The Life of
Mirza Muhammad Ali Effendi
Its mentioned in the Book of My Covenant (The Will of Baha’u’llah):
“Verily God hath ordained the station of the Mightiest Branch (Ghusn-i-Akbar) [i.e. Mohammed Ali Effendi] after the station of the former. Verily, He is the Ordainer, the Wise. We have surely chosen the Mightiest (Akbar) after the Greatest (A’zam) as a command from the All-Knowing, the Omniscient.”
Mohammad Ali Effendi (December 16, 1853, D. 10 December 1937 (aged 83)) was born in Baghdad, in the and was named by Baha’u’llah as‘Mohammed Ali’ (Ghusn-i-Akbar). He was brought up, reared and educated under the shadow of His favor and Divine Providence, Baha’u’llah.
When Mohammad Ali was around four years of age, his mother Mahd-i-Ulya (the Supreme Cradle) traveled to Iran to visit her siblings. Mahd-i-Ulya alongside her younger sister Samadiyya accompanied their mother and proceeded further to Tehran and Mazandaran.
In those days when the Blessed Abode (of Baha’u’llah) was at Baghdad, Mohammad Ali made a journey to Salman Pak and remained there for a few days. The following are those who were honored to be at His service: Ghusn- i-Azam Abbas Effendi (Abdul-Baha), Mirza Moussa Kalim, Aqa Mirza Muhammad-Quli, Aqa Mirza Aqa Jan (the servant of Baha’u’llah) and Aqa Muhammad Ibrahim Amir. This humble servant (i.e. Mohammed Ali) submitted a petition to His Sacred Presence, and in reply he received a sacred tablet written by the Supreme Pen, addressed thus:
“This letter should reach the hands of Mirza Mohammed Ali, of Baghdad and of the Spiritual Dwelling-place.”
At the beginning He says:
“(The petition) arrived to the place where the Merciful is seated upon the Throne, reached the point where to God belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth, and arrived to the right hand, that is the possessor of the Universal Kingdom. Realizing that He is the Greatly Merciful, the petition was accepted. Upon observing and hearing the chanting of the Wagha (Dove) from the Eternal Throne ‘that came to those who are near their portion,’ the reply will be sent from the treasured Blessing, the invisible Banquet and the hidden Words…”
Studying with the eyes of intellect the said holy tablet, it will be observed that in those days the blessed cause was made evident by the Pen of Might [i.e. Baha’u’llah revealing divine verses], but as the appointed time, i.e. the year 1280 A.H. (1863 A.D.) mentioned by the Bab (the Forerunner) in the Book of Bayanhad not yet arrived, [Baha’u’llah’s] General Proclamation was recognized only by a few of the chosen followers. Most of the special tablets, [such as] the Arabic and Persian ‘Hidden Words’ were revealed in Baghdad, and all of them were testimonials to the greatness of the cause, but as the appointed time had not yet arrived those present were prevented from the knowledge of His Appearance until such a time that the complete declaration was made when the Blessed Procession moved to the Garden of Ridvan and later at Adrianople. Then the Supreme Tongue delivered the message and opened the gate of knowledge to those who were both far and near.
When the city of Baghdad was blessed with His presence, by His command, assistance and encouragement Mohammad Ali began to read and write, and gradually he composed some articles in the Arabic language. Our Great Master (Baha’u’llah) mentioned this in the Epistle of Badi, the reply to Ali Muhammad Sarraj, and in some other tablets, that he wrote Arabic while he was only six years old.
Journey from Baghdad to Turkey
In the year 1280 A.H. (1863 A.D.) it was ordained that the Sacred Procession should leave Baghdad and proceed to Istanbul (Constantinople). Mohammad Ali petitioned to [Baha’u’llah] in favor of two of the believers requesting His consent for them to join Mohammad Ali and render their services during this journey so that they may be considered as pilgrims. His humble request was granted, and both Aqa Husayn, son of Aqa Muhammad Jawad, and Aqa Muhammad Hasan, son of Aqa Abdu’r-Rasul Shahid, both of Kashan, joined Mohammad Ali to Adrianople and thence to Acre, and as time passed both have directed themselves unto Eternity. The offspring of the said Husayn are now residing at Acre.
Another friend was Sheikh Sadiq of Yazd, who was a very faithful follower, and was by day as well as by night ready and prepared to hasten to the Holy Abode [i.e. Baha’u’llah’s presence] in order to offer his sincere services. To this ardent believer Mohammad Ali was very much attached, but Mohammad Ali did not dare to petition to our Great Master for a third person; nevertheless, after the departure of the Blessed Procession, the said Sadiq could not remain behind and followed them on foot with the post caravan. Unfortunately the hardship of the trip made him ill, and he was released from the earthly world and its troubles. May the mercy of God and His Divine Providence rest with him.
In the said journey the resting places were short and well nigh to each other, therefore they traveled with ease. Some were traveling on horseback, others were walking, and the ladies of the household were riding in Kajavas (saddle with small tent on it). Ghusn-i-A‘zam (‘Abdu’l-Baha) was riding a horse; Mirza Mihdi and Mohammad Ali, being still very young, went into kajavas especially arranged for their Great Master’s blessed use—the right side was occupied by [Baha’u’llah] and in the left were seated Mahd-i-Ulyatheir mother, his sister Samadiyya and Mohammad Ali. Thus they traveled up to Samsun on the Black Sea, then they took a boat to Istanbul, and thence to Adrianople in a carriage which was especially arranged for their Great Master (Baha’u’llah). They were fortunate to be with Baha’u’llah during this journey, and served Him until they reached Adrianople.
Mohammed Ali Serves the Cause as a Child
During the last days of the sojourn at Adrianople Mohammad Ali used to copy the revealed tablets by [Baha’u’llah’s] command, and at times he used to write, also by His order, personal letters to the believers. Here collect that on one occasion he wrote about eighty letters to the Arab believers who resided at Baghdad and the vicinity, and all these letters were presented to His Resplendent Glory and corrected by His Blessed Pen after which he copied them for mailing. These letters contained nothing but the remembrance of His Blessed Cause, its greatness, and invitations to all to believe in Him, loyal and steadfast in His Cause, and attain the knowledge of His Oneness. It is obviously clear that in those days Mohammad Ali was only a child, that he was acting only according to His father’s commands, obeying His orders and writing only to those he was commanded by Him, and in the manner laid down by Him.
During the sojourn at Adrianople, sometimes when the followers and pilgrims were ushered into the presence of Baha’u’llah, by His command Mohammad Ali used to write articles on the greatness of the cause, and the Khadim after chanting the holy text [i.e. verses of Baha’u’llah], used to read to them Mohammad Ali’s humble compositions. It is evident that this was simply to make those who were steadfast in their belief to become more animated and inflamed in the cause, for to see a child praising the Cause of God in such a manner, inviting those who seek to come forward and partake of the Banquet of His Presence, would certainly kindle the fire of love in their hearts and make them more steadfast in the cause.
Mohammad Ali recollect that once Sheikh Salman Hindiyani had come to Adrianople and was the guest of one of the believers. One day Baha’u’llah commanded Mohammad Ali to visit the said Salman and while there ask for paper and pen and to write an epistle in Arabic for him. Obeying His commands, immediately Mohammad Ali visited him and wrote an article in the Arabic language. After he left the premises, Salman asked, “I wonder if he knows the meaning of what he has written?” This remark reached the presence of Baha’u’llah and with a smile He commanded Mohammad Ali to visit Salman again, ask for what Mohammad Ali had written and translate it in his presence from the Arabic into Persian. Again Mohammad Ali followed His orders, visited Salman, asked for what Mohammad Ali had written before, wrote its contents in Persian and delivered it to him. These commands were as Mohammad Ali explained earlier, to show to the followers the greatness of the Manifestation, to kindle their enthusiasm and to keep them steadfast in the cause.
Young Mohammed Ali Wishes to Teach the Faith Abroad
In those days Mohammad Ali submitted a petition to His Blessed Presence for permission to travel, accompanied by one of the believers, to some part of the world for the purpose of delivering the message of glad-tidings to mankind, and to the best of his ability preach to them the appearance of the Great Manifestation. Replying to his humble petition, [Baha’u’llah] commanded the believers to hold a meeting and discuss the matter, and follow whatever their decision may be. In the meeting some of the believers disagreed on account of Mohammad Ali’s age and lest some bodily harm would befall him. The humble petition which he had presented to Him was kept by Him (Baha’u’llah) until the days when the Palace of Bahji was blessed with His Presence.
One day Baha’u’llah gave it to Mohammad Ali and commanded him to preserve it. The said supplication reads thus:
“Thou Art the Dear, the Everlasting, Praise be to Thee O God, Verily Thou Art the One who Hath Created me and provided for me. Indeed Thou Art the Powerful to do what Thou choosest. In Thy Name O Thou Who Art free from everything besides Thee, Thou Art the God, there is no God but Thee, Thou Art the Single, there is no equal to Thee, and Thou Art the Observer of All things. Praise be to Thee O God, O my God, forgive me, my sins, my errors and my mistakes. I shall be in everlasting loss if I am not blessed with Thy forgiveness and Mercy. O Lord; Pardon me: Indeed Thou Art able to do whatsoever Thou choosest, Thou Art God, there is no God but Thee. Verily Thou Art in the creation, the Only, the Lasting, the Eternal, the Single, the One. O my God, My Master and my Lord, Permit me to leave this place and go to some other country accompanied by one Thou choosest from Thy devoted believers, who have traveled with Thee and pilgrimed to Thine Abode, to deliver the glad-tidings and guide the people of the world to Thy Straight Path.”
To the learned and intellectual people, it is evident that the portion allotted is according to the capacity of the container. Mohammad Ali meant that while writing and presenting the petition he was a child and had not reached the age of puberty, so the sentences in his petition were therefore bereft of the rules of composition and grammar. It proves that they were written in all simplicity and plainness and that he had no object but confessing His Singleness and Greatness and securing permission to go out in the world and promulgate His message.
Baha’u’llah and His Family Imprisoned in Acre
When the Blessed Procession arrived at the great prison of Acre [in 1868] and was housed in the army barracks, the duty of copying the holy tablets revealed [by Baha’u’llah] was given to Mohammad Ali. Mirza Mihdi (Ghusn-i-At’har) and Khadim used to take down what was revealed, and Mohammad Ali used to copy them in the form prescribed for the tablets and sent to their owners [i.e. recipients] in Iran and other countries. He also recollect that when staying at the barracks he used to give lessons to the friends on the meanings of the chapters of the Quran.
During the first and second year of our imprisonment in the barracks at Acre, the Supreme Pen revealed several tablets in which Baha’u’llah foretold that the gates of the prison shall be opened and the prisoners shall be freed. Amongst these tablets were the following verses which according to the commands of Baha’u’Ilah were copied by Mohammad Ali in large type and good penmanship and were mailed to Iran:
“Very soon, that which is closed shall be opened and that which is torn shall be repaired; those who are prevented shall enter and those who are scattered shall be gathered; that which is hard shall be made easy and that which is invisible shall become manifest. Think ye, O possessors of inner sight, that ye may comprehend the recorded secrets.”
In other tablets He says,
“Very soon the gate of the prison shall be opened and those who surround this Sun shall be released.”
When the appointed time arrived and the gates of the prison were opened to all, those who were there traveled to wherever they desired and those who were thirsty advanced to the Fountainhead of nearness and quenched their thirst.
Mohammed Ali Effendi Visits Egypt as a Young Man
In the year 1295 A.H. (1878 A.D.), by the command of Baha’u’Ilah Mohammad Ali visited Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt, accompanied by Aqa Siyyid Ali Yazdi and Mirza Mustafa bin-Shahid, and for nearly two months enjoyed the association of the numerous believers who resided in those places. The late Haji Mirza Hasan Shirazi, generally known as Khorasani, received the [Baha’i] message in those days; his [teachers of the faith] were Haji Mulla Ali Tabrizi and Haji Abdu’l-Karim Tehrani. One night the said Khorasani and Abdu’l-Karim came to his abode and a discussion ensued regarding the blessed cause. Finally they accepted and rendered his petition to Baha’u’llah [i.e. declaration of faith] and received His message.
Later on the numbers of the believers in that land increased. While on this journey Mohammad Ali was favored with many sacred tablets [from Baha’u’llah], among them the following which is written by the Supreme Pen:
“He is the Dear: O My Branch, thy letter from (Port Said) arrived;God willing it shall always arrive. Thou shalt receive rock sugar from Egypt, sugar from India, and from the school garden of the world thou shalt partake of knowledge, forbearance, art and perception. Although the separation from thee hath caused a burning in the hearts of the beloved ones of God, haply God shall produce results therefrom, and the fragrance of thy faithfulness to God may spread over there and diffuse its fragrance in the cities and their surroundings. Verily He is the Powerful to do whatsoever He desireth. Peace be with thee and with those who advance toward the Supreme Horizon, and believe in God, the Possessor of the . Names and the Creator of Heaven.”
Tablet of Baha’u’llah towards Muhammad Ali Effendi
One of the tablets of Baha’u’llah translated by Shua’u’llah Baha’i in which he praises Mohammed Ali Effendi, who was entitled Ghusn-i-Akbar (the Greatest or Mightiest Branch).
He was a chosen branch and was favored with numerous tablets by the Supreme Pen of Baha’u’llah.
The following is a translation of one of them:
THE GREATEST, THE MOST GLORIOUS.
O my God! Verily this is a Branch who hath branched from the lofty tree of Thy Singleness and the Sadra (Lote Tree) of Thy Oneness. Thou seest him, O my God, looking unto Thee and holding fast to the rope of Thy benevolence. Therefore keep him in the vicinity of Thy mercy. Thou knowest, O my God, that I desire him not save because Thou hast desired him; and I have chosen him not save because Thou hast chosen him. Assist him with the hosts of Thy earth and heaven, and help, O my God, whosoever helpeth him, then choose Thou whosoever chooseth him, and forsake whosoever denieth him and desireth him not. O my Lord! Thou seest that at the time of elucidation my pen moveth and my limbs tremble. I ask Thee by my perplexity in Thy Love and my longing to reveal Thy Cause, to ordain for him whatsoever Thou hast destined for Thy Messengers and the faithful to Thy divine inspirations; verily Thou art God, the Almighty, the All-Powerful.
HE IS THE GREATEST:
O my God! Assist Thou Ghusn al-Akbar (the Mightiest Branch) to Thy remembrance and Thy praise, then cause to flow from his pen the marvels of Thy sciences and secrets. My Lord! Verily he hath hastened unto Thy pleasure and hath fasted for the love of Thyself, and in obedience to Thine order. Destine for him every good revealed in Thy Book; verily Thou art the All-Powerful, the Omnipotent.
Blessed is he who hath rested in the shelter of the Branch of God, his Lord, Lord of the Throne and Lord of the Worlds.
O My Branch! Be thou the cloud of the Spring of My Generosity; then rain upon the things in My Name, the New.
O My Branch! We have chosen thee because the Chosen One hath chosen thee; say: praise be unto Thee, O God of all the worlds.
O Ghusn-i-Akbar! (Mightiest Branch) Verily We have chosen thee for the help of My Cause; rise thou in a marvelous assistance.
Conquer thou the cities (strongholds) of the names in My Name, the Ruler over all that He wisheth.
O Sea! wave in My Name, the Rising, the Great!
Verily every action dependeth on thy love; blessed is he that winneth that which hath been desired by his Lord, the All-Knowing.
Blessed is he that hath heard thy call and hath come forward unto thee for the love of God, the Lord of the worlds.
Entrusted with Essential Duties in Acre
After spending two months [in Egypt] Mohammad Ali Effendi returned to the Holy Land, and resumed his duties of copying the holy tablets as in the past. This time, to his duties was added another service: [making] the preparations for occasional outings of the Blessed Procession to the orange groves or other points of interest such as Mazra’a and its vicinity, the Birka (i.e. the water pool), the village of Kabri and other places which were visited by Baha’u’llah. Always he took the greatest care in arranging for these journeys. Some of the believers have written about these places which were blessed with His presence.
All the places which the Blessed Procession intended to visit, Mohammad Ali had to go first and examine, and if they were found suitable they would be blessed with His presence. The following is part of a tablet which was revealed for Mohammad Ali while he was in Tiberias and which proves his statement. Baha’u’llah said:
“He is the Dear: O Ghusn-i-Akbar, on account of thine absence the affairs of the tablets [i.e. transcribing Baha’u’llah’s revelations and managing his correspondence] are suspended, the departure of Mulla Muhammad Ali is delayed, the cause of Tabdrakallah [“God’s blessing”] is stayed, and the Birka and Yirka are in grief. Indeed by thine absence most of the affairs are at a standstill, nay they appear to be disturbed. It was well said, “From his rising and submersion two cities are upset.”
Mohammad Ali Effendi made a journey to East India in 1882. This was during the winter season, and he was accompanied by the late Mirza Abu’l-Qasim Nazir and his Kurdish wife, upon them be the Glory of God. The main object of his journeys to Egypt and India was to visit the friends and make preliminary plans for the spread of the cause, the guidance of the seekers and the diffusion of the light of knowledge.
The Passing of Baha’u’llah
Mohammad Ali Effendi’s words during his father’s [Baha’u’llah] passing to the Eternal Realm:
“I wish that I was not in existence to see that dark day. I do not know what to say and to write, and how to explain, as it is beyond the endurance of human strength.”
(A poet said,)
“as the pen moves to inscribe the events, the pen is broken and the paper is torn.”
Mohammad Ali Effendi states,
“To keep silent is better, to quench the fire burning in my innermost, and thus [I merely] record the events in brief.”
One day in the Palace of Bahji, a slight fever attacked Baha’u’llah, but this did not prevent the regular routine and some of the faithful followers were admitted to His presence. The next day the fever increased, and immediately Mohammad Ali wrote a letter to Ghusn-i-Azam (Abdul- Baha) at Acre informing him of the event; he came, and they both served Him to the last. During those days [while Baha’u’llah was ill], all the members of His household were at the Palace (of Bahji). Ghusn-i- Azam and some members of his family divided their time between the house at Acre and the Palace, as discontinuing the association with the natives and the government officials would not have been a wise step.
When Baha’u’llah passed away, according to His commands Ghusn-i-Azam, Mohammad Ali, and Mirza Majdeddin attended to the holy remains, and Khadim assisted them. The other two younger branchescould not stand the ordeal and did not join them. Indeed their task was beyond endurance, but they obeyed His command and performed their duties, though burning with the fire of separation.
The Funeral of Mohammed All Baha’i [Ghusn-i-Akbar]
The following is the announcement of [Mohammed Ali Effendi’s] departure made by the family to the friends throughout the world.
The members of the household of Baha’u’llah inform you with the deepest grief and sorrow of the departure of their most beloved and revered leader— Ghusn-i-Akbar, the Mightiest Branch, Mohammed Ali Effendi—
Who left this earthly world and departed to the Eternal Realm on the morning of Friday, December the Tenth, 1937, at Haifa, Palestine. The last services were held on the following afternoon and the sacred remains were carried by hand from the house to King’s Way, a distance of one mile, where the remains were placed on a vehicle and escorted with great honor to Acre, where again carried by hand to the last resting place at Bahji near the Sacred Shrine [of Baha’u’llah].
The procession was preceded by an escort of unarmed police detachment with their officers, followed by the members of the household, government officials, notables, and religious heads. Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Baha’is walked silently side by side in reverence to that great personage who lived the life of a saint, and who was the most ardent lover of peace and harmony and a real friend of humanity.
Memorial services will be held at Haifa on Tuesday, January the 18th, 1938. We humbly ask the friends throughout the world to join us in commemoration on that or any other convenient day.
In his memory we shall recite the following supplication revealed by the Supreme Pen of Baha’u’llah for His departed Branch:—
THE GREATEST, THE MOST GLORIOUS.
O my God, verily this is a branch who hath branched from the firm and lofty tree of Thy Singleness and Oneness. Thou seest him, O God, gazing unto Thee and holding fast to the rope of Thy bounty. Therefore keep him in the shadow of Thy mercy. Thou knowest, O my God, that I desire him, as Thou hast desired him. Therefore assist him with the hosts of earth and heaven, and help, O my God, whosoever helpeth him, choose whosoever chooseth him, and assist whosoever cometh to him. Then forsake whosoever denieth him and desireth him not. O my Lord,
Thou seest that while inspired my pen moveth though my limbs tremble. I ask Thee, by my longing for Thy love and my anxiety to manifest Thy cause, to ordain for him, and to those who love him, what Thou hast destined for Thy Messengers and the faithful of Thy divine inspiration.
Verily Thou art God the All-Powerful.
The sad news was broadcasted by the Oriental radio stations, also by the British Broadcasting Corporation, London, England. Messages of condolence reached us from all parts of the world.
Memorial services were held at Haifa, which was well attended. Many notables delivered memorial speeches and sermons. Among them the Muslim representative was Abdullah Bey Mokhles.
The Christian leader, Bishop Hajjar, who was [the late Mohammed Ali Effendi’s] personal friend for thirty-five years, delivered the most impressive sermon. His subject was “Virtue.” For nearly an hour he spoke on the “Excellence of Virtue,” ending each paragraph with this remark: “The departed soul was invested with all these virtues.”
Wadi Effendi Boustani, the Arabian philosopher-poet and prominent advocate, recited his memorial poetry [i.e. in commemoration of the deceased]. Likewise the well-known poet known as “Abu Salma,” this being his nom de plume.
Among those who could not attend in person was Sheikh Ass’adesh-Shukeiry, a well-known Muslim religious leader, who sent in his speech to be read at the day of the memorial.
Ghusn-i-At’har (Arabic: ghusrt al-athar), meaning “the Purest (or Most Chaste) Branch,” was the title given by Baha’u’llah to his second son, Mihdi. However, this son died in his youth and the same title was then passed to Baha’u’llah’s third living son, Zia’u’llah, who was a younger brother of Mohammed Ali.
A city about 15 miles south of Baghdad.
Moussa Kalim (known to Baha’is today as Mirza Musa, Aqay-i-Kalim) and Muhammad-Quli were brothers of Baha’u’llah.
Mirza Aqa Jan Kashani was Baha’u’llah’s chief secretary and scribe. He was often referred to as Khadim or Khadimu’llah, meaning “servant (of God)”.
 Baha’u’llah had yet to declare himself publicly as the next Manifestation of God, whom the Bab had prophesied to appear in 1863 A.D. Nevertheless, he was already writing tablets in the style of divine revelation and sending them to some of his dose companions, such as family members and selected followers of Babism, and these people were thereby able to understand that he was claiming a divine station.
 The Blessed (Sacred, Supreme, etc.) Procession means Baha’u’llah with his family and companions.
 Shaykh Khanjar Hindiyani, named Shaykh Salman by Baha’u’llah in honor of a loyal disciple of the Prophet Muhammad, was one of Baha’u’llah’s devout followers who dedicated his life to delivering the writings of Baha’u’llah to Baha’is.
 Also spelled Khurasani.
 All of Baha’u’llah’s communications—even simple letters such as this one— were regarded by his followers as divine “tablets.” Baha’is did not, and still do not today, make any distinction between scriptural and non-scriptural writings of Baha’u’llah; every word he ever wrote is considered part of the Baha’i scriptural corpus.
 Yirka, more commonly spelled Yarka, is a village near Acre.
 Mohammed Ali Effendi is making the point that Baha’u’llah relied on him greatly as an administrative leader in the new religious community, and copiously lamented even his brief absence. He is building the case that Baha’u’llah expected him to play a leadership role in the faith and would not have wanted him to be sidelined.
 People studying and considering conversion to the Baha’i faith are often referred to by Baha’is as “seekers.”
 Baha’u’llah called all of his sons “branches” (Arabic: aghsan, plural of ghusn). The two youngest sons, mentioned here, were Zia Ullah (Ghusn-i- At’har, the “Purest Branch”) and Badi’u’llah (Ghusn-i-Anwar, the “Most Luminous Branch”).
 Also spelled ‘Abdu’llah Mukhlis. He was a professor and the Secretary of the National Muslim Society.
 Gregorios Hajjar (also spelled Gregorius) was the Archbishop of Acre for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, a Byzantine-rite Eastern Catholic denomination in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. He was much beloved in Palestine and came to be known as “Christ of the East.”
 Wadi al-Bustani was a Lebanese poet, attorney, and intellectual. He co-founded an organization for Islamic-Christian dialogue and translated classical Hindu and Persian literature.
 Abu Salma’s real name was Abdel-Karim al-Karmi. He was a celebrated 20th century Palestinian poet.