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Compiled by Marlene Macke, St Marys, ON, Canada

 

The Most Great Branch

[Abdul’l-Baha was] the eldest surviving son of Baha’u’llah and His designated successor.  Named Abbas after his grandfather, Abdu’l-Baha was known as Abbas Effendi outside the Baha’i community.   Baha’u’llah also gave Him the titles Ghusn-i-Azam (the Most Great Branch), Sirru’llah (Mystery of God) and Aqa (the Master). He chose the name Abdu’l-Baha (Servant of Baha) for Himself after the passing of Baha’u’llah.

Abdu’l-Baha was born in Tihran, Iran, on 23 May 1844.  While still a child, He recognized His Father’s station even before it had been openly revealed.  He shared Baha’u’llah’s banishment and exile and often served as His Father’s deputy when dealing with officials and the public.  Baha’u’llah described the station of Abdu’l-Baha in the Tablet of the Branch.  In the Book of the Covenant, He named Abdu’l-Baha as His successor and the authorized Interpreter of His Writings.  A Basic Baha’i Dictionary, p. 2

‘[T]hough essentially human and holding a station radically and fundamentally different from that occupied by Baha’u’llah and His Forerunner,’ Shoghi Effendi has explained, Abdu’l-Baha was ‘the perfect Exemplar of His Faith … endowed with superhuman knowledge, and to be regarded as the stainless mirror reflecting His light.’ While not regarding Abdu’l-Baha as a prophet, Baha’is show special respect to His unique station by capitalizing pronouns referring to Him.  A Basic Baha’i Dictionary, p. 2

Servant of Baha’u’llah

[During His lifetime] Baha’u’llah … had been led to place [on Abdu’l-Baha] an ever greater degree of reliance, by appointing Him, on numerous occasions, as His deputy, by enabling Him to plead His Cause before the public, by assigning Him the task of transcribing His Tablets, by allowing Him to assume the responsibility of shielding Him from His enemies, and by investing Him with the function of watching over and promoting the interests of His fellow-exiles and companions. …  He it was Who had been chiefly instrumental in providing the necessary means for Baha’u’llah’s release from His nine-year confinement within the city walls of Akka, and in enabling Him to enjoy, in the evening of His life, a measure of that peace and security from which He had so long been debarred. …  Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 240-242

The Station of Abdu’l-Baha

Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance [Baha’u’llah writing of Abdu’l-Baha]; for verily He is the most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you….  Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from Him hath turned away from My Beauty, hath repudiated My Proof, and transgressed against Me.  He is the Trust of God amongst you….  Baha’u’llah, cited in World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 135

  The Centre of the Covenant

And now, [in the 48th year of His life, after Baha’u’llah died, Abdu’l-Baha] … had been elevated to the high office of Centre of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant, and been made the successor of the Manifestation of God Himself – a position that was to empower Him to impart an extraordinary impetus to the international expansion of His Father’s Faith, to amplify its doctrine, to beat down every barrier that would obstruct its march, and to call into being, and delineate the features of, its Administrative Order, the Child of the Covenant, and the Harbinger of that World Order whose establishment must needs signalize the advent of the Golden Age of the Baha’i Dispensation.  Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 242-243

[Abdu’l-Baha explained His role as the appointed Centre of the Covenant in these words:] As to the most great characteristic of the revelation of Baha’u’llah – a specific teaching not given by any of the Prophets of the past – it is the ordination and appointment of the Centre of the Covenant.  By this appointment and provision He has safeguarded and protected the religion of God against differences and schisms, making it impossible for any one to create a new sect or faction of belief.  Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 455

The Perfect Exemplar 

He is, and should for all time be regarded, first and foremost, as the Centre and Pivot of Baha’u’llah’s peerless and all-enfolding Covenant, His most exalted handiwork, … the perfect Exemplar of His teachings, the unerring Interpreter of His Word, the embodiment of every Baha’i ideal ….  Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 134

Rise of the Faith in the West

[In 1898 t]he arrival of the fifteen pilgrims … [in] … the prison-city of Akka …, the intimate personal contact established between the Centre of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant and the newly arisen heralds of His Revelation in the West; the moving circumstances attending their visit to His Tomb and the great honour bestowed upon them of being conducted by Abdu’l-Baha Himself into its innermost chamber; the spirit which, through precept and example, … a loving and bountiful Host so powerfully infused into them; and the passionate zeal and unyielding resolve which His inspiring exhortations, His illuminating instructions and the multiple evidences of His divine love kindled in their hearts – all these marked the opening of a new epoch in the development of the Faith in the West….  The return of these God-intoxicated pilgrims, some to France, others to the United States, was the signal for an outburst of systematic and sustained activity which … spread its ramifications over Western Europe and the states and provinces of the North American continent….  Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 257-259

 Entombment of the Sacred Remains of the Bab on Mount Carmel

… That same power from on high which had enabled Abdu’l-Baha to preserve inviolate the rights divinely conferred on Him, to establish His Father’s Faith in the North American continent, and to triumph over His royal oppressor [the Sultan of the Ottoman empire], enabled Him to achieve one of the most signal acts of His ministry: the removal of the Bab’s remains from their place of concealment in Tihran to Mt. Carmel.  He Himself testified, on more than one occasion, that the safe transfer of these remains, the construction of a befitting mausoleum to receive them, and their final interment with His own hands in their permanent resting-place [in 1909] constituted one of the three principal objectives which, ever since the inception of His mission, He had conceived it His paramount duty to achieve.  This act indeed deserves to rank as one of the outstanding events in the first Baha’i century.  Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 273

Abdu’l-Baha’s Travels in Europe and America 

The establishment of the Faith of Baha’u’llah in the Western Hemisphere – the most outstanding achievement that will forever be associated with Abdu’l-Baha’s ministry – had … set in motion such tremendous forces, and been productive of such far-reaching results, as to warrant the active and personal participation of the Center of the Covenant Himself in thos epoch-making activities …  Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 279

Abdu’l-Baha was at this time broken in health.  He suffered from several maladies brought on by the strains and stresses of a tragic life spent almost wholly in exile and imprisonment.  He was on the threshold of three-score years and ten.  Yet as soon as He was released from His forty-year long captivity, as soon as He had laid the Bab’s body in a safe and permanent resting-place … He arose with sublime courage, confidence and resolution to consecrate what little strength remained to Him, in the evening of His life, to a service of such heroic proportions that no parallel to it is to be found in the annals of the first Baha’i century.  Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 279

[From 1910 to 1913, Abdu’l-Baha traveled to Egypt, London, Paris, eight months in the United States, including five days in Montreal, back to London, Oxford, Edinburgh, Bristol, to Paris, Stuttgart, Budapest, Vienna and back to Egypt before returning home to Haifa.] It was in the course of these epoch-making journeys and before large and representative audiences, at times exceeding a thousand people, that Abdu’l-Baha expounded, with brilliant simplicity, with persuasiveness and force, and for the first time in His ministry, those basic and distinguishing principles of His Faither’s Faith, which together with the laws and ordinances revealed in the Kitab-i-Aqdas constitute the bed-rock of God’s latest Revelation to mankind. …  Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 281

Tablets of the Divine Plan

And yet, during these somber days [World War I, 1914-18], … Abdu’l-Baha … was moved to confer once again, and for the last time in His life, on the community of His American followers a signal mark of His special favor by investing them, … through the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, with a world mission, whose full implications … still remain undisclosed, and whose unfoldment … has so greatly enriched the spiritual as well as the administrative annals of the first Baha’i century.  Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 305

 

 

Recommended Reading: 

God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi

Abdu’l-Baha, H.M. Balyuzi

Servant of the Glory: The Life of Abdu’l-Baha, Mary Perkins

New Heaven – New Earth: The Divine Order of Baha’u’llah, Heidi Lakshman