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Ibrahim Kheiralla

It was the second week in July 1897, when a man from Chicago stepped off the train in Enterprise, Dickinson County, Kansas.  He knew no one in the town, but he was expected and had been offered a place to stay.  He was going to be a missionary in Kansas.

His name was Ibrahim Kheiralla and he had been invited to Enterprise to give lessons on the faith he had adopted about five years before, shortly before coming to America.  Though he had studied this religion briefly, he knew more about it than anyone else in North America and was, therefore, the authority.  He relished the role. 

He taught a mixture of his own personal Biblical interpretations and some teachings of his new religion, the Bahá’í (Bahai) Faith.  At the time there was only one piece of Bahá’í literature in English, and that merely a pamphlet written by himself.

The Bahá’í Faith is based on the writings of Bahá’u’lláh.  He taught that the Creator of the universe is a non-physical, spiritual being without physical limitations: an unknowable essence.  Humans are created spiritual beings with attributes of God so we can recognize and pay homage to our Creator.  Here we can learn and practice our spiritual attributes.  How we exercise choice is an indication of the level of our spiritual development.

Bahá’u’lláh explained that the Creator periodically sends Messengers to educate the human race.  These individuals include: Adam, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh. In time there will be more.

Kheiralla held his classes in the home of his host, Mrs. Barbara Ehrsam.  Because of the attendance of her relatives who were involved in state politics, the classes became news all across the state.  Her brother was a former State Senator.  Her nephew was a Regent of the State Agricultural College and a member of the Populist Party, who many in the state considered a traitor to the Republican Party.  His actions created controversy.

This controversy was reflected in references to the classes in newspapers from Hays and Hutchinson to Kansas City, Leavenworth and Atchison.  Two major articles and a smaller one were the basis of all the others.  Some times these articles were copied word for word or were used as the basis of additional articles.  Editorial opinions were also added which reflected the political bias of the newspaper.  Slander was not unknown.

One complaint of the press was the secrecy Kheiralla maintained about the name of the religion. He only told the name to those who had completed the class.  In Muslim Egypt, where he had learned of the Bahá’í Faith, secrecy was a necessary security precaution.  In many Muslim countries then, and still now, it is still not safe to be Bahá’í.

Despite his lack of accurate information Kheiralla’s classes, first in Chicago, then Enterprise, then other cities in the U.S., initiated the Bahá’í Community in North America.  This resulted in the distinction for Kansas of having the second Bahá’í community west of Egypt.

Entry: Kheiralla, Ibrahim

Author: Duane L. Herrmann

Author information: Herrmann has degrees in education and history from Fort Hays State University. He has published widely on the history of the Bahai faith with publications now in a dozen countries in four languages. His history book By Thy Strengthening Grace received the Ferguson, Kansas, History Book Award in 2007. He has actively studied the Bahai faith since 1969.

Date Created: September 2015

Date Modified: September 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.