‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s historic journeys to the West, and in particular His eight-month tour of the United States of America, may be said to have marked the culmination of His ministry, a ministry whose untold blessings and stupendous achievements only future generations can adequately estimate. As the day-star of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation had shone forth in its meridian splendor at the hour of the proclamation of His Message to the rulers of the earth in the city of Adrianople, so did the Orb of His Covenant mount its zenith and shed its brightest rays when He Who was its appointed Center arose to blazon the glory and greatness of His Father’s Faith among the peoples of the West.
That divinely instituted Covenant had, shortly after its inception, demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt its invincible strength through its decisive triumph over the dark forces which its Arch-Breaker had with such determination arrayed against it. Its energizing power had soon after been proclaimed through the signal victories which its torch-bearers had so rapidly and courageously won in the far-off cities of Western Europe and the United States of America. Its high claims had, moreover, been fully vindicated through its ability to safeguard the unity and integrity of the Faith in both the East and the West. It had subsequently given further proof of its indomitable strength by the memorable victory it registered through the downfall of Sulṭán ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, and the consequent release of its appointed Center from a forty-year captivity. It had provided for those still inclined to doubt its Divine origin yet another indisputable testimony to its solidity by enabling ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, in the face of formidable obstacles, to effect the transfer and the final entombment of the Báb’s remains in a mausoleum on Mt. Carmel. It had manifested also before all mankind, with a force and in a measure hitherto unapproached, its vast potentialities when it empowered Him in Whom its spirit and its purpose were enshrined to embark on a three-year-long mission to the Western world—a mission so momentous that it deserves to rank as the greatest exploit ever to be associated with His ministry.
Nor were these, preeminent though they were, the sole fruits garnered through the indefatigable efforts exerted so heroically by the Center of that Covenant. The progress and extension of His Father’s Faith in the East; the initiation of activities and enterprises which may be said to signalize the beginnings of a future Administrative Order; the erection of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the Bahá’í world in the city of ‘Ishqábád in Russian Turkistán; the expansion of Bahá’í literature; the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan; and the introduction of the Faith in the Australian continent these may be regarded as the outstanding achievements that have embellished the brilliant record of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s unique ministry.
In Persia, the cradle of the Faith, despite the persecutions which, throughout the years of that ministry, persisted with unabated violence, a noticeable change, marking the gradual emergence of a proscribed community from its hitherto underground existence, could be clearly discerned. Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh, four years after Bahá’u’lláh’s ascension, had, on the eve of his jubilee, designed to mark a turning-point in the history of his country, met his death at the hands of an assassin, named Mírzá Riḍá, a follower of the notorious Siyyid Jamálu’d-Dín-i-Afghání, an enemy of the Faith and one of the originators of the constitutional movement which, as it gathered momentum, during the reign of the Sháh’s son and successor, Muẓaffari’d-Dín, was destined to involve in further difficulties an already hounded and persecuted community. Even the Sháh’s assassination had at first been laid at the door of that community, as evidenced by the cruel death suffered, immediately after the murder of the sovereign, by the renowned teacher and poet, Mírzá ‘Alí-Muḥammad, surnamed “Varqá” (Dove) by Bahá’u’lláh, who, together with his twelve-year-old son, Rúḥu’lláh, was inhumanly put to death in the prison of Ṭihrán, by the brutal Ḥájibu’d-Dawlih, who, after thrusting his dagger into the belly of the father and cutting him into pieces, before the eyes of his son, adjured the boy to recant, and, meeting with a blunt refusal, strangled him with a rope.
Three years previously a youth, named Muḥammad-Riḍáy-i-Yazdí, was shot in Yazd, on the night of his wedding while proceeding from the public bath to his home, the first to suffer martyrdom during ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s ministry. In Turbat-i-Ḥaydaríyyih, in consequence of the Sháh’s assassination, five persons, known as the Shuhadáy-i-Khamsih (Five Martyrs), were put to death. In Mashhad a well-known merchant, Ḥájí Muḥammad-i-Tabrízí, was murdered and his corpse set on fire. An interview was granted by the new sovereign and his Grand Vizir, the unprincipled and reactionary Mírzá ‘Alí-Aṣghar Khán, the Atábik-i-A‘ẓam, to two representative followers of the Faith in Paris (1902), but it produced no real results whatever. On the contrary, a fresh storm of persecutions broke out a few years later, persecutions which, as the constitutional movement developed in that country, grew ever fiercer as reactionaries brought groundless accusations against the Bahá’ís, and publicly denounced them as supporters and inspirers of the nationalist cause.
A certain Muḥammad-Javád was stripped naked in Iṣfahán, and was severely beaten with a whip of braided wires, while in Káshán the adherents of the Faith of Jewish extraction were fined, beaten and chained at the instigation of both the Muḥammadan clergy and the Jewish doctors. It was, however, in Yazd and its environs that the most bloody outrages committed during ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s ministry occurred. In that city Ḥájí Mírzáy-i-Ḥalabí-Sáz was so mercilessly flogged that his wife flung herself upon his body, and was in her turn severely beaten, after which his skull was lacerated by the cleaver of a butcher. His eleven-year-old son was pitilessly thrashed, stabbed with penknives and tortured to death. Within the space of half a day nine people met their death. A crowd of about six thousand people, of both sexes, vented their fury upon the helpless victims, a few going so far as to drink their blood. In some instances, as was the case with a man named Mírzá Asadu’lláh-i-Ṣabbágh, they plundered their property and fought over its possession. They evinced such cruelty that some of the government officials were moved to tears at the sight of the harrowing scenes in which the women of that city played a conspicuously shameful part.
In Taft several people were put to death, some of whom were shot and their bodies dragged through the streets. A newly converted eighteen-year-old youth, named Ḥusayn, was denounced by his own father, and torn to pieces before the eyes of his mother, whilst Muḥammad-Kamál was hacked into bits with knife, spade and pickaxe. In Manshád, where the persecutions lasted nineteen days, similar atrocities were perpetrated. An eighty-year-old man, named Siyyid Mírzá, was instantly killed in his sleep by two huge stones which were thrown on him; a Mírzá Ṣádiq, who asked for water, had a knife plunged into his breast, his executioner afterwards licking the blood from the blade, while Sháṭir-Ḥasan, one of the victims, was seen before his death distributing some candy in his possession among the executioners and dividing among them his clothing. A sixty-five year old woman, Khadíjih-Sulṭán, was hurled from the roof of a house; a believer named Mírzá Muḥammad was tied to a tree, made a target for hundreds of bullets and his body set on fire, whilst another, named Ustád Riḍáy-i-Ṣaffár, was seen to kiss the hand of his murderer, after which he was shot and his corpse heaped with insults.
In Banáduk, in Dih-Bálá, in Farásháh, in ‘Abbás-Ábád, in Hanzá, in Ardikán, in Dawlat-Ábád and in Hamadán crimes of similar nature were committed, an outstanding case being that of a highly respected and courageous woman, named Fáṭimih-Bagum, who was ignominiously dragged from her house, her veil was torn from her head, her throat cut across, her belly ripped open; and having been beaten by the savage crowd with every weapon they could lay hands on, she was finally suspended from a tree and delivered to the flames.
In Sárí, in the days when the agitation for the constitution was moving towards a climax, five believers of recognized standing, known later as the Shuhadáy-i-Khamsih (Five Martyrs), were done to death, whilst in Nayríz a ferocious assault, recalling that of Yazd, was launched by the enemy, in which nineteen lost their lives, among them the sixty-five year old Mullá ‘Abdu’l-Ḥamíd, a blind man who was shot and his body foully abused, and in the course of which a considerable amount of property was plundered, and numerous women and children had to flee for their lives, or seek refuge in mosques, or live in the ruins of their houses, or remain shelterless by the wayside.
In Sírján, in Dúgh-Ábád, in Tabríz, in Ávih, in Qum, in Najaf-Ábád, in Sangsar, in Shahmírzád, in Iṣfahán, and in Jahrum redoubtable and remorseless enemies, both religious and political, continued, under various pretexts, and even after the signing of the Constitution by the Sháh in 1906, and during the reign of his successors, Muḥammad-‘Alí Sháh and Aḥmad Sháh, to slay, torture, plunder and abuse the members of a community who resolutely refused to either recant or deviate a hair’s breadth from the path laid down for them by their Leaders. Even during ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s journeys to the West, and after His return to the Holy Land, and indeed till the end of His life, He continued to receive distressing news of the martyrdom of His followers, and of the outrages perpetrated against them by an insatiable enemy. In Dawlat-Ábád, a prince of the royal blood, Ḥabíbu’lláh Mírzá by name, a convert to the Faith who had consecrated his life to its service, was slain with a hatchet and his corpse set on fire. In Mashhad the learned and pious Shaykh ‘Alí-Akbar-i-Qúchání was shot to death. In Sulṭán-Ábád, Mírzá ‘Alí-Akbar and seven members of his family including a forty day old infant were barbarously massacred. Persecutions of varying degrees of severity broke out in Ná’ín, in Shahmírzád, in Bandar-i-Jaz and in Qamsar. In Kirmánsháh, the martyr Mírzá Yá‘qub-i-Muttaḥidih, the ardent twenty-five year old Jewish convert to the Faith, was the last to lay down his life during ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s ministry; and his mother, according to his own instructions, celebrated his martyrdom in Hamadán with exemplary fortitude. In every instance the conduct of the believers testified to the indomitable spirit and unyielding tenacity that continued to distinguish the lives and services of the Persian followers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.
Despite these intermittent severe persecutions the Faith that had evoked in its heroes so rare a spirit of self-sacrifice was steadily and silently growing. Engulfed for a time and almost extinguished in the sombre days following the martyrdom of the Báb, driven underground throughout the period of Bahá’u’lláh’s ministry, it began, after His ascension, under the unerring guidance, and as a result of the unfailing solicitude, of a wise, a vigilant and loving Master, to gather its forces, and gradually to erect the embryonic institutions which were to pave the way for the establishment, at a later period, of its Administrative Order. It was during this period that the number of its adherents rapidly multiplied, that its range, now embracing every province of that kingdom, steadily widened, and the rudimentary forms of its future Assemblies were inaugurated. It was during this period, at a time when state schools and colleges were practically non-existent in that country, and when the education given in existing religious institutions was lamentably defective, that its earliest schools were established, beginning with the Tarbíyat, schools in Ṭihrán for both boys and girls, and followed by the Ta’yíd and Mawhibat schools in Hamadán, the Vaḥdat-i-Bashar school in Káshán and other similar educational institutions in Bárfurúsh and Qazvín. It was during these years that concrete and effectual assistance, both spiritual and material, in the form of visiting teachers from both Europe and America, of nurses, instructors, and physicians, was first extended to the Bahá’í community in that land, these workers constituting the vanguard of that host of helpers which ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá promised would arise in time to further the interests of the Faith as well as those of the country in which it was born. It was in the course of these years that the term Bábí, as an appellation, designating the followers of Bahá’u’lláh in that country, was universally discarded by the masses in favor of the word Bahá’í, the former henceforth being exclusively applied to the fast dwindling number of the followers of Mírzá Yaḥyá. During this period, moreover, the first systematic attempts were made to organize and stimulate the teaching work undertaken by the Persian believers, attempts which, apart from reinforcing the foundations of the community, were instrumental in attracting to its cause several outstanding figures in the public life of that country, not excluding certain prominent members of the Shí‘ah sacerdotal order, and even descendants of some of the worst persecutors of the Faith. It was during the years of that ministry that the House of the Báb in Shíráz, ordained by Bahá’u’lláh as a center of pilgrimage for His followers, and now so recognized, was by order of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and through His assistance, restored, and that it became increasingly a focus of Bahá’í life and activity for those who were deprived by circumstances of visiting either the Most Great House in Baghdád or the Most Holy Tomb in ‘Akká.
More conspicuous than any of these undertakings, however, was the erection of the first Mashriqu’l-Adhkár of the Bahá’í world in the city of ‘Ishqábád, a center founded in the days of Bahá’u’lláh, where the initial steps preparatory to its construction, had been already undertaken during His lifetime. Initiated at about the close of the first decade of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s ministry (1902); fostered by Him at every stage in its development; personally supervised by the venerable Ḥájí Mírzá Muḥammad-Taqí, the Vakílu’d-Dawlih, a cousin of the Báb, who dedicated his entire resources to its establishment, and whose dust now reposes at the foot of Mt. Carmel under the shadow of the Tomb of his beloved Kinsman; carried out according to the directions laid down by the Center of the Covenant Himself; a lasting witness to the fervor and the self-sacrifice of the Oriental believers who were resolved to execute the bidding of Bahá’u’lláh as revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, this enterprise must rank not only as the first major undertaking launched through the concerted efforts of His followers in the Heroic Age of His Faith, but as one of the most brilliant and enduring achievements in the history of the first Bahá’í century.
The edifice itself, the foundation stone of which was laid in the presence of General Krupatkin, the governor-general of Turkistán, who had been delegated by the Czar to represent him at the ceremony, has thus been minutely described by a Bahá’í visitor from the West: “The Mashriqu’l-Adhkár stands in the heart of the city; its high dome standing out above the trees and house tops being visible for miles to the travelers as they approach the town. It is in the center of a garden bounded by four streets. In the four corners of this enclosure are four buildings: one is the Bahá’í school; one is the traveler’s house, where pilgrims and wayfarers are lodged; one is for the keepers, while the fourth one is to be used as a hospital. Nine radial avenues approach the Temple from the several parts of the grounds, one of which, the principal approach to the building, leads from the main gateway of the grounds to the principal portal of the Temple.” “In plan,” he further adds, “the building is composed of three sections; namely, the central rotunda, the aisle or ambulatory which surrounds it, and the loggia which surrounds the entire building. It is built on the plan of a regular polygon of nine sides. One side is occupied by the monumental main entrance, flanked by minarets—a high arched portico extending two stories in height recalling in arrangement the architecture of the world famous Taj Mahal at Agra in India, the delight of the world to travelers, many of whom pronounce it to be the most beautiful temple in the world. Thus the principal doorway opens toward the direction of the Holy land. The entire building is surrounded by two series of loggias—one upper and one lower—which opens out upon the garden giving a very beautiful architectural effect in harmony with the luxuriant semi-tropical vegetation which fills the garden … The interior walls of the rotunda are treated in five distinct stories. First, a series of nine arches and piers which separate the rotunda from the ambulatory. Second, a similar treatment with balustrades which separate the triforium gallery (which is above the ambulatory and is reached by two staircases in the loggias placed one on either side of the main entrance) from the well of the rotunda. Third, a series of nine blank arches filled with fretwork, between which are escutcheons bearing the Greatest Name. Fourth, a series of nine large arched windows. Fifth, a series of eighteen bull’s eye windows. Above and resting on a cornice surmounting this last story rises the inner hemispherical shell of the dome. The interior is elaborately decorated in plaster relief work … The whole structure impresses one by its mass and strength.”
Nor should mention be omitted of the two schools for boys and girls which were established in that city, of the pilgrim house instituted in the close vicinity of the Temple, of the Spiritual Assembly and its auxiliary bodies formed to administer the affairs of a growing community, and of the new centers of activity inaugurated in various towns and cities in the province of Turkistán—all testifying to the vitality which the Faith had displayed ever since its inception in that land.
A parallel if less spectacular development could be observed in the Caucasus. After the establishment of the first center and the formation of an Assembly in Bákú, a city which Bahá’í pilgrims, traveling in increasing numbers from Persia to the Holy Land via Turkey, invariably visited, new groups began to be organized, and, evolving later into well-established communities, cooperated in increasing measure with their brethren both in Turkistán and Persia.
In Egypt a steady increase in the number of the adherents of the Faith was accompanied by a general expansion in its activities. The establishments of new centers; the consolidation of the chief center established in Cairo; the conversion, largely through the indefatigable efforts of the learned Mírzá Abu’l-Faḍl, of several prominent students and teachers of the Azhar University—premonitory symptoms foreshadowing the advent of the promised day on which, according to ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, the standard and emblem of the Faith would be implanted in the heart of that time-honored Islamic seat of learning; the translation into Arabic and the dissemination of some of the most important writings of Bahá’u’lláh revealed in Persian, together with other Bahá’í literature; the printing of books, treatises and pamphlets by Bahá’í authors and scholars; the publication of articles in the Press written in defense of the Faith and for the purpose of broadcasting its message; the formation of rudimentary administrative institutions in the capital as well as in nearby centers; the enrichment of the life of the community through the addition of converts of Kurdish, Coptic, and Armenian origin—these may be regarded as the first fruits garnered in a country which, blessed by the footsteps of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, was, in later years, to play a historic part in the emancipation of the Faith, and which, by virtue of its unique position as the intellectual center of both the Arab and Islamic worlds, must inevitably assume a notable and decisive share of responsibility in the final establishment of that Faith throughout the East.
Even more remarkable was the expansion of Bahá’í activity in India and Burma, where a steadily growing community, now including among its members representatives of the Zoroastrian, the Islamic, the Hindu and the Buddhist Faiths, as well as members of the Sikh community, succeeded in establishing its outposts, as far as Mandalay and the village of Daidanaw Kalazoo, in the Hanthawaddy district of Burma, at which latter place no less than eight hundred Bahá’ís resided, possessing a school, a court, and a hospital of their own, as well as land for community cultivation, the proceeds of which they devoted to the furtherance of the interests of their Faith.
In ‘Iráq, where the House occupied by Bahá’u’lláh was entirely restored and renovated, and where a small yet intrepid community struggled in the face of constant opposition to regulate and administer its affairs; in Constantinople, where a Bahá’í center was established; in Tunis where the foundations of a local community were firmly laid; in Japan, in China, and in Honolulu to which Bahá’í teachers traveled, and where they settled and taught—in all of these places the manifold evidences of the guiding hand of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and the tangible effects of His sleepless vigilance and unfailing care could be clearly perceived.
Nor did the nascent communities established in France, England, Germany and the United States cease to receive, after His memorable visits to those countries, further tokens of His special interest in, and solicitude for, their welfare and spiritual advancement. It was in consequence of His directions and the unceasing flow of His Tablets, addressed to the members of these communities, as well as His constant encouragement of the efforts they were exerting, that Bahá’í centers steadily multiplied, that public meetings were organized, that new periodicals were published, that translations of some of the best known works of Bahá’u’lláh and of the Tablets of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá were printed and circulated in the English, the French, and German languages, and that the initial attempts to organize the affairs, and consolidate the foundations, of these newly established communities were undertaken.
In the North American continent, more particularly, the members of a flourishing community, inspired by the blessings bestowed by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, as well as by His example and the acts He performed in the course of His prolonged visit to their country, gave an earnest of the magnificent enterprise they were to carry through in later years. They purchased the twelve remaining lots forming part of the site of their projected Temple, selected, during the sessions of their 1920 Convention, the design of the French Canadian Bahá’í architect, Louis Bourgeois, placed the contract for the excavation and the laying of its foundations, and succeeded soon after in completing the necessary arrangements for the construction of its basement: measures which heralded the stupendous efforts which, after ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s ascension, culminated in the erection of its superstructure and the completion of its exterior ornamentation.
The war of 1914–18, repeatedly foreshadowed by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá in the dark warnings He uttered in the course of His western travels, and which broke out eight months after His return to the Holy Land, once more cast a shadow of danger over His life, the last that was to darken the years of His agitated yet glorious ministry.
The late entry of the United States of America in that world-convulsing conflict, the neutrality of Persia, the remoteness of India and of the Far East from the theater of operations, insured the protection of the overwhelming majority of His followers, who, though for the most part entirely cut off for a number of years from the spiritual center of their Faith, were still able to conduct their affairs and safeguard the fruits of their recent achievements in comparative safety and freedom.
In the Holy Land, however, though the outcome of that tremendous struggle was to liberate once and for all the Heart and Center of the Faith from the Turkish yoke, a yoke which had imposed for so long upon its Founder and His Successor such oppressive and humiliating restrictions, yet severe privations and grave dangers continued to surround its inhabitants during the major part of that conflict, and renewed, for a time, the perils which had confronted ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá during the years of His incarceration in ‘Akká. The privations inflicted on the inhabitants by the gross incompetence, the shameful neglect, the cruelty and callous indifference of both the civil and military authorities, though greatly alleviated through the bountiful generosity, the foresight and the tender care of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, were aggravated by the rigors of a strict blockade. A bombardment of Haifa by the Allies was a constant threat, at one time so real that it necessitated the temporary removal of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, His family and members of the local community to the village of Abú-Sinán at the foot of the hills east of ‘Akká. The Turkish Commander-in-Chief, the brutal, the all-powerful and unscrupulous Jamál Páshá, an inveterate enemy of the Faith, through his own ill-founded suspicions and the instigation of its enemies, had already grievously afflicted ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, and even expressed his intention of crucifying Him and of razing to the ground the Tomb of Bahá’u’lláh. ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá Himself still suffered from the ill-health and exhaustion brought on by the fatigues of His three-year journeys. He felt acutely the virtual stoppage of all communication with most of the Bahá’í centers throughout the world. Agony filled His soul at the spectacle of human slaughter precipitated through humanity’s failure to respond to the summons He had issued, or to heed the warnings He had given. Surely sorrow upon sorrow was added to the burden of trials and vicissitudes which He, since His boyhood, had borne so heroically for the sake, and in the service, of His Father’s Cause.
And yet during these somber days, the darkness of which was reminiscent of the tribulations endured during the most dangerous period of His incarceration in the prison-fortress of ‘Akká; ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, whilst in the precincts of His Father’s Shrine, or when dwelling in the House He occupied in ‘Akká, or under the shadow of the Báb’s sepulcher on Mt. Carmel, was moved to confer once again, and for the last time in His life, on the community of His American followers a signal mark of His special favor by investing them, on the eve of the termination of His earthly ministry, through the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, with a world mission, whose full implications even now, after the lapse of a quarter of a century, still remain undisclosed, and whose unfoldment thus far, though as yet in its initial stages, has so greatly enriched the spiritual as well as the administrative annals of the first Bahá’í century.
The conclusion of this terrible conflict, the first stage in a titanic convulsion long predicted by Bahá’u’lláh, not only marked the extinction of Turkish rule in the Holy Land and sealed the doom of that military despot who had vowed to destroy ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, but also shattered once and for all the last hopes still entertained by the remnant of Covenant-breakers who, untaught by the severe retribution that had already overtaken them, still aspired to witness the extinction of the light of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant. Furthermore, it produced those revolutionary changes which, on the one hand, fulfilled the ominous predictions made by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and enabled, according to Scriptural prophecy, so large an element of the “outcasts of Israel,” the “remnant” of the “flock,” to “assemble” in the Holy Land, and to be brought back to “their folds” and “their own border,” beneath the shadow of the “Incomparable Branch,” referred to by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá in His “Some Answered Questions,” and which, on the other hand, gave birth to the institution of the League of Nations, the precursor of that World Tribunal which, as prophesied by that same “Incomparable Branch,” the peoples and nations of the earth must needs unitedly establish.
No need to dwell on the energetic steps which the English believers as soon as they had been apprized of the dire peril threatening the life of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá undertook to insure His security; on the measures independently taken whereby Lord Curzon and others in the British Cabinet were advised as to the critical situation at Haifa; on the prompt intervention of Lord Lamington, who immediately wrote to the Foreign Office to “explain the importance of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s position;” on the despatch which the Foreign Secretary, Lord Balfour, on the day of the receipt of this letter, sent to General Allenby, instructing him to “extend every protection and consideration to ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, His family and His friends;” on the cablegram subsequently sent by the General, after the capture of Haifa, to London, requesting the authorities to “notify the world that ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá is safe;” on the orders which that same General issued to the General Commanding Officer in command of the Haifa operations to insure ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s safety, thus frustrating the express intention of the Turkish Commander-in-Chief (according to information which had reached the British Intelligence Service) to “crucify ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and His family on Mt. Carmel” in the event of the Turkish army being compelled to evacuate Haifa and retreat northwards.
The three years which elapsed between the liberation of Palestine by the British forces and the passing of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá were marked by a further enhancement of the prestige which the Faith, despite the persecutions to which it had been subjected, had acquired at its world center, and by a still greater extension in the range of its teaching activities in various parts of the world. The danger which, for no less than three score years and five, had threatened the lives of the Founders of the Faith and of the Center of His Covenant, was now at long last through the instrumentality of that war completely and definitely lifted. The Head of the Faith, and its twin holy Shrines, in the plain of ‘Akká and on the slopes of Mt. Carmel, were henceforth to enjoy for the first time, through the substitution of a new and liberal régime for the corrupt administration of the past, a freedom from restrictions which was later expanded into a clearer recognition of the institutions of the Cause. Nor were the British authorities slow to express their appreciation of the rôle which ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá had played in allaying the burden of suffering that had oppressed the inhabitants of the Holy Land during the dark days of that distressing conflict. The conferment of a knighthood upon Him at a ceremony specially held for His sake in Haifa, at the residence of the British Governor, at which notables of various communities had assembled; the visit paid Him by General and Lady Allenby, who were His guests at luncheon in Bahjí, and whom He conducted to the Tomb of Bahá’u’lláh; the interview at His Haifa residence between Him and King Feisal who shortly after became the ruler of ‘Iráq; the several calls paid Him by Sir Herbert Samuel (later Viscount Samuel of Carmel) both before and after his appointment as High Commissioner for Palestine; His meeting with Lord Lamington who, likewise, called upon Him in Haifa, as well as with the then Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs; the multiplying evidences of the recognition of His high and unique position by all religious communities, whether Muslim, Christian or Jewish; the influx of pilgrims who, from East and West, flocked to the Holy Land in comparative ease and safety to visit the Holy Tombs in ‘Akká and Haifa, to pay their share of homage to Him, to celebrate the signal protection vouchsafed by Providence to the Faith and its followers, and to give thanks for the final emancipation of its Head and world Center from Turkish yoke—these contributed, each in its own way, to heighten the prestige which the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh had been steadily and gradually acquiring through the inspired leadership of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá.
As the ministry of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá drew to a close signs multiplied of the resistless and manifold unfoldment of the Faith both in the East and in the West, both in the shaping and consolidation of its institutions and in the widening range of its activities and its influence. In the city of ‘Ishqábád the construction of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, which He Himself had initiated, was successfully consummated. In Wilmette the excavations for the Mother Temple of the West were carried out and the contract placed for the construction of the basement of the building. In Baghdád the initial steps were taken, according to His special instructions, to reinforce the foundations and restore the Most Great House associated with the memory of His Father. In the Holy Land an extensive property east of the Báb’s Sepulcher was purchased through the initiative of the Holy Mother with the support of contributions from Bahá’ís in both the East and the West to serve as a site for the future erection of the first Bahá’í school at the world Administrative Center of the Faith. The site for a Western Pilgrim House was acquired in the neighborhood of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá’s residence, and the building was erected soon after His passing by American believers. The Oriental Pilgrim House, erected on Mt. Carmel by a believer from ‘Ishqábád, soon after the entombment of the Báb’s remains, for the convenience of visiting pilgrims, was granted tax exemption by the civil authorities (the first time such a privilege had been conceded since the establishment of the Faith in the Holy Land). The famous scientist and entomologist, Dr. Auguste Forel, was converted to the Faith through the influence of a Tablet sent him by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá—one of the most weighty the Master ever wrote. Another Tablet of far-reaching importance was His reply to a communication addressed to Him by the Executive Committee of the “Central Organization for a Durable Peace,” which He dispatched to them at The Hague by the hands of a special delegation. A new continent was opened to the Cause when, in response to the Tablets of the Divine Plan unveiled at the first Convention after the war, the great-hearted and heroic Hyde Dunn, at the advanced age of sixty-two, promptly forsook his home in California, and, seconded and accompanied by his wife, settled as a pioneer in Australia, where he was able to carry the Message to no less than seven hundred towns throughout that Commonwealth. A new episode began when, in quick response to those same Tablets and their summons, that star-servant of Bahá’u’lláh, the indomitable and immortal Martha Root, designated by her Master “herald of the Kingdom” and “harbinger of the Covenant,” embarked on the first of her historic journeys which were to extend over a period of twenty years, and to carry her several times around the globe, and which ended only with her death far from home and in the active service of the Cause she loved so greatly. These events mark the closing stage of a ministry which sealed the triumph of the Heroic Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation, and which will go down in history as one of the most glorious and fruitful periods of the first Bahá’í century.