from the Life
of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Commemorating the Centenary of
the Passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
November 28, 1921

Read the unfolding series here.

Episode 5

August 20, 2021

The Orb of Guidance Arises

O thou who My heart addresses! Know thou, verily, the Covenant is an Orb which shines and gleams forth unto the universe.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

“The Sun of Bahá has set.” Such was the cable that Abbás Effendí sent on 29 May 1892 to Sultan Abdu’l-Hamíd II, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire, announcing Bahá’u’lláh’s passing. Upon receiving the news of His ascension, the entire Bahá’í community felt instantly bereft, their hearts mired in the starless night of loss and grief. Both the family and the Bahá’í community were deeply grieved but determined to carry on the work of the Faith, that of unifying humanity in peace and concord.

Prior to His passing, Bahá’u’lláh had revealed the Book of His Covenant, which provides a set of explicit instructions that have assured continuity of guidance and the unity of the Faith. In it He named His eldest son Abbás Effendí as the Head of the Bahá’í Faith, the infallible Interpreter of His Word, and the Centre of His Covenant, “a Covenant so firm and mighty that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced the like.” Bahá’u’lláh had also entrusted His sealed Will and Testament to Abbás Effendí, which was unsealed and read nine days after His passing.

The years following Bahá’u’lláh’s passing were difficult ones for Abbás Effendí, since the Ottoman Government regarded Him with growing suspicion. When libelous misrepresentations were circulated that Abbás Effendí considered Himself the equal to His Father, He declared that henceforth He was to be known only as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Servant of Bahá, and that His station was the station of Servitude. The Bahá’í community both in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East turned their faces in gratefulness to the Centre of the Covenant.

Despite constant machinations from a hostile government and the hardships of life in ‘Akká that were aging Him prematurely, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá continued to serve all who sought His help, in addition to bringing the remains of the Báb to the Holy Land, buying property on Mt. Carmel and building a simple Shrine to the Báb on the very spot specified by Bahá’u’lláh – a 20-year danger-filled endeavour. He lived His life prayerfully at the service of others and in full confidence that He would fulfill His mission of bringing Bahá’u’lláh’s message of peace, justice and unity throughout the world.

In 1908, the Young Turks Revolution and the fall of the Ottoman Empire brought about an end to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life as a prisoner. In March 1909, the remains of the Báb were finally laid to rest in the Shrine ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had literally built with sweat and tears. Many devoted Bahá’ís and family members witnessed wet-eyed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s poignant sobbing at the Holy Threshold after years of suffering and sacrifice. On 29 August 1910, He quietly left the Holy Land and sailed for Port Said, Egypt. Broken in health at 66 years old but firm in resolve, it was there that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá began the historic journeys that would spread the Bahá’í teachings abroad and win Him renown and peerless respect.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s initial intention was to recover His health in Egypt’s more beneficial climate for a month and then sail to Europe and North America. However, His persistent asthma did not permit Him to leave and instead, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá convalesced in Alexandria for a further eight months. Alexandria was then a thriving modern metropolitan city inhabited by a number of well-known and affluent Westerners as well and served as a crossroads between East and West. It boasted one of the oldest universities in the world, Al-Azhar University, which was also the greatest centre of Islamic learning.

It was during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s sojourn in Egypt that longstanding misconceptions about the Bahá’í Faith were laid to rest by His elucidations on the teachings of His Father, further supported by His great knowledge on all religions and other pertinent matters, as well as His active care for the poor in His midst. Where once it had been hostile, the media began to write of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with great reverence and respect. His wise guidance and generous spirit were sought by people of all stations, high or low, from the Khedive (ruler) of Egypt down to the homeless living in the streets. His door was open to all regardless of who they were or what they stood for.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá sowed the seeds of peace and understanding to all who entered His presence. He helped Christians to understand the truth of Muhammad’s mission and vice versa and spoke of the necessity of building peace with all the peoples of the earth regardless of their race or religion.

Before long, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would turn His unifying light to the shores of the West.

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