THE BRILLIANT PROOF
Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpáygání
1600 Sawtelle Boulevard, Suite 34
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Copyright © 1998 by Kalimát Press
All Rights Reserved
Manufactured in the United States of America
|Originally published as
The Brilliant Proof (Burhäne Lämé) in Chicago by the Bahai
News Service, 1912. The first edition notes that it was written December 28,
1911, in Syria, "by the pen of Mirza Abul Fazl Gulpaygan."|
"Bahaism A Warning" is reprinted from the journal Evangelical Christendom
(London) Sept.-Oct. 1911.
|Library of Congress
Abu al-Fadl Gulpayagani, 1844-1914.
[Burhan-i lami. English.]
The brilliant proof / Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl
"Bahaism a warning / by Peter Z. Easton": p.
Includes bibliographical references.
1. Bahaism. 2. Easton, Peter Z. (Peter Zacceus), 1846-1915.
Bahaism. I. Easton, Peter Z. (Peter Zacceus), 1846-1915.
Bahaism. II. Title.
297.9'3 dc21 98-12455 CIP
Book design by Judy Liggett
Note on Transliteration
The Brilliant Proof by Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl 3
Accusations Against Bahá'u'lláh 9
The Question of Pantheism 22
Despotic Government 25
New Commandments 28
The Meaning of the Prophecies 31
New Bahá'í Teachings 44
"Bahaism A Warning" by Peter Z. Easton 73
Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl Gulpáygání
(1844-1914) is known as the greatest scholar the Bahá'í world has
yet produced, and this reputation is well deserved. He is the author of
numerous books and essays which blend into harmony the weight of his
traditional Muslim education and the light of his discovery of the
Bahá'í sacred writings. Approaching his scholarly work on the
Bahá'í Faith, even now some one hundred years after much of it
was written, the reader is startled by the modernity of Abu'l-Fadl's thought
and the liberal, universal direction of his writings. His ideas continue to
challenge Bahá'ís to this day.
Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl was born in 1844, in the town of
Gulpáygán, in central Iran. His given name was Muhammad, the son
of Muhammad-Ridá. A brilliant student, he attended traditional Muslim
schools in his hometown, went on to higher theological studies in Isfahan, and
eventually in Tehran. He distinguished himself and rose into the highest ranks
of the Shí'í Muslim clergy.
Despite this position, his interest in the Bahá'í Faith was
sparked by the teaching efforts of an ordinary blacksmith. The story is well
known and often told, but it is worth retelling: It seems that Abu'l-Fadl's
donkey needed reshoding and, as he waited for the work to be done, the
blacksmith approached him.
"Mullá, I have heard of some holy traditions
of the blessed
Imáms which I have difficulty understanding. Can you help me?"
Abu'l-Fadl agreed to hear the man's questions.
"I have heard the mullás quoting a holy tradition on the subject of
God's mercy in sending the rains: that every drop of rain is entrusted to an
angel of God who carries it down to earth. Is that tradition true?"
"Yes," was Abu'l-Fadl's reply.
"Again I have heard," the blacksmith continued, "on the subject of the ritual
uncleanliness of dogs: there is a holy tradition that no angel will visit the
house where dogs are kept. Is this true?"
"Yes," Abu'l-Fadl answered, once again.
"Then, how is it," the blacksmith asked, "that rain falls on the houses that
have dogs? The rains, when they come, fall everywhere alike."
Of course, the learned scholar had no answer for the blacksmith's questions,
which suddenly no longer seemed innocent. Abu'l-Fadl was both perturbed and
astonished. How could this ignorant blacksmith so easily have trapped him with
Abu'l-Fadl's companions urged him to pay no attention to the man. They
explained that he was only a "misguided Bábí." But for
Abu'l-Fadl, the encounter was important. Naturally, he had known of the
Bahá'í Faith and had been ap- proached by Bahá'í
teachers before. But this brief conversation, in which he was defeated in
argument by a blacksmith, alerted him to the subtlety of the
Bahá'í message and to the bankruptcy of a narrow, literal,
unthinking reliance on scripture and tradition. He began to study the
Bahá'í religion seriously. In 1876, he found his faith and became
There followed, for Abu'l-Fadl, a lifetime of service to his new religion.
First, at the direction of Bahá'u'lláh himself, he traveled in
Iran, and then in the Russian realms of Ashkabad, Sam-arqand, and Bukhara.
Later, 'Abdu'l-Bahá called him to Palestine, to Cairo, and then to New
York. But, Bahá'ís hhetic opinion piece ices to the
Faith were greater, Abu'l-Fadl's or those of the blacksmith who taught him the
This treatise, The Brilliant Proof, is the product of the waning years of
Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl's life. In this essay, we find his thought at
its most mature and its most insightful. We also find his approach at its most
expansive and all-encompassing.
The catalyst for this book was an article written in an English church journal
by Peter Z. Easton, a Presbyterian minister who had been a missionary to Iran
since 1871. Little is known about Rev. Easton, except that he was a man of
extremely conservative views so conservative, in fact, that they eventually
impelled him to abandon his own Presbyterian denomination and to seek the
company of more backward-looking Christian sects.
Rev. Easton was born on May 30, 1846, in New York City of parents from English
stock. He attended the College of the City of New York during the Civil War,
from 1860 to 1865, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree. Going on to the
Union Seminary, he pursued his career as a Christian minister. In December
1868, while still a seminarian, he married his wife, Maria E. Burnham, who was
nearly three years older than he; and they eventually had seven children. In
1871, he completed his studies and was appointed to the Tabriz mission in
western Iran; he was formally ordained in the Presbytery of New York on April
28, 1872, and he apparently arrived in Persia in 1873.
Little is known of Easton's missionary work, but he resigned his post in 1879.
In 1911 he was in London, and there he had occasion to visit
'Abdu'l-Bahá, who had been recently released from confinement and was
just beginning his journeys to the West. Of course, in England,
'Abdu'l-Bahá granted audiences to all manner of inquirers and curiosity
seekers, but Rev. Easton's encounter with him seems to have been unique. The
Hand of the Cause Mr. Balyuzi has told the story in his book,
'Abdu'l-Bahá: The Center of the Covenant:
These visitors [to 'Abdu'l-Bahá] represented a
spectrum of humanity. Among them were leading men of all Faiths. Most of [the
inquirers] had broad sympathies, liberal minds. There were also some who were
bigoted and had narrow outlooks. Of the latter category was the Reverend Peter
Z. Easton. He called to meet 'Abdu'l-Bahá on September 21st . This
interview was followed by a virulent and venomous attack on the
Bahá'í Faith. Referring to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, he wrote in the
English Churchman: "I found him to answer to Dr. H. H. Jessup's description of
him as a man of great affability and courtesy. He was glad to meet with an
Occidental, who could talk with him in Tartar Turkish, the language of
[Azarbayjan], Persia, in which and the adjoining Caucasus I have been labouring
as a missionary since 1873." Then he complained that to his query
'Abdu'l-Bahá had given no answer, that He had changed the
And what was his query? What did 'Abdu'l-Bahá have "to add to the New
Testament teachings of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, through whom alone we can come to the
Father." Apparently the Reverend Peter Z. Easton wanted a slanging match.
Having failed to obtain the answer he desired, the irate cleric said that he
had to seek it elsewhere.
Sydney Sprague in his Story of the Bahá'í Movement had referred
to Gobineau. Now, Mr. Easton would find his answer. And there it was in the
pages of Religions et philosophies dans l'asie centrale where Gobineau had
characterized the Bábí Faith as "the latest expression of an
eclectic evolution, growing out of the innate pantheism of the Iranian mind";
and so Mr. Easton was in full gallop: "Here, then, we have a very important
statement in regard to the character of the movement. It is a pantheistic, not
a Christian, nor even a Mohammedan movement, one of a long series of such
movements, beginning with the very beginning of Persian history and continuing
to the present day, a movement akin likewise to the pantheistic sects of other
lands, such as Mormons, Spiritists, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, etc."
Mr. Easton did have astonishing views. To put Christian Scientists in the
category of pantheists is no mean feat. The mind reels. Mr. Easton even
formulated a definition of pantheism. But he was not a competent theologian.
Next he proceeded to defame Bahá'u'lláh, and waxed so bold as to
say: "In short, he was a moral and spiritual monster, who exalted himself
against all that is called God or that is worshipped. To become a Bahai means
to put this anti-Christ in the place of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ. This is what the people of Great Britain are now invited to do."
Then, after presenting some dubious historical analogies, Mr. Easton was moved
to express his personal hope and concern for 'Abdu'l-Bahá: "I am sorry
for Abdul Baha. Brought up in this terrible system, he is entangled in its
meshes. From what I have heard of late, I would fain hope that some glimmerings
of light have dawned upon him. May God in great mercy open his eyes to behold
the truth as it is in Jesus . . . "
Mr. Easton was not content with this one article. He took his invective to the
pages of Evangelical Christendom. Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl was then
living in Beirut. He was apprised of the contents of Mr. Easton's second
article by students at the Syrian Protestant College [the American University
of Beirut since 1920]. From his sick-bed he wrote one of the most effective
treatises that ever came from his powerful pen, in answer to the Reverend Peter
Z. Easton. This was Burhán-i Lámi The Brilliant
Proof translated into English at the instruction of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and
published in Chicago.
This story provides the background for the present volume. Rev. Easton's
Evangelical Christian article is reproduced as an appendix to this book. It
provides the context for Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl's powerful rebuttal.
Not all Christian ministers in England were hostile to the
Bahá'í message, however. On Sunday, September 17, 1911,
'Abdu'l-Bahá was invited to St. John's Church in Westminster, where
Archdeacon Wilberforce seated him in the Bishop's chair, addressed him as
"Master" (this Rev. Easton found particularly galling), invited him to address
the congregation, and knelt to receive his blessing.
Earlier, at the
City Temple, on September 10, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had been introduced to the
congregation by the Rev. R. J. Campbell. He had placed his distinguished
visitor in his own chair and is reported to have remarked:
. . . This evening, we have in the pulpit of the City Temple the leader of one
of the most remarkable religious movements of this or any age, a movement which
includes, I understand, at least three million souls. The
Bahá'í movement, as it is called, in Hither Asia rose on that
soil just as spontaneously as Christianity rose in the middle territories
adjoining, and that faith which, by the way, is very closely akin to, I think
I might say identical with, the spiritual purpose of Christianity that
movement stands for the spiritual unity of mankind; it stands for universal
peace among the nations. These are good things, and the man who teaches them
and commends them to three millions of followers must be a good man as well as
a great [man].
'Abdu'l-Bahá is on a visit to this country a private visit but he
wished to see the City Temple; and I think I am right in saying for the first
time in his life he has consented to lift up his voice in public.
does not address public meetings, he does not preach sermons; he is just a
He spent forty years in prison for his faith, and from his prison directed the
efforts of his followers. There is not much in the way of organization, but
simple trust in the Spirit of God. We, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ,
who is to us and always will be the Light of the World, view with sympathy and
respect every movement of the Spirit of God in the experience of mankind, and
therefore we give greeting to 'Abdu'l-Bahá I don't know whether I could
say in the name of the whole Christian community that may be too much but I
think in the name of all who share the spirit of our Master, and are trying to
live their lives in that spirit. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, I think, intends to say a
word or two in response to this greeting that I address to him in your
Cordial receptions of this kind by the liberal churches outraged Evangelical
opinion in Britain, and Rev. Easton's article was published a few weeks later.
Such a development was to be expected, of course, but Mírzá
Abu'l-Fadl appears to have been genuinely shocked by the viciousness of
Easton's attack. He begins his reply with repeated admonitions against libel,
execration, falsehood, and calumny. He establishes the standard for judging the
Bahá'í message as the one that Christ offers in the Gospels for
judging true prophets from false: "By their fruits shall ye know them."
Abu'l-Fadl goes on to summarize as four the arguments against the
Bahá'í teachings which Easton raises in his article: 1) that
Christian clergy friendly toward 'Abdu'l-Bahá have failed to consult the
missionaries in Syria, Palestine, and Persia to learn of the true character of
Bahá'u'lláh and his religion; 2) that the teachings of
Bahá'u'lláh are pantheistic; 3) that the Bahá'í
teachings advocate undemocratic government; and, 4) that the
Bahá'í Faith offers no teachings beyond those that are to be
found in Christianity, in any case. This is a rather loose and contradictory
collection of objections, but Abu'l-Fadl takes each objection seriously. He
addresses them one by one and dismisses them.
It is to the question of the new teachings brought by
Bahá'u'lláh that Abu'l-Fadl devotes the bulk of his essay. And
here we find his thinking at its most creative, most mature, and most
universal. The year is 1911. Called upon to choose those laws and teachings of
the Bahá'í Faith that distinguish it from other religions
(particularly from Christianity), Abu'l-Fadl first discus-ses the passages in
the Kitáb-i Íqán which reconcile the prophecies found in
various holy books and point toward the unity of all religions. He then lists
nine more principles gleaned from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh:
- the end of divisions based on religious traditions;
- prohibition of disagreements caused by indi-vidual interpretation of
the holy scriptures;
- acceptance of all views and doctrines concerning the station of the
Manifestation of God;
- abolition of slavery;
- the obligation to engage in some trade or profession;
- universal compulsory education for both sexes;
- the absolute prohibition of cursing and execration;
- outlawing carrying firearms, except in times of necessity; and
- the establishment of the House of Justice and the institution of
democratic, constitutional government.
Then, unable to contain himself to just nine, Abu'l-Fadl adds a tenth
principle: the broad distribution of wealth throughout society.
Now, this is not the list of ten or twelve "Basic Principles" that was to
develop a few years later in Bahá'í history and become the basis
for so many standard presentations of the Bahá'í Faith. It does
come pretty close, however. Missing are the principles of a universal auxiliary
language and the independent investigation of truth, but the rest of the
familiar list is either expressed or im-plied. The whole emphasis of
Abu'l-Fadl's choice of teachings is on the unity of humanity and on those laws
of Bahá'u'lláh which emphasize harmony and reconciliation among all peoples.
The universal nature of the Bahá'í Faith is clearly the focus of
Abu'l-Fadl's formulation of new teachings in The Brilliant Proof. In what stark
contrast it stands to Rev. Easton's narrow and bigoted sectarianism.
Abu'l-Fadl wrote his treatise in just two days, despite his illness in Beirut.
When it was presented to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was then traveling in
America, he approved of it and ordered that it should be published immediately.
He praised the eloquence of the essay and accepted all its arguments. It was
'Abdu'l-Bahá who gave the work its distinctive title.
Habíb Mu'ayyad, who originally brought Easton's article to the
attention of Abu'l-Fadl, provides this account of what transpired:
I took the article to Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl, and I explained the
situation. I gave him a verbal summary of the arguments in it. Abu'l-Fadl was,
at this time, sick in bed in the hotel. He got up from bed, pulled his cloak
over his shoulders, sat down, and said: "Bring paper and pen so that I can give
him an answer."
He dictated to me for about an hour, and I wrote down his words. While
talking, he suddenly became very weak and sick. He lay down and bade me
goodbye, saying: "When I feel better, I will write the answer myself." The
next day, when I went to the hotel, he said: "I have written the answer to
Peter Z. Easton. It is ready. Mail this to 'Abdu'l-Bahá so that he can,
in his wisdom, decide what to do with it. I mailed the essay to the United
States. 'Abdu'l-Bahá published an English translation, along with the
original Persian, in a pamphlet and titled it The Brilliant Proof.
The publication of The Brilliant Proof in 1912, marks the end of an early era
of Bahá'í teaching in the West. For as 'Abdu'l-Bahá
continued his journeys in the United States and Canada, he delivered hundreds
of public talks and private addresses which were tailored to Western audiences.
The fresh outpouring of teachings which resulted from these encounters produced
a new Bahá'í literature of the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in
and this literature has continued to fascinate and occupy
Bahá'ís as a source of study up to the present.
The Brilliant Proof came at the end of Abu'l-Fadl's career, being his last
He died on January 21, 1914, in Cairo. It also
heralded the end of Rev. Easton's career. He had passed away just four months
earlier on September 22, 1913.
NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION
- Tradition (hadíth), a saying attributed to the Prophet
Muhammad or one of the Imáms of Shí'ih Islam. Such sayings have
varying degrees of authenticity-ranging from the historically reliable to the
- H. M. Balyuzi, `Abdu'l-Bahá: The Centre of the Covenant
(Oxford: George Ronald, 1971) pp. 149-151.
- See `Abdu'l-Bahá in London: Addresses and Notes of
Conversations, comp. by Eric Hammond (London: Bahá'í
Publishing Trust, 1912 ) pp. 21-25.
- This is certainly an highly inflated number for the population of
Bahá'ís in 1911. The highest estimate known for the number of
Iranian Bahá'ís during this period is one million, and this
estimate is disputed. There were never more than two or three thousand
Bahá'ís in Europe and America during `Abdu'l-Bahá's
lifetime, and the number of Bahá'ís in other countries of the
world was few.
The current population of Bahá'ís is about five and one-half
- This was, indeed, `Abdu'l-Bahá's first public address.
- Quoted in an editorial, Evangelical Christendom (Sept.-Oct. 1911) p.
166. `Abdu'l-Bahá's address to the congregation at the City Temple can
be found in `Abdu'l-Bahá in London, pp. 19-20 (reprinted from
The Christian Commonwealth, September 13, 1911).
- Habíb Mu'ayyad, Khatirát-i Habíb, vol. 1
(Tehran: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 118-128 B.E. [1961-71]) pp.
82-83. We are grateful to the Research Department at the Bahá'í
World Center for bringing this reference to our attention.
- See especially, The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by
`Abdu'l-Bahá During His Visit to the United States and Canada in
1912, comp. by Howard MacNutt, 1982 Edition (Wilmette, Ill.:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1922-25 ); Paris Talks:
Addresses Given by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris in 1911-1912 (London:
Bahá'í Publishing Trust, 1912); `Abdu'l-Bahá in
London; Juliet Thompson, The Diary of Juliet Thompson (Los Angeles:
Kalimát Press, 1983); Agnes Parsons, `Abdu'l-Bahá in America:
Agnes Parsons' Diary (Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1996); and
Mírzá Mahmud-i Zarqání, Kitáb-i
badáyi'u'l-áthar, vol. 1 (Bombay, 1914).
- Recent translations of Mírzá Adu'l-Fadl's [sic] work include:
Miracles and Metaphors, trans. by J. R. Cole (Los Angeles:
Kalimát Press, 1981); Letters and Essays, 1886-1913, trans. by J.
R. I. Cole (Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1985); a facsimile reprint of
The Bahá'í Proofs (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í
Publishing Trust,  1983).
In the interest of simplicity and readability, all sublinear diacritical marks
have been omitted from the transliteration which appears in this volume. The
editors hope that this will make the text more accessible to the general
However, this change may create some difficulties for the pronunciation of
some names. Therefore we offer the following examples:
Bishárát - besh-awr-awt
hadíth - had-eess
Khatirát-i Habíb - cat-eh-rawt-eh hab-eeb
Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl - meer-zaw ab-ol fazz-l
Muhammad - mo-ham-mad
Muhammad-Ridá - mo-ham-mad rezz-aw
Tahdhib al-akhlaq - tah-zeb al-ak-lag
The Brilliant Proof Appendix