The Splendour of God, by Eric Hammond, , at sacred-texts.com
That the Bahais should not be left unshepherded was fore-ordained.
Baha‘u‘llah, with unerring insight, recognised the undoubted fitness of his eldest son for the leadership of his fast-increasing flock.
This son, known now as Abbas Effendi, was born on May 23, 1844; "the day on which The Bab began his ministry." 1
Not only had he eagerly assimilated the instructions of The Bab; he had also perceived and rejoiced in the fulfilment, in his Father's person, of The Bab's prophecy that "God would become Manifest."
His acquiescence in, and joyous acceptance of Baha‘u‘llah was complete. He called him "Lord" as well as "Father."
Used to the existence of the exiled; accustomed to all the details and requirements of the
position; filled with unalterable faith in The Bab's message;—his Father's mission;—his own standing as "The Chosen One"; he took upon himself the burdensome yoke, the onerous duties, of "The Servant of God."
His knowledge of the sufferings of his people was personal and profound; he had shared in their sacrifice. His conviction that, through Bahaism, East and West would be, in God's good time, brought together in the Divine Unity, enabled him to take up bravely the burden imposed upon him by his Father.
Very wisely, as well as very bravely, has he borne that burden.
Abdul Baha, Abbas Effendi, exhibits to perfection the force and sweetness of what we call personality. We have noticed that he addressed his parent sometimes as "Father," sometimes as "Lord." This beautiful appreciation of a beautiful character is repeated in the home of Abbas Effendi, whose daughters employ the same expressions. He who is their Father according to the flesh, is also their Lord according to the spirit. They recognise in him the ideal blending of attributes human and divine; and, in this connection, it must be remembered that it is a man's family who know him most intimately. He who is both loved and reverenced by his own children has a "personality" which survives, and is exalted by, criticism.
Men of various nationalities, rightly proud of intimate acquaintance with him, speak enthusiastically of him as a living example of the practice in everyday life of the highest and, at the same time, most endearing qualities. An Englishwoman, after eight months’ residence under his roof, expressed herself as having found her esteem and admiration of Abbas Effendi increase day by day. Known as "The Servant of God," the fitness of that description is proved and recognised by his service to man. His method of life has been, and continues to be, a luminous example of the fact that, here and now, despite all the surroundings of struggle for fame and wealth and material mastery, an existence guided and guarded by the Light of the Spirit is a possible, actual thing. Those who pray for the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth, may see in Abbas Effendi one who dwells in that kingdom consciously, and creates an environment pulsating with the Peace that passeth ordinary understanding.
Heeding, obeying the Supreme Voice of God sounding within, he conveys to those who come in contact with him the sense of the nearness of God. He inspires them so completely with that immanence that they are impelled to imitate him in accepting the dictates of that divine being. He who becomes assured of the indwelling God, cannot be perverted from living in the light of God, Their light, too, must be seen of men.
Is there, then, any wonder that the kindliness of heart and head and . hand shown by Abbas Effendi creates corresponding kindliness in his adherents? Is there any wonder that his vast love, for humanity obliges man to love man? To those whose inner eyes are opened, the kingdom of God is on earth, for "the Kingdom of Heaven is within" them.
In himself, his everyday bearing, his ways and words, Abbas Effendi furnishes the modern world with a living object-lesson of the transforming energy of The Light of Love. He has said, "All beside love is but words." In his own person he conveys the proof of his own prophecy that the religion of Bahaism is a religion of deeds, vocalising itself not in syllables but in active signs of The Light in the life. The author of the Fourth Gospel wrote, "The life was the light of men."
He bids his followers to recognise the rays of The Light wherever they may appear; in any country; in the professors of any creed. The Light, the unifying influence, should draw men of all classes and conditions together, by dissolving clouds of difference that tend to separation.
He assures his people that the world has received enlightenment through divinely inspired seers who, from time to time, have appeared. Every religion that has arisen in the world owed its rise to these. Thus every religion is of divine origin. Prophets have proclaimed truth, teachers
have unfolded the will of the Highest; each prophet, each teacher, of any religious school, has fulfilled the function of a lamp through which The Light has shone upon men.
The history of belief has in it many chapters concerning the rise and progress of religions and has been compelled to add many other chapters bearing upon the fact that the value of each religion, from a spiritual point of view, has lessened and dwindled because of the growth around it of the fungi of superstition and the frequently deadening effect of reverence for ritual. These inevitably shade the shining of The Light and prevent its irradiance. Thus life, created and moved by light, becomes dull in sympathy with the dimness of The Light. Then, at such periods, a new lamp is necessary; a new prophet passes into being, and the world once again rejoices in One who is made manifest by reason of the luminosity of The Light with which He is privileged to move among men.
By virtue of the light borne by himself, he would lead men on the Path of Peace. His light shines full upon the oneness of man with God.
If climatic and geographical considerations have produced antagonism, it is certain that a creed in one quarter has created a crux in another. Men's vision, obscured by films that have imposed themselves upon faith, could not descry hope in one another's outlook. Spiritual perception required,
in these latter days, a fresh and lustrous exposition of The Eternal Light. Hence the coming of The Bab, the succession of Baha‘u‘llah, the culminating influence of Abbas Effendi, who spends himself making clear to men the solidarity of the race as one with each other and with God. His life is his lesson. He lops off no limb of religion from the body of mankind. He urges men to be true to that aspect of the highest that appeals to them; for the core of each creed is truth; the seed of each religion was sown by the Lord.
That Baha‘u‘llah acted wisely and well in proclaiming his son Abbas Effendi his successor, events have plentifully proved.
Courteous, kindly, dignified, his personality fascinates and compels towards goodness.
Honourable and just, he so disarms prejudice that "his jailers have become his friends." That the people of Acca esteem him and look to him for sympathy and justice might be supposed, but it is a remarkable and noteworthy fact to record that equal esteem is evinced for him by successive governors of the city and by military officers in authority there.
Nearly forty years he has dwelt, imprisoned, in that little city of Acca, a familiar figure, a marked man. Familiarity has not bred contempt, but sincerest admiration and reverence.
Those who have visited him—when the powers
that were permitted such visits—have found their love and respect for him increase day by day, even month by month. Prolonged intimacy is the severest of all tests, but, tried by this test, Abbas Effendi is, throughout, the gainer.
Always under surveillance, frequently under suspicion (of political or other inimical intent), his courage has disarmed espionage, and his untiring faculty for forgiving has rendered suspicion foolish.
His devotion and attention to his people have increased rather than lessened during the years of a busy, harassed life. Through persecution, misapprehension, and many misrepresentations, he has proved true to his ideal; unswerving in the pursuance of his purpose.
His liberality relative to varying creeds is equalled by his generosity to friends and foes. Poverty and suffering exist, he considers, in order to be relieved at any personal cost and inconvenience. Those who have vehemently opposed and strenuously fought to hinder him, have participated in much material benefit at his hands. Intolerance is, in the rule of the Bahai, the one impossible word.
In dealing with conflicting opinions and rituals, Abbas Effendi's method is that of acute intelligence and spiritual perception. He exercises his fine insight into the minds of others; an insight as sympathetic as it is immediate. Thus he
treats any theme under discussion from the point of view of the religion professed by the enquirer, selecting, as arguments, texts from the Scripture sacred to that religion.
All that is evil or untoward in a man's or a country's condition, he comprehends, deplores, forthwith strives to remedy.
His advanced scientific and hygienic principles have aided him, prisoner and poor, to redeem Acca, at least in part, from its notorious insalubrity.
In signs and miracles he deals not at all. Gifted to no small extent with healing powers—largely the result of education and experience in suffering—he firmly deprecates any imputation of the supernatural.
How far the sweetness and light of that message as delivered by The Bab, the enlightening revelations of Baha‘u‘llah, and the Gospel according to Abbas Effendi, have permeated the Persian conscience or penetrated into other Oriental castes, concerns our present purpose but little. The last named of these, however, rejoices with exceeding joy in the promised, and promising, Constitutions of Eastern countries. "For the first
time during seven years," writes a devoted friend from Acca in the autumn of 1908, "our Lord has been allowed to visit the tomb of Baha‘u‘llah. With him I saw the tomb and was permitted to share in his freedom and that of his people."
The chains of the captivity are released. Freedom, to live here or to live there; Freedom, to speak and write tidings of goodwill; Freedom—the word, the thing—cannot be entered into by men who have been born and who have lived, free. It cannot be adequately put into any language. It can only be enjoyed to the uttermost by those to whom liberty has been a lifelong hope, a lifelong sacred dream which the Infinite One in His infinite goodness might make real. It can only become real to those who, like the Bahais, have "suffered and are strong," because of a supreme faith in a supreme cause.
Freedom, liberty, light;—not for one tribe or worshippers in one temple, but for all the sons of men and of God;—these are the one desire of Abdul Baha, Abbas Effendi. His acute. apprehension of man's soul urges him to preach that no people are so distrustful of others as those who, isolated and self-contained, know little, and care less, of contact with other folk. It is their natural tendency to become more and more satisfied with their limitations and indeed to believe at last that material and spiritual salvation can only be acquired within those limits.
[paragraph continues] Upheavals are essential. The advent of a prophet is a necessity; first, perhaps, to be despised, doubted; but, in the end, to cause a vital current of opinion to flow in the direction of charitable speculation. It is true that the parochialist in religion usually uplifts his voice clamorously against the prophet and the prophecy. It is true, too, that when a master-mind frames truth in a new setting, or boldly breaks away incrustations which have longtime concealed truth, and been adored in mistake for truth, a storm of disapproval attempts to drown the missioner's voice and mar his message. Limitations, too frequently the accumulation of custom, convention, or superstition, have, on requisite occasion, to be shattered; with all courtesy, with all generosity, but with unyielding decision. It is essential to the welfare of the world that seers should arise to utter the truth that has existed from the beginning; the truth that has always, to less extent or more, been uttered in the East.
Out of the East, Abbas Effendi's humanising, spiritualising influence is spreading near and far. In the Eastern firmament a Star has again arisen and its beams are shedding light upon the dark places of the earth.
Each philosophy has many facets. Diamond-wise, the philosophy of Bahaism has been skilfully wrought by experts in prayer and practice.
For example;—Abbas Effendi has been entitled
[paragraph continues] "His Highness the Master"; he prefers to be known as "The Servant," and, day by day, holds himself in readiness to serve. Customary Mohammedan observances are maintained "for the sake of peace and to avoid the imputation of social innovation." Constant generosity is enjoined. These are facets of jewels shining in the Bahai crown.
Monogamy is advised, and Abbas Effendi's example is respected and admired.
Differences of religious opinion should be disregarded; most of all when charity (alms-giving) is concerned.
Each Bahai should have good working knowledge of some useful trade or profession. Industry is expected of all. The emancipation of woman and the equal education of girls and boys is Abbas Effendi's desire and prophecy. Cleanliness of body and mind; practical thrift; personal action towards universal Brotherhood;—these are parts of the clauses in the holy ordinance.
41:1 "From childhood his father fitted him and trained him to become the centre of the movement."—C. M. Rémey.