American Presbyterian missionary interviews Abdul Baha in 1901



American Presbyterian missionary interviews Abdul Baha in 1901

On a recent visit to Haifa I (Henry Harris Jessup) called on Abbas Effendi and had a half-hour’s conversation with him. My companion was Chaplain Wells, of Tennessee, recently from the Philippines, who had met at Port Said an American lady on her way to Haifa to visit Abbas Effendi. We met her at the hotel and had a four hours’ conversation with her. She seemed fascinated or hypnotized by the Effendi. She had been converted four years ago under Mr. Moody’s preaching in New York, attended the Brick Church for a time, and in some way heard of Abbas Effendi as being an eminently holy man.

I sent word by this good lady to Abbas Effendi, and he appointed nine o’clock the next morning for an interview. Chaplain Wells went with me. The Effendi has two houses in Haifa, one for his family, in which the American lady pilgrims are entertained, and one down town, where he receives only men. Here his Persian followers meet him. They bow in worship when they meet him on the street or when they hear his voice. On Friday he prays with the Muslims in the mosque, as he is still reputed a good Mohammedan of the Shi’ite sect.

We entered a large reception-room, at one end of which was a long divan covered, as usual in Syria, with a white cloth. In a moment he came in and saluted us cordially with the usual Arabic compliments, and then sat down on the end of the divan next to the wall and invited us to sit next to him.

Baha’u’llah, the father of Abbas, used to wear a veil in the street and live secluded from the gaze of men, living in an atmosphere of mystery which greatly impressed his devout Persian followers. But Abbas Effendi, on succeeding his father, threw off this reserve, and is a man among men. He has been in Beirut often, and has a reputation of being a great scholar in Persian, Turkish, and Arabic, writing with equal ease’and eloquence in all. He visits his friends in Haifa, and is a man of great affability and courtesy— traits which characterize many of the Mohammedan and Druze Sheikhs and Effendis whom I know in Beirut, Sidon, Damascus, and Mount Lebanon. After another round of salutations, I introduced myself and Chaplain Wells, and told him that, although a resident of Syria for forty-five years, I had never visited Haifa before, and, having heard and read much of his father and himself, I was glad to meet him.

He asked my profession, I told him I was an American missionary, and was connected with the American Press and Publishing House in Beirut.

“Yes,” said he, “I know your Press and your books. I have been in Beirut, and knew Dr. Van Dyke, who was a most genial, learned, and eloquent man, and I highly esteemed him.”

I said his greatest work was the translation of the Bible into Arabic.

He at once rejoined: “Very true. It is the best translation from the original made into any Eastern language. It is far superior to the Turkish and the Persian versions. The Persian especially is very defective. Nothing is more difficult than to translate the Bible from its original tongues. The translator must fully understand the genius of both languages and grasp the inner spiritual meaning. For instance, Jesus the Christ said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ Now, he did not mean that he was literally bread, but bread signifies grace and blessing; I came down from heaven as grace and blessing to men’s souls. But if you translate that into Persian literally, as bread, it would not be understood. The same difficulty exists,” he continued, “in translating the Quran into another language.”

I said that I quite agreed with him, as the English translations of the Quran are in a great part dry and vapid, but that there is a difference between translating a text and explaining it. A translator must be faithful to the text itself.

He then said that hundreds had tried to translate the Quran from Arabic into Persian, including the great Zamakhshari, and all had utterly failed.

I remarked that it was a great comfort that the Bible was so well translated into Arabic, and had been so widely distributed, and that since 1865, when Dr. Van Dyke completed the translation of the whole Bible, our Press had issued more than six hundred thousand copies, and this year would issue from thirty thousand to fifty thousand copies.

I then remarked that the Mohammedans object to our use of the term “Son of God” and asked him if he regarded Christ as the Son of God.

He said : “Yes, I do; I believe in the Trinity. But the Trinity is a doctrine above human comprehension, and yet it can be understood.”

He then asked me: “Did Christ understand the Trine personality of the Deity, i.e., the Trinity?.”

I said, “Most certainly.”

“Then,” said he, “it is understandable, yet we cannot understand it.”

I replied, “There are many things in nature which we believe and yet cannot understand.” I told him the story of the old man who overheard a young man exclaim to a crowd of his companions, “I will never believe what I cannot understand.” The old man said to him, “Do you see those animals in the field—the cattle eating grassl and it turns into hair on their backs; sheep eating the same grass, and it turns into wool; and swine eating it, and it becomes bristles on their backs; do you believe this?” The youth said, “Yes.” “Do you understand it?” “No.” “Then,” said the old man, “never say you will not believe what you do not understand.”

The Effendi remarked: “Yes, that is like a similar remark made once by a Persian to the famous Zamakhshari, ‘I cannot understand this doctrine of God’s Unity and Eternity, and I will not believe it.’ Zamakhshari replied, ‘Do you understand the watery secretions of your own body?’ ‘No.’ ‘But you believe they exist? Then say no more you will not believe what you do not understand.’”

I then explained to the Effendi our view of salvation by faith in Christ; that whosoever beiieveth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life, and that, being justified by faith, we have peace with God; that Christ has paid the ransom, and now God can be just, and yet the justifier of them who believe. “And does your excellency believe this?” He replied promptly, “Yes.” “And do you accept the Christ as your Saviour?” He said, “Yes.” “And do you believe that Jesus the Christ will come again and judge the world?” He said, “Yes.”

I then drew a little nearer to him and said: “My dear friend, I am more than sixty-eight years of age, and you are almost as old, and soon we shall stand together before the judgment seat of Christ. Now I want to ask you a very plain question, I have seen in an American paper [the “Literary Digest”] a statement that an American woman, evidently of sincere character, had stated that she came to Haifa and visited you, and that when she entered your room she felt that she was in the very presence of the Son of God, the Christ, and that she held out her arms, crying, ‘My Lord, my Lord’ and rushed to you, kneeling at your blessed feet, sobbing like a child. Now, I could not believe this, and thought it a newspaper invention. I wish to ask you whether this is true. Can it be right for the creature to accept the worship due only to the Creator?”

He smiled and seemed somewhat disturbed, and said, “What is this sudden change of subject? Where were we? – discoursing on the high themes of the Trinity and redemption and divine mysteries, and now you suddenly open an entirely different subject. This is entirely different; let us keep to theological themes.”

I replied: “It is a change of subject, but I am seriously anxious to know whether that statement is true.”

He then said very calmly, “I am only the poorest and humblest of servants”

I saw that he was not disposed to answer such a point-blank question and seemed much embarrassed, and glanced towards an attendant or disciple, a young Persian, who sat in a chair facing us.

So I took up another question. I said : “The Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. Now, the Mohammedans claim that Mohammed is the Paraclete. We claim and believe that He is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.”

“Yes,” said he, “I know that you believe that. That is your doctrine; but that is a very profound subject and very important.”

I saw from his manner that he was getting weary of talking, and told him who my companion was — the Rev. Captain Wells, a United States chaplain from the Philippines, who was a strong temperance advocate, and had made a report to President McKinley urging the prohibition of the use of liquor in the United States army. He expressed his approval of the total abstinence principle and his gratification that there is a temperance reading-room in Beirut.

I then alluded to the “Episode of the Bab,” written by Professor E. G. Browne, of Cambridge, and asked him if he knew Professor Browne and his book? He replied: “Professor Browne has not comprehended our views. He heard us and then heard our enemies [the Azalis], and wrote down the views of all. How can he get the truth? Now, supposing that a man wanted to learn about the Jews, and you are, we will suppose, an anti-Semite. He asks you about the Jews and writes down your views. Then he asks a Rabbi and takes down his views, and prints both. How can he get at the real truth? So with Professor Browne. He sees us through the eyes of our enemies.”

I then invited the Effendi to let me know when he came to Beirut, that I might call on him. He replied : “When I come to Beirut, I shall do myself the honor of calling upon you.”

And then we took our leave, with the usual profuse Arabic salutations.

Now, what can one say in brief of such a man? Whether intentionally on his part or not, he is now acting what seems to be a double part — a Muslim in the mosque, a Christ, or at least a Christian mystic, at his own house. He prays with the Muslims, “There is no God but God,” and expounds the Gospels as an incarnation of the Son of God. His dislike of Professor Browne comes from the fact that Professor Browne visited Subh i Azal in Cyprus and obtained from him documents which reflect seriously upon Baha’u’llah, and charge him with assassination and other crimes.

His declarations of belief in the Trinity and redemption through the Christ must be interpreted in the light of Sufist pantheism and of his belief in a succession of incarnations, of which his followers regard him as the last and greatest.

It is difficult to regard without indignation the Babi proselytism now being carried on in the United States. One American woman who passed through Beirut recently, en route for the Abbas Effendi shrine, stated that she was at first an agnostic and found that a failure; then she tried Theosophy, and found that too thin; then she tried Christian Science and obtained a diploma authorizing her to heal the sick and raise the dead, and found that a sham, and now was on her way to see what Abbas Effendi had to offer!

Surely that woman has found out what it is to feed on ashes.

At the military barracks in Beirut is a tower clock with an eastern face keeping eastern time, in which it is always twelve o’clock at sunset, and a western face keeping European time. Abbas Effendi seems to the people of Syria to have these two faces — the eastern for the Muslims and the Turkish Government by which he is kept in exile from Persia; and the western for the pilgrims who come from New York and Chicago.

On Mount Carmel are certain round stones, geodes of flint, hollow and lined with crystals of quartz. The people call them Elijah’s watermelons. They look smooth and round and melon-like on the outside, but inside are nothing but crystals, which would tax the digestion of a tougher man than even the stalwart Tishbite. These pilgrims are attracted by the rumor of spiritual fruits in Haifa just under the Carmel of Elijah, but they may find to their sorrow that there is no more true nourishment in them than in Elijah’s watermelons.




“Contradiction has and will not ever have a way in the sanctified realm of the Divine Manifestations.”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Badī`, p. 126.


Is the Principle of Investigating the Truth New?

`Abdu’l-Bahā: Investigating the truth is a new principle.

“Another new principle revealed by Bahā’u’llāh is the injunction to investigate truth—that is to say, no man should blindly follow his ancestors and forefathers. Nay, each must see with his own eyes, hear with his own ears and investigate the truth himself in order that he may follow the truth instead of blind acquiescence and imitation of ancestral beliefs,”

Reference:`Abdu’l-Bahā, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 454.

`Abdu’l-Bahā: Seeking the truth is the foundation of all the Prophets.

“His Highness Moses spread the truth as did his Highness Jesus and his Highness Abraham and his Highness the Messenger (meaning the Prophet Muḥammad) and his Highness the Bāb and his Highness Bahā’u’llāh. They all established and spread the truth,”

Reference:`Abdu’l-Bahā, Khaṭābāt (Tehran), vol. 2, p. 5

“The foundation of all the Prophets . . . is truth, and the truth is one. His Highness Abraham was the harbinger of truth. His Highness Moses was the servant of truth. His Highness Christ was the establisher of truth. His Highness Muḥammad was the propagator of truth. His Highness A`lā (meaning the Bāb) was the herald of truth, and his Highness Bahā’u’llāh, was the light of truth,”

Reference:`Abdu’l-Bahā, Khaṭābāt (Tehran), vol. 2, p. 55

“The foundation of the divine religions is one. It is one truth, it is one spirit, it is one light, and it does not have a multitude. Among the foundations of the divine religion is seeking the truth [so] that the whole of humanity seeks the truth,”

Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, Khaṭābāt (Egypt), vol. 1, p. 66.


What Is Bahā’u’llāh’s First Principle?

`Abdu’l-Bahā: Bahā’u’llāh’s first principle is investigating the truth.

“Bahā’u’llāh’s first principle is the seeking of the truth. Man must seek the truth and set aside imitations,”

Reference:`Abdu’l-Bahā, Khaṭābāt (Tehran), vol. 2, p. 144.

`Abdu’l-Bahā: Bahā’u’llāh’s first principle is the oneness of humanity.

“His first teaching is the Oneness of the World of Humanity,”

Reference:`Abdu’l-Bahā, Khaṭābāt (Tehran), vol. 2, p. 5.


Are Non-Baha’is Ignorant and without Reason?

`Abdu’l-Bahā: One must not label people as being ignorant.

“The divine principles in this luminous era are such that one must not insult anyone or attribute them to ignorance [by saying] that you do not know and I know. Rather, one must view everyone from a respectful perspective and must speak and argue from the viewpoint of seeking the truth. [They must say] come, there are several issues at hand, so let us seek the truth, and see how and why [it is so]. The missionary must not consider himself wise and others as ignorant. This thought will result in arrogance, and arrogance causes a lack of effectiveness; instead, one must not see any merit in himself and must speak with the maximum extent of kindness, humility, and humbleness. This kind of expression will be effective,”

Reference:`Abdu’l-Bahā, Makātīb, vol. 1, p. 355.

Bahā’u’llāh: Whoever does not become a Baha’i is among the most ignorant of the people, even if he has mastery over all sciences. Whoever does not become a Baha’i has no reason even if he thinks he does. Whoever denies my teachings completely lacks reason.

“If today, someone grasps all of the knowledge on earth but stops at the word ‘yes’ (meaning does not become a Baha’i), the Lord will not pay attention to him (ladī l-Ḥaqq madhkūr na) and he will be considered as the most ignorant amongst the people,”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Iqtidārāt wa chand lauḥ dīgar, p. 111

“From now on nobody is to be called knowledgeable, except those who have decorated themselves with the garment of this New Affair (meaning those who have become Baha’is),”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Badī`, pp. 138–139.

“The general criterion is what we mentioned and any soul who has success in it, meaning recognizes and realizes the Sunrise of Manifestation (meaning himself), will be mentioned in the Divine Book as someone who possesses reason or else he will be (mentioned as) ignorant even if he himself thinks that his reason equals that of the whole world,”

Reference: `Abd a l-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Mā’idiy-i āsimānī, vol. 7, p. 160.

“No one has denied or will deny what has been revealed by the Ancient Pen (meaning himself) in this Most Great Manifestation regarding society, unity, manners, rites, and being occupied with what has benefits for the people, except that he completely lacks reason,”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Iqtidārāt wa chand lauḥ dīgar, p. 168.


Can the Recognition of God Be Obtained through Intellect?

Bahā’u’llāh and `Abdu’l-Bahā: Reason was created for the purpose of recognizing God. Recognize God by using reason and narrations.

“The first grace that has been bestowed on the human body is reason and its purpose is the recognition of the Truth (meaning God) Exalted be His Glory,”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Muntakhabātī az āthār Ḥaḍrat Bahā’u’llāh, p. 127.

The official Baha’i translation reads: “First and foremost among these favors, which the Almighty hath conferred upon man, is the gift of understanding. His purpose in conferring such a gift is none other except to enable His creature to know and
recognize the one true God—exalted be His glory,”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahā’u’llāh, p. 194. 90

“If you seek the recognition of God (`irfān ilāhī) . . . refer to the arguments (put forward by) reason and narrations,”

Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, Makātīb, vol. 8, pp. 119 -120.

Bahā’u’llāh: Recognition cannot be obtained by the use of reason.

“Know that today, that which has reached your reason or will reach it, or is perceived by the reasons of [those with intellects] superior or inferior to yours, none are the criterion for recognizing the Truth (meaning God) and will never be,”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Badī`, p. 286.


Should We Investigate or Accept without Any Questions?

`Abdu’l-Bahā: A person who is fair, will investigate and do research to seek the truth.

“Those who are fair will examine, research and inquire. This examination and inquiry will result in their guidance . . . they say: ‘We will go and see, and we will investigate the truth,’”

Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, Khaṭābāt (Egypt), vol.1, p. 189.

Bahā’u’llāh: Accept my words without any questions or comparison with someone else’s words.

“No pleasure has been created in the world greater than listening to the verses [brought by Bahā’u’llāh] and understanding their meanings and not objecting to or questioning any of the words and comparing them with the words of others,”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Badī`, p. 145.


Investigating the Truth: Only for Non-Baha’is

`Abdu’l-Bahā: Different religions should listen to the words of other religions. Perhaps, what is right is with them.

“The followers of Moses (i.e. Jews) have imitations (taqālīd), Zoroastrians have imitations, Christians have imitations, Buddhists have imitations, and every nation has imitations [and] thinks that its imitations are correct and the imitations of others are invalid. For example, the followers of Moses believe that their imitations are correct and the imitations of others are invalid. We want to find out which [imitations] are correct. [Obviously] not all imitations are correct. If we stick to an imitation it will prevent us from correctly investigating other [religions] imitations. For example, a Jewish person cannot understand that other [religions] are correct because he believes and sticks to the imitations of Judaism. Therefore, he must put aside the imitations and seek the truth and [think that] perhaps others might be right. Thus, until imitations are not put aside, the truth will not become manifest,”

Reference: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Payām-i malakūt, p.17 (citing `Abdu’l-Bahā’).

Bahā’u’llāh: Even if someone criticizes Baha’ism with proof, do not listen.

“‘Therefore, it is incumbent upon all the friends of God to shun any person in whom they perceive the emanation of hatred for the Glorious Beauty of Abhā, though he may quote all the Heavenly Utterances and cling to all the Books.’ He continues—Glorious be His Name!—‘Protect yourselves with utmost vigilance, lest you be entrapped in the snare of deception and fraud. This is the advice of the Pen of Destiny,’

Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, Bahā’ī World Faith—Selected Writings of Bahā’u’llāh and `Abdu’l-Bahā (`Abdu’l-Bahā’s Section Only), pp. 430–431.


Should Baha’is See and Hear or Become Blind and Death?

Bahā’u’llāh: Research and listen with your own ears and see with your own eyes.

“When humans attain the rank of [religious] maturity they must investigate . . . and [they] must hear and see with their own ears and eyes,”

Reference: `Abd al-Ḥamīd Ishrāq Khāwarī, Payām-i malakūt, p.11 (citing Bahā’u’llāh).

Bahā’u’llāh: When I speak become death, blind, and ignorant and blindly accept my words.

“Become blind so that you see my face, become deaf so that you hear my pleasant tone and voice, become ignorant so that you get a share of my knowledge, and become poor so that you can take an everlasting portion from the sea of my eternal riches. ‘Become blind’ means [see] nothing but my beauty and ‘become deaf’ means [hear] nothing but my words and ‘become ignorant’ means [have no knowledge] but my knowledge, so that with a pure eye and clean heart and fine ear you come to my sanctified realm,”

Reference: Bahā’u’llāh, Ad`iyyih-i ḥaḍrat-i maḥbūb, pp. 427–428.

Courtesy: Twelve Principles – A Comprehensive Investigation on the Bahai Teachings

Guardian of the Cause of God

The Guardians of the Cause of God are the legal interpreter and paraphraser of Bahā’u’llāh’s words. `Abdu’l-Bahā was the first of these and after him, this duty was given to Shoghi and his male descendants:

“O my loving friends! After the passing away of this wronged one, it is incumbent upon the Aghsān (Branches), the Afnān (Twigs) of the Sacred Lote-Tree, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God and the loved ones of the Abhā Beauty to turn unto Shoghi Effendi—the youthful branch branched from the two hallowed and sacred Lote-Trees and the fruit grown from the union of the two offshoots of the Tree of Holiness,—as he is the sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsān, the Afnān, the Hands of the Cause of God and His loved ones must turn. He is the Interpreter of the Word of God and after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendents.”

Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahā, p. 11.

Note: “after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendents”Shoghi Effendi died without any children. Strangely, For a man who claimed to be divinely inspired and given the status of “interpreter of divine words”, he was woefully unaware that his grandchild was impotent and would die childless.

“O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon the Guardian of the Cause of God to appoint in his own life-time him that shall become his successor, that differences may not arise after his passing.”

Reference: `Abdu’l-Bahā, The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahā, p. 12.

Secondly – Regarding the Guardian and the UHJ, there are a number of fundamental contradictions and inconsistencies which are literally ignored by the Baha’i community and administration.

Shoghi Says:

“This new Order which is superior to the void sickly orders of the world and is unique, unparalleled, and unheard of throughout the history of religions, is based on two powerful pillars: the first which is greater is the pillar of divine Guardianship that is the source of interpretations and the second pillar is the divine Universal House of Justice that is the reference of legislation. Just as it is impossible to separate between the laws of the Legislator of the Order (meaning Bahā’u’llāh) and his fundamental basis’ which the Center of the Covenant has declared, separating the two pillars of the New Order from each-other is impossible and infeasible.”

Reference: Shoghi Effendi, Tauqī’āt mubāraki khiṭāb bi aḥibbā’ sharq (Langenhain [Germany]: Lajniyi Millī Nashr Āthār Amrī Bi Zabānhayi Fārsī wa `Arabī, 149 B.[1992]), p. 301.

Going against the will of Abdul baha, The Universal House Of Justice continues to function without a guardian. They illegitimately collect Huqúqu’lláh which is the right of Guardian of the faith.

Thus the gaps in Bahā’u’llāh’s laws are to remain forever unfilled and his decrees incomplete. The Baha’i system remains paralyzed, the integrity of the faith imperiled, and the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives are totally withdrawn!