November 17, 2011

November 13, 1898: ‘Abdu’l-Baha ends the period of mourning for Baha’u’llah by opening His tomb to pilgrims for the first time

This event which took place on 13 November 1898 was in commemoration of the arrival of Ibrahim Kheiralla(Khayru’llah) to Akka on 11 November 1898 – “the same year that this precious Trust [the precious remains of the Báb] reached the shores of the Holy Land and was delivered into the hands of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He, accompanied by Dr. Ibrahim Khayru'llah, whom He had already honored with the titles of "Baha's Peter," "The Second Columbus" and "Conqueror of America," drove to the recently purchased site which had been blessed and selected by Bahá'u'lláh on Mt. Carmel, and there laid, with His own hands, the foundation-stone of the edifice, the construction of which He, a few months later, was to commence. About that same time, the marble sarcophagus, designed to receive the body of the Báb, an offering of love from the Bahá'ís of Rangoon, had, at 'Abdu'l-Bahá's suggestion, been completed and shipped to Haifa.” (God Passes By, p. 274)

Kheiralla (who later became a Covenant-breaker) and his wife Marion were among of the first group of American pilgrims who left New York on 22 September 1898. Phoebe Hearst, Robert Turner, and Lua and Edward Getsinger were also in that historic group. In Paris they were joined by May Bolles and Hearst’s two relatives.

From Paris Kheiralla went to Egypt in early October, where he had children to visit. His wife went to England to invite her aunt to accompany them to Akka. After twenty-one days in Egypt Ibrahim Keiralla proceeded to Akka and was first to arrive on 11 November 1898. Anxious to reach Akka, Edward and Lua Getsinger left Paris for Cairo in November. About mid-December Phoebe Hearst also arrived in Cairo. Accompanying her were her butler, Robert Turner; her maid, Amalie M. Bachrodt; her little niece, Agnes Lane; her niece's governess, Julia Pearson; another niece, Anne Apperson; and an old friend, Mrs. Thornburgh. All nine Westerners could not visit ‘Abdu’l-Baha simultaneously, for they would stir up too much suspicion. While Hearst and her relatives and employees remained in Egypt, the Gestingers proceeded to Akka. They arrived on 10 December 1898 and were the first North American Baha’is to visit ‘Abdu’l-Baha. 
(Adapted from ‘The Baha’i Faith in America’, vol. 1, by Robert Stockman)