Dr Ibrahim Khayrullah (Centre , Front Row) with other western Baha’i pilgrims in Bombay (Undivided India) Circa 1898-1899. Also seen is Lua Getsinger, (Second from right, Front Row)
Dr.Ibrahim George Khayru’llah was born a christian on November 11, 1849 (26th of Dhu’l-Hijja, A.H, I265) in the villages of Muhammadun of Mount Lebanon in Syria.
His father died while he was still a small child, and his mother undertook the responsibility of his education, placing him first in the primary schools in the area, and then sending him to the College in Beyrout,.
Dr Khayrullah was educated at the American University College, where, in 1870 he obtained the degree of Bachelor of Science.
He was one of the five original students of the college who were called as the first fruits of the college.
By profession he is known to be a merchant and a trader and the source of the title “Dr” remains quite unknown
In the year 1872 Dr Khayrullah left Syria and took up his residence in Egypt for a period of about 21 years.
There he came in contact with a merchant from Iran named Hajji Abdu’l-Karim Efendi Tihrani (of Teheran), who was a follower Of (His Holiness) Baha’u’llah, who invited and converted Dr Khayrullah to a bahai.
The date of his conversion varies in records as between 1890 and 1894. Most of them referring to 1890 while a few call upon the year 1894 (the year in which he wrote a letter to bahaullah and in return got a tablet.
It is recorded that initially he rejected the message of conversion but after insistence and pursuance and a study of scriptures he converted to a bahai.
The mention of conversion of Dr khayrullah is found as such :- ” who gave him good tidings of this Most Great Manifestation. At first he did not believe these tidings and began to study the Divine Scriptures with the object of demonstrating there from the falsity of this claim, and he remained an unbeliever for a number of years, until God opened his eyes and he saw the Truth as it is.
Then he forwarded a letter of contrition and belief to His Holiness Baha’u’llah (glorious is His praise!), and there was revealed for him a Holy Tablet from the Heaven of Virtue gladdening him with the announcement that his cry had been heard and his request answered, and that he had been commemorated with a mention whereby [all men’s] hearts would be attracted.
This happened in A.D. 1890 (A.H.1308), and the text of the above-mentioned Tablet is inserted for a blessing at the end of his book entitled Bahaullah ‘which he composed in the English language to prove the truth of this most great and wonderful religion
Dr. Ibrahim George Khayrullah was the pioneer who flagged the trail for Bahaism in the United States, and worked hard to get converts there. When he visited Abdul Baha Abbas Effendi at Acre, he was hailed by him as “Baha’s Peter”, and shepherd of god’s flock in America.
Khayru’llah brought the Baha’i Faith to the West. He established the American Baha’i Community, bringing thousands of people into the fold, including the first generation of the greatest American believers.
Khayru’llah carried on his missionary and conversion efforts amongst the people in America for love of God without any remuneration at all, to such an extent that he used even to refuse the presents which were offered to him.
This rule he made binding, on himself and on all the evangelists (muballigh), male and female, whom he appointed to teach. He used to earn his livelihood by his lawful profession, which was the healing of the sick (supposidly), and oftentimes he expended his own private property as the hire of premises for assemblies of the believers and evangelizing work.
Here is a passage from the book, God Passes By, written by the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi:
…in February 1894, a Syrian doctor, named Ibráhím Khayru’lláh, who, while residing in Cairo, had been converted by Hájí `Abdu’l-Karím-i-Tihrání to the Faith, had received a Tablet from Bahá’u’lláh, had communicated with `Abdu’l-Bahá, and reached New York in December 1892, established his residence in Chicago, and began to teach actively and systematically the Cause he had espoused. Within the space of two years he had communicated his impressions to `Abdu’l-Bahá, and reported on the remarkable success that had attended his efforts. In 1895 an opening was vouchsafed to him in Kenosha, which he continued to visit once a week, in the course of his teaching activities. By the following year the believers in these two cities, it was reported, were counted by hundreds. In 1897 he published his book, entitled the Bábu’d-Dín, and visited Kansas City, New York City, Ithaca and Philadelphia, where he was able to win for the Faith a considerable number of supporters.
The stout-hearted Thornton Chase, surnamed Thabit (Steadfast) by ‘Abdu’l-Baha and designated by Him ‘the first American believer’, who became a convert to the Faith in 1894, the immortal Louisa A. Moore, the mother teacher of the West, surnamed Liva (Banner) by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Dr Edward Getsinger, to whom she was later married, Howard MacNutt, Arthur P. Dodge, Isabella D. Brittingham, Lillian E Kappes, Paul K. Dealy, Chester I. Thacher and Helen S. Goodall, whose names will ever remain associated with the first stirrings of the Faith of Baha’u’llah in the North American continent, stand out as the most prominent among those who, in those early years, awakened to the call of the New Day, and consecrated their lives to the service of the newly proclaimed Covenant…..
At first Dr Khayrullah took his residence in New York, and later moved to Michigan. Then in February 1894 he settled in Chicago. His initial success was formidable. Many embraced the Faith through his untiring efforts,men and women who served the Cause of Baha’u’llah with exemplary devotion over the course of years.
Dr Khayru’llah’s work was highly praised. ‘Baha’s Peter’ and ‘the Second Columbus’ Abdu’l-Baha called him. However, Chicago was not the only arena of his activities. He taught the Faith of Baha’u’llah in Kenosha, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Ithaca and New York City as well.
Honours bestowed upon Dr Khayrullah
1) Abdul Baha Abbas Efendi greeted Khayru’llah, saying, ” Welcome to the friend ! ” Then he clasped him to his breast and kissed him, saying, “Welcome to thee, O Baha’s Peter, O second Columbus, Conqueror of America!” Then he sat down talking to him kindly and affectionately, and asking him about the pilgrims who went coming from America, and about the believers there. And on the next day a military officer came and put a fez on Khayru’llah’s head instead of a hat, saying to him, “Verily Abbas Efendi has ordered this fez for Baha’s Peter, Columbus the Second, the Conqueror of America.” After this the believers there began to send congratulations on this distinction, calling him at one time Columbus the Second, Conqueror of America, and at another Baha’s Peter.
2) When Abbas Efendi brought Khayru’llah into the room wherein was deposited the body of His Holiness our Master Baha’u’llah, he told him that he was the first pilgrim to whom the door of this chamber had been opened for entrance” thereunto and to perform the ceremonies prescribed for the visitation. And thereafter he begun to open it for the entrance of other pilgrims.
3) Another of the distinctions which he enjoyed was the that, one day Abbas Efendi came to Hayfa and alighted at the house in which Khayru’llah was lodging with his family, and invited him to accompany him to Mount Carmel to participate with him in laying the foundation-stone of the mausoleum which was to be erected to receive the body of the ” First Point ” His Holiness the Bab, this honour being assigned to him instead of to Abbas Efendi’s brother “the Most Great Branch” Muhammad Ali Efendi.
The reasons surrounding the turning of Dr khayrullah can broadly be classified into 2 categories.
1. Active Causes, which are a consequence of the character and practices of Abdul baha with regards to the bahai faith
2. Passive causes, which are regarding the behavior of Abdul Baha with Dr Khayrullah and with Mohammed Ali Effendi.
1- Abdul Baha Abbas Effendi’s claim to Divinity.
AbdulBaha’s claim in which he declared himself to be the Manifestation of Service, which is the greatest of the Divine Manifestations, and peculiar to the Father, the Lord of Hosts (Jehovah) alone. This is the supreme limit of Manifestation, which none claimed save only His Holiness Baha’ (to whom be glory), who explicitly declared in numerous Tablets that He was the Servant, and the Visage and Very Self of the Eternal Essence.
Again he declares himself to be the Enunciator (mubayyin), that is, God, as the Supreme Pen has explicitly declared in different passages. So likewise he claims to be the Centre of the Covenant, which is God alone. Baha, who Himself covenanted with Himself before the creation of the heavens and the earths that man should worship none save God alone; as when He says, exalted is He: ‘ Ho took the Covenant at the time of the Dawn from those who believed that they should worship none but God ”
2- His teachings inconsistent with those of Baha’u’llah.
Abbas Efendi’s teachings were at variance with the teachings of His Holiness Baha’u’llah in many respects, and were also contrary to reason. Also the refusal of Abbas Effendi to discuss these doubts further contributed to the turning
3- His Hypocrisy and two faced behaviour
The conduct of AbdulBaha and his daily actions were filled with contradictions and Hypocritical acts like those of a double-faced man, which are explicitly forbidden in the Scriptures.
4- Dissension and discord produced by his actions.
1) Refusal to conduct discussions
Abdul Baha used to constantly for flimsy reasons keep on postponing discussions about discrepancies found in the doctrine and Abdul Bahas interpretation about the same. When these discussion were finally brought in front of the various muballigs who were present there, there was a state of complete confusion and there were stark differences of opinions. Abdul Baha refused to step in and solve these confusions.
2) Discussion of the nature of Gods existance
Inspite of presenting of various arguments and logical proofs to Abdul Baha regarding the limitation of the existence of God, Abdul Baha said that the official belief was that god was limitless in order to keep the persian bahais at bay. which in his own words is
[[ Abbas Efendi answered saying, “It is necessary that no difference [of opinion] should arise between thee and the learned men of Persia, and therefore it is necessary that *thou shouldst say that God is unlimited, and that He is exempt from the attributes of His creatures.” ]]
3) Refusal of Bahais to Discuss religion with Dr Khayrullah
After the discussion on the essence of God, there came about an evident change in the treatment of Khayrullah by the missionaries and their followers, and by some of the American pilgrims, and amongst them his wife, who was with him on this visit.
When he asked one of the missionaries about any religious question, the answer would be that His Holiness Abbas Efendi alone was able to explain these questions, and that Khayru’llah must ask him.
4) Refusal to give books to Dr Khayrullah
When Dr Khayrullah requested Abbas Efendi to obtain for him the books which had been printed n India by command of His Holiness Bahaullah and in his days; but he did not grant this request, saying, “These books are not to be found in ‘Akka.” Khayru’llah obtained them in Egypt whilst he was returning to America.
5) Abdul Bahas policy of discouraging visits to Mohammed Ali Effendi and trying to turn people against him
Abdul Baha had initiated a policy to draw people near him which had led to factioneering where he discouraged visitors and pilgrims to visit or interview his brother Mohammed Ali Effendi. He would make statements like it is of no use or benefit and would send one of his people to personally follow and dissuade the visitors.
Also Abbas Efendi used to take every opportunity in the presence of Khayru’llah to rise up and speak amongst his followers and attendants, and in the presence of the pilgrims and the Americans, explaining to them how he was wronged, and the vexations which he daily suffered at the hands of the Government and its agents, the origin of all of which he ascribed to the treacherous intrigues of his brother Muhammad Ali Efendi, inciting them to avenge him, inspiring in their minds angry suspicions and the very spirit of hatred and enmity, and relating to them stories to the prejudice of the Members of the Holy House. such behavior caused great issues amongst the believers.
The views of Dr Ibrahim Khayrullah towards the religion are of a varying nature with respect to the central leadership.
On the onset Dr khayrullah is seen as a simple beleiver wanting to perform service for the faith and his letters and writings are evident to the fact that he had absolute faith in the Prophet bahaullah as well as Abbas effendi.
However being the educated man that he was, he was in a constant state of thinking and questioned the laid down principles of belief. This intellectual level allowed him to rise above the facade of lies created by Abdul Baha Abbas Effendi and his henchmen.
His views can basically be classified into two time periods
1. During his conformity to the Haifan Bahai ( abdul baha) faith.
2. After the rebellion from Abdul Baha
While the views while in conformity with Abdul baha were mostly the same as a submissive obedient bahai, of interest are his views post the rebellion with Abbas Effendi
Amongst the major views of Dr khayrullah, Differing from the majority bahais at that time were
1. Non-Divinity status to leaders after the Bahaullah
2. No Infallibility of interpretation by Abdul Baha
3. Acceptance of Mirza Mohammed Ali Effendi as leader
Dr Khayrullah went on to break ties with the established haifan order and under the guardianship of the Mohammed Ali Effendi raised his own banner in the United states
Amongst His well known writings (books / essays) are :
1) Za-ti-et Al-lah: The Identity and Personality of God.
2) Bab-ed-Din: The Door of True Religion — Revelation from the East.
3) Beha’U’llah (The Glory of God), with Howard McNutt. 1st ed., Vol. 1. 545. Chicago: Privately published, 1899. Reprinted 1915; Beha’U’llah (The Glory of God), with Howard McNutt. 1 ed., Vol. 2. 545. Chicago: I. G. Kheiralla Publisher, 1900.2nd. ed. Chicago, Goodspeed Press, 1915, 545.
4) Facts for Behaists, with Rosamond Templeton. 64. Translated by Ed. and trans. Ibrahim G. Kheiralla
5) The Three Questions. Includes fifteen pages of Arabic quotations.
6) An Epistle of Peace
7) Immortality Scientifically Demonstrated.
8) Universal Peace and Its Sole Solution.
9) Behaism: In Reply to the Attacks of Robert P. Richardson.
10) Christians! Why do you believe not in Christ. Kheirallah’s first book following his defection to Mirza Muhammad Ali, Abbas Effendi’s half-brother, to whom it is dedicated. The last chapter is an autobiography
11) Ninety-Five Questions and Answers Concerning the Teachings of the Behai Religion, Which Is Organized as the Universal Religion of the World.
12) Immortality: Hereafter of Man’s Soul and Mind: Man Never Dies
13) Proof of the Existence and Immortality of the Soul from a Scientific and Logical Standpoint: The Mind, As Taught by the Society of Behaists.
14) Reincarnation: The Return of the Soul. ‘includes an essay by I.G. Khayrullah’.
15) The Creator and What it Takes to Win the Peace.