Autobiography By Mohammed Ali Bahai
This memoir by the second son of Baha’u’llah who survived him— the first child of his second wife—was included in Shua Ullah Bahá'í’s book manuscript. It was likely written in the early to mid 1930s, when the author was around 80 years old. Some long paragraphs have been divided for ease of reading, and section headings have been added.
This important historical testimony has never before been seen outside of Baha’u’llah’s family. It provides a window into the life, beliefs, and personality of the man who, according to Baha’u’llah’s will, was intended to become the next successor to leadership of the Bahá'í community after his elder half-brother Abbas Effendi; his significant role in the new religious movement during Baha’u’llah’s ministry; his perspective on the disagreement which led to his excommunication; and the roles played by other key figures in the faith at the time, with whom he was intimately associated, some of whom not only shared his views but actually urged him to take a stand, according to the story he tells. Mohammed Ali Effendi denies the charges leveled against him in the Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha and explains, from his point of view, the spurious basis and motivation for the allegations. He also makes a charge of his own: that ‘Abdu’l-Baha concealed part of Baha’u’llah’s will from everyone except his brothers, and that the omitted text specially recognized Baha’u’llah’s assistant, MirzaAqaJan Kashani, who served as the Bahá'í prophet’s chief secretary and scribe for over 40 years but was excommunicated by ‘Abdu’l-Baha.
Another, related charge made by Mohammed Ali Bahai is that Abdu’l-Baha led his followers to believe that he had the authority to suppress any of Baha’u’llah’s writings he felt should be set aside. In particular, Mr. Bahai mentions the Kitab-i-Aqdas—one of the central scriptural texts of Bahá'ísm—which, curiously, was not released in official English translation by the Bahá'í community until about 120 years after it was written, likely because it contains some teachings that might seem objectionable to a Western audience. Mr. Bahai alleges that a Bahá'í publishing company established according to Baha’u’llah’s instruction during his lifetime, which printed the first books of Bahá'í holy writings, was forced out of business by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, presumably because he did not want some of the writings to be made widely available.
The main thrust of Mr. Bahai’s objections to his elder brother’s leadership style, as gleaned from this document, is that ‘Abdu’l-Baha seemed to want Bahá'ís to follow him personally, with a similar kind of devotion as they previously followed Baha’u’llah, and for Baha’u’llah and his writings to recede into the background. The younger son expresses a preference for emphasizing Bahá'í scripture and glorifying Baha’u’llah rather than his successors. He seems to have thought that the proper role for Abbas Effendi (and later himself) was merely as a community organizer and spokesperson for the Bahá'í movement; not a quasiprophetic type of leader with a station of infallibility, which is what ‘Abdu’l-Baha became in the mainstream Bahá'í tradition.
Overall, Mohammed Ali Bahá'í’s autobiography serves to humanize the man, revealing the authentic voice of one who was once a central figure in the Bahá'í Faith, and who could have quite believably gone down in history as the revered successor to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, were it not for their tragic feud. He recounts his desire from an early age to travel the world to teach the faith, and his journeys to Egypt and India for that purpose and to help build up Bahá'í institutions as Baha’u’llah’s trusted representative.
He presents himself as a dutiful worker in his father’s inner circle in Acre, and a devoted Bahá'í who lived according to his conscience and accepted some unpleasant consequences for himself and his family as a result of standing up for his beliefs after Baha’u’llah’s death. He claims to have sought compromise and reconciliation with the brother from whom he was estranged.
Regardless of what we may think of the controversial choice he made in refusing to defer to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s expansive interpretation of his authority when he became the new Bahá'í leader—a debatable decision for which he forfeited his place in the Baha’i faith as it has developed— Mohammed Ali EfFendi emerges in this memoir as a genuine and complex human being with whom many might be willing to sympathize,perhaps even admire. The man, speaking for himself and his values, stands in stark contrast to the cartoonish portrayal of an ever- scheming “Center of Sedition,” bent on “utterly destroying] the Cause of God,” who appears in‘Abdu’l-Baha’s will.
HE IS GOD: THERE IS NO GOD BUT HIM.
This servant of the threshold of the Great Baha’u’llah was born in the “City of Peace,” Baghdad, in the year 1270 A.H. (1853 A.D.) and was named by the Supreme Tongue [i.e. God or Baha’u’llah], Mohammed Ali (Ghusni- Akbar). I was brought up, reared and educated under the shadow of His favor and Divine Providence.
When I was a little over four years of age, Her Grace Mahd-i-‘Ulya (the Supreme Cradle) traveled to Iran to visit her brother and relations.
Therefore my little sister Samadiyya and myself joined our mother and proceeded to Tehran and Mazandaran. We spent some time there, enjoying the hospitality of our relatives, then we returned to the City of Peace and we were fortunate to be in the service of His Resplendent Glory [i.e. Baha’u’llah] again. Although this journey was for visiting relatives, especially the Red Leaf, yet there were other matters that Her Grace had to attend to in person which could not be accomplished by correspondence. After completing this mission we returned to Iraq and, complying with [Baha’u’llah’s] commands, brought with us Mirza Mihdi (Ghusn-i-At’har) who was at Tehran.
In those days when the Blessed Abode (of Baha’u’llah) was at Baghdad, He made a journey to Salman Pak and remained there a few days. The following are those who were honored to be at His service:
Ghusn- i-A‘zam Abbas Efifendi (Abdu’l-Baha), Mirza Moussa Kalim, Aqa Mirza Muhammad-Quli, Aqa Mirza Aqa Jan (the servant of Baha’u’llah) and Aqa Muhammad Ibrahim Amir. This humble servant (i.e. Mohammed Ali) submitted a petition to His Sacred Presence, and in reply I received a sacred tablet written by the Supreme Pen, addressed thus: “This letter should reach the hands of Mirza Mohammed Ali, of Baghdad and of the Spiritual Dwelling-place.” At the beginning He says: “(The petition) arrived to the place where the Merciful is seated upon the Throne, reached the point where to God belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and arrived to the right hand, that is the possessor of the UniversalKingdom. Realizing that He is the Greatly Merciful, the petition was accepted. Upon observing and hearing the chanting of the Wagha (Dove) from the Eternal Throne ‘that came to those who are near their portion,’ the reply will be sent from the treasured Blessing, the invisible Banquet and the hidden Words...”
Studying with the eyes of intellect the said holy tablet, it will be observed that in those days the blessed cause was made evident by the Pen of Might [i.e. Baha’u’llah revealing divine verses], but as the appointed time, i.e. the year 1280 A.H. (1863 A.D.) mentioned by the Bab (the Forerunner) in the Book of Bayan had not yet arrived, [Baha’u’llah’s] General Proclamation was recognized only by a few of the chosen followers.
Most of the special tablets, [such as] the Arabic and Persian Hidden Words were revealed in Baghdad, and all of them were testimonials to the greatness of the cause, but as the appointed time had not yet arrived those present were prevented from the knowledge of His Appearance until such a time that the complete declaration was made when the Blessed Procession moved to the Garden of Ridvan and later at Adrianople. Then the Supreme Tongue delivered the message and opened the gate of knowledge to those who were both far and near. When the city of Baghdad was blessed with His presence, by His command, assistance and encouragement I began to read and write, and gradually I composed some articles in the Arabic language. Our Great Master (Baha’u’llah) mentioned this in the Epistle of Badi, the reply to Ali Muhammad Sarraj, and in some other tablets, that I wrote Arabic while I was only six years old. I shall explain this in detail later.
Departure from Baghdad to Turkey
In the year 1280 A.H. (1863 A.D.) it was ordained that the Sacred Procession should leave Baghdad and proceed to Istanbul (Constantinople). petitioned to [Baha’u’llah] in favor of two of the believers requesting His consent for them to join us and render their services during this journey so that they may be considered as pilgrims. My humble request was granted, and both Aqa Husayn, son of Aqa Muhammad Jawad, and Aqa Muhammad Hasan, son of Aqa Abdu’r-Rasul Shahid, both of Kashan, joined us to Adrianople and thence to Acre, and now both have passed unto Eternity. The offspring of the said Husayn are now residing at Acre.
Another friend was Sheikh Sadiq of Yazd, who was a very faithful follower, and was by day as well as by night ready and prepared to hasten to the Holy Abode [i.e. Baha’u’llah’s presence] in order to offer his sincere services. To this ardent believer I was very much attached, but I did not dare to petition to our Great Master for a third person; nevertheless, after the departure of the Blessed Procession, the said Sadiq could not remain behind and followed us on foot with the post caravan. Unfortunately the hardship of the trip made him ill, and he was released from the earthly world and its troubles. May the mercy of God and His Divine Providence rest with him.
In the said journey the resting places were short and well nigh to each other, therefore we traveled with ease. Some were traveling on horseback, others were walking, and the ladies of the household were riding in lcajavas (saddle with small tent on it). Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Ab- du’l- Baha) was riding a horse; Mirza Mihdi and myself, being still very young, went into kajavas especially arranged for our Great Master’s blessed use— the right side was occupied by [Baha’u’llah] and in the left were seated Mahd-i-‘Ulya our mother, my sister Samadiyya and myself. Thus we traveled up to Samsun on the Black Sea, then we took a boat to Istanbul, and thence to Adrianople in a carriage which was especially arranged for our Great Master (Baha’u’llah). My mother, my little sister and myself were fortunate to be with Baha’u’llah during this journey, and served Him until we reached Adrianople.
There was a nice horse called Saoudi which Baha’u’llah, Glory be to Him, used to ride, one hour before reaching each resting place. The Supreme Procession was accompanied by an escort of ten Arab horsemen with their long spears who were sent by the Wali (i.e. the Ruler) of Iraq and followed by the members of the household in kajavas and the believers on horseback and on foot. Namiq Pasha [the Wali] ordered the said detachment of Arab horsemen to accompany the Supreme Procession and also supplied them with letters of introduction to all the Governors and Sub-Governors of the cities and towns on their way which were marked out as resting places. These letters authorized them to render honor and service to the Supreme Procession during the journey from Baghdad to Istanbul, as they [i.e. Baha’u’llah’s entourage] were the guests of the government.
Mohammed Ali Serves the Cause as a Child
In Adrianople the sacred tablets revealed were taken down by the Khadim (the servant of Baha’u’llah), [Mirza Aqa Jan Kashani], in a sort of shorthand; they were afterwards copied by Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l- Baha) and sometimes by Moussa Kalim (the brother of Baha’u’llah). These tablets were then copied by some of the believers for preservation and the first copy was mailed to the owner or sent by a special messenger.
During the last days of the sojourn at Adrianople I used to copy the revealed tablets by [Baha’u’llah’s] command, and at times I used to write, also by His order, personal letters to the believers. I recollect that on one occasion I wrote about eighty letters to the Arab believers who resided at Baghdad and the vicinity, and all these letters were presented to His Resplendent Glory and corrected by His Blessed Pen after which I copied them for mailing. These letters contained nothing but the remembrance of His Blessed Cause, its greatness, and invitations to all to believe in Him, loyal and steadfast in His Cause, and attain the knowledge of His Oneness. It is obviously clear that in those days I was only a child, that I was acting only according to His commands, obeying His orders and writing only to those I was commanded by Him, and in the manner laid down by Him.
During the sojourn at Adrianople, sometimes when the followers and pilgrims were ushered into the presence of Baha’u’llah, by His command I used to write an article on the greatness of the cause, and the Khadim after chanting the holy text [i.e. verses of Baha’u’llah], used to read to them my humble compositions. It is evident that this was simply to make those who were steadfast in their belief to become more animated and inflamed in the cause, for to see a child praising the Cause of God in such a manner, inviting those who seek to come forward and partake of the Banquet of His Presence, would certainly kindle the fire of love in their hearts and make them more steadfast in the cause.
I recollect that once Sheikh Salman Hindiyani had come to Adrianople and was the guest of one of the believers. One day Baha’u’llah commanded me to visit the said Salman and while there ask for paper and pen and to write an epistle in Arabic for him. Obeying His commands, immediately I visited him and while there I wrote an article in the Arabic language. After I left the premises, Salman asked, “I wonder if he knows the meaning of what he has written?” This remark reached the presence of Baha’u’llah and with a smile He commanded me to visit Salman again, ask for what I had written and translate it in his presence from the Arabic into Persian. Again I followed His orders, visited Salman, asked for what I had written before, wrote its contents in Persian and delivered it to him. These commands were as I explained earlier, to show to the followers the greatness of the Manifestation, to kindle their enthusiasm and to keep them steadfast in the cause.
Young Mohammed Ali Wishes to Teach the Faith Abroad
In those days I submitted a petition to His Blessed Presence for permission to travel, accompanied by one of the believers, to some part of the world for the purpose of delivering the message of glad-tidings to mankind, and to the best of my ability preach to them the appearance of the Great Manifestation. Replying to my humble petition, [Baha’u’llah] commanded the believers to hold a meeting and discuss the matter, and follow whatever their decision may be. In the meeting some of the believers disagreed on account of my age and lest some bodily harm would befall me. The humble petition which I had presented to Him was kept by Him (Baha’u’llah) until the days when the Palace of Bahji was blessed with His Presence.
One day He gave it to me and commanded me to preserve it. The said supplication reads thus:
Thou Art the Dear, the Everlasting, Praise be to Thee O God, Verily
Thou Art the One who Hath Created me and provided for me. Indeed
Thou Art the Powerful to do what Thou choosest. In Thy
Name O Thou Who Art free from everything besides Thee, Thou
Art the God, there is no God but Thee, Thou Art the Single,
there is no equal to Thee, and Thou Art the Observer of All
things. Praise be to Thee O God, O my God, forgive me, my sins,
my errors and my mistakes. I shall be in everlasting loss if I am
not blessed with Thy forgiveness and Mercy. O Lord; Pardon me:
Indeed Thou Art able to do whatsoever Thou choosest, Thou Art
God, there is no God but Thee. Verily Thou Art in the creation,
the Only, the Lasting, the Eternal, the Single, the One. O my
God, My Master and my Lord, Permit me to leave this place and
go to some other country accompanied by one Thou choosest
from Thy devoted believers, who have traveled with Thee and
pilgrimed to Thine Abode, to deliver the glad-tidings and guide
the people of the world to Thy Straight Path.
To the learned and intellectual people, it is evident that the portion allotted is according to the capacity of the container. I mean that while writing and presenting the petition I was a child and had not reached the age of puberty, so the sentences in my petition were therefore bereft of the rules of composition and grammar. It proves that they were written in all simplicity and plainness and that I had no object but confessing His Singleness and Greatness and securing permission to go out in the world and promulgate His message.
Baha’u’llah’s Offspring Should Not Be Regarded as His Partner
During our stay in Adrianople, a sacred tablet was revealed by the Supreme Pen and by His command was sent to Qazvin, [Iran] in my name. This caused disturbance among the believers, dividing them into two parties. Agha Ali, for whom the said tablet was revealed, and some of them followed me, while others remained steadfast in the cause, confessing His Oneness. This blessed tablet was sent to Qazvin for the sole purpose of testing the faithfulness of the believers there. Later on another tablet was revealed, again in my name, which abolished the imagination caused [i.e. the misunderstanding that Mohammed Ali was revealing divine verses].
The object of this incident was that thereafter the friends [i.e. the Baha’is] should realize the station of the Manifestation of God and should not choose a partner for Him or an equal to Him.The original of the first tablet, which is in my handwriting and signed by me, is [still] existing, and the name of the person for whom this tablet was revealed is inscribed on it by the Supreme Pen of Baha’u’llah; the copy of the second tablet is also existing, and both bear witness to the genuineness of this statement. Some other tablets were also revealed which rent asunder the imaginations, such as the tablet which begins with “We endowed Nabil Qable Ali (i.e. Mohammed Ali) with the power of speech in his teens”;
Also in the Epistle of Badi: “We endowed him to utter (verses) when he was six years of age...” I shall explain this subject in detail later. The everlasting kindness of Baha’u’llah, Glory be to Him, did not permit the said Agha Ali and his family to be deprived of their portion of nearness [i.e. they were forgiven for their mistaken belief], and while His Blessed Presence was at Acre, He commanded them all to come and reside there. They were sheltered under the Dome of His Mercy and received His blessings. And to this day the beloved son of the late Agha Ali, Aqa Mirza Abdullah Bahhaj and his family are present [in the Holy Land], He is one of the confessors to the Oneness and Singleness of God, who performed his [religious] duties, and he has written many poems and essays to that effect. May God be with him, grant him His satisfaction and bless him with His mercy in Eternity as He hath blessed him in this world.
During the last year at Adrianople, some of the pilgrims were there, amongst them Mishldn-Qalam, who requested me to compose a supplication for him, so that he might copy it in his own handwriting, as he was known for his calligraphy.
Complying with his request I wrote a short supplication and presented it to Baha’u’llah. His Resplendent Glory, after reading my supplication, glanced at my humble signature “Abdu’Uah-ul-Ali (i.e. the servant of the Great God) Mohammed Ali.”
Although this was according to His instructions, He commanded me to sign in the future thus: “Al-Mustashriqu min Nurullah al-Bahi (i.e. the one illumined by the Resplendent Light of God) Mohammed Ali.” Both signatures were by His commands and not in accordance with my humble wishes; but alas, after His ascension these signatures were taken (by my opponents) as a cause for objection, and in some cases they took them as proof that I had made a claim [to a divine station]
Baha’u’llah and His Family Imprisoned in Acre
When the Blessed Procession arrived at the great prison of Acre [in 1868] and was housed in the army barracks, the duty of copying the holy tablets revealed [by Baha’u’llah] was given to me. Mirza Mihdi (Ghusn-i- At'har) and Khadim used to take down what was revealed, and this humble servant used to copy them in the form prescribed for the tablets and sent to their owners [i.e. recipients] in Iran and other countries. Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha), after the arrival at Acre, did not [transcribe or copy] the tablets anymore and contented himself with associating with government officials and members of the public. I also recollect that when staying at the barracks he used to give lessons to the friends on the meanings of the chapters of the Qur’an.
During the first and second year of our imprisonment in the barracks at Acre, the Supreme Pen revealed several tablets in which He foretold that the gates of the prison shall be opened and the prisoners shall be freed. Amongst these tablets were the following verses which according to the commands of Baha’u’Ilah were copied by me in large type and good penmanship and were mailed to Iran: “Very soon, that which is closed shall be opened and that which is torn shall be repaired; those who are prevented shall enter and those who are scattered shall be gathered; that which is hard shall be made easy and that which is invisible shall become manifest. Think ye, O possessors of inner sight, that ye may comprehend the recorded secrets.” In other tablets He says, “Very soon the gate of the prison shall be opened and those who surround this Sun shall be released.” When the appointed time arrived and the gates of the prison were opened to all, those who were there traveled to wherever they desired and those who were thirsty advanced to the Fountainhead of nearness and quenched their thirst.
Mohammed Ali Effendi Visits Egypt as a Young Man
In the year 1295 A.H. (1878 A.D.), by the command of Baha’u’Ilah I visited Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt, accompanied by Aqa Siyyid Ali Yazdi and Mirza Mustafa bin-Shahid, and for nearly two months enjoyed the association of the numerous believers who resided in those places. The late Haji Mirza Hasan Shirazi, generally known as Khoras- ani, received the [Bahá'í] message in those days; his [teachers of the faith] were Haji Mulla Ali Tabrizi and Haji Abdu’l-Karim Tehrani. One night the said Khorasani and Abdu’l-Karim came to my abode and a discussion ensued regarding the blessed cause. Finally he accepted and rendered his petition to Baha’u’Ilah [i.e. declaration of faith] and received His message. Later on the numbers of the believers in that land increased. While on this journey I was favored with many sacred tablets [from Baha’u’llah], among them the following which is written by the Supreme Pen :
He is the Dear: O My Branch, thy letter from (Port Said) arrived; God willing it shall always arrive. Thou shalt receive rock sugar from Egypt, sugar from India, and from the school garden of the world thou shalt partake of knowledge, forbearance, art and perception. Although the separation from thee hath caused a burning in the hearts of the beloved ones of God, haply God shall produce results therefrom, and the fragrance of thy faithfulness to God may spread over there and diffuse its fragrance in the cities and their surroundings. Verily He is the Powerful to do whatsoever He desireth. Peace be with thee and with those who advance toward the Supreme Horizon, and believe in God, the Possessor of the . Names and the Creator of Heaven.
Entrusted with Essential Duties in Acre
After spending two months [in Egypt] this humble servant returned to the Holy Land, and resumed my duties of copying the holy tablets as in the past. This time, to my duties was added another service: [making] the preparations for occasional outings of the Blessed Procession to the orange groves or other points of interest such as Mazra'a and its vicinity, the Birka (i.e. the water pool), the village of Kabri and other places which were visited by Baha’u’llah. Always I took the greatest care in arranging for these journeys. Some of the believers have written about these places which were blessed with His presence. If time permits me I shall record hereafter some of the places which I recollect. All the places which the Blessed Procession intended to visit, I had to go first and examine, and if they were found suitable they would be blessed with His presence. The following is part of a tablet which was revealed for me while I was in Tiberias and which proves my statement.
He is the Dear: O Ghusn-i-Akbar, on account of thine absence the affairs of the tablets [i.e. transcribing Baha’u’llah’s revelations and managing his correspondence] are suspended, the departure of Mulla Muhammad Ali is delayed, the cause of Tabdrakallah [“God’s blessing”] is stayed, and the Birka and Yirka are in grief. Indeed by thine absence most of the affairs are at a standstill, nay they appear to be disturbed. It was well said, “From his rising and submersion two cities are upset.”
This Mulla Muhammad Ali who is mentioned in the tablet was from Dahaj of Yazd, and made several journeys to Acre bringing petitions from the faithful followers and returning with tablets to them in Iran; and whereas the copying of the holy tablets in good calligraphy was my personal duty, He said “the departure of Mulla Muhammad Ali is delayed.” Also, as the preparations for the movements of the Blessed Procession were my responsibility, He says “the cause of Tabdrakaliah is stayed and the Birka and Yirka are in grief.”
Travels to India and Publication of Baha’u’llah’s Writings
After the elapse of some time, and by the commands of Baha’u’llah, Glory be to Him, I made a journey to East India [in 1882]. This was during the winter season, and I was accompanied by the late Mirza Abu’l- Qasim Nazir and his Kurdish wife, upon them be the Glory of God. The main object of my journeys to Egypt and India was to visit the friends and make preliminary plans for the spread of the cause, the guidance of the Seekers and the diffusion of the light of knowledge. This object was not attained in Egypt as was expected at that time, but the result appeared later. The [Bahá'í] community grew in enthusiasm and number, and believers from Iran and other places assembled there. The sacred tablets revealed by the Supreme Pen in honor of this humble servant while I was in Egypt and India explain the main object clearly. They prove that there was no other purpose than the spreading of the teachings, and no other aim than to serve the cause of God. My journey to India lasted six months,and by the command of Baha’u’llah I received a telegram from Aihan of Beirut to return at once and appear in His Presence.
After returning from the said voyage and remaining a few years under the shadow of the Great Sun of Truth, Baha’u’llah, again by His command I journeyed to Bombay (East India) [in 1889]. This time my son Shua Ullah and the late Haji Khavar accompanied me. The previous voyage was for the purpose which I have already explained, and this time also the object was to serve the cause of God. The existence of a printing press was essential, in order to publish some of the blessed revelations [of Baha’u’llah] and spread them abroad, that the ears of those who seek may hear the call of the Supreme Pen. It was difficult to attain this object in this land [i.e. Palestine] and I therefore humbly petitioned to Baha’u’llah to grant me permission to fulfill this important service during my visit to India.
The Supreme Will commanded [it], and after my arrival at Bombay I held a meeting with the late Haji Siyyid Muhammad Afnan, upon him be His Mercy and Glory. He showed a great deal of enthusiasm, and though it was financially difficult for him at that time, he arranged it eventually, and opened the Naseri Press. I petitioned to Baha’u’llah and explained the situation. Permission was granted with one understanding, that the said Afnan should control the press and I should have no interest in it whatsoever.
When the project was carried out and the printing press was in full action, the Book of Aqdas and the Book of Haykal were copied by the late Haji Mirza Husayn Shirazi, better known as Khartumi, and the late Mulla Ahmad Ali Nayrizi. I carefully compared them with the original manuscripts, then sent them to the printing press. When the proofs of both books came, I presented them to Baha’u’llah through the mail and again secured His permission for the final printing. Also an epistlwhich was composed by Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha) and which I asked the late Mirza Muhammad of Isfahan, who was the caretaker at the pilgrim house in Acre, to inscribe. This was also printed. Later on, other holy books [by Baha’u’llah] were printed, namely the Book of Ish- raqat, the book inscribed by Mishldn-Qalam, the Book of Aqdas in modern type, the book of supplications [i.e. Baha’i prayer book] inscribed by Haji Mirza Husayn Khartumi, and the small book of supplications in modern type.
All the above-mentioned books were printed by the said Naseri Press. The owner was Haji Siyyid Muhammad Afhan and the manager [was his cousin] Aqa Mirza Ibrahim Afnane Doubtless Baha’u’llah considered this as one of the most important events [in his ministry], and the said Haji Siyyid Muhammad Afhan was bestowed with the great favor to be the pioneer in this service. Indeed he did everything in his power either in the way of service or in spending capital to arrange this printing press. He lost a considerable amount of money in this enterprise, as after the ascension of Baha’u’llah, they (Abdu’l-Baha and his supporters) did not let him receive any earthly benefit from it, and finally he was obliged to sell the printing press at a loss and return to Shiraz, Iran. His heart was broken, and in grief he became ill and passed unto the Eternal Realms.
May the mercy of God be with him and place him in the Paradise of contentment. Exalted be his station in the end as it was in the beginning. My second journey to India was my last travel during the days of our Great Master [Baha’u’llah], although I made many small trips to Tiberias, etc., but as they were short distances they are not worth mentioning. Myobject is not to relate historical events but rather the meaning of the events, and the most important of them all is the question of the printing of the holy books, which if time permits I shall explain in more details later.
Organizing Baha’i Communities in Egypt and India
My second voyage to India lasted fifteen months. I spent several days on the way visiting Port Said, Alexandria, and Cairo [in Egypt], While going we had to wait many days in Port Said for the arrival of the steamer.
On our return, as I was invited by Haji Mirza Hasan Khorasani and other friends, and with the permission of Baha’u’llah, I spent a few days in Cairo and Alexandria.
While at Port Said many friends from Cairo and Alexandria were present. We discussed many subjects pertaining to the service of the cause and its progress. I made a suggestion, that the Bahá'í merchants of Egypt agree to donate a certain percentage of their daily sales, say one piaster out of a hundred, to a community chest, and that at the end of the year what has been saved would be used for the spread of the teachings and the service of the cause. Those who were present held several meetings amongst themselves and finally decided to carry out the plan. This plan was carried out very successfully and was backed heartily, especially by Haji Khorasani. After my return to Acre, he wrote many letters to me regarding the progress of the plan, and petitioned to Baha’u’llah for a name [for the Bahá'í organization in Egypt], and [Baha’u’llah] named it “The Spiritual Association.” The said Haji desired me to become a member of this Association, but I refused to do so and informed him that any amount so collected was the property of the Association which they could use in the best way they thought fit for the service of the cause.
While I was in Bombay on my second journey I advised the friends to open a meeting place, as was usual, in India. The friends responded warmly, the house was opened and was called “The Consultation House.” Haji Mirza Husayn Khartumi rendered his services to the same and arranged the house in which the friends met regularly once a week, remembering the Lord and chanting the holy revelations. In a short time the community grew in number and many nationalities were represented, mostly Persian Zoroastrians who immigrated to India and earned their livelihood there.
Author’s Motivation for Writing These Memoirs
The enlightened and intellectual people should know that the object of this humble servant, in writing these words and reporting the past events, is neither self-glorification nor any idea of the exaltation of my personal station; I am only explaining the facts to add knowledge to those who seek the truth and desire enlightenment. Many false and untrue statements have been circulated, and it is therefore my duty to relate the facts in as brief a manner as possible so that it might not bore the readers.
What I am recording is not designed to prove my innocence nor to satisfy my readers. I am indeed stating what I know to be the real truth. Blessed is he who understands and acknowledges the truth, and may God forgive him who insists on his own conviction without investigation.
I do not interfere with anyone and ask favor from none. Saadi, may God’s mercy rest with him, has justly said, “I have no right to meddle in an affair which takes place without my participation, but if I see a blind person approaching a well, and remain silent, then I would be committing a sin.” It is the study of this point that moves the pen, raises the voice and obliges me to speak.
The Changing Roles and Duties of Baha’u’llah’s Family Members
While the Blessed Procession proceeded from Iran to the City of Peace, Baghdad, as some of the well-known historians have recorded, Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha) and our sister Bahiyyih Khanum were in His service and our brother Mirza Mihdi was, as explained before, left at Tehran. Those three were born in Tehran.
In Baghdad, Ghusn-i-A‘zam was sometimes associating with the Muslim natives, among them ‘Abdu’s-Salam Effendi, and sometimes used to inscribe the revealed tablets, and I have seen the copies of the following in his own handwriting: the Epistle of Suluk, the Book of Iqan and some special tablets. After the departure of the Supreme Procession to Istanbul and the arrival at Adrianople, Ghusn-i-A‘zam began to study the Turkish language and associate with the Turks. He was also engaged in inscribing the holy tablets, and His Excellency the Kalim (i.e. Mirza Moussa, the brother of Baha’u’llah) assisted him now and then. In those days, on account of my age, my handwriting was weak, but later on it improved, and during the last year of our stay at Adrianople I began to inscribe some of the holy tablets. When we were placed in the army barracks of the prison at Acre, Ghusn-i-A‘zam gave up altogether the inscribing of the holy tablets and started to associate with the natives and government officials. During our stay in the army barracks our interaction with the public was limited, but after we were housed in the city of Acre outside the barracks, association was increased. Ghusn-i- A‘zam secured a special reception house, and devoted his days and evenings in entertaining the government officials and the natives. My duties were the improvement of my handwriting and copying in good calligraphy the holy tablets.
Khadim [i.e. Mirza Aqa Jan Kashani] and Mirza Mihdi were engaged in taldng down the holy tablets as they were revealed by Baha’u’l- lah. After the departure [of Mirza Mihdi, i.e. his death, in 1870] the inscription of the revealed tablets was confined to Khadim. In those days the Branches Zia Ullah Effendi and Badi Ullah Effendi were yet very young. Among our cousins, Mirza Majdeddin was a better calligrapher; knowing his capacity for this service I petitioned to Baha’u’llah and He permitted him to inscribe the holy tablets, and gradually he was taking down the revealed tablets also, and some of the holy revelations are in his handwriting. Later on, Zia Ullah Effendi and Badi Ullah Effendi were also engaged in copying the holy tablets and sometimes taking them down while they were revealed. Communication was greatly increased on account of the rapid spread of the cause, and we were all busy. Khadim’s occupation became greater, inscribing the holy revelations and personal communications which also were revealed by Baha’u’llah in his (i.e. Khadim’s) name. While the Palace of Mazra'a was blessed with the Presence of Baha’u’llah, the members of the household were there, including Khadim, and we were all performing our duties. Ghusn-i-A‘zam and his family were living at Acre, as the said palace was rather small and could not comfortably house the entire family. Wherever the Supreme Procession moved to, my younger brothers and I, and Khadim, accompanied [Baha’u’llah] to render our services; Aqa Mirza Majdeddin was also with us. Conditions remained as such until the year 1309 A.H. (1892 A.D.).
The Passing of Baha’u’llah
I wish that I was not in existence to see that dark day. I do not know what to say and to write, and how to explain, as it is beyond the endurance of human strength. (A poet said,) “as the pen moves to inscribe the events, the pen is broken and the paper is torn.” The Pen of Grandeur [i.e. Baha’u’llah], in one of the revealed tablets said, “The Supreme Pen is agitated, and with lamentations and weeping sayeth, ‘There is no praise after Thee, O Thou Ruler of Names, and no Pen, O Thou, in whose Name all praises are effaced’...” To keep silent is better, to quench the fire burning in my innermost, and thus [I merely] record the events in brief.
One day in the Palace of Bahji, a slight fever attacked Baha’u’llah, but this did not prevent the regular routine and some of the faithful followers were admitted to His presence. The next day the fever increased, and immediately I wrote a letter to Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l- Baha) at Acre informing him of the event; he came, and we both served Him to the last. During those days [while Baha’u’llah was ill], all the members of His household were at the Palace (of Bahji). Ghusn-i- A'zam and some members of his family divided their time between the house at Acre and the Palace, as discontinuing the association with the natives and the government officials would not have been a wise step. When the Sun of Reality submerged in the ocean of disappearance [i.e. when Baha’u’llah passed away], according to His commands Ghusn-i- A‘zam, myself, and Mirza Majdeddin attended to the holy remains, and Khadim assisted us. The other two younger branches could not stand the ordeal and did not join us. Indeed our task was beyond endurance, but we obeyed His command and performed our duties, though burning with the fire of separation.
The owner of the Garden of Bahji, our neighbor, was a Christian from Lebanon whose name was Eskandar Jammal, and who by chance one day had paid his respects to Baha’u’llah. On that day, on which the horizon of our hearts was covered with the dark clouds of grief and sorrow, Ghusn-i- A‘zam asked me to see the said Eskandar Jammal and secure a parcel of land under the pine trees outside of the Palace [for Baha’u’llah’s tomb].
During this conversation Aqa Mirza Ali Reza, son of [Moussa] Kalim, suggested that the house of [Siyyid Ali] Afhan was more suitable, and we all agreed with him as this house belonged to the family and was free from all encumbrances.
In Adrianople a holy tablet had been revealed for one of the believers containing a special supplication for those who desire to face east [i.e. towards the Holy Land] and recite it; also in the days of Acre a smaller and similar supplication was revealed. Janab-i Nabil Zarandi copied these two holy supplications and selected from two other tablets two short supplications and brought them to Ghusn-i-Azam, who showed them to me, and we agreed that these should be chanted in the Sacred Shrine [of Baha’u’llah], and to this day [this selection of prayers] is used by all.
In those days, every morning and evening we all used to visit the Sacred Shrine, Ghusn-i-A‘zam chanting the supplications melodiously, and afterwards we spent one hour with the followers in the main reception hall, visiting and chanting the holy tablets, and then returned to our apartments.
Abbas Effendi Conceals Part of Baha’u’llah’s Will
The days passed as such, until the ninth day after the ascension of Baha’u’llah, when Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha) authorized Mirza Mustafa to go to the city of Acre and bring with him a small box which contained "The Book of My Covenant,” the will of Baha’u’llah. Ghusn-i-A‘zam invited several of the believers to my private reception room that he was occupying while staying here, and asked Aqa Riza Shirazi to chant the will.
After the said followers heard the will and left, Ghusn-i-A‘zam sent for me from where I was sitting in the adjoining room and then for the first time I read the will of our Great Father Baha’u’llah. I observed the last part of the will was covered with a dark paper so that no one could read it. But as I raised the will to read it, which was written on two pages, the dark paper which was not stuck slipped. Ghusn-i-A‘zam said, “It shall not be a secret from you, only I do not wish as yet that the believers should read it and know its contents [i.e. the hidden part].” I read it all, and it (i.e. the part covered) was regarding Khadim and his services, and at the end addressed both Ghusn-i-A‘zam and the Khadim enjoining them to be faithful to Him.
Zia Ullah Effendi also read the will. Afterwards Ghusn-i-A'zam asked Aqa Mirza Majdeddin to chant the will to the members of the household and to the believers. Then a copy was sent to Bombay, India, where Aqa Mirza Muhsin Afhan wrote it in his handwriting and printed the same in the Naseri Press and spread it abroad.
The hiding of the last part of the Book of My Covenant caused me uneasiness and great surprise, as a will is written for being spread and for carrying out its contents, and hiding it is contrary to the intention for which it is written. But under the circumstances I kept silent and did not raise an objection, hoping that later on it (i.e. the entire will) would be produced and the station of Khadim ordained in the will be made known, so that Baha’u’llah’s wish in this respect be known to everyone, and that all may know that none shall be deprived of the recompense of their services, and the forty years service of Khadim be not lost and considered as vain.
Abbas Effendi Regarded as Superseding Baha’u’llah
In those days it became evident that secretly they were singing another song (i.e. the wind was blowing in a different direction), and that in some special gatherings a certain conversation was current which was hidden from us. Some of those present were planning something new, of which myself and the members of the [late Baha’u’llah’s] household were kept in the dark. Although aware of the secret intentions we disregarded them and remained silent. We were extremely anxious lest something would crop up and cause dissension.
Here is an example: One evening after we rendered our supplications at the Sacred Shrine, we all gathered in the reception hall, all the believers present. It was said that one of the pilgrims by the name of Bassar of Rasht had written a poem in praise of Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Ab- du’l-Baha) which would be recited that evening. Haji Niaz who was living at Cairo was present, and after receiving permission from Ghusn-i-A‘zam he recited the poem. The melodious chanting and the contents of the poem left the impression as if a Idng had departed and now reigned in his place a Great King with Might and Glory.
To be brief, this meeting surprised me and the [other] members of the household, that at such a time in which we were all surrounded with grief and sorrow, the friends should meet and instead of showing their grief and sorrow, they should act in this manner. This meeting exposed to a certain degree the object of the secret gatherings, and the curtain of secrecy was raised. [When] the meeting was over, Ghusn-i-A'zam rose and said, “O Bassar, write a poem and tell of my servitude.” This suggestion somewhat explains the true meaning of the poem.
Conditions remained as such, and day by day increased; meetings were held and discussions took place which caused great discord and dissension. In one of the meetings Mulla ‘Ali-Akbar was the principal speaker, and some of his preaching was thus: “If Ghusn-i-A‘zam commands that we must wash (destroy) the Book of Aqdas we must do it.”
This land of preaching which was in violation of the teachings [of Baha’u’llah] increased, and wrong ideas became widespread, wounding the hearts and souls.
Believers Ask Mohammed Ali Effendi to Defend the Original Faith
Although we observed these things and heard such conversations, we ignored them and pretended that we did not hear or observe them, depending on God the Merciful, that we may not be the cause of dissension and strife among the followers. Also I decided to keep away from the [Bahá'í] community and secluded myself in my private abode for a long time, [hoping] that they might keep quiet and repent, but alas, it did not produce any result.
Finally some of the believers raised their voices, saying that Ghusn- i- Akbar is indifferent regarding the Cause of God, as he hears of the gross violation of the teachings of Baha’u’llah but keeps silent. Some of the faithful held a special meeting outside the gate of the city of Acre in which the Khadim was also present. After a long conversation and debate, they informed me through the two branches Zia Ullah Effendi and Badi Ullah Effendi that my silence and seclusion was not agreeable and that I must express my ideas and spread the truth. I replied that if I raise my voice, affairs would become difficult, hardship and calamities will follow, and then you would not endure them. They insisted with great vigor and energy to such an extent that one of the honorables present said, “This is a case of our religion; even if we are persecuted and killed, whatever happens, we are ready and satisfied.”
Unitarian Bahá'ís Excommunicated and Shunned
This servant of God was compelled to raise his voice. I therefore wrote a very mild epistle, thinking that Ghusn-i-A‘zam will agree with me after reading it, as it was only a testimonial to the Oneness and Singleness of God. But alas! The day Zia Ullah Effendi read my epistle to the believers, Ghusn-i-A‘zam was in the Sacred Shrine, and Aqa Siyyid Hadi immediately notified him about it. From that day Ghusn-i-A‘zam cut off all relationship with us and authorized the followers to avoid us to the extent of not even greeting us, and thus we were excommunicated. Not satisfied with this, he also compelled them to write vulgar and repulsive replies. Aqa Riza Qannadi and others wrote such replies which showed what was hidden in their innermost.
My epistle was printed at Bombay, India. One half of it explained the situation and the other half was only from the teachings of Baha’u’l- lah, which proved the truth of my statement, and there was not one word in the said epistle which deserved repulsive replies. That printed epistle is available to those who would like to examine it and judge for themselves. Is it allowed that those who claim to be true believers should write repulsive replies to the revelations of the Supreme Pen, and yet consider themselves faithful and steadfast in His cause?
The said epistle was mailed and distributed abroad. Some of the believers accepted it and joined me, (among them) well-known personages such as [the] Honorable Ismu’llah Jamal [Burujirdi] and Haji Muhammad Husayn of Kashan and other friends from Tehran, Aqa Mirza Khalil, Haji Muhammad Ali and son, Mirza Abdu’l-Husayn Khan and other friends from Azerbaijan. Numerous friends from Khorasan, and many other provinces of Persia responded to my call, some of whom are still alive. Aqa Siyyid Mirza Afhan, Haji Siyyid Muhammad Afhan, Haji Mirza Husayn Khartumi, Haji Husayn Ali Jahrumi, Haji Muhammad Avazi and numerous well-known personages from Bombay, India, also joined me.
In the Holy Land the two Branches [Zia Ullah Effendi and Badi Ullah Effendi], the two Holy Leaves [Samadiyya Khanum and Forou- ghiyya Khanum, their sister and half-sister], Her Grace our mother [Mahd-i- ‘Ulya, widow of Baha’u’llah], and all the members of the household, the Khadim who served Baha’u’llah for forty years, the nephews of Baha’u’llah, and some of the believers remained with me.
Some of these friends wrote pamphlets proving their point of view, although later on some of them contradicted, for worldly desires, their own statements and acted contrary to their previous actions. Some of the believers in the above-mentioned countries, after receiving the said epistle, returned them and wrote repulsive replies. The reason for their action was this: The leaders appointed by Ghusn-i-A‘zam, like Haji Mirza Haydar Ali and others, were traveling for years throughout the land, sowing the seeds of hatred in the hearts of the [Baha’is] and directing them to refuse our letters or epistles, and causing them to write vulgar and repulsive replies.
Later on, unexpectedly two pilgrims from Bombay, India, namely Jahrumi and Avazi came to Acre for the sole purpose of making investigations.
They arrived at Acre without announcing their coming and stopped at a local hotel. They visited first Ghusn-i-A‘zam and his followers whom they met repeatedly and asked questions. Then they interviewed me and those who were with me, and after careful examination of the claims of both parties, left this land; and wherever they went and whomever they met, they explained to them in detail what they had learned.
While they were here, I wrote a short epistle which was lithographed by the said Jahrumi. I sent a copy of this epistle with one of the faithful followers, Aqa Muhammad Qaeni, to Ghusn-i-A‘zam, but alas! He refused to accept it and asked the bearer [of the letter] what he (Ghusn-i- Akbar) wanted. The bearer humbly explained that he desires the removal of the present dissension, whereupon Ghusn-i-A‘zam said, “If he desires the removal of the dissension, let him come in the same manner that Mirza Badi Ullah came.”
Badi Ullah Effendi Switches Sides, Is Excommunicated Again
Before the coming of the two pilgrims from India for the purpose of investigation, the separation of my brother Badi Ullah Effendi took place.
The details in brief are thus: At the time of my first epistle as mentioned above [i.e. the one that resulted in their excommunication], and thereafter, we were in financial difficulties; but later on these difficulties became worse, because Ghusn-i-A‘zam had closed all the sources of our income and thenceforth did his utmost to keep us in hardship, so that we might become exhausted and agree with him in his principles which were contrary to the teachings of Baha’u’llah Meanwhile Zia Ullah Effendi became ill and left this earthly world, departing to the Eternal Realm. This brother was very near and dear to me and his separation was very hard for me. Praise be to God! His Will is above all, and we must be contented. [Zia Ullah] was a pure soul; an ardent lover of humanity, a faithful and zealous promulgator of the [Baha’i] teachings and steadfast in the cause. He was my coworker in our common fight for the freedom of the thoughts of mankind, and their release from the clutches of religious leaders .
To be brief, our mode of living did not suit Badi Ullah Effendi. He could not stand the hardships, as we were in a very bad financial situation.
He piled up debts and the debtors pressed him. Ghusn-i-A‘zam was watching the opportunity. Poor living, the accumulation of debts, lack of patience, and the watchful waiting of Ghusn-i-A‘zam paved the way [for Badi Ullah to switch sides].
Meanwhile Badi Ullah Effendi became a little ill. Our family physician was a Greek, and the friend of all. One day, he informed me that Ghusn-i-A‘zam desired to come and visit Badi Ullah Effendi; I said very well and we are grateful. The next day Ghusn-i-A‘zam came in the company of the said doctor and went directly to the room of Badi Ullah Effendi, and during the conversation said to him that a change of climate was necessary: “I am ready to arrange for everything, only tell me where you would like to go.” He insisted on this change, using all his efforts to win him, and then left.
This visit gave my brother Badi Ullah Effendi an excuse; although up to that time they had secret relations, after this visit the relations became more open. They met often and discussed the situation. Ghusn-i-A‘zam agreed to pay all Badi Ullah Effendi’s debts, and provide for him and his family their needs of livelihood, with one condition: that whatsoever Ghusn-i-A‘zam desires, he (Badi Ullah Effendi) should write about me, and separate himself from me and those who confessed the Oneness of God, and report anything improper about me... This brother wrote and Ghusn-i-A‘zam provided him with a house. He allied himself with Aqa Siyyid Ali Afnan (husband of Forou- ghiyya Khanum); they came to me together, argued with me for an hour and then left. Afterwards he (Badi Ullah Effendi) sent carriers and removed his belongings.
But alas! none of them received what they had expected. Badi Ullah Effendi was sent away. Afnan was thrown out. My poor sister was forced to leave me, but did not receive any benefit by doing so, and on account of ill treatment and grief became ill, and passed away at an early age. Her husband the said Afnan followed her to Eternity later.
Suspected Motive for Slander of Unitarian Bahá'ís
Now let us consider what these two brothers said and what was their aim. My appointment by the Supreme Pen in the “Book of My Covenant” (The Will of Baha’u’llah) [to be second in line to the leadership of the Bahá'í Faith] was not agreeable to Ghusn-i-A‘zam, as he desired complete independence. He wanted to appoint whomsoever he wished after him and to say what he desired without opposition. The fulfillment of this object was impossible with my presence, as I was appointed by Baha’u’llah after him. How could he refute the clear text? There was no other way but to spread false accusations against me, my mother, and the members of the holy household, so that these slanderous accusations might destroy the affections and respect of the believers towards us and refute the clear text.
The slanders reached to such a stage that they even said that there were no other offspring of Baha’u’llah except Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha) and his sister [Bahiyyih Khanum]. If so, who are those who were mentioned by the Supreme Pen in the Book of My Covenant and other tablets, and where are they? Indeed such mischief and misrepresentations never happened before and were not heard of from any [past religious] sect.
When conditions reached this stage, the tongues became loose, and everyone said what he desired. The seekers after leadership grasped the opportunity and flooded the land with the claims of exalted position for Ghusn-i-A‘zam and false accusations towards me and my associates. With these unfounded claims they poisoned the minds of the people, and caused the present dissension and violation of the great principles commanded by Baha’u’llah.
Response to Allegation of Interpolation of Sacred Text
Among the accusations towards me, which they have made Badi within Baha’u’llah’s family. According to her granddaughter Bahiyeh Afhan Shahid, ‘Abdu’l-Baha reconciled with her and Mr. Afhan and was kind to her during her terminal illness.
Ullah Effendi the medium of its confirmation, is the interpolation of the sacred text. At first they said that the Book of Haykal (which had been printed in Bombay, India) was interpolated. When I heard this, at once I proved the falsity of their statement. When they saw that their accusation met with resistance and proved futile, the song was changed; through the testimony of my younger brother, they state that there was a tablet in the blessed handwriting [of Baha’u’llah] which I have interpolated Where is that tablet? To whom does it belong and with whom is it [i.e. who was the recipient of the original]? I have no knowledge of, have never seen, nor possessed or produced such a tablet. If the brothers (‘Abdu’l-Baha and Badi Ullah) possess it, why did they not produce it, and if others have it let them show it, “That he who is dishonest may be disgraced.” It is not sufficient [merely] to make an accusation, and no civil or religious court will pass a judgment without [a] hearing, or give a decision without questioning or investigation. [Something like] [t]he interpolation which they have accused me of is reflected on Ghusn-i-A‘zam himself. Although I do not like to admit it, in a booklet which they have printed—and a copy of the same is in our possession—a letter is published which is attributed to Ghusn- i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha), addressed to the American Baha’is. In this letter is copied the first part of a holy tablet which was revealed for me (by Baha’u’llah) and which they claim to be for him (‘Abdu’l-Baha). Later on they stated that we, i.e. myself and Ghusn-i-A‘zam, were partners in the said tablet [i.e. that Baha’u’llah revealed it in praise of both of them]. It is really amazing: they claim partnership in the Holy Tablet which was revealed by the Supreme Pen specially for me, and they want to deprive me of my portion of the “Book of My Covenant,” which is the last will of Baha’u’llah and in which my name is repeatedly mentioned in very clear words.
Response to Allegation of Complaint to Turkish Government
Among the accusations is another hearsay, that I have complained to Istanbul and was the cause of the Turkish government sending out a commission of inquiry [to investigate the Bahá'í community and the activities of ‘Abdu’l-Baha], While Ghusn-i-A‘zam was at Alexandria, Egypt, a Christian named Salim Qub'ayn visited him and asked several questions.
The said questions and answers were published in the Mo- kattam weeldy edition, a well known Arabic newspaper in Cairo. The answers prove the incorrectness of what has been stated in his (i.e. ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s) will.
Both are the words of Ghusn-i-A‘zam and one contradicts the other. Now which one shall we accept? Doubtless the answers in the said weeldy represented the truth, as they were published years before the departure [i.e. death] of Ghusn-i-A‘zam and he did not deny them, and the nondenial proves the truth of the statements published in the abovementioned weeldy.
Furthermore, when the said commission was here, my cousin Aqa Mirza Majdeddin met Riza Qannadi (one of the supporters of‘Abdu’l- Baha) and asked him to obtain permission from Ghusn-i-A‘zam and join him [i.e. Mirza Majdeddin] in interviewing the commission and demand officially a copy of the alleged complaint by Ghusn-i-Alcbar, so that either the truth or the falsity of the accusations might be revealed.
Unfortunately the request was not granted [by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Mr. Qannadi] and no reply was given [by them]. Indeed, in the field of accusations they are fast workers, but when they are asked to search for the truth, they are negligent and careless.
The members of the commission were residing at the house of Messrs. Beydoun, from the day of their arrival up to the time of their departure. I therefore wrote a letter to the Beydoun family regarding the matter, and this is their reply:
To His Excellency Mohammed Ali Effendi Bahai:
After expressing our fondest respects we state in reply to your epistle dated Safar 8,1345 A.H. [August 18,1926] that we have not heard from the commission of Inspectors or from any of them individually, during their stay at our house, a word which would indicate or prove the correctness of the said circulated accusations against you, i.e. that you or any of your followers presented a petition to the Sublime Court or to the representatives of the said Government in the Province or County against your deceased brother Abbas Effendi (‘Abdu’l- Baha), and that the commission’s presence had anything to do with this matter. This is the truth of the situation which we are explaining. Please accept our fondest respect.
Comments on Excommunication and Baha’i Leadership
Among the accusations is their allegation that I have violated the Book of My Covenant On what occasion was this violation (committed), which they allege, and when did it take place? If it is in the commandments like fasting, prayer, and others, these were according to the Most Sacred Book [i.e. the Kitab-i-Aqdas] and were obeyed long before the Book of My Covenant was revealed. If they have seen any violation, let them explain it. I know that I have obeyed them all. I have devoted all my life to inscribing and calligraphing the revealed holy books [of Baha’u’llah] and promulgating His teachings, and by thorough reading of the holy books I have obtained the meanings contained therein. If they say that the violation is on account of disagreement with Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha), let them state, where was it and how did it happen? If they gaze with the eyes of justice at my first epistle, entitled
“The Essence of Unity,” they will learn what was the cause of discord. This delicate situation must be carefully observed: although [Baha’u’llah] has said to turn towards Ghusn-i-A‘zam, this is confined to the limitations mentioned in the holy books and is subject to the words of God and not above them. The Book [i.e. the scriptures of Baha’u’llah] has the sovereignty over all, and the two appointed Branches (i.e. ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Mohammed Ali) are its promulgators. No one can change what has been revealed, neither can he add thereto, until the next Manifestation; then He may change what He wishes. He alone is the Law-giver and all the rest are subject to the commands of His words and must obey Him. Indeed He is God, there is no God but Him.
Yet some of the selfish people and seekers of leadership attributed an unlimited station to Ghusn-i-A‘zam and considered the words to “turn towards” as a glad-tidings [i.e. an announcement of a new Manifestation].
They made a manifestation of him and interpreted in his favor the contents of some of the holy tablets which refer only to the appearance of the coming Manifestation. With their mischievous acts they misguided the innocent followers and held them under their control.
Their main object was to attain the station of leadership, collect earthly possessions and live the life of ease and luxury like some who have lived in the past and others who are living at present. The kind of leadership that they have originated is being observed by you today and no doubt you are hearing about their corrupt actions and the violation of the commands [of Baha’u’llah]. Today one person is rejected, tomorrow another is expelled [from the Baha’i community],What was his fault? and what did he do to deserve rejection or expulsion? Did he deny the existence of the Creator, the Great Manifestation? Nay by God, perhaps he contradicted the personal desires of a certain individual and therefore deserved the hardship and calamities imposed on him.
Where is that freedom of thought which is the cause of the progress of the world, and what became of the commands of the Supreme Pen? He said, “O people of the world! The creed of God is for love and union; make it not the cause of discord and dissension.” Today we hear and observe nothing but malice and hatred, and the condition [of the Bahá'í Faith] has reached to such a state that the commands are openly violated and the Book of My Covenant is (being) disregarded. What are our sins? Because we did not accept Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha) as a new manifestation? We obeyed all his wishes and desires, only we could not interpret the word "turn towards” as they have done and overlook all the revealed books. The foundation of religion is the confession of the Oneness and Singleness of God, and if we interpret the word “turn towards” as they have done, we would be violating that foundation and those principles. We could not be polytheists and ruin the work of our lifetime. We have lived many years under the blessed shadow of our Great Master Baha’u’llah and have heard the commands from His Ancient Tongue. How could we forget what we have heard and observed in those blessed days, and for the sake of the seekers of earthly possessions and leadership keep silent?
Efforts for Reconciliation and Unity of Faith
[Baha’u’llah] says, “Religious malice and hatred is a world-burning fire.” O friends! Come and use your efforts to quench this burning fire, and if you cannot extinguish it, the admonitions of God are numerous. And although He says “to extinguish it will be very difficult,” yet if we follow His blessed commands and arise to serve Him with united efforts, free from the hope of personal benefit, we shall be assisted with the hosts of the unseen, providing that we do not desire anything for ourselves nor follow our own opinion. Our aim should be to serve the Cause of God, and to promulgate what was revealed by the Supreme Pen, devote our time to the remembrance of His days, and give to the [spiritually] needy the pearls of wisdom which are hidden in His teachings; to enlighten those who are in darkness and to awaken those who are asleep.
Well-informed people should know that this servant always desired to establish unity and love amongst the different faiths, that religion may not be the cause of dissension and enmity, especially among the Holy Family [of Baha’u’llah], the friends and believers. When dissension took place amongst us, I did all I could to bring about unity and several times communicated with Ghusn-i-A‘zam regarding this important duty, either verbally or in writing, or through special messengers who were the most devoted, the most earnest, and the most steadfast Baha’is; but unfortunately my pleadings were not accepted.
When Ghusn-i-A‘zam returned from the United States, I heard that he was visiting Acre. Without hesitation I proceeded to his house and paid him a visit. Many Bahá'ís and native friends were present. The object of my visit was to remove the dissension and hard feelings. I did not make any conditions and did my duty, and if he desired the removal of those hard feelings, he would return my call and gradually the past events would be forgotten—that perchance we might sit together and with the language of love and kindness discuss the most vital subject on which we differ, so that the subsequent difficulties would not have taken place. My object of that visit was to renew unity and love, but alas! he did not desire to do so and thus the desired object could not be attained.
Response to Allegation of Pride and Divine Rejection
One of the accusations attributed to me, which has been repeatedly mentioned, is that I claimed a station [of divine authority]. They have used this for their personal objects. First, the Tablet to Qazvin and then some Arabic writings which I had written in my childhood.
The Tablet of Qazvin which bore my name and signature was revealed by the Supreme Pen (of Baha’u’llah). They were two tablets and not one: one in Arabic and another in Arabic and Persian, and both of them were revealed by Baha’u’llah. By sending the first tablet to Qazvin, He tested the followers in that land, and the second tablet eliminated the existing imaginations. His only aim was that the followers should know the station of the Manifestations, that God has no equal and no partner,and that we are all His creatures. The said tablet which is in my handwriting is preserved and the name of the addressee is written on it by the Supreme Pen of Baha’u’llah. The copy of the second tablet is also preserved.
What I did compose in Arabic in those days was presented to the blessed presence of Baha’u’llah, and after having been corrected by the Supreme Pen, they [the compositions] were copied by me, and by His command were sent abroad. Baha’u’llah revealed the details of this question in the Epistle of Badi, in the reply to Ali Muhammad Sarraj, and other blessed tablets. By studying the above-mentioned tablets the seekers of truth will comprehend the purpose clearly.
The object of my accusers was to keep the innocent followers in the dark, and prevent them from reading the holy books [of Baha’u’llah] by the mention of interpolation [i.e. accusing Ghusn-i-Akbar of altering Baha’u’llah’s writings], as by reading the revealed books they would learn the truth. Since my name is repeatedly mentioned in the Book of My Covenant, the Will of Baha’u’llah, therefore by these false accusations they wanted to misguide the followers, and belittle the greatness of the Book of My Covenant. Now let us study the tablet in which [Baha’u’llah] mentions the sons He says, “he and his likes.” Which branches (sons) were my likes at that time? When this tablet was revealed, of the two younger branches (i.e. Zia Ullah Effendi and Badi Ullah Effendi) one of them was very little and the other had just been born. Doubtless my likes at that time were my two older brothers, Ghusn-i-A‘zam and Mirza Mihdi.
Also they point to the tablet which specifies the rejection [i.e. of verses sent in Mohammed Ali’s name], but they ignore what has been revealed [by Baha’u’llah] later. He said in several tablets “that God made him utter [those verses] in his childhood.” Therefore what God has made me to do was not my own act and does not prove that I had any claim.
Furthermore I am accused that I was a claimant while I was a child in the days of Baha’u’llah. The numerous blessed tablets revealed for me ever since, and my appointment in the Book of My Covenant, repudiate this accusation.
They also point to what has been revealed: “If for a second he leave the shadow of the cause of God, he will cease to exist completely.” It is true that whosoever leaves the shadow of His cause will become nonexistent, but to cease to exist cannot take place except for two reasons: one is by command of the Supreme Pen, and from the Supreme Pen we have nothing in our hands save extreme favor and divine providence. He has not mentioned or revealed one word which indicated my nonexistence.
On the contrary, in several tablets and in the Book of My Covenant my existence was confirmed with great favor and divine providence, and He said to those who may oppose me and the other branches, “Fear God and be not of those who are tyrants.”
Now what excuse have my opponents in violating His commands and His will? There is not a verse in which they could hope for forgiveness without repentance. If they say that I have been violating the commands of God, where is that and which (one of them) is it? All these years they have satisfied themselves with hearsay and none of them approached me or communicated with me to investigate the truth and weigh these hearsays with the scale of search and inquiry. They contented themselves with what they heard from Ghusn-i-A‘zam, the members of his household and their relations. And by this careless act, they have violated the commands of Baha’u’llah in His will and many other tablets. It is an established fact that accusations must be proved before the accused can be held responsible for them, and no court of justice will pass judgment without a hearing, be the accused a prince or a pauper.
Bahá'ís Must Consider Both Sides and Have an Ecumenical Dialogue
O friends! When they informed you that a dissension existed amongst the branches, it was incumbent upon you to investigate and hear what the two appointed branches [i.e. Ghusn-i-A‘zam and Ghusn- i- Alcbar] had to say and what are the causes of dissension, not that you should side with one party without question and condemn the other without investigation. The two appointed positions [i.e. the first and second successor of Baha’u’llah] are one and have no differences save in time. Both are under His laws and not above them, and our dissension could be eliminated through His teachings only.
Hearken to my impartial suggestion and discard your selfishness and extremism, and according to the admonitions of the Supreme Pen, hold a conference of peace and study in spirituality what you have heard, and investigate the truth. Compare the stories of both sides with the commands of God in the Book of Aqdas and other revealed books, then accept what is in accord with them and reject what does not agree. It is obvious that in such an unselfish conference the dissension could be eliminated and the light of unity shall brighten the horizon of the Bahá'í world.
Undoubtedly the leadership-seekers detest this kind of meeting, as it will shake the (apparent) firmness of the foundation of their leadership and prevent them from performing their corrupt objects. The seekers after leadership desire to keep their followers in darkness, that they might attain their object, as whosoever becomes enlightened cannot be misguided, and will not exchange the complete freedom which God has willed for him, for the bondage of their servitude. The leadership-seekers are after the unfortunate, ignorant people who would listen to whatsoever they are told and obey their commands, although these may be contrary to the commands of God. Such leaders do not desire to have around them open-minded and intelligent people.
Baha’u’llah, Glory be to Him, said: “O different creeds! Look forward unto agreement and be enlightened with the light of concord; for the sake of God assemble in a place and remove from amongst you that which is the cause of dissension.” Doubtless what has been revealed shall appear and will be the cause of unity, but it is more desirable that you may succeed today in performing this service. Arise for the sake of God and be the cause of freedom for the unfortunate; then you shall become the examples of the holy verse, “The proceeders, the proceed- ers, they are those who are favored.”
Abbas Effendi Dies Estranged from His Brother
I mentioned previously that I tried repeatedly to come to an understanding with Ghusn-i-A‘zam, and upon his return from America I visited him without announcement or reservation, with the hope that after visiting the foreign lands his ideas may have changed and his heart become more lenient, but unfortunately things did not change and the expected result was not attained; therefore I kept silent and held fast to the rope of patience and resignation.
One day as usual (when) I was going to Acre, I noticed a commotion among the followers and after investigation I learned that Ghusn- i-A‘zam had passed away suddenly the night before at Haifa. They had informed the followers but kept it a secret from us. Alas! he passed away suddenly and left us in despair; the wounds of the hearts are still unhealed, unity has disappeared and now all the efforts to bring about peace are futile.
With a burning heart and eyes full of tears I proceeded to Haifa with the intention of saying my last farewell and consoling myself. When I reached the door of the house, I saw a policeman sitting outside and in the doorway standing Ruhi, son of Aqa Mirza Muhsin Afhan (the husband of Touba Khanum, one of the twin daughters of ‘Abdu’l- Baha). When Ruhi saw me, he said a few words, closed the door in my face and stood behind it refusing me admittance. Therefore I was compelled to return [home] full of grief and sorrow, and did not raise any objection. While on my way to my deceased brother’s house, the son of an old Turkish Pasha, Ali Mansour Pasha by name, who was a friend of the family, had joined me, and when he observed their ill treatment became disappointed and returned [home] also. The next day my sons and cousins met with the same treatment from Ruhi, who also used wild language during the funeral. After the departure [i.e. death] of Ghusn-i-A‘zam, I communicated repeatedly with the Bahá'ís and explained to them what I deemed necessary. The copies of all my communications are preserved. I did not desire a high station for myself and never mentioned my religious rights, nor my personal rank. Every Baha’i has read the Will of Baha’-u’llah, heard and observed the text of the Supreme Pen regarding this servant. It is up to them to obey or to disobey Him. I do not interfere with anyone, and I have no object but to serve the cause of God and spread His teachings. I have been patient under all circumstances and have left everything in God’s hands. I hope that up to the end I shall pass the days in patience. Exalted be His Glory, to assist me to serve His cause and grant me that which is the desire of my heart.