Abdu’l-Bahā Abbās‘

Joshua Lincoln


This book is a study of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahā ‘Abbās (1844-1921) in its regional and social context – the turbulent, heterogeneous and multilingual Levant that was his home in exile for a half-century. It opens with his role as secretary and shield to his father, Bahā’u’llāh, the prophet-founder of the Bahā’ī Faith, after their banishment from Iran and 1868 incarceration in Acre. It traces the rising arc of ‘Abdu’l-Bahā’s social relations in Ottoman Greater Syria; his writings on contemporary issues; some of the early challenges of his ministry; the themes he raised in Lebanon and Egypt, but also in Europe and North America; his preparations for World War I; and the contacts and correspondence of his last years. ‘Abdul-Bahā’s broad, deep and extensive engagement in the region emerges, replete with contacts, friendships and partnerships with leading figures, intellectual exchange, and initiatives in education, agriculture and community life. The study reframes his relations with the Arab world and his orchestration of the global growth of the Bahā’ī Faith even as it weaves the experience of the early Bahā’ī community of the Middle East back into the historical tapestry of the region in late Ottoman times.

Joshua Lincoln (PhD) is currently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Law and Governance at Fletcher, the graduate school of international affairs of Tufts University, where he works on issues related to global governance and sustainability. From 2013 to 2019, he served as Secretary-General of the Bahá’í International Community based in Haifa. Prior to that, he spent thirteen years with the United Nations, including in the cabinet of the Secretary-General in New York and as chief of staff to the Director-General in Geneva. Earlier in his career he was an academic and policy researcher following degrees from Georgetown University and Tufts University in international politics, law and organizations with a focus on Africa and the Middle East.

This book offers a richly detailed account of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha ʿAbbās, son of the founding prophet of the Bahāʾī faith. Utilizing a wealth of Bahāʾī and other sources, Joshua Lincoln masterfully illuminates ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s unique personality, with a special emphasis on his social interactions, primarily in their Near Eastern context, against the background of the waning years of the Ottoman Empire.

–Etan Kohlberg, emeritus professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His research focuses mainly on Shī‘ī doctrine, history and literature.


A beautifully rich portrayal of ‘Abdu’l-Baha's time in the Near East that reveals his impact on the region’s civil authorities, religious leaders, and ordinary people from all walks of life. Joshua Lincoln's book is essential reading for anyone looking to better understand ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s spiritual, material, and social contributions during the late Ottoman and early British eras.

–Hoda Mahmoudi, Research Professor and Chair, Baha’i Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland. Her research centers on the barriers to peace with a focus on systemic sexism and racism, global governance, degradation of the environment, and human nature.


Who was ‘Abdu’l-Baha ʿAbbās? This monograph provides a detailed and insightful answer to that question. It is a particularly careful reconstruction of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s life, embedded in the historical, political and cultural context of the Levant and beyond. A figure of spiritual and historical greatness emerges, whose actions, words and spirituality were grounded ‘in a hopeful and practical vision of human nature and the future’. This is an invaluable work and an essential reference for historians of the Baha’i faith and monotheistic religious traditions, as well as for those engaged in comparative theology.

–Fabrizio Mandreoli, Professor of comparative religion at the Istituto superiore di scienze religiose della Toscana, Firenze. His research focuses on fundamental theology, interreligious dialogue and the interrelationship between socio-historical issues and theology.

Aerial view of the fortress of Acre, 1918. Mazraʻih and its fields (top), the estate of Bahjī and its olive grove (centre right), and the Rid.wān garden (lower right) can be discerned. Courtesy of the Staudinger Collection, Bavarian State Archives

Arabic calligraphic rendering of “'Abdu'l-Bahā 'Abbās”, from the medallion on the gate of his house in Haifa

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