‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Asrār al-Ghaybīyah fī Asbāb al-Madanīyah (‘Secret of divine civilisation’), a treatise on the philosophy of history and civilisation from a Baha’i viewpoint.

Who was ‘Abdu’l-Baha?

‘Abdu’l-Baha (‘the servant of the Glory’, 1844–1921) was the title taken by ‘Abbas Effendi, the eldest son of Baha’u’llah. He was born in Tehran and was eight years old when he went into exile with his father and family to Baghdad, and afterwards to Istanbul, Edirne and Acre. In Acre, ‘Abdu’l-Baha took care of relations with the local population and government, leaving Baha’u’llah free to concentrate on meeting with pilgrims and composition of books and letters.

Baha’u’llah made ‘Abdu’l-Baha his successor and the sole authorised interpreter of his writings. Baha’is also regard him as the perfect example of Baha’i ethical teachings. During ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s leadership, the Baha’i Faith spread to North America, Europe, Australia, China, Japan and many other countries. ‘Abdu’l-Baha himself played a major role in this expansion by travelling to North America and Europe in 1911–1913, during which he attracted large audiences in halls, universities, churches, mosques and synagogues and received, particularly in North America, a great deal of media attention.

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Secret of divine civilisation

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s book Asrār al-Ghaybīyah fī Asbāb al-Madanīyah (‘Secret of divine civilisation’), also known as Risālah-‘i madanīyah, is a treatise on the establishment of a just, progressive and divinely-based government. It was written in 1875 in response to reforms initiated in Iran by Mirza Husayn Khan Mushir al-Dawlah Sipahsalar. However, the general principles that it propounds are considered by Baha’is to have universal relevance. It was distributed anonymously (so as to avoid the prejudice that would face a Baha’i work in Iran) and contributed to the reform debate.