Mírzá Muhammad `Alí

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Mírzá Muhammad `Alí
Mirza MuhammedAli-Ghusn-i-Akbar.gif
BornDecember 16, 1853
Died10 December 1937(1937-12-10) (aged 83)
ChildrenShua Ullah Behai, Amin Ullah Bahai, Mousa (Musa) Bahai,
Parent(s)Father: Bahá’u’lláh
Mother: Fatimih Khanum (Mahd-i-‘Ulya)

Mírzá Muhammad `Alí (Persian: میرزا محمد علی‎  1852–1937) was one of the sons of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He was the eldest son of his father's second wife, Fatimih Khanum, later known as Mahd-i-'Ulya, whom Bahá'u'lláh married in Tehran in 1849. Muhammad `Alí received the title from his father of Ghusn-i-Akbar ("Greatest Branch" or "Greater Branch").[1][note 1]

Early years[edit]

Mírzá Muhammad `Alí was born on December 16, 1853 in Baghdad during Bahá'u'lláh's first year of exile in that city. In 1863, at the age of nine, he accompanied his family in their exile to Constantinople and Adrianople. During the final days in Adrianople, Mírzá Muhammad `Alí wrote about eighty letters to the believers of the Bahá'í Faith, such as those in Baghdad and its surrounding towns. He also asked permission of his father to travel abroad and spread the Bahá'í Faith.[2]

At the age of fifteen, when Baha’u’llah's family was imprisoned in Acre, the duty of copying Bahá'u'lláh's writings was given to Mírzá Muhammad `Alí.[3]

Dispute with `Abdu'l-Bahá[edit]

In the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd ("Book of the Covenant"), Bahá'u'lláh appointed `Abdu'l-Bahá as his successor,[4] with Muhammad `Ali given a station "beneath" that of `Abdu'l-Bahá.[5] Both were noted explicitly by their titles, with Muhammad Ali being called Ghusn-i-Akbar and `Abdu'l-Bahá being called Ghusn-i-A'zam. As time passed, Muhammad `Alí claimed that `Abdu'l-Bahá was not sharing power. According to some interpretations, Muhammad `Alí insisted that he should instead be regarded as the leader of the Bahá'ís. Many accusations were leveled against each other by both `Abdu'l-Bahá and Muhammad `Alí, culminating in Muhammad `Alí's accusing his older brother of conspiring against the Ottoman government. This resulted in the imprisonment and near-death of `Abdu'l-Bahá and his family. Almost all Bahá'ís accepted `Abdu'l-Bahá as Bahá'u'lláh's successor.[6]

At the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá's death, Shoghi Effendi was appointed the Guardian of the Faith by `Abdu'l-Bahá in his Will and Testament, while Muhammad `Alí was reprimanded in the same document as "The Center of Sedition, the Prime Mover of mischief."[7] Because Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-`Ahd named Muhammad `Alí as "after" `Abdu'l-Bahá's, he took the opportunity of `Abdu'l-Bahá's death to try to revive his claim to leadership, but his attempt to occupy the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh by force left him on the losing end of a legal battle that removed any rights he had to the property.

The division between rival sects with Mírzá Muhammad `Alí and Shoghi Effendi as their respective leaders was short-lived and Shoghi Effendi emerged as the leader of the global Bahá'í community, labeling Muhammad `Alí the arch-breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.[8] Mírzá Muhammad `Alí would lead the small Unitarian Baha'i denomination. In 1904, he sent his oldest son, Shua Ullah Behai, to the United States where he led the Unitarian Baha'i community. From 1934 to 1937, Behai published Behai Quarterly,[9] a "Unitarian" Bahá'í magazine written in English and featuring the writings of Mirza Muhammad `Alí and various other Unitarian Bahais, including Ibrahim George Kheiralla.[10] This schism had very little effect overall. In the `Akká area, the followers of Muhammad `Alí represented six families at most, they had no common religious activities,[10] and were almost wholly assimilated into Muslim society.[11] This group essentially disappeared.[12][13][14] A modern academic observer has reported an ineffectual attempt to revive the claims of Muhammad Ali.[15] Some of Mirza Muhammad `Alí's works that were preserved by his family have been published in A Lost History of the Baha'i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha'u'llah's Forgotten Family.[16]

Mírzá Muhammad `Alí succeeds Late `Abdu'l-Bahá, Jan 11 1922
Mírzá Muhammad `Alí.
Detail from a larger photograph, assumed to have been taken in Adrianople in 1868, when `Alí was 16.


Mirza Muhammad `Alí died on December 10, 1937, in Haifa Palestine. His remains were carried by hand from his house to King’s Way, a distance of one mile, where the remains were placed on a vehicle and escorted to Acre, where again he was carried by hand to his burial plot at Bahji, near the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. Memorial services were held at Haifa on Tuesday, January the 18th, 1938. Some supplications which were revealed by Bahá'u'lláh towards Mírzá Muhammad `Alí were recited:

“..O my God, verily this is a branch who hath branched from the firm and lofty tree of Thy Singleness and One-ness…. 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.”

His death was broadcast by radio stations, including the British Broadcasting Corporation. Some individuals who delivered memorial speeches include Abdullah Bey Mokhles (Professor and the Secretary of National Muslim Society), Bishop Hajjar (Archbishop of Acre for the Melkite Greek Catholic Church), Wadi Effendi Boustani (Arabian philosopher poet and prominent advocate), and Abu Salma (20th century Palestinian poet).[17]

See also[edit]

Notes and citations[edit]

  1. ^ The elative is a stage of gradation in Arabic that can be used both for a superlative or a comparative. Ghusn-i-Akbar could mean "Greatest Branch" or "Greater Branch."
  1. ^ Taherzadeh 2000, p. 256
  2. ^ Behai, Shua Ullah (December 5, 2014). Stetson, Eric, ed. A Lost History of the Baha'i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha'u'llah's Forgotten Family. Vox Humri Media. pp. 194–195. ISBN 978-0692331354. Archived from the original on September 27, 2016.
  3. ^ Behai, Shua Ullah (December 5, 2014). Stetson, Eric, ed. A Lost History of the Baha'i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha'u'llah's Forgotten Family. Vox Humri Media. p. 198. ISBN 978-0692331354.
  4. ^ Bahá'u'lláh 1994, pp. 221–222
  5. ^ Bahá'u'lláh (1994) [1873-92]. "Kitáb-i-`Ahd". Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed After the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-174-4.
  6. ^ Taherzadeh 2000, p. 44
  7. ^ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1990) [1901-08]. "Part One". The Will And Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. ISBN 978-0877433736.
  8. ^ Adamson 2009, p. 121
  9. ^ Cole, Juan R.I.; Quinn, Sholeh; Smith, Peter; Walbridge, John, eds. (July 2004). "Behai Quarterly". Documents on the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Movements. h-net.msu.edu. 08 (2). Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Warburg, Margit. Bahá'í: Studies in Contemporary Religion. Signature Books. p. 64. ISBN 1-56085-169-4.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ MacEoin, Denis. "Bahai and Babi Schisms". Encyclopædia Iranica. In Palestine, the followers of Moḥammad-ʿAlī continued as a small group of families opposed to the Bahai leadership in Haifa; they have now been almost wholly re-assimilated into Muslim society.
  12. ^ Barrett, David (2001). The New Believers. London, UK: Cassell & Co. pp. 247–248. ISBN 0-304-35592-5.
  13. ^ MacEoin, Denis. "Bahai and Babi Schisms". Encyclopædia Iranica. Other small groups have broken away from the main body from time to time, but none of these has attracted a sizeable following.
  14. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 116. ISBN 1-85168-184-1. Quote from source: "After the death of Shoghi Effendi (1957) the only significant oppositional movement was that led by … C. M. Remey…. The movement subsequently splintered…."
  15. ^ McGlinn, Sen (March 27, 2010). "A Muhammad Ali revival?". Retrieved 2010-04-17.
  16. ^ Behai, Shua Ullah (December 5, 2014). Stetson, Eric, ed. A Lost History of the Baha'i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha'u'llah's Forgotten Family. Vox Humri Media. ISBN 978-0692331354.
  17. ^ Behai, Shua Ullah (December 5, 2014). Stetson, Eric, ed. A Lost History of the Baha'i Faith: The Progressive Tradition of Baha'u'llah's Forgotten Family. Vox Humri Media. p. 251-253. ISBN 978-0692331354.