By Shua Ullah Behai
This is the first part of a chapter of Shua Ullah Behai’s book manuscriptin which he introduces his father and reproduces several of hiswritings in English translation. It includes Mr. Behai’s translation of atablet written by Baha’u’llah in which he praises Mohammed Ali Effendi,who was entitled Ghusn-i-Akbar (the Greatest or MightiestBranch).
The word akbar means “Greatest” in Arabic, being the superlative ofkabir, “great,” and in a religious context it can be taken as a reference tothe almighty greatness of God (e.g. the Islamic affirmation Allahu Akbar,meaning that God is the Most Great or the Almighty). However,Baha’u’llah called Abbas Effendi by the title Ghusn-i-A‘zam, which alsomeans the Greatest Branch. To avoid confusion, Unitarian Bahá’ís usuallytranslated Mohammed Ali Effendi’s title as “the Mightiest Branch,”reserving the title “the Greatest Branch” for ‘Abdu’l-Baha, acknowledgingthe fact that Abbas Effendi was given the first position of leadershipaccording to Baha’u’llah’s will.
The meaning and significance of the tablet of Baha’u’llah reproducedin this chapter was a matter of dispute between the followers of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Mohammed Ali Bahai. Mr. Bahai and his supporterssometimes called it the “Holy Tablet” or “Sacred Tablet” and considered itan important proof text for the station of the younger son of Baha’u’l- lahas one of the Baha’i prophet’s intended successors. They believed that theentire tablet was about him, Ghusn-i-Akbar, who is mentioned by namein the document. Abdu’l-Baha, on the other hand, reportedly argued thatthe first part of the tablet was about him, not Mr. Bahai, or that bothbrothers shared in that part of the tablet. One prominent UnitarianBaha’i accused ‘Abdu’l-Baha of rejecting the tablet completelyperhaps because it had become a source of sectarian tension—and in fact,it is generally unknown among Baha’is today.
In this editor’s opinion, ‘Abdu’l-Baha was likely correct in his beliefthat the tablet was about Baha’u’llah’s successorship as a whole, beginningwith Abbas Effendi and then continuing to Mohammed Ali Ef- fendi,rather than referring only to the latter individual. The arrangement of theverses in the illuminated manuscript shown on page 146 is suggestive oftwo successors being identified and praised by Baha’u’l- lah. Most of theverses in the tablet would logically be applicable to any chosen “branch”appointed by Baha’u’llah to succeed him—and he is known to haveappointed his two eldest sons in his will, first Ghusn-i- A’zam, then Ghusn-i-Akbar, rather than only one or the other. The tablet’s ambiguityabout the identity of the “branch” being referred to, in all but a fewverses, is problematic. However, both the Unitarian Bahá’ís and themainstream Bahá’ís have taken extreme positions in response to thisconfusion: the former insisting, despite some reasonable arguments tothe contrary, that the tablet referred only to their own preferred leader; and the latter allowing this significant tablet to fade away into obscurity,having largely forgotten about its existence, presumably because someverses clearly praise and honor a man whom they consider the worst ofheretics.
Ghusn-i-Akbar, the Mightiest Branch, Mohammed Ali Effendi— Thesecond son of Baha’u’llahwho was appointed in his Will entitledKitab-i-‘Ahdi, i.e. The Book of My Covenant, successor to Ghusn-i- A’zam,Abbas Effendi, ‘Abdu’l-Baha.
Baha’u’llah says, “Verily God hath ordained the station of theMightiest Branch (Ghusn-i-Akbar) after the station of the former [Ghusni-A‘zam]; verily He is the Ordainer, the Wise. We have surely chosen theMightiest (Alcbar) after the Greatest (A’zam), as a Command from theAll-Knowing, the Omniscient.”
This venerable son of Baha’u’llah was grossly misjudged, wronged,abused, and falsely accused by the so-called Baha’is—those who satisfiedthemselves with hearsay and passed judgment without investigation. Hismessage to mankind, his will and autobiography which follow, explainthe events, and no one could be a better defender of his case thanhimself.
He was born in Baghdad, Iraq, December 16,1853, and passed untoEternity at Haifa, Palestine, December 10,1937.He was a chosen branch and was favored with numerous tablets bythe Supreme Pen of Baha’u’llah. The following is a translation of one of them:
The greatest, the most glorious:
“O my God! Verily this is a Branch who hath branched fromthe lofty tree of Thy Singleness and the Sadra (Lote Tree) of ThyOneness. Thou seest him, O my God, looking unto Thee andholding fast to the rope of Thy benevolence. Therefore keep him inthe vicinity of Thy mercy. Thou knowest, O my God, that Idesire him not save because Thou hast desired him; and I havechosen him not save because Thou hast chosen him. Assist himwith the hosts of Thy earth and heaven, and help, O my God, whosoever helpeth him, then choose Thou whosoever choosethhim, and forsake whosoever denieth him and desireth him not.O my Lord! Thou seest that at the time of elucidation my penmoveth and my limbs tremble. I ask Thee by my perplexity inThy Love and my longing to reveal Thy Cause, to ordain for himwhatsoever Thou hast destined for Thy Messengers and thefaithful to Thy divine inspirations; verily Thou art God, theAlmighty, the All-Powerful.”
He is the greatest:
“O my God! Assist Thou Ghusn al-Akbar (the MightiestBranch) to Thy remembrance and Thy praise, then cause toflow from his pen the marvels of Thy sciences and secrets. MyLord! Verily he hath hastened unto Thy pleasure and hathfasted for the love of Thyself, and in obedience to Thine order. Destine for him every good revealed in Thy Book; verily Thouart the All-Powerful, the Omnipotent.”
Blessed is he who hath rested in the shelter of the Branchof God, his Lord, Lord of the Throne and Lord of the Worlds.
O My Branch! Be thou the cloud of the Spring of My Generosity;then rain upon the things in My Name, the New.
O My Branch! We have chosen thee because the ChosenOne hath chosen thee; say: praise be unto Thee, O God of allthe worlds.
O Ghusn-i-Akbar! (Mightiest Branch) Verily We havechosen thee for the help of My Cause; rise thou in a marvelousassistance.
Conquer thou the cities (strongholds) of the names in MyName, the Ruler over all that He wisheth.
O Sea! wave in My Name, the Rising, the Great!Verily every action dependeth on thy love; blessed is he
that winneth that which hath been desired by his Lord, the All-Knowing.
Blessed is he that hath heard thy call and hath comeforward unto thee for the love of God, the Lord of the worlds.