The Life of
Shua'u'llah Effendi

Shua’u’llah Bahai (1878 – July 3,1950), also known to Baha’is as Mirza Shua’u’llah, was the son of Mohammed Ali Baha’i (Mirza Muhammad Ali), son of Baha’u’llah. He was born in Qasr al-Mazra’a,  Acre District, Palestine, 1878 A.D. and grew to maturity under the shadow of his grandfather Baha’u’llah.

He was Baha’u’llah’s eldest grandson. Mr. Bahai was fluent in English and is the only known descendant of the Baha’i prophet to have become an American citizen. He emigrated from Akka (Acre), now part of Israel, to the United States in 1904, and lived there for most of his adult life as a successful businessman, later retiring to the Holy Land.

Shua’u’llah traveled with his father to Egypt and India.

In 1889 while he was at the age of eleven, he was commanded by Baha’u’llah to accompany his father (Mohammad Ali Effendi) to his journey to Egypt and India. Haji Khavar also joined them. They embarked on a steamer from Haifa, Palestine, to Port Said, Egypt. At their arrival to Port Said they were welcomed and received by a group of Baha’i delegation from Egypt headed by Aqa Mirza Aqa Afhan,[1] [2] and after the completion of custom house formalities, they were ushered to the house of the aforesaid Afhan, where they were entertained royally by their host during their sojourn there, which lasted twenty-one days. Faithful Baha’is arrived daily from all over Egypt to receive counsel and advice from his father.

From Port Said Shua’u’llah Effendi along with his father boarded an Italian steamer, passing through the Suez Canal and from there to Aden, Yemen, where their steamer docked the whole day.

On the twelfth day they reached their destination, Bombay, India. At their arrival to Bombay they were received by Haji Siyyid Mirza Afnan, his brother Haji Siyyid Muhammad Afhan, and others, among them. Siyyid Hadi Afhan (who later married the eldest daughter of my uncle Abdu’l-Baha, and is thus the father of Shoghi Effendi).[3] They stayed at the abode of Haji Siyyid Mirza Afhan, which was located in Byculla, Bombay. After a few weeks they secured a nice little bungalow house surrounded with a flower garden near the Mahalakshmi railway station. At that time the horse race track was in that section. They spent over a year in the city of Bombay, occasionally travelling to the nearby countryside, [such] as Poona,[4] Khandala, etc. Mohammad Ali Effendi was occupied in  receiving visitors and arranging the printing of several books of the teachings of Baha’u’llah. Shua’u’llah Effendi was studying French under a private teacher, as at that time the French language was the most popular in their country, which was then called Syria, under the Ottoman rule.

On their return to Acre, Palestine, they stopped at Cairo, Egypt. They were the guests of Haji Mirza Hasan Shirazi, better known as Khorasani. Shua’u’llah had the opportunity to see the points of interest in Cairo also. After a few days they arrived at home and again Shua’u’llah was privileged to be with his grandfather Baha’u’llah after the elapse of fifteen months.

During their preparation to leave Bombay the aforesaid Siyyid Hadi Afhan begged Mohammad Ali Effendi for permission to join them, so they had an extra companion on their return voyage from Bombay to Egypt. On the steamer, Haji Khavar prepared our meals and the said Siyyid Hadi Afnan took care of several large flat baskets, each containing three pots of different flowers and young trees that Mohammad Ali brought with him from India.

Indeed, it was through his assiduous care of watering them regularly and moving them from place to place when needed that they reached their destination safely.

Two years after their return from India the ascension of Baha’u’llah took place.

More Childhood Memories

A few years before Mohammad Ali’s journey to India, Siyyid Asadu’llah of Qum was appointed as a tutor for Shau’ullah’s brother Mirza Amin Ullah. Although Asadu’llah was a great companion more than a teacher, yet he served them faithfully to the best of his ability until a few months after the ascension of Baha’u’llah, when he had to leave Shua’u’llah and Amin’u’llah and return to his native land, Iran, to become a Baha’i missionary. The following years Shua’u’llah had several private teachers, and occasionally he took English lessons also.

During his young days he was very fond of horseback riding and hunting. In those days the means of transportation were confined to horses, mules, donkeys or camels, as modern vehicles were not in existence in the Orient; therefore they all grew up learning horse riding. Also hunting was the only sport available as they had no golf or tennis grounds, nor were there any cinemas or theaters.

Visit to the United States as a Young Man

Years passed as such until 1904, when Shua’u’llah Effendi received an invitation from his relatives and friends in the United States of America to visit the World’s Fair of St. Louis, Missouri, USA. He was greatly encouraged by this invitation for the following reasons: first, to forget his grief and sorrow, and second, to see the New World and to study the Western civilization. With the permission of his father and his grandmother, the widow of Baha’u’llah, He left Palestine for Egypt and from there boarded a steamer for Marseilles, France, arriving in Paris July 12 of the same year. On July 14 the people of France celebrated their Independence Day [i.e. Bastille Day]. It was a great experience for Shua’u’llah Effendi to go from Acre, Palestine, to Paris and to attend such a jubilant celebration. The following day he secured a passage with the American Line on the steamship New York, arriving at the port of New York the last week of July.

After two days rest in the great city of New York he went to St. Louis, Missouri. He spent the summer months there, observing the wonders of the Exposition, which were a great education for him. During the same summer he made a visit to the Baha’i friends in Chicago, Illinois and Kenosha, Wisconsin, accompanied by Dr. Ibrahim Kheiralla. Notices of his arrival to the United States appeared in numerous daily newspapers and magazines. The first two winters and summers he spent in St. Augustine, Florida and Atlantic City, New Jersey. While he was in New York he visited the Syrian colony in Brooklyn. During his stay there he had the pleasure of the visit of Mr. Howard MacNutt, and on his return visit to him he met Mrs. MacNutt also. We had a sociable visit, but later on he was informed that Mr. MacNutt was reprimanded by the Baha’i higher authorities for his association with Shua’u’llah.

Living in America

During Shua’u’llah’s residence in the United States he served the Baha’i cause to the best of his ability, in his spare time, earning his livelihood through trade. He had several opportunities to commercialize their teachings but he refrained from doing so, as he believed truth should be given gratis. For several years he edited and published The Behai Quarterly at his own expense and distributed it absolutely free of charge. He traveled extensively in the United States, crossing the continent from Florida to Oregon, Maine to California. He had visited the most prominent winter and summer resorts. He had met people from all walks of life, the elites of Fifth Avenue, now Park Avenue, to the humbles of the Bouwerie,[5] the snobs of New England to the sociables of New Orleans. He had conversed with philosophers, scientists, politicians, communists, theologians, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, and Spiritualists and found some good in all of them, by discarding personal prejudice and respecting their viewpoints.

While in Southern California he married a charming American young lady of English stock, whose maiden name was Brewster, a descendant of William Brewster who came to America with the ship Mayflower. He regretted that his second venture in love was unsuccessful also, as he have lost her.

Ever since, He hesitated in making a third attempt and he presume that he shall leave this world without issue.

Behai Quarterly

Shua’u’llah Bahai was the one who had published the Behai Quarterly, a magazine he edited and published from 1934 to 1937 with the help of Frederick A. Slack in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The periodical was distributed for free to members of the Society of Behaists and other Baha’is who were interested in or sympathetic to the Unitarian Baha’i view of the faith.

I have mentioned the topics covered in some of the more interesting articles by Mr.

Behai which were published in the Quarterly, among them is the “Last Will of Baha’u’llah” which appeared in the Spring of 1934; among them a piece about the spiritual meaning of life called “Life’s Journey,” which appeared in the Third and Fourth Quarter 1935 issue; an overview of “The Three Baha’i Sects” that existed at the time, which appeared in the First and Second Quarter 1937 issue; selected Questions and Answers from the First Quarter and Third and Fourth Quarter 1935 issues; and more.

His Works

Mr. Bahai compiled an introduction to the Baha’i faith in the 1940s, the documents of which were preserved by his niece Nigar Bahai Amsalem and published in ‘A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha’u’llah’s Forgotten Family.’ which was published by VOX media.


[1] The Qasr al-Mazra’a (“Palace of Mazra’a”) was a summer house in the town of Mazra’a, near Acre, where Baha’u’llah lived at the time. Baha’is today usually spell it Mazra’ih.

[2] Also known by the title of Nuri’d-Din. He was a nephew of the Bab who became a follower of Baha’u’llah and later served as one of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s secretary.

[3] Mirza and Muhammad Afhan were nephews of the Bab, and Hadi Afhan was a grand-nephew.

[4] Present-day Pune.

[5] This neighbourhood of New York City is now spelled Bowery.