Divine Plan, during the somber days of that tragic conflict, had, in the concluding years of `Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry, invested the members of the leading Bahá'í community in the West--the champions of a future Administrative Order--with a world mission which, in the concluding years of the first Bahá'í century, was to shed deathless glory upon the Faith and its administrative institutions. The conclusion of that long and distressing conflict had frustrated the hopes of that military despot and inflicted an ignominious defeat on him, had removed, once and for all, the danger that had overshadowed for sixty-five years the Founder of the Faith and the Center of His Covenant, fulfilled the prophecies recorded by Him in His writings, enhanced still further the prestige of His Faith and its Leader, and been signalized by the spread of His Message to the continent of Australia.
The sudden passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá, marking the close of the Primitive Age of the Faith, had, as had been the case with the ascension of His Father, submerged in sorrow and consternation His faithful disciples, imparted fresh hopes to the dwindling followers of both Mírzá Yahyá and Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí, and stirred to feverish activity political as well as ecclesiastical adversaries, all of whom anticipated the impending dismemberment of the communities which the Center of the Covenant had so greatly inspired and ably led. The promulgation of His Will and Testament, inaugurating the Formative Age of the Bahá'í era, the Charter delineating the features of an Order which the Báb had announced, which Bahá'u'lláh had envisioned, and whose laws and principles He had enunciated, had galvanized these communities in Europe, Asia, Africa and America into concerted action, enabling them to erect and consolidate the framework of this Order, by establishing its local and national Assemblies, by framing the constitutions of these Assemblies, by securing the recognition on the part of the civil authorities in various countries of these institutions, by founding administrative headquarters, by raising the superstructure of the first House of Worship in the West, by establishing and extending the scope of the endowments of the Faith and by obtaining the full recognition by the civil authorities of the religious character of these endowments at its world center as well as in the North American continent.
A severe, a historic censure pronounced by a Muslim ecclesiastical court in Egypt had, whilst this mighty process--the laying of the structural basis of the Bahá'í world Administrative Order--was being initiated, officially expelled all adherents of the Faith of Muslim extraction from Islám, had condemned them as heretics and brought
the members of a proscribed community face to face with tests and perils of a character they had never known before. The unjust decision of a civil court in Baghdád, instigated by Shí'ah enemies, in Iraq, and the decree issued by a still more redoubtable adversary in Russia had, moreover, robbed the Faith, on the one hand, of one of its holiest centers of pilgrimage, and denied it, on the other, the use of its first House of Worship, initiated by `Abdu'l-Bahá and erected in the course of His ministry. And finally, inspired by this unexpected declaration made by an age-long enemy--marking the first step in the march of their Faith towards total emancipation--and undaunted by this double blow struck at its institutions, the followers of Bahá'u'lláh, already united and fully equipped through the agencies of a firmly established Administrative Order, had arisen to crown the immortal records of the first Bahá'í century by vindicating the independent character of their Faith, by enforcing the fundamental laws ordained in their Most Holy Book, by demanding and in some cases obtaining, the recognition by the ruling authorities of their right to be classified as followers of an independent religion, by securing from the world's highest Tribunal its condemnation of the injustice they had suffered at the hands of their persecutors, by establishing their residence in no less than thirty-four additional countries, as well as in thirteen dependencies, by disseminating their literature in twenty-nine additional languages, by enrolling a Queen in the ranks of the supporters of their Cause, and lastly by launching an enterprise which, as that century approached its end, enabled them to complete the exterior ornamentation of their second House of Worship, and to bring to a successful conclusion the first stage of the Plan which `Abdu'l-Bahá had conceived for the world-wide and systematic propagation of their Faith.
Kings, emperors, princes, whether of the East or of the West, had, as we look back upon the tumultuous record of an entire century, either ignored the summons of its Founders, or derided their Message, or decreed their exile and banishment, or barbarously persecuted their followers, or sedulously striven to discredit their teachings. They were visited by the wrath of the Almighty, many losing their thrones, some witnessing the extinction of their dynasties, a few being assassinated or covered with shame, others finding themselves powerless to avert the cataclysmic dissolution of their kingdoms, still others being degraded to positions of subservience in their own realms. The Caliphate, its arch-enemy, had unsheathed the sword against its Author and thrice pronounced His banishment. It was humbled to
dust, and, in its ignominious collapse, suffered the same fate as the Jewish hierarchy, the chief persecutor of Jesus Christ, had suffered at the hands of its Roman masters, in the first century of the Christian Era, almost two thousand years before. Members of various sacerdotal orders, Shí'ah, Sunní, Zoroastrian and Christian, had fiercely assailed the Faith, branded as heretic its supporters, and labored unremittingly to disrupt its fabric and subvert its foundations. The most redoubtable and hostile amongst these orders were either overthrown or virtually dismembered, others rapidly declined in prestige and influence, all were made to sustain the impact of a secular power, aggressive and determined to curtail their privileges and assert its own authority. Apostates, rebels, betrayers, heretics, had exerted their utmost endeavors, privily or openly, to sap the loyalty of the followers of that Faith, to split their ranks or assault their institutions. These enemies were, one by one, some gradually, others with dramatic swiftness, confounded, dispersed, swept away and forgotten. Not a few among its leading figures, its earliest disciples, its foremost champions, the companions and fellow-exiles of its Founders, trusted amanuenses and secretaries of its Author and of the Center of His Covenant, even some of those who were numbered among the kindred of the Manifestation Himself, not excluding the nominee of the Báb and the son of Bahá'u'lláh, named by Him in the Book of His Covenant, had allowed themselves to pass out from under its shadow, to bring shame upon it, through acts of indelible infamy, and to provoke crises of such dimensions as have never been experienced by any previous religion. All were precipitated, without exception, from the enviable positions they occupied, many of them lived to behold the frustration of their designs, others were plunged into degradation and misery, utterly impotent to impair the unity, or stay the march, of the Faith they had so shamelessly forsaken. Ministers, ambassadors and other state dignitaries had plotted assiduously to pervert its purpose, had instigated the successive banishments of its Founders, and maliciously striven to undermine its foundations. They had, through such plottings, unwittingly brought about their own downfall, forfeited the confidence of their sovereigns, drunk the cup of disgrace to its dregs, and irrevocably sealed their own doom. Humanity itself, perverse and utterly heedless, had refused to lend a hearing ear to the insistent appeals and warnings sounded by the twin Founders of the Faith, and later voiced by the Center of the Covenant in His public discourses in the West. It had plunged into two desolating wars of unprecedented magnitude, which have deranged its equilibrium, mown
down its youth, and shaken it to its roots. The weak, the obscure, the down-trodden had, on the other hand, through their allegiance to so mighty a Cause and their response to its summons, been enabled to accomplish such feats of valor and heroism as to equal, and in some cases to dwarf, the exploits of those men and women of undying fame whose names and deeds adorn the spiritual annals of mankind.
Despite the blows leveled at its nascent strength, whether by the wielders of temporal and spiritual authority from without, or by black-hearted foes from within, the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh had, far from breaking or bending, gone from strength to strength, from victory to victory. Indeed its history, if read aright, may be said to resolve itself into a series of pulsations, of alternating crises and triumphs, leading it ever nearer to its divinely appointed destiny. The outburst of savage fanaticism that greeted the birth of the Revelation proclaimed by the Báb, His subsequent arrest and captivity, had been followed by the formulation of the laws of His Dispensation, by the institution of His Covenant, by the inauguration of that Dispensation in Badasht, and by the public assertion of His station in Tabríz. Widespread and still more violent uprisings in the provinces, His own execution, the blood bath which followed it and Bahá'u'lláh's imprisonment in the Síyáh-Chál had been succeeded by the breaking of the dawn of the Bahá'í Revelation in that dungeon. Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to Iraq, His withdrawal to Kurdistán and the confusion and distress that afflicted His fellow-disciples in Baghdád had, in turn, been followed by the resurgence of the Bábí community, culminating in the Declaration of His Mission in the Najíbíyyih Garden. Sultán `Abdu'l-`Azíz's decree summoning Him to Constantinople and the crisis precipitated by Mírzá Yahyá had been succeeded by the proclamation of that Mission to the crowned heads of the world and its ecclesiastical leaders. Bahá'u'lláh's banishment to the penal colony of Akká, with all its attendant troubles and miseries, had, in its turn, led to the promulgation of the laws and ordinances of His Revelation and to the institution of His Covenant, the last act of His life. The fiery tests engendered by the rebellion of Mírzá Muhammad-`Alí and his associates had been succeeded by the introduction of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh in the West and the transfer of the Báb's remains to the Holy Land. The renewal of `Abdu'l-Bahá's incarceration and the perils and anxieties consequent upon it had resulted in the downfall of `Abdu'l-Hamíd, in `Abdu'l-Bahá's release from His confinement, in the entombment of the Báb's remains on Mt. Carmel, and in the triumphal journeys undertaken by the Center of the Covenant Himself
in Europe and America. The outbreak of a devastating world war and the deepening of the dangers to which Jamál Páshá and the Covenant-breakers had exposed Him had led to the revelation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, to the flight of that overbearing Commander, to the liberation of the Holy Land, to the enhancement of the prestige of the Faith at its world center, and to a marked expansion of its activities in East and West. `Abdu'l-Bahá's passing and the agitation which His removal had provoked had been followed by the promulgation of His Will and Testament, by the inauguration of the Formative Age of the Bahá'í era and by the laying of the foundations of a world-embracing Administrative Order. And finally, the seizure of the keys of the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh by the Covenant-breakers, the forcible occupation of His House in Baghdád by the Shí'ah community, the outbreak of persecution in Russia and the expulsion of the Bahá'í community from Islám in Egypt had been succeeded by the public assertion of the independent religious status of the Faith by its followers in East and West, by the recognition of that status at its world center, by the pronouncement of the Council of the League of Nations testifying to the justice of its claims, by a remarkable expansion of its international teaching activities and its literature, by the testimonials of royalty to its Divine origin, and by the completion of the exterior ornamentation of its first House of Worship in the western world.
The tribulations attending the progressive unfoldment of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh have indeed been such as to exceed in gravity those from which the religions of the past have suffered. Unlike those religions, however, these tribulations have failed utterly to impair its unity, or to create, even temporarily, a breach in the ranks of its adherents. It has not only survived these ordeals, but has emerged, purified and inviolate, endowed with greater capacity to face and surmount any crisis which its resistless march may engender in the future.
Mighty indeed have been the tasks accomplished and the victories achieved by this sorely-tried yet undefeatable Faith within the space of a century! Its unfinished tasks, its future victories, as it stands on the threshold of the second Bahá'í century, are greater still. In the brief space of the first hundred years of its existence it has succeeded in diffusing its light over five continents, in erecting its outposts in the furthermost corners of the earth, in establishing, on an impregnable basis its Covenant with all mankind, in rearing the fabric of its world-encompassing Administrative Order, in casting off many of the
unframe page frame page