'Abdu’l-Bahá: Son of Bahá'u'lláh
Sir 'Abdu’l-Bahá Abbas Effendi (May 23, 1844 - November 28, 1921) commonly known as 'Abdu’l-Bahá, was the son of Bahá'u'lláh, the Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith.
'Abdu'l-Bahá was appointed by his Father to succeed him, and became leader of the Bahá'í Faith in 1892.
His Journeys to the West, and his Tablets of the Divine Plan spread the Bahá'í message beyond its Persian roots, and his Will and Testament laid the foundation for the current Bahá'í administrative order.
Early Life of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
'Abdu'l-Bahá was born in Tehran, Persia on May 23, 1844 to Bahá'u'lláh and Ásiyih Khánum, Navváb. During his youth, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was shaped by his father's station as a prominent member of the Bábís. One event that affected 'Abdu'l-Bahá's greatly during his childhood was the imprisonment of his father, which led to his family being reduced to poverty and being attacked in the streets by other children.
Bahá'u'lláh was eventually released from prison but ordered into exile, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá joined his father on the journey to Baghdad in the winter of 1853. During the journey Abdu'l-Bahá suffered from frost-bite. During his years in Baghdad, Abdu'l-Bahá spent much of his time reading the writings of the Báb. He followed his father through exile to Constantinople, Adrianople and finally Akka, Palestine, and during this time he increasingly assumed the role of Bahá'u'lláh's chief steward.
In Akka he also gradually took over responsibility for the relationships between the small Bahá'i exile community and the outside world. It was through his interaction with the people of Akka that, according to the Bahá'ís, they recognized the innocence of the Bahá'ís, and thus the conditions of imprisonment were eased. Eventually, Bahá'u'lláh was allowed to leave the city and visit nearby places.
After Bahá'u'lláh passed away on May 29, 1892, he appointed 'Abdu'l-Bahá as his successor, calling him "The Centre of the Covenant". The common understanding at the time was that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's half-brother, Mírzá Muhammad 'Alí should be the leader of the Faith after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's death. Soon, however, Muhammad 'Alí began to accuse his half-brother of taking on too much authority, suggesting that 'Abdu'l-Bahá believed himself to be a Manifestation of God, equal in status to Bahá'u'lláh.
Muhammad 'Alí began to make accusations against him to the Ottoman authorities, causing them to re-introduce stricter terms to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's imprisonment in August 1901. It was as a result of this breakdown in relations between the half-brothers that when 'Abdu'l-Bahá passed away, instead of appointing Muhammad 'Alí, he left a Will and Testament which set up the framework of an administration. The two highest instituions were the Universal House of Justice, and the Guardianship, for which he appointed Shoghi Effendi as the first Guardian.
Journeys to the West
The 1908 Young Turks revolution freed all political prisoners in the Ottoman Empire. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was freed from imprisonment.
With the freedom to leave the country, in 1910 he embark on a three year journey to Egypt, Europe, and North America, spreading the Bahá'í message.
From August to December of 1911, 'Abdu'l-Bahá visited cities in Europe, including London, Bristol, and Paris. The purpose of these trips was to support the Bahá'í communities in the west and to further spread his father's teachings.
In the following year, he undertook a much more extensive journey to the United States and Canada to once again spread his father's teachings. He arrived in New York City on April 11, 1912, and while he spent most of his time there, he visited Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Boston and Philadelphia. In August of the same year he started a more extensive journey to places including New Hampshire, the Green Acre school in Maine, and Montreal (his only visit to Canada). He then travelled west to Minneapolis, San Francisco, Stanford, and Los Angeles before starting to return east at the end of October. On December 5, 1912 he set sail back to Europe.
Back in Europe, he visited London, Paris (where he stayed for two months), Stuttgart, Budapest, and Vienna. Finally on June 12, 1913 he returnd to Egypt, where he stayed for six months before returnig to Haifa.
During World War I 'Abdu'l-Bahá stayed in Palestine, under the continued threat of Allied bombardment and threats from the Turkish commander. As the war ended, the British Mandate over Palestine brought relative security to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. During his final year, a growing number of visitors and pilgims came to see him in Haifa.
On April 27, 1920, he gained the title of "sir" when he was awarded a knighthood by the British Mandate of Palestine for his humanitarian efforts during the war. 'Abdu'l-Bahá died on November 28, 1921. He is buried in the front room of the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel. Plans are in place to one day build a Shrine of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In his Will and Testament he appointed His grandson Shoghi Effendi Rabbani as the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.