Ghusn-i-Akbar, the First Unitarian Bahai — Part 1: The Facts

Mirza Muhammad Ali Bahai Ghusn-i-Akbar

This is the first of a two-part series about Mirza Muhammad Ali Bahai, who was called Ghusn-i-Akbar by his father, the Prophet Bahaullah. In this article we will present some basic facts about this man, who can be regarded as the first Unitarian Bahai. The second article, which will be posted a couple weeks from now, will deal with the significance of Ghusn-i-Akbar — in other words, why he matters today to Unitarian Universalist Bahais and Bahais in general.

Much of this article deals with the conflict between Ghusn-i-Akbar and Abdul-Baha, two brothers who were at odds with each other in the early history of Bahaism. One of the basic principles of religious liberalism is to be willing to consider both sides of every story — especially when it comes to the historical narratives of religions, which are notorious for being based more on exaggeration, wishful thinking or mythological fantasy than objective facts. Conservative or fundamentalist religious people have a tendency to construct and uphold black-and-white narratives, driven by passionate emotion arising from the longing to “know the truth and believe” — even when the truth may be unclear or impossible to know for certain. Such narratives identify “good guys” and “bad guys” in the story of their faith or of religion in general, fitting complex human beings into these simplistic roles.

All Bahais know about the good things that Abdul-Baha taught and did; and those who know about Mirza Muhammad Ali typically only know him as the caricature of a “Covenant-breaker,” a stubborn and wicked heretic unworthy of any consideration. But is the story really so simple and monolithic? Is the saintly and inspired Abdul-Baha all good and that other guy a manifestation of satan?

Mirza Muhammad Ali was the first son of Bahaullah’s second wife, Fatima, upon whom Bahaullah conferred the title Mahd-i-Ulya (the “Supreme Cradle”). His title Mirza indicates his descent from a noble Persian family — just as Bahaullah himself had Mirza before his name (Mirza Husayn Ali).

Bahaullah gave the title Ghusn-i-Akbar to Muhammad Ali. He gave a nearly identical title, Ghusn-i-Azam, to Abbas Effendi (Effendi means “Sir”), who was the eldest son of his first wife, Asiya, upon whom he conferred the title Navvab (“Noble”). Both Ghusn-i-Akbar and Ghusn-i-Azam mean “Greatest or Mightiest Branch” — the words Akbar and Azam are synonyms and both are superlatives.

Muhammad Ali took the surname Bahai, which he passed on to his children. Abbas called himself Abdul-Baha (“Servant of Baha[ullah]”), rather than using the title given him by his father, and he did not take a surname.

Ghusn-i-Akbar at age 16

Ghusn-i-Akbar at age 16

Ghusn-i-Akbar was born in 1852 and Abdul-Baha was born eight years earlier, in 1844. Both were spiritual men, talented, proud, strong believers and diligent workers in their father’s cause from an early age.

As a young man, Ghusn-i-Akbar had an experience that surely left a mark on his psyche and influenced his belief system: He was chastised by Bahaullah for attempting to write verses in the style of religious scripture, imitating the prophetic writings of his father. Bahaullah impressed upon him that the station of divine messenger was not something that a prophet’s son could claim as a birthright.

Bahaullah assigned important roles and tasks to both Abdul-Baha and Ghusn-i-Akbar during his lifetime, based on their respective abilities and interests. Abdul-Baha was in charge of external affairs, using his charismatic personality to win friends and supporters for the new faith. Ghusn-i-Akbar was in charge of internal affairs, working as Bahaullah’s secretary, transcribing his writings, editing them and preparing them for publication and distribution.

Just two years before Bahaullah passed away, Ghusn-i-Akbar traveled to India on behalf of his father, where he arranged for the printing of the first edition of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Bahaullah’s “Most Holy Book.” Bahaullah left this world in 1892, turning over the affairs of his faith to his two most trusted sons.

In Bahaullah’s will, Ghusn-i-Akbar was chosen as second in rank, after his elder brother: “Truly, God has ordained the station of Ghusn-i-Akbar after the station of the former [Ghusn-i-Azam, Abbas Effendi]. We have surely chosen Akbar after Azam as a command from the All-Knowing, the All-Wise!” (literal translation from the Arabic, which differs from the Haifan Baha’i Faith translation that is designed to make it look like Ghusn-i-Akbar is inferior to Abdul-Baha).

This statement of Bahaullah was understood by all the family as meaning two things: (1) Ghusn-i-Akbar was given an important role to play alongside Bahaullah’s eldest son, which was not given to his two other living sons. (2) It was God’s intention that Ghusn-i-Akbar become Bahaullah’s second successor, after Abdul-Baha’s passing — according to an established tradition in Shiite Islam of spiritual inheritance passing from elder to younger brother, such as in the case of Imam Husayn succeeding Imam Hasan.

The Shiite background of Bahaullah’s family and the early Bahais, as well as an effusive tablet written by Bahaullah to Ghusn-i-Akbar, would have given the younger son the clear impression that he was destined to follow in his elder brother’s footsteps of leadership. In that tablet, Bahaullah proclaims and prays to God about his second son: “You know, O my God, that I desire him, as You have desired him, and I have chosen him as You have chosen him. Therefore assist him with the hosts of earth and heaven, and help, O my God, whoever helps him, whoever chooses him, and assist whoever comes to him. Then foresake whoever denies him and desires him not.” (modernized version of a translation of the original text).

This is only a short excerpt of the lavish praises and status Bahaullah conferred upon his second son. Bahaullah also praised his first son, Abdul-Baha in similar ways. The two brothers had ample reason to believe that their father wanted them both to have authority in the Bahai faith.

Bahaullah did indicate in his will that his eldest son’s rank was higher — at least while both sons were living. Abdul-Baha interpreted this to mean that all power and authority in the Bahai faith and its community was granted to himself alone, and he expected only obedience from Ghusn-i-Akbar. Ghusn-i-Akbar, on the other hand, interpreted the will to mean that he was supposed to be Abdul-Baha’s lieutenant and that a collegial relationship of power-sharing between the two brothers was intended by their father — a continuation of the arrangement in which he had served in a position of weighty responsibility and high rank under Bahaullah, alongside Abdul-Baha.

As time went on, it became increasingly clear that Abdul-Baha was not willing to share any power with his brother — and furthermore that he envisioned himself as occupying a station very similar to that of a Messenger of God. Abdul-Baha expected all the Bahais to regard him as morally blameless, perfect in his servitude to God and Bahaullah (hence the title he chose for himself, “Servant of Baha”); and he asserted that all his own writings carried the same authority as divine scriptures. Some of his interpretations of Bahaullah’s writings seemed more like changes to the laws and teachings of the religion rather than mere clarifications on obscure points. He expected Bahais to agree with or obey everything he said, wrote, did, or instructed them to do.

Ghusn-i-Akbar believed this went too far, and he refused to go along with some of Abdul-Baha’s claims. A major religious dispute erupted between the two brothers, based on Ghusn-i-Akbar’s emphasis on the Islamic concept of tawhid (the Unity of God and prohibition of joining partners with God, i.e. Unitarianism) vs. Abdul-Baha’s emphasis on his own divine inspiration, authority over the Bahais, and infallibility as the representative of God. Ghusn-i-Akbar’s party called themselves the “Unitarians.”

Ghusn-i-Akbar and Abdul-Baha mutually came to regard each other as heretics. The conflict grew bitter, and harsh accusations of blasphemous and corrupt acts were hurled back and forth against these two men by supporters of the respective sides. It was also a family feud, and one in which Abdul-Baha found himself nearly alone among the descendants of Bahaullah: All but one of the other children of the prophet and their families sided with Ghusn-i-Akbar, while Abdul-Baha could only count a single sister as his ally.

Ghusn-i-Akbar repeatedly proposed to Abdul-Baha that a conference be held to attempt to reconcile their differences by referring to the writings of Bahaullah for guidance, as did his son. These proposals were rejected or ignored. “I pleaded with him time after time, for a conference to discuss our differences, and solve the problems in accordance with the teachings of Bahaullah, as we are commanded,” wrote Ghusn-i-Akbar, “but unfortunately my requests were not granted and my pleadings were in vain.” (spelling and capitalization modernized).

Abbas Effendi Abdul-Baha

Abdul-Baha, elder half brother of Ghusn-i-Akbar

As the duly appointed leader of the Bahais, Abdul-Baha decided to pronounce an anathema on his younger brother, declaring him a “Covenant-breaker” because he did not agree with and obey the “Center of the Covenant” of Bahaullah, i.e. Abdul-Baha himself. Ghusn-i-Akbar regarded this as yet another example of Abdul-Baha going beyond the bounds of his authority, since Bahaullah had given him a high rank and appointed him to become his second successor. Could Abdul-Baha overrule what Bahaullah had written about Ghusn-i-Akbar, simply because he considered him a rebellious heretic?

Abdul-Baha also excommunicated all his family members who disagreed with the way he was leading the Bahai faith and sympathized with or supported Ghusn-i-Akbar. He cut off their financial allowances, which was a severe punishment. Since all of the family were exiled prisoners at the time, they depended on the financial help of Bahais for their livelihood. Abdul-Baha further directed that all Bahais were to shun Ghusn-i-Akbar and his supporters, and described them in dehumanizing terms such as comparing them to an infectious disease.

Abdul-Baha died in 1921. He wrote a will in which he appointed his own grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, to become his successor, thus passing over Ghusn-i-Akbar, whom Bahaullah had designated as the next in line after Abdul-Baha. Having no explicit authority from Bahaullah’s writings to take such an action, he justified it by accusing Ghusn-i-Akbar of terrible acts that would render him morally unfit to hold a spiritual office. It is unknown whether any of these allegations listed in Abdul-Baha’s will are true.

Ghusn-i-Akbar wrote the following in his own defense: “All the accusations in the said will and by other individuals towards me are hearsay, gross misrepresentation and without foundation. I have always lived in accordance with the commands of Bahaullah, glory be to him, and thus fulfilled my duties. I devoted my entire life to the service of the cause and the promulgation of his teachings. I have faced my enemies with a smile, hardships and calamities with endurance, and for those who wronged, misjudged and accused me falsely, I bear no feeling of animosity, but sincerely pray that God may forgive and guide them to the truth. He is the Merciful, the Forgiver.” (spelling and capitalization modernized).

Mirza Majdeddin, Bahaullah’s nephew and brother-in-law, wrote of Ghusn-i-Akbar: “This chosen son is a devout follower of the teachings [of Bahaullah] and a staunch believer in them. He is kind, gentle, patient and always ready to help the needy. … He is misjudged, wronged and falsely accused by so-called friends, those who satisfied themselves with hearsay without investigation.”

Shuaullah Behai

Shuaullah Behai, son of Ghusn-i-Akbar

Ghusn-i-Akbar did not accept his elder brother’s appointment of a different person to be his successor and lead the Bahai faith. He sent his own eldest son Shuaullah to America, where he published a magazine to teach the faith and gained the support of a significant number of people in the 1930s, based on a message of focusing on the writings and teachings of Bahaullah rather than the authority of any successor.

Ghusn-i-Akbar never denied that Abdul-Baha was the legitimate successor of Bahaullah. But he did believe and argue that he went way too far in his claims of authority. Indeed, despite the clear appointment of Abdul-Baha in his father’s will as the first leader of the Bahai faith, most of Bahaullah’s children — the people who knew Bahaullah, Abdul-Baha, and Ghusn-i-Akbar the best — supported Ghusn-i-Akbar’s position and believed Abdul-Baha had overreached in his claims and leadership style.

This continued into the next generations, in which nearly all of Bahaullah’s grandchildren and great grandchildren supported Ghusn-i-Akbar’s Unitarian interpretation of the Bahai faith rather than Shoghi Effendi’s demands of total obedience. So complete was the refusal of Bahaullah’s descendants to repudiate Ghusn-i-Akbar and give Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi the degree of exclusive loyalty they desired, that the latter, who was unable to have children of his own, could appoint no one to become his own successor according to the instructions in Abdul-Baha’s will — having excommunicated every one of his relatives who had not already been excommunicated by Abdul-Baha.

Regardless, Abdul-Baha’s great charisma, missionary activities, and beautiful writings and speeches ensured that most Bahais accepted all of his claims along with his negative portrayal of his younger brother, never even hearing the other side of the story. Furthermore, Shoghi Effendi’s intelligence and skill as a writer, organizational planner and administrator consolidated the dominant version of Bahaism that viewed Ghusn-i-Akbar as the “Arch Breaker of the Covenant” and the “Greatest Violator.”

Ghusn-i-Akbar died in 1937. The distinct Unitarian Bahai community and tradition he founded faded away. But the basic ideas he articulated — that the successors of the prophet do not have absolute authority, and that Bahais should “go back to Bahaullah” and focus on the prophet’s writings and teachings above the decrees of Bahai religious leaders — have remained a potent force in Bahaism and have been manifested repeatedly in various “liberal” and “reform” movements by Bahais in more recent times, without invoking his un-rehabilitated name.

In the next article, we will explore the ways in which Ghusn-i-Akbar is a highly significant figure in Bahai history, his great relevance for Bahais today, and the role he and his legacy may play in the future development of Bahaism. Also look forward to some quotes from his writings that are available in English.


16 Responses to “Ghusn-i-Akbar, the First Unitarian Bahai — Part 1: The Facts”

  1. Andrew says:

    The marginalization and silencing of alternative Bahai discourses and the tendency to negatively judge and shun the scapegoat (who functions as a projective mirror for the communal shadow) creates and sustains a dominant religious narrative that is based on myth, historical fallacy and injustice. Instead of free and reasoned discussion and dialogue, it is intellectual dishonesty of the highest order. Unitarian Bahais are free to challenge the dominant narrative and fashion a new one based on the cultural contexts of the dispute along with a reassessment of the dominant paradigm. This article is an important first step toward the rehabilitation of a scapegoat and a reassessment of his complex legacy. You are to be congratulated for your courage in speaking truth to power when others so easily capitulate (at the slightest amount of pressure) to the proliferation of demonizing narratives.

  2. William Pleasant says:

    Boy, you are definitely cruisin’ for a bruisin’ with this article.

    There are many Haifa-programmed Bahais who would cut your throat
    for even remotely suggesting that the dynastic core of the Bahai Faith
    is up for questioning. You demand that the followers of the Abdulbaha/SE tendency put up or shut up around the grounds for the
    excommunication of Bahaullah’s immediate family.

    Who among the exalted Haifa Olympians will dare to pick
    up the gauntlet?


    • Dale Husband says:

      Maybe Susan Maneck or Sen McGlinn will give it a try. You should see the comments they made here:

      • admin says:

        Sen McGlinn wrote an article recently about Ghusn-i-Akbar:

        I hesitate to link to it because it contains significant factual inaccuracies and is very polemical and biased, but what the heck — people can read both sides and form their own opinions. Individual investigation of truth is supposed to be a Bahai principle, after all.

        • Dale Husband says:

          It’s obvious that Sen McGlinn is either a very clever liar or hopelessly delusional, unable to use consistent logic.

          He said the following here:

          {{{You are knocking down an open door here. It was only Muhammad Ali who thought – or claimed he thought – that Abdu’l-Baha made a claim to unlimited authority. Abdu’l-Baha is quite clear : “My name is ‘Abdu’l-Baha [servant of Baha]. My qualification is ‘Abdu’l-Baha. My reality is ‘Abdu’l-Baha. …” His authority is precisely what Baha’u’llah gave him, no more and no less.}}}

          Completely false. Baha’ullah made the following statement in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Paragraph 37:

          {{{Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor. We pray God that He may graciously assist him to retract and repudiate such claim. Should he repent, God will, no doubt, forgive him. If, however, he persisteth in his error, God will, assuredly, send down one who will deal mercilessly with him. Terrible, indeed, is God in punishing! Whosoever interpreteth this verse otherwise than its obvious meaning is deprived of the Spirit of God and of His mercy which encompasseth all created things. Fear God, and follow not your idle fancies. Nay, rather, follow the bidding of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Wise. Erelong shall clamorous voices be raised in most lands. Shun them, O My people, and follow not the iniquitous and evil-hearted. This is that of which We gave you forewarning when We were dwelling in ‘Iráq, then later while in the Land of Mystery, and now from this Resplendent Spot.}}}

          Now, if that is true, how could Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice possibly claim infallible guidance by God in all their writings and decisions, as stated by Abdu’l-Baha in his own Will and Testament? What is the difference between “Revelation direct from God” and infallible guidance from God?

          • admin says:

            The Arabic word in the Aqdas that is translated in the official Haifan translation as “a Revelation direct from God” is simply “amr,” which literally means “command.” In this context it would mean “divine authority to command.”

            The Haifan (mis)translation in this case is deliberately designed to make it look like Bahaullah was only prohibiting a person from claiming to be a new Manifestation of God bringing a “Revelation,” i.e. a new religion. But this is not actually what Bahaullah wrote. What he wrote is that people are prohibited from claiming “command” — they cannot claim to be commanding other people in the name of God, for the next 1000 years.

            This means that what Abdul-Baha did — claiming that all his writings are the equivalent of scripture and that all Bahais had to obey him in all matters — was pretty obviously prohibited by the Aqdas. The reason is, it is functionally the same thing as claiming “command,” i.e. claiming to have infallible divine authority to tell other people what to believe and do. Functionally speaking, there is no difference between this and claiming to be a new Manifestation of God. And this is precisely what Ghusn-i-Akbar pointed out.

            Bahaullah gave Abdul-Baha the authority to interpret unclear verses in his scriptures; not to write new scriptures of his own. He gave him the authority to lead the Bahai community; but not to command Bahais to obey his every teaching and follow all his orders.

            Sen McGlinn, and other fundamentalist Bahais, would undoubtedly claim that the verse from the Aqdas about the prohibition of claiming command before 1000 years does not apply to Abdul-Baha because technically he did not claim to be a Manifestation of God. I would argue that Abdul-Baha’s lack of such an explicit claim is meaningless, because functionally he acted as though he believed he had the right of divine command, which is something that only the Great Prophets (or “Manifestations” in Bahai parlance) are supposed to have.

  3. Sam says:

    McGlinn writes:

    “This is pure imagination. There is no such appointment.”

    In “A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baha’i Faith,” Peter Smith writes (p. 252):

    “His father named him ghusn-i-akbar (the ‘Greatest Branch’) and in the Kitab-i-‘Ahd (Book of the Covenant) appointed him to be second in succession after ‘Abdu’l-Baha.”

    In “An Introduction to the Baha’i Faith” Peter Smith also writes (p. 44):

    “In addition to naming ‘Abdu’l-Baha (by his title, the ‘Most Great Branch’) as his successor and directing that his family and the Afnan relatives of the Bab now turn to him, Baha’u’llah stated that his second surviving son Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali was subordinate (and implicitly second in rank) to ‘Abdu’l-Baha … Not only was it a written and unambiguous appointment, but it followed traditional custom in favouring the eldest son …”

    The first book was published in 2000; the second in 2008. The references to “Greatest Branch” and “second in succession” found in the first are conspicuous by their absence from the second, but the words still stand.

    This is an extract from “Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics” (Part 3, p. 305) by James Hastings:

    “Thus far, then, it would appear that, in the face of so clear a pronouncement, no room for dissension was left to Baha’u’llah’s followers. But almost immediately, it would seem (for the history of this fresh schism has not yet been dispassionately investigated, though much has been written on either side, not only in Persian but in English), the old struggle between what may be described as the ‘stationary’ and the ‘progressive’ elements broke out. ‘Abbas Efendi apparently claimed that the Revelation was not ended, and that henceforth he was to be its channel. This claim was strenuously resisted by his brother Mirza Muhammad ‘Ali and those who followed him, among whom were included his two younger brothers, Mirza Badi’u’llah and Mirza Ziya’u’llah, Baha’u’llah’s amanuensis, entitled Janab-i-Khadimu’llah (‘the servant of God,’ Mirza Agha Jan of Kashan), and many other prominent Baha’is, who held that, so far as this manifestation was concerned, the book of Revelation was closed, in proof of which view they adduced the following verse from the Kitab-i-Aqdas, or ‘Most Holy Book’: ‘Whosoever lays claim to any AUTHORITY before the completion of a millenium is assuredly a liar and a calumniator.’ The dispute has been darkened by a mass of words, but in essence it is a conflict between these two sayings, viewed in the light of the supernatural claim–whatever its exact nature–which ‘Abbas Efendi did and does advance. On the one hand, Baha’u’llah’s Testament explicitly puts him first in the succession; on the other, being so preferred, he did ‘lay claim to an authority’ regarded by the partisans of his brother as bringing him under the condemnation equally explicitly enunciated by Baha’u’llah in the Kitab-i-Aqdas.”

    The record is clear; no imagination is required.

  4. fubar says:

    Dale & all,

    Susan Maneck dogged people relentlessly on various email lists for years, criticising their “style” (criticising administration) as being inappropriate. Now we see the “jungian shadow” stuff coming out where she does exactly what she told others not to do. sick sick sick.

    She also makes the claim to be a “historian by profession”, in the middle of a series of extremely bizarro “unprofessional” comments, insults and blatant polemics.

    All that is trivial compared to the real problem. She states:

    “When religion becomes as fluid as you want it to be, Eric, it no longer can provide any guidance to anyone. Revelation becomes meaningless.”

    This is an incredible admission by a well known, if unstable polemicist, bahai historian of CULTURAL IMPERIALISM of the WORST POSSIBLE SORT. It is ABSOLUTIST in the worst way, especially when comitted by a so called liberal feminist.

    Such haifan bahais seek, in practice, to create a TOTALITARIAN society, devoid of justice or dissent.

    Their fear of the abyss of meaninglessness and narcissism that exists in the postmodern world leads to a reflexive move backward to the lost “authenticity” of premodern spirituality.

    Anyone that is still under the illusion that the haifan bahai organization doesn’t inspire corrupt, narrow and backward thought now has “proof” and “evidence” to the contrary.

    First of all, the idea that flexbility in religion causes “rebellion”, a failure of “guidance” and causes “Revelation to become meaningless” is DIGUSTING, especially when stated by a “historian by profession”. Again, Dr. Maneck’s mental health problems are CLEARLY in evidence here as she projects some kind of unresolved, sick “jungian shadow” from the dark side of her psyche onto bahai dissidents, nonconformists and critics.

    Contary to Dr. Maneck’s assertion, it is the lack of flexibility in religion that is unacceptable to spiritual people in postmodern culture.

    The only religious people that require a lack of flexibility are people in rigidly orthodox, traditional, conservative cultures whose value systems are primarily derived from medieval/premodern memes.

    In other words, in the backward, fundamentalist, authoritarian Maneck/haifan version of bahai, inflexible fundamentalism is required, and will be imposed on any “rebelling” people that dare to question “Revelation”.

    The Maneck formulation of haifan bahai belief is at least honest in its appalling cultural imperialism.

    The reality is that Dr. Maneck’s horrible thinking, while less discrete than the ruling bahai elites probably wish, is not unusual. It can easily be found amongst the people that strive for status and seek to achieve recognition and position in the haifan bahai community.

    It is rare that such striving is openly protested when it breaks out.

    Most haifan bahais are conditioned to ignore it, and allow people with such sick, imperialistic ideas to construct schemes, seek support, and rise to their level of incompetence, regardless of the damage to others that results.

    It is actually remarkable, when haifan bahai is compared to other religious groups that are comitted to human dececency, compassion, altruism, social, economic and political justice, to see just how inhumane and indecent so many haifan bahai polemicists can become.

    The sad fact is that Dr. Maneck is biased, and desperate to salvage an unhealthy conception of bahai spirituality based on “daddy issues”.

    Cognitive science is validating the modernist/postmodernist view that traditional constructions of religious meaning are culturally limited, and do NOT fully embrace the whole spectrum of meaning and cognition.

    No “prophets” or “manifestations” or “revelations” are needed for people to directly experience transcendence.

    What the Maneck’s of the world fear most is that people will realize that prophetology/manifestationology is a GIANT SCAM whose purpose was to control slave-serf classes in ancient farming cultures by creating myth structures that had to be acessed via ecclesiastic elites working alongside totalitarian/aristocratic rulers.

    Without the “approval” of the priest classes (whose ultimate, delusional daddy-archetype is the “prophet” in western religion), the “child” (slave/serf) has no access to spiritual joy, or deep, communal acceptance.

    “Revelation” is a fundamentally unhhealthy idea that ought to be rejected by any person that values real enlightenment or truth, or flexibility.


  5. BVILLAR says:

    The Kitáb-i-Ahdí is in both in Farsi as well as Arabic. To be properly understood this Tablet must be examined in light of all the pertinent statements about who is to follow Bahá’u’lláh in leading the faith of God. The Kitáb-i-Ahdí, clearly states in Arabic that God had ordained the Greatest Branch, who is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has been selected over the greater branch, who is Muhammad Ali, and adds that God had ordained the station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to be fare above that of Mirza Muhammad Ali. Moreover, this Tablet also explains the meaning of the verse in the Aqdas which “enjoins upon everyone to turn to the One Who had branched from this Ancient Root” to mean non other than the Greatest Branch, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s title given by Bahá’u’lláh.
    It also says that all, including all the Aghsan and Afnan and everyone else should obey Abdu’l-Bahá.
    The CB’s began to play on words as soon as Bahá’u’lláh passed away, and thus tried to interpret the above verse in their favor, at a time when Bahá’u’lláh gave the authority of interpretation of the word of God, only to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá!

    • admin says:

      BVILLAR wrote: “The Kitáb-i-Ahdí, clearly states in Arabic that God had ordained the Greatest Branch, who is ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has been selected over the greater branch, who is Muhammad Ali, and adds that God had ordained the station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to be fare above that of Mirza Muhammad Ali.”

      No, it doesn’t say any such thing. First of all, the titles given to both of these men mean “Greatest Branch.” One does not mean “greatest” and the other “greater” — this is a gross and deliberate mistranslation/misinterpretation of the text that was done by Shoghi Effendi to justify the claims of his grandfather, Abdul-Baha. Secondly, Bahaullah does not state that he ordained the station of Abdul-Baha to be “far above” that of Ghusn-i-Akbar. He merely states that he has chosen Ghusn-i-Akbar after Ghusn-i-Azam (Abdul-Baha). Period. Haifan Bahais, beginning with Abdul-Baha, have taken this simple statement in which Bahaullah said that his eldest son is chosen for leadership first and his second son second, and have turned it into an extensive argument for the idea that somehow Abdul-Baha has a more lofty spiritual status beyond that of all other human beings other than the prophets. Nowhere did Bahaullah teach any such thing; this was a theological *claim* of Abdul-Baha and those who supported his side of the dispute with Ghusn-i-Akbar.

    • Dale Husband says:

      Are we playing on words when we read what Baha’u’llah says in the Kitab-i-Aqdas:

      “Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor. We pray God that He may graciously assist him to retract and repudiate such claim. Should he repent, God will, no doubt, forgive him. If, however, he persisteth in his error, God will, assuredly, send down one who will deal mercilessly with him. Terrible, indeed, is God in punishing! Whosoever interpreteth this verse otherwise than its obvious meaning is deprived of the Spirit of God and of His mercy which encompasseth all created things. Fear God, and follow not your idle fancies. Nay, rather, follow the bidding of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Wise. Erelong shall clamorous voices be raised in most lands. Shun them, O My people, and follow not the iniquitous and evil-hearted. This is that of which We gave you forewarning when We were dwelling in ‘Iráq, then later while in the Land of Mystery, and now from this Resplendent Spot.”

      …compare that with what Abdu’l-Baha claimed in his Will and Testament:

      “The sacred and youthful branch, the guardian of the Cause of God as well as the Universal House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness, the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God. May the wrath, the fierce indignation, the vengeance of God rest upon him!”

      …and see with our own eyes that if one is true, the other cannot be?

  6. BVILLAR says:

    “Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad Ali] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch [‘Abdu’l-Bahá].”
    *qad qadd’arah allahu maqama al ghusn-i al akbaar[ muhammad ali] ba`da maqamahu…*

    The literal translation of the Arabic sentence is “Verily God has ordained his (Ghusn-i-Akbar) station to be after his (Ghusn-i-A’zam).” In this context, “after” really means lower or NEXT in importance. The word ba`daa in this context means below or beneath, or under, or less. Successor or not, Mirza Muhammad Ali’s station would never be equal to that of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

    • admin says:

      That is one possible interpretation, but certainly not the only one. The word ba’da simply means “after.” In this context, it *could* be interpreted to mean beneath (the way Abdul-Baha and his supporters interpreted it); or it could be interpreted to mean after, i.e. Ghusn-i-Akbar was second-in-rank while Abdul-Baha was alive and would automatically become the next successor after his death. The latter interpretation is how Ghusn-i-Akbar and most of Bahaullah’s family interpreted the verse in question.

  7. BVILLAR says:

    “This fact of there being only one Centre and of turning unto a single holy Being is, in the Kingdom of His Cause, as the shaft or spindle of a millstone, and all the other laws and ordinances must needs revolve around this one. In the temple of God’s religion the Centre of the Cause can be likened to the heart, for upon it depends the life of the human body as one entity, as well as the relationships of its organs and their essential growth and vitality. In human society the Centre of the Cause can be compared to the sun, whose magnetic force controls the movements and orbits of the planets. The Centre of the Cause is also like the spine of a book, for by it the pages are all banded together into one book, and without the spine the papers would become loose and scattered.

    Now each separate member of the community who is within the shelter of that blessed unity is, according to his rank and station, the recipient of grace; and that rank is respected and protected, in conformity with the verse: ‘Not one of us but hath his clearly designated station.'[1] Thus, in the body of man, the eye has a preordained station, one not belonging to some lesser members; and yet, should it once depart from the whole, and its connection with the centre be broken, then its membership in the body, and its very life, are ended, let alone its previous station and degree. Or should the eye be plucked from its place, torn out of the body, it would be deprived of life itself, how much less would it continue to enjoy the station that rightly belongs to the eye.
    [1 Qur’án 37:164.]

    How strange! With reference to one who smokes opium, the Ancient Beauty, the Most Great Name, has said: ‘He is not of Me’, making no distinction here between one enjoying God’s special favour, and some other. If the smoking of opium, which is one of the secondary and lesser prohibitions, completely severs the smoker from membership in the community and from relationship to the Person of the Manifestation, then what must be the condition of him who refuses to acknowledge the Centre of the holy Covenant? In the words of Christ, ‘If thine eye 135 cause thee to stumble, pluck it out … if thy hand offend thee, cut it off.[1]
    [1 cf.Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-7.]”

    An epistle of Bahíyyih Khánum.
    Shavval 1340 A.H. (28 May-25 June 1922 A.D.), to the Bahá’ís in Khusif.
    (Compilations, Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 134)

    • admin says:

      Prophets often use metaphorical and highly charged language that is not meant to be interpreted literally. Anybody who lies, cheats, steals, uses drugs, or has committed whatever other sins or misdemeanors, etc., is in some sense “not of God.” But this hardly means they should be excluded from fellowship with other people of faith. We all make mistakes, and nobody is perfect.

      Btw, all this stuff about “the Center of the Cause” is language that Abdul-Baha used about himself. Bahaullah probably would prefer that God and his prophet remain the Center of the Cause in the minds of Bahais, rather than any successors to religious leadership.

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