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Notable Folk Sketches
Nashville Tenn Democrat
April 25, 1912
Chicago, IL

Abdu’l-Bahá, Head of a Sect That Meets in Chicago Today.

By O. TERENCE.

Abdu’l-Bahá, the Persian Prince and scholar, who is the interpreter and leader or the Bahá’í sect, a movement that proposes to unite all religions and thus inaugurate the dreamed-of era of universal peace, is expected to receive the homage of his American followers at the American convention of the Bahá’í sect, scheduled to open today in Chicago. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, which is a title signifying Servant of God, comes to America to carry on the propaganda of the new faith and to address the peace conference at Lake Mohonk, N.Y., next month. Although it was founded only sixty-eight years ago, Bahá’ísm now has 15,000,000 adherents scattered throughout the world, several hundred thousand of whom are in the United States and Canada.

Abdu’l-Bahá succeeded to the leadership of the sect twenty years ago, on the death of Bahá’u’lláh, his father, who was the “illuminated one” of Bahá’ísm and was known as the Glory of God. Brotherhood and peace between men and nations are the central dogmas of the teaching of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Already they have had effect in the constitutional movements in Persia and Turkey, where Bahá’ísm is rapidly gaining ground. Because of their propaganda, which was considered by the fanatical Moslems, to constitute an attack on their religion, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and his father were imprisoned for nearly half a century.

When Mohammed Ali began preaching the doctrines of Bahá’ísm in 1844, he soon found a devoted adherent in the wealthy Prince of [N]ur, one of the most influential of Persians and a descendant of the ancient royal family of that country. When the Prince was recognized as Bahá’u’lláh, the expected one, the Glory of God, he was thrown into prison and all his property was confiscated. From the wealthiest man of Persia, he became its most miserable, but his faith in the new dispensation never wavered, and it was fully shared by his son, the present ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Torture and ignominy, such as could only be conceived of by the besotted Oriental mind, became the lot of the father and son. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was only nine years old when he was deprived of the luxuries and pleasures of the palace and thrown into a dungeon at Acca, perhaps the most loathsome prison in the world. He was about 60 when he was released. Although deprived of all formal education, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was taught by his father and this fitted him to become a worthy successor to the Glory of God.

Abdu’l-Bahá, with his wonderfully penetrating eyes, his wealth of silvery hair and long white beard, and his thoughtful and philosophic air, would be a striking figure if clad in conventional garb. In the costume of the Persian scholar and a white turban on his head, he is more than striking. The doctrines he teaches are strictly modern. Science is the handmaiden of the new religion, declared ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and he looks to the inventors and the thinkers to create a new heaven on earth. Although not a Socialist, he teaches many economic “isms” that are akin to the Marxian gospel of co-operation. While holding economic equality between men, he asserts that the present wide gulf between rich and poor is of artificial creation, and that the laws of nations must be changed so as to prevent alike extreme wealth and dire poverty. He believes that women should have the same political rights as men.