By Shua Ullah Behai and Mohammed Ali Bahai
This formal interview of Mohammed Ali Bahai by his son Shua Ullah, originally titled “My Interview with Ghusni Alcbar Mohammed Ali Behai, The Eldest Living Son of Beha ’U’llah,” was published in the United States in the First and Second Quarter 1937 issue of Bahá’í Quarterly magazine. This is presumably a translation of the dialogue that took place, since the elder Mr. Bahai was not fluent in English. Some excerpts from this interview also appear in the younger Mr. Behai’s book manuscript.
In Behai Quarterly, Shua Ullah Behai appended to the transcript of the interview a letter he wrote to ‘Abdu’l-Baha in 1912 with the approval of his father, as evidence supporting Mohammed Ali Effendi’s statement that he attempted to seek dialogue to resolve the religious differences that had divided the sons of Baha’u’llah. This letter is omitted from this chapter but is reproduced in Chapter 30 as part of Shua Ullah Behai’s memoirs, since that is where he included it in his book. Mohammed Ali Effendi passed away only a few months after this interview. These are the last statements he made that were published for an English-speaking audience during his lifetime.
[Shua Ullah Behai]: I come from the United States of America bringing to your Excellency greetings, love and best wishes, from the members of the Society of Behaists, and assuring you of their devotion to the teachings of our Great Master Baha’u’llah, and their steadfastness in his cause which you so nobly advocate.
A. [Mohammed Ali Effendi]: O confessors of the Oneness of God! Your sincere message which explains of your steadfastness in the cause of Baha’u’llah, Glory be to Him, and of your devotion to His teachings, brings me happiness. Every believer who has achieved this blessing and tasted its fruit and pleasure will have to do his best to impart it to others. It is incumbent on every believer to try, so far as it is in his power, to awaken the others and guide them to that which is revealed by God, glorified be His Greatness.
O Gracious and Merciful God! Assist Thy servants who have confessed Thy Oneness and Singleness, to spread Thine utterances amidst Thy creatures. I ask Thee to grant them success, and to inspire them with that which would attract the hearts and enlighten the eyes; and help them to plant in the gardens of the hearts the flowers of knowledge and friendship, union and love. That they may remove the rust of ignorance, differences, and hatred from the smooth mirrors of the consciences; that they may adorn them with that which Thou hast commanded, and prevent them from that which Thou hast forbidden; because the commands revealed in Thy Book are for the progress, welfare, and salvation of the people of the world. Whatever Thou hast said, Thou hast wished thereby good for Thy servants; and Thou hast ordained unto the Manifestation of Thy Cause, hardships and calamities for the welfare and the salvation of the people. Indeed Thou art the Mighty, the Generous, the Merciful.
Q. [Shua Ullah Behai]: For the satisfaction of the past questioners, and the enlightenment of the readers of the Behai Quarterly, I have some important questions to ask your Excellency. Will you kindly grant my humble request?
A. [Mohammed Ali Effendi]: I am very happy to answer them, proceed.
Q: A lengthy document has been printed and circulated in the United States of America entitled the “Will of Abdul Baha, Abbas,” your late brother; have you read the same?
A: I have read the copy in the original language.
Q: In the said will you are accused of unpardonable crimes, or hostilities against him, of interpolating and falsifying the words and verses of the [Baha’i scriptural] text?
A: All the accusations in the said will and by other individuals towards me are hearsay, gross misrepresentation, and without foundation. I have always lived in accordance with the commands of Baha’u’l-lah, Glory be to Him, and thus fulfilled my duties. I devoted my entire life to the service of the cause and the promulgation of His teachings. I have faced my enemies with a smile, hardships and calamities with endurance, and for those who wronged, misjudged, and accused me falsely, I bear no feeling of animosity, but sincerely pray that God may forgive and guide them to the truth; He is the Merciful, the Forgiver
Q: Mrs. Ruth White, a rebel member of [the Bahá’í organization led by] the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, in her published book entitled The Bahá’í Religion and Its Enemy, the Bahai Organization, emphatically denies the authenticity of the Will of Abdu’l- Baha, and with firm conviction states that your Excellency assisted Shoghi Effendi in fabricating the said will?
A: Shoghi has never been in my presence, and I do not know him personally. Mrs. Ruth White’s accusations are untrue. It is indeed surprising to observe that progressive Occidentals satisfied themselves with hearsay, and passed judgment without investigation.
Q: It is evident that a dissension existed between you and ‘Abdu’l- Baha after the departure of Baha’u’llah. What was the cause, material or spiritual?
A: The cause of our misunderstanding was on account of the principles of our religion, and not for earthly possessions. It grieves me to state that ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s teachings are not in accordance with the commands of Baha’u’llah, Glory be to Him, and by comparing his writings with the utterances of Baha’u’llah you will agree with me
Q: After the misunderstanding occurred, did your Excellency endeavor to eliminate the cause by private or public conferences?
A: I regret that my numerous requests met with resistance. I pleaded with him time after time, for a conference to discuss our differences, and to solve the problems in accordance with the teachings of Baha’u’llah, as we are commanded, but unfortunately my requests were not granted and my pleadings were in vain.