16. The Extraordinary Life of 'Abdu'l-Baha.
As a child 'Abdu'l-Baha (b.1844) often played happily with his sister in the mansion of their wealthy family home and it was anticipated that his father would later succeed his own father who had an important role in the Government of the Shah (King) of Persia.
Then at the age of 8 'Abdu'l-Baha's life changed forever. His father Baha'u'llah's growing public popularity was perceived as a threat to the Shah's sovereignty. He was dragged away, imprisoned and chained to many others in a dark airless underground dungeon 3 levels below ground.
It was in this stench-filled place that He received a divine revelation that He was the Promised One foretold by all the prophets.
Public opposition, incited by the government, resulted in young 'Abdu'l-Baha enduring stoning and then, in company with his family, a succession of exiles from Iran (the first whilst His mother was heavily pregnant), over snow-covered mountains during which the boy suffered frostbite.
They were never to see their native land again and 'Abdu'l-Baha would spend the next 40 years of His life in a series of bleak prisons.
Exile proceeded through the Ottoman Empire over the next 15 years, culminating at the desolate prison city of Akka in Palestine (today known as Israel) where Bahá’u’lláh spent the last years of His life under house arrest at the mansion of Bahji where he passed away in 1892, aged 74.
This final banishment determined that the Holy Land of Israel would be their eventual destination, and ultimately the World Centre of the infant Bahá'í Community.
It was from here that 'Abdu'l-Baha gained a Knighthood from Queen Victoria in recognition of His far-sighted services in alleviating a terrible drought then ravaging the people.
'Abdu'l-Baha did indeed succeed His father, but not in service to the Shah. His service would be to His father Baha'u’llah (this being an Arabic name meaning 'The Glory of God') Who became recognised as Prophet-Founder of the Baha'ı Faith.
'Abdu'l-Baha's future role was to lead a progressively established global community. Despite spending 40 years in prison with considerable opposition from both ecclesiastics and governments, He became well known in Palestine and abroad.
“The Funeral of 'Abdu'l-Baha "a funeral the like of which Palestine had never seen" drew no less than ten thousand people...representing every class, religion and race in that country." "A great throng," the British High Comissioner wrote, "had gathered together, sorrowing for His death, but rejoicing also for his life." The Governor of Jerusalem at the time also wrote in describing the funeral: "I have never known a more united expression of regret and respect than was called forth by the utter simplicity of the ceremony".---Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, Chapter XXI
Today, of all the world religions, the Baha’i Faith is the newest and the fastest-growing.
According to 'The World’s Religions in Figures: An Introduction to International Religious Demography', 'The Baha’i Faith was the only religion to have grown faster in every United Nations region over the past 100 years than the general population'.
"Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth; it should give birth to spirituality, and bring light and life to every soul. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it would be better to be without it... Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion." --'Abdu'l-Bahá