It is well known that the loved ones of ‘Abdu’-Bahá, in every part of the world, are anxiously waiting to receive some details of the closing events of His unique and wonderful life. For this reason the present account is being written.
We have now come to realize that the Master knew the day and hour when, His mission on earth being finished, He would return to the shelter of heaven. He was, however, careful that His family should not have any premonition of the coming sorrow. It seemed as though their eyes were veiled by Him, with His ever-loving consideration for His dear ones, that they should not see the significance of certain dreams and other signs of the culminating event. This they now realize was His thought for them, in order that their strength might be preserved to face the great ordeal when it should arrive, that they should not be devitalized by anguish of mind in its anticipation.
Out of the many signs of the approach of the hour when He could say of His work on earth, “It is finished ,” the following two dreams seem remarkable. Less than eight weeks before His passing the Master related this to His family:
I seemed to be standing within a great temple, in the inmost shrine, facing the east, in the place of the leader himself. I became aware that a large number of people were flocking into the temple; more and yet more crowded in, taking their places in rows behind me, until there was a vast multitude. As I stood, l raised loudly the “Call to Prayer”. Suddenly the thought came to me to go forth from the temple.
When I found myself outside I said within myself, “For what reason came I forth, not having led the prayer? But it matters not; now that I have uttered the call to prayer, the vast multitude will of themselves chant the prayer.”
When the Master had passed away, His family pondered over this dream and interpreted it thus:
He had called that same vast multitude—all peoples, all religions, all races, all nations, and all kingdoms—to unity and peace, to universal love and brotherhood; and, having called them, He returned to God the Beloved, at whose command He had raised the majestic call, had given the divine message. This same multitude—the peoples, religions, races, nations and kingdoms—would continue the work to which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had called them, and would of themselves press forward to its accomplishment.
A few weeks after the preceding dream the Master came in from the solitary room in the garden, which He had occupied of late, and said:
“I dreamed a dream and behold the Blessed Beauty [Bahá’u’lláh] came and said unto me, ‘Destroy this room!'”
The family, who had been wishing that He would come and sleep in the house, not being happy that He should be alone at night, exclaimed, “Yes, Master, we think Your dream means that You should leave that room and come into the house.” When He heard this from us, He smiled meaningly as though not agreeing with our interpretation. Afterwards we understood that by the ‘room’ was meant the temple of His body. …”
In the same week He revealed a Tablet to America, in which is the following prayer: “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá! [O Thou the Glory of Glories] I have renounced the world and the people thereof, and am heartbroken and sorely afflicted because of the unfaithful. In the cage of this world I flutter even as a frightened bird, and yearn every day to take my flight unto Thy kingdom.”
“Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá! Make me to drink of the cup of sacrifice and set me free. Relieve me from these woes and trials, from these afflictions and troubles. Thou art He that aideth, that succoureth, that protecteth, that stretcheth forth the hand of help.”
After lunch He dictated some Tablets, His last ones, to Rúhí Effendi. When He had rested He walked in the garden. He seemed to be in a deep reverie.
His good and faithful servant Ismá’il Áqá, relates the following:
Some time, about twenty days before my Master passed away, l was near the garden when I heard Him summon an old believer saying:
“Come with me that we may admire together the beauty of the garden. Behold, what the spirit of devotion is able to achieve! This flourishing place was, a few years ago, but a heap of stones, and now it is verdant with foliage and flowers. My desire is that after I am gone the loved ones may all arise to serve the divine cause and, please God, so it shall be. Ere long men will arise who shall bring life to the world.”
Three days before His ascension, whilst seated in the garden, He called me and said, “I am sick with fatigue. Bring two of your oranges for me that l may eat them for your sake.” This I did, and He, having eaten them, turned to me, saying, “Have you any of your sweet lemons?” He bade me fetch a few. … Whilst l was plucking them, He came over to the tree, saying, “Nay, but I must gather them with my own hands.” Having eaten of the fruit, He turned to me and asked “Do you desire anything more?” Then with a pathetic gesture of His hands, He touchingly, emphatically, and deliberately said, “Now it is finished, it is finished!”
These significant words penetrated my very soul. l felt each time He uttered them as if a knife were struck into my heart. I understood His meaning but never dreamed His end was so nigh.
It was Ismá’il Aqá who had been the Master’s gardener for well nigh thirty years and who, in the first week after his bereavement, driven by hopeless grief, quietly disposed of all his belongings, made his will, went to the Master’s sister, and craved her pardon for any misdeeds he had committed. He then delivered the key of the garden to a trusted servant of the household and, taking with him means whereby to end his life at his beloved Master’s tomb, walked up the mountain to that sacred place, three times circled round it, and would have succeeded in taking his life had it not been for the opportune arrival of a friend who reached him in time to prevent the accomplishment of his tragic intention. …
During the evening ‘Abdu’l-Bahá attended the usual meeting of the friends in His own audience chamber.
In the morning of Saturday, November 26, He arose early, came to the tea-room, and had some tea. He asked for the fur-lined coat which had belonged to Bahá’u’lláh. He often put on this coat when He was cold or did not feel well, He so loved it. He then withdrew to His room, lay down on His bed, and said, “Cover me up. I am very cold. Last night I did not sleep well, I felt cold. This is serious, it is the beginning.”
After more blankets had been put on, He asked for the fur coat He had taken off to be placed over Him. That day He was rather feverish. In the evening His temperature rose still higher, but during the night the fever left Him. After midnight He asked for some tea.
On Sunday morning, November 27, He said. “I am quite well and will get up as usual and have tea with you in the tea-room.” After He had dressed, He was persuaded to remain on the sofa in His room.
In the afternoon He sent all the friends to the tomb of the Báb, where on the occasion of the anniversary of the declaration of the Covenant a feast was being held, offered by a Pársí pilgrim who had lately arrived from India.
At four in the afternoon, being on the sofa in His room, He said, “Ask my sister and all the family to come and have tea with me.”
His four sons-in-law and Rúhí Effendi came to Him after returning from the gathering on the mountain. They said to Him, “The giver of the feast was unhappy because You were not there”. He said unto them:
But I was there, though my body was absent, my spirit was there in you r midst. I was present with the friends at the tomb. The friends must not attach any importance to the absence of my body. In spirit I am, and shall always be, with the friends, even though I be far away.
The same evening He asked after the health of every member of the household, of the pilgrims, and of the friends in Haifa. “Very good, very good,” He said when told that none were ill. This was His very last utterance concerning His friends.
At eight in the evening He retired to bed after taking a little nourishment, saying, “I am quite well.”
He told all the family to go to bed and rest. Two of His daughters, however, stayed with Him. That night the Master had gone to sleep very calmly, quite free from fever. He awoke about 1.15 a.m., got up, and walked across to a table where He drank some water. He took off an outer night garment, saying, “I am too warm.” He went back to bed; and, when His daughter Rúhá Khánúm, later on, approached, she found Him lying peacefully; and, as He looked into her face, He asked her to lift up the net curtains saying:
“I have difficulty in breathing, give me more air.” Some rose water was brought of which He drank, sitting up in bed to do so, without any help. He again lay down, and as some food was offered Him, He remarked in a clear and distinct voice:
“You wish me to take some food, and I am going?” He gave them a beautiful look. His face was so calm, His expression so serene, they thought Him asleep.
He had gone from the gaze of His loved ones!
The eyes that had always looked out with loving-kindness upon humanity, whether friends or foes, were now closed. The hands that had ever been stretched forth to give alms to the poor and the needy, the halt and the maimed, the blind, the orphan and the widow, had now finished their labour. The feet that, with untiring zeal, had gone upon the ceaseless errands of the Lord of Compassion were now at rest. The lips that had so eloquently championed the cause of the suffering sons of men, were now hushed in silence. The heart that had so powerfully throbbed with wondrous love for the children of God was now stilled. His glorious spirit had passed from the life of earth, from the persecutions of the enemies of righteousness, from the storm and stress of well nigh eighty years of indefatigable toil for the good of others.
His long martyrdom was ended!
Early on Monday morning, November 28, the news of this sudden calamity had spread over the city, causing an unprecedented stir and tumult, and filling all hearts with unutterable grief.
The next morning, Tuesday, November 29, the funeral took place, a funeral the like of which Haifa, nay Palestine itself, had surely never seen, so deep was the feeling that brought so many thousands of mourners together, representative of so many religions, races and tongues.
The High Commissioner of Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, the Governor of Jerusalem, the Governor of Phoenicia, the chief officials of the government, the consuls of the various countries, resident in Haifa, the heads of the various religious communities, the notables of Palestine, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druses, Egyptians, Greeks, Turks, Kurds, and a host of his American, European and native friends, men, women and children, both of high and low degree, all, about ten thousand in number, mourning the loss of their beloved One.
This impressive, triumphal procession was headed by a guard of honour, consisting of the City Constabulary Force, followed by the Boy Scouts of the Muslim and Christian communities holding aloft their banners, a company of Muslim choristers chanting their verses from the Qur’an, the chiefs of the Muslim community headed by the Mufti, a number of Christian priests, Latin, Greek, and Anglican, all preceding the sacred coffin, upraised on the shoulders of His loved ones. Immediately behind it came the members of His family, next to them walked the British High Commissioner, the Governor of Jerusalem, and the Governor of Phoenicia. After them came the consuls and the notables of the land, followed by the vast multitude of those who reverenced and loved Him.
On this day there was no cloud in the sky, nor any sound in all the town and surrounding country through which they went, save only the soft, slow, rhythmic chanting of Islam in the call to prayer, or the convulsed sobbing moan of those helpless ones, bewailing the lo.:s of their one Friend, Who had protected them in all their difficulties and sorrows, Who e generous bounty had saved them and their little ones from starvation through the terrible years of the “Great Woe.”
“O God, my God!” the people wailed with one accord, “Our father has left us, our father has left us!”
O the wonder of that great throng! Peoples of every religion and race and colour, united in heart through the manifestation of servitude in the lifelong work of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá!
As they slowly wended their way up Mount Carmel, the Vineyard of God, the casket appeared in the distance to be borne aloft by invisible hands, so high above the heads of the people was it carried. After two hours walking, they reached the garden of the tomb of the Báb. Tenderly was the sacred coffin placed upon a plain table covered with a fair white linen cloth. As the vast concourse pressed around the tabernacle of His body, waiting to be laid in its resting place, within the vault, next to that of the Báb, representatives of the various denominations, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, all hearts being ablaze with fervent love of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, some on the impulse of the moment, others prepared, raised their voices in eulogy and regret, paying their last homage of farewell to their loved one. So united were they in their acclamation of Him, as the wise educator and reconciler of the human race in this perplexed and sorrowful age, that there seemed to be nothing left for the Bahá’ís to say.
The following are extracts from some of the speeches delivered on that memorable occasion.
The Muslim voicing the sentiments of his coreligionists spoke as follows:
O concourse of Arabians and Persians! Whom are ye bewailing? Is it He who but yesterday was great in this life and is today in His death greater still? Shed no tears for the one that hath departed to the world of eternity, but weep over the passing of virtue and wisdom, of knowledge and generosity. Lament for yourselves, for yours is the loss, whilst He, your lost one, is but a revered wayfarer, stepping from your mortal world into the everlasting home. Weep one hour for the sake of Him who, for well nigh eighty years, hath wept for you! Look to your right, look to your left, look East and look West and behold, what glory and greatness have vanished! What a pillar of peace hath crumbled! What eloquent lips are hushed! Alas! In this tribulation there is no heart but aches with anguish, no eye but is filled with tears. Woe unto the poor, for lo! goodness hath departed from them, woe unto the orphans, for their loving father is no more with them! Could the life of Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás have been redeemed by the sacrifices of many a precious soul, they of a certainty would gladly have offered up their lives for His life. But fate hath otherwise ordained. Every destiny is predetermined and none can change the divine decree. What am I to set forth the achievements of this leader of mankind? They are too glorious to be praised, too many to recount. Suffice it to say, that He hath left in every heart the most profound impression, on every tongue most wondrous praise. And He that leaveth a memory so lovely, so imperishable, He, indeed, is not dead. Be solaced then, 0 ye people of Bahá! Endure and be patient; for no man, be he of the East or of the West, can ever comfort you, nay he himself is even in greater need of consolation.
The Christian then came forward and thus spoke:
I weep for the world, in that my Lord hath died; others there are who, like unto me, weep the death of their Lord . . . O bitter is the anguish caused by this heart-rending calamity! It is not only our country’s loss but a world affliction. . . He hath lived for well-nigh eighty years the life of the messengers and apostles of God. He hath educated the souls of men, hath been benevolent unto them, hath led them to the way of Truth. Thus He raised His people to the pinnacle of glory, and great shall be His reward from God, the reward of the righteous! Hear me 0 people! ‘Abbás is not dead, neither hath the light of Bahá been extinguished! Nay, nay! this light shall shine with everlasting splendour. The Lamp of Bahá, ‘Abbás, hath lived a goodly life, hath manifested in Himself the true life of the Spirit. And now He is gathered to glory, a pure angel, richly robed in benevolent deeds, noble in His precious virtues. Fellow Christians! Truly ye are bearing the mortal remains of this ever lamented One to His last resting place, yet know of a certainty that your ‘Abbás will live forever in spirit amongst you, through His deeds, His words, His virtues, and all the essence of His life. We say farewell to the material body of our ‘Abbás and His material body vanisheth from our gaze, but His reality, our spiritual ‘Abbás, will never leave our minds, our thoughts, our hearts, our tongues.
O great revered Sleeper! Thou hast been good to us, Thou hast guided us, Thou hast taught us, Thou hast lived amongst us greatly, with the full meaning of greatness, Thou hast made us proud of Thy deeds and of Thy words. Thou hast raised the Orient to the summit of glory, hast shown loving kindness to the people, trained them in righteousness, and hast striven to the end, till Thou hast won the crown of glory. Rest Thou happily under the shadow of the mercy of the Lord Thy God, and He, verily, shall well reward Thee.
Yet another Muslim, the Mufti of Haifa, spoke as follows:
I do not wish to exaggerate in my eulogy of this great One, for His ready and helping hand in the service of mankind and the beautiful and wondrous story of His life, spent in doing that which is right and good, none can deny, save him, whose heart is blinded …
O Thou revered voyager! Thou hast lived greatly and hast died greatly! This great funeral procession is but a glorious proof of Thy greatness in Thy life and in Thy death. But 0, Thou whom we have lost! Thou leader of men, generous and benevolent! To whom shall the poor now look? Who shall care for the hungry? And the desolate, the widow and the orphan?
May the Lord inspire all Thy household and Thy kindred with patience in this grievous calamity, and immerse Thee in the ocean of His grace and mercy! He, verily, is the prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God.
The Jew when his turn came, paid his tribute in these words:
[In a century of exaggerated positivism and unbridled materialism, it is astonishing and rare to find a philosopher of great scope, such as the lamented ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás, speak to our heart, to our feelings, and especially seek to educate our soul by inculcating in us the most beautiful principles, which are recognized as being the basis of all religion and of all pure morality. By His Writings, by His spoken Word, by His intimate conversations as well as by His famous dialogues with the most cultivated and the most fervent adepts of sectarian theories, He knew how to persuade; He was always able to win our minds. Living examples have a special power. His private and public life was an example of devotion and of forgetfulness of self for the happiness of others … His philosophy is simple, you will say, but it is great by that very simplicity, since it is in conformity with human character, which loses some of its beauty when it allows itself to be distorted by prejudices and superstitions … ‘Abbás died in Haifa, Palestine, the Holy Land which produced the prophets. Sterile and abandoned for so many centuries, it is coming back to life and is beginning to recover its rank and its original renown. We are not the only ones to grieve for this prophet; we are not the only ones to testify to His glory. In Europe, in America, yea, in every land inhabited by men conscious of their mission in this base world, athirst for social justice, for brotherhood, He will be mourned as well. He is dead after suffering from despotism, fanaticism, and intolerance. ‘Akká, the Turkish Bastille, was His prison for decades. Baghdad, the Abbassid capital, has also been His prison, and that of His Father. Persia, the ancient cradle of gentle and divine philosophy, has driven out her children, who brought forth their ideas within her. May one not see herein a divine will and a marked preference for the Promised Land which was and will be the cradle of all generous and noble ideas? He who leaves after Him so glorious a past is not dead He who has written such beautiful principles has increased His family among all His readers and has passed to posterity, crowned with immortality.]1Translated from French
The nine speakers having delivered their funeral orations, then came the moment when the casket which held the Pearl of loving servitude passed slowly and triumphantly into its simple, hallowed resting place.
O the infinite pathos! that the beloved feet should no longer tread this earth! that the presence which inspired such devotion and reverence should be withdrawn!
Of the many and diverse journals that throughout the East and West have given in their columns accounts of this momentous event, the following stand as foremost among them:
Le Temps, the leading French paper, in its issue of December 19, 1921, under the title ‘Un Conciliateur’ (A Peacemaker), portrays graphically the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. …
The London Morning Post, two days after His passing, among other highly favourable comments, concluded its report of the movement in the following words:
The venerated Bahá’u’lláh died in 1892 and the mantle of his religious insight fell on his son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, when, after forty years of prison life, Turkish constitutional changes permitted him to visit England, France and America. His persistent messages as to the divine origin and unity of mankind were as impressive as the Messenger himself. He possessed singular courtesy. At his table Buddhist and Mohammedan, Hindu and Zoroastrian, Jew and Christian, sat in amity. “Creatures”, he said, “were created through love; let them live in peace and amity.”
The New York World of December 1, 1921, published the following:
Never before ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did the leader of an Oriental religious movement visit the United States. … As recently as June of this year a special correspondent of the World who visited this seer thus described him: “Having once looked upon ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, his personality is indelibly impressed upon the mind: the majestic venerable figure clad in the flowing ‘abá, his head crowned with a turban white as his head and hair; the piercing deep set eyes whose glances shake the heart; the smile that pours its sweetness over all.” …
Even in the twilight of his life ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took the liveliest interest in world affairs. When General Allenby swept up the coast from Egypt he went for counsel first to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. When Zionists arrived in their Promised Land they sought ‘Abdu’l-Bahá for advice. For Palestine he had the brightest hopes. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá believed that Bolshevism would prove an admonition to the irreligious world. He taught the equality of man and woman, saying: “The world of humanity has two wings, man and woman. If one wing is weak, then the bird cannot fly.’ …
Nearly all representative American newspapers devoted attention to the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Evening Telegram, New York, December 4, 1921, found in the international peace movement a complete vindication for the Bahá’í ideals. “In all countries of the world today can be found mourners of the prophet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. … Churches of all denominations in New York City and Chicago were thrown open to him for, unlike the leaders of many cults, he preached not the errors of present religions but their sameness.” The New York Tribune on December 2 carried an editorial entitled ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “A prophet, as his followers believe, and the son of a prophet, was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who is now at rest with all prophetic souls bygone. He lived to see a remarkable expansion of the quietist cult of which he was the head … Bahá’u’lláh over sixty years ago set forth a peace plan not dissimilar to the aspirations of today.”
The magazine Unity, published in Chicago, included an article on the Master in its issue of December 22. “’Abdu’l-Bahá voiced and made eloquent the sacred aspiration that yearns dumbly in the hearts of men. He embodied in glorious, triumphant maturity that ideal which in others lies imprisoned behind the veil. Men and women of every race, creed, class, and colour are united in devotion to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá because ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has been a pure, selfless mirror reflecting only the noblest qualities of each.”
The Sphinx, of Cairo, Egypt, on December 17 described ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as a great leader of men. “In his personality and influence ‘Abdu’l-Bahá embodied all that is highest and most striking in both the Christian and Moslem faiths: living a life of pure altruism, he preached and worked for inter-racial and inter-religious unity. … When in the presence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá thoughtful inquirers soon realized that they were speaking to a man of unique personality, one endowed with a love and wisdom that had in it the divine quality.”
The Times of India, in its issue of January 1922, opens one of its editorial articles as follows:
In more normal times than the present the death of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, which was sorrowfully referred to at the Bahá’í Conference in Bombay would have stirred the feelings of many who, without belonging to the Bahá’í brotherhood, sympathize with its tenets and admire the life-work of those who founded it. As it is we have learned almost by chance of this great religious leader’s death, but that fact need not prevent our turning aside from politics and the turmoil of current events to consider what this man did and what he aimed at.
Sketching then in brief an account of the history of the movement it [the Times of India] concludes as follows:
It is not for us now to judge whether the purity, the mysticism and the exalted ideas of Baha’ism will continue unchanged after the loss of the great leader, or to speculate on whether Baha’ism will some day become a force in the world as great or greater than Christianity or Islam; but we would pay a tribute to the memory of a man who wielded a vast influence for good, and who, if he was destined to see many of his ideas seemingly shattered in the world war, remained true to his convictions and to his belief in the possibility of a reign of peace and love, and who, far more effectively than Tolstoy, showed the West that religion is a vital force that can never be disregarded.
Out of the vast number of telegrams and cables of condolence that have poured in, these may be mentioned:
His Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Winston Churchill, telegraphing to His Excellency the High Commissioner for Palestine, desires him “to convey to the Bahá’í community, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, their sympathy and condolence on the death of Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás, K.B.E.”
On behalf of the Executive Board of the Bahá’í American Convention, this message of condolence has been received:
He doeth whatsoever He willeth. Hearts weep at most great tribulation. American friends send through Unity Board radiant love, boundless sympathy, devotion. Standing steadfast, conscious of His unceasing presence and nearness.
Viscount Allenby, the High Commissioner for Egypt, has wired the following message, through the intermediary of His Excellency the High Commissioner for Palestine, dated November 29, 1921:
Please convey to the relatives of the late Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás Effendi and to the Bahá’í community my sincere sympathy in the loss of their revered leader.
The loved ones in Germany assure the Greatest Holy Leaf of their fidelity in these terms:
All believers deeply moved by irrevocable loss of our Master’s precious life. We pray for heavenly protection of Holy Cause and promise faithfulness and obedience to Centre of Covenant.
An official message forwarded by the Council of Ministers in Baghdád, and dated December 8, 1921, reads as follows:
His Highness Sayed Abdurrahman, the Prime Minister, desires to extend his sympathy to the family of His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in their bereavement.
The Commander in Chief of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force sent through His Excellency the High Commissioner for Palestine these words of sympathy:
General Congreve begs that you will convey his deepest sympathy to the family of the late Sir ‘Abbás al-Bahá’í.
The Theosophical Society in London communicated as follows with one of the followers of the Faith in Haifa: “For the Holy Family Theosophical Society send affectionate thoughts.”
The thousands of Bahá’ís in Ṭihrán, the capital of Persia, remembering their Western brethren and sisters in London and New York assure them of their steadfast faith in these words: “Light of Covenant transferred from eye to heart. Day of teaching, of union, of self sacrifice.”
And lastly, one of the distinguished figures in the academic life of the University of Oxford, a renowned professor and an accomplished scholar, whose knowledge of the Cause stands foremost among that of his colleagues, in the message of condolence written on behalf of himself and wife, expresses himself as follows:
The passing beyond the veil into fuller life must be specially wonderful and blessed for One Who has always fixed His thoughts on high and striven to lead an exalted life here below.
On the seventh day after the passing of the Master, corn was distributed in His name to about a thousand poor of Haifa, irrespective of race or religion, to whom He had always been a friend and a protector. Their grief at losing the “Father of the Poor” was extremely pathetic. In the first seven days also from fifty to a hundred poor were daily fed at the Master’s house, in the very place where it had been His custom to give alms to them.
On the fortieth day there was a memorial feast, given to over six hundred of the people of Haifa, ‘Akká and the surrounding parts of Palestine and Syria, people of various religions, races and colours. More than a hundred of the poor were also fed on this day. The Governor of Phoenicia, many other officials and some Europeans were present.
The feast was entirely arranged by the members of the Master’s household. The long tables were decorated with trailing branches of bougainvillea. Its lovely purple blooms mingled with the white narcissus, and with the large dishes of golden oranges out of the beloved Master’s garden, made a picture of loveliness in those spacious lofty rooms, whose only other decoration was the gorgeous yet subdued colouring of rare Persian rugs. No useless trivial ornaments marred the extreme dignity of simplicity.
The guests received, each and all, the same welcome. There were no “chief places”. Here, as always in the Master’s home, there was no respecting of persons.
After the luncheon the guests came into the large central hall, this also bare of ornament, save only for the portrait of Him they had assembled to honour and some antique Persian tapestries hung upon one wall. Before this was placed a platform from which the speeches were made to the rapt and silent throng, whose very hearts were listening.
The Governor of Phoenicia, in the course of his address, spoke the following:
Most of us here have, I think, a clear picture of Sir ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás, of His dignified figure walking thoughtfully in our streets, of His courteous and gracious manner, of His kindness, of His love for little children and flowers, of His generosity and care for the poor and suffering. So gentle was He, and so simple that, in His presence, one almost forgot that He was also a great teacher and that His writings and His conversations have been a solace and an inspiration to hundreds and thousands of people in the East and in the West.
His [‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s] detailed and powerfully written Will and Testament reveals the following words of general counsel to all His friends:
O ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God’s grace. It is incumbent upon everyone to show the utmost love, rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and sincere kindliness unto alt the peoples and kindreds of the world, be they friends or strangers. So intense must be the spirit of love and loving-kindness, that the stranger may find himself a friend, the enemy a true brother, no difference whatsoever existing between them. For universality is of God and all limitations are earthly. Thus man must strive that his reality may manifest virtues and perfections. the fight whereof may shine upon every one. The light of the sun shineth upon all the world and the merciful showers of Divine Providence fall upon all peoples. The vivifying breeze reviveth every living creature and alt beings endued with life obtain their share and portion at His heavenly board. In like manner, the affections and loving-kindness of the servants of the One True God must be bountifully and universally extended to all mankind. Regarding this, restrictions and limitations are in no wise permitted.
Wherefore, O my loving Fiends! Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, goodwill and friendliness, that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Bahá, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancour may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst !he peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity. Should other peoples and nations be unfaithful to you show your fidelity unto them, should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them, should they keep aloof from you attract them to yourselves, should they show their enmity be friendly towards them, should they poison your lives, sweeten their souls, should they inflict a wound upon you, be a salve to their sores. Such are the attributes of the sincere! Such are the attributes of the truthful!
O ye beloved of the Lord! Strive with all your heart to shield the Cause of God from the onslaught of the insincere, for souls such as these cause the straight to become crooked and all benevolent efforts to produce contrary results.
He prays for the protection of His friends:
O Lord, my God! Assist Thy loved ones to be firm in Thy Faith, to walk in Thy ways, to be steadfast in Thy Cause. Give them Thy grace to withstand the onslaught of self and passion, to follow the light of Divine Guidance. Thou art the Powerful the Gracious, the Self-Subsisting, the Bestower, the Compassionate, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful!
For His enemies this is His prayer:
I call upon Thee , O Lord, my God! with my tongue and with all my heart, not to requite them for their cruelty and their wrong-doings, their craft and their mischief, for they are foolish and ignoble and know not what they do. They discern not good from evil, neither do they distinguish right from wrong, nor justice from injustice. They follow their own desires and walk in the footsteps of the most imperfect and foolish amongst them. O my Lord! Have mercy upon them, shield them from all afflictions in these troubled times and grant that all trials and hardships may be the lot of this Thy servant, that hath fallen into this darksome pit. Single me out for every woe and make me a sacrifice for all Thy loved ones! O Lord, Most High! May my soul, my life, my being, my spirit, my all be offered up for them! O God, my God! Lowly, suppliant and fallen upon my face, I beseech Thee with all the ardour of my invocation to pardon whosoever hath hurt me, to forgive him that hath conspired against me and offended me, and to wash away the misdeeds of them that have wrought injustice upon me. Vouchsafe unto them Thy goodly gifts, give them joy, relieve them from sorrow, grant them peace and prosperity, give them Thy bliss and pour upon them Thy bounty.
Thou art the Powerful, the Gracious, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
And now, what appeal more direct, more moving, with which to close this sad yet stirring account of His last days, than these His most touching, most inspiring words?
Friends! The time is coming when l shall be no longer with you. I have done all that could be done. I have served the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh to the utmost of my ability. I have laboured night and day, all the years of my life. O how I long to see the loved ones taking upon themselves the responsibilities of the Cause! Now is the time to proclaim the Kingdom of Bahá! Now is the hour of love and union! This is the day of the spiritual harmony of the loved ones of God! All the resources of my physical strength I have exhausted, and the spirit of my life is the welcome tidings of the unity of the people of Bahá. I am straining my ears toward the East and toward the West, toward the North and toward the South that haply I may hear the songs of love and fellowship chanted in the meetings of the faithful. My days are numbered, and, but f or this, there is no joy left unto me. O how I yearn to see the friends united even as a string of gleaming pearls, as the brilliant Pleiades, as the rays of the sun, as the gazelles of one meadow!
The mystic nightingale is warbling for them all; will they not listen? The bird of paradise is singing; will they not heed? The angel of Abhá is calling to them; will they not hearken? The herald of the Covenant is pleading; will they not obey?
Ah me, I am waiting, waiting, to hear the joyful tidings that the believers are the very embodiment of sincerity and truthfulness, the incarnation of love and amity, the living symbols of unity and concord. Will they not gladden my heart? Will they not satisfy my yearning? Will they not manifest my wish? Will they not fulfil my heart’s desire? Will they not give ear to my call?
I am waiting, I am patiently waiting.
My name is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My qualification is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My reality is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. My praise is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion . .. No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory.
An attempt I strongly feel should now be made to clarify our minds regarding the station occupied by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and the significance of His position in this holy Dispensation. It would be indeed difficult for us, who stand so close to such a tremendous figure and are drawn by the mysterious power of so magnetic a personality, to obtain a clear and exact understanding of the rôle and character of One Who, not only in the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh but in the entire field of religious history, fulfills a unique function. Though moving in a sphere of His own and holding a rank radically different from that of the Author and the Forerunner of the Bahá’í Revelation, He, by virtue of the station ordained for Him through the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, forms together with them what may be termed the Three Central Figures of a Faith that stands unapproached in the world’s spiritual history. He towers, in conjunction with them, above the destinies of this infant Faith of God from a level to which no individual or body ministering to its needs after Him, and for no less a period than a full thousand years, can ever hope to rise. To degrade His lofty rank by identifying His station with or by regarding it as roughly equivalent to, the position of those on whom the mantle of His authority has fallen would be an act of impiety as grave as the no less heretical belief that inclines to exalt Him to a state of absolute equality with either the central Figure or Forerunner of our Faith. For wide as is the gulf that separates ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá from Him Who is the Source of an independent Revelation, it can never be regarded as commensurate with the greater distance that stands between Him Who is the Center of the Covenant and His ministers who are to carry on His work, whatever be their name, their rank, their functions or their future achievements. Let those who have known ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, who through their contact with His magnetic personality have come to cherish for Him so fervent an admiration, reflect, in the light of this statement, on the greatness of One Who is so far above Him in station.
That ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá is not a Manifestation of God, that, though the successor of His Father, He does not occupy a cognate station, that no one else except the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh can ever lay claim to such a station before the expiration of a full thousand years—are verities which lie embedded in the specific utterances of both the Founder of our Faith and the Interpreter of His teachings. …
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s own statements, in confirmation of this warning, are no less emphatic and binding: “… My station is the station of servitude—a servitude which is complete, pure and real, firmly established, enduring, obvious, explicitly revealed and subject to no interpretation whatever… I am the Interpreter of the Word of God; such is my interpretation.”
. . . From such clear and formally laid down statements, incompatible as they are with any assertion of a claim to Prophethood, we should not by any means infer that ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá is merely one of the servants of the Blessed Beauty, or at best one whose function is to be confined to that of an authorized interpreter of His Father’s teachings. Far be it from me to entertain such a notion or to wish to instill such sentiments. To regard Him in such a light is a manifest betrayal of the priceless heritage bequeathed by Bahá’u’lláh to mankind. Immeasurably exalted is the station conferred upon Him by the Supreme Pen above and beyond the implications of these, His own written statements. Whether in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the most weighty and sacred of all the works of Bahá’u’lláh, or in the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd, the Book of His Covenant, or in the Súriy-i-Ghusn (Tablet of the Branch), such references as have been recorded by the pen of Bahá’u’lláh—references which the Tablets of His Father addressed to Him mightily reinforce—invest ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá with a power, and surround Him with a halo, which the present generation can never adequately appreciate.
He is, and should for all time be regarded, first and foremost, as the Center and Pivot of Bahá’u’lláh’s peerless and all-enfolding Covenant, His most exalted handiwork, the stainless Mirror of His light, the perfect Exemplar of His teachings, the unerring Interpreter of His Word, the embodiment of every Bahá’í ideal, the incarnation of every Bahá’í virtue, the Most Mighty Branch sprung from the Ancient Root, the Limb of the Law of God, the Being “round Whom all names revolve,” the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity, the Ensign of the Most Great Peace, the Moon of the Central Orb of this most holy Dispensation—styles and titles that are implicit and find their truest, their highest and fairest expression in the magic name ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. He is, above and beyond these appellations, the “Mystery of God”—an expression by which Bahá’u’lláh Himself has chosen to designate Him, and which, while it does not by any means justify us to assign to Him the station of Prophethood, indicates how in the person of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized. …
“O Thou Who art the apple of Mine eye!” Bahá’u’lláh, in His own handwriting, thus addresses ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, “My glory, the ocean of My loving-kindness, the sun of My bounty, the heaven of My mercy rest upon Thee. We pray God to illumine the world through Thy knowledge and wisdom, to ordain for Thee that which will gladden Thine heart and impart consolation to Thine eyes.” “The glory of God rest upon Thee,” He writes in another Tablet, “and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee. Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it with him that sweareth fealty to Thee; the fire of hell torment him who is Thine enemy.” “We have made Thee a shelter for all mankind,” He, in yet another Tablet, affirms, “a shield unto all who are in heaven and on earth, a stronghold for whosoever hath believed in God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. God grant that through Thee He may protect them, may enrich and sustain them, that He may inspire Thee with that which shall be a wellspring of wealth unto all created things, an ocean of bounty unto all men, and the dayspring of mercy unto all peoples.”
“Thou knowest, O my God,” Bahá’u’lláh, in a prayer revealed in ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s honor, supplicates, “that I desire for Him naught except that which Thou didst desire, and have chosen Him for no purpose save that which Thou hadst intended for Him. Render Him victorious, therefore, through Thy hosts of earth and heaven… Ordain, I beseech Thee, by the ardor of My love for Thee and My yearning to manifest Thy Cause, for Him, as well as for them that love Him, that which Thou hast destined for Thy Messengers and the Trustees of Thy Revelation. Verily, Thou art the Almighty, the All-Powerful.”1Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Available at www.bahai.org/r/553653426
He alone had been accorded the privilege of being called “the Master,” an honor from which His Father had strictly excluded all His other sons. Upon Him that loving and unerring Father had chosen to confer the unique title of “Sirru’lláh” (the Mystery of God), a designation so appropriate to One Who, though essentially human and holding a station radically and fundamentally different from that occupied by Bahá’u’lláh and His Forerunner, could still claim to be the perfect Exemplar of His Faith, to be endowed with super-human knowledge, and to be regarded as the stainless mirror reflecting His light. To Him, whilst in Adrianople, that same Father had, in the Súriy-i-Ghusn (Tablet of the Branch), referred as “this sacred and glorious Being, this Branch of Holiness,” as “the Limb of the Law of God,” as His “most great favor” unto men, as His “most perfect bounty” conferred upon them, as One through Whom “every mouldering bone is quickened,” declaring that “whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God,” and that “they who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch are lost in the wilderness of error.” To Him He, whilst still in that city, had alluded (in a Tablet addressed to Ḥájí Muḥammad Ibráhím-i-Khalíl) as the one amongst His sons “from Whose tongue God will cause the signs of His power to stream forth,” and as the one Whom “God hath specially chosen for His Cause.” On Him, at a later period, the Author of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, in a celebrated passage, subsequently elucidated in the “Book of My Covenant,” had bestowed the function of interpreting His Holy Writ, proclaiming Him, at the same time, to be the One “Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.” To Him in a Tablet, revealed during that same period and addressed to Mírzá Muḥammad Qulíy-i-Sabzivárí, He had referred as “the Gulf that hath branched out of this Ocean that hath encompassed all created things,” and bidden His followers to turn their faces towards it. To Him, on the occasion of His visit to Beirut, His Father had, furthermore, in a communication which He dictated to His amanuensis, paid a glowing tribute, glorifying Him as the One “round Whom all names revolve,” as “the Most Mighty Branch of God,” and as “His ancient and immutable Mystery.” He it was Who, in several Tablets which Bahá’u’lláh Himself had penned, had been personally addressed as “the Apple of Mine eye,” and been referred to as “a shield unto all who are in heaven and on earth,” as “a shelter for all mankind” and “a stronghold for whosoever hath believed in God.” It was on His behalf that His Father, in a prayer revealed in His honor, had supplicated God to “render Him victorious,” and to “ordain … for Him, as well as for them that love Him,” the things destined by the Almighty for His “Messengers” and the “Trustees” of His Revelation. And finally in yet another Tablet these weighty words had been recorded: “The glory of God rest upon Thee, and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee. Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it with him that sweareth fealty to Thee; the fire of hell torment him who is Thy enemy.”
And now to crown the inestimable honors, privileges and benefits showered upon Him, in ever increasing abundance, throughout the forty years of His Father’s ministry in Baghdád, in Adrianople and in ‘Akká, He had been elevated to the high office of Center of Bahá’u’lláh’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 Bahá’í Dispensation.
The immediate effect of the ascension of Bahá’u’lláh had been… to spread grief and bewilderment among His followers and companions, and to inspire its vigilant and redoubtable adversaries with fresh hope and renewed determination. …
Yet, as the appointed Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and the authorized Interpreter of His teaching had Himself later explained, the dissolution of the tabernacle wherein the soul of the Manifestation of God had chosen temporarily to abide signalized its release from the restrictions which an earthly life had, of necessity, imposed upon it. Its influence no longer circumscribed by any physical limitations, its radiance no longer beclouded by its human temple, that soul could henceforth energize the whole world to a degree unapproached at any stage in the course of its existence on this planet.
Bahá’u’lláh’s stupendous task on this earthly plane had, moreover, at the time of His passing, been brought to its final consummation. His mission, far from being in any way inconclusive, had, in every respect, been carried through to a full end. The Message with which He had been entrusted had been disclosed to the gaze of all mankind. The summons He had been commissioned to issue to its leaders and rulers had been fearlessly voiced. The fundamentals of the doctrine destined to recreate its life, heal its sicknesses and redeem it from bondage and degradation had been impregnably established. The tide of calamity that was to purge and fortify the sinews of His Faith had swept on with unstemmed fury. The blood which was to fertilize the soil out of which the institutions of His World Order were destined to spring had been profusely shed. Above all the Covenant that was to perpetuate the influence of that Faith, insure its integrity, safeguard it from schism, and stimulate its world-wide expansion, had been fixed on an inviolable basis.
His Cause, precious beyond the dreams and hopes of men; enshrining within its shell that pearl of great price to which the world, since its foundation, had been looking forward; confronted with colossal tasks of unimaginable complexity and urgency, was beyond a peradventure in safe keeping. His own beloved Son, the apple of His eye, His vicegerent on earth, the Executive of His authority, the Pivot of His Covenant, the Shepherd of His flock, the Exemplar of His faith, the Image of His perfections, the Mystery of His Revelation, the Interpreter of His mind, the Architect of His World Order, the Ensign of His Most Great Peace, the Focal Point of His unerring guidance—in a word, the occupant of an office without peer or equal in the entire field of religious history—stood guard over it, alert, fearless and determined to enlarge its limits, blazon abroad its fame, champion its interests and consummate its purpose. …
The cloud of despondency that had momentarily settled on the disconsolate lovers of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh was lifted. The continuity of that unerring guidance vouchsafed to it since its birth was now assured. The significance of the solemn affirmation that this is “the Day which shall not be followed by night” was now clearly apprehended. An orphan community had recognized in ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, in its hour of desperate need, its Solace, its Guide, its Mainstay and Champion. The Light that had glowed with such dazzling brightness in the heart of Asia, and had, in the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh, spread to the Near East, and illuminated the fringes of both the European and African continents, was to travel, through the impelling influence of the newly proclaimed Covenant, and almost immediately after the death of its Author, as far West as the North American continent, and from thence diffuse itself to the countries of Europe, and subsequently shed its radiance over both the Far East and Australasia.2Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By. Available at www.bahai.org/r/565667412