The House of 'Abdu'llah Pasha
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
The renovation of the House of `Abdu'lláh Páshá, a building whose acquisition was a supplementary achievement of the Five Year Plan (1974-1979), was completed by Ridván 1983. The meticulous work of restoration, and the refurnishing, beautifully was faithfully accomplished under the supervision of Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyih Khánum.
The poignancy of the role of Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyih Khánum in refurbishing the house of `Abdu'lláh Páshá is heightened when it is called to mind that her mother, the illustrious May (Bolles) Maxwell, was a member of that first party of Western pilgrims who in 1898 were received by Abdu'l-Bahá in that house, and that it was the birthplace of Shoghi Effendi whose `helpmate', `shield' and `tireless collaborator' she was to become.
Indeed, as the Universal House of Justice reminded the Bahá`í world, `some of the most dramatic and historically significant events of the Heroic Age of the Bahá`í Faith are associated with the house of `Abdu'lláh Páshá which derives its name from the Governor of `Akká who built it and used it as his official residence during his term of office from 1820 to 1832 ... In this house, fifty lunar years after the Báb's martyrdom, in January 1899, the casket containing His sacred and precious remains was received by `Abdu'l-Bahá, Who successfully concealed it until it was possible to inter it, with all honours, in its permanent resting-place in the bosom of Carmel. In this house `Abdu'l-Bahá was confined during the period of His renewed incarceration ... and from this house He directed the construction of the Báb's sepulchre on Mount Carmel, erected under its shadow His own house in Haifa, and later the Pilgrim House, issued instructions for the restoration of the Báb's holy House in Shiráz and for the erection of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár of the world in the city of Ishqábád ... It was in this house that His celebrated table talks were given and compiled, to be published later under the title Some Answered Questions. In this house and in the darkest hours of a period which the beloved Guardian describes as "the most dramatic period of His ministry", "in the hey-day of His life and in the full tide of His power" He penned the first part of His Will and Testament, which delineates the features and lays the foundations of the Administrative Order to arise after His Passing. In this house He revealed the highly significant Tablet addressed to the Báb's cousin and chief builder of the `Ishqábád Temple, a Tablet whose import can be appreciated and grasped only as future events unfold before our eyes, and in which, as testified by Shoghi Effendi, `Abdu'l-Bahá "in stirring terms proclaimed the immeasurable greatness of the Revelation of the Báb, sounded the warning foreshadowing the turmoil which its enemies, both far and near, would let loose upon the world, and prophesied, in moving language, the ascendancy which the torchbearer of the Covenant would ultimately achieve over them" ... It was to this house that the historic first group of pilgrims from the West came to see the Master in the winter of 1898-1899, and in which many more from both East and West sought His presence ... In this house was born the child ordained to hold the destiny of the Faith in his hands for thirty-six years and to become its "beloved Guardian", the child named "Shoghi" by his Grandfather, who grew up under His loving and solicitous care and became the recipient of His Tablets.'
Barely five years after the passing of Bahá`u'lláh it became apparent that the portion of the House of `Abbud available for occupation was in adequate for His enlarged family. In the autumn of 1896 `Abdu'l-Bahá `with characteristic vigour' took action and, in the months preceding the birth of Shoghi Effendi, arranged to rent the main building, and subsequently the subsidiary wings, of the house of `Abdu'lláh Páshá in the Mujádalih Quarter in the north-western corner of `Akká. He established it as His official residence, and also as a home for His daughters, their husbands and families. Thus it came about that in March 1897, in an upper room of the wing facing south, Shoghi Effendi was born in that house which was to witness so many events of vital importance to the Faith and to the future of mankind.
In September 1977 the Universal House of Justice approved the plans for restoration prepared by Mr. Ridvánu'lláh Ashraf, a young Persian Bahá`í architect. The actual work was started three months later by a team of Persian Bahá`ís with experience of reconstructing certain of the Holy Places in Írán. Some of the work was let out on contract. The task of renovation was extensive and was pursued steadily with a view to hastening the time when this priceless residence would be opened for pilgrimage. No less than two hundred and sixty doors and windows, patterned on the originals, had to be made and installed. The roof had to be reconstructed and surfaced with red tiles purchased in France; new ceilings were assembled and installed, the latter utilizing one hundred and twenty cubic metres of Katrina wood, purchased in Turkey, which was the material of which the originals were made. In addition to repairs to the interior and exterior structure, it was necessary to repair the south and west walls surrounding the property, a project which called for approximately seven hundred cubic metres of stone and cement. Plans have also been prepared to lay out the garden, repair the pool in the central yard and to re-floor the entrance.
No effort had been spared in faithfully restoring this historic building to its condition at the time when it was occupied by the Master and the Holy Family. All available documents and photographs were closely studied, and the remains of the old building were carefully traced. Of inestimable value to the project were the detailed personal memories of the late Mrs. Zeenat (Zínat) Baghdádí, who was a member of the household in the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá.
The upper rooms of the house were, at the request of the Universal House of Justice, exquisitely and carefully furnished in the style of the period by Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyih Khánum whose successful effort will inspire, no less in future pilgrims than in the fortunate first, profound reverence and heartfelt gratitude.
Mary Hanford Ford published an account of her pilgrimage to this house in Star of the West, vol. XXIV:
'The little room in which I stayed and in which the significant conversations with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took place, was of the simplest description. The floor was covered with matting, the narrow iron bed and the iron wash stand with larger and smaller holes for bowl and pitcher were of that vermin-proof description with which I had become familiar. Everything was scrupulously clean, and there was an abundant supply of sparking water for bathing and drinking. A wide window looked over the huge town wall upon the blue Mediterranean and before this stretched a divan upon which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sat when He came to see me.' The palpable victory which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had wrested from the persecution, intrigue, hatred, vilification even, directed against Him during His twelve years in the house of ‘Abdu’lláh Páshá, was signally apparent wen, upon His release from incarceration in 1908, He moved to His new residence in Haifa. At that time the future Guardian was a boy of eleven, but his appointment, although a carefully guarded secret, had already been made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the part of His Will and Testament revealed in that house.
During the twelve years of His residence in this house, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá demonstrated the true nobility of His divine nature, overcame hatred with love, pursued without rest against ever mounting opposition, the direction of His Father's Cause, maintained in the face of fanaticism, jealousy and bitterness His unceasing care of the poor and sick and overcame, with unruffled equanimity, the severest crisis of his life. the guardian's words testify to these things:
'... At His table, in those days, whenever there was a lull in the storm raging about Him, there would gather pilgrims, friends and enquirers from most of the afore-mentioned countries, representative of the Christian, the Muslim, the Jewish, the Zoroastrian, the Hindu and Buddhist Faiths. To the needy thronging His doors and filling the courtyard of His house every Friday morning, in spite of the perils that environed Him, He would distribute alms with His own hands, with a regularity and generosity that won Him the title of "Father of the Poor". Nothing in those tempestuous days could shake His confidence, nothing would be allowed to interfere with His ministrations to the destitute, the orphan, the sick, and the downtrodden, nothing could prevent Him from calling in person upon those who were either incapacitated or ashamed to solicit is aid...
'So imperturbable was ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's equanimity that, while rumors were being bruited about that He might be cast into the sea, or exiled to Fizán in Tripolitania, or hanged on the gallows, He, to the amazement of his friends and the amusement of His enemies, was to be seen planting trees and vines in the garden of His house, whose fruits when the storm had blown over, He would bid His faithful gardener, Ismá'il Áqá, pluck and present to those same fiends and enemies on the occasion of their visits to Him.'
In this house was born the child ordained to hold the destiny of the Faith in his hands for thirty-six years and to become its 'beloved Guardian', the child named 'Shoghi' by his Grandfather, who grew up under His loving and solicitous care and became the recipient of his Tablets.
When Bahá’u’lláh ascended, in 1892, the Mansion of Bahjí remained in the occupancy of the arch-breaker of the Covenant, the Master's half-brother Muhammad-'Ali, and members of that branch of Bahá’u’lláh's family. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the members of His family, including His illustrious sister the Greatest Holy Leaf, remained in the House of ‘Abbúd, which continued to be ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's official residence. In the course of the fifth year after Bahá’u’lláh's passing the marriage of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá two eldest daughters took place and it quickly became apparent that the portion of the House of ‘Abbúd available for occupation was woefully inadequate to the enlarged family. With characteristic vigor ‘Abdu’l-Bahá took action and in the months preceding the birth of Shoghi Effendi arranged to rent the main building, and subsequently the subsidiary wings, of ‘Abdu’lláh Páshá's house and He established it as His official residence. Thus it came about that, in 1897, Shoghi Effendi was born in the same house (in an upper room of the wing facing the south) that witnessed events of such vital importance to the Faith and the future of mankind.