News clips

"Servant of God" Visiting America

"Servant of God" Visiting America
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
April 7, 1912
Brooklyn, NY

Abdu’l-Bahá, Head of Great Oriental Cult Is a Striking Figure.


Makes No Claim to Miraculous Power—-His Teachings Are Couched in Simple Terms.

Abbas Effendi, known to his millions of followers as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the leader of “Bahá’ísm,” Is now on a visit to America.
Never before in recorded history has one of the founders of an Oriental religious movement—-since become worldwide—-visited America. The personality and life history of one who has spent sixty years of his life in banishment, imprisonment and exile from his native land makes a story of fascinating interest, vividly impressing upon the mind of the investigator the fact that the days of religious persecution are not ended, and that even in this modern age, a drama has been enacted which for human interest equals or surpasses biblical history.
Abbas Effendi, who is known to his millions of followers as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá—-the servant of God—-was born in Teheran, Persia, May 23, 1844, and is now about 68. A virile pen-picture delineated by Myron H. Phelps of the New York bar, eight years ago, may serve as a fitting Introduction. Describing his meeting with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the prison city of Akka, he says: “We have not to wait long. A door opens and a man comes out. He is of middle stature, strongly built. He wears flowing light-colored robes. On his head is a light buff fez with a white cloth wound about it. He is perhaps 60 years of age. His long gray 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 (the poor of Akka, awaiting his weekly distribution of alms) and as he goes utters words of salutation, We do not understand them, but we see the benignity and the kindliness of his countenance.”

History of “Bábist” Cause.

To write the history of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life one must first give a brief statement of what is known as the “Bábist” cause. For on the very day of the birth of Abbas Effendi, and in another part of Persia, a young man, Ali Mohammed, began his notable career as a reformer of Islam, announcing himself as the “Báb,” or “gateway of knowledge”, and proclaiming the coming of a Messenger of God who would follow after, and for whom he was the herald. These terms were readily comprehended by his hearers, of the Mohammedan faith, and he gained many converts, despite the hostile attitude of the Mohammedan clergy and consequently of the Persian Government.
One of the early followers of Báb was Mirza Hossein Ali of Nour, the son of noble parents, of a family from which the rulers of Persia were wont to choose their Ministers of State. This youth, born in 1817, was called by the Báb “Bahá’u’lláh,” a title meaning “The Glory of God,” He gave up his wealth and position to become an associate of this lowly band, and after the death of Báb was looked upon as their leader. In the massacre of 1862, he, with others, was imprisoned, chained in a dungeon, as a suspect and narrowly escaping a death sentence, was banished from Persia, with his family and a few of his faithful disciples. He was the father of Abbas Effendi, who thus at the tender age of 8 years entered upon a life of poverty, persecution and prison unparalleled in the annals of the present age, if indeed by any record of equal note. For be it understood that these people were by no means criminals, nor even plotters against the government.

Eleven Years in Bagdad.
The journey to Bagdad in Turkey—-the first of many in the wanderings of this devoted band, was undertaken in the winter, and took over a month. It was bitter “cold” and the family underwent much suffering. For eleven years the party remained in Bagdad, and during this time Bahá’u’lláh announced himself to a small number of his followers as the Promised One whose coming the Báb had foretold. His first believer and most earnest worker was the youth, Abbas Effendi. Later the declaration of Bahá’u’lláh was made generally, and the followers of the Báb accepted their new leader and became known as Bahá’ís. While the mission of the Báb had been local to his fellow countrymen and through them to the Islamic world, that of Bahá’u’lláh was world-wide, and in messages to the rulers of the countries of Europe and America he announced a message of unity: established the basis of universal peace, a universal language, universal education, and many principles of international development which have since been taken up in various parts of the world, but which were first enumerated as the record clearly shows by this political prisoner.

Abbas Succeeds Bahá’u’lláh.
When, in 1892, Bahá’u’lláh passed out of this life at the advanced age of seventy-five having laid the foundation for the establishment of this universal religious system, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas was designated as the one upon whom his spiritual mantle was to fail, and from that time he was recognized by the Bahá’ís as the Center of the Movement and steadfastly maintained that, he wished only his words and deeds to be remembered; that there be no personality in the movement so far as he was concerned. But when he came to London in 1911 realizing that it was the custom of the Occident to photograph His notable visitors, he graciously permitted photographs to be taken and again in Paris and again and circulated throughout the world to the great delight of the Bahá’ís.
Untaught, the wisdom of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is most remarkable, stamping him in the eyes of the many who have come in closest touch with him as in all respects the most wonderful man in the world today. He makes no claim to miraculous powers, and his teachings are couched in the simplest words, so that the movement has attracted to itself scientists and men and women of renown as well as multitudes of the poor and lowly. Through the Bahá’í teachings, caste distortions and race prejudices are overcome most effectually; it is a well known fact that the aid of the Bahá’ís went far toward making the international Races Congress, London, 1911, possible, and a paper from the pen of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, presented by one of his followers was a notable contribution to that occasion.

Bahá Has Four Daughters.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá is married and has four daughters: three are married. The teachings counsel monogamy and favor the marriage of all. There are no sons, and therefore there can be no succession.

After the departure of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the authority of the movement will be vested in boards elected by the believers, thus establishing a deomcratic organization which extends to the purlieu of an international body or court of arbitration.
Another picture, this time that of an American believer who saw him in Akka, may fittingly complete this resume of the wonderful life of this great teacher, who must be seen to be truly appreciated. Doubtless many thousands will verify for themselves the authenticity of such a description as this:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was announced, He was clothed in a long black robe open at front disclosing another robe of light tan—-upon his head a pure white turban. The face was light itself; the voice ringing with happiness. A man of medium height, strongly and solidly built, weight about 179 pounds alert and attentive in every movement, the head thrown back and splendidly poised upon the shoulders, a profusion of iron-gray hair bursting out at the sides of the turban and hanging long upon the neck, a thick, impressive head, full-domed and remarkably wide across the forehead and temples. The forehead rising like a crown. [missing texts], the eyes themselves very wide apart, their orbits large and deep, looking out like soul-windows from under the massive overhanging brows; strong, perfect nose, generous ears, the mouth and chin kingly and tender yet fixed in unswerving decision complexion a creamy white, beard same color as his hair, worn full over the face and carefully trimmed at almost full length—-this is a very insufficient word picture of a face which in its composite is haloed with love and expresses majesty. The focus of the [text missing] of this wonderful being is in the eyes. Love lingers in their depths and tenderness quivers in flashes of sympathetic light upon the lids. If the tongue were silent the eyes would voice the spirit’s message in tremendous thrills of eloquence. When the full battery of this winsome personality is turned “upon you” you see that which was hitherto invisible. As to his power there can be now doubt.
Such is the servant of God—-‘Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas—-not as he says a prophet but the son of a prophet.