere, it was easily acknowledged by everyone to be in the handwriting of Abdu'l-Baha.
Another criterion for its authenticity is Abdu'l-Baha's unique style and mode of expression which is familiar to the Persian friends. Indeed, anyone who is versed in the Writings of the Faith in the original language can easily tell the difference between the writings of Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi, as each has its own special tone and style. The Universal House of Justice has made the following statements:
"The second aspect, the literary style of the Will, can only be properly judged by one who is familiar with the Persian language because most of the Master's Tablets that are published in English are in early translations that leave great room for improvement. Abdu'l-Baha had a very characteristic, inimitable style and there is no doubt at all in the minds of the Persian Baha'is (who, until the time of Shoghi Effendi's passing, composed the majority of the followers of Baha'u'llah) that the Will and Testament is written in that style.
"Thirdly, as regards the handwriting of the Will, you should know that Shoghi Effendi sent out photostatic copies of the Will not only to National Spiritual Assemblies, but also for distribution among individual believers in Persia. You should also remember that the members of the Master's family, including his half-brother, Muhammad-'Ali, who is so strongly condemned in the Will, as well as the thousands of Persian <p349> believers who had received or studied Tablets from Him, were thoroughly familiar with the handwriting of Abdu'l-Baha, and the Will is so obviously in that handwriting that no one who was qualified to judge -- even those who could profit by claiming that the Will was invalid -- has ever questioned its authenticity. Even believers who became bitter enemies of Shoghi Effendi after the passing of the Master, ... did not question the validity of the Will. The only challenge came from Mrs. White, an American ignorant of Persian, who had the ulterior motive of trying to discredit an administration which she personally opposed. The handwriting expert whose opinion she quoted in support of her argument was also a westerner and himself stated that he could not give a final opinion without seeing the writing in the original.
"Mrs. White went as far as appealing to the civil authorities of Palestine to take legal action in the matter, a request which the British Authorities curtly refused. When, several months later, Badi'u'llah, the brother and lieutenant of the deceased arch-breaker of Baha'u'llah's Covenant, approached these same authorities claiming the right to oppose the projected transfer of the remains of the Mother and Brother of Abdu'l-Baha from Akka to Haifa, they categorically upheld the authority of Shoghi Effendi as the Successor of Abdu'l-Baha on the basis of their scrutiny of the Will and Testament, the validity of which Badi'u'llah did not dispute.
"Abdu'l-Baha's Will was written in three parts at three different times in His life. All three parts are in His handwriting and are signed by Him. All three, comprising twelve pages in all, were in an envelope under lock and key in His safe when He died. The face of the envelope was addressed to Shoghi Effendi in the Master's handwriting and signed by Him. On the back it bears three more signatures of Abdu'l-Baha across the flap where it was stuck down. Shoghi Effendi was in England when the Master died and therefore His Will was taken from His safe at that time by some members of His family and opened to see if He had given any instructions about His burial." [31-5]
Although the violators of the Covenant in the East and the West during Shoghi Effendi's ministry were few in numbers yet the relentless attacks which they launched against the Faith during the entire period of Shoghi Effendi's ministry were fierce. In spite of their persistent efforts to make a breach within the Baha'i community, they did not succeed. The vast majority of believers remained firm in the Covenant, turned to Shoghi Effendi with great devotion and laboured in the promotion of the Faith and the establishment of its divinely-ordained institutions throughout the world. Nevertheless the Guardian, being the Centre of the Cause of God, was the target of all the assaults which the Covenant-breakers inflicted upon him. The sufferings that he endured as a result of their rebellion are truly heart-rending. However, at the same time that Shoghi Effendi sustained the attacks which they had directed against him and the <p350> Cause of which he was the Guardian, he exhorted the believers to shun the Covenant-breakers and completely ignore their odious propaganda. In this way, each one of them was severed from the community, and, like a branch of a tree which is cut off, withered away and perished in time. <p351>
The Faithless Relatives of Shoghi Effendi
The pain and suffering which were inflicted upon Shoghi Effendi by the members of Abdu'l-Baha's family who broke the Covenant and bitterly opposed him were far more distressing than all the attacks which the enemies of the Faith and the Covenant-breakers outside the Holy Land had mounted against the Cause and its Guardian.
The rebellion of most members of Abdu'l-Baha's family against Shoghi Effendi is reminiscent of the rebellion of Baha'u'llah's family after His ascension. We have given some reasons for this in previous chapters,[1] and explained that it is usually those who are closest to the Manifestation of God or to His Chosen Ones who are in greatest danger of becoming Covenant-breakers. Only those who are true servants of God, and are the embodiments of humility and utter nothingness, can survive spiritually and remain faithful in that holy and rarified atmosphere of the presence of Abdu'l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi. Any trace of ambition or self-glorification which a believer may have in his personality can be fatal if he comes in frequent contact with the Source of divine Revelation, because in that holy presence He shall 'accept naught but absolute virtue and deeds of stainless purity'. [32-1]
[1 For an explanation of this particular phenomena which relates to special tests surrounding the members of the family of Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha, see above, pp. 168-9.]
The history of the Faith has shown that many of those who were closest to Baha'u'llah fell from grace because of their insincerity and selfish interests. These people, however, could have remained faithful believers if they were not serving in His presence. A proud and egotistical person who serves the Cause of Baha'u'llah in his local community, may create many unpleasant problems for himself and the other believers, but these difficulties will not necessarily be the cause of the extinction of his faith. To give an analogy: A man who falls on the ground may hurt himself, whereas if a person is flying high above the ground, his fall will be fatal.
Most members of the family of Abdu'l-Baha were devoid of those spiritual qualities which distinguish a man of God from the ungodly. Materialism had eaten into the core of their beings, and Abdu'l-Baha <p352> knew it. The high esteem in which they were held by the believers, and the tokens of respect shown to them by Baha'is and non-Baha'is alike, instead of making them humble and lowly as it would true believers, made them haughty and vain. Abdu'l-Baha was not pleased with the spiritual development of His family, and He used to make remarks about it. For instance, Ruhiyyih Khanum tells this story:
"The Guardian told me once the Master came to him in the drawing room, where he was working, and stood and looked out of the window into the garden, His back to Shoghi Effendi; the laughing and chattering voices of the family could be heard in another room. Abdu'l-Baha turned to Shoghi Effendi and said, 'I do not want you to be like them -- worldly.'" [32-2]
When Shoghi Effendi became the Guardian of the Faith, it was expected of the family of the Master to turn to him devotedly in a spirit of lowliness and humility as true believers did. But of course this was not easy for his brothers and sisters and cousins to do. After all, Shoghi Effendi had grown up with them and they were his peers and next of kin. Although they acknowledged his appointment and outwardly showed their submissiveness to him, it was obvious from the very beginning that they were not sincere in their hearts. We notice the contrast in the case of the Greatest Holy Leaf. Although she was the most venerable member of the Holy Family and the most outstanding woman in the Baha'i era, and one who had seen Shoghi Effendi grow up in the household of Abdu'l-Baha, yet she turned to him in a spirit of devotion and humility. This is because she believed in the words of Abdu'l-Baha that Shoghi Effendi was the Guardian of the Cause and the 'Sign of God' on earth.
In the first few years of the ministry of Shoghi Effendi the family remained outwardly loyal, but the seed of rebellion and Covenant-breaking was planted in their hearts from the very beginning. It only needed time to germinate and bring forth the fruit of sedition and opposition later. In His Will and Testament Abdu'l-Baha exhorts the believers 'to show their obedience, submissiveness and subordination unto the Guardian of the Cause of God, to turn unto him and be lowly before him'. Whereas the followers of Baha'u'llah turned devotedly to Shoghi Effendi in the spirit of the Master's exhortation, Shoghi Effendi's attitude toward them was that of absolute love and humility. Unlike some of the world leaders who show an air of superiority and project themselves as authoritarian in relation to their subjects, Shoghi Effendi extended to all the believers, and, especially to his relatives, the hand of fellowship and brotherhood. To the western Baha'is he often signed himself, 'Your true brother, Shoghi', and in his Persian letters, 'The servant of His [Abdu'l-Baha's] <p353> Threshold, Shoghi'. A few months after the ascension of Abdu'l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi wrote this postscript to a letter to the American friends:
"May I also express my heartfelt desire that the friends of God in every land regard me in no other light but that of a true brother, united with them in our common servitude to the Master's Sacred Threshold, and refer to me in their letters and verbal addresses always as Shoghi Effendi, for I desire to be known by no other name save the one our Beloved Master was wont to utter, a name which of all other designations is the most conducive to my spiritual growth and advancement." [32-3]
Yet in spite of his meekness and magnanimity, Shoghi Effendi's relatives did not respond with sincerity and faithfulness. Knowing very well that most members of Abdu'l-Baha's family were not able to turn to him as befitted the station of the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi turned a blind eye to their aloofness, and instead showed extra warmth and encouragement to them. For instance, we are told that when he returned to the Holy Land after the passing of Abdu'l-Baha, he stayed with one of his aunts instead of his mother. This was to show his attachment and unity with his close relatives. He wanted them to feel his love and affection for them so that they could feel at ease in his presence and cooperate with him in the arduous task which the Master had placed upon his shoulders. But alas, he could see their insincerity from the very start, and although he looked upon them with a sin-covering eye, as a result, he suffered immensely. This suffering did not stem from the fact that they did not obey him personally, but because the Will and Testament enjoined them to be obedient to the Guardian, and he knew that as Guardian he would have to expel them from the Faith if they continued in this way.
For several years, Shoghi Effendi called on the services of his close relatives in the work of the Faith in the Holy Land. His younger brother Husayn and some of his cousins served him as secretaries. He bore with resignation and forbearance their deceitful and faithless actions, their disobedience to him as Guardian, while they were working with him, enduring in silence the unfaithfulness of these relatives who were serving him in various capacities.
In the earlier years of the Guardianship, through the influence of the Greatest Holy Leaf everyone in the household of Abdu'l-Baha, even though insincere, rallied around Shoghi Effendi. The only people who were publicly opposing the Cause and the person of the Guardian were the old Covenant-breakers -- from Mirza Muhammad-'Ali down to some old enemies of the Faith. The Greatest Holy Leaf acted as a shield for Abdu'l-Baha's family, all of <p354> whom stood firm against the company of the old Covenant-breakers. Every member of the family of the Master knew well that the old Covenant-breakers were all deadly enemies of the Master and of the Faith and were to be shunned as He had directed. They had not associated with them during the lifetime of Abdu'l-Baha and they did not do so in the early years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry. It did not take very long, however, before secret ties were established between the old Covenant-breakers and certain members of the Master's family. As if a virus had attacked it, the disease of Covenant-breaking spread and eventually infected every surviving member of that noble family, sparing no one. This grievous downfall happened because of disobedience to the commandment to shun the Covenant-breakers. How clearly Abdu'l-Baha admonishes the believers to avoid associating with them! In His Will and Testament, He thus enjoins:
"And now, one of the greatest and most fundamental principles of the Cause of God is to shun and avoid entirely the Covenant-breakers, for they will utterly destroy the Cause of God, exterminate His Law and render of no account all efforts exerted in the past."
And in another passage He repeats the same injunction:
"Hence, the beloved of the Lord must entirely shun them, avoid them, foil their machinations and evil whisperings, guard the Law of God and His religion, engage one and all in diffusing widely the sweet savours of God and to the best of their endeavour proclaim His Teachings."
The most obvious reason that the members of His family failed to obey the Master was their lack of faith in Him and in His words. Abdu'l-Baha wanted them to turn to Shoghi Effendi in a spirit of devotion and servitude, but they did otherwise. These are the words of the Master and in His Will and Testament:
"O my loving friends! After the passing away of this wronged one, it is incumbent upon the Aghsan (Branches), the Afnan (Twigs) of the Sacred Lote-Tree, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God and the loved ones of the Abha Beauty to turn unto Shoghi Effendi -- the youthful branch branched from the two hallowed and sacred Lote-Trees and the fruit grown from the union of the two offshoots of the Tree of Holiness, -- as he is the sign of God, the chosen branch, the guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of God and His loved ones must turn. He is the expounder of the words of God and after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendents.
"The sacred and youthful branch, the guardian of the Cause of God as well as the Universal House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness, the Exalted One <p355> (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God. May the wrath, the fierce indignation, the vengeance of God rest upon him! The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the guardian of the Cause of God. It is incumbent upon the members of the House of Justice, upon all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of God to show their obedience, submissiveness and subordination unto the guardian of the Cause of God, to turn unto him and be lowly before him. He that opposeth him hath opposed the True One, will make a breach in the Cause of God, will subvert His Word and will become a manifestation of the Centre of Sedition."
The tragic spiritual extinction of the family of Abdu'l-Baha, as one by one of its members fell a victim to the devouring flames of Covenant-breaking, left Shoghi Effendi entirely on his own. Over the years, his brothers and sisters, his several cousins, his aunts and other relatives were cut off from the tree of the Cause. As each one rebelled against the Guardian, he tried his utmost to save them. He even refrained from disclosing their rebellion to the community for a considerable period of time. Instead he ignored their insults and endured in silence their despicable conduct until, at the end, he was left with no choice but to announce them as Covenant-breakers.
We will not review every detail of the activities of the Covenant-breakers in the Holy Land during Shoghi Effendi's ministry. Enough has been said in this book about the evil doings of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the Arch-breaker of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. He outlived the Master by sixteen years, during which he did everything in his power to extinguish the light of the Faith, but he failed miserably. In 1937, Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable to Baha'i world after his death;
"The Hand of Omnipotence has removed the archbreaker of Baha'u'llah's Covenant, his hopes shattered, his plottings frustrated, the society of his fellow-conspirators extinguished. God's triumphant Faith forges on, its unity unimpaired, its purpose unsullied, its stability unshaken. Such a death calls for neither exultation nor recrimination, but evokes overwhelming pity at so tragic a downfall unparalleled in religious history." [32-4]
The next in command, Mirza Badi'u'llah, the youngest son of Baha'u'llah, the account of whose despicable deeds has been given in <p356> previous chapters, died in 1950. He left behind bitter memories of acts of treachery, deceit and arrogance which he perpetrated for almost six decades, staining thereby the annals of the glorious Faith which his own Father had founded.
Another unrepentant Covenant-breaker was the notorious Majdu'd-Din, son of the faithful brother of Baha'u'llah, Aqay-i-Kalim. He was an inveterate enemy of the Master, and later of Shoghi Effendi. He lived to an old age and was one of those who succeeded in spreading the poison of Covenant-breaking among the family of Abdu'l-Baha. He and his accomplice, Badi'u'llah, caused a great deal of trouble. The following cable sent by Shoghi Effendi to the Baha'i world after his death in 1955 is clearly indicative of Majdu'd-Din's diabolical misdeeds against the Centre of the Covenant and the Guardian of the Faith.
"Announce to National Assemblies that Majdu'd-Din, the most redoubtable adversary of Abdu'l-Baha, denounced by Him as the incarnation of Satan and who played a predominant part in kindling the hostility of Abdu'l-Hamid and Jamal Pasha, and who was the chief instigator of Covenant-breaking and archbreaker of Baha'u'llah's Covenant, and who above sixty years labored with fiendish ingenuity and guile to undermine its foundations, miserably perished struck with paralysis affecting his limbs and tongue. Dispensation of Providence prolonged the span of his infamous life to a hundred years, enabling him to witness the extinction of his cherished hopes and the disintegration with dramatic rapidity of the infernal crew he unceasingly incited and zealously directed, and the triumphant progress and glorious termination of Abdu'l-Baha's thirty-year ministry as well as evidences of the rise and establishment in all continents of the globe of the administrative order, child of the divinely-appointed Covenant and harbinger of the world-encircling order." [32-5]
Another veteran Covenant-breaker was Haji Siyyid Ali Afnan. He was a son of the venerable Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan,[1] entitled Afnan-i-Kabir (Great Afnan), brother of the wife of the Bab. Siyyid Ali joined hands with the Arch-breaker of the Covenant and became one of Abdu'l-Baha's great enemies. He had risen to eminence through the efforts of the wife of the Bab, who sent a special message to Baha'u'llah through Munirih Khanum, the wife of Abdu'l-Baha, when she visited her in Shiraz. Munirih Khanum has written the following account:
[1 For an account of his illustrious life see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4.]
"...The wife of the Bab said: 'Please supplicate the Blessed Perfection to grant two wishes of mine. One, that one of the exalted Leaves[1] of the blessed Family may be permitted to join in wedlock with a member of the <p357> family of the Bab, so that the two holy Trees may be outwardly knit together. The other, to grant me permission to attend His presence.' I conveyed this message when I attained the presence of Baha'u'llah, He readily assented to both her requests." [32-6]
[1 Baha'u'llah has referred to His male descendants as Aghsan (Branches) and the female descendants as Varaqat (Leaves).]
The person whom the wife of the Bab had in mind was Haji Siyyid Ali. Baha'u'llah granted her wish, and he was joined in wedlock with Furughiyyih, a daughter of Baha'u'llah. As a token of his appreciation, Siyyid Ali promised his aunt, the wife of the Bab, that he would accompany her to the Holy Land if Baha'u'llah accepted the proposal for his marriage. However, when the time arrived he left for Akka alone. Thus he broke his promise and with it the heart of that noble lady. Being unable to travel on her own, she was sorrowful and disconsolate. It is reported that as a result of this cruel treatment, which came to her as a serious blow, she was grief-stricken. Soon her health was impaired and a few months later she passed away.
After the ascension of Baha'u'llah, Siyyid Ali and his wife Furughiyyih sided with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and rose up in opposition to Abdu'l-Baha. After inflicting much pain upon the Centre of the Covenant for several years, Siyyid Ali repented of his iniquitous deeds and the Master forgave him. But his repentance was short-lived; he returned to his den again and resumed his odious activities against the Master. During Shoghi Effendi's ministry, as we shall see, it was the members of his family who were chiefly responsible for delivering the most painful blows upon the person of Shoghi Effendi. They caused havoc in the family of the Master and tore it apart altogether.
Abdu'l-Baha was survived by His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf; His wife Munirih Khanum; His four daughters and their families.
The Greatest Holy Leaf, the most distinguished member of the Holy Family and the most outstanding woman in the Dispensation of Baha'u'llah, passed away in 1932. In previous chapters reference has been made to her glorious life of exemplary service to the Cause of Baha'u'llah, and as we have already stated, her passing brought untold sorrow to Shoghi Effendi and broke his heart forever. He built a befitting monument over her resting place in the vicinity of the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel.
Munirih Khanum, the consort of Abdu'l-Baha, came from a noble family[1] in Persia. Their marriage took place in 1872 in Akka at the command of Baha'u'llah. Munirih Khanum served the Master with great devotion, and has paid the following tribute to His memory:
[1 For more information see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol 2, pp. 206-9, 384, 386.] <p358>
"If I were to write the details of the fifty years of my association with the beloved of the world, of His love, His mercy and bounty, I would need fifty years more of time and opportunity in order to write it; yet, if the seas of the world were turned into ink and the leaves of the forest into paper, I would not render adequate justice to the subject." [32-7]
Munirih Khanum passed away in 1938. Her resting place is in close proximity to that of the Greatest Holy Leaf. Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable to the Baha'i world following her death:
"Holy Mother Munirih Khanum ascended Abha Kingdom. With sorrowful hearts Baha'is world over recall divers phases her rich eventful life marked by unique services darkest days Abdu'l-Baha's life. All Ridvan festivities suspended. Advise Convention delegates devote special session her memory hold befitting gathering Auditorium Mashriqu'l-Adhkar."
Abdu'l-Baha had four surviving daughters; they were all married and between them had fourteen children. Shoghi Effendi was the eldest grandchild of the Master. The remaining thirteen, one by one, rebelled against Shoghi Effendi and were expelled from the Faith. The other members of the family were likewise disobedient to Shoghi Effendi; in some cases, he announced them as Covenant-breakers, in others he remained silent about their status.
The eldest daughter of Abdu'l-Baha was Diya'i'yyih Khanum who married Mirza Hadi, an Afnan and a grandson of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, the other brother of the wife of the Bab.[1] This marriage brought forth three sons: Shoghi Effendi, Husayn and Riaz; and two daughters: Ruhangiz and Mehrangiz. Their family name was Rabbani, a name given them by Abdu'l-Baha.
[1 See Shoghi Effendi, 'Genealogy of the Bab showing Connection with Baha'u'llah's Descendants', a chart in his own hand published in The Dawn-Breakers, p. lviii.]
Tuba Khanum married Mirza Muhsin, an Afnan, a son of Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan (the Great Afnan); the brother of the wife of the Bab. They had three sons: Ruhi, Suhayl, and Fu'ad, and one daughter, Thurayya. Their family name was Afnan. Ruha Khanum married Mirza Jalal, the son of the 'King of the Martyrs'.[1] They had two sons: Munib and Hasan; and three daughters: Maryam, Duha and Zahra. Their family name was Shahid (Martyr).
[1 For a detailed account of his sacrificial life, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4, ch. 5.]
Munavvar Khanum married Ahmad Yazdi, the youngest son of Haji Abdu'r-Rahim-i-Qannad.[1] They were without issue.
[1 For an account of his life see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol. 4, p. 23.]
It is beyond the scope of this book to go into all the details of the activities of Shoghi Effendi's brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, or to describe some of their reprehensible conduct. <p359> We cannot estimate the measure of the agony Shoghi Effendi must have undergone when he had to expel his brothers, sisters and aunts from the Faith.
Among those instrumental in instilling the spirit of Covenant-breaking which had lain dormant within the hearts of most members of Abdu'l-Baha's family during the early years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry, were the family of Siyyid Ali Afnan whom we have mentioned earlier (see p. 356). He had been an inveterate adversary of Abdu'l-Baha. Now his sons, the grandchildren of Baha'u'llah, all Covenant-breakers, inflicted the greatest injury upon the person of Shoghi Effendi.
Although Baha'is do not associate with Covenant-breakers, Ruhangiz, the eldest sister of Shoghi Effendi, married one. He was Nayyir Afnan, the second son of Siyyid Ali. Nayyir proved to be the greatest enemy of Shoghi Effendi throughout his ministry. This marriage created an unprecedented convulsion in the family, and was followed by two similar marriages, one between the Covenant-breaker Hasan, another son of Siyyid Ali, and Mehrangiz, the younger sister of Shoghi Effendi; and the other, between another son, Faydi, and Thurayya, Shoghi Effendi's cousin.
These inroads made by the old Covenant-breakers into the family of Abdu'l-Baha were fatal, and soon most of its members became Covenant-breakers. Shoghi Effendi usually delayed announcing to the Baha'i world the misdeeds committed by his relatives. He patiently endured their despicable behaviour and tried to rescue them from their tragic downfall, but eventually he had no choice but to expel them from the community and cut his relationship from them. To describe their fate we can do no better than to review some of Shoghi Effendi's messages.
On 2 November 1941 Shoghi Effendi sent the following two cables to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada:
"Ruhi's sister married Covenant-breaker Faydi whose mother joined and supported arch-enemy Muhammad-'Ali and whose father Abdu'l-Baha denounced openly and repeatedly as His deadly enemy. Ruhi's family concurred. Inform all believers all manner communication excommunicated family forbidden."
"Flagrant disloyalty Ruhi's family compels me disclose information so long patiently withheld American believers concerning his failure obtain my approval his second visit America. His subsequent conduct regarding his marriage which I refrained from revealing anyone except your Assembly, as well as Fu'ad's departure England without my knowledge, <p360> should now be made known believers. Confident unshakable steadfastness exemplary American Baha'i community." [32-9]
These cables concern the family of Mirza Muhsin Afnan and Tuba Khanum, daughter of Abdu'l-Baha. Several years before this episode, Mirza Muhsin had passed away in 1927, and Shoghi Effendi described him as the 'beloved son-in-law' of the Master and 'distinguished servant of His Cause'. [32-10] The rest of the family, who were now expelled from the Cause, included Tuba Khanum, her sons, Ruhi, Suhayl and Fu'ad and daughter Thurayya. It was the latter who married Covenant-breaker Faydi Afnan, a brother of Nayyir mentioned above.
Ruhi Afnan, Shoghi Effendi's cousin, had served him as secretary for some years, and so his name was known to the North American believers who received these cables and were now asked to cut off all association with him and his family. We recall that Faydi's mother, referred to in the first cable, was Furughiyyih, a daughter of Baha'u'llah and the wife of Haji Siyyid Ali Afnan, the enemy of the Master. Ruhi Afnan himself married his cousin Zahra Shahid (see above, p. 358). Fu'ad was Ruhi's youngest brother.
In another cable dated October 1941, to the Baha'is of Iraq, Shoghi Effendi confirmed the status of Nayyir's brothers:
"Nayyir's brothers Faydi and Hasan have been still are Covenant-breakers warn all believers association with them forbidden under all circumstances."
In the same year, the following cable was sent by Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the British Isles:
"Sister Mehrangis [Mehrangiz] followed example Ruhi's [Ruhi] sister Justice demands announce believers her expulsion." [32-11]
Mehrangiz was the youngest sister of Shoghi Effendi, and had married the Covenant-breaker Hasan Afnan. We have already stated that Ruhi's sister, Thurayya, married Faydi. No one can ever imagine the enormity of Shoghi Effendi's pain and anguish as he observed his two sisters and a cousin renounce their faith and join in wedlock with three Covenant-breakers, sons of Siyyid Ali, whom Abdu'l-Baha had condemned as His 'deadly enemy'. Not content with this, Ruhangiz, Shoghi Effendi's eldest sister, did not rest until she arranged another marriage between her cousin, Hasan Shahid and the granddaughter of the notorious Siyyid Ali. But in order not to degrade the family of the Master in public by announcing them all as Covenant-breakers, Shoghi Effendi acted with great patience and concealed their acts of infamy and unfaithfulness as long as he could. We see therefore long gaps between his announcements expelling <p361> certain members of the family from the Faith. For example, although the family of Mirza Jalal Shahid (the son-in-law of the Master), including his wife, had been in close association with the Covenant-breakers, and had shown defiance to Shoghi Effendi, he did not disclose their defection until years later. Only when Munib, the son of Mirza Jalal, with the approval of his parents, married the daughter of one of the enemies of the Faith, did Shoghi Effendi send the following cable to the Baha'i world in November 1944. It must be noted that Mirza Jalal was the son of the most illustrious of Baha'u'llah's apostles, the King of Martyrs.[1]
[1 For an account of his life and martyrdom, see The Revelation of Baha'u'llah, vol 5.]
"Monib Shahid, grandson of both Abdu'l-Baha and the King of Martyrs, married according to the Moslem rites the daughter of a political exile who is nephew of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. This treacherous act of alliance with enemies of the Faith merits condemnation of entire Baha'i world." [32-12]
In response to a cable by the American National Spiritual Assembly expressing their loyalty to him, Shoghi Effendi sent the following message:
"Comforted, strengthened, by assurance of sympathy and loyalty of American believers in the deplorable, delicate situation created by dishonorable alliances made by members of my family, first with Covenant-breakers and now with external enemies of the Faith.
"The marvellous, rapid, sound evolution of the institutions of the Faith in five continents, particularly in the Western Hemisphere, constitutes best monition, most effective counteraction to the detrimental influence of those whose acts proclaim their severance from the Holy Tree and their forfeiture of their sacred birthright.
"The occasion demands that you direct special attention to passages in God Passes By[1] indicating the gravity of the past crises precipitated since the inception of the Faith by kinsmen both of the Manifestation and Centre of His Covenant, demonstrating the pitiful futility of their nefarious activities and the sad fate overtaking defectors and betrayers.
[1 See God Passes By, chs. X and XV.]
"The present hour calls for unrelaxing vigilance, continued heroism, redoubled efforts, renewed dedication by rank and file of the community enjoying preponderating share alike in the erection, the defence, and the consolidation of the worldwide Administrative Order of the Faith of Baha'u'llah since the passing of the Centre of His Covenant." [32-13]
Next to Shoghi Effendi in age, his brother Husayn acted as his secretary for some years, but he too was affected by the spirit of Covenant-breaking The following account by Ruhiyyih Khanum is indicative of Shoghi Effendi's patience and long-suffering in dealing with his brother. <p362>
"The patience of Shoghi Effendi in handling these terrible situations that arose in his own family is shown by the fact that on one occasion he held for eight months a cable excommunicating his brother while he tried -- vainly -- to remedy the situation and obviate the necessity of sending a message that was so heart-breaking to him." [32-14]
In April 1945 he sent this cable for the Baha'i world:
"My faithless brother Husayn, after long period of dishonourable conduct, has abandoned the Master's home to consort with his sister and other Covenant-breakers." [32-15]
The 'sister' mentioned above is Ruhangiz, who had married the Covenant-breaker Nayyir. Husayn's association with her was sufficient ground for him to be denounced as a Covenant-breaker. Now, of Shoghi Effendi's brothers and sisters, only Riaz was left.
In December 1949, Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable to the Baha'i world.
"Faithless brother Hussein [Husayn], already abased through dishonourable conduct over period of years followed by association with Covenant-breakers in Holy Land and efforts to undermine Guardian's position, recently further demeaned himself through marriage under obscure circumstances with low-born Christian girl in Europe. This disgraceful alliance, following four successive marriages by sisters and cousins with three sons of Covenant-breaker denounced repeatedly by Abdu'l-Baha as His enemy, and daughter of notorious political agitator, brands them with infamy greater than any associated with marriages contracted by old Covenant-breakers whether belonging to family of Muhammad-'Ali or Badi'u'llah." [32-16]
We have already mentioned the marriages by Ruhangiz and Mehrangiz, the two sisters of Shoghi Effendi and by his cousin Thurayya. The fourth one was that of Hasan Shahid. The 'three sons of Covenant-breaker' are Nayyir, Hasan and Faydi, sons of Siyyid Ali Afnan. 'Daughter of notorious political agitator' is a reference to the marriage of Munib Shahid with the daughter of Jamal Husseini, nephew of the Mufti of Jerusalem.
The term 'low-born Christian girl' prompted the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the British Isles to seek further clarification from Shoghi Effendi. In answer to them he wrote through his secretary:
"Regarding his cable concerning Hussein: he has been very surprised to note that the terms 'low-born Christian girl' and 'disgraceful alliance' should arouse any question: it seems to him that the friends should realise it is not befitting for the Guardian's own brother, the grandchild of the Master, an Afnan and Aghsan mentioned in the Will and Testament of the Master, and of whom so much was expected because of his relation to <p363> the Family of the Prophet, to marry an unknown girl, according to goodness knows what rite, who is not a believer at all. Surely, every Baha'i must realise that the terms low-born and Christian are definitions of a situation and in no way imply any condemnation of a person's birth or the religion they belong to as such. We have no snobbery and no religious prejudice in our Faith. But the members of the Master's family have contracted marriages which cannot be considered in any other light than disgraceful, in view of what Abdu'l-Baha wished for them." [32-17]
In the year 1948 a fierce political upheaval erupted in the Holy Land. The State of Israel was founded, which resulted in the ending of the British Mandate. War broke out between Arabs and Jews and a great many Arabs fled the country. During this period Shoghi Effendi remained in Haifa and in the face of great dangers and severe difficulties carried on his work as usual, including the building of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab. But the rest of the family who were Covenant-breakers allied themselves with the Arab community and fled the land. Among them were the family of Mirza Jalal Shahid, which included Ruha Khanum, the daughter of Abdu'l-Baha; Tuba Khanum and her son Ruhi, his wife Zahra and his brother; three cousins of Dr Farid; Nayyir Afnan, his wife Ruhangiz (sister of Shoghi Effendi) and their children. Others who fled to the Lebanon were Badi'u'llah (next in command to the Arch-breaker of the Covenant) and his relatives, together with those Baha'is who were disloyal to Shoghi Effendi. As time went on these people, who were already cut off from the Holy Family by virtue of their association with the enemies of the Faith, integrated themselves into the Islamic society.
In 1950 Shoghi Effendi sent yet another cable to the Baha'i world denouncing the activities of Ruhi Afnan.
"Inform friends that Ruhi, his mother, with Ruha, his aunt, and their families, not content with years of disobedience and unworthy conduct, are now showing open defiance. Confident that exemplary loyalty of American believers will sustain me in carrying overwhelming burden of cares afflicting me." [32-18]
Thus the families of the second and third daughters of Abdu'l-Baha were now openly defiant to the Guardian. The fourth daughter, Munavvar, and her husband Ahmad Yazdi, were also among the Covenant-breakers. The two families mentioned in the above cable included nine cousins of Shoghi Effendi.
Another announcement about Ruhi Afnan was made in 1953 on the morrow of the launching of the Ten Year Crusade.
"Treacherous Ruhi Afnan, not content with previous disobedience, correspondence with Ahmad Sohrab, contact with old Covenant-breakers, <p364> sale, in conjunction with other members of family, of sacred property purchased by Founder of Faith, and allowing his sister to marry son of Abdu'l-Baha's enemy, is now openly lecturing on Baha'i movement, claiming to be its exponent and is misrepresenting the teachings and deliberately causing confusion in minds of authorities and the local population. Informal National Assemblies." [32-19]
In December 1951 Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable in which he discloses, among other things, the unfaithfulness and treachery of his youngest brother Riaz.
"With feeling profound concern, grief, indignation, am compelled disclose Baha'i world recent developments Holy land furnishing further incontestable proof relationship established old and new Covenant-breakers demonstrating increasing boldness, marked, tragic decline in character and spiritual condition grandchildren Abdu'l-Baha. Their shameful attitude and conduct receiving approbation their elders. Evidences multiplying attesting Ruhi's increasing rebelliousness, efforts exerted my eldest sister pave way fourth alliance members family Siyyid Ali involving marriage his granddaughter with Ruha's son and personal contact recently established my own treacherous, despicable brother Riaz with Majdi'd-Din, redoubtable enemy Faith, former henchman Muhammad-'Ali, Archbreaker Baha'u'llah's Covenant. Convey information all National Assemblies." [32-20]
Nayyir, the son of Abdu'l-Baha's great enemy, and the man who had married Shoghi Effendi's eldest sister, died in 1952. Shoghi Effendi's cable announcing his death summed up the heart-breaking events of the previous years. The cable was addressed to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States for the Baha'is of the world:
"Inform National Assemblies that God's avenging wrath having afflicted in rapid succession during recent years two sons brother and sister-in-law of Archbreaker of Baha'u'llah's Covenant, has now struck down second son of Siyyid Ali, Nayer [Nayyir] Afnan, pivot of machinations, connecting link between old and new Covenant-breakers. Time alone will reveal extent of havoc wreaked by this virus of violation injected, fostered over two decades in Abdu'l-Baha's family. History will brand him [Nayyir] one whose grandmother, wife of Baha'u'llah, joined breakers of His Covenant on morrow of His passing, whose parents lent her undivided support, whose father openly accused Abdu'l-Baha as one deserving capital punishment, who broke his promise to the Bab's wife to escort her to Holy Land, precipitating thereby her death, who was repeatedly denounced by Centre of the Covenant as His chief enemy, whose eldest brother through deliberate misrepresentation of facts inflicted humiliation upon defenders of the House of Baha'u'llah in Baghdad, whose sister-in-law is championing the cause of declared enemies of Faith, whose brothers supported him attributing to Abdu'l-Baha <p365> responsibility for fatal disease which afflicted their mother, who himself [Nayyir] in retaliation first succeeded in winning over through marriage my eldest sister, subsequently paved way for marriage of his brothers to two other grandchildren of the Master, who was planning a fourth marriage between his daughter and grandson of Abdu'l-Baha, thereby involving in shameful marriages three branches of His family, who over twenty years schemed to undermine the position of the Centre of the Faith through association with representatives of traditional enemies of Faith in Persia, Muslim Arab communities, notables and civil authorities in Holy Land, who lately was scheduled to appear as star witness on behalf of daughter of Badi'u'llah in recent lawsuit challenging the authority conferred upon Guardian of Faith in Abdu'l-Baha's Testament." [32-21]
The following notes may be helpful in identifying the various individuals and events referred to in this cable:
'two sons' Shu'a'u'llah and Musa, the two sons of Mirza
Muhammad-'Ali. See pp. 277, 340 above.
'brother' a reference to Badi'u'llah.
'Archbreaker' Mirza Muhammad-'Ali.
'Siyyid 'Ali' Haji Siyyid Ali Afnan, who married Furughiyyih,
daughter of Baha'u'llah. See pp. 356 above.
'grandmother' Gawhar Khanum, the third wife of Baha'u'llah and the
mother of Furughiyyih. See above pp. 117-18.
'father' Haji Siyyid Afnan.
'promise' see above p. 357.
'eldest brother' Husayn Afnan.
'brothers' Hasan Afnan and Faydi Afnan, sons of Siyyid Ali.
Hasan married Mehrangiz, the second sister of Shoghi
Effendi, and Faydi married Thurayya, grand-daughter
of Abdu'l-Baha. See below.
'mother' Furughiyyih, a daughter of Baha'u'llah.
'my eldest
sister' Ruhangiz, who married Nayyir.
'two other
grandchildren' Mehrangiz and Thurayya, as above.
'his daughter' Bahiyyih.
'grandson of
Abdu'l-Baha' Hasan Shahid. See above, p. 358.
'daughter of
Badi'u'llah' Sadhijih, a notorious woman with a criminal record.
She was a political agitator, in prison because of her
complicity in unlawful plots against the authorities.
'lawsuit' refers to a case brought against Shoghi Effendi in 1952
in connection with the demolition of a house in the
vicinity of the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. The case resulted
in victory for Shoghi Effendi. See above, pp. 329-331. <p366>
Thus ended the life of Nayyir, who with the help of his relatives was instrumental in corrupting and destroying the Master's family and in inflicting the most unbearable suffering upon Shoghi Effendi.
Every one of these messages sent by Shoghi Effendi to the Baha'i world at different times during his ministry was the result of many agonizing episodes of Covenant-breaking, of acts of opposition, betrayal and open defiance by the members of the family of the Master. But their defection and that of some of the outstanding Baha'is who broke the Covenant, far from weakening the fabric of the Baha'i community, strengthened and invigorated it. This is a cleansing process by which the impurities are thrown out of the body of the Cause. Concerning the effect of rebellion by the Covenant-breakers, Shoghi Effendi wrote:
"We should also view as a blessing in disguise every storm of mischief with which they who apostatize their faith or claim to be its faithful exponents assail it from time to time. Instead of undermining the Faith, such assaults, both from within and from without, reinforce its foundations, and excite the intensity of its flame. Designed to becloud its radiance, they proclaim to all the world the exalted character of its precepts, the completeness of its unity, the uniqueness of its position, and the pervasiveness of its influence." [32-22]
Ruhiyyih Khanum writes the following about the effect of the Covenant-breaking in the household of the Master;
"But the tale of defections such as these does not convey the true picture of what Covenant-breaking signified in the ministry of Shoghi Effendi. To understand that one must understand the old story of Cain and Abel, the story of family jealousies which, like a sombre thread in the fabric of history, runs through all its epochs and can be traced in all its events. Ever since the opposition of the younger brother of Baha'u'llah, Mirza Yahya, the poison of Covenant-breaking, which is opposition to the Centre of the Covenant, entered the Faith and remained. It is difficult for those who have neither experienced what this disease is, nor devoted any consideration to the subject, to grasp the reality of the power for destruction it possesses. All the members of the family of Baha'u'llah grew up in the shadow of Covenant-breaking. The storms, separations, reconciliations, final sundering of ties, which are involved when a close, distinguished and often dear relative is dying spiritually of a spiritual disease, are inconceivable to one who has not experienced them...
"It looks simple on paper. But when year after year a house is torn by heart-breaking emotions, shaken by scenes that leave one's brain numb, one's nerves decimated and one's feelings in a turmoil, it is not simple, it is just plain hell. Before a patient lies on the operating table and the offending part is removed there is a long process of delay, of therapeutic effort to remedy the disease, of hope for recovery. So it is with Covenant-breaking; the taint is detected; warning, remonstrance, advice <p367> follow; it seems better; it breaks out again, worse than before; convulsive situations arise -- repentance, forgiveness follow -- and then all over again, the same thing, worse than before, recommences. With infinite variations this is what took place in the lifetimes of Baha'u'llah, Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi." [32-23]
Although the Cause of God benefits from the expulsion of unfaithful individuals who break the Covenant, the Centre of the Faith is the one who suffers most. This suffering is deepened, in the case of Shoghi Effendi, by the fact that he was duty bound, by virtue of his position as Guardian of the Faith, to expel his closest loved ones. Concerning this Ruhiyyih Khanum writes:
"Whereas we ordinary human beings react in one way, these extraordinary human beings react in an entirely different way. They are, in such matters -- however great the difference in their own stations -- entirely different from us. I used to wonder, in the early years of my life with the Guardian, why he got so terribly upset by these happenings, why he reacted so violently to them, why he would be prostrated from evidences of Covenant-breaking. Gradually I came to understand that such beings, so different from us, have some sort of mysterious built-in scales in their very souls; automatically they register the spiritual state of others, just as one side of a scale goes down instantly if you put something in it because of the imbalance this creates. We individual Baha'is are like the fish in the sea of the Cause, but these beings are like the sea itself, any alien element in the sea of the Cause, so to speak, with which, because of their nature, they are wholly identified, produces an automatic reaction on their part; the sea casts out its dead." [32-24]
The Covenant-breakers struggled continually to hurt Shoghi Effendi in whatever way they could. They attacked him from every direction and inflicted on him unbearable pain; while he resisted their onslaught until they were vanquished one by one in different ways. In 1957, a few months before he passed away, he accomplished the task of removing once and for all the last traces of the Covenant-breakers' evil influence from the Holy Land. This he did when he attempted to develop the gardens around the Mansion of Bahji, while there were still a few houses of Covenant-breakers around the Shrine of Baha'u'llah. Shoghi Effendi continued in his efforts until he secured from the government orders for demolition of these houses. The following is part of the cable Shoghi Effendi sent in June 1957 to the Baha'i world on this occasion:
"With feelings of profound joy, exultation and thankfulness, announce on morrow of sixty-fifth Anniversary of Ascension of Baha'u'llah, signal, epoch-making victory won over the ignoble band of breakers of His Covenant which, in the course of over six decades, has entrenched itself <p368> in the precincts of the Most Holy Shrine of the Baha'i world, provoking through acts of overt hostility and ingenious machinations, in alliance with external enemies under three successive regimes, the wrath of the Lord of the Covenant Himself, incurring the malediction of the Concourse on high, and filling with inexpressible anguish the heart of Abdu'l-Baha.
"The expropriation order issued by the Israeli government, mentioned in the recent Convention Message, related to the entire property owned by Covenant-breakers within the Haram-i-Aqdas, recently contested by these same enemies through appeal to Israel's Supreme Court, now confirmed through adverse decision just announced by same Court, enabling the civil authorities to enforce the original decision and proceed with the eviction of the wretched remnants of the once redoubtable adversaries who, both within the Holy land and beyond its confines, laboured so long and so assiduously to disrupt the foundations of the Faith, sap their loyalty and cause a permanent cleavage in the ranks of its supporters.
"The implementation of this order will, at long last, cleanse the Outer Sanctuary of the Qiblih of the Baha'i world of the pollution staining the fair name of the Faith and pave the way for the adoption and execution of preliminary measures designed to herald the construction in future decades of the stately, befitting Mausoleum designed to enshrine the holiest dust the earth ever received into its bosom." [32-25]
Ruhiyyih Khanum recounts the following:
"Finally, in 1957, again through the cooperation of the State authorities, Shoghi Effendi was able to secure an expropriation order, on the grounds of their nearness to a sacred place of pilgrimage, for the houses occupied by what he termed the 'wretched remnants' of the Covenant-breakers and thus at long last bring about what he described as the cleansing of the Haram-i-Aqdas of this spiritual defilement. So hotly was this expropriation order, which involved their eviction from Bahji, contested by the Covenant-breakers that they took it before the Supreme Court of Israel, lost their case and were obliged to leave once and for all.
"It had been the expressed desire of the Guardian himself to supervise the demolition of these houses that abutted on the Mansion and were right next to the Shrine, but he never returned to the Holy Land. When, in fulfilment of his own plan, they were pulled down, a few months after his passing, it was found that the large formal garden he had made in front of them was so accurately measured out and planned that it could be continued -- I am tempted to say rolled out like a carpet -- with complete accuracy right over the place where they stood and up to the very wall of the Mansion." [32-26]
The obtaining of this expropriation order was the last act in uprooting the nests of corruption and hatred which had plagued the <p369> holiest Shrine of the Baha'i world for over six decades. During this time countless schemes had been devised against Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi by the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, his kinsmen and associates, and by enemies of the Faith. Today no trace of any of them remains in the areas surrounding the Shrine. <p370>
The Onward March of the Faith
These are the words of Abdu'l-Baha testifying to the power of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah:
"Today, the Lord of Hosts is the defender of the Covenant, the forces of the Kingdom protect it, heavenly souls tender their services, and heavenly angels promulgate and spread it broadcast. If it is considered with insight, it will be seen that all the forces of the universe, in the last analysis serve the Covenant. In the future it shall be made evident and manifest. In view of this fact, what can these weak and feeble souls achieve? Hardy plants that are destitute of roots and are deprived of the outpourings of the cloud of mercy will not last. What then may be expected from feeble weeds?" [33-1]
Opposition from outside enemies contributes to the growth of the body of the Cause; while opposition from within cleanses it from impure elements. Far from destroying the Cause of God, opposition has enhanced its prestige and added vitality to its inner spirit, as history demonstrates. The contrast between the progressive advancement of the Faith on the one hand, and the decline in the fortunes of the Covenant-breakers on the other, has never been so obvious as in the period of Shoghi Effendi's ministry. It was during this time that the Cause of Baha'u'llah encircled the globe and the institutions of the Administrative Order took firm root throughout the world. In the earlier part of his ministry, Shoghi Effendi wrote these words:
"From the record of its tumultuous history, almost every page of which portrays a fresh crisis, is laden with the description of a new calamity, recounts the tale of a base betrayal, and is stained with the account of unspeakable atrocities, there emerges, clear and incontrovertible, the supreme truth that with every fresh outbreak of hostility to the Faith, whether from within or from without, a corresponding measure of outpouring grace, sustaining its defenders and confounding its adversaries, has been providentially released, communicating a fresh impulse to the onward march of the Faith, while this impetus, in its turn, would through its manifestations, provoke fresh hostility in quarters heretofore unaware of its challenging implications -- this increased hostility being accompanied by a still more arresting revelation of Divine Power and a <p371> more abundant effusion of celestial grace, which, by enabling the upholders of that Faith to register still more brilliant victories, would thereby generate issues of still more vital import and raise up still more formidable enemies against a Cause that cannot but, in the end, resolve those issues and crush the resistance of those enemies, through a still more glorious unfoldment of its inherent power.
"The resistless march of the Faith of Baha'u'llah, viewed in this light, and propelled by the stimulating influences which the unwisdom of its enemies and the force latent within itself, both engender, resolves itself into a series of rhythmic pulsations, precipitated, on the one hand, through the explosive outbursts of its foes, and the vibrations of Divine Power, on the other, which speed it, with ever-increasing momentum, along that predestined course traced for it by the Hand of the Almighty." [33-2]
As one surveys the progress of the Faith during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi, it becomes apparent that one of his great achievements was to bring about unity between the various elements which constituted the Baha'i community in the early years of the Formative Age. When Abdu'l-Baha passed away there was very little Baha'i literature available in the West and the teachings of the Faith had not fully penetrated the hearts of the believers there. Consequently, one could find some very strange ideas about the Faith circulating among the believers in that part of the world. In Persia, the Cradle of the Faith, the Baha'is were still identified with their old religions. They were even referred to as Baha'is from the Muslim, the Jewish or Zoroastrian backgrounds. Although there was unity of belief and thought concerning the station of Baha'u'llah among the various sections of the community, the differences in their background, culture and social habits were discernible to all. For instance, Jewish Baha'is had their own meetings, distinct from the meetings held by Muslim Baha'is. The same was true of Zoroastrian Baha'is. Of course, there were occasions when the whole community worked together and whenever circumstances permitted held large gatherings -- such as on Baha'i holy days, when Baha'is of different religious backgrounds met together in a spirit of joy and unity. Nevertheless there were social barriers between these three groups of Baha'is in Persia. One of the great achievements of Shoghi Effendi was to transform these differences into unity. Then, towards the end of his ministry, he brought together the Baha'is of the East and the West in a world-embracing fellowship -- the international Baha'i community.
By the time the Ten Year Crusade was launched in 1953, all the Baha'is were working together in a spirit of absolute unity and love under the guidance and leadership of Shoghi Effendi. Indeed, one of the Guardian's feats was the formation of a community spread <p372> throughout the world, consisting of peoples of every colour and former creed, of diversified backgrounds, young and old, educated and unlettered, tribal people and citizens of various cultures, speaking different languages and dialects, yet all united in one Faith, practising the same religious teachings, building the same Administrative Order, and having one common purpose -- the establishment of the oneness of mankind on this planet. Each local community with its Local Spiritual Assembly was linked to a National Assembly and through that institution to the World Centre of the Faith, described by Shoghi Effendi as the heart of the Baha'i world. From this mighty heart, the vivifying forces of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah flowed through the national and local institutions of the Faith to every believer in five continents of the globe, uniting and harmonizing their activities in the building of Baha'u'llah's embryonic institutions everywhere on the surface of the earth.
Another outstanding step taken during the Guardian's ministry was the vast extension in the range of Baha'i literature, which had been limited to only a few languages during the lifetime of Abdu'l-Baha. This was raised to about two hundred and forty languages and dialects,[1]thus enabling the words of Baha'u'llah and His teachings to be widely disseminated among the diversified nations and peoples of the world.
[1 At the time of writing this book, this number has increased to over eight hundred.]
The utterances of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha enshrine the truths of God's Revelation for this age. To use an analogy, each one of Baha'u'llah's teachings and ordinances resembles a piece of a colossal jigsaw puzzle. Each piece has a unique place in the overall scheme which, when assembled, produces a certain image intended by the makers. A player may be familiar with each piece, but not until the whole set is assembled can he see the full picture emerge before his eyes. The same is true of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. The scholars of the Faith and those who were well-versed in the Holy Writings and the history of the Cause had full knowledge of the teachings and were able to appreciate the significance of His utterances as well as some of the events which were associated with them. But they did not have the vision to fully grasp the overall features of the Faith. At the close of Abdu'l-Baha's Ministry, the Baha'is were enamoured of Baha'u'llah, but at the same time, many had their own crude ideas about the Faith and its true status.
It was the Guardian who through his writings constructed, as in the above analogy, a full image of the Faith for the Baha'is to see. He put together all the elements of truth enshrined in the utterances of Baha'u'llah, related them to each other, defined the verities of the <p373> Faith, explained their significance, clarified the station of its Herald, its Author, and the Centre of its Covenant, described the glorious destiny of its Administrative Order and portrayed the splendours of the Golden Age during which the sovereignty of Baha'u'llah will be established on the surface of the earth and His grandeur acclaimed by the generality of mankind. Thus, the Guardian presented the Faith of Baha'u'llah to the Baha'i community in its true perspective. This is one of his greatest gifts to this generation and to future generations yet unborn.
Shoghi Effendi has explained in his writings that during the Formative Age, the Faith of Baha'u'llah will pass through distinct epochs in the course of its development. The Cause of God has an organic pattern of growth and like any other living organism, develops and attains specific conditions at certain points in its life. The Cause of God too passes through progressive stages in a single evolutionary process.
The First Epoch of the Formative Age began with the ministry of Shoghi Effendi in 1921. As stated in Chapter 26, in the first sixteen years the Guardian concentrated on teaching the believers how to build Spiritual Assemblies and the Baha'i administration. He explained the function, scope and ultimate purpose of local and national institutions. After this period, the first Seven Year Plan of the American believers was launched by the Guardian in 1937. We have already made a brief reference[1] to the significance of this Plan, an enterprise of great significance in the prosecution of the divine mandate conferred on the American believers by Abdu'l-Baha, and which marks an important development in the history of the Administrative Order of the Faith. By 1946, twenty-five years had passed from the inception of the Administrative Order; Shoghi Effendi designated this entire period as the First Epoch of the Formative Age, and from his other writings we gather that this First Epoch ended between 1944 and 1946. In his message dated June 1947 to the North American community, he describes the main features of this First Epoch in these words:
[1 See above, p. 315-15.]
"The first epoch witnessed the birth and the primary stages in the erection of the framework of the Administrative Order of the Faith -- the nucleus and pattern of its World Order -- according to the precepts laid down in Abdu'l-Baha's Will and Testament, as well as the launching of the initial phase of the world-encompassing Plan bequeathed by Him to the American Baha'i Community. That epoch was characterized by a two-fold process aiming at the consolidation of the administrative structure of the Faith and the extension of the range of its institutions. It <p374> witnessed, on the one hand, the emergence and the laying of the groundwork of that embryonic World Order... It was marked on the other hand by the launching, in the Western Hemisphere, of the first stage of a Plan whose ... Charter was revealed by the Centre of His Covenant in the evening of His life." [33-3]
The scope of the progress of the Cause and the expansion of its institutions during this period may be realized from the following statement by the beloved Guardian:
"The subsequent quarter of a century [1921-1946] constituting the first Epoch of the Formative Age of the Baha'i Dispensation, witnessed the planting of the banner of the Faith in over forty territories of the globe, raising the number of countries included within its pale, on the eve of the Centenary Celebrations of the Declaration of the Bab's Mission to seventy-eight." [33-4]
Apart from the expansion of the Faith, other important events took place in the First Epoch; we have referred to them previously.[1]
[1 See above, pp. 304-6.]
The Second Epoch of the Formative Age began in 1946 when the Guardian gave the North American believers the second Seven Year Plan, of far greater consequence than the first. Of this Epoch Shoghi Effendi wrote in 1947:
The Epoch we have now entered is destined to impart a great impetus to this historic, this two-fold process. It must witness, on the one hand, the consummation of a laboriously constructed Administrative Order, and, on the other, the unfoldment of successive stages in the development of Abdu'l-Baha's Plan beyond the confines of the Western Hemisphere and of the continent of Europe." [33-5]
We note that the main feature of the Second Epoch was the two-fold process of building the institutions of the Faith and extending their range through the operation of the teaching plans. In his cable (December 1951) to the Baha'i world, the Guardian outlines some of the main features of the First and Second Epochs of the Faith in these words:
"Quarter century constituting opening epoch this Age signalized successively by erection consolidation over period no less than sixteen years of local, national institutions of Baha'i Administrative Order in five continents of globe in conformity with provisions of the Will of Centre of Covenant, and initiation of first Seven Year Plan by American Baha'i Community ... opening years of the second epoch of the Formative Age now witnessing at long last commencement of third vast majestic fate-laden process following two above-mentioned developments destined <p375> through gradual emergence of the manifold institutions in World Centre of the Faith as crown of the administrative structure of Baha'u'llah's embryonic World Order." [33-6]
The expansion of the Faith in the Second Epoch was prodigious, a phenomenal growth of the Cause mainly due to the formulation by the Guardian of first the series of national Plans and later the launching of the Ten Year World Crusade. As a result of these almost two hundred and sixty countries, territories and islands were opened to the Faith and the number of localities in which Baha'is resided increased to over eleven thousand.[1] Some of the other achievements of the Second Epoch have already been described. The establishment of the Universal House of Justice in the Second Epoch had also been implied in the message. The Universal House of Justice did come into being during this epoch, and, as we shall see later, a few months after its formation it announced to the Baha'i world the opening of the Third Epoch of the Formative Age.[2]
[1 In the year 1991, this number has reached over 108,000. The Faith is growing so rapidly that any statistical figure will be out of date within days.]
[2 The Fourth Epoch of the Formative Age began in 1986.]
It is appropriate at this juncture to refer to the Tablets of the Divine Plan of Abdu'l-Baha. This series of fourteen Tablets addressed to the North American Baha'is, and revealed during the First World War, constitute the Charter for teaching the Faith of Baha'u'llah throughout the World. Shoghi Effendi has stated that the process of teaching the Faith would also go through different epochs. These are distinct from the epochs of the Formative Age and should not be confused with them. The First Epoch of the Tablets of the Divine Plan began in 1937 with the first American Seven Year Plan and ended with the launching of the Ten Year Crusade in 1953 when the Second Epoch began, continuing until the present time in the year 1991. But whenever the Universal House of Justice perceives that teaching work has assumed new dimensions, it may usher in a new epoch of the Tablets of the Divine Plan.
It is important to bear in mind these epochs, like those of the Formative Age, are not merely divisions created to satisfy the statistical aspect of the Faith. Rather, they are distinct stages in the unfoldment of the Cause of God. They resemble the growth of the embryo in the womb where, at different times, it develops certain limbs and organs, each one contributing to its progressive evolution. As one studies the progress of the Faith during the first two epochs of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, it becomes apparent that teaching opportunities in the First Epoch were far less than those during the Second. No doubt future epochs will witness far greater victories for the Cause of God on a global scale. <p376>
Any unbiased observer who looks back upon the ministry of Shoghi Effendi will be astonished at the range of his stupendous achievements, which can only be described as miraculous. Every major accomplishment during this period took place because of the Guardian's encouragement and guidance to the Baha'is of the world. Had it not been for him, the Formative Age of the Faith would never have unfolded itself, and the institutions of the Faith, destined to be channels for the flow of the spiritual forces released by the Revelation of Baha'u'llah, would have remained unbuilt. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine how the Faith of Baha'u'llah could have survived in the world had it not been for the institution of the Guardianship. Shoghi Effendi was appointed by Abdu'l-Baha, the divine Architect, to build the foundations of His world-embracing institutions for mankind. It was he who fashioned the Administrative Order, devised the plans, and spurred on the Baha'is to implement them. He laid down the base and erected the pillars which, today, sustain and buttress the mighty edifice of the Universal House of Justice. It was he who through his masterly translations and his own original writings expounded the true nature of the Faith of Baha'u'llah for the public in general and Baha'is in particular.
And it was he who accomplished the most momentous feat of welding and organising the loosely-knit, struggling and heterogenous groups and elements which composed the Baha'i world of the time of Abdu'l-Baha into a united and harmoniously-functioning, world-encircling community which is unique in the annals of religion, and which is destined to be the glory, the promise and the harbinger of that Kingdom of God on earth foretold by the Prophets of the past and whose establishment in future centuries is to be the main outcome of the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. <p377>
The Chief Stewards
Shoghi Effendi passed away in the sixtieth year of his life on 4 November 1957 in London, half-way through the Ten Year Crusade. His death, caused by a sudden heart attack in his sleep, came as a cruel blow to the Baha'is of the world and another test of the Covenant. This unexpected tragedy plunged the Baha'i world into a state of utter grief and sorrow, and shook the community of the Most Great Name to its foundations. The news flashed around the world in the following cable:
"Shoghi Effendi beloved of all hearts sacred trust given believers by Master passed away sudden heart attack in sleep following Asiatic flu. Urge believers remain steadfast cling institution Hands lovingly reared recently reinforced emphasized by beloved Guardian. Only oneness heart oneness purpose can befittingly testify loyalty all National Assemblies believers departed Guardian who sacrificed self utterly for service Faith.
Ruhiyyih" [34-1]
Later, the news of the funeral was cabled to the Baha'i world:
"Beloved all hearts precious Guardian Cause God passed peacefully away yesterday after Asiatic flu. Appeal Hands National Assemblies Auxiliary Boards shelter believers assist meet heartrending supreme test. Funeral our beloved Guardian Saturday London Hands Assembly Board members invited attend any press release should state meeting Hands shortly Haifa will make arrangement to Baha'i world regarding future plans. Urge hold memorial meetings Saturday.
Ruhiyyih" [34-2]
These two cables were sent to the Baha'i communities from the city of Haifa, based on a policy that all communications to the Baha'i world should be issued from its World Centre.
The information that the Hands of the Cause were to meet in Haifa to 'arrange future plans' was welcomed by the Baha'is, because the Hands were appointed by the Guardian for the protection and propagation of the Faith. They were its highest dignitaries. There were twenty-seven Hands when Shoghi Effendi passed away; no <p378> body was more suited to advise the believers of the future development of the Cause and to consider the question of a successor to Shoghi Effendi. Almost the entire Baha'i community expected that the Will and Testament of Shoghi Effendi would announce the appointment of a successor to himself, as the Wills of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha had done. For almost a month, the Baha'is of the world waited anxiously for news of this from the beloved and trusted Hands of the Cause, but when the news finally came, it was that the Guardian had left no Will.
Baha'u'llah had appointed Abdu'l-Baha in the Kitab-i-'Ahd as the Centre of His Covenant; Abdu'l-Baha in His turn had appointed Shoghi Effendi in the Will and Testament as Guardian of the Faith: in both cases, the faithful knew where to turn. But Shoghi Effendi did not leave a Will, and this caused some to become perplexed. Indeed, the Baha'is all over the world had taken it for granted that he would follow the same practice as Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha and appoint his successor.
That Shoghi Effendi did not write a Will was due to the circumstances of his ministry and of his life. It must be realized that he was a most meticulous person who never left anything to chance, especially in the case of such a vital issue as writing his Will and Testament to appoint a successor to himself. Only through reflection will a believer come to appreciate the wisdom and inevitability of Shoghi Effendi remaining silent on this question.
One of Baha'u'llah's injunctions in the Kitab-i-Aqdas is that every Baha'i should write a Will and Testament, and that foremost in it he should bear witness to the oneness of God in the Dayspring of His Revelation, Baha'u'llah. This confession of faith is to be a testimony for him in both this world and the next. A Will also directs the distribution of wealth among one's heirs. As to the first requirement, Shoghi Effendi's letter entitled The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah is one of the finest declarations of faith ever written. No believer has written such an outstanding confession of his religious beliefs as Shoghi Effendi did in this remarkable document. As to the second part of a Will, which is the bequeathing of a person's wealth to his inheritors, Shoghi Effendi did not have any worldly possessions and therefore had no need to distribute them. Thus, it can be said that he carried out the commandment of Baha'u'llah with regard to the writing of a Will.
As to the appointment of a successor, the Master had stated in His Will and Testament that should the 'first-born' of the Guardian not inherit his spiritual qualities, he should appoint another Ghusn (Branch). The word Ghusn has been used by Baha'u'llah to signify His male descendants exclusively. Abdu'l-Baha was designated as <p379> Ghusn-i-A'zam (The Most Great Branch) and Shoghi Effendi as Ghusn-i-Mumtaz (The Chosen Branch). Shoghi Effendi was not in a position to appoint a successor to himself because he had no son and there was not a single Ghusn who was faithful to the Cause of God. Every one of the descendants of Abdu'l-Baha had been declared a Covenant-breaker.
Not only was Shoghi Effendi unable to appoint a successor to himself, but his hands were also tied in making a pronouncement about it. This is because Shoghi Effendi was the Interpreter of the Word of God. This allowed him to explain everything which was in the Writings of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha and apply their teachings and commandments within the framework of the exigencies of the time. However, what Shoghi Effendi could not do was to pronounce on subjects which were not recorded in the Holy Writings. These fell within the purview of the Universal House of Justice, which alone has the authority to legislate on matters which are not revealed by the Pen of Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha. Since the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha did not indicate the course to be taken should there be no Ghusn (Branch) to succeed Shoghi Effendi, the resolution of this question did not fall within the domain of the Guardianship; it was the prerogative of the Universal House of Justice to find a solution. This is probably the main reason why Shoghi Effendi did not make any statement about his successor.
After the ascension of Baha'u'llah, the Baha'i community was engulfed in a furious tempest of Covenant-breaking, a tempest which continued to rage throughout the ministry ofAbdu'l-Baha. The faith of every believer was severely tested, and many a fainthearted individual was thrown out of the Ark of salvation -- the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. There was a similar situation after the ascension of Abdu'l-Baha. The provisions of His Will and Testament were violated and tests encompassed the community.
After the passing of Shoghi Effendi, however, the circumstances were different. The tests which faced the believers were, in some respects, far greater than those which had descended upon the earlier believers as a result of the passing of Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha. This is because this time there was no Will and Testament; Shoghi Effendi had gone, and left the believers on their own. In spite of this, the institutions of the Administrative Order, born of the Covenant, had been strengthened to such a point that practically the whole Baha'i community over the entire surface of the globe remained loyal to the Cause and its institutions. The believers of every land remained united as one soul in many bodies, and for two years after the passing of Shoghi Effendi there was no voice of dissent anywhere. All the believers turned to the Hands of the Cause of God, <p380> and every national and local Spiritual Assembly declared their loyalty to that body. There was never in the history of the Faith a time when the believers demonstrated such unity and solidarity in spite of the uncertainty created by the circumstances resulting from the passing of Shoghi Effendi. This is indeed the best proof of the indestructibility of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah.
It is very significant that five months before he passed away, Shoghi Effendi sent a cablegram to the Baha'i world in which he conferred upon the Hands of the Cause the responsibility of protecting the Baha'i community. In another message one month before his passing, he referred to the Hands as 'the Chief Stewards of Baha'u'llah's embryonic World Commonwealth'. These two messages by Shoghi Effendi contained strong indications for the future destiny of the Cause and led the Baha'i community to rally around the Hands after his passing. The first message was sent on 4 June 1957; here are some excerpts:
"Divinely appointed Institution of the Hands of the Cause, invested by virtue of the authority conferred by the Testament of the Centre of the Covenant with the twin functions of protecting and propagating the Faith of Baha'u'llah, now entering new phase in the process of the unfoldment of its sacred mission. To its newly assured responsibility to assist National Spiritual Assemblies of the Baha'i world in the specific purpose of effectively prosecuting the World Spiritual Crusade, the primary obligation to watch over and insure protection to the Baha'i world community, in close collaboration with these same National Assemblies, is now added...
"Evidences of increasing hostility without, persistent machinations within, foreshadowing dire contests destined to range the Army of Light against the forces of darkness, both secular and religious, predicted in unequivocal language by Abdu'l-Baha, necessitate in this crucial hour closer association of the Hands of the five continents and the bodies of the elected representatives of the national Baha'i communities the world over for joint investigation of the nefarious activities of internal enemies and the adoption of wise, effective measures to counteract their treacherous schemes, protect the mass of the believers, and arrest the spread of their evil influence.
"Call upon Hands and National Assemblies, each continent separately, to establish henceforth direct contact and deliberate, whenever feasible, as frequently as possible, to exchange reports to be submitted by their respective Auxiliary Boards and national committees, to exercise unrelaxing vigilance and carry out unflinchingly their sacred, inescapable duties. The security of our precious Faith, the preservation of the spiritual health of the Baha'i communities, the vitality of the faith of its individual members, the proper functioning of its laboriously erected institutions, the fruition of its worldwide enterprises, the fulfilment of its ultimate destiny, all are directly dependent upon the befitting discharge of the <p381> weighty responsibilities now resting upon the members of these two institutions, occupying, with the Universal House of Justice, next to the Institution of the Guardianship, foremost rank in the divinely ordained administrative hierarchy of the World Order of Baha'u'llah." [34-3]
The second letter was written in October 1957. The following passage is relevant to this subject.
"So marvellous a progress, embracing so vast a field, achieved in so short a time, by so small a band of heroic souls, well deserves, at this juncture in the evolution of a decade-long Crusade, to be signalized by, and indeed necessitates, the announcement of yet another step in the progressive unfoldment of one of the cardinal and pivotal institutions ordained by Baha'u'llah, and confirmed in the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, involving the designation of yet another contingent[1] of the Hands of the Cause of God, raising thereby to thrice nine the total number of the Chief Stewards of Baha'u'llah's embryonic World Commonwealth, who have been invested by the unerring Pen of the Centre of His Covenant with the dual function of guarding over the security, and of ensuring the propagation, of His Father's Faith." [34-4]
[1 The last contingent consisted of eight Hands of the Cause, appointed by Shoghi Effendi in this same October message.]
The Manifestation of God gives birth to the religion of God as a mother gives birth to her child. One may observe that if the mother of a child becomes aware that she is going to die, she will entrust her infant to the care of a trustworthy nurse or other reliable person, to look after and protect him until he becomes older and able to stand on his own feet and become self-supporting. This is what Baha'u'llah did when He wrote the Kitab-i-'Ahd and appointed Abdu'l-Baha to assume responsibility for the Cause of God which, in the terms of the above analogy, was passing through the stages of infancy and childhood, and needed to be nurtured and cared for. Had it not been for the divine protection vouchsafed to it in the person of Abdu'l-Baha, the Faith of Baha'u'llah, left on its own, would have been like an orphaned infant without a nurse, and it would have suffered the same fate as older religions did when schisms occurred and the followers divided it into many sects.
Under the guidance and loving care of Abdu'l-Baha, the infant Faith of Baha'u'llah grew up protected from the onslaught of the Covenant-breakers and acquired greater strength and vitality. The message of Baha'u'llah reached the peoples of the East and West and, although not fully integrated, small Baha'i communities sprung up in several countries of the world. Yet the Faith was still very young; it continued to need further protection after Abdu'l-Baha. The child needed yet another nurse. Again the measures which had been taken <p382> by Baha'u'llah were adopted by Abdu'l-Baha when He appointed Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian to nurture the tender and flourishing faith which was still vulnerable to attacks from within and without the community.
During the thirty-six years of the Guardianship, Shoghi Effendi built up the foundations of the institutions of the Administrative Order of Baha'u'llah which were to act as channels for the outpouring of the spiritual energies latent in His Revelation. These institutions, which derive their authority from the Kitab-i-Aqdas and from the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, became bastions of protection for the Baha'is of the world. When Shoghi Effendi passed away, the Administrative Order was well-established. By virtue of these institutions the Faith of Baha'u'llah had become impregnable and the body of the believers was united and harmonized everywhere. The forces of negation which had attacked the Faith from within after the ascension of Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, and which had posed severe threats to its unity, were now impotent to penetrate the mighty stronghold of the Administrative Order which Shoghi Effendi had built up with meticulous care and with so much suffering to himself. In the terms of the above analogy, the child, though still very young, was at last able to stand on its own feet. The mother had suddenly gone without any warning, but she knew that after the preliminary shock the child would gather himself together and take the reins of affairs into his own hands. This is exactly what happened after the sudden passing of Shoghi Effendi. The Baha'i community, having learned from the Hands of the Cause that Shoghi Effendi had left no Will, was at first shaken and dismayed, but soon it recovered and organised itself to carry on the work without a Guardian. The following are excerpts from the first letter by the Hands of the Cause addressed to the Baha'is of the world on this issue:
"Beloved Friends:
"Nine days had not yet elapsed after the interment of the sacred remains of our beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, in London, when the Hands of the Cause, to the number of twenty-six, assembled at the World Center of the Faith, in our capacity as 'Chief Stewards of the Embryonic World Commonwealth of Baha'u'llah', to consult together on the most tragic situation facing the Baha'is since the Ascension of Abdu'l-Baha, and to take all necessary and appropriate measures to safeguard the highest interests of our Faith.
On November 18th the Hands conducted a Memorial Meeting at Bahji, in the Haram-i-Aqdas surrounding the most sacred Shrine in the Baha'i world, afterward entering the Holy Tomb itself and prostrating ourselves in utter humility at the Sacred Threshold. <p383>
"On the following morning, November 19th, nine Hands of the Cause, selected from the Holy Land and the several continents of East and West, with Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, broke the seals placed upon the beloved Guardian's safe and desk and made careful examination of their precious contents. These same Hands, rejoining the other Hands assembled in the Mansion of Baha'u'llah at Bahji, certified that Shoghi Effendi had left no Will and Testament. It was likewise certified that the beloved Guardian had left no heir. The Aghsan (branches) one and all are either dead or have been declared violators of the Covenant by the Guardian for their faithlessness to the Master's Will and Testament and their hostility to him named first Guardian in that sacred document.
"The first effect of the realization that no successor to Shoghi Effendi could have been appointed by him was to plunge the Hands of the Cause into the very abyss of despair. What must happen to the world community of his devoted followers if the Leader, the Inspirer, the Planner of all Baha'i activities in all countries and islands of the seas could no longer fulfil his unique mission?
"From this dark abyss, however, contemplation of the Guardian's own life of complete sacrifice and his peerless services gradually redeemed our anguished hearts. Shoghi Effendi himself, we know, would have been the first to remind the Hands and the widespread body of the believers, that the Dispensation of Baha'u'llah has quickened those powers and resources of faith within mankind which will achieve the unity of the peoples and the triumph of His World Order. In this new light of understanding the company of the Hands could perceive with heightened gratitude the existence of those innumerable blessings which Shoghi Effendi had created and left as his true legacy to all Baha'is.
"Has not the World Centre, with its sacred Shrines and institutions, been firmly established? Has not the Message been established in 254 countries and dependencies? Have not the National and Regional Spiritual Assemblies, forerunners of the Universal House of Justice, been implanted in twenty-six great areas of all continents? Has not the Guardian left us not only his incomparable translations, for English-reading Baha'is, of the Baha'i Sacred Literature but also his own master works of interpretation which disclose to us the unshatterable edifice of evolving Baha'i Order and world community? Has not the Guardian, building upon the enduring foundation of the Master's Tablets of the Divine Plan, created the World Crusade to guide our work until 1963?...
"Such reflections could but, in such a world-shattering experience as all Baha'is have this month endured, reveal to us how strongly Shoghi Effendi has laid the foundations of the world order of Baha'u'llah through the appointments of Hands of the Cause and likewise the appointment of the International Baha'i Council, the institution destined to evolve into the Universal House of Justice.
"In our capacity of Chief Stewards of the Embryonic World Commonwealth of Baha'u'llah, we Hands of the Cause have constituted a body of <p384> nine Hands to serve at the Baha'i World Centre. This body of nine Hands will energetically deal with the protection of the Faith whenever attacks, whether from within or outside the Baha'i community, are reported by Hands from their areas or by National or Regional Assemblies, or whether they arise within the Holy Land. Correspondence will likewise be maintained with the Hands of the Cause working in the several continents. This same body will correspond with National Assemblies on matters connected with the prosecution of the objectives of the Ten Year Plan. On matters involving administrative questions this same body will assist National Assemblies by citing those passages of the Baha'i Sacred Literature which direct the Assemblies to a sound solution.
"As to the International Baha'i Council, appointed by the Guardian and heralded in his communications to the Baha'i world, that body will in the course of time finally fulfil its purpose through the formation of the Universal House of Justice, that supreme body upon which infallibility, as the Master's Testament assures us, is divinely conferred: 'The source of all good and freed from all error'...
"Meanwhile the entire body of the Hands assembled by the nine Hands of the World Centre will decide when and how the International Baha'i Council is to evolve through the successive stages outlined by the Guardian, culminating in the call to election of the Universal House of Justice by the membership of all National Spiritual Assemblies.
"When that divinely ordained body comes into existence, all the conditions of the Faith can be examined anew and the measures necessary for its future operation determined on consultation with the Hands of the Cause..." [34-5]
The believers faithfully rallied around the Hands of the Cause, who now assumed the function of guiding the Baha'i world. All National Spiritual Assemblies declared their loyalty to the Hands and turned to that institution with devotion. The nine Hands appointed to serve at the World Centre were referred to as Custodians of the Faith. From the outset, the Hands made it clear to the Baha'is that, unlike the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice, they were not promised infallible guidance. The only way that they could carry out their responsibilities satisfactorily was to follow faithfully the provisions of the Ten Year Plan as delineated by the Guardian. In this way, there was no danger of misguiding the community.
The greatest achievement of the Hands in this period is that they did not deviate a hair's breadth from the teachings and guidance of Shoghi Effendi. For more than five years they held the reins of the Cause in their hands. This period may be regarded as the most critical stage in the history of the Faith of Baha'u'llah. From the day the Faith was born until the passing of Shoghi Effendi, divine protection had been vouchsafed to the community. For one hundred and thirteen years, the infant Faith of Baha'u'llah had been nurtured <p385> by the infallible guidance of its Central Figures[1] and its Guardian. But now it was entrusted to the care of a number of religious leaders, the Hands of the Cause, who did not have this promise of divine guidance.
[1 The Bab, Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha.]
It was a period fraught with dangers. Similar to subjecting a newly-built airplane to a series of rigorous tests in order to be sure that it works properly, the Covenant of Baha'u'llah was severely tested during these six years and found to be absolutely impregnable. The Custodianship of the Hands was itself a proof of the invincibility of the Covenant, in that, unlike the leaders of former religions who introduced many man-made practices into the teachings of their Prophets, the Hands of the Cause added not even a single dot to the Cause, nor did they introduce any innovation into the workings of its institutions. They guided the Baha'i community strictly in accordance with the Holy Text and the writings of the Guardian. Their responses to questions from the National Spiritual Assemblies or individuals were based on the Holy Writings, and if they could not find the answer in the Tablets of Baha'u'llah or Abdu'l-Baha or letters of Shoghi Effendi, they strictly refrained from making any pronouncement. Such questions were left for the future to be determined by the Universal House of Justice.
The Hands acted with such loyalty that when they handed over the Cause of God, pure and unadulterated, to the elected body of the Universal House of Justice in 1963 the whole Baha'i world acclaimed their devotion. This generation and generations yet unborn owe the Hands of the Cause an immeasurable debt of gratitude. Through their faithfulness they took charge of the Ark of the Covenant from the hands of the Guardian, steered it for over five years through treacherous waters, brought it safely to the shores of salvation and humbly delivered it into the hands of the Universal House of Justice.
This period witnessed the emergence of a new brand of Covenant-breakers, headed by Mason Remey, who had himself been appointed a Hand of the Cause of God by Shoghi Effendi and was one of the signatories of the first declaration of the Hands issued after the passing of Shoghi Effendi. In order to appreciate the genesis of this rebellion against the Covenant, we must look back at the Baha'i community as it was then. At that time there were some believers who thought that the Faith must always have a Guardian. This belief was partly due to the following statement by Shoghi Effendi in The Dispensation of Baha'u'llah:
"An attempt, I feel, should at the present juncture be made to explain the character and functions of the twin pillars that support this almighty <p386> Administrative Structure -- the institutions of the Guardianship and of the Universal House of Justice...
"It should be stated, at the very outset, in clear and unambiguous language, that these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Baha'u'llah should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. Their common, their fundamental object is to insure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings. Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, co-ordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutions -- instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives. These are neither contradictory, nor detract in the slightest degree from the position which each of these institutions occupies. Far from being incompatible or mutually destructive, they supplement each other's authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally united in their aims.
"Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of Baha'u'llah would be mutilated and permanently deprived of that hereditary principle which, as Abdu'l-Baha had written, has been invariably upheld by the Law of God. 'In all the Divine Dispensations', He states, in a Tablet addressed to a follower of the Faith in Persia, 'the eldest son hath been given extraordinary distinctions. Even the station of prophethood hath been his birthright'. Without such an institution the integrity of the Faith would be imperilled, and the stability of the entire fabric would be gravely endangered, Its prestige would suffer, the means required to enable it to take a long, an uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking, and the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn. "Severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice this same System of the Will of Abdu'l-Baha would be paralyzed in its action and would be powerless to fill in those gaps which the Author of the Kitab-i-Aqdas has deliberately left in the body of His legislative and administrative ordinances." [34-6]
When it became clear that Shoghi Effendi had not appointed a successor to himself, some Baha'is failed to appreciate the true significance of the above statement by Shoghi Effendi. Because they had not understood the spirit of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah, they insisted that a second Guardian must be created. Mason Remey, an ambitious individual, became the candidate, and with constant encouragement by a few equally ambitious men he claimed in 1960 <p387> that he was the successor of Shoghi Effendi. Sadly however, this was like trying to make a flower from paper and pretend that it was real.
Abdu'l-Baha in His Will and Testament extolled Shoghi Effendi as the 'Sign of God', the 'Chosen Branch', the 'blest and sacred bough that hath branched out from the Twin Holy Trees', 'the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin surging seas'. Such a being was created by God especially to become the Guardian of the Cause, and his appointment was made by the Centre of the Covenant Himself. He was a descendant both of Baha'u'llah and of the family of the Bab. How could a few individuals who looked for leadership and sought power for their own selfish interests raise up a lesser man to the station of the Guardianship? In His Will and Testament, Abdu'l-Baha has laid down the conditions that Shoghi Effendi's successor must be either the 'first-born' of the Guardian or another Ghusn (male descendant of Baha'u'llah), and that the Hands of the Cause must give their assent to his choice. How could Mason Remey fulfil these conditions? It is interesting to note that, in a Tablet to the Hand of the Cause of God, Mulla Ali-Akbar, Abdu'l-Baha makes this important statement.
"...for Abdu'l-Baha is in a tempest of dangers and infinitely abhors differences of opinion... Praise be to God, there are no grounds for differences."
"The Bab, the Exalted One, is the Morn of Truth, the splendour of Whose light shineth through all regions. He is also the Harbinger of the Most Great Light, the Abha Luminary. The Blessed Beauty is the One promised by the sacred books of the past, the revelation of the Source of light that shone upon Mount Sinai, Whose fire glowed in the midst of the Burning Bush. We are one and all, servants of Their threshold, and stand each as a lowly keeper at Their door...
"My purpose is this, that ere the expiration of a thousand years, no one has the right to utter a single word, even to claim the station of Guardianship. The most Holy Book is the Book to which all peoples shall refer, and in it the Laws of God have been revealed. Laws not mentioned in the Book should be referred to the decision of the Universal House of Justice. There will be no grounds for difference... Beware, beware lest anyone create a rift or stir up sedition." [34-7]
After Mason Remey made his absurd claim, the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land tried their utmost to bring him to his senses. But in his delusion, he persisted on his errant course and consequently he and those few who followed him were announced as Covenant-breakers.[1] The Baha'i community was once again purged by this process; the impurities which would have imposed dire <p388> afflictions upon the Faith had they been allowed to remain within the fold, were cast out, resulting in revitalization of the body of the Cause of God.
[1 See Appendix 2.]
This episode of Covenant-breaking by Mason Remey was one of the flimsiest of all rebellions in the history of the Faith. It did not take very long until a number of those who had been misled by him realized their mistake, repented and returned to the community or withdrew from the Faith altogether. Mason Remey's efforts to form a following for himself failed miserably. After his death, serious rivalries broke out between his lieutenants who claimed to be his successors. The divinely-ordained instruments serving the Covenant of Baha'u'llah have been so strengthened today that the efforts of this group of Covenant-breakers have become null and void, and the power of the Covenant has driven them into oblivion.
Concerning the statement by Shoghi Effendi quoted above: 'Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship, the World Order of Baha'u'llah would be mutilated', it must be emphasized that although there are no more Guardians after Shoghi Effendi, the institution of the Guardianship will always exist. Consider for example, that when the Prophet leaves this world, the position He occupies within His religion is not lost. For instance, Baha'u'llah is the Author of the Faith. Access to Him during His ministry was mainly through His Writings. It is the same after His ascension, He will always be the Author of the Faith, and the way to approach Him is through His Writings. Likewise, Abdu'l-Baha will always be the Centre of the Covenant of Baha'u'llah. The fact that He has ascended to the next world does not alter His position in the Faith. In order to turn to Him, one must turn to His Writings.
It is the same with the institution of the Guardianship. Shoghi Effendi is the Guardian of the Faith. During his ministry the believers received guidance through his writings and continue to do so after his passing. The institution of the Guardianship will always serve as a pillar supporting the mighty structure of the Administrative Order, regardless of whether the Guardian is living or not. The writings of Shoghi Effendi will continue to guide and sustain the ever-advancing community of the Most Great Name. Today, the Universal House of Justice, before taking decisions on various matters whether in the field of legislation or administration, consults the writings of Shoghi Effendi and is guided by the vast body of his letters, in which he has elucidated almost every conceivable subject. Thus, far from being divorced from the World Order of Baha'u'llah, the institution of the Guardianship plays a preponderating role now and for ever, in conjunction with the institution of the Universal House of Justice, in guiding and directing the Baha'i community <p389> toward its ultimate goal -- the establishment of the oneness of mankind on this planet.
In their search to find an alternative solution to fill the vacancy after Shoghi Effendi, a few believers came up with the erroneous theory that the institution of the Hands of the Cause of God was part of the institution of the Guardianship and therefore the Hands would carry forward the function of the Guardianship. This concept is entirely baseless; there is nothing in the Holy Text or the writings of Shoghi Effendi to support it. The relationship that the Hands had with the Guardian was that they were appointed by him for the purpose of serving the Cause under his direction. The mere fact that the Hands were appointed by Shoghi Effendi does not entitle them to become part of the institution of the Guardianship. Otherwise, the members of the International Baha'i Council, who were also appointed by Shoghi Effendi, should similarly become part of that institution. Nowhere do we find any authoritative text to support such an idea. Indeed, the Hands of the Cause served under the Guardian during his lifetime and continue today to serve under the direction of the present-day Head of the Faith, the Universal House of Justice.
Only a lack of proper comprehension of the verities of the Faith, coupled with insatiable ambition, could have led Mason Remey to claim that Shoghi Effendi's statement about mutilation of the World Order of Baha'u'llah implied that the line of Guardians must not be broken. A more profo