The Knighting of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

May 4, 2021
The Knighting of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

History of Master’s Life

The Knighting of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Source: Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, p.16-17

‘Abdu’l-Baha, traveling to knighthood ceremony

During World War I when a blockade threatened the lives of many civilians in Haifa, ‘Abdu’l-Baha saved them from starvation. ‘He personally organized extensive agricultural operations near Tiberias, thus securing a great supply of wheat…’ Food was stored in underground pits and elsewhere. This He distributed to inhabitants, regardless of religion or nationality. The food was systematically rationed. Having started His preparations as early as 1912, He averted tragedy in the dark days of 1917 and 1918.

At war’s end the British were quick to recognize His painstaking accomplishments. He was to be knighted on 27 April 1920, at the residence of the British Governor in Haifa at a ceremony held especially for Him. British and religious dignitaries came to honour Him on this auspicious occasion. His unselfish acts had won Him the love and respect of high and low alike. ‘Abdu’l-Baha consented to accept the knighthood – but He was not impressed with worldly honour or ceremony. Even a formality must be simplified. An elegant car was sent to bring Him to the Governor’s residence, but the chauffeur did not find the Master at His home. People scurried in every direction to find Him. Suddenly He appeared ‘… alone, walking His kingly walk, with that simplicity of greatness which always enfolded Him.’ Isfandiyar, His long-time faithful servant, stood near at hand. Many were the times when he had accompanied the Master on His labours of love. Now, suddenly, with this elegant car ready to convey his Master to the Governor, he felt sad and unneeded. Intuitively, ‘Abdu’l-Baha must have sensed this – He gave him a sign. Isfandiyar dashed off – the horse was harnessed, the carriage brought to the lower gate and the Master was driven to a side entrance of the garden of the Governor. Isfandiyar was joyous – he was needed even yet. Quietly, without pomp, ‘Abbas Effendi arrived at the right time at the right place and did honour to those who would honour Him when He was made Sir ‘Abdu’l-Baha Abbas, K.B.E. – a title which He almost never used.

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‘Abdu’l-Baha, knighthood ceremony

Shoghi Effendi, recalled in God Passes By, that the British authorities wanted to express “their appreciation of the role which ‘Abdu’l-Baha had played in allaying the burden of suffering that had oppressed the inhabitants of the Holy Land during the dark days of that distressing conflict.”

Further stating that ‘Abdu’l-Baha reasoning for accepting the title was to allow “the influx of pilgrims who, from East and West [to travel to] the Holy Land in comparative ease and safety to visit the Holy Tombs in ‘Akka and Haifa” as well as “to heighten the prestige which the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh had been steadily and gradually acquiring.”

 

 


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