In this “document of momentous and incalculable significance,” writes Hasan M. Balyuzi, there are three provisions which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá created for protection of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh after His passing.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote His Will and Testament, which is in three parts, at different times during the seven-year period (1901-1908) of His incarceration within the city walls of ‘Akká. Characterized by the Guardian of the Faith as ‘this supreme, this infallible Organ for the accomplishment of a Divine Purpose’, and as ‘an Instrument which may be viewed as the Charter of the New World Order which is at once the glory and the promise of this most great Dispensation’, the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is manifestly a document of momentous and incalculable significance.
It is not proposed here to scrutinize it closely. Much has been, much will be written in an effort to elucidate its far-reaching implications, for it is the founding Charter of the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh – the ‘nucleus’ and ‘very pattern’ of the Order ‘destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind’. In this document ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘unveiled’ the character of the Administrative Order of the Faith, ‘reaffirmed its basis, supplemented its principles, asserted its indispensability, and enumerated its chief institutions’.
But there are three provisions of the Will which must be mentioned here, for through them ‘Abdu’l-Bahá created infallible protection for the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh after His passing. Briefly, He appointed His successor, defended him from any possible challenge, and defined the means by which the Universal House of Justice, the supreme body instituted by Bahá’u’lláh, should come into being.
The Will opens with this majestic passage:
Thus, at the very outset a succession was established and Bahá’ís knew to whom they had to turn. Later, in the first section of the Will and Testament, the successor was specifically named and his authority was elevated above that of all others:
It should be pondered that if the despotic ruler of the Ottoman Empire or any other adversary had terminated the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during the period in which the Will was written, the Head of the Faith would have been a child of about ten years of age. Shoghi Effendi was born in 1897 (sic).
Before specifically naming Shoghi Effendi the Guardian of the Cause of God, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá related the story of Mirzá Yahyá’s rebellion against Bahá’u’lláhSee H. M. Balyuzi, Edward Granville Browne and The Bahá’í Faith, for a full account. and then showed how and why His own half-brother Mirzá Muhammad-‘Alí, designated by Bahá’u’lláh in His Book of Testament as the Greater Branch, had forfeited his station and could not be the Head of the Faith:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá mentioned next the details of the intrigues of Mirzá Muhammad-‘Alí and his associates, intrigues which had led to the dispatch of a Commission of Enquiry from Istanbul, and concluded:
Despite a thorough exposition of the evil deeds of the violators of the Covenant, in the second part of the Will and Testament, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá offered a prayer for them. “The breakers of the Covenant are consigned to the wrath of God, but for these same people, the contemptible enemies of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, there is only this”:
And that prayer is immediately followed by these words:
And this is the conclusion of the second part of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will, written, as the above words testify, at the height of crisis both for Himself and for the Cause of God:
It should be noted that the authority of the Universal House of Justice is not derived from the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. That authority was conferred by Bahá’u’lláh. But the Will of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá clarified its station and instituted the electorate which would choose its members.
Just as provisions concerning the Guardian of the Faith are included in the three sections of the Will, so, too, the authority of the Universal House of Justice is, in each part, asserted and underlined. The extract just quoted comes from the first part; here are extracts from parts two and three:
The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá constitutes the “indissoluble link” between the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh and the universal Order which it is the purpose of that Revelation to promote. It is the very Charter of that Order and compels the most persistent and earnest study of all who seek to understand the destiny of mankind in this age. In the words of the Guardian of the Faith, the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is “His greatest legacy to posterity” and “the brightest emanation of His mind”.
The counsel contained in these lines, from the first part of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Testament, illumines the way through centuries unborn: