Who Is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá? 1
On June 2, 1912, at the Church of the Ascension in New York, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked a question that got to the heart of how he saw himself. A woman asked: “What relation do you sustain to the founder of your belief? Are you his successor in the same manner as the Pope of Rome?”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was neither a priest, nor an ecclesiastical leader, nor a figure to be worshipped. His father, Bahá’u’lláh, in his Will and Testament, gave ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sole authority to interpret his teachings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained what this meant to an audience in America on December 2, 1912: “To ensure unity and agreement [Bahá’u’lláh] has entered into a Covenant with all the people of the world, including the interpreter and explainer of His teachings, so that no one may interpret or explain the religion of God according to his own view or opinion and thus create a sect founded upon his individual understanding . . . .”
Bahá’u’lláh appointed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to ensure that his religion would never splinter into competing sects, as had happened to every other major faith. His name, literally, means “servant of Bahá.”
New York City 2
On Sunday, July 7, the New York Times carried an article headed, “Billion Dollar Subways World’s Biggest Undertaking.”
When one of the inquirers of Greek background asked ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to accompany Him to a park outside the city where his friends were waiting to ask questions, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went with him. In the subway He said, “‘Man’s nature must attain an inclination to ascend and not to descend.’”
Early that week ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went to the Museum of Natural History and saw the enormous model of a whale. He commented, as Juliet Thompson recalled on July 12, “He could hold seventy Jonahs!” 3
Sunday, July 7, 1912 4
Lua Getsinger was again instructed by the Master to leave for California. His words to her were very emphatic and clear; among them was this admonition:
“The Blessed Beauty entered into this Covenant for obedience and not for opposition. I say this merely for the protection of the Cause of God and for the purpose of safeguarding unity among the friends. Were it not for the removal of vain imaginings and the eradication of differences, I should not have asserted that I am ‘the Center of the Covenant’. We must obey the Blessed Beauty. We must never forget His favors and exhortations. If even a breath of egotism is found in us, we shall perish at once. The friends must be alert. Everyone who expresses a word not from the texts sows discord among the believers. The Blessed Beauty entered into this Covenant for obedience; that is, that no one should utter a word from his own self or cause any conflict. If it were not so, everyone would open a way for himself and expound the Words of God in his own manner. One would say, for instance, ‘As I have the power of the Holy Spirit, I have a greater capacity for understanding.’ Others, even these old ladies, would at once retort, ‘We, too, have the power of the Holy Spirit.’
“The power of the Holy Spirit is limited to the Blessed Beauty and the interpretation thereof to none but me. If it is so, then there will be no differences. We must occupy ourselves with thoughts of spreading the Cause. Know that whoever has any thought other than this will become the cause of discord among the friends.”
’ Abdu’l-Bahá sent Lua with Mrs [Georgia] Ralston, a new believer who had been very much welcomed by the Master. He gave Mrs Ralston a beautiful small Persian carpet.
In the evening at a public meeting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke of the animosity shown by a Catholic priest towards the Cause of God. The Master called the friends to His presence and emphatically exhorted them to associate with one another with love and unity.
Talk at 309 West Seventy-eighth Street, New York, 6 July 1912 5
Therefore, in this world he must prepare himself for the life beyond. That which he needs in the world of the Kingdom must be obtained here. Just as he prepared himself in the world of the matrix by acquiring forces necessary in this sphere of existence, so, likewise, the indispensable forces of the divine existence must be potentially attained in this world.
What is he in need of in the Kingdom which transcends the life and limitation of this mortal sphere? That world beyond is a world of sanctity and radiance; therefore, it is necessary that in this world he should acquire these divine attributes. In that world there is need of spirituality, faith, assurance, the knowledge and love of God. These he must attain in this world so that after his ascension from the earthly to the heavenly Kingdom he shall find all that is needful in that eternal life ready for him.
That divine world is manifestly a world of lights; therefore, man has need of illumination here. That is a world of love; the love of God is essential. It is a world of perfections; virtues, or perfections, must be acquired. That world is vivified by the breaths of the Holy Spirit; in this world we must seek them. That is the Kingdom of everlasting life; it must be attained during this vanishing existence.
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
“If even a breath of egotism is found in us, we shall perish at once.”
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Sockett, Robert. “Who Is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá?” 239 Days in America, 7 July 2012, https://239days.com/2012/07/07/who-is-abdul-baha/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 108-109. ↩
- Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 329, https://archive.org/details/diaryofjuliettho0000thom/page/328/mode/2up. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=5#section105. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 226. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/16#653095072 ↩