Message upon the Passing of ‘Abdu’l-Baha
By Mohammed Ali Bahai
This circular letter by Mohammed Ali Bahai was written soon after the death of his elder half-brother Abbas Effendi in 1921 and was intended to be read by all Bahá'ís. It is not known how many people actually read the letter, since the majority of Bahá'ís shunned Mr. Bahai as a “Covenant-breaker,” but presumably it was read by adherents of the Unitarian Bahá'í tradition, which included most of Baha’u’llah’s family and some others. This document was included in a chapter of Shua Ullah Behai’s book manuscript in which he compiles several of his father’s writings in English translation. Section headings have been added.
This letter can be considered the opening statement of Mohammed Ali Effendi’s ministry as the second successor of Baha’u’llah, as he saw himself according to Baha’u’llah’s will. Even though he was never recognized as such by most Bahá'ís, he comes across in this message as a man whose values and leadership style focused on avoiding sectarian conflict and learning from the mistakes of the past, rather than continuing to pour salt in old wounds. Although some might perceive his very brief reminiscence on the career and character of ‘Abdu’l-Baha as damning him with faint praise, Mr. Bahai displays no desire to downplay the importance or legitimacy of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s leadership of the Bahá'í Faith, or even to offer any public criticism of the brother with whom he contended over matters of religious doctrine for nearly 30 years.
To the Bahá'ís far and near
I deeply regret to have to record the great and unspeakable bereavement we have recently sustained by the departure of the venerable Ghusn-i-A‘zam, Abbas Effendi, Sir1 ‘Abdu’l-Baha, who was the backbone and support of his friends and the pride of his followers. Indeed I feel that the more I try to describe him and show my deep grief for his loss, the more I feel my utter inability by word or pen, to give an exact description of his personality. I pray God to grant us patience and to comfort us with His mercy and to follow the right course laid down by our Great Master Baha’u’llah, namely the unison of hearts and complete unanimity of opinion to act in accordance with what our Great Master wrote in the Book containing His last Will written in His own honorable autography, entitled the Book of My Covenant. Overcoming Hatred Through Forgiveness and Good Speech.
I have addressed you twice before and wish hereby to address you for the third time, as I feel it my much desired duty, much more than ever it was before. My only aim is to remind you of the precepts and admonitions which we have been given to follow. You, as well as all the world, are aware that our Great Master and Example Baha’u’llah spent all His days and exerted His energies in educating and uniting the hearts, and guiding His followers to what would benefit them all over the world. Further, in the Book of His Will referred to above, He reminds them all of His desires and His great aim, wherein He mentions that His purpose in all His [i.e. God’s] mortal Manifestations and bearing troubles and hardships was to quench the fire of hatred latent in the hearts of the parties, and wherein He also orders all to follow His footsteps.
Among His counsels are the following precepts: “The tongue is forutterance of good; defile it not with bad speech. May God forgive thepast. Everyone henceforth should speak decently and avoid cursing,backbiting, and any word that might grieve a man.”
The Book [of My Covenant] is full of such precepts and as you allhave gone through it, I will be short and come to the point. I do notintend by these words to acquaint you with my right mentioned thereinas you have surely read it often for many years, and you are well awarethat [Baha’u’llah] appointed two positions and defined their personalities,namely, firstly the Greatest Branch [Ghusn-i-A‘zam, Abbas Effendi]and secondly the Mightiest Branch [Ghusn-i-Akbar, MohammedAli Effendi]. Therefore there is no need for either bringing the pointhome to you or even making mention of it, but I have today wished toaddress you by virtue of my moral position, in order to call upon you toact in accordance with the statutes relating to the uniting of the heartsof mankind and harmonizing their thoughts and struggling to removehatred from the hearts of the parties.
The Duties of Being a Bahá'í
You are aware of mortality and that death might come any moment,and that everything might be deferred and made light of with theexception of one’s duties, for if a man neglects them he is sure to regretit and stand responsible therefore before God and himself as well.O ye that know: Do ye in accordance with your knowledge that whichshall please your Master Ponder ye the history of bygone days and take it as a lesson, lest it might be written thus about you on the pages of time. Our Great Master’s commands go to educate the character, improve thereputation, establish unity, love, and good morals, and remove hatred. Inshort they approve all attributes becoming of human beings and condemnall attributes unseemly. If ye, therefore, strive after these things, you shallbe the recipient of all goodness and rewards, the greatest of which is thepleasure of our Great Master, who sacrificed His rest and struggled for fifty years for our instruction and education, and bore afflictions and troubles inorder to maintain the cause of this noble aim and to give it publicity. This is what occurred to me; and I believed it to be my duty of love andsincerity. I have mentioned it in the above lines, hoping that you will doyour very best to fulfill your duties and avoid all things forbidden in thewritings of our Great Master Baha’u’llah, so that we might have a namemore gentle than light, and a memory more fragrant than perfume.May God the Almighty strengthen you to do His Will, and protect youfrom what He abhors. Peace be with you.