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A Muhammad Ali revival?

Posted by Sen on March 27, 2010

Mirza Muhammad Ali was a younger brother of Abdu’l-Baha who rebelled against his brother’s authority as head of the Bahai community, was able to secure possession of some Bahai properties and for some time to cause other difficulties, particularly by misrepresenting Abdu’l-Baha to the government as a threat to the Ottoman state. By the end of his life, Muhammad Ali was left without friends or followers, and had been forced to abandon the properties that he had seized, but did not have the means to maintain in a liveable condition. He died in 1937. There has been no “Muhammad Ali” sect of the Bahai Faith for seventy years past. So why mention this old history here?

In recent weeks we have seen the curious phenomenon of an attempt to revive the claims of Muhammad Ali, in order to lend legitimacy to a newly-established sect, the ‘Unitarian Bahai Association’ avowing loyalty to Baha’u’llah but rejecting the authority that Baha’u’llah gave to Abdu’l-Baha and the Universal House of Justice. These claims have been made on a web site, and in postings to discussion groups, so I am breaking no confidences and blackening no reputations by mentioning them here: these people’s own public statements have already told the world what they are about. One of those who have been publicising this attempt on facebook, Eric Stetson, has put a comment on this blog. I welcome this as an opportunity to demonstrate why the rehabilitation of Muhammad Ali is not a realistic alternative to accepting the authority that Baha’u’llah gave to Abdu’l-Baha to lead the Bahai community. I welcome it so much, I’m putting my response to Eric here as well as in the comments section.


I reject completely the implication that there is some sort of equivalence between the positions of Abdu’l-Baha and Muhammad Ali. In the first place, look at their fruits. One is a fruitful branch, the other a long-dead twig. It cannot be revived today.

In the second place, look at what Abdu’l-Baha has against Muhammad Ali:

Ye know well what the hands of the Center of Sedition, Mirza Muhammad Ali, and his associates have wrought. Among his doings, one of them is the corruption of the Sacred Text whereof ye are all aware, the Lord be praised, and know that it is evident, proven and confirmed by the testimony of his brother, Mirza Badi’u’llah, whose confession is written in his own handwriting, beareth his seal, is printed and spread abroad. This is but one of his misdeeds. … In short, according to the explicit Divine Text the least transgression shall make of this man a fallen creature, and what transgression is more grievous than attempting to destroy the Divine Edifice, breaking the Covenant, erring from the Testament, falsifying the Holy Text, sowing the seeds of doubt, calumniating ‘Abdu’l-Baha, advancing claims for which God hath sent down no warrant, kindling mischief and striving to shed the very blood of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, … Beware lest ye approach this man, for to approach him is worse than approaching fire!
(Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament, 20)

But what did Muhammad Ali have against Abdu’l-Baha? Did Abdu’l-Baha ever wrong Muhammad Ali? All he did was prevent Muhammad Ali’s schemes succeeding. All that Muhammad Ali could find to claim, was the baseless allegations that Abdu’l-Baha was setting up an alternative state and plotting rebellion against the Ottomans, and the mere assertion, frequently and clearly refuted, that Abdu’l-Baha had claimed to be a Manifestation of God. If that were true, where is the evidence for it in Abdu’l-Baha’s writings? Abdu’l-Baha’s vehement denials of such a station are on record:

“I affirm,” is ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s own written comment on [Baha’u’llah’s] the Tablet of the Branch, “that the true meaning, the real significance, the innermost secret of these verses, of these very words, is my own servitude to the sacred Threshold of the Abha Beauty, my complete self-effacement, my utter nothingness before Him. This is my resplendent crown, my most precious adorning. … “No one is permitted,” He warns us in the passage which immediately follows, “to give these verses any other interpretation.” “I am,” He, in this same connection, affirms, “according to the explicit texts of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the Kitab-i-‘Ahd the manifest Interpreter of the Word of God… Whoso deviates from my interpretation is a victim of his own fancy.”
(Tr. by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 138)

Clear enough I think. I’ve been the victim of calumny myself, with ambitions attributed to me I never even toyed with in my dreams. So I am not about to accept that the calumnator is in any way the moral equivalent of the calumnee. Abdu’l-Baha plainly did not claim any station more or less than exactly what Baha’u’llah had given him. Muhammad Ali’s assertion that he did claim more, is a self-serving lie. No equivalence there at all.

Here’s just some of what Baha’u’llah wrote about Abdu’l-Baha:

“… well is it with him that hath sought His shelter and abideth beneath His shadow. Verily the Limb of the Law of God hath sprung forth from this Root… A Word hath, as a token of Our grace, gone forth from the Most Great Tablet …Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance; for verily He is the most great Favor unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you; and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from Him hath turned away from My beauty, hath repudiated My Proof, and transgressed against Me. He is the Trust of God amongst you, His charge within you, His manifestation unto you and His appearance among His favored servants… We have sent Him down in the form of a human temple. Blest and sanctified be God Who createth whatsoever He willeth through His inviolable, His infallible decree. They who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch, are lost in the wilderness of error, are consumed by the heat of worldly desires, and are of those who will assuredly perish.”

“O Thou Who art the apple of Mine eye!” Baha’u’llah, in His own handwriting, thus addresses ‘Abdu’l-Baha, “My glory, the ocean of My loving-kindness, the sun of My bounty, the heaven of My mercy rest upon Thee. We pray God to illumine the world through Thy knowledge and wisdom, to ordain for Thee that which will gladden Thine heart and impart consolation to Thine eyes.” “The glory of God rest upon Thee,” He writes in another Tablet, “and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee. Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it with him that sweareth fealty to Thee; the fire of hell torment him who is Thine enemy.” “We have made Thee a shelter for all mankind,” He, in yet another Tablet, affirms, “a shield unto all who are in heaven and on earth, a stronghold for whosoever hath believed in God, the Incomparable, the All-Knowing. God grant that through Thee He may protect them, may enrich and sustain them, that He may inspire Thee with that which shall be a wellspring of wealth unto all created things, an ocean of bounty unto all men, and the dayspring of mercy unto all peoples.”
(Both passages tr. by Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 135)

In the light of this, is there any alternative to the orthodox formulation of Bahai belief on this point, written by Shoghi Effendi:

That ‘Abdu’l-Baha is not a Manifestation of God, that He gets His light, His inspiration and sustenance direct from the Fountain-head of the Baha’i Revelation; that He reflects even as a clear and perfect Mirror the rays of Baha’u’llah’s glory, and does not inherently possess that indefinable yet all-pervading reality the exclusive possession of which is the hallmark of Prophethood; that His words are not equal in rank, though they possess an equal validity with the utterances of Baha’u’llah; that He is not to be acclaimed as the return of Jesus Christ, the Son Who will come “in the glory of the Father” — these truths find added justification, and are further reinforced, by the following statement of ‘Abdu’l-Baha …: “You have written that there is a difference among the believers concerning the ‘Second Coming of Christ.’ Gracious God! Time and again this question hath arisen, and its answer hath emanated in a clear and irrefutable statement from the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, that what is meant in the prophecies by the ‘Lord of Hosts’ and the ‘Promised Christ’ is the Blessed Perfection (Baha’u’llah) and His holiness the Exalted One (the Bab). My name is ‘Abdu’l-Baha [servant of Baha]. My qualification is ‘Abdu’l-Baha. My reality is ‘Abdu’l-Baha. My praise is ‘Abdu’l-Baha. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion… No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except ‘Abdu’l-Baha. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory.”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 139)

What then of Muhammad Ali. What mention does he deserve? What good works has he done, where are the hungry he fed, what writings has he left us, what hearts has he transformed, what community has he created?

He gets a passing mention, in Baha’u’llah’s Will:

It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu’l-Baha]. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: ‘When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.’ The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu’l-Baha]. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you Our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Powerful. Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [Abdu’l-Baha]. He is in truth the Ordainer, the All-Wise. We have chosen ‘the Greater’ after ‘the Most Great’, as decreed by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, 221-2)

Because there is no equivalence between Abdu’l-Baha and Muhammad Ali, there can be no “bitter conflict … between Abdul-Baha and his brother.” The choice facing Muhammad Ali was simply to obey their Father and submit to Abdu’l-Baha, or to mutiny. He made his choice; I for one am not about to give him any credit for it.

As for the other points you raise, it is not true that Abdu’l-Baha’s writings are “regarded by Bahais as the equivalent of scriptural texts.” (See above: “His words are not equal in rank, though they possess an equal validity with the utterances of Baha’u’llah”)

You say also that “Abdul-Baha established the precedent that Bahais who believe the successor of Bahaullah has only limited authority rather than absolute authority can be designated by the head of the faith as someone that Bahais must shun.”

This is simply untrue: I leave it to you whether it is ignorance or calumny. Abdu’l-Baha’s own emphatic words against those who would give him any authority higher than what Baha’u’llah had explicitly stated, have been cited above. Likewise your similar assertion about Shoghi Effendi: in sober fact, Shoghi Effendi was at pains to emphasise that his authority, his sphere of action and his infallibility were limited:

The Guardian of the Faith must not under any circumstances, and whatever his merits or his achievements, be exalted to the rank that will make him a co-sharer with ‘Abdu’l-Baha in the unique position which the Center of the Covenant occupies – much less to the station exclusively ordained for the Manifestation of God. So grave a departure from the established tenets of our Faith is nothing short of open blasphemy. As I have already stated, in the course of my references to ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s station, however great the gulf that separates Him from the Author of a Divine Revelation it can never measure with the distance that stands between Him Who is the Center of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant and the Guardians who are its chosen ministers. There is a far, far greater distance separating the Guardian from the Center of the Covenant than there is between the Center of the Covenant and its Author.

No Guardian of the Faith, I feel it my solemn duty to place on record, can ever claim to be the perfect exemplar of the teachings of Baha’u’llah or the stainless mirror that reflects His light. Though overshadowed by the unfailing, the unerring protection of Baha’u’llah and of the Bab, and however much he may share with ‘Abdu’l-Baha the right and obligation to interpret the Baha’i teachings, he remains essentially human and cannot, if he wishes to remain faithful to his trust, arrogate to himself, under any pretense whatsoever, the rights, the privileges and prerogatives which Baha’u’llah has chosen to confer upon His Son. In the light of this truth to pray to the Guardian of the Faith, to address him as lord and master, to designate him as his holiness, to seek his benediction, to celebrate his birthday, or to commemorate any event associated with his life would be tantamount to a departure from those established truths that are enshrined within our beloved Faith. The fact that the Guardian has been specifically endowed with such power as he may need to reveal the purport and disclose the implications of the utterances of Baha’u’llah and of ‘Abdu’l-Baha does not necessarily confer upon him a station co-equal with those Whose words he is called upon to interpret. He can exercise that right and discharge this obligation and yet remain infinitely inferior to both of them in rank and different in nature.
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 151)

Finally, you claim that this policy of shunning covenant-breakers was not established by Baha’u’llah himself. I have already posted a selection of writings from Baha’u’llah, where they are cited in Abdu’l-Baha’s last tablet to America. Study this tablet.

Mirza Yahya was “the Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of the Bab” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 165), as Muhammad Ali was “the arch-breaker of the Covenant of Baha’u’llah.” (Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, 191) Baha’u’llah instructed his followers to shun Mirza Yahya, and those who followed and associated with him. He did not tell them to shun the Babis! As Abdu’l-Baha says in that tablet:

If this objection be raised against ‘Abdu’l-Baha, they must also object to the Blessed Beauty who, with distinct and conclusive command, forbids the friends from companionship and familiarity with the violators of the people of Bayan.

The reason for the policy of shunning the violators was not that they had a different religion, it was because there is such a thing as a Covenant, and it is no trifle to be played with. The Covenant – combined with the policy that we do not use violence or in any way discriminate against the legitimate rights of the covenant-breakers, but simply leave them to God – is the greatest protection for our children and great-great-grandchildren from the curse of sectarian strife that has clouded the undoubted light of both Christianity and Islam. The blood on the robes of past religions comes not just from their lack of an explicit written covenant identifying the successor to the Founder and his authorities, but also from the lack of a clear principle that sectarian tendencies must be combatted only by shunning those who form sects.

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42 Responses to “A Muhammad Ali revival?”

  1. Eric said


    Thank you for publishing my comment on your blog.

    You do an excellent job of presenting the official version of history and Bahai doctrine regarding the successorship in the Bahai religion.

    I’m not sure whether you would be open to publishing a detailed reply from a perspective more sympathetic to Muhammad Ali Ghusn-i-Akbar, so I will limit myself to only the following brief points:

    1. I do not deny that Abdul-Baha was the successor of Bahaullah, nor do any Unitarian Bahais that I know of. What Unitarian Bahais take issue with is the extent of his authority; how the position of successor of Bahaullah is to be envisioned and understood. The Unitarian Bahai tradition — like Unitarianism in general — is based on the belief in a clear separation between God and human religious authorities, and being skeptical of sweeping claims of authority by anyone, even those who are appointed to succeed a Great Messenger of God (whether Saint Peter in Christianity, or Imam Ali in Islam, or Abdul-Baha in Bahaism).

    2. I have read all the available primary source material written by Ghusn-i-Akbar and his supporters who knew him and his teachings. Based on reading that material, and comparing it with the material written by Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi, I came to the conclusion that the Haifan narrative about the conflict between Ghusn-i-Akbar and Abdul-Baha is unfairly biased. It is important that Bahais look at both sides of the story, as this is part of the principle of independent investigation of truth. A good place to start for anyone who wants to consider the perspective of Ghusn-i-Akbar and those who supported him is the “Behai Quarterly” magazine published in the 1930s, scanned copies of which are available on the internet.

    3. I do not believe Ghusn-i-Akbar was a perfect man. In fact, I don’t even know whether he was a good man — and probably no one can ever know for sure. However, I think he made a good point in rejecting the idea that Bahaullah’s appointment of Abdul-Baha as his successor was intended to confer upon him unlimited authority over the Bahais or to establish his writings as the equivalent of Bahai scripture.

    4. Only four days ago, in your article titled “Abdu’l-Baha on individuality,” you wrote: “The following talk given by Abdu’l-Baha, on individuality and personality, is of interest both for understanding how he thought about the human person, and for its relevance to individualism in Bahai belief. It is authentic Bahai scripture…” Now, in your article that I am replying to in this comment, you state: “it is not true that Abdu’l-Baha’s writings are ‘regarded by Bahais as the equivalent of scriptural texts.'” So which is it, Sen? Four days ago you were arguing that a transcript of one of Abdul-Baha’s talks is “authentic Bahai scripture,” and now you are arguing that Bahais do not regard Abdul-Baha’s writings as the equivalent of scripture.

    I think it’s good that you posted your article about your view of Muhammad Ali Ghusn-i-Akbar on your blog. It’s an issue that needs to be reopened in the Bahai consciousness. Who knows where that will lead? It may ultimately lead either to a confirmation that the Haifan side is right, or, on the other hand, to the eventual rehabilitation of the man mentioned in Bahaullah’s will as the one he intended to lead the faith after Abdul-Baha.


  2. Sen said

    I think [Muhammad Ali] he made a good point in rejecting the idea that Bahaullah’s appointment of Abdul-Baha as his successor was intended to confer upon him unlimited authority over the Bahais or to establish his writings as the equivalent of Bahai scripture.

    You are knocking down an open door here. It was only Muhammad Ali who thought – or claimed he thought – that Abdu’l-Baha made a claim to unlimited authority. Abdu’l-Baha is quite clear : “My name is ‘Abdu’l-Baha [servant of Baha]. My qualification is ‘Abdu’l-Baha. My reality is ‘Abdu’l-Baha. …” His authority is precisely what Baha’u’llah gave him, no more and no less.

    Only four days ago, in your article titled “Abdu’l-Baha on individuality,” you wrote: “The following talk given by Abdu’l-Baha, on individuality and personality, is of interest both for understanding how he thought about the human person, and for its relevance to individualism in Bahai belief. It is authentic Bahai scripture…” Now, in your article that I am replying to in this comment, you state: “it is not true that Abdu’l-Baha’s writings are ‘regarded by Bahais as the equivalent of scriptural texts.’”

    I’ve already quoted three formulations of the difference: Baha’u’llah says of Abdu’l-Baha “Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from Him hath turned away from My beauty, hath repudiated My Proof, and transgressed against Me.” Abdu’l-Baha says “I am … according to the explicit texts of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and the Kitab-i-’Ahd the manifest Interpreter of the Word of God… ” Shoghi Effendi says “His words are not equal in rank, though they possess an equal validity with the utterances of Baha’u’llah..” To say that Abdu’l-Baha’s authentic words are part of Bahai scriptures, is not to assert that they are equal to those of Baha’u’llah. It is because Baha’u’llah’s writings appoint Abdu’l-Baha the Interpreter of the Word of God, that his words have this validity. There is not any validity that Abdu’l-Baha grants to Baha’u’llah in return! Then obviously, they are not considered equals; the validity of the words of Abdu’l-baha rests entirely on his clear appointment by Baha’u’llah, and not vice versa. And the lack of validity of the words and claims of Muhammad Ali rests not just on his own character and acts – it is also because he lacked any appointment from Baha’u’llah that he was unable to achieve any position for himself.

    It may ultimately lead … to the eventual rehabilitation of the man mentioned in Bahaullah’s will as the one he intended to lead the faith after Abdul-Baha.

    This is pure imagination. There is no such appointment. Baha’u’llah says only “God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch.” So what? Everybody’s station is beneath that of the Most Great Branch [Abdu’l-Baha]. That does not make us all successors to some special station! All it means is that no-one is appointed the equal of Abdu’l-Baha. For most of us, that hardly needs saying. In the case of Muhammad Ali, Baha’u’llah chose to say it explicitly, perhaps because he knew Muhammad Ali’s character, perhaps because Muhammad Ali was already known as the “Greater Branch” and the title might make people jump to conclusions. For whatever reason, Baha’u’llah does say explicitly that Muhammad Ali’s station is lower, which means he was obliged like everyone else to accept the authority of Abdu’l-Baha – which he did not do.

  3. Amado de Dios said

    Sorry – can I just chip in with one little reflection?
    I worry / wonder / meditate a lot on why we seem to have intentional traps set for the Faith at every stage:
    The Báb appointed a divisive loser as interim head of His Faith.
    Bahá’u’lláh had a large family, most of whom seem to have quarreled.
    This plagued Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.
    Then Shoghi Effendi named Mason Remey (apparently rather conceited and self-centered) as a Hand – and the other Hands sent him in to rummage around for a will (maybe he ate it!).
    And now the Faith is being led by people who inspire less respect (at least in me) the better I get to know them.
    Can this military-language, lockstep squaring of the Faith into a club to be “obedient to the institutions” – can this be the trap set at our current stage of the Faith?

  4. Matt said

    I like most of the ideas of the Unitarian Bahai Association, but don’t understand what Muhammad Ali has to do with liberal interpretations of the Bahai Faith. Every faction has biases, so the “truth” is obscured to me. Azali writings refer to Baha’u’llah as Mirza Husayn Ali and in Baha’i writings they refer to Subh-i-Azal as Mirza Yahya. Baha’i writings refer to Mirza Husayn Ali as Baha’u’llah and Azali writings refer to Mirza Yahya as Subh-i-Azal. Muhammad Ali says ‘Abdu’l-Baha is the bad guy, and ‘Abdu’l-Baha says Muhammad Ali is the bad guy. Both groups shunned each other as heretics and forbade their followers from associating with the evil “other.” All sides claim the same things toward their opponents. How is one to know the truth? Just accept one of the narratives and risk being shunned by the other for doing so? Each has their own “history” and “proofs” why they are right and the other people are the bad guys. Azali writings say that Baha’u’llah tried to have ‘Mirza Yahya’ killed. Baha’i writings say that Subh-i-Azal tried to have ‘Mirza Husayn Ali’ killed. I don’t mean to be a relativist, but I sincerely don’t know who to believe is telling the truth.

  5. Sen said

    you know them by their fruits: their lives and the works they have left us.

  6. Sen said

    It could be a trap, or a challenge. If you have high expectations with regard to the personalities of the senior officers of the Bahai community, it’s a trap you’ve set for yourself. That’s true of all the heroes we raise to our own disappointment. If you have more realistic expectations, it’s just a challenge. But the plain fact is, if we didn’t have a House of Justice, we’d have to make one, both because Baha’u’llah said that that was the way to run a Bahai community, and because the alternative is an anarchic environment in which people with big egos and strong agendas would have free rein. As it is, they are at least obliged to work within the constraints of an order, its rules and its politics.

    So far as I know, Mason Remey was never allowed alone to search for the Will of Shoghi Effendi. On November 15 he was accompanied by Ruhiyyah Khanum, Amelia Collins, Ugo Giachery and Leroy Ioas, and they simply entered the office and sealed the safe (with sealing wax!). Leroy Ioas had previously locked and barricaded the Guardian’s aparatment and office, in the presence of his wife Sylvia Ioas and Ethel and Jessie Revell. Then on November 19, Remey was accompanied by Ruhiyyih Khanum, Amelia Collins, Ugo Giachery, Leroy Ioas, Hasan Balyuzi, Horace Holley, Musa Banani, Ali-Muhammad Varqa and one unnamed member of the Afnan family (because there could also be civil heirs on that side, for Shoghi Effendi’s material possessions? – or because they needs someone strong to remove the barricade?). They opened the safe and desk and the nine Hands all certified that no Will was found there. That’s hardly surprising, since the duty to write a Will is one that becomes incumbent on us when we reach the age of maturity, and Shoghi Effendi being an exceptionally earnest young man no doubt did so: if it has survived it would be among his childhood papers or (my guess) tucked into the volume of the Aqdas he used. I once asked for permission to look for it in his childhood things, but I was turned down on that. Such a Will would not say anything about a succession of course, because he wasn’t Guardian at the time, and because Abdu’l-Baha had specified that the Guardian had to nominate his successor in his lifetime and present his choice to a body of nine Hands of the Cause, to accept or reject in a secret ballot (see No Counterfeits on this blog).

    You can read the accounts of the sealing and later search of the Guardian’s rooms in ‘Ministry of the Custodians’ pages 25-7.

    Something quite incidental on Remey: the huge mausoleum he designed and partly built was not destroyed, but simply covered over with earth, and enterprising young people have tunneled down and used it as a hideout, until the police started enforcing trespassing laws. There are photographs of the interior and an aerial view that shows the scale of it all, which you can find by doing a google image search, on Remeum. If the subject interests you, the site (Fairfax underground) also has some lively and well-written accounts of going down to the tombs at night, old newspaper reports and the like. The Remum was not just for Mason Remey, but for his family going back several generations, and he spent a fortune on it. At least for a period in his life, he seems to have suffered from inordinate pride of ‘birth,’ quite independent of his aspirations to be the Guardian. However, his writings on the Bahai Faith, up to about 1920, are much better than some of the other Bahai literature that was being produced, and he had travelled widely in the Bahai world and apparently to good effect. He was well respected in the Bahai world. And he was an architect, and Shoghi Effendi loved architecture. But, in retrospect – he turned out to be an unfortunate choice.

    Baha’u’llah wives also did not all live up to the challenge. And Mirza Yahya! What can we say? Is it the fault of the Bab, Baha’u’llah and Shoghi Effendi that they chose badly? or of those chosen, who didn’t live up to the challenge? They were free to choose otherwise, to become their better selves. And so are we.

  7. Reza said

    Bahaullah did indeed appoint Mirza Muhammad Ali to be the head of the Bahai faith after Abdul-Baha. This is clear from Bahaullah’s statement in his Will that: “We have chosen ‘the Greater’ after ‘the Most Great’, as decreed by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Informed.”

    This is a very troubling issue for Bahais, as it is not clear by what authority Abdul-Baha was able to overrule this commandment of Bahaullah. Abdul-Baha himself states that he does not have the authority to overrule Bahaullah. However, in Abdul-Baha’s Will and Testament, he DOES overrule Bahaullah’s explicit commandment by appointing Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian, and thereby bypassing Mirza Muhammad Ali.

  8. Sen said

    You hang too much on one preposition! When Baha’u’llah wanted to appoint Abdu’l-Baha, he said so explicitly and told everyone – including Muhammad Ali – to obey him. Baha’u’llah not only tells the Bahais in so many words “turn your faces toward Him” (in the Aqdas), he says,

    “… well is it with him that hath sought His shelter and abideth beneath His shadow. Verily the Limb of the Law of God hath sprung forth from this Root… Render thanks unto God …for His appearance; for verily He is the most great Favor unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you; and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from Him hath turned away from My beauty, hath repudiated My Proof, and transgressed against Me. He is the Trust of God amongst you, His charge within you, His manifestation unto you and His appearance among His favored servants… They who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch, are lost in the wilderness of error, are consumed by the heat of worldly desires, and are of those who will assuredly perish.”

    “The glory of God rest upon Thee … and upon whosoever serveth Thee and circleth around Thee. Woe, great woe, betide him that opposeth and injureth Thee. Well is it with him that sweareth fealty to Thee; the fire of hell torment him who is Thine enemy.”

    And that’s just a small portion of what Baha’u’llah wrote about Abdu’l-Baha, and those whom he foresaw would oppose Abdu’l-Baha.

    What you have for the supposed ‘appointment’ of Muhammad Ali as successor to Abdu’l-Baha, is one preposition, ba’da which is used twice: Baha’u’llah says (literally) “God has ordained the station of the Greater Branch to be beneath his [Abdu’l-Baha’s]. … We have chosen ‘the Greater’ after ‘the Most Great’ …”, “beneath” and “after” are the same word. The Arabic root means, among other things, to be far away, remote, improbable (bear in mind this is an Arabic, not a Persian, text).

    Abdu’l-Baha’s authority to say that Muhammad Ali is deprived of the station and respect accorded to the Aghsan is explicit in what has been quoted. Baha’u’llah says: “whoso turneth away from [Abdu’l-Baha] hath turned away from My beauty, hath repudiated My Proof, and transgressed against Me…” These terms were not set by Abdu’l-Baha: they are the explicit terms imposed by Baha’u’llah himself. Since there is no historical doubt about the fact that Muhammad Ali did in fact turn away from Abdu’l-Baha, disobeyed him, and kept on disobeying him year after year, his is one of those who “are lost in the wilderness of error.” Even if there had been an explicit appointment of Muhammad Ali to some function in the community, during Abdu’l-Baha’s life or after it, he excluded himself from any role, according to the terms Baha’u’llah had set for everyone. Is this the man you want to head your version of the Faith of Baha’u’llah? A man cursed by Baha’u’llah’s own edict?

    And also, a man who is now very dead. I don’t think he will be any help to his partisans today, and neither will I. You are free to use your own blogs and web pages to push your agenda, but not mine.

  9. Sen said

    If there was no House of Justice, we would have to set about establishing one. Then if there is a House of Justice, we must surely wish it the best and support it. That’s something Baha’u’llah requires of us, and it’s not conditional on us finding things to our liking.

  10. Matt said


    Knowing them by their fruits is a good way to realize the truth of a situation, but that doesn’t solve the issue as to who’s narrative is correct. For instance, in Azali writings Subh-i-Azal is described as a great, humanitarian person and Baha’u’llah is the evil bad guy. In Baha’i writings, it is Baha’u’llah who is described as the loving, long-suffering Prophet and Subh-i-Azal is the mean guy. What I’m getting at is that if I were brought up in an Azali family and community, I would be biased towards the Azali narrative. And if I were raised a Baha’i, I would be biased to the Baha’i narrative. So, in order to know their fruits one has to get away from polemics on both sides and compare the fruits.

    I would also conjecture that good fruits alone aren’t sufficient enough to validate someone’s claim or not. The Ahmadi Muslims describe Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a very humane person, and some of the stories I’ve read about him (from their sources of course) make me admire him very much. He opposed classism, was very patient and kind to his children, dined with the poor among his followers, didn’t say words of hatred for those who rejected his claims of Messiahhood, advocated non-violent Jihad, etc. The same narrative of greatness and other wordly patience is portrayed by many groups that have a Prophet. So, the question (for me) is not about the fruits of these people, but of the accuracy of the sources that records those fruits. I can read stories all day about how loving and humane Baha’u’llah was (which I have no problem accepting), but how do I know they are speaking the truth in the polemics against their enemies?

    That doesn’t mean all narratives are “equally true”, or “equally false.” But it’s just a hard knot for me to untie in my mind.

  11. Reza said

    Shoghi Effendi implies in God Passes By (page 249) that Baha’u’llah appointed Mirza Muhammad Ali to be His successor after Abdul-Baha (see the last sentence in the following passage).

    “And yet it was this same Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí who, regarding himself as the exponent of fidelity, the standard-bearer of the “Unitarians,” the “Finger who points to his Master,” the champion of the Holy Family, the spokesman of the Aghsán, the upholder of the Holy Writ, had, in the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh, so openly and shamelessly advanced in a written statement, signed and sealed by him, the very claim now falsely imputed by him to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that his Father had, with His own hand, chastised him. He it was who, when sent on a mission to India, had tampered with the text of the holy writings entrusted to his care for publication. He it was who had the impudence and temerity to tell ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to His face that just as Umar had succeeded in usurping the successorship of the Prophet Muhammad, he, too, felt himself able to do the same. He it was who, obsessed by the fear that he might not survive ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had, the moment he had been assured by Him that all the honor he coveted would, in the course of time, be his, swiftly rejoined that he had no guarantee that he would outlive Him.”

    Also, on pages 246-247 Shoghi Effendi states that Baha’u’llah in the Kitab-i-Ahd appointed Muhammad Ali to the second highest ranking position in the Faith: “Far from being allayed by the provisions of a Will which had elevated him to the second-highest position within the ranks of the faithful, the fire of unquenchable animosity that glowed in the breast of Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí burned even more fiercely as soon as he came to realize the full implications of that Document.”

    In any case, I now accept Sen’s argument in his last comment that Abdul-Baha had the authority to declare that Mirza Muhammad Ali was deprived of his station.

  12. Amado de Dios said

    Dear Sen –
    This is a note to apologize if I have seemed to be crashing your party (like the guy promoting Muhammad-Alí). That’s why I am going to try to send this apology to your email rather than posting it on your blog. (Sorry – I couldn’t find a direct email address for you.)

    I am actually not trying to use your platform, or anyone’s, to badmouth the people on the House who have been un-just, discourteous and not even very bright in my own personal case. Nope – backbiting is backbiting, and I have been “successful” enough in my former life as a “good Bahá’í” that I am surrounded by sincere Bahá’ís who are now being herded around to the tune of “obedience to the institutions” – I am not, in Joe Hill’s words, “Fanning the Flames of Discontent”.

    But I am sincerely apologizing. Your writings and of course your blog are an important contribution to everyone who reads them. I really appreciate your drive to get to the real bottom of things.

    And I appreciate the stance you staunchly hold, of upholding many positions that some would consider conservative, despite the fact that you are directly supporting the folks who unreasonably treated your scholarship as heresy. (“If they poison your lives, sweeten their souls”…)

    My position is similar, because I am trying to continue teaching the Faith, deepening the friends, getting us organized.
    When you say that we need a House, and would have to make one if we didn’t have one, etc. I think this is very much like what I am saying when I say we are stuck with the House we’ve got. The same Covenant that tells me not to set up a rival sect across the street from them makes it incumbent on them to behave responsibly toward their constituency.

    And they have behaved irresponsibly in my case. I am just getting wind of communications to neighboring countries’ NSAs and counselors badmouthing me! Because I am “active” in different ways, I will be unable to keep a low enough profile to avoid getting the boot at some point, and this will be sad – but perfectly logical according to their way of seeing the world! If confronted and asked whether I think they are infallible the way they think they are, I will sign my own rejection notice!

    My reason for writing to your blog was to share my anguish, that we seem to be getting bogged down. The infant Faith of God is becoming a cult – currently quite successful, with fancy places and visible activities – that is cruisin’ for a bruisin’ as we keep our blinders riveted on, refusing to adjust, punishing anyone who won’t toe the party line. I think we are failing, and though we blame the prevailing materialism and godlessness, that very vacuum should be the secret of our success, not the excuse for our stagnation!

    The closed-minded old codgers on the House are the best we can do and all we’ve got, for quite a while. I remember the late Eloy Annello’s drive to make Bolivia the first all-Bahá’í country – now I am afraid we will have to work extra hard to avoid withering terminally before someone takes the light outside the Seat (that they turn on when in session, so the minions can tiptoe around in hushed reverence) and shines it on their deliberations!

    If I write any longer, this apology will become an increasing nuisance. I sincerely didn’t mean to clutter up, or hijack your blog. I am sincerely concerned that blockheadedness is sapping our effectiveness in teaching, which was supposed to be the most important thing.

    Sorry, thanks,

  13. Sen said

    No apology required Amado. I have an idea of what I want my blog to be, and it isn’t anything like a discussion forum about the state of the Bahai community. There’s Bahai Rants and Planet Bahai and other forums for that. I know from the Bahai Rants experience that the blog “comments” software is not suitable for dealing with a stream of comments (they had to switch to the Disqus system, which is itself not user-friendly). Whereas Planet Bahai or the like, and Talisman9, are just the thing for an open discussion. And I would be happier having this sort of chat on Planet Bahai or Talisman, because then the conversation will continue if I’m busy for a day or two, or travelling. So I want to keep the comments on my blog open, for feedback that extends or corrects what is in the postings. For that reason, I’m going to go through the comments soon and weed them radically. And immediately I see another limitation of this software: I do not have any way of telling those who have already contributed what I am doing, or why, or of putting a heading on the “comment” box so that future commentors know that I’m not intending to make a discussion forum – I’m just welcoming feedback on the blog items. All I can do is put something in the “about” page which some people will read.

    The traps set by over-high expectations have been part of the history of the Faith: at one time it was supposed to be the Most Great Peace by 1917, at another time the unity of nations by the year 2000, or imminent entry by troops, a Bahai Bolivia, and so on. I’ve been part of it too, and when I was on an LSA I really wanted to have plans and materials in place for the event that relatively modest numbers – say 50 people at once – came to investigate/join. Scale that up, and you have a vast array of buildings on Mt Carmel, ready to welcome world leaders and the media. It’s human nature, and especially when one bears some administrative responsibility: you don’t want to be caught unprepared, you don’t want people later to say “if only they had …” But keeping the community in a state of preparedness for eventualities has its own costs: the Bahais are that much less engaged in being Bahai and living the life in the here and now, and we repeatedly have to deal with inflated expectations getting deflated. If I have a wish for the UHJ members, it’s that they should feel it doesn’t all rest on their shoulders.

  14. Sen said

    You have found two things from Shoghi Effendi that are not quite the same. On the one hand Shoghi Effendi understands Baha’u’llah’s Will as giving Muhammad-Ali “the second-highest position within the ranks of the faithful.” On the other hand, Shoghi Effendi reports that when Abdu’l-Baha assured Muhammad-Ali that honour would, in the course of time, be his, Muhammad-Ali understood this as meaning “when I [Abdu’l-Baha] am dead.” Shoghi Effendi doesn’t endorse that interpretation by Muhammad-Ali; I understand that he is rather shocked by it.

    Baha’u’llah had made allowance for another institution of the Faith, the collectivity of the Aghsan, in which Muhammad-Ali would presumably have been the senior figure. Like the election of the Universal House of Justice, it was not implemented at the time, but it could have been implemented if Abdu’l-Baha judged the conditions right, or the needs of the Faith made it unavoidable. (For example, he at one time arranged for the election of the UHJ in the event of his early death). The fact that it has still not been implemented is due largely to the choices made by Muhammad Ali.

    To understand why Shoghi Effendi understands the “after” in Baha’u’llah’s Will in terms of “second-highest position” rather than ‘second to succeed,’ it might help to look at the Shiah background, in which each Imam had the right to appoint his successor, and had to do so explicitly – the position did not in theory pass automatically by rules of succession. So in that context, if Baha’u’llah had wanted to say that the head of the community should first be Abdu’l-Baha and then Muhammad Ali, he would have had to say it very clearly for his Shiah-conditioned readers to grasp the idea that the right to appoint his successor was being taken from Abdu’l-Baha.

    Moreover, the word translated as “we have chosen” (اصطفينا) does not unambiguously means ‘choose a person for a position’ (Shoghi Effendi did not translate this section). The term is Quranic: in Q35:32 “We have given the book of inheritance to such of our servants as we have chosen” seems to refer to their various-sized portions (and some getting no portion). But in Quran 2:130 it is the word used where Abraham is “chosen in the world,” while 28:59 has “Peace be upon the servants whom God has chosen” – which presumably means the prophets. In 37:153 and 39:4 it means ‘decide to beget.’ All in all I think ‘select to receive’ is the connotation, rather than ‘appoint to a position.’

    For comparison, when Abdu’l-Baha says that the Guardian must choose his successor, in the Will and Testament, he refers to
    من هو بعده را تعيين نمايد . The relevant word, ta`aiyun, means appointment to a position; a person’s ta`aiyunaat is the command he has in a military order, the post he occupies in government service. Later in the Will and Testament, it’s the word used when the Guardian is told that, if he cannot attend the UHJ meetings, “he must appoint one to represent him.”

    Where Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament says that Guardian may “choose another branch to succeed him,” the word is intekhaab (انتخاب نمايد ) which is also the word for ‘elect’ as in, the NSA members together elect the UHJ, or the Hands of the Cause must elect 9 of their number…

    In short – if Baha’u’llah had wished to nominate Muhammad Ali as successor to Abdu’l-Baha, there were plenty of words available to do so, and we know from the way he appointed Abdu’l-Baha that he did not leave such things to mere implications. What he does say explicitly about the Aghsan is “It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsan, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others” and “It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu’l-Baha].

  15. Reza said

    Sen, thank you for your explanations.

    The idea that Baha’u’llah appointed Muhammad Ali to succeed Him after Abdul-Baha was something that was taught to me by my Baha’i teacher in 1993 when we studied the Kitab-i-Ahd and the Will and Testament of Abdul-Baha, soon after I had become a Baha’i. But it seems that this idea is a misunderstanding.

  16. Sen said

    I understand the difficulty of weighing two accounts that simply say opposite things. What I am suggesting is that you stand back from the narratives and look at the persons and what they have left us. Baha’u’llah is the boy growing up in a Muslim environment who, when he heard about the killing of the Banu Qurayzah, decided to change religion itself so this could not happen again – and followed through on that resolution at all costs for decades. Baha’u’llah is the man who, when he was imprisoned in Amul, was able to persuade his jailors that only he and not his companions should bear the beating that had been ordered. This is the man who, when he heard of the attempt on the life of the Shah and the persecution of the Babis that resulted, set out for Tehran in plain sight of all and was naturally arrested. We know it was Baha’u’llah who did this and not Mirza Yahya, because it was Baha’u’llah who was imprisoned in Tehran and was eventually banished from there. He’s a man of courage and integrity who willingly takes on himself the suffering of others.

    In the case of the poisoning, we know it is Baha’u’llah who was in fact poisoned, not Mirza Yahya. How likely is it that a man of Baha’u’llah’s character and intelligence would decide to poison his own brother and so botch the job that he himself ends up under the treatment of a doctor? These are not two narrators and narratives of equal weight. We need only apply the common sense we would use in a playground when two children both claim “he did it.” The perpetrator, when suspected, projects his misdeeds onto the victim, it’s a familiar pattern.

    You might also read the memoirs of Ustad Muhammad-‘Ali: they are in Ocean.

    Sorry if I can’t seem to get into the place you’re at. To me, it’s not a question I have any doubts about. We know enough of what Baha’u’llah did in his life, what he wrote, the effect he had on people, the quality of the people who admired him, to know immediately that certain stories about him are too implausible to be worth consideration. Like the one about him killing 130 people in a night !

  17. Mark said

    Dear Sen,
    As a progressive, ecuemenical and universalist Christian, I have been an observer and supporter of the UBA since its inception. They advocate a progessive form of Bahaism in keeping with objective historical fact finding, open discussion and a willingness to be fully human and humane.

    I have been a student of the Babi-Bahai Faith for many years and although my heart and soul sores in the triune crucified God(Yesuha the good shepard who willingly gives up his life for his flock and whose corporal resurrection is the cornerstone of our Easter faith), this does in no way lesson my admiration for the noble aims of the Bahai Faith. I stand with and beside my UBA friends who seek after a truer progessive and open Bahai Faith and who, regardless of our theological differences, join together in a simple and humble unity of diversity and proclaim the oneness of humankind, not in any fundamentalist sense but totally inclusive and guided by the one and only universal human covenant that we each have with our own individual conscience.

    Many of us in this broader unified collective of diverse spiritual beings refer to ourselves as “the people of goodwill.” As a Christian member, we see ourselves as peacemakers, children of a living and loving God who recognize the Golden Rule(in all its many forms) as the guiding principle for a just society where tolerance, freedom and liberty make up not only it’s foundation but it’s very essence for being. We recognize the changing nature of our human exsistence and celebrate the simple human historical fact that “THINGS CHANGE.” Most regard ANY affirmation of human infallibility as an absolute impossibility and rejoice in the fact that this can NEVER be true. We the people of goodwill try to walk very humbly in this life, all within the confines of our own unique beliefs but unified in our proactive endevours to protect the weekest among us and those who cannot protect themselves, even at the costs of our own lives. We ALL seek after a life and a world filled with compassionate justice and a loving unity built upon common human interests and goals.

    I have enjoyed reading many parts of your blog and will continue to do so as members of the UBA make reference to it and give out it’s links. May the gift of life bring you much joy!

    Peace on Earth to people of goodwill,
    Mark from California, USA

  18. Sen said

    Dear Mark,
    I welcome the friendship of people of goodwill; I also recognise that there have been people of decidedly ill-will, whose net contribution to humanity has been clearly negative. Of them it must be said, their death was better than their life. Less dramatically, there have been and are people (quite a lot of them in fact) who bear ill-will for the Bahais and do some rather nasty things to them (see the news tab on this blog for some contemporary examples). Muhammad Ali was one of these. May life bring you the gift, of never encountering such people.


  19. Mark said

    Dear Sen,
    Thank you for your reply. I understand your sentiments as to those who bear ill-will for Bahais. As a supporter of the worldwide Human Rights Campaign for the LGBT community, I must speak to you alittle of my life experiences. I am a gay man, married to my long time partner, have raised two children who are now fully grown, married and raising their own children. Our children grew up and were helped raised by an assortment of grand-parents, two of whom were devoted Bahais and whose gentle influence were paramount in the development of our children becoming the kind citizens they are today. Thanks be to them!)I have and do encounter many of the same entities and individuals that seek grievious harm to Bahais and who work just as tireressly in seeking to take away my right to life,liberty and the pursuit of happiness as they do yours. I stand with you and beside you in opposition to this human ignorance and hatred.

    As far as encountering Muhammed Ali(or any like kindred/ally) upon some Damascus road, I would consider it a “walk in the park” compared to those mentioned above. Were I to encounter Bahaullah’s second son or some such kindred, I hope I could be hospitable and extend a hand of humane empathy. As a striving person of gooodwill I dont feel I have anything to fear from Muhammed Ali or most members of the UBA. They simply have a different narrative based upon certain historical facts, progressive ideas and their own life experiences then do you. This is all our right as citizens of a free world. If the Haifian Bahais dont care for this, we progressives must remind them that human rights are God given rights. As a non Bahai and concerning Muhammed Ali, I put forth this supposition: had Abdulbaha passed away very soon after his father and left no will,as did Shoghi Effendi, I have no difficulty in imagining who the faithful would have turned to in such an hour of need, Kind of closes the case for me and veers me towards the UBA narrative(just my humble opinion).

    As regards shunning and declaring people null and void covenant breakers, I say very old school/old age, abhorent as a progressive and just un-Christian. You may want to brush the dust from shoes and go your seperate ways but anything more than that and you get into zealotry and fundamentalism. It is perfectly progressive to deny membership or to de-enroll someone but thats about it. Simply go your seperate ways, agree to disagree and learn to be tolerant. What a lesson for us all.

    As per your Blog, I have read more of your progressive thoughts and agree with a great deal. You come from a tradition I try to live and most of your thoughts I find easy to digest. I now have a clearer understanding of your situation and de-enrollment; much more, dare I say, then I could get from your formal de-enrollment letter. Such opliqueness on their part seems to be normative and might I add, frustrating. Keep up the hard work, I believe you and the UBA could agree to disagree. I hope!

    In closing, I believe I have nothing to fear from you or the UBA. I do have one question though dear Sen. Do you believe that I, as a person of goodwill(or my precious family), have anything to fear from the all male, nine member, Haifian based infallable Universal House of Justice, either now or in the near future? I pray not.

    Sincere regards,

  20. Badi Villar said

    Response of a friend to me:

    The Kitáb-i-Ahdí is in both in Farsi as well as Arabic. To be properly understood this Tablet must be examined in light of all the pertinent statements about who is to follow Bahá’u’lláh in leading the faith of God. The Kitáb-i-Ahdí, clearly states in Arabic that God had ordained the Greatest Branch, who is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has been selected over the greater branch, who is Mirza Muhammad Ali, and adds that God had ordained the station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to be fare above that of Mirza Muhammad Ali. Moreover, this Tablet also explains the meaning of the verse in the Aqdas which “enjoins upon everyone to turn to the One Who had branched from this Ancient Root” to mean none other than the Greatest Branch, Abdul Baha’s title given by Bahá’u’lláh.
    It also says that all, including all the Aghsan and Afnan and everyone else should obey Abdu’l-Baha.
    The CB’s began to play on words as soon as Bahá’u’lláh passed away, and thus tried to interpret the above verse in their favor, at a time when Bahá’u’lláh gave the authority of interpretation of the word of God, only to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

  21. Badi Villar said

    Response of a friend to me:


    “Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [‘Abdu’l-Bahá]”.
    *qad qadd’arah allahu maqama al ghusn-i al akbaar[ muhammad ali] ba`da maqamahu…*

    The literal translation of the Arabic sentence is “Verily God has ordained his (Ghusn-i-Akbar) station to be after his (Ghusn-i-A’zam).” In this context, “after” really means lower or NEXT in importance. The word ba`daa in this context means below or beneath, or under, or less. Successor or not, Muhammad Ali’s station will always be inferior to the station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá because “God has ordained”.


  22. Sen said

    That’s my reading too. Muhammad Ali’s son Shua’ullah, in a letter to Abdu’l-Baha, claims that Abdu’l-Baha has concealed part of the Will and Testament and that “Ghusne Akbar was chosen to occupy after you the same position you occupy, and your Excellency claimed that he was cut off and fell. How was it possible that he fell from the said position before having a chance to occupy it?”
    The argument is sophistry, I wouldn’t bother answering it myself if someone addressed me that way, and I don’t suppose Abdu’l-Baha would have replied either. Not only does it read “after” in temporal terms, it claims that Muhammad Ali was intended to occupy the same position as Abdu’l-Baha should the outlive him. I don’t think there’s any support for that at all. But Muhammad Ali and his partisans had to claim something like this, to justify their rebellion and keep some hope alive. It’s hard to convince someone, when his own standing depends on his not being convinced!

  23. Sen said

    I can certainly agree to disagree with the UBA Mark: so long as they make Muhammad Ali the cornerstone of their faith, I can do nothing but disagree with them. Time will tell, and I don’t expect it will take very long. I’m going to make a further answer on the front page of the blog, here.

  24. My personal reading is that Baha’u’llah did intend to convey that He had designated Mirza Muhammad-`Ali (“MMA”) succeed Abdu’l-Baha. This was, however, a conditional appointment, as Abdu’l-Baha explains in His Will. The passages quoted by others above, from God Passes By p. 249, is to me sufficient indication that Abdu’l-Baha meant that if MMA would remain “under His shadow,” i.e. faithful to Him, he would gain the leadership of the Faith–but he did not fulfill this condition. It is further my personal view that Baha’u’llah knew full well that MMA would not remain faithful to Abdu’l-Baha and that this provision would never come to fruition; however, by this magnanimous act, Baha’u’llah sought to allay the ambitions of MMA, with which He was well familiar. MMA had directly challenged the authority of the Manifestation, during the Adrianople days. How much more would he challenge Abdu’l-Baha’s authority, which he did on the very day of Baha’u’llah’s passing, as Abdu’l-Baha was preparing His Father’s body for burial. (He seized the suitcases containing Baha’u’llah’s Tablets, as explained in Badiu’llah’s Confession). MMA was not designated as successor because of merit. He was offered a gift that Baha’u’llah knew he would never take. But Baha’u’llah showed the lengths to which He would go, to obtain MMA’s obedience to His Covenant; and gave no excuse to MMA for the condign punishment he would eventually receive.

    However, nowhere does Abdu’l-Baha or Shoghi Effendi ever state, to my knowledge, that successorship is intended by the words “We have chosen the Greater after the Most Great”, so I’m certainly not going to press the point, as there is no authority on which to base my views, other than the GBP story. Furthermore, as you have indicated, this view is based on implications of the verses in the Kitab-i-`Ahd, rather than more expressive and clear statements. Inasmuch as Baha’u’llah wrote this provision, not to actually assure that MMA would succeed Abdu’l-Baha, but as a matter of justice, as a great benevolent act, knowing full well that MMA would inflict a grievous wound on the Cause of God (his Covenant-breaking was prophecied in the last verses of Revelation Chapter 11, as Abdu’l-Baha explains in SAQ, so I’m sure Baha’u’llah foresaw it as well.) And there is an account in The Priceless Pearl that Baha’u’llah told Abdu’l-Baha to look for His successor among the male descendants, and only Shoghi Effendi had such signs — implying that during Baha’u’llah’s lifetime, Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha had discussed the fact that MMA would not be faithful to Abdu’l-Baha.

    There are examples in the Writings showing that the intention is something different from the obvious meaning of the Text. Abdu’l-Baha says (Promulgation 382) that the appointment of an interpreter implies that the people in general do not understand the meanings of the Book. Abdu’l-Baha says that bigamy being conditioned upon justice to both wives –an impossible condition — implies that monogamy is intended. I feel this is similar– that Baha’u’llah’s purpose in designating MMA “after” Abdu’l-Baha was not to actually provide for MMA to lead the Faith; but for the purposes I have described above.

    As to the question that the verse stating that the station of MMA is “beneath” that of Abdu’l-Baha, and that his station was greater than any other believer, except for Abdu’l-Baha. The verse as it stands does not convey this impression; it merely states that MMA’s station is lower than Abdu’l-Baha’s. It is Shoghi Effendi’s divinely-guided pen that explains that there is another implication, i.e., that MMA was second only to Abdu’l-Baha in station. And I feel this is consistent with what Shoghi Effendi states in the Dispensation: “There is a far, far greater distance separating the Guardian from the Center of the Covenant than there is between the Center of the Covenant and its Author.” (WOB 151) That is, similarly, the grace Baha’u’llah bestowed on MMA by making him second only to Abdu’l-Baha, does not mean that his station is anywhere near that of Abdu’l-Baha. His rank can be infinitely lower than Abdu’l-Baha’s, yet still be higher than anyone else’s.

    On another point, I respectfully disagree that there is any provision in the Writings for the Aghsan to function as a collective group within the Faith. The references to the Aghsan administering the funds and resources of the Faith such as Paragraph 42 of the Aqdas regarding the Waqf refer solely, I feel, to the chosen Aghsan, the one branch who would serve as the leader of the Faith.


    An invitation: Check my blog on the Covenants of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha

  25. Amado de Dios said

    May I point to kind of a non sequitur in the second paragraph, beginning “However, nowhere…”?

    In an analysis of which side is right (sorry for the over-simplification) what good does it do to say that Side A never said anything about Side B’s claim?

    That is, how relevant is what the Master and Guardian have to say about Mirza Muhammad-Ali’s appointment by Baha’u’llah? If the one side says that MMA was appointed, and the other side says he was not, and created another whole line (the Guardianship)- out of whole cloth? – how relevant can their interpretation of MMA’s appointment be?

    This is like saying: “I have asked a bunch of rabbis, and none of them has ever believed that Jesus was the Messiah”. Of course not!

    (A similar complaint about evidence provided as hearsay by Ruhiyyih Khanum. She heard someone say that Baha’u’lláh intended… Really!)

  26. Sen said

    I don’t think your analogy is good Amado. Abdu’l-Baha was not a rival claimant with Muhammad Ali, nor was his position analogous to the rabbis and Jesus. Baha’u’llah had appointed Abdu’l-Baha very explicitly as interpreter of his teachings, and he had also written “We have chosen the Greater after the Most Great.” What Brent is saying is that, while there is a widespread assumption (which he shares and I do not) that this refers to leadership of the community in succession of time, Abdu’l-Baha never said so explicitly. Brent, nevertheless, does think “that Baha’u’llah did intend to convey that He had designated Mirza Muhammad-`Ali (“MMA”) succeed Abdu’l-Baha.”

    So you seem to have the lines of the argument tangled. Your comment should really be direct to me, except that I do not make the point that Abdu’l-Baha did not interpret this comment as referring to succession, although I could have. Rather I look at what Baha’u’llah wrote, and note that — despite the tradition of interpretation — there is no indication of Muhammad Ali succeeding to leadership there. Rather it refers to his station being lower.

    This returns the question to one of fact, not of disputes between rivals. Is there anywhere any explicit indication that Baha’u’llah intended Muhammad Ali to succeed Abdu’l-Baha? Given his authority and his intimate knowledge of Baha’u’llah’s mind, a statement from Abdu’l-Baha would also be evidence. What I can say is that I do not know of any such appointment.

  27. Abbas Effendi said

    Sen said
    March 28, 2010 at 8:26 am

    you know them by their fruits: their lives and the works they have left us.”

    Many have used this sentence, good aswell as bad people, Sen let me stress you are among the good ones, however there is a flaw in that saying, for if you look at all the religions, sects, denominations, cults etc, you will find all their fruits are a mixture of some good and sour and failed actions, to start with the UHJ itself, taking away Baha’i rights without any clear reasons, that’s sly behavior worthy of the ones who persecuted Baha’u’llah and followers. So basically I would take a case by case even within a faith as is the Unitarian Baha’is of which I respect their views and defend their right to believe what they want, regardless of my personal views. However consider this, as explained in your original story,if any of us lived at the time of Abdu’l-Baha and saw the sly attacks on him by his half brother, and the pain it caused him, you will see it is like saying hey lets not be too harsh to Judas, he was only jealous or something give the guy a break. Give the guy a break?! He who helped the enemies put the savior on the cross? Is it ok to go along with those who accused the innocent folks of Salem of being witches? So in short in my view those who support that traitor Mirza Muhammad Ali Bahai, aka Ghusn-i-Akbar who no doubt had his reasons sincere or sly or mixed to do what he did, are not any less bias than the ones they accuse. Nevertheless I defend their right to believe, practice and preach what they please.

  28. Sen said

    I agree of course. There is ample evidence of the various despicable acts of Muhammad `Ali: stealing and corrupting the text of scripture, seeking to have his brother executed or exiled by telling the government he was plotting a rebellion, seeking money by deception, and sending letters around the Persian Bahai community promoting his own ambitions as leader. Nevertheless, those who want to hitch their wagons to this star must be free to do so, without interference from the Bahais. That indeed is the virtue of the policy of having no contact such people: if as is likely their ambitions end with their lives in ruins, no-one will be able to blame the Bahais for that. And if their should be some virtue in what they say and do, that too will be evident, unobscured by interraction with the Bahais.

    In case you haven’t spotted it, there’s another posting on this blog on the same topic:
    Muhammad Ali revived (2)

  29. During the Adrianople period when Mirza Muhammad-Ali was a teenager, he asserted a claim to be a Manifestation of God (see Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 126., and Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, Volume II, pp. 260-262) — directly challenging Baha’u’llah’s authority; so Baha’u’llah was well aware of His younger son’s tendency towards sedition, and took steps to protect Abdu’l-Baha’s position as His Successor. Aware of this tendency, Baha’u’llah made a conditional appointment of him to succeed Abdu’l-Baha (and I personally think this was to give Mirza Muhammad-Ali every opportunity to obey Abdu’l-Baha, even promising the leadership of the Faith if he would remain under Abdu’l-Baha’s shadow. That is, Baha’u’llah was well aware that Mirza Muhammad-Ali would not obey Abdu’l-Baha, but a divine Father was giving His son every chance.)

    Of course Baha’u’llah knew that Mirza Muhammad-Ali would violate His Covenant — it was prophesied in the 11th Chapter of the Revelation of St. John, as Abdu’l-Baha explains in Some Answered Questions, at the end of His interpretation of that chapter. That is, the language about Mirza Muhammad-Ali coming “after” Abdu’l-Baha, which implies the successorship (as the quote from God Passes By p. 249, quoted above, implies) was solely intended to placate Mirza Muhammad-Ali’s lust for leadership– which was so intense, he could not even wait until Baha’u’llah’s body was buried — He could think only of leadership, even when Baha’u’llah’s body was being washed for burial, and he stole the suitcases of Baha’u’llah’s tablets, as Shoghi Effendi explains on that same page of God Passes By, and as Mirza Badiu’llah explains in his “Confession”.

    When Mirza Muhammad-Ali wrote letters in Arabic which he claimed were divine revelation, and sent them to Baha’is in, as I recall, Khurasan, these Baha’is wrote to Baha’u’llah asking for clarification of the station of the Branches, the Aghsan. In Baha’u’llah’s response, in a Tablet to Khalil, is His language about “My foolish loved ones have regarded him as my partner.” Abdu’l-Baha does cite the Text making Mirza Muhammad-Ali’s appointment conditional, the language about remaining under His shadow, which comes from a Tablet to Siyyid Mihdi Dahaji, as Taherzadeh explains.

    Abdu’l-Baha cites the relevant passages from these two tablets of Baha’u’llah on pages 6 and 7 of His Will:

    “Now, that the true Faith of God may be shielded and protected, His Law guarded and preserved and His Cause remain safe and secure, it is incumbent upon everyone to hold fast unto the Text of the clear and firmly established blessed verse, revealed about him. None other transgression greater than his can be ever imagined. He (Bahá’u’lláh) sayeth, glorious and holy is His Word: — “My foolish loved ones have regarded him even as my partner, have kindled sedition in the land and they verily are of the mischief-makers.” Consider, how foolish are the people! They that have been in His (Bahá’u’lláh’s) Presence and beheld His Countenance, have nevertheless noised abroad such idle talk, until, exalted be His explicit words, He said: — “Should he for a moment pass out from under the shadow of the Cause, he surely shall be brought to naught.” Reflect! What stress He layeth upon one moment’s deviation: that is, were he to incline a hair’s breadth to the right or to the left, his deviation would be clearly established and his utter nothingness made manifest. And now ye are witnessing how the wrath of God hath from all sides afflicted him and how day by day he is speeding towards destruction. Ere long will ye behold him and his associates, outwardly and inwardly, condemned to utter ruin.

    What deviation can be greater than breaking the Covenant of God! What deviation can be greater than interpolating and falsifying the words and verses of the Sacred Text, even as testified and declared by Mirza Badi’u’llah! What deviation can be greater than calumniating the Center of the Covenant himself! What deviation can be more glaring than spreading broadcast false and foolish reports touching the Temple of God’s Testament! What deviation can be more grievous than decreeing the death of the Center of the Covenant, supported by the holy verse: — “He that layeth a claim ere the passing of a thousand years…,” whilst he (Muhammad Ali) without shame in the days of the Blessed Beauty had advanced such a claim as this and been confuted by Him in the aforementioned manner, the text of his claim being still extant in his own handwriting and bearing his own seal. What deviation can be more complete than falsely accusing the loved ones of God! What deviation can be more evil than causing their imprisonment and incarceration! What deviation can be more severe than delivering into the hands of the government the Holy Writings and Epistles, that haply they (the government) might arise intent upon the death of this wronged one! What deviation can be more violent than threatening the ruin of the Cause of God, forging and slanderously falsifying letters and documents so that this might perturb and alarm the government and lead to the shedding of the blood of this wronged one, — such letters and documents being now in the possession of the government! What deviation can be more odious than his iniquity and rebellion! What deviation can be more shameful than dispersing the gathering of the people of salvation! What deviation can be more infamous than the vain and feeble interpretations of the people of doubt! What deviation can be more wicked than joining hands with strangers and with the enemies of God!”

    I personally think that this section of His Will, Abdu’l-Baha is explaining that whatever claim Mirza Muhammad-Ali might have to successorship — is gone. He is cut off from the Tree.

    Once He explains this, Abdu’l-Baha appoints as His successors the twin institutions of the House of Justice and the Guardianship (as seen in the last two sentences of the Will) and promises that both are divinely guided (as seen on p 14 of the Will, in the First Part, beginning with the words “The sacred and youthful branch…”)

    I have a few more thoughts on this here:


  30. Sen said

    You say, “Baha’u’llah made a conditional appointment of him to succeed Abdu’l-Baha.” But Shoghi Effendi did not interpret the “after him” in this way, rather he reads it, as I do, as meaning “second in rank.” Shoghi Effendi writes:

    Far from being allayed by the provisions of a Will [of Baha’u’llah] which had elevated him to the second-highest position within the ranks of the faithful, the fire of unquenchable animosity that glowed in the breast of Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali burned even more fiercely as soon as he came to realize the full implications of that Document.
    (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 246-7)

    The Will of Baha’u’llah contains no mention of any successor to Abdu’l-Baha. It gave him authority, which he used to create a new institution, that of the Guardianship, and to specify the relationship between the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice.

  31. I agree. I think that the real plan all along in Baha’u’llah’s mind was the Guardianship and House of Justice after the Master’s passing. The designation of MMA in the Kitab-i-Ahd was never really in anticipation of his holding any office whatever — he had demonstrated on many occasions his unfitness. Abdu’l-Baha told the family physician that Baha’u’llah told Him to look among the branches and choose His Successor — which implies that they both knew that MMA would not succeed the Master.

  32. Xyz said

    In God Passes By Shoghi Effendi mentions that Abdul-Baha promised Muhammad Ali that he will get what he desires after Him. It is clear to me that Abdul-Baha was referring to succession after Him. The fact that Muhammad Ali was second in rank among the faithful means he was to succeed Abdul-Baha. When the first in rank is no more the second in rank takes his place. That is common sense.

  33. Xyz said

    In my above post I am referring to these words from God Passes By:

    “He (Muhammad Ali) it was who had the impudence and temerity to tell ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to His face that just as Umar had succeeded in usurping the successorship of the Prophet Muḥammad, he, too, felt himself able to do the same. He it was who, obsessed by the fear that he might not survive ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had, the moment he had been assured by Him that all the honor he coveted would, in the course of time, be his, swiftly rejoined that he had no guarantee that he would outlive Him.”

  34. Sen said

    You can see that Shoghi Effendi did not say what you had thought: in Shoghi Effendi’s account, Abdu’l-Baha assures Muhammad Ali he will have honor “in the course of time.” Muhammad Ali (and you, apparently) jumps to the conclusion that this means, he will have control when Abdu’l-Baha dies, and blurts out a response that indicates he hopes Abdu’l-Baha dies soon.

    I understand it rather as saying that — if Muhammad Ali were to remain faithful to the Covenant of Baha’u’llah and serve the friends — history would eventually recognize his station. In Abdu’l-Baha’s own time, he (Abdu’l-Baha) had little honour or recognition, but as time goes by, it is increasingly recognised what a great man he way. This is normal, with true religious leaders:

    “Muhammad, that wronged and oppressed Messenger of God. … His case had no remedy, … they would not withhold their hands from Him unless He should hide Himself beneath the depths of the earth, or take His flight unto heaven. Consider, how great is the change today! Behold, how many are the Sovereigns who bow the knee before His name! … (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 109)

    Muhammad too received the honour that was his due, in the course of time. So did Jesus. Those who tread the path of true virtue, cannot expect any recognition in their own life time. Their reward is acceptance in the eyes of God, and perhaps in the eyes of history.

    It would not be common sense at all, if Baha’u’llah was to intend to appoint Muhammad Ali to succeed Abdu’l-Baha, first because that would mean that Abdu’l-Baha had his hands tied, and second because Baha’u’llah somehow forgot to say this in clear language, so he would be giving Muhammad Ali an appointment certain to be disputed. Considering how careful Baha’u’llah was in appointing Abdu’l-Baha in writing, so as to avoid the schism and uncertainty that have been the fate of other religions following the deaths of their founders, I think it’s wildly improbable that he intended to appoint Muhammad Ali but somehow forgot to put it in writing.

    Shoghi Effendi’s interpretation of the Kitab-e Ahd, given at two points in God Passes By, is that it gave Muhammad Ali “the second-highest position within the ranks of the faithful.” (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 246) I know of no basis in the Bahai Writings for the idea that he was ever intended to head the community after Abdu’l-Baha.

  35. Among the heroic and lasting services of the Greatest Holy Leaf, was her effective service in protecting the unity of the Cause of God. After Abdu’l-Baha’s passing, she wrote profound and sweet letters to the Baha’i communities worldwide. This is an excerpt from one of them, and sets the matter in true perspective:

    O faithful loved ones of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá! The centre of sedition [Mirza Muhammad-Ali], the focus of rebellion — whose evil character and passions, even in the days of the Ancient Beauty, made him known for his stubborn perversity and his ambition to lead — began to put forward certain claims, gathered about him a pitiful band, raised up the ensign of self-glorification and self-love, and considered himself to be a partner in authority with none other than Him Who was the True One, until in the end the hand of the Lord’s omnipotence struck down his plans and hopes.

    For a period of thirty years, he opposed the Centre of the Covenant and, to bring down His structure in ruins, did everything that lay in his power. This in spite of the fact that the divine Beauty had made His Covenant so strong, and appointed its Centre so explicitly, in writing, unmistakably, that He had left no room for any questions or doubts. In the Most Holy Book of Aqdas, which in this most excellent of all ages is the Mother Book, and embraces all, and again in the Kitáb-i-Ahdi,[The Book of My Covenant] the last revealed Tablet by the Tongue of knowledge and wisdom, which contains the final wishes of God — the people of Baha are directed with perfect clarity to turn their faces toward Him Whom God has purposed, and He is designated as the Interpreter of the Book, the Resolver of all complex and difficult questions, and the Centre of the Faith. Therein as well are the other Branches, the Afnan and the rest of the believers bidden to direct themselves unto that One so that all might face one and the same Centre, and all be bound thereto. Thus would the basic foundation of God’s Cause, which is unity, remain unassailable. Thus the root of heresy and rebellion would wither away, and just as in the days when He Who is the Truth was made manifest, so too in the day of His Covenant the light of unity would pervade all things, and put to flight the murk of disbelief and dualism and rebellion and opposition — and thus the tree of His holy Cause would grow and flourish, and the rich fruits borne by the holy Teachings would satisfy all needs and be sweet in the mouth of all mankind.

    This fact of there being only one Centre and of turning unto a single holy Being is, in the Kingdom of His Cause, as the shaft or spindle of a millstone, and all the other laws and ordinances must needs revolve around this one. In the temple of God’s religion the Centre of the Cause can be likened to the heart, for upon it depends the life of the human body as one entity, as well as the relationships of its organs and their essential growth and vitality. In human society the Centre of the Cause can be compared to the sun, whose magnetic force controls the movements and orbits of the planets. The Centre of the Cause is also like the spine of a book, for by it the pages are all banded together into one book, and without the spine the papers would become loose and scattered.

    Now each separate member of the community who is within the shelter of that blessed unity is, according to his rank and station, the recipient of grace; and that rank is respected and protected, in conformity with the verse: ‘Not one of us but hath his clearly designated station.'[Qur’án 37:164] Thus, in the body of man, the eye has a preordained station, one not belonging to some lesser members; and yet, should it once depart from the whole, and its connection with the centre be broken, then its membership in the body, and its very life, are ended, let alone its previous station and degree. Or should the eye be plucked from its place, torn out of the body, it would be deprived of life itself, how much less would it continue to enjoy the station that rightly belongs to the eye.

    How strange! With reference to one who smokes opium, the Ancient Beauty, the Most Great Name, has said: ‘He is not of Me’, making no distinction here between one enjoying God’s special favour, and some other. If the smoking of opium, which is one of the secondary and lesser prohibitions, completely severs the smoker from membership in the community and from relationship to the Person of the Manifestation, then what must be the condition of him who refuses to acknowledge the Centre of the holy Covenant? In the words of Christ, ‘If thine eye cause thee to stumble, pluck it out … if thy hand offend thee, cut it off. [cf.Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-7.]

    O would that they had contented themselves with their refusal to recognize that shining Being — with their failure to obey Him and to be lowly before Him. But no, they beat upon rebellion’s drum, and hoisted the flag of contumacy and spite, and blew the trumpet of calumnies across the world. In the hearts of the credulous they sowed seeds of disaffection, and inconstancy and opposition. They made common cause with the hostile, the biased, the mockers, who were arrayed against the Faith of the Blessed Beauty, flattering them and paying them bribes and holding out promises and hopes; they worked hand in glove with those occupying the seats of the judiciary, and those authorized to interpret the law and pronounce judgment, and those who sat on despots’ thrones, and with still others who were engaged in affairs remote from God’s; and by all manner of deceits and stratagems incited them to utterly extirpate the Covenant of Almighty God and the Centre of it. They even, with a liberal distribution of funds, hired assassins to shed the sacred blood of that Vicegerent of the Glorious Lord.

    Could any just person imagine that such as these have any relationship or spiritual connection whatever with the Beauty of the One true God, or that they could be accounted as members of the Bahá’í community? Would not such as these be only plucked-out eyes and palsied hands?
    (Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 134)


    This is one of the most interesting and valuable of Baha’i books, and it can be downloaded in Word or in PDF. Her letters are clear, profound, sweet on the palate of the heart, and irrefutable.


  36. Xyz said

    Shoghi Effendi says “all the honor he coveted” and not “he will have honor” as you say. BIG DIFFERENCE.

    WRT your point that Baha’u’llah did not say in clear language that Muhammad Ali was to succeed Abdul-Baha. This is based on your standard of clarity. Baha’u’llah does not mention the institution of the Guardianship in clear language in His writings. He mentions it by implication as Shoghi Effendi says.

  37. Sen said

    Shoghi Effendi’s actual words are

    He it was who, obsessed by the fear that he might not survive ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had, the moment he had been assured by Him that all the honor he coveted would, in the course of time, be his, swiftly rejoined that he had no guarantee that he would outlive Him. He it was who, as testified by Mirza Badi’u’llah in his confession, written and published on the occasion of his repentance and his short-lived reconciliation with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, had, while Bahá’u’lláh’s body was still awaiting interment, carried off, by a ruse, the two satchels containing his Father’s most precious documents, entrusted by Him, prior to His ascension, to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He it was who, by an exceedingly adroit and simple forgery of a word recurring in some of the denunciatory passages addressed by the Supreme Pen to Mirza Yahya, and by other devices such as mutilation and interpolation, had succeeded in making them directly applicable to a Brother Whom he hated with such consuming passion. And lastly, it was this same Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali who, as attested by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will, had, with circumspection and guile, conspired to take His life, an intention indicated by the allusions made in a letter written by Shu’a’u’llah (Son of Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali), the original of which was enclosed in that same Document by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.
    (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 249)

    True, the Guardianship is not clearly stated in the Writings of Baha’u’llah; what is clearly stated is the authority of Abdu’l-Baha, and he then clearly mandated the institution of the Guardianship and laid down its rules and procedures, in his Will and Testament, beginning on page 11. That requires the Aghsan, including Muhammad Ali, to obey the Guardian.

    It seems to me your objection to the Bahai Covenant is that it is too clear and specific, too much beyond any doubt or dispute.

  38. Xyz said

    So Abdul-Baha assured Muhammad Ali he will have “all the honor he coveted” and not “he will have honor”.

    What makes you think that I object to any feature of the Covenant? That is just not true. It was you who objected to Baha’u’llah not stating in clear language Muhammad Ali’s succession after Abdul-Baha. Do you also object to Baha’u’llah not stating in clear language the institution of Guardianship? If not why would you object to one and not the other?

  39. Sen said

    Baha’u’llah appointed Abdu’l-Baha to head the Bahai community, in writing and with no ambiguity, and he required all — Muhammad Ali included — to obey him. “It is incumbent upon the Aghsán, the Afnán and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch.

    Abdu’l-Baha appointed Shoghi Effendi clearly and in writing, to be the Guardian, and required all to obey him:

    …it is incumbent upon the Aghsán (Branches), the Afnán (Twigs) of the Sacred Lote-Tree, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God and the loved ones of the Abhá Beauty to turn unto Shoghi Effendi

    As Shoghi Effendi comments,

    “Unlike the Dispensation of Christ, unlike the Dispensation of Muhammad, [the Bahais] have before them in clear, in unequivocal and emphatic language, all the laws, the regulations, the principles, the institutions, the guidance, they require” … “in the matter of succession, … the followers of Bahá’u’lláh can summon to their aid such irrefutable evidences of Divine Guidance that none can resist, that none can belittle or ignore. Therein lies the distinguishing feature of the Bahá’í Revelation.”
    (The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 21)

    Because the Bahai scriptural texts are so clear, there’s not the slightest chance that anyone knowledgeable about the Bahai Faith will give the claims of Muhammad Ali a second thought. If the covenant was not specifically spelled out in authentic texts, some might no doubt heed your call.

  40. David said

    Hi Sen!

    The attempt to “rehabilitate” Mirza Muhammad Ali continues.

    The latest statement from those on the internet opposing the Baha’i Covenant is that the “Tablet of the Branch” is really about Baha’u’llah, not about Abdu’l-Baha. I was wondering if you have any definite refutations for what sounds to me like a wildly indefensible proposition?


  41. Sen said

    Dear David, The interpretation of ‘the Branch’ as referring to Baha’u’llah was put forward by Shu’ullah, but so far as I know without evidence or argument, so all one can answer is, that he would have to say that, given that he was rebelling against Abdu’l-Baha and therefore (according to the Tablet of the Branch, the Kitab-e Ahd and several other tablets) against Baha’u’llah himself.

    In the Kitab-e Ahd, the Book of the Covenant, Baha’u’llah writes

    “The Will of the divine Testator is this: It is incumbent upon the Aghsan, the Afnan and My Kindred to turn, one and all, their faces towards the Most Mighty Branch. Consider that which We have revealed in Our Most Holy Book: ‘When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended, turn your faces toward Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root.’ The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [Abdu’l-Bahá]. Thus have We graciously revealed unto you Our potent Will, and I am verily the Gracious, the All-Powerful.
    (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 221)

    And the Most Mighty Branch, thus appointed, has interpreted the Tablet of the Branch as referring to himself. For example, in a letter he wrote to Mason Remey he says:

    “… with the trace of the Supreme Pen He has taken a great Covenant and Testament from all the Baha’is, that after His Departure they must obey the Centre of the Covenant and must not deviate one hair’s breadth from obedience to him. He has commanded in the most explicit term in two instances in the Book of Aqdas and He has appointed most unmistakably the interpreter of the Book.
    In all the Tablets, especially the chapter of “Branch”, whose meanings are all ‘Abdu’l-Baha-that is, “the Servant of Bahá”-everything that is necessary is revealed from the Supreme Pen. As ‘Abdu’l-Baha is the interpreter of the Book, he says that the chapter of “Branch” means ‘Abdu’l-Baha, it refers to the servitude of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and nothing else.
    In brief, one of the special favours of this dispensation of His Holiness Baha’u’llah which is not seen in past Manifestations is this: that He has left no place for difference. For in His own Day, with the Trace of His own Supreme Pen He has taken a Covenant and a Testament. He has pointed to the one who should be looked upon as authority by all, He has shown the interpreter of the Book and has closed the doors of outside interpretation.
    Everyone should thank God that in this Blessed Cause He has tranquillized all and has left no place for hesitation. Therefore obedience and submission must be shown and the face turned completely to him (the Centre of the Covenant).
    (published in Star of the West, 2)

  42. Dale Ramsdell said

    . You did an excellent job here. Very thorough. Thanks for your service
    Dale Ramsdell

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