The conception on which Bahaism bases its claim is false. Truth does not grow old, nor is it possible to change the religion with the growth of the race. A universal religion must present truth in a form that will reach men in every stage of civilization, for the reason that in every period of the world since the dawn of history there have been simultaneously men in every stage of intellectual development.—W. A. Shedd in “Miss. Review of the World.”
It (Bahaism) has not enough assurance of personal immortality to satisfy such Western minds as are repelled by the barren and jejune ethical systems of agnostics, positivists, and humanitarians who would give us rules to regulate a life which they have rendered meaningless.—Professor Browne in Phelps’ “Life of Abbas Effendi,” p. xviii.
The essence of being a Bahai is a boundless devotion to the person of the Manifestation and a profound belief that he is divine and of a different order from all other beings.—Professor Browne, Art. “Bab” in Ency. of Religion and Ethics.
THE claims of Bahaism are many and varied. They cover a wide range. I will first consider its general claims and of these the most significant.
I. First of all, Bahais claim that a new religion is needed. All the great religions, they say, were true in their day; not only Moses, Christ, and Mohammed, but Zoroaster, Confucius, and Buddha were Divine Manifestations, and revealed God’s truth. But now the old religions are dead. Abdul Baha says: “The Spirit has passed away from the bodies of the old religions. While the forms of their doctrines remain, the Spirit has fled.” “The principles of the religion of Christ have been forgotten. It is then clear and evident that in the passage of time religions become entirely changed. Therefore they are renewed.” “There is to-day nothing more than traditions to feed upon…. The world of humanity is in the dark.” One chapter in Thornton Chase’s “The Bahai Revelation” is headed “The Bahai Revelation is needed.” This he argues, stating that Christianity is condemned because after 1900 years it has not been accepted by all people; because it refuses to reject miracles and the blood atonement and will not confine itself to the “principles of Jesus,” as the Brahma Samaj; because it tends to separate peoples, holding itself to be the only religion authorized by God; because people are dwelling in bondage and are no longer satisfied. Tares are many and Baha Ullah must come and uproot them. “The old order of things is passing away,” says Sprague; “people are being tossed about with every wind of doctrine.” “True religion is forgotten,” says Phelps, “or has become a hollow name; faith has waned, men are wandering in the dark.” This decay, they teach, is inevitable and in accord with divine arrangement. They deny the belief of Christians that Christianity is the permanent religion of humanity; and that of Moslems, that Mohammed was the “seal of the prophets,” and hold that Christianity was succeeded by Islam, Islam by Babism, and Babism by Bahaism. Abdul Baha says: “Time changes all things. Transmutation and change are requirements of life. All religions of God are subject to the same law. They are founded in order to blossom out and develop and fulfill their mission. They reach their zenith and then decline and come to an end.” “A new cycle must begin, for the world needs a new luminary.”
It is not necessary to refute the fundamental fallacy of this first claim, for it is patent that Christianity is alive and growing. Its manifold spiritual activities, its varied and progressive efforts for righteousness and peace among men, for social and moral reforms, its zeal for Missions and their marvellous success, show that Christianity is neither stagnant nor dead. It has a forward triumphant movement. The Church renews its strength from its divine Head; He, alive forevermore, is its Light and its Life.
II. Bahaism claims to be the divine Revelation in this new cycle—a new Dispensation or Covenant. It disclaims being a new religion, affirming rather that it is a renewal of religion or religion renewed. One writes: “The Revelation is not a new religion, but the very essence of God’s word as taught by Christ (and Moses and Mohammed), but not perceived by Christians at large” (nor by Jews nor Mohammedans). Baha ullah says: “Of the utterances of the prophets of the past we have taken the essence, and in the garment of brevity clothed it.” Abdul Baha says: “The same basis, which was laid by Christ and later on forgotten, has been renewed by Baha Ullah.” “All that is true in all religions will stand; by the new Dispensation, new spirit is infused into these teachings.” Phelps says: “The body of doctrine which Bahaism teaches is not put forward in any sense or particular as new, but as a unification and synthesis of all other religions.” Of its system of morals the same is true. It is a restatement in unsystematic form of common ethics. It reiterates the second table of the Mosaic Law, and the New Testament principles of brotherly love and unity. Yet in some of his addresses Abdul Baha names certain principles as new in the Bahai faith, such as universal peace, the unity of humanity, arbitration, compulsory education of both sexes, the harmony of science and religion, the evil of prejudice and fanaticism, need of investigating the truth, etc. Not one of these is new; not one owes its position in the world of thought or activity to the Bahai propaganda. But whether Bahaism claims to be new in its principles or disclaims it, in fact it is a new religion. The disavowals are, no doubt, made for the sake of obtaining easier access to the followers of the old religions, and are only a temporary expediency. In this they are simply following the example of Mohammed, who proclaimed his message to the people of Arabia as the religion of Abraham, and as the same as that of the Law and the Gospels. But it is evident that Bahaism is inconsistent with Christianity, as indeed with Islam. Bahais’ claims, if admitted, would lead to the superseding of Christianity. This will appear when I state its doctrines.
The present attitude of Bahais in maintaining connection with Christian Churches and at the same time worshipping Baha and propagating Bahaism is one of intellectual stultification or of moral blindness. In the same way, in Moslem lands, Bahais conform to the externals of Islam. In the case of the latter the cause of this is often moral obliquity or fear; with deceived Christian brethren it is probably ignorance; by the Bahai propagandist it is allowed from astute policy. It is an intellectual impossibility for one to accept the teachings of Baha Ullah and to be his disciple and at the same time to be an intelligent disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one excludes the other.
Bahaism is a distinct religion. It is not even a sect of Islam. It abrogates and annuls it. Professor Browne says: “As Christianity is a different religion from Judaism, and as Islam is distinct from Christianity, so Bahaism is a separate religion, distinct from Christianity or Islam.” It even superseded and abrogated Babism. The Bab has been relegated to the background, and put into the position of a John the Baptist. His book, the “Bayan,” is long ago neglected to such an extent that Professor Browne had difficulty in obtaining a copy in Persia. Remey says: “Babism fulfilled its purpose, and when this was accomplished in the appearance of Bahaullah, it, as such, ceased to exist.” Mirza Abul Fazl says: Babism “is not the same religion or creed as Bahaism.”
As an introduction to a discussion of Bahaism and its claims, I will sketch briefly and simply its origin and history. Bahaism is derived from Babism. Babism has its roots in Shiahism, a soil impregnated with the doctrines of the Imamate and Mahdiism. The atmosphere is filled with millennial hopes and dreamy mysticism, with Sufi philosophies and allegorical fancies of its poets. This soil has been fruitful of many sects. The Shiahism of Persia is called the “Religion of the Twelve” because its fundamental doctrine is that the twelve Imams, the lineal descendants of Ali and Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed, were the rightful Caliphs of Islam, in succession to Mohammed. In the tenth century (329 A. H. or 940 A. D.) the Twelfth Imam disappeared into a well, and still lives in Jabulka or Jabulsa whence he is expected to reappear as the Mahdi or Kaim. After his concealment, four persons in succession were channels of communication between him and the faithful. The title given to these was Bab or the Gate.
Among the sects which sprang up among the Shiahs or were related to them were the Ismielis, Carmathians, Druses, Hurufis, Ali-Allahis or Nusairiyeh, Assassins, Batinis and many others. A group of these were called Ghulat, because they rendered excessive honour to the Imams, believing them to be incarnations of the attributes or essence of God. Those holding this view anticipated that the Imam Mahdi would be a divine Manifestation.2 At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a sect arose in Persia, called Sheikhis. It received its name from its founder, Sheikh Ahmad of Ahsa, 1752-1827. He taught that there was always in the world a “perfect Shiah,” who held communication with the absent Imam and revealed his will. Sheikh Ahmad was that “perfect one.” He was favoured by the Kajar Shahs and had a considerable following. His successor, Haji Kazim of Resht, near the time of his death, announced to his disciples at Kerbela that the Manifestation was at hand. One of his disciples was Mirza Ali Mohammed of Shiraz. When twenty-four years of age in 1844, he laid claim to be the “promised one.” He took the title of “Bab,” the Gate or Door of communication of the knowledge of God. His followers were called Babis. He soon advanced his station and claimed to be the Kaim or Mahdi. Still advancing he took the title of Nukta or Point of Divine Unity and announced his “Revelation” or “Bayan” as the abrogation of Islam and the Koran. From Shiraz he went to Mecca and proclaimed his manifestation. On his return he was imprisoned. Many of the Sheikhis became his zealous followers and by their active propaganda caused great agitation throughout Persia. The Bab was transferred to the extreme northwest of Persia and confined in prison at Maku and Chirik. His sectaries, oppressed and persecuted, rose in arms against Mohammed Shah, anticipating victory through divine interposition. The Bab was executed at Tabriz in 1850. The insurrections were put down and many of the brave captives were treacherously slaughtered. A few Babis, seeking revenge, attempted to assassinate the new Shah, Nasr-ud-Din. This led to cruel reprisals. Four score Babis were executed at Teheran. Others fled into exile, especially to Bagdad. Among these was Mirza Yahya whom the Bab had appointed his successor. His title was Subh-i-Azal, the Dawn of the Eternal, or His Holiness the Eternal.
A special point of the Bab’s teaching was the announcement of the coming of “Him whom God should manifest.” After his death a number of the Babis claimed to be the promised incarnation. There was a “chaos of divine manifestations,” including Hazret Zahib, Janab-i-Azim, Nabil and others. Among these claimants was Mirza Husain Ali, a son of Mirza Abbas, surnamed Buzurk, and his concubine. The father was steward or “vizier” of the household of Imam Werdi Mirza, Governor of Teheran. He was half brother to Mirza Yahya and thirteen years his senior. His title was Baha ullah, the splendour or glory of God. For many years Baha acted in Bagdad (1852-67) as factotum for Azal, and acknowledged him as supreme. Then he announced that he himself was “He whom God should manifest,” and took active measures to supplant Azal. About this time the Turkish Government transferred them to Adrianople. Here developed bitter jealousies, quarrels and foul play. The Sultan intervened and sent Subh-i-Azal to Famagusta, Cyprus, and Baha Ullah to Acca (Acre), Syria, August 1868. Both were granted pensions and kept under police surveillance as parties dangerous to religion and the state. Azal continued to be the head of the Babis, called henceforth also Azalis. Baha attracted most of the Babis to himself, and they became known as Bahais. Baha relegated the Bab to the position of a forerunner, and declared the “Bayan” and other books of the Bab to be superseded by his own “Revelations.” He changed in a measure the doctrines and laws of Babism, liberalizing its provisions. He put himself forward as the Lord of a new dispensation, the founder of a new religion.
During the next quarter of a century Bahaism made little stir in Persia. Its advancement was by no means as rapid as during the earlier years of the Bab. The zeal and devotion of the followers sensibly slackened. Tagiya (dissimulation regarding one’s religion) was allowed and practiced. The fierce warriors turned to professing the doctrines of expediency, condemning as unwise zealots the fighting Babis of the previous generation. During these years they escaped bloody persecutions except in rare instances. They tried to make their peace with the Shah, constantly emphasizing their loyalty, expurgating their books to suppress condemnation of the dynasty, and inducing the Sadr-Azam, the Prime Minister of Nasr-i-Din Shah, to tolerate and befriend them.
In Acca, too, Baha soon acquired considerable freedom, built a palace, called Bahja, in a delightful garden and freely received the pilgrims. He sent out many tablets, composed his Books of Revelation and had them published in Bombay. He died at Acca in May, 1892, in his seventy-fifth year. His temple tomb is near the Bahji.
Baha’s haram consisted of two wives and a concubine. After his death, the sons of the different wives quarrelled regarding the succession. Abbas Effendi, the only son of the oldest wife, proclaimed himself the successor, the Interpreter, the Centre of the Covenant, the Source of Authority. Mohammed Ali and his brothers strenuously opposed Abbas and intense animosity was engendered which divided the followers in Acca and Persia. Abbas drew the greater number with him. He assumed the title of Abdul Baha (Servant of Baha). He has the ambition to make the faith a world religion and has inaugurated a propaganda in the West. After the proclamation of constitutional liberty in Turkey, he resided in Egypt. Later he made several journeys to Europe and one to North America. His visit to the Occident brought him into the lime-light. He was given good opportunity to present his cause.
The addresses of this “Infallible Interpreter” of the cult did not reveal clearly the real doctrines and aim of the movement. Abdul Baha confined himself mainly to the utterance of popular platitudes such as are stock-in-trade for a multitude of social and religious reformers, and most of which are original and accepted principles and precepts of Christianity. The real claims of Bahaism are set forth in the Books and Tablets (Epistles) of Baha Ullah and Abdul Baha, and in a considerable literature by Persian and American Bahais.
Abdul Baha is an intelligent, well informed man, of fair sagacity. He was educated at home after the custom of Persia. He says of himself, “I have studied Arabic profoundly and know the Arabic better than the Arabians themselves. I have studied the Persian and Turkish in my native land, besides other languages of the East. But when I visit the West I need an interpreter.” He said to Doctor Jessup, “Yes, I know your Beirut Press and your books.” His references to ancient and modern philosophers, to historical events and to European writers, quoting from the same, show some familiarity with literature. He repudiates the claims of some of his disciples that he has no literary culture, as that of Abul Fazl or of M. A. Lucas who says: “He has had no access to books, yet his knowledge is unbounded.” On this point Professor Cheyne remarks: “His public addresses prove that through this and that channel he has imbibed something of humanistic and even scientific culture. He must have had some one to guide him in the tracks of modern inquiry. I venture to hope that his expounding may not, in the future, extend to philosophic, philological, scientific, and exegetical details. Abdul Baha may fall into error on secular problems, among which it is obvious to include Biblical and Koranic exegesis.” “I am bound to say that Baha Ullah has made mistakes and the almost equally venerated Abdul Baha has made many slips.”
A word should be said about the number of Bahais. I have many data on this point, but can here give only a summary. Regarding their numbers, the Bahais have indulged in gross exaggeration. “Millions” is the usual figure used by American Bahais. Thus Phelps speaks of “the millions of Bahais in Persia.” MacNutt, in “Unity through Love,” declares that “His followers number millions from all the religious systems of the world.” Kheiralla says: “Abdul Karim, 1896, assured me that the believers in Baha were fifty millions. I wrote to Syria to ask. Sayid Mohammed, secretary of Abbas Effendi, said that the number was fifty-five million souls.” Kheiralla afterwards denounces it as a gross deceit. As to Persia, they place the proportion at one-third or one-half. Dreyfus writes,12 “Probably half the population of Persia is Bahai.” Some judicious non-Bahai writers allow them half a million or less in Persia on a basis of ten millions of population. American missionaries, as Jordan at Teheran, Frame at Resht and Shedd at Urumia, calculate that the number in Persia does not exceed 100,000 to 200,000. After careful inquiry I agree with this estimate.
As to other races and countries, let us see. Abul Fazl claims13 that “Jews, Zoroastrians, and Nusaireyah by thousands” are Bahais. M. Haidar Ali says: “The majority of Zoroastrians are recognized as Bahais in all sincerity.” On the contrary Professor Browne writes: “I had been informed that Zoroastrians were accepting Bahaism. However after much intercourse with the Zoroastrians of Yezd and Kerman for the space of three and a half months, I came to the conclusion that few, if any, had adopted the Bahai creed.” In India the proportion of Parsee-Bahais is very small.
As to Jews:—Remey says: “In Hamadan there is a large Israelitish following of Baha.” A census made by a European Jew showed exactly 59 parents and with their children 194 persons out of a population of 6,000 Jews. As to the United States, I give some particulars in the closing chapter. The census of 1906 reported 1,280 Bahais, which may have increased to two or three thousand.
In the Turkish empire they are few, for Sunni Moslems are utterly indifferent to Bahaism. The Egyptian Gazette says of Egypt where Abdul Baha resided for two years, “The new religion has made little perceptible progress; Islam remained indifferent, and the Christian community was ignorant of his presence.” Of Syria, Mr. Phelps wrote: “All the Bahais in Acca are Persians. No other nationalities are among them.” The inference is plain that no native of Acca had become Bahai through forty years of contact with Baha and his seventy followers. Bahais outside of Persia are probably all told not more than 15,000 and one-third of these are Persians in Russia. Abdul Baha gave the impression that many of the Christians of Persia are converts to Baha. Dr. J. H. Shedd wrote, 1894, “I have heard of no case of a Christian conversion to Bahaism.” Dr. G. W. Holmes wrote, 1903, “I do not know of a single Christian in Persia, who has been converted to Bahaism. Some Bahais who made a profession of Christianity turned back to Baha.” Rev. J. W. Hawkes declares that in his observation none of the members of the Syrian (Nestorian) or Armenian churches in Persia have become Bahais. I have known of one Armenian family in Resht and two men in Maraga, one of whom was a notorious ne’er-do-well, who kept up his opium using as before.
The regulation of divorce is another matter that vitally affects the relation of man and woman. The divorce law of Baha, as prescribed in the “Kitab-ul-Akdas,” is a loose one.
I again quote from Professor Browne’s translation.356 It will be noticed that the conditions of the law are set forth from the standpoint of the man. “If quarrels arise between a man and his wife, he may put her away. He may not give her absolute divorce at once, but must wait a year that perhaps he may become reconciled to her. At the end of this period, if he still wishes to put her away, he is at liberty to do so. Even after this he may take her back at the end of any month so long as she has not become the wife of another man.” “The practice of requiring a divorced woman to cohabit with another man before her former husband can take her back is prohibited.” (This abolishes one of the vile laws of Mohammedanism.)
“If a man is travelling with his wife and they quarrel, he must give her a sufficient sum of money to take her back to the place they started from and send her with a trustworthy escort.” From these quotations it is evident that the wife is dependent on the good pleasure and whim357 of the man. He may put away; he may take back. The law says nothing of her right to divorce him. It does not appear that she has the right to divorce her husband even in case he is guilty of adultery.
The penalty for adultery is slight. A fine of nineteen miscals of gold, equal to fifty to sixty dollars, is imposed for the first offense and this is doubled for the second offense. The fines are to be paid to the “House of Justice.”
According to the “Bayan” of the Bab the husband must pay the divorced wife a dowry of ninety-five miscals of gold ($300) if they are city folks, and ninety-five miscals of silver ($10) if they are villagers. These are paltry sums even on the basis of Persian poverty. I may say, in passing, that the Laws of Inheritance give to the father a greater portion than to a mother, to a brother greater than to a sister, and gives the family residence to a male heir.
Freedom from the marriage bond is made easy by desertion. “Married men who travel must fix a definite time for their return and endeavour to return at that time. If their wives have no news from them for nine months, after the fixed period, they can go to another husband. But if they are patient it is better, since God loves those who are patient.”
How the husband who is away from his wife can act, we may judge by the example of a celebrated Bahai,358 Maskin Kalam, who was agent for Baha to watch over and spy upon Azal and the Azalis in Cyprus. His wife was in Persia; he simply took another in Cyprus.
The ease with which desertion may be practiced under Bahai law is seen in the conduct of Doctor Kheiralla, one of the first apostles of Bahaism to America, and founder of the Chicago Assembly. Dr. H. H. Jessup wrote: “A cousin of Doctor Kheiralla, who is clerk in the American Press in Beirut, gave me the following statement: ‘Doctor Kheiralla, after the death of his first wife in Egypt, in 1882, married first a Coptic widow in El Fayum, whom he abandoned, and then married a Greek girl, whom he also abandoned, and who was still living in 1897 in Cairo. He then married an English wife, who abandoned him when his matrimonial relations became known to her.'” 359
According to the claims of Bahais these loose and imperfect divorce and marriage laws are to be accepted and administered universally under the future kingdom of Baha in its world-wide triumph!
It may be remarked in passing that Bahaism encourages the mixture of races by marriage. Already several American Bahais have married Persian women, and Persian men American women. One American Bahai woman has married a Japanese.
Abdul Baha illustrates the relation of the races by a reference to animals. “Consider the kingdom of the animals. A pigeon of white plumage would not shun one of black or brown.” In a tablet sent to America, he directs: “Gather together these two races, black and white, into one assembly and put such love into their hearts that they shall even intermarry.”360
Again he says:361 “The coloured people must attend all the unity meetings. There must be no distinctions. All are equal. If you have any influence to get the races to intermarry, it will be very valuable. Such unions will beget very strong and beautiful children.” Mr. Gregory, an American negro, followed this advice by marrying an English woman, Miss L. A. M. Mathew
356 Jour. Roy. As. Soc., 1892.
357 “The wife is still in a helpless state; her fate remains entirely in the power of her husband’s caprice “(Vatralsky in Amer. Jour. of Theology, 1902, p. 72).
358 “Trav.’s Narr.,” pp. 378-379.
359 Outlook, of New York, quoted in The Missionary Review, October, 1901, p. 773.
360 “A Heavenly Vista,” by L. G. Gregory, p. 31.
361 Page 15
Baha Ullah died at Acca in May, 1892, in his seventy-fifth year. The death of the father was the signal for a bitter quarrel among his sons.
The occasion was the succession to the leadership. The cause, no doubt, lay partly in that jealousy which results from a polygamous household. This polygamy was the occasion of misfortune even at the time, for the Persian consul at Bagdad, named Mirza Buzurk Khan Kasvini, had desired to wed one of the women and vented his disappointment on the Bahai community by making accusation against them before the Persian and Turkish Governments. Baha Ullah had twelve children.
The four sons who grew to manhood received “great swelling” titles. Abbas was entitled “The Greatest (Azam) Branch of God” and regarded as the “return” of Jesus; Mohammed Ali, “The Mightiest (Akbar) Branch of God” and the “return” of Mohammed; Ziah Ullah, “The Purest Branch and as Abraham” (died 1898); Badi Ullah, “The Most Luminous Branch and as Moses.”
Abbas Effendi was the son of Aseyeh.
The other three were sons of Ayesha or Madh Ulya. Abbas Effendi claimed the succession, basing his right and title on the Will of Baha, called the Kitab-il-Ahd and on previous declarations. His right was disputed by the other brothers.
I have a manuscript by a lifelong Bahai which gives the following account: “Nine days after the ‘ascension’ of Baha, Abbas Effendi desired nine of the chief men to come to the house of Mohammed Ali Effendi. He opened the will. It was in Baha’s own handwriting and two pages long. The nine men saw it. On the second page, over a part of the writing, Abbas had put a blue paper that it might not be read, and he refused to have it read. On the same day, the whole congregation (men) gathered to the palace of Baha. Mirza Majd-i-Din (Abbas’ sister’s son) rose and read the will up to the blue paper. Later the women were called to the Kasr Bahja and the will was again read, but the concealed portion was not made known.
It was evident that it was for his own selfish purposes that Abbas concealed it, because the future authority did not pertain to him.
From Persia and India many wrote, saying: ‘Show the last portion; it is the writing of His Holiness.’ He refused. To this day it is concealed.”
Abbas assumed authority as the Supreme Ruler of the new dispensation, the Centre of the Covenant, and the Infallible Interpreter of its teachings.
His claim is clearly set forth in a Tablet wherein, speaking in the third person, he declares: “All Bahais must obey the Centre of the Covenant and must not deviate one hair’s breadth from obedience to Him.” “He should be looked upon as authority by all.” “Obedience and submission must be shown Him and the face turned to Him completely.” He was given such titles as “His Holiness the Master,” “Our Lord,” “The Centre of the Cause of God,” “Dawning Place of the Divine Light,” “Dayspring of the Light of the Covenant.” Indeed his first Apostles to Persia bore the message, “I am the Manifestation of God. My paps are full of the milk of Godhead. Whosoever will, let him come and suck freely.” His claims to headship were strenuously opposed by his brothers and some of the nearest disciples.
A bitter quarrel began as a consequence and has raged to the present time. Letters were sent by each party to the Persian Bahais, involving them in the quarrel.
Mohammed Ali composed a book, called the “Ityan-i-Dallil,” presenting proofs of the invalidity of Abbas’ claims, from the writings of Baha.
They charge Abbas with concealing and annulling Baha’s will, perverting his teachings, changing the writings of Baha, publishing expurgated and interpolated editions of them, and attempting to suppress the authorized Bombay editions. Specifically they accuse him of publishing a Lawh-i-Beirut, a Tablet in which Abbas is greatly exalted, and attributing it to Baha, though it is spurious; that he has inserted verses into letters written in the hand of Baha’s amanuensis and published them as genuine; has omitted verses from the “Tablet of Command”; made up the “Treasure Tablet” from parts of several others; appropriated to himself Tablets pertaining to Mirza Mohammed Ali; and commanded to destroy all Tablets of Baha which have not his (Abbas’) seal upon them. Per contra the party of Abbas accused his brothers of intemperance and profligacy and of heresy, covenant-breaking and fraud. Mr. Hadad reported M Mohammed Ali and Badi Ullah as “being profligate and wanton, frequenting wine shops and being spendthrifts.”
Mr. Getsinger said he had seen Badi Ullah in the street intoxicated and being helped home by two servants, that he and his brother had taken and pawned the effects of Baha, rugs, hand-bags, etc., and a pearl rosary belonging to Baha which was valued at $10,000 (!) and had squandered the money.”
Abbas said to Mrs. Grundy, “Mohammed Ali has appropriated many papers and tablets written by the Blessed Perfection (Baha). It is possible for these writings to be altered, as the meanings in Persian are greatly changed by a single dot here and there. Before His Ascension, the Blessed Perfection said to me, ‘I have given you all the papers.’ He put them in two satchels and sent them to me. After His Ascension, Mohammed Ali said, ‘You had better give me the two satchels to take care of.’ He took them away and never returned them.”
He said that Mohammed Ali deceives, “for the Will was also written by Mohammed Ali’s own hand from dictation of the Blessed Perfection. By violating the Covenant (Will) he has become a fallen branch. All the beautiful blossoms upon the Tree of Life were destroyed by Mohammed Ali.”
Abbas proceeded to the use of boycott and anathema. He ordered that no one of the Acca community should send any letters anywhere without first showing them to him, and commanded the Bahais in Persia not to receive any letters that were not sealed by him, but to send them back to him, and that in writing to Acca they should send their letters open.
These restrictions on freedom gave great offense. Abbas also prohibited his followers from associating with his brothers and their followers, strictly ordering them “not to sit, meet, speak or correspond with them, not even to trade or associate with them in any profession.”
Khadim reports that “once in his own house, Abbas rose up and furiously attacked” his stepmother, who, in return, reviled him and fled from the house, wailing. “At the sacred tomb he used cruelly to treat the brothers and sisters.”
“On one occasion he repeatedly struck his youngest (half) sister in the presence of her little ones and many believers,” scolding her “with a loud voice, uttering many harsh words.” On another occasion he “insulted and beat Khadim (Mirza Aga Jan, Baha’s amanuensis) at the sacred place” and afterwards “ordered his followers to imprison and cruelly beat him, which they did.”
He sent adrift Abdul Gaffar Ispahani, called Abdullah, one of the first believers on Baha, in such destitute condition that he died of hunger and was buried in a potter’s field at Damascus. “Alas! Alas!” exclaims Mirza Aga Jan, “Abbas Effendi has caused his followers to display such vehemence of hatred and rancour, the like of which has never been shown by barbarous nations, and even by the most ignorant tribes.” Of Abbas, Mrs. Templeton writes: “His pride, alas, is great…. He seems to be blinded…. With regard to business matters Abbas Effendi has not been just to his brothers, who have suffered a good deal in consequence.”
Abbas Effendi cut off the living of his stepmothers, brothers and their dependents.
Baha Ullah and his household had a stipend from the Turkish Government, as Azal and the Babis in Cyprus had, and it was not an ungenerous allowance. “The family had an income from the Government, as well as a revenue from three villages.”
“These funds Abbas Effendi appropriated and with these made his charitable gifts (?) leaving the forty dependents of the younger brothers to live as best they could.” This excluding the protesters from their share of the income and offerings embittered the strife, at the same time weakening their ability to propagate their contention. Bitterness and enmity increased; recriminations and accusations inflamed the passions of both sides. Mirza Abul Fazl, the philosopher of the movement, gives, as a partisan of Abbas Effendi, an account of these times in his “Bahai Proofs.”
He describes the “ruinous discords and divisions,” “the world-consuming flame of jealousy and hatred of the people of error,” “the hard hearts of the men of hostility,” “the animosity and groundless pride,” “the senseless hatred, degradation and shame of the violators of the covenant.” He gives the opprobrious title of Nakhazeen to Mohammed Ali’s party.
He continues, “The evil intrigues, calumnies, false pamphlets and accusations, evil tongues and cursings of the Nakhazeen divided the community and filled it with foul odours.” Several outside parties tried to act as mediators and bring about a reconciliation. Among these were the British Consul at Haifa and Mrs. Templeton. The younger brothers agreed to the terms. Abbas Effendi was formally requested to show the Will before impartial witnesses and all were to abide by its word. “This he resolutely refused to do and he must stand condemned for this before all impartial men.”
After the failure of these efforts at reconciliation, the anger and bitterness waxed hotter. To quote Abul Fazl again: “The Nakhazeen cursed and insulted the visitors to the tomb of the Blessed Perfection,” so that there was danger of its desecration. “Consequently Abbas Effendi asked the local (Turkish) Government to supply a guard to accompany and protect” his party. Abbas also went to Tiberias and made complaint to the Government there.
As a result of all these conditions, “The people of hostility and violation,” says Abul Fazl, “availed themselves of political machinations,” in other words, Mohammed Ali’s party, “those dwellers in hellfire,” appealed to the “fanatical men of those lands,” i.e., those same Turkish Authorities. Mohammed Ali formally complained to the Governor of Damascus, Nazim Pasha, sending Mirza Majd-ud-Din as his special messenger.
They accused Abbas of retaining their stipends, of confiscating their patrimony, including the father’s gold watch which had been donated to Mohammed Ali. Above all, according to the interesting narrative of Abbas’ sister, Bahiah Khanum, they made accusation that the shrine which was being erected on Mount Carmel “was intended as a fort, in which Abbas and his followers would intrench themselves, defy the Government, and endeavour to gain possession of this part of Syria.”
To use the words of Abbas, they said that “he had hoisted the banner of independence; upon that he had inscribed ‘Ya Baha-ul Abha’: that he had summoned all to assemble that he might found a new monarchy.” Therefore “an inquisitorial body (a Commission) was appointed by the Government.
To them the copartners of my brothers confirmed them (the reports) and added to them.” After the report of the Commission and in consequence of these charges and counter-charges of the “Greatest Branch of God” and the “Mightiest Branch of God,” a telegram was received from the Sultan to the Governor “issuing a firman, decreeing the original order, by which Baha’s family were confined within the walls of Acca.”
After nine years of quarrelling (nine being the sacred number of Bahais) this order was put in force, 1901 A.D. They were still confined to Acca in 1906 when I visited Haifa. I saw the shrine and the fine residence of Baha at Haifa, just beside the English Mission. It deserves to be emphasized that the cause of the Bahai leaders being restricted to Acca was not religious persecution by Moslems but their own quarrellings.
Samuel Graham Wilson
For more detail refer: Bahaism and its Claim by Samuel Wilson