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Bahá'ís around the world celebrate the life and legacy of 'Abdu'l-Bahá

This month marks the centenary of the death of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, whose fascinating personality has inspired generations of people around the world, including Brazil, to work toward social progress and the common good.


'Abdu'l-Bahá is a central figure in the history of the Bahá'í Faith, a monotheistic religion that emerged in the 19th century and has now spread throughout the world.


'Abdu'l-Bahá was born in the city of Tehran, in ancient Persia and present-day Iran, on May 23, 1844. He is the eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, who declared himself to be a Messenger of God, or Prophet, continuing the messages of so many other Divine Teachers such as Moses, Jesus Christ, and Muhammad. Because the Bahá'í message advocated principles such as justice and the separation of religion from government affairs, the leading powers of the day felt challenged, subjecting Bahá'u'lláh and his family to a life of exile and imprisonment.


At the age of nine, 'Abdu'l-Bahá became a prisoner and was exposed to countless cruelties, only to be effectively released at the age of sixty-seven during the Young Turk Revolution in the Ottoman Empire. A life of deprivation and suffering impacted his physical health, but never his spirit. Years later, when asked about his life in prison, he stated that when one is freed from the prison of the ego, one cannot be outwardly imprisoned: "Freedom is not a matter of place. It is a condition."


He was recognized for his vast knowledge, extreme kindness in his interactions with people of all backgrounds, and the joy that characterized his being. On October 16, 1910, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Mu'ayyad recorded, "Whoever has associated with him will have seen in him an extremely well-informed man whose words are captivating, who attracts minds and souls, and who is dedicated to the belief in the oneness of the human race...."


Proclaiming the principles of the Faith initiated by His Father, 'Abdu'l-Bahá devoted himself tirelessly to the cause of service to humanity, whether caring for his family, the prisoners with whom he lived, or the inhabitants of the cities in which he was imprisoned. Myron Phelps, a writer from New York, who visited and observed 'Abdul Bahá, reported, "When he hears about someone sick in town, [Muslim] or Christian, or of any other sect, it doesn't matter—he stands by the bedside every day or sends a trusted messenger. If a doctor is needed and the patient is poor, he will send the doctor and also the medicine."

After his liberation, 'Abdu'l-Bahá traveled to the West to spread the Teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, passing through Europe, Canada, and the United States. His first public lecture occurred on September 10, 1911, from the pulpit of the City Temple Church in London. Between 1911 and 1913, he gave hundreds of more lectures in universities, synagogues, and churches, had countless private conversations, and granted many interviews. On these occasions, 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke on spiritual and moral themes and expounded principles such as equality between women and men, racial equality, harmony between science and religion, the abolition of extremes of wealth and poverty, and unity in diversity, which could lay the foundation for a new stage in the life of society.


His ideas have also been recorded in numerous letters and treatises, such as the Epistle to the Central Organization for a Durable Peace at The Hague, in which he places the achievement of international peace within the context of the need for broader political, economic, and cultural change.


On his return to Palestine, he continued to receive pilgrims and scholars and guide the development of the Bahá'í Faith throughout the world. He directed Bahá'ís to establish hospitals, schools for girls, and orphanages, and, especially, to travel to spread the new Message. In letters to American Bahá'ís, 'Abdu'l-Bahá stressed the importance of Brazil, particularly the city of Bahia (as Salvador was known at the time), which was endowed with a special power. This instruction motivated Leonora Armstrong, a young woman of only twenty-three, to abandon a comfortable life in the United States and move to Brazil. She dedicated her life to spreading the Bahá'í message and doing social work.

Since then, the Bahá'í community has grown and spread across the country, having been established for several decades in every state and hundreds of locations. Inspired by the life and words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Bahá'ís of Brazil are dedicated to serving the people where they live. Among the main activities they carry out are prayer meetings open to all faiths, and spiritual empowerment programs for children, youth, and adults, equally open to all people. With this, they seek both to promote a social transformation and a change in minds and hearts.


Abdu`l-Bahá's ministry came to an end on the night of November 28, 1921. He passed away at the age of seventy-seven after a brief illness. No fewer than ten thousand people gathered for his funeral in the city of Haifa, among them, Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Druze; Egyptians, Greeks, Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Europeans, and Americans; men, women, and children; government officials, diplomats, and various prominent people. One hundred years later, throughout November, Bahá'ís in Brazil and around the world will hold celebrations to remember the life of this illustrious figure.


For more information

  • Email the Secretariat for Action with Society and Government: sasg@bahai.org.br

  • Visit the Official Bahá'í websites: bahai.org; bahai.org.br; bahaullah.org.br

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