An important Tablet revealed in Adrianople is the Súriy-i-Ghusn (Súrih of the Branch). It is in Arabic and addressed to Mírzá 'Alí-Ridáy-i-Mustawfí, a native of Khurásán. This believer was a titled person--the Mustasháru'd-Dawlih. He had a prominent position in government circles in the district of Khurásán and was a man of great influence there. His teacher was no less a person than Mullá Husayn* who taught him the Faith in Mashhad.

Mírzá 'Alí-Ridá became a dedicated believer who in spite of his rank and position never hesitated to assist the friends whenever they faced difficulties; he always helped the poor and downtrodden among them. He was the one mainly responsible for providing the horses and finance for Mullá Husayn and his companions when they were leaving Mashhad for Mázindarán on a mission of great importance.† With the help of Mullá Sádiq-i-Khurásání, the renowned teacher of the Faith, he succeeded in converting his younger brother Mírzá Muhammad-Ridá, the Mu'taminu's-Saltanih, who became a devoted believer. When Mírzá 'Alí-Ridá retired, it was this same brother who succeeded him in office. It is interesting to note that in a Tablet, Bahá'u'lláh comments on a photograph of Mu'taminu's-Saltanih, saying that it bears a striking resemblance to Himself.

The main theme of the Súriy-i-Ghusn is the unveiling of the station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In it 'Abdu'l-Bahá is referred to as 'the Trust of God', 'this sacred and glorious Being', 'this Branch of


* The first of the Báb's disciples.

† See The Dawn-Breakers.

Holiness', 'the Limb of the Law of God', 'this sublime, this blessed, this mighty, this exalted Handiwork', 'the most great Favour', 'the most perfect bounty'.1 Bahá'u'lláh also makes this significant statement about 'Abdu'l-Bahá:

Well is it with him that hath sought His ['Abdu'l-Bahá's] shelter and abideth beneath His shadow...They who deprive themselves of the shadow of the Branch, are lost in the wilderness of error,...and are of those who will assuredly perish.* 2
These lofty attributes revealing the station of the Master heralded His appointment, later in 'Akká, as the Centre of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant and the Interpreter of His words--an appointment announced in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Kitáb-i-'Ahdí (The Book of My Covenant). The praise and glorification of 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not surprise any of Bahá'u'lláh's followers. Even Bahá'u'lláh's enemies confessed the exalted character and greatness of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. For instance, Mírzá Ahmad-i-Kirmání, an inveterate enemy of the Cause stigmatized by Bahá'u'lláh as a 'foreboder of evil', and to whose reprehensible deeds He has alluded in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, once announced from the pulpit that if there was one proof by which Bahá'u'lláh could substantiate His claims, it would be that He had reared a son such as 'Abbás Effendi.†

From His childhood, 'Abdu'l-Bahá displayed outstanding qualities of faith and virtue. He did not attend any school except for a short period in Tihrán. As a child of nine, He not only recognized the station of His Father,‡ but manifested such understanding and knowledge that He excelled the learned and erudite. In Baghdád, while He was in His early teens, 'Abdu'l-Bahá attended a gathering of those divines who were friendly.


* Part of this Tablet is translated into English and cited in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 135. See also The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, p. 135

† 'Abdu'l-Bahá.

‡ See p. 14.

1. Bahá'u'lláh, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 135.

2. ibid.

[appointment of 'Abdu'l-Bahá] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶121

[Mírzá Ahmad-i-Kirmání] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶164

They always enjoyed 'Abdu'l-Bahá's company and listened when he spoke. In the course of discussion someone mentioned that in one of his writings Hájí Mírzá Karím Khán* had used a certain Persian word as Arabic. All the divines agreed that he had made a mistake. However, 'Abdu'l-Bahá stated that although Hájí Mírzá Karím Khán was an enemy of the Faith of the Báb, He had to say that in this particular instance he had not erred. The word in question, although used in the Persian language, was originally an Arabic word. The divines still maintained their view, until 'Abdu'l-Bahá asked them to look up the word in the dictionary. To their amazement they discovered that it was indeed Arabic.

It was in Baghdád that 'Alí Shawkat Páshá, one of the dignitaries of 'Iráq, requested Bahá'u'lláh to elucidate for him the inner significances of a certain tradition of Islám which brings to light the relationship between God and man and reveals the purpose of creation. The voice of God proclaims in this tradition: 'I was a hidden treasure, I loved to be known therefore I created beings to know [Me].'

Bahá'u'lláh instructed 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was then in his adolescence, to write a commentary on this tradition. 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a most profound and lengthy commentary which astounded the Páshá and opened before his eyes the vistas of knowledge and understanding. He thereupon became an ardent admirer of the Master. Not only was 'Alí Shawkat Páshá deeply impressed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá's elucidations, but generally, every person who read this illuminating commentary was deeply moved and became aware of His extraordinary knowledge and wisdom. Once the renowned Hájí Siyyid Javád-i-Karbilá'í, to whom we have referred previously, said in reply to a person who demanded proofs of the authenticity of the Mission of Bahá'u'lláh, that one unmistakable token of the truth of His Cause was that His son 'Abdu'l-Bahá, during His adolescence, had written such a superb treatise shedding so much light on this subject.


* See vol. 1, Appendix IV.

Among many people of note who became particularly attracted to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and recognized His greatness was Khurshíd Páshá, the Governor of Adrianople. Shoghi Effendi writes:

It was His ['Abdu'l-Bahá's] discussions and discourses with the learned doctors with whom He came in contact in Baghdád that first aroused that general admiration for Him and for His knowledge which was steadily to increase as the circle of His acquaintances was widened, at a later date, first in Adrianople and then in 'Akká. It was to Him that the highly accomplished Khurshíd Páshá, the governor of Adrianople, had been moved to pay a public and glowing tribute when, in the presence of a number of distinguished divines of that city, his youthful Guest had, briefly and amazingly, resolved the intricacies of a problem that had baffled the minds of the assembled company--an achievement that affected so deeply the Páshá that from that time onwards he could hardly reconcile himself to that Youth's absence from such gatherings.3
'Abdu'l-Bahá shouldered many responsibilities from childhood. He was ten years of age when His Father withdrew to the mountains of Sulaymáníyyih. During the years of Bahá'u'lláh's absence, He took upon Himself, at this tender age, and while disconsolate in His separation from His Father, the burden of managing the affairs of the family. Later He intimated to Nabíl that He felt that He had grown old while still in His childhood. He endured His share of the sufferings and privations which were heaped upon His Father during forty years of His ministry, and beyond that during His own ministry.

One aspect of the life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá becomes clear from the statements He made about His own health. For instance, once in Paris in 1913 when He became ill, He spoke to His companions about this. He testified that His life was sustained not through physical laws, but through the decree of Providence. He stated that there was a wisdom in His becoming ill in Paris. Had it not been for this illness He would not have stayed more


3. Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 241.
than one month. Yet He remained there for well-nigh four months. When we survey His work in Paris we realize that one important aspect of it was that during His stay several prominent statesmen and influential personalities from the East attained His presence, felt the radiance of His spirit and were humbled by the power of His words and the charm of His character. Among them was the haughty Prince Masú'd Mírzá, the Zillu's-Sultán, the eldest son of Násirid-Din Sháh, once the Governor of Isfahán during whose rule the two illustrious brothers, the 'King of the Martyrs' and the 'Beloved of the Martyrs', were put to death.

Speaking about His illness, 'Abdu'l-Bahá told His companions in Paris that His life was not governed by the laws of nature. This illness was not due to physical causes, but to the will of God. He recounted the story of His illness at the age of seven, when He was afflicted with consumption and His case was thought hopeless. But the hand of God was behind this illness. Its wisdom became clear later. For had He been healthy, He would have been sent to live in the ancestral home of Bahá'u'lláh in Mázindarán, whereas because of His illness He had to remain in Tihrán up to the time of Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment, witness the birth of His Revelation, and then proceed to Baghdád in His company. Then suddenly and against the verdict of the doctors who had pronounced Him incurable, He recovered perfect health.

The relationship between Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá is one of the most fascinating features of their lives. 'Abdu'l-Bahá had so fully recognized the station of His Father, that throughout His life He showed the utmost humility and reverence to Him. He never allowed the family relationship of father and son to interfere. No one else in this Dispensation has had the capacity and vision to recognize the true station of His Lord as 'Abdu'l-Bahá did, and it is for this reason that He was able to manifest the most profound measure of self-effacement towards Bahá'u'lláh and consider Himself as utter nothingness in relation to Him


To cite one example: when 'Abdu'l-Bahá went to attain the presence of His Father in the Mansion of Bahjí outside 'Akká, He often rode a donkey. But as soon as He could see the Mansion from a distance, He would dismount as a sign of humility. He was a true servant of Bahá'u'lláh and a servant does not ride into the presence of his Lord. Not only did 'Abdu'l-Bahá show humility towards Bahá'u'lláh, but by example He taught the companions of Bahá'u'lláh and His disciples lessons in self-effacement and servitude at the threshold of His Father. When pilgrims arrived, it was 'Abdu'l-Bahá who prepared them in every way for that glorious moment when they were to enter the presence of their Lord. He even arranged their attire and helped them to become selfless when in His presence.

Bahá'u'lláh, on the other hand, always showered His special love and affection upon 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He extolled and glorified the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and conferred upon Him exalted titles. Bahá'u'lláh's adoration for 'Abdu'l-Bahá knew no bounds. For example, when 'Abdu'l-Bahá was to visit the Mansion of Bahjí, Bahá'u'lláh evinced great joy and yearning to meet His beloved Son. He would often send His other sons and male members of the family some distance from the Mansion to await the coming of the Master, to act as a welcoming party and to escort Him to the Mansion; while sometimes Bahá'u'lláh Himself would stand on the balcony to see Him arrive, and as 'Abdu'l-Bahá walked, He often pointed to His majesty and praised the beauty of His countenance and the strength of His character. But alas, at times this great adoration for the Master had to be suppressed by Bahá'u'lláh, so that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's brothers and other members of the family who did not have spiritual qualities would not become upset through jealousy.

'Abdu'l-Bahá's life was distinguished by His virtues and perfections. There is no need to dwell on this aspect which is universally acknowledged. Many writers, both oriental and occidental, have extolled in glowing terms the nobility of His character and testified to His divine qualities. The Revelation of


Bahá'u'lláh, of which He was the recipient, had so filled His soul that He became its perfect mirror reflecting the light of His Father's Faith upon the whole of mankind and manifesting to their eyes the resplendent characteristics of a perfect Bahá'í.

It is one of the unique bounties of God that in this age Bahá'u'lláh vouchsafed to humanity not only His Revelation, but a priceless gift in the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá who occupies a unique position in His Dispensation. Though not invested with the rank of the Manifestation of God, the authority which Bahá'u'lláh has conferred on Him is such that His words have the same validity as those of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb.

Soon after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh there were differences among the believers concerning the station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Some regarded Him as having the same identity as Bahá'u'lláh--a belief which runs counter to the basic verities enshrined within the Faith. In several Tablets 'Abdu'l-Bahá clarified His own position. He explained that although He was the Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and the Interpreter of His words, He was nevertheless a lowly servant at the threshold of Bahá'u'lláh. In one of His Tablets 'Abdu'l-Bahá writes:

This is my firm, my unshakable conviction, the essence of my unconcealed and explicit belief--a conviction and belief which the denizens of the Abhá Kingdom fully share: The Blessed Beauty is the Sun of Truth, and His light the light of truth. The Báb is likewise the Sun of Truth, and His light the light of truth...My station is the station of servitude--a servitude which is complete, pure and real, firmly established, enduring, obvious, explicitly revealed and subject to no interpretation whatever...I am the Interpreter of the Word of God; such is my interpretation.4
At one time Hájí Mírzá Haydar-'Alí, to whom we have referred previously, wrote a letter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and asked Him to explain the significance of Bahá'u'lláh's utterances in the Súriy-i-Ghusn and other Tablets including certain verses in the Mathnaví concerning the exalted station of the Branch. In

4. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', op. cit., p. 133.
reply, 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a Tablet in which He announced most eloquently His station of servitude and besought the Almighty to immerse Him in the ocean of servitude. He then made the following statement:

I am according to the explicit texts of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Kitáb-i-'Ahdí the manifest Interpreter of the Word of God...Whoso deviates from my interpretation is a victim of his own fancy...I affirm 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 Abhá Beauty, my complete self-effacement, my utter nothingness before Him. This is my resplendent crown, my most precious adorning. On this I pride myself in the kingdom of earth and heaven. Therein I glory among the company of the well-favoured!5
Concerning the station of the Master, Shoghi Effendi writes:

...Though moving in a sphere of His own and holding a rank radically different from that of the Author and the Forerunner of the Bahá'í Revelation, He, by virtue of the station ordained for Him through the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, forms together with them what may be termed the Three Central Figures of a Faith that stands unapproached in the world's spiritual history. He towers, in conjunction with them, above the destinies of this infant Faith of God from a level to which no individual or body ministering to its needs after Him, and for no less a period than a full thousand years, can ever hope to rise.6
He is, and should for all time be regarded, first and foremost, as the Centre and Pivot of Bahá'u'lláh's peerless and all-enfolding Covenant, His most exalted handiwork, the stainless Mirror of His light, the perfect Exemplar of His teachings, the unerring Interpreter of His Word, the embodiment of every Bahá'í ideal, the incarnation of every Bahá'í

* Verses of the Súriy-i-Ghusn and the Mathnaví which glorify the station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. (A.T.)

5. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', op. cit., p. 138.

6. ibid., pp. 131-2.

[appointment of 'Abdu'l-Bahá] The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶121

virtue, the Most Mighty Branch sprung from the Ancient Root, the Limb of the Law of God, the Being 'round Whom all names revolve', the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity, the Ensign of the Most Great Peace, the Moon of the Central Orb of this most holy Dispensation--styles and titles that are implicit and find their truest, their highest and fairest expression in the magic name 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He is, above and beyond these appellations, the 'Mystery of God'--an expression by which Bahá'u'lláh Himself has chosen to designate Him, and which, while it does not by any means justify us to assign to him the station of Prophethood, indicates how in the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized.7


7. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted by Shoghi Effendi, 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', op. cit., p. 134.