The Coming of Abbas Effendi, Messiah of 6,000,000 Souls
The Washington Post (1877-1922); Dec 31, 1911;
ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877-1994)
Mysterious Personality of the Persian Whom New York Bahá’ísts Soon Will Welcome
WHEN Abbas Effendi, known to millions of his followers as “Our Master” and “Our Lord,” arrives in America within a few weeks there will be among us a personality as mysterious and strange as any that lives today on earth.
For Abbas Effendi, manifestation of the Son of God, direct instrument on earth of the Divine Intelligence, as his followers declare him to be, possesses an influence over the lives of his followers only comparable to that displayed by the great prophets of the race, for whom men died that they might justify their faith.
Mohammed or Buddha had no more complete sovereignty over the minds and bodies of those that accepted their teachings than has Abbas Effendi, the ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, or son of the Supreme One. Thousands have chosen death rather than deny his name and have died uttering his name, even as did the Christian martyrs while whispering the sacred name of the Founder of their religion. The Bahá’í, of whose religion Abbas is the head, he is unquestioningly accepted as the reflection of God on earth, a being that is man, yet more than man: to touch whose robe is a consecration, to be blessed by whom a promise of Paradise!
Such is the leader of the Bahá’í or Bábist religion, whose following includes six million persons and whose purposes are toward the unification of all religions, toward a brotherhood among the nations, the abolition of wars, and the adoption of a universal language, all of which is in detail provided for in the Kitab’l Akdas, or book of laws, and was set forth in 1870 by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, father of the present prophet.
Bahá’ísm, as the religion is now called — though Bábism was formerly its name — originated in Persia in 1844. Then arose the first of the three prophets of the religion, one Ali Mohammed, who in Shiraz called himself the Báb, an Arabic word signifying “door,” and announced himself as preparing for the promised one. People crowded to his call and thousands reverently listened to him. So deep was the impression he made that the unrest of the people alarmed the Turkish authorities. He was persecuted for a time, then charged with heresy and put to death, an act which only resulted in creating in his followers a more intense faith. Then followed butchery and floods of energizing blood from which religions grow. Ten thousand Bábists were sacrificed within a few years because they refused to recant their belief in the coming of a divinity who was to fuse Christianity, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and all the religions of the earth. Then the followers fled to Bagdad, in the domains of the Sultan of Turkey, were later translated to Adrianople, and last to Akka, in Syria.
Its Simple Tenets.
In the meantime, however, a greater prophet than the Báb had arisen. Mirza Haseyn Ali was 35 years of age. He was renowned for his wisdom. He had passed two years in the mountains, where he had given himself to preparation and meditation. The Báb had conferred upon him the title of “Ullah, Glory of God.” The new prophet declared that he was the manifestation of God on earth, the prophet whose coming the Báb had foretold. He it was who was called “the lawgiver” and wrote the Book of Laws. Second in veneration only to the Bahá’u’lláh, which name he went by, is his son Abbas Effendi, or third of the three prophets of the Bahá’í religion. And the third prophet it is whose first visit to this country will be made soon.
Such briefly is the history of the Bahá’í religion and of its prophets. Its tenets of belief are simple and very clear. There is but one God, of whom the great prophets of the race have been so many manifestations, so many lamps reflecting the light of the Divine Spirit. For this reason, the Bahá’ís say, the soul of all religions is the same, and the difference in the appeal of all the prophets is only accounted for by the difference in time and the character of their followers. Thus Moses had a Jewish world to which to make appeal; Buddha was qualified to teach the lesson of the divine to the Indian people; Christ reached the barbarians of Europe; but in the last resort all learned from the same Master, and the structure of all beliefs is morality and love.
Now, however, the Bahá’ís say, newer countries have been discovered and science has linked them by invention. The world is ready for a newer prophet with an appeal not to a nation but to a world. The time has arrived when all religions can be accepted and unified upon the basic beliefs mentioned. And the Bahá’ís believe that Abbas Effendi, who so soon will visit us — himself a prophet and the son of one — has been divinely inspired for the work. Years before his birth his coming was predicted on the day on which he was born. They hold that all the religions foretold the coming of the millennium or time of universal peace. In the religion of Zoroaster was predicted “the reign of happy times.” The prophecy of the swords being beaten into plowshares is the Christian manifestation of the idea.
Basic Foundation Is Universal Love.
For this reason the Bahá’ís assert that it is not incompatible with either prophecy or reason that their religion could be a universal unifier. They maintain that Bahá’ísm can actually strengthen people in their own faith while yet accepting Abbas as the divine reflection of the Supreme. They contend that their religion is completer than any that has preceded, including not only, as it does, the basic foundations of universal love, but a practical message to the nations as well, and laws for bringing about universal peace.
These are those that are contained in the sacred book of laws drawn up by the father of Abbas as far back as 1870. They provide for the establishment of houses of justice, of boards of councilors, for the elective and democratic principle in government, for the emancipation of women, for the adoption of a universal language, and of a universal peace court with sufficient sanction to enforce its decrees. This, so far as one knows, was the first practical suggestion ever made for a peace tribunal, which, crudely, has come to be started so many years after the composition of the book of laws, and one wonders whether it were from mere chance that the credit for this later suggestion came from the present Emperor of Russia, in whose dominions the Bahá’ís display their strongest force.
Appearance of Abbas.
Of Abbas himself some vivid pictures have been drawn by travelers who came to visit him from all corners of the earth during that period of 40 years when he was so peculiar a prisoner in Akka — for he has only been at liberty since the ascendancy of the new Turk party. So powerful is his influence on those about him that no governor was continued in office at Akka for above one year. Several visitors tell of dinners at which the governor and his staff — actually Abbas’ jailers — stood with bared head till the prophet had seated himself, and only then sat in deference to a gesture from him. Prof. Edward Granville Brown, of Cambridge University, wrote a description of “the master,” which followers of the new cult declare to be a vivid picture of the prophet then imprisoned at Akka.
“Seldom have I seen one whose appearance impressed me more,” he wrote, “A strongly built man, holding himself as straight as an arrow, with white turban and raiment, long locks reaching almost to the shoulder; broad, powerful forehead, indicating a strong intellect, combined with an unswerving will; eyes as keen as a hawk’s, and strongly marked but pleasant features — such was my first impression of Abbas Effendi, ‘the master.’”
In 1892 an American visitor wrote, on the occasion of a first sight of Abbas, a description of the prophet and his surroundings at the time of his imprisonment:
“Imagine that we are in the ancient house of the still more ancient city of Akka. The room in which we are faces the opposite wall of a narrow paved street, which an active man might clear at one bound. Above is the bright sun of Palestine; to the right a glimpse of the old sea wall and the blue Mediterranean. As we sit we hear a singular sound rising from the pavement 30 feet below, faint at first and increasing. It is like the murmur of human voices. We open the window and look down. We see a crowd of human beings, with patched and tattered garments. It is a noteworthy gathering.
“Many of these men are blind, many more are pale and emaciated or aged; some are on crutches, some are so feeble that they can barely walk. Most of the women are closely veiled, but enough are uncovered to cause us well to believe that, if the veils were lifted, more pain and misery would be seen. Some of them carry babes with pinched and sallow faces. There are perhaps 100 in this gathering, besides many children. They are of all the races one meets in these streets — Syrians, Arabs, Ethiopians, and many others.
“These people are ranged against the wall or seated on the ground, apparently in an attitude of expectation. A door opens and a man comes out. He is of middle stature and strongly built. He wears flowing, light-colored robes. On his head is a light buff fez, with a white cloth bound around it. He is perhaps 60 years of age. His long hair rests on his shoulders. His forehead is broad, full, and high; his nose slightly aquiline; his mustache and beard, the latter full, though not heavy, nearly white. His eyes are gray and blue, large, and both soft and penetrating. His bearing is simple, but there is grace, dignity, and even majesty about his movements.
“He passes through the crowd, and, as he goes, utters words of salutation. We do not understand them, but we see the benignity and kindliness of his countenance. He stations himself at a narrow angle of the street and motions to the people to come toward him. They crowd up a little too insistently. He pushes them quietly back and lets them pass one by one. As they come they hold their hands extended. In each palm he placed some small coin. He knows them all. He caresses them with his hands in the face, on the shoulders, on the head. Some he stops and questions.
“An aged negro, who hobbles up, he greets with some kindly inquiry. The old man’s broad face breaks into a sunny smile, his white teeth glistening against his ebony skin as he replies. He stops a woman with a babe, and fondly strokes the child. As they pass some kiss his hand. To all he says, ‘Marhabbah,’ ‘Marhabbah,’ (Well done! Well done!)
Family Once Wealthiest in Persia.
“During this time this friend of the poor has not been unattended. Several men wearing red fezzes and with earnest, kindly faces followed him from the house, stood near him, and aided in regulating the crowd, and now, with reverent manner and at a respectful distance, follow him away. When they address him they call him ‘master.’
“This man, who gives thus freely, must be rich, you think. No; far otherwise. Once his family was the wealthiest in all Persia. For 50 years he and his family have been exiles and prisoners, but even his jailers have become his friends and honor and respect him as if he were their brother. For to this man it is the law to do good to those who injure him, and none want to injure him when they come to know him.”
Such is Abbas Effendi through the eyes of an American visitor. Some of the exhortations addressed to his followers are:
“Breathe not the sins of any one so long as thou art a sinner.
“Attribute not to any soul that which thou desirest not to be attributed to thyself, and do not promise that which thou dost not fulfill.
“Adorn thyself with deeds rather than words, for the principle of faith is to lessen words and to increase deeds.
“Blessed are they who advance. Deal with one another in patience. Boast not thyself when in honor, and be not abashed in abasement.”
(Copyright, 1911, by New York Herald Co. All rights reserved.)
Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.
[picture caption: “His bearing is simple, but there is grace, dignity, and even majesty about his movements.”]