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Eldest surviving son of Bahá'u'lláh and His designated successor. Named 'Abbas after his grandfather, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was known as 'Abbas Effendi outside the Bahá'í community. Bahá'u'lláh also gave Him the titles Ghusn-i-A'zam (the Most Great Branch), Sirru'llah (Mystery of God) and Aqá (the Master). He chose the name 'Abdu'l-Bahá (Servant of Baha) for Himself after the passing of Bahá'u'lláh.
'Abdu'l-Bahá was born in Tihran, Iran, on 23 May 1844. While still a child, He recognized His Father's station even before it had been openly revealed. He shared Bahá'u'lláh's banishment and exile and often served as His Father's deputy when dealing with officials and the public. Bahá'u'lláh described the station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the Suriy-i-Ghusn (Tablet of the Branch). In the Kitdb-i-'Ahdi (Book of the Covenant), He named 'Abdu'l-Bahá as His successor and the authorized Interpreter of His Writings.
'Though essentially human and holding a station radically and fundamentally different from that occupied by Bahá'u'lláh and His Forerunner,' Shoghi Effendi has explained, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was 'the perfect Exemplar of His Faith . . . endowed with superhuman knowledge, and to be regarded as the stainless mirror reflecting His light.'2 While not regarding 'Abdu'l-Bahá as a prophet, Bahá'ís show special respect to His unique station by capitalizing pronouns referring to Him. In about 1873 'Abdu'l-Bahá married Munirih Khanum. Of their nine children, four daughters lived to adulthood. His eldest daughter Diya'íyyih was the mother of Shoghi Effendi.
In 1901 Sultan 'Abdu'l-Hamid II again ordered 'Abdu'l-Bahá confined to 'Akká but in 1908 He was set free after the Young Turks' revolution. It was 'Abdu'l-Bahá who, at the instruction of Bahá'u'lláh, saw to the transfer of the Báb's remains to the Holy Land and their interment in a permanent shrine on Mount Carmel in 1909.
In 1911 He began His historic journeys to Europe and North America to proclaim His Father's message, returning to the Holy Land in 1913. Renowned outside the Bahá'í community for His humanitarian work, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was knighted in 1920 by the British government for his efforts for the relief of hunger in Palestine during World War I. Among the achievements of the ministry of 'Abdu'l-Bahá were the spread of the Bahá'í Faith to the West and Australia; the building of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in 'Ishqabad and the beginning of the Mother Temple of the West in Wilmette, Illinois, usa; and the establishment of the first institutions of the Bahá'í Administrative Order.
During His lifetime, 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote many books and Tablets, interpreting and elucidating the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. Among His books published in English are The Secret of Divine Civilization, Memorials of the Faithful and A Traveller's Narrative. In addition, the texts of many of His talks and Tablets have been collected and published in volumes such as Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahd, Tablets of the Divine Plan, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Some Answered Questions and Paris Talks.
In His Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Bahá named His grandson, Shoghi Effendi, to succeed Him as Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. 'Abdu'l-Bahá died in Haifa on 28 November 1921, and is buried in a vault of the Shrine of the Báb. See also Munirih Khanum, Shoghi Effendi, Shrine of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Source: Momen, Wendi (Ed.): A Basic Bahá'í Dictionary. George Ronald, 1989. ISBN 0-85398-230-9