Abbas Effendi the Murderer: Chief Exemplar of the Baha’i Technique
From the statement of one Mirza Hasan Khurasani (undated but located sometime between June 1898 and November 1900) in possession of Ibrahim George Khayrullah who forwarded it to Professor Edward Granville Browne at Cambridge University on February 26, 1901, together with other related items. Browne translated these items in his Materials for the Study of the Babi Religion (Cambridge: 1916), pp.154-167.
“I came here especially to bring you back to your allegiance to Abbas Effendi, and am prepared to stay ten years if necessary. If you return to Abbas Effendi, I will cause the American believers to follow you as head in everything even better than heretofore. If you will not listen to me and become a follower of Abbas, your abode will be in the bowels of the earth. I come here because of pity for you, and to save you. If you will not listen, your life will be short. If Abbas Effendi should give me the word to cut you to pieces, or tear your eyes out, or to kill you, I will do so at once. I fear not the consequences to myself. You know that I am from Khurasan, and that the sword of Khurasan is so powerful that if a blow is struck with it, it will cut from above the stars to the depth of the earth, and will cut even the fishes of the sea.’
“He then repeated to me the fate of Mirza Yahya of Jedda, and offered me a copy of a pamphlet published by himself entitled ‘the Great Miracle of Abbas Effendi.’ The above is the substance of what he said to me on Friday, November 30, 1900.
“On Saturday, December 1st, 1900, Mirza Hassan-i-Khurasani again called in the company of Mirza Asadu’llah, and their interpretor Mirza Husayn [Ruhi]. We all discussed the difference of faith for about eight hours in the presence of my son-in-law Amir Hani Shihab and his wife Mrs Shihab (my daughter), also my daughter Labiba, and my son George Kheyrullah M.D. During this discussion Mirza Hasan-i-Khurasani mentioned to those present that the day before, while talking to me alone, he had plainly told me the consequences of not acceding to their wishes. Upon this I repeated to all present the threatening words he had uttered the day before, and he acknowledged before all that he had said the words above reported to me.
“I.J.K.” [Kheyrullah’s initials]
Enclosed with this were translations of two letters and the original Arabic of a third written from Akka by one Mahmud, a partisan of Muhammad Ali, to Ibrahim Khayru’llah. The first two both seem to have been written at Akka on October 20, 1900, and received a month later
by Khayr’ullah at Chicago. The shorter one is a s follows:
“Lately, in this present week, three American ladies and a gentleman arrived by the regular steamer via Beyrout, and are stopping at the Kraft, a German hotel at Haifa. Up to the present time they have not spoken to any of the Unitarians , because they are prevented in the
ways you know.”
The longer letter, of which I have somewhat emended the style (which is clumsy and loaded with parentheses) runs as follows: “He is Al-Bahiyyu’l-Abha, Great is His Splendour!
(Here follow the usual compliments, etc.]
“I have already informed you that some of the followers of Abbas Effendi, our opponents, have left here for America. One of them is Mirza Asadu’llah of Isfahan, of whose cunning and shrewdness of intrigue you cannot fail to be aware, and who is the brother-in-law and secretary of Abbas Effendi, and in all matters his most trusted and confidential agent. To no one else does Abbas reveal his hidden secrets, and these people are the most unscrupulous, and will hesitate at nothing and fear no consequences, being resolved to accomplish their purpose and spread abroad their vicious principles, even by the shedding of blood and the destruction of lives by hidden methods and secret intrigues. This obliges me to explain to you a certain cruel deed which they accomplished not long since. It is one of their many deeds which inspire detestation and break the heart with horror.
“Now therefore I say that there was in the port of Jedda a certain man of the Unitarians named Mirza Yahya, who was the son-in-law of one Hajji Mirza Husayn of Lar, the Persian vice-consul at Jedda, a merchant noted for his wealth. As is well known to you these people take great and exquisite pains to attract to themselves persons of wealth and influence. When, therefore, they discovered that Mirza Yahya openly confessed his faith, and that he was of the part of the true Unitarians, and was wont to discuss with his father-in-law the questions at issue and the differences between the two parties, they were afraid that in the future the words of the son-in-law would influence the father-in-law, to wit the Hajji above mentioned, and eventually be the cause of depriving them of his money and wealth. They were moreover convinced of the impossibility of bringing Mirza Yahya over to their faction.
“One of the followers of Abbas Effendi named Mirza Mansur, who is now in India, was therefore commanded by his master to proceed to Jedda and there conspire with the Hajji above mentioned for the destruction of Mirza Yahya. At that time the said Hajji was also at Akka, but whether the plot was concocted there or at Jedda I am unable to say. To be brief, one night Mirza Mansur succeeded in administering to Mirza Yahya a poison which killed him at once. The subtlety of this plot lay in the perpetration of this horrid deed in such a city as Jedda (where the crime would pass easily unnoticed, as, in fact, was the case).
“Before the conspiracy had accomplished its purpose, Abbas Effendi had written written from Akka to one of his friends informing him that some calamity would befall Mirza Yahya, and that he would be punished. Hajji Mirza Hassan of Khurasan published in Cairo a pamphlet concerning this event and the ‘Great Miracle’ wrought herein by Abbas Effendi. It is unnecessary to send you this lengthy pamphlet, our object being merely to make known to you the character of these
peoples’ intrigues. You must employ every needful precaution, for, should they be unsuccessful or disappointed in inducing you to return to their party, they will endeavour by every means and without scruple to injure you. Concerning what befell Mirza Yahya we have heard from certain persons who were at Jedda at the time that as he had no heirs, and as his father-in-law, the said Hajji, was of Abbas Effendi’s party, and was also the Persian vice-consul at Jedda, no one appeared to demand an enquiry into the causes of his death.
I therefore entreat you carefully to avoid taking from the hands of these people any food, drink, or other thing, although we know that the Lord (Glory be to Him) is the Protector and Sustainer, and will without a doubt protect His friends and shelter those who love Him,
especially him who has displayed the greatest energy, and has fought so faithfully in preaching to the people the Manifestation of His Most Great Name al-Abha.
“Mirza Abu’l-Fazl [of Gulpayagan] and Hajji Mirza Hasan [of Khurasan] and the others, while they were here recently, did not visit any of the Unitarians, neither the Blessed Branches (Aghsan) nor the others. They neither wrote nor spoke to them concerning the differences of faith, and some of them used even to avert their faces from them if they happened to pass each other in the street.”
The translation of the last of Mahmud’s letters, of which the Arabic text was communicated to me, is as follows:
“I inform you also of an event which happened in these days, which is that Husayn the Confectioner (Shakarij), who has a shop opposite to the Government House at Hayfa, as you will remember, died of poison on the eve of Saturday the 28th of Ramazan in the house of His Holiness the Most Mighty branch [Al-Ghusn al-A’zam, i.e. Abbas Effendi Abdu’l-Baha]. He was seen by the municipal doctor, who reported that he died of poison. This is as much as we heave heard hitherto, but should we obtain more detailed information, we will, please God, communicate it to you.”
“He who prays for you, Mahmoud. – January 30th, 1901.
It is my good fortune to possess a copy of Hajji Mirza Hasan Khurasani’s pamphlet above mentioned, which, was sent to me on March 12, 1901, by Ibrahim George Khayru’llah. It only contains 27 pages measuring 5 1/5 by 3 ½ inches, is entitled Risala-i-Bushra wa Aya-I-Kubra (“the Tract of Good Tidings and the Most Great Sign”), was printed at the Hindiyya Press in Egypt, and was completed on Rajab 9, 1316 (November 23, 1898). My copy is signed and sealed on the last page by the author, so that there is no doubt about its authenticity. It opens with a brief doxology, in which Abbas Effendi is spoken of as “the Lord of the World and Goal of the Peoples, the Most Noble Mystery of God [Sirr’ullah], the Most Mighty Branch of God and His Enduring Proof in the World,” designated to succeed himself by Baha’u’llah since “God, great is His Glory, arrived in the luminous city of Akka.” Texts from the Kitab-i-Aqdas and from Baha’s Testament are cited in proof of this assertion and the action of those who “broke the Covenant” (i.e. who sided with Abbas Effendi’s half-brother, Muhammad Ali) is deplored and denounced. “Our object at present,” continues the author, “is not, however, to discuss these matters, which are not hidden or concealed from any one, but to gladden the friends the Friends of God with good tidings of a wonderful event which happened in the city of Jedda, and of a clear sign and evident miracle from the writings of the holy pen of His Holiness Abdu’l-Baha…(may the Life of the Worlds be a sacrificed to the dust of his footsteps!).” After this brief introduction, the author proceeds to describe as follows the life and death of Mirza Yahya of Isfahan, and the words of Abbas Effendi wherein that death was foreshadowed.
This Mirza Yahya was originally an Azali, but in the year of Baha’u’llah’s “Ascension” (i.e. death), 1892, he came to Akka, met Abbas Effendi, by whom he was very warmly received, and wrote a refutation of Subh-i-Azal. After a while he departed to Jedda (the port of Mecca on the Red Sea), where he became intimate with a well-known Baha’i named Hajji Mirza Husayn of Lar, whose daughter he presently asked and received in marriage. When the dispute between
Abbas Effendi and his half-brother Muhammad Ali became acute, and the Baha’i community was rent asunder by this schism, Mirza Yahya became the trusted agent and fervent supporter of Muhammad Ali, in whose favor he carried on an active propaganda. “It is a curious fact,”
observes the author, “that the ‘Covenant-breakers’ (naqizin) became the devoted admirers and faithful friends of every atheist, Azali and Sophist, and of such as deny God’s Holy Law and and disobey His command, and are the kind of frienda dn congenial intimates of every part except the true believers…, so that the truth of the tradition, ‘Infidelity constitutes a single church [i.e. all misbelievers have a natural sympathy for one another, and form, as it were, a coherent community]’ might become apparent and manifest.” So Yahya grew even bolder in his opposition to Abbas Effendi, “the Great Mystery of God, and the Branch derived from the Ancient Stock,” until God’s patience was exhausted and His Anger moved to destroy the offender, and a “Tablet” (Lawh) was sent by Abbas Effendi to Hajji Mulla Husayn of Lar, of which a copy was forwarded to the author enclosed in a letter dated the 2nd of Jumada 1, 1316 (= September 18, 1898)
This “Tablet,” which Hajji Mirza Hasan read aloud at the time of its arrival to a circle of fellow believers in Cairo, is of considerable length and partly in Arabic. The prophetic threats are contained in the later Persian portion, of which a translation is here appended.
“The glance of [Divine] Favor embraceth that friend, and all good is predestined in respect to him, but a great barrier hath intervened [between us and him], a formidable obstacle hath appeared; and God controlleth [men’s] secret thoughts. Praise be to God, during the Day of the Theophany that friend attained to the honour of meeting and secured the distinction of listening to the address. You will ultimately appreciate the worth of this Pearl of Great Price of the Divine Covenant. For the unique Pearl was nourished in the embrace of the shell of the Most Glorious Kingdom (Malakut-i-Abha) and included in the range of the Supreme Pen, and hath had no peer or like since the beginning of Creation. But certain children, having gathered together, have vainly thought to cast the Joseph of the Covenant into the Pit of Oblivion, and so themselves to become famous throughout the city and the market-place, and to sell this Precious Pearl for a few dirhams, and to endeavour to give currency to their own potsherds,
heedless of the fact that the Beloved (`Aziz) of the Divine Egypt hath come forth from the bottom of the pit in despite of every envious and obstinate foe, and by the Favor of the Most Splendid Beauty (Jamal-i-Abha) hath reached the zenith of the moon. Soon you will see that by the aid of the Most Glorious Kingdom (Malakut-i-Abha) the Standard of the Promise will wave above the Pole of the Horizons, while the Lamp of thw Covenant will shine so brightly through the glass of Contingent Being that the darkness of the Violation of the Covenant will altogether disappear, and the cry of ‘By God, verily God hath prefered Him over all mankind’ wil be heard. If a little consideration and reflection be exercised concerning past events, the truth of the matter will become plain and proved. Say, ‘O Shaykh, this Covenant is the Ligt of the Horizons, and this is the Promise of God, not the plaything of children.’ Say, ‘So shall ye behold yourselves in manifest loss, while damage shall result and be evident, and injury shall shortly overthrow the edifice.’ Say, ‘The first hurt, please God, will be a warning to you, [making you reflect] what was the cause of this hurt and what the reason of this loss.’ At all events do you observe with new and sharpened sight, so that you may find your way to the aims of these plotters and destroyers. Consider of whom it is said in the Quran, ‘They say with their tongues what is not in their hearts.’ Explain for them [the verse] ‘And when they see those who believe, they say “We believe”; but when they withdraw privily to their devils, they say, “We are only scoffers!” Elucidate the meaning of, “But God shall mock at them, an continue them in their impiety; they shall wander in confusion’ Say to him who was alive and is soon to die: ‘Like the covenant-breakers the children of Israel wrought for themselves Samiri and the [Golden] Calf. Was not Joshua the son of Nun divinely designated?’ Thou didst err and make a grievous mistake when thou didst so vehemently belittle and contemn the divinely designated Center [of Authority]. If the eternal Beauty [Baha’u’llah] should say to thee, ‘How didst thou call the Center of My Covenant, the Branch derived from my Ancient Stock, him who was explicitly designated in my Perspicuous Book, and the Exemplar of that Book, “a [Golden] Calf?” what answer, O shameful Yahya, wilt thou give? If thou would’st not be the salve, why be the sore? Was not the Kitab al-Aqdas revealed thirty years ago? Did I not summon all to obey the derived Branch? Did I not direct all to submission, calling him the Expositor of the Perspicuous Book? Did I not awaken most of the Friends, and did I not dissociate him before all from what is beneath him? Did I not engage his Covenant and Compact in the writings of the Supreme Pen, and did I not in plain language command all the Branches (Aghsan) and Twigs (Afnan) and Kinsmen generally to have regard and look to him? What more could I do? How could I further strengthen the matter? O shameful Yahya, how could’st thou sanction so cruel a slander against this great Designate? What hurt had’st thou suffered at his hands that thou did’st desire for him such abasement, or what injury had’st thou experienced from him that thou did’st display such great hatred?’ What answer wilt thou give? At all events, while it is yet time express regret, and manifest repentance and remorse, and bareheaded in the mountain and the desert cry out that ye be not touched, and pour forth from thine eyes like the Oxus-flood tears and blood, and become the associate of lamentation and remorse, that perchance the breeze of forgiveness may blow, the grossness of thy sin may decrease, the Ocean of Mercy may be stirred, and the Cloud of Pardon may pour forth its rain, so that this filfth of Covenant-breaking may be removed. For if not, then expect the Divine Vengeance, and look for blackness of face [disgrace] in both worlds. As God liveth, verily humiliation shall flee from thee by reason of its abudance, and loss shall take refuge from thee with the All-Merciful, and thou shalt behold thyself in the lowest depths of Hell. For abasement, remorse and disgrace shall be
the portion of those who violate the Covenant of the High, the Mighty.”
[Abdu’l-Baha Abbas] ´ ´
The author, Hajji Mirza Hasan of Khurasan, next quotes the covering letter (or “Tablet”) addressed to himself by `Abbas Effendi, and dated (“contrary to what is customary”) the 2nd of Jumada 11, 1316 (September 18, 1898). The latter portion of this runs as follows:
“O Friend, you wrote about Yahya, who supposed that `Abdu’l-Baha was heedless of his evil intentions and intrigues. Therefore a little while ago a letter was written to Jedda, of which a copy is enclosed. Read it, that thou may’st be assured that the clemency of `Abdu’l-Baha is great and his patience strong, but that, when the Command comes, he speaks and writes and cries, ‘This is the Truth, and after the Truth is naught save error. O Friend, so proclaim the Covenant that the deaf ears of the [Covenant-]breakers may hear, and so shine in the Assembly of Constancy that the blind eyes of the perjured ones may see. And the Glory [Baha] be upon every one who is steadfast in the Covenant of they Lord the Mighty.” ´ ´
Not long after the receipt of this letter, which was read aloud to the faithful in Egypt, a letter dated 27th of Jumada 1, 1316 (=October 13, 1898), a letter dated the 27th of Jumada 1, 1316 (= Ocotober 13, 1898) was received from Hajji Mulla Husayn of Lar from Jedda by Hajji Mirza Hasan of Khurasan declaring that “God, mighty is His Glory, had removed Yahya, that incorrigible Covenant Breaker, and had opened before his face the Door of fierce threats of the All-Glorious Lord, which are explicitly mentioned in the Two Holy Tablets. The simoon of Divine Wrath blew, and the gale of Celestial Anger breathed, and his (Yahya’s) darkened spirit, fulfilled with envy and hatred, descended in the abyss of Hell.” Here follows Mulla Husayn of Lar’s narrative of what took place, as communicated by him in a letter to Hajji Mirza Hasan of Khurasan:
“Touching the Tablet which was vouchsafed from the Land of Heart’s Desire, in truth if anyone should possess the eye of discernment, these same Blessed Words which were thus fulfilled are a very great miracle. But what profits it, since the discerning eye is lacking? “I read the Tablet to Mirza Yahya, and he listened. I said: ‘Assuredly thou sayest in they heart, “I do not believe in the words thereof.”‘ He answered, ‘It is even so; I have no sort of belief either in him or his father.’ I said, ‘If that which has issued from the Blessed Pen does not speedily overtake you, it were well that they should shave off my beard.’ Then he rose up and departed to his own house.
“A few nights later towards the dawn one knocked at the door of my house. ‘Who is it?’ I cried. Then, seeing that it was a maid-servant, I added, ‘What wilt thou?’ She replied, ‘Mirza Yahya is done for.’ I at once ran thither. Hajji Muhamad Baqir also was present. I saw that blood was flowing from his (Mirza Yahya’s) throat, and that he was unable to move. By this time it was morning. I at once brought thither an Indian doctor. He examined him and said, ‘A blood vessel in his lung is ruptured. He must lie still for three days and not move, and then he wil lrecover.’ He then gave him some medicine. The haemorhage stopped for two days, and his condition improved. In spite of this he was not admonished to return to the Truth. After two days there was a second flow of blood from his throat, and he was nearly finished. The doctor came again and gave him medicine, but ultimately it profited him nothing. Twice again he vomited undiluted blood, and then surrendered his spirit to the Angel of Torment.
“This even was in truth a warning to all beholders, that is to say such as see and read this Tablet. Please God you have read it in its entirety and found your way to the meaning thereof. One individual hath He thus swiftly removed. Assuredly hereafter the Lord wil accomplish every promise that He hath uttered. I take refuge with God from the wrath of God. I seek from the Truth that He will aid us to stand firm in His Covenant and Compact! In a little while the Covenant-breakers will be overtaken by calamities such that they shall flee bare-headed to the mountains and the deserts, but shall find there no escape.”
The author, Hajji Mirza Hasan of Khurasan, here observes that never in any previous dispensation was so clear a threat followed by so swift and condign a punishment, or so explicit a prophecy so speedily accomplished. For, says he, though God’s patience is almost inexhaustible, there comes an end to it, especially in the case of such apostates, who sin against the Light, and who do far more harm to the cause then the theologians, juriconsults and rulers who ignorantly oppose and oppress it. He then quotes another Tablet which was sent to
him by Abbas Effendi after the death of Mirza Yahya, and which runs thus:
“Write to Mulla Husayn of Lar that these were the circumstances connected with Yahya the shameless, to wit that he wrote a letter to the leading Covenant Breakers, and made use of a very vile expressing the Centre of the Covenant [Abbas Effendi] such as none, not even the lowest, would utter; to wit, an expression which was to the leading Covenant-breakers as a floral festival, a joy, and the cause of boundless delight [causing them to say] ‘Praise be to God because such souls have appeared who dare to belittle so ignominiously the Pole-star of the Covenant!’ Therefore was the threat of vengeance and the imminence of the thunderbolt of destruction thus explicitly given; for assuredly the Framer of the Covenant and the Protector of the Compact will vindicate the Centre of the Covenant. These are isolated events; which these same outward eyes it will be seen in what abasement and disgrace, and in what calamities, afflictions and chastisements the ‘quakers’ shall be overwhelmed. Say, ‘Wait until God shall accomplish His purpose, O Company of Shame, O Faction of Rebellion, and ye shall see yourselves in the lowest of Hell-fires!’ Upon thee be the Splendour.”
Hajji Mirza Hassan of Khurasan concludes his pamphlet by promising further details concerning the schism, the obstinacy of Abbas Effendi’s half-brothers, the “boldness and discourtesy” of Mirza Aqa Jan, and other kindred matters, and, as already noted, dates the completion of his work the 9th of Rajab, 1316 (November 23, 1898.)