Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Nov. 28th)
`Abdu’l-Bahá' (Arabic: عبد البهاء; 23 May 1844 – 28 November 1921), born ‘Abbás Effendí, was the eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. In 1892, `Abdu'l-Bahá was appointed in his father's will to be his successor and head of the Bahá'í Faith. `Abdu'l-Bahá was born in Tehran to an aristocratic family of the realm. At the age of eight his father was imprisoned and the family's possessions were looted, leaving them in virtual poverty. Along with his father, `Abdu'l-Bahá was exiled to Baghdad where the family lived for nine years. In 1863 Bahá'u'lláh was again exiled to Constantinople. During the 1860s the family was banished from Constantinople to Adrianople, and then finally to the penal-colony of Acre, Palestine when he was 24. During his youth he was shaped by his father and was regarded as an outstanding member of the Bahá’í exile community. As a teenager he was his father’s amanuensis and was regularly seen debating theological issues with the learned men of the area.
With his father's death in 1892, and his appointment as head of the Bahá’í faith, there was much opposition to him, including virtually all his family members. Notwithstanding this, practically all of the worldwide Bahá’í community accepted his leadership. In 1908, at the age of 64 and after forty years imprisonment, `Abdu’l-Bahá was freed by the Young Turks and he and his family began to live in relative safety. His journeys to the West, and his "Tablets of the Divine Plan" spread the Bahá'í message beyond its middle-eastern roots, and his Will and Testament laid the foundation for the current "Bahá'í administrative order. Many of his writings, prayers and letters are extant, and his discourses with the Western Bahá'ís emphasize the growth of the faith by the late 1890s. `Abdu'l-Bahá's given name was `Abbás, but he preferred the title of `Abdu'l-Bahá (servant of the glory of God). He is commonly referred to in Bahá'í texts as "The Master", and received the title of KBE after his personal storage of grain was used to relieve famine in Palestine following World War I, but never used the title.
Journeys to the West
The 1908 Young Turks revolution freed all political prisoners in the Ottoman Empire, and `Abdu'l-Bahá was freed from imprisonment. His first action after his freedom was to visit theShrine of Bahá'u'lláh in Bahji. While `Abdu'l-Bahá continued to live in `Akka immediately following the revolution, he soon moved to live in Haifa near the Shrine of the Báb. In 1910, with the freedom to leave the country, he embarked on a three-year journey to Egypt, Europe, and North America, spreading the Bahá'í message.
From August to December 1911, `Abdu'l-Bahá visited cities in Europe, including London, Bristol, and Paris. The purpose of these trips was to support the Bahá'í communities in the west and to further spread his father's teachings.
In the following year, he undertook a much more extensive journey to the United States and Canada to once again spread his father's teachings. He arrived in New York City on 11 April 1912, after declining an offer of passage on the RMS Titanic, telling the Bahá'í believers, instead, to "Donate this to charity." He instead travelled on a slower craft, the S.S. Cedric, and cited preference of a longer sea journey as the reason. Upon arriving in New York, he arranged a private meeting with the survivors of the ill-fated Titanic, who asked him if he knew the Titanic's ultimate destruction would occur, to which, 'Abdu'l-Baha replied, "God gives man feelings of intuition". While he spent most of his time in New York, he visited Chicago,Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Boston and Philadelphia. In August of the same year he started a more extensive journey to places including New Hampshire, the Green Acre school in Maine, and Montreal (his only visit to Canada). He then travelled west to Minneapolis, San Francisco, Stanford, and Los Angeles before starting to return east at the end of October. On 5 December 1912 he set sail back to Europe.
During his visit to North America he visited many missions, churches, and groups, as well as having scores of meetings in Bahá'ís' homes, and offering innumerable personal meetings with hundreds of people. During his talks he proclaimed Bahá'í principles such as the unity of God, unity of the religions, oneness of humanity, equality of women and men, world peace and economic justice. He also insisted that all his meetings be open to all races.
His visit and talks were the subject of hundreds of newspaper articles. In Boston newspaper reporters asked `Abdu'l-Bahá why he had come to America, and he stated that he had come to participate in conferences on peace and that just giving warning messages is not enough. `Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to Montreal provided notable newspaper coverage; on the night of his arrival the editor of the Montreal Daily Star met with him and that newspaper along with The Montreal Gazette, Montreal Standard, Le Devoir and La Presse among others reported on `Abdu'l-Bahá's activities. The headlines in those papers included "Persian Teacher to Preach Peace", "Racialism Wrong, Says Eastern Sage, Strife and War Caused by Religious and National Prejudices", and "Apostle of Peace Meets Socialists, Abdul Baha's Novel Scheme for Distribution of Surplus Wealth." The Montreal Standard, which was distributed across Canada, took so much interest that it republished the articles a week later; the Gazette published six articles and Montreal's largest French language newspaper published two articles about him. His 1912 visit to Montreal also inspired humourist Stephen Leacock to parody him in his bestselling 1914 book Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich. In Chicago one newspaper headline included "His Holiness Visits Us, Not Pius X but A. Baha," and `Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to California was reported in the Palo Altan.
Back in Europe, he visited London, Paris (where he stayed for two months), Stuttgart, Budapest, and Vienna. Finally on 12 June 1913 he returned to Egypt, where he stayed for six months before returning to Haifa.
|`Abdu'l-Bahá on Mount Carmel with pilgrims in 1919|
On 27 April 1920, he was awarded a knighthood (KBE) by the British Mandate of Palestine for his humanitarian efforts during the war. `Abdu'l-Bahá died on 28 November 1921 (27th of Rabi'u'l-Avval, 1340 AH.) On his funeral, Esslemont notes:
- "... 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."
He is buried in the front room of the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel. Plans are in place to one day build a Shrine of `Abdu'l-Bahá. In his Will and Testament he appointed his grandson Shoghi Effendi Rabbani as the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.
The total estimated number of tablets that `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote are over 27,000, of which only a fraction have been translated into English. His works fall into two groups including first his direct writings and second his lectures and speeches as noted by others.The first group includes The Secret of Divine Civilization written before 1875, A Traveller's Narrative written around 1886, the Resāla-ye sīāsīya or Sermon on the Art of Governance written in 1893, the Memorials of the Faithful, and a large number of tablets written to various people; including various Western intellectuals such as August Forel which has been translated and published as the Tablet to Auguste-Henri Forel. The Secret of Divine Civilization and the Sermon on the Art of Governance were widely circulated anonymously.
The second group includes Some Answered Questions, which is an English translation of a series of table talks with Laura Barney, andParis Talks, `Abdu'l-Baha in London and Promulgation of Universal Peace which are respectively addresses given by `Abdu'l-Bahá in Paris, London and the United States.
- Foundations of World Unity
- Memorials of the Faithful
- Paris Talks
- Secret of Divine Civilization
- Some Answered Questions
- Tablets of the Divine Plan
- Tablet to Auguste-Henri Forel
- Tablet to The Hague
- Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá
- Promulgation of Universal Peace
- Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
- Divine Philosophy
- Treatise on Politics / Sermon on the Art of Governance
`Abdu'l-Bahá at age 24
Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
On November 28, members of the Baha'i Faith throughout the world commemorate the passing of 'Abdu'l-Baha, the eldest son and successor of Baha'u'llah, 83 years ago.
'Abdu'l-Baha died in His house in Haifa (pictured) in 1921, aged 77. More than 10,000 mourners, representing every one of the diverse religions and ethnic communities in the Holy Land, attended His funeral.
He was laid to rest in a vault adjoining that in which He had laid the remains of the Bab on Mount Carmel in 1909.
Baha'is observe the Holy Day of the Ascension of 'Abdu'l-Baha at 1:00 a.m., about the time of His death. There are no prescribed ceremonies but gatherings usually involve prayers and devotional readings.