Max Weber contends that innovation and change result from charismatic authority which is inherently non-conformist and dissident, challenging institutionalised forms of socio-political organisation. Transferred to the religious sphere, the holder of charismata is from the mainstream’s point of view a heretic who offers an alternative model of religious authority that questions the adherence to the religious tradition, criticises the performance of the religious establishment and offers a different vision of authentic religiosity. As part of the matrix of religious reform and revival in the nineteenthcentury Middle East, Abdul-Baha and Muhammad Abduh were dissidents. In their formative years, they were exposed to traditions of religious dissent and various models of charismatic authority. Their introduction to these traditions from their early youth onwards allowed them to articulate their antagonism to the representatives of the religious establishment and to formulate an alternative understanding of the Islamic tradition.