Bahá’ís prepare to commemorate the centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing
On November 28, 1921, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá passed away in the Holy Land. His life and legacy will be commemorated across Canada and around the world during this centenary year.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá was a singular figure in religious history: he was the eldest Son of Bahá’u’lláh, known to Bahá’ís as the Perfect Exemplar and the Mystery of God, a living embodiment of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings.
A website dedicated to the commemoration of the centenary, including ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s unique relationship to Canada, is now publicly available. The website includes links to a special essay about the significance of the centenary year, links to download booklets with prayers and stories about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s example, and refreshed websites connected to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s visit to Canada in 1912.
The Person of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
As a child, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá witnessed the incarceration of His Father, Bahá’u’lláh, and He was exiled with His family from their native Iran to Baghdad, and then to the Ottoman prison city of Akka. During Bahá’u’lláh’s imprisonment, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá cared for His family and followers, helped to protect His Father, and looked after the poor and needy. Bahá’u’lláh directed His followers to turn to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá after His passing.
In 1908, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s period of imprisonment and exile was ended by events associated with the Young Turk Revolution. He undertook an historic journey to Egypt, Europe, and North America. His public talks conveyed the essential message of the Bahá’í Faith and related it to pressing needs of humanity, emphasizing the cause of peace, the equality of women and men, racial justice, social reform, and the role of religion in society.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Canada
‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited Montréal between August 30 and September 9, 1912. He was invited and hosted by May and William Sutherland Maxwell, whose home is now regarded as a Bahá’í Shrine. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke to thousands of people, and His visit to Montréal was covered by dozens of articles in English and French daily newspapers.
He spoke to a range of audiences about the oneness of religion, the eradication of prejudice, the equality of women and men, science and religion, the investigation of truth, and economic justice. He warned, prophetically, of an impending war in Europe.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá challenged his audiences to accept the ideal of oneness of humanity and work to make it a reality: “Let us bring the kingdom, the earthly paradise, out of the potential and into the real.”
Later, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote a series of letters to Canada, referring to the country as a “happy land” and recalling the “utmost joy” associated with His time in Montréal.
The passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
‘Abdu’l-Bahá passed away in Haifa at about 1:00 am on November 28, 1921. The anniversary of His passing is commemorated as a Bahá’í Holy Day.
The significance of His passing was noted in media accounts around the world. His funeral in Haifa was attended by about ten thousand people, including Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze, Egyptians, Greeks, Turks, Kurds, and a host of His American, European and other friends.
“‘Abdul Baha was a man of great spiritual power and commanding presence and his name was held in reverence throughout the Middle East and elsewhere,” reported an obituary in The London Times.
The development of the Bahá’í community since the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s writings have continued to be a source of guidance to the Bahá’í community since His passing. He wrote volumes of correspondence to Bahá’ís around the world, clarifying aspects of the Bahá’í teachings, promoting the expansion of the Bahá’í community, encouraging the establishment of local Bahá’í institutions, and guiding early educational, social, and economic initiatives.
The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has also become foundational to the administrative order of the Bahá’í community. In it, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá appointed His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as the Guardian and head of the Bahá’í Faith. He elaborated on Bahá’u’lláh’s writings about the establishment of the Universal House of Justice, setting out the conditions of its election and the nature of its authority. The Will and Testament also envisions the establishment of National Spiritual Assemblies in every country.
Since the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Bahá’í Faith has become established and institutionally organized in virtually every country. Every year, hundreds of thousands of local Bahá’í elections take place, and national Bahá’í councils are elected in more than 180 countries.
The construction of a Shrine of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, designed by Canadian architect Hossein Amanat, is currently underway outside of the city of Akka, Israel.
Originally published on the Canadian Baha'i News Service