Bahá’u’lláh’s Life: Father and Son

The Garden of Ridván (Paradise) outside ‘Akká was originally rented by ‘Abdu'l-Bahá for Bahá’u’lláh.

“He is . . . the ‘Mystery of God’ . . . In the person of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized.”
—Bahá’í Writings


Bahá’u’lláh’s eldest son, ‘Abbás, enjoyed the first years of his life in a noble and wealthy family. But in 1853, when ‘Abbás was about eight, the family was exiled from Tihrán, Iran, to Baghdád, Iraq. Bahá’u’lláh was banished for being a follower of the Báb, a Messenger of God. The Báb announced that another Messenger would soon appear and lead the world to peace.

For 10 years, Bahá’u’lláh did not reveal that He was the Messenger foretold by the Báb. But some still knew about His divine station, including young ‘Abbás. He was so devoted to Bahá’u’lláh that he later chose to be known as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, or “Servant of Bahá.”

Through his childhood and teen years, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá showed profound faith and wisdom in spiritual matters. Even religious scholars were impressed with his knowledge. Bahá’u’lláh loved ‘Abdu’l-Bahá deeply and praised His virtuous character and insights, calling him “the Master” and “the Mystery of God.”

In 1863, the family was exiled again, this time to Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). Just before leaving Baghdád, Bahá’u’lláh announced His mission as a Messenger of God.

Exiled twice more, the family arrived in the prison-city of ‘Akká, in what is now Israel, in 1868. In ‘Akká, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tirelessly helped others and tried to protect his father from sorrow. He met with people from all walks of life, from the governor and religious officials to the poor and sick. He greeted followers who came to see Bahá’u’lláh. He tended to the needs of the community, giving his father more time to reveal holy writings and meet with the Bahá’ís. “He is a mighty shield,” Bahá’u’lláh said, “facing the world and its peoples . . .”

‘Abdu'l-Bahá during an exile to Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey) in 1868, at age 24.

‘Akká was a filthy, smelly place with dirty streets and buildings surrounded by high stone walls. One day, Bahá’u’lláh remarked that he hadn’t seen any greenery in nine years. He had earned the admiration of the governor, who gave Him permission to leave ‘Akká. So ‘Abdu’l-Bahá rented a home outside the city surrounded by gardens and orange groves. The house, known as Mazra‘ih, let Bahá’u’lláh enjoy the nature He loved so much.

One day, Bahá’u’lláh invited the Bahá’ís in ‘Akká to gather in a garden near Mazra‘ih. They were enjoying their surroundings when suddenly Bahá’u’lláh looked toward ‘Akká and said, “The Master is coming, hasten to attend Him.”

To show respect, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá didn’t ride his donkey into Bahá’u’lláh’s presence. Instead, with the greatest humility, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá walked to his father, who announced that now the garden, “with the presence of the Master . . . has become truly most delightful.”

When Bahá’u’lláh passed away in 1892, He left a written will appointing ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as His successor and the authorized interpreter of His teachings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá mourned the loss deeply while taking on the immense responsibility of leading the Bahá’í Faith. Today, Bahá’ís consider ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s life of love and service as the perfect example of how to follow Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings.

Note: The quotes in this story are from memoirs and may not be the exact words of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá.

Historical photos courtesy national Bahá’í Archives.

Bahá’í Faith291 'Abdu'l-Bahá61 Bahá’u’lláh88 'Akká22 Exile16 Adrianople3 Ridvan10 Holy Family12 Bahá’ís in History91 Constantinople4 Holy Places16 Mysteries23