'Abbás Effendi, known as "'Abdu'l-Bahá" (Arabic for "Servant of the Glory"), was born on 23 May 1844 - the same night that the Báb first declared His mission. He was the eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh and was only eight years old when his Father was first imprisoned. He accompanied Bahá'u'lláh through 40 years of exile and imprisonment, and as he grew into adulthood he became not only his Father's closest companion but also His deputy, His shield, and His principal representative to the political and religious leaders of the day. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's leadership, knowledge, and service brought great prestige to the exiled Bahá'í community.
After the passing of Bahá'u'lláh on 29 May 1892, 'Abdu'l-Bahá became the leader of the Bahá'í community, the position to which he had been formally appointed by Bahá'u'lláh. In this way, the question of religious succession that has plagued other faiths was avoided. Through His Will and Testament, Bahá'u'lláh prevented schism and established a firm foundation for the further development and progress of His Faith by preserving the integrity of His teachings.
Bahá'u'lláh titled 'Abdu'l-Bahá as "the Centre of the Covenant" to whom all Bahá'ís should turn for guidance. He was the sole authorized interpreter of his Father's teachings, which he elucidated. As unerring guide and architect of the rapidly expanding community, he also amplified the doctrines and outlined the main features of the Faith's administrative institutions. In doing so, he also devoted himself to providing members of the Faith, through the way he lived, with an example of the personal life called for in the Bahá'í teachings.
In 1911, after more than 40 years of imprisonment and suffering, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was able to journey to the West. He visited Europe and North America, where he spoke extensively to all sorts of audiences on Bahá'u'lláh's prescription for the moral and spiritual renewal of society. He called himself a "herald of peace and reconciliation" and "an advocate of the oneness of humanity." Highly acclaimed in the media and by leaders of society, he nevertheless made it clear that his greatest glory was to be "'Abdu'l-Bahá"- the servant of Bahá'u'lláh - and that his Father's teachings were the source of everything he said or did.
'Abdu'l-Bahá died on 28 November 1921, in Haifa. Some ten thousand people of Jewish, Christian, and Moslem backgrounds, as well as Bahá'ís, gathered at his funeral. They eulogized him as a "living example of self-sacrifice," a "pillar of peace," and one who led humanity to the "Way of Truth."
Like Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote a Will and Testament. In his Will he appointed his eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as his successor, to be known as "the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith." With this act, the unity of the Bahá'í community was again preserved and its progress and development assured.
A look into the Kitab-i-Aqdas (the most holy book of the Baha'i) may give any interested person deep insights into the nature of this faith and is therefore strongly recommended. Please note especially the things that are said about the rights of women. The Universal House of Justice, the highest elected Baha'i administrative and legislative council is considered divinely guided, it being supported by the guidance of the sacred writings and by the prayers of all the Baha'i. It is hoped that this body will guide humanity in the future. Naturally only Baha'i have electional rights in the elections of the Universal House of Justice. Strangely, unlike any other aspect of the faith and it's administration, there are no women in this one council. This is a real challenge for most Baha'is as every other aspect of the faith speaks of the equality of men and women - they are seen as the two wings of a bird that must be equal for the bird to take flight. We are told that this is a mystery which will become clear in time. Whatever the case it can be said with confidence that the Universal House of Justice and the Baha'i in general work around the globe for equality and human rights, often being persecuted themselves as a result.