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 4

August 2, 2021

The Master in All Things

But in the Most Great Prison We do not meet the people who are not within the fold of the Cause. We have closed the door of social intercourse. It is the Master Who has taken every trouble upon Himself. For Our sake, in order that We may have ease and comfort, He faces the world and its peoples. For Us He has become a mighty stronghold, a mighty armour. He has arisen with all His power to serve the Faith, and confirmation crowns His effort.
– Bahá’u’lláh

Although Bahá’u’lláh’s spiritual power and authority were unassailable even by the most malign forces, it was Abbás Effendí, now known by all as the Master and serving as Bahá’u’lláh’s shield, who set about repairing relationships between the authorities, townspeople and the small community of Bahá’ís after a fresh wave of tribulations and persecutions once again overtook them. Once again, although the Bahá’í community now lived as prisoners within the walled citadel of ‘Akká, the people treated them with loathing and cruel disrespect. Once again, a poisoned atmosphere of suspicion and fear enveloped the town. Once again, the authorities were bristling with animosity and inflexibility.

How did the Master go about rehabilitating the fortunes of the small Bahá’í community in such a climate of open hostility? With great wisdom overflowing with love and infinite patience. As though gently and slowly smoothing the feathers of an angry bird, the Master set about mending fences while the stalwart community continued to live their lives with integrity and moral rectitude.

In the course of His efforts over the following months and years, the Master exuded a noble authority that swayed many a hardened heart, and for those who adamantly refused to consider His humanity and genuine love, He showed nothing but a patient and kindly face.

Shaykh Mahmud was one such man. He blindly hated the Bahá’ís and upon hearing praise being heaped on the Bahá’ís and on Abbás Effendí in particular, he grew incensed and decided to find Him and express his hatred in person. Upon finding Him he assaulted the Master Who only looked at him with calm dignity and reminded him of what the Prophet Muhammad had said: “Be generous to the guest, even should he be an infidel.” Shaykh Mahmud, nonplussed, felt his hatred and anger slip away like the shadows of night upon the rising of the sun. He fled to his home and barred the door to all. Later, he tearfully sought out the Master and falling on his knees, said: ‘Which door but thine can I seek; whose bounty can I hope for but thine?” Shaykh Mahmud became a devoted Bahá’í.

The Master’s deep knowledge of all religions, His wise counsels even government officials sought out, and His generous solicitude towards the poor earned Him – as Bahá’u’lláh Himself had once been back in Tehrán – the title of "Father of the Poor." Hostile governors were replaced by just governors, such as Ahmad Big Tawfik, who even entrusted his son for instruction by the Master. In 1878, although still officially a prisoner, Abbás Effendí was allowed to visit Beirut, where He met many distinguished Muslim clerics, reformers and government officials eager to converse and learn from Him. His fame spread throughout the Middle East.

Although Abbás Effendí showed no real desire for marriage, Bahá’u’lláh arranged for the lovely dark-eyed Fátimih Nahrí to come to ‘Akká and in 1873, they were married. Abbás Effendí’s wife became known as Munírih (Illumined) Khánum and as the Holy Mother. She and Abbás Effendí had a wonderful marriage though they suffered much loss – four of their nine children died in what the Holy Mother called the “poisonous atmosphere of ‘Akká.”

After nine years as a prisoner, Bahá’u’lláh, Who still lived in ‘Akká, remarked: “I have not gazed on verdure for nine years. The country is the world of the soul, the city is the world of bodies.” Acutely attuned to His Father’s needs, Abbás Effendí set about finding Bahá’u’lláh a home a few miles from ‘Akká. The first of two was Mazra’ih, whom Bahá’u’lláh moved into in 1877, a small mansion which gave Him His first taste of the beauties of nature imbued with the sweet aroma of oranges from a small grove on the property.

Bahá’u’lláh was reluctant to leave the citadel, however, often repeating that He was a prisoner, and it wasn’t until the Mufti of ‘Akká himself, the head of the Muslim community in ‘Akká, and at the urging of the Master, came and convinced Bahá’u’lláh, who still insisted He was a prisoner, to finally leave ‘Akká and live in the Mansion of Mazra’ih, where He resided for two years. Abbás Effendí also rented a beautiful garden on an islet bordered by the river Na’mayn named the Garden of Ridván by Bahá’u’lláh and which was purchased in 1881. It became a favourite retreat of His Father.

The second, which eventually became the holiest spot for Bahá’ís the world over, is the stately Mansion of Bahjí, Bahá’u’lláh’s last home. Throughout all those years, Abbás Effendí continued to live in ‘Akká not only to serve the Bahá’í community but all those who crossed His path. Once again, tremendous loss and betrayal would soon enough engulf the Master.

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