Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The first woman martyr of Jewish background

Shídrukh Amír-Kíyá Baqá came of valiant stock. A paternal grandfather, Hájí Dáwúd Mítháqíyán, a prominent member of the Jewish community of Káshán, while still young accepted the Cause in that city and went on foot to the Holy Land to attain the Master's presence. 'Abdu'l-Bahá referred to him in a Tablet as 'Affectionate'. Later on, with his wife and some of his children, he pioneered for about twenty years in Palma, Spain, and was privileged to buy a plot of land in Madrid for the Mashriqu'l-Adhkár.

      Another forebear, on the father's side, Mírzá Háshím, also embraced the Cause in Káshán at a time when the friends were being persecuted. He arose in their defence and protested to the Governor against the injustice and oppression, and was promptly locked up in prison himself. However, his wit and eloquence won him liberty. The Master addressed him as 'Zealous'.

      A maternal grandfather, Hájí Dáwúd Iqrárí, of Káshán, accepted the Faith when young. His father and brother, too, embraced the Cause but none knew of the others' belief until they met at a Bahá'í meeting. Thereafter, they worked together in service to the Faith, entertaining the friends and guiding seekers to the Truth. They bought the impressive house of a high-ranking official with a view to holding befitting meetings therein to teach the Faith and, in this, they attained to their heart's desire. At one of these meetings they hoisted in front of the house a banner bearing the inscription Yá Bahá'u'l-Abhá, inviting friend and stranger to enter. The Master said they were hospitable and of noble aim and that He was well pleased with them.

      Shídrukh, a granddaughter of these veterans, was born in Tihrán on 8 October 1935, the eldest daughter of Rúhu'lláh Mítháqíyán and Ruhníyyih Iqrárí, both faithful servants of the Faith. Shídrukh had three sisters and one brother and from an early age was deeply attached to the Cause and its institutions. She was fond of music and took piano lessons at school. She had a charming voice and was the first person in Írán to record a prayer, revealed by our beloved Guardian, to the accompaniment of the piano. It was highly approved by the Hands of the Cause and was played in many continental conferences and large Bahá'í gatherings in Írán. For a time she was on the national television network demonstrating cooking and other domestic courses. She knew English and was well-versed in some arts. At age sixteen Shídrukh was married to Manúchihr Baqá; one daughter and two sons were born of the union.

      A visit to the Holy Land as a pilgrim reinvigorated her faith; she attended the International Conferences held in London, Palermo, Alaska, Paris and Brazil and had vivid recollections of them all.

      While in the United States, two years ago, for her daughter's wedding, her children and sisters urged her not to return to Írán where her life would be in danger, but she disregarded their plea. 'When our beloved Guardian exhorted us to pioneer,' she told them, 'we did not heed his call; we let ourselves down. Now that the Universal House of Justice bids us maintain our posts, will we desert them and fail a second time? Not I! I feel I am needed in Írán and return there to do what lies in my power, regardless of the consequences.' When the hour for departure arrived, she was overcome with emotion. She opened her prayer book and read prayers which brought solace to her heart and the strength and courage to continue on her course to her destined fate and eternal glory.

      Though Írán was agitated and distress was rife, she stood firm as a rock, bringing the friends together in devotional meetings and restoring calm and tranquility to their disturbed hearts. She was ever ready to serve and was appointed on various committees. She was put in charge of organizing the Nineteen Day Feasts held in her district. This took up most of her evenings. She spoke to the friends of the need for steadfastness, courage and sacrifice in the path of the Beloved, conveyed to them the messages of the National Spiritual Assembly, and inspired them to be firm. Whenever news came of a martyrdom or some other affliction engulfing the Bahá'ís, she would expatiate on the glory of sacrifice, the station of the martyrs and the lustre which their deeds would shed on the pages of history.

      The steadily mounting wave of oppression instigated by the authorities with a view to casting terror into the hearts of the believers, dampening their zeal and thus weakening the institutions of the Faith, was putting a heavy strain on the faith of some of the friends. At such a time of stress, Shídrukh did not flinch or falter. With the utmost courage, she arranged meetings at her own home or at the homes of her sister or children who were all abroad. She attended to the bereaved families of the martyrs and offered them comfort and shelter. One of these was a Bahá'í woman from Yazd whom she lodged in her sister's home.

      Shídrukh was always very cautious in arranging Bahá'í meetings, and if she suspected any leak threatening the safety of a proposed meeting, she promptly switched it to the house of her sister or children. In spite of all her precautions, however, there came a night — Monday, 2 November 1981 — when, at the hour of nine, there was a knock on her door. The Local Spiritual Assembly of Tihrán was in session at her home. She approached the door and asked who was knocking. The Bahá'í woman from Yazd answered, and recognizing her voice, Shídrukh was reassured and opened the door. To her dismay, she found that the Bahá'í woman was not alone; armed guards of the Islamic Revolutionary Party accompanied her. What had transpired was this: at the home of Shídrukh's sister was also a Muslim lodger, addicted to drugs, who made himself a nuisance to the neighbourhood. Shídrukh had consulted the Local Spiritual Assembly about the advisability of evicting him on the ground of his failure to pay the rent but was asked to refrain from taking any action for the moment. It appears, however, that some of the neighbours had lodged a complaint against the man and the guards had come to investigate. They asked where the owner of the house was and the Bahá'í woman from Yazd, being simple, led them to Shídrukh

      The guards asked the six Assembly members in session. Shídrukh, her husband, the woman from Yazd and another Bahá'í (Firdawsí's son), there present, to accompany them. Aware that the National Spiritual Assembly members who had been asked to accompany a similar squad of guards had never been seen again, Shídrukh insisted that she would accompany them only to the police station situate in the same street. The wrangle attracted the neighbours, and faced with a not too friendly crowd, the guards complied with Shídrukh's wish. Once at the police station, however, the guards transported their captives to a prison. After some ten days, Firdawsí's son and the woman from Yazd were released, and the rest transferred to another jail noted for its severe discipline and the oppression inflicted by its warders.

      The following account is based on reports by fellow prisoners, Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í, and Shídrukh's relatives who were witness to these incidents.

      Time and again, the Revolutionary Committee put pressure upon her to recant her faith, holding out freedom as the reward. It was a serious life-and-death game, not a mock one. A letter to her sister a week before related her encounter with the authorities when she approached them on behalf of herself, her sisters and brother to clear up the matter of their inheritance from their father. 'What is your religion?' the President of the Court had asked, and she had replied that she was a Bahá'í. 'If you desire prosperity,' he had suggested, 'you had better recant your faith or you will experience serious loss.' 'Did you not hear,' she answered, 'what the old Bahá'í in Yazd said when such a proposition was put to him, that man of eighty summers whose head was repeatedly dashed to the ground to persuade him to comply with your demand? Did he not say: "What! Should I surrender my faith to secure some baubles?" I, too, tell you that I can do without my inheritance, if necessary.' The President said, 'You represent others who may not be of the same mind as you.' She replied, 'They are Bahá'ís, too, and none of them will barter the eternal world for this transitory one.' Having said this, she arose and, without waiting for permission from the Court, departed, leaving the President fuming with rage at his failure to turn her from her faith.

      Shídrukh had for long prior to these events been engaged in committing to memory prayers and Tablets and passages from the Holy Writings. This she did in anticipation of the day when she might be confined somewhere without access to Bahá'í literature. Now, in prison, she could reap the reward of her foresight and draw on her memory for those priceless gems that were to delight, sustain and strengthen her.

      Several times they told her that she could secure her freedom just by signing a paper. This was ostensibly to the effect that she would not participate any longer in any Bahá'í administrative activities, but she knew in reality it was a ruse on the part of the authorities; if secured, that document would be given wide publicity as evidence of her recantation in an effort to demoralize the friends, weaken their resolve and undermine the institutions of the Faith.

      While she was in jail, the authorities confiscated her property as well as that belonging to her deceased parents, her sisters, her brother and her children who were all abroad and whom she represented legally.

      During one of the interrogations, Shídrukh came face to face with her husband who was also in prison. He told her that he had signed the paper presented to him and was to be freed. 'For the sake of our children,' he said, 'you, too, sign it and secure your freedom.' She pressed his hand and merely said, 'Steadfastness! Steadfastness!' and was sorrowful, wondering what contrivance had brought about his defection.

      According to her sister, Shídrukh was permitted to make one short telephone call to her relatives a few days prior to her martyrdom. She told them not to be concerned about her.

      A non-Bahá'í who was immured for three days with that group said, on release, how the morale of them all had been sustained by the courageous spirit and uplifting words of Shídrukh — 'With such faith and steadfastness and zeal animating her, you should have no fear for her,' we were assured.

      On 4 January 1982, Shídrukh and the six members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tihrán were secretly executed, this information being obtained fortuitously by their relatives and friends. No will or document exists to attest to her martyrdom although it was reported that she and the members of the Local Spiritual Assembly had decided to write their wills. The authorities were not prepared to deliver her body and, later, a demand seems to have been made for five hundred thousand túmáns [in excess of $50,000 U.S.] apiece for every will they would hand over. Since their wishes and intentions were known and their deeds and words were testimony to the unity, the greatness and glory of God, there was nothing further that could be gleaned from their wills. It is said that all these prisoners were buried unwashed, in the clothes they were wearing, and without any funeral rites, in a common grave.

      As far as is known, Shídrukh is the first Bahá'í woman of Jewish extraction to lay down her life for the Faith. A year prior to her martyrdom, she requested the prayers of the Universal House of Justice for steadfastness in the Faith for herself and her sisters and brother, and for the progress of her father's soul in the realms above. She withstood all tests and trials and never faltered until she attained the glorious station of martyrdom. She advanced with arms extended wide to embrace the darts of sacrifice and gave her life joyously for her belief. Her daughter and two sons, her three sisters and brother, all firm and active in the Faith, endure this tragic blow confident that the precious blood so willingly shed on Írán's soil for the love of the Glory of God will not be in vain and that every drop will raise a thousand lovers to serve the Cause of God and His people.

      Shídrukh was a loving mother, an affectionate sister, a trustworthy companion, a faithful mate, a gracious hostess, a true Bahá'í.

      In response to an enquiry from the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada the Universal House of Justice cabled on 14 January 1982:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An examplary Bahá'í of Jewish Background who wished for the people of Holy Land to recognize their Lord.


Abdu'l-Missagh Missaghiyeh

Mírzá Ilyás (Elias), later called 'Abdu'l-Missagh Missaghiyeh ('Abdu'l-Míthaq Míthaqíyih), was the grandson of Hakím Hárún, a well-known Jewish scholar and physician of Káshán, central Írán, most of whose descendants became Bahá'ís and raised large and prominent families. One of his daughters, Jahán, married Mírzá Yahúdá, an esteemed Bahá'í of Káshán, who was also of Jewish background. Although Jahán was a fierce opponent of the Bahá'í Faith at the time of her marriage and for some time later, she embraced the Cause of the Blessed Beauty and became a devout servant as a result of a dream in which she saw Bahá'u'lláh. Six children were born of the union of Mírzá Yahúdá and Jahán. Ilyás was the eldest son.

      When Ilyás ('Abdu'l-Míthaq Míthaqíyih) was twelve years old he wrote a poem of eighty verses which he sent to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The poem was both an urgent appeal to the people of the Holy Land to recognize their Lord and a confession of faith of a Bahá'í child supplicating the Master to take him under His protection and to hear his wish for sacrifice. In response, 'Abdu'l-Bahá addressed a beautiful Tablet to the boy, alluding to him in the salutation as an eloquent and brilliant poet. In the same year Ilyás's father was attacked by enemies of the Faith who struck him with shovels. Wounded on the head, he passed away at the age of forty years, having been in a state of semi-consciousness for some months. Ilyás thus became the head of the family, and left Káshán, his native city, to seek employment in a business in Hamadán. He went later to Rasht, in the north of Írán, to direct a branch of a business belonging to Khájih Rabbí' Muttahidih, an esteemed Bahá'í of Káshán, and became the secretary of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Rasht. Some time later he was entrusted with a business mission in Kirmánsháh, a city whose population was bitterly opposed to the Faith. He was expelled from that town and replaced with by Mírzá Ya'qúb Muttahidih, Khájih's brother, who was later martyred in Kirmánsháh, thus becoming the first Bahá'í martyr of Jewish origin.

      Mírzá Ilyás was a self-taught man. Forced to work from childhood, he had no opportunity to obtain a higher education. However, his gift for poetry was sustained by a good knowledge of Persian and Arabic. The teaching trips that he undertook in company with the great teacher, Mr. Mihdí Akhaván-i Safá enabled him to widen his knowledge of the Teachings and to gain skill in the art of presenting them. During the meetings he lifted the hearts of the participants by reading and chanting Tablets and prayers in his beautiful clear voice.

      In 1912, when he was twenty-two years old, he was finally able to fulfill his dearest wish, that of making his pilgrimage and attaining the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He was again privileged to go on pilgrimage towards the end of 1919, spending forty-five unforgettable days in the Holy Land and being frequently in the company of the Master. During that sojourn, an account of which Mírzá Ilyás wrote in verse, 'Abdu'l-Bahá on several occasions demonstrated the esteem in which He held him. It seemed to the delighted pilgrim that the Master fulfilled, one by one, his hidden wishes without their having to be expressed: while strolling in the garden surrounding the Shrine of the Báb he received from the hand of Shoghi Effendi a Tablet revealed specially for Mírzá Ilyás from 'Abdu'l-Bahá; he was photographed with the Master and other members of the Holy Family; and he was summoned by the Master who invited him to be seated while He dictated to His secretary a Tablet in which He bestowed upon the awe-struck pilgrim the name 'Missaghiyeh' (Míthaqíyih), or 'firmness'. Henceforth he adopted as his first name ''Abdu'l-Missagh' ('Abdu'l-Míthaq), or 'servant of the Covenant'. Thus he indicated his humble dedication to the Master Who was the Centre of the Covenant. Yet another wish was fulfilled during this pilgrimage: Abdu'l-Missagh was entrusted with a mission by his Beloved, that of returning to Írán via Egypt and India and placing into the hands of their recipients the Tablets addressed to them by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and which were eagerly awaited following the break in communications caused by the first World War. One can easily guess what ineffable joy flooded his being as a result of having received so many honours and favours from the beloved Master! Nor had the bounties ceased: before his departure 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave him a gold coin which was to become, in Abdu'l-Missagh's mind, the symbolic basis of his personal capital.

      In Írán he continued to work tirelessly in service to the Faith and the friends. He married Maryam Khánum, a charitable and generous lady, who was the daughter of Khájih Rabbí', and from this union one daughter and three sons were born. He settled in Tihrán and worked in real estate. His business became very successful and prosperous and soon he became widely known and highly respected throughout the community as a businessman. Those who worked for him or had dealings with him also appeared to attract prosperity to their affairs. Abdu'l-Missagh attributed this success to the coin he had received from the hands of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. However, his professional activities did not prevent him from serving the Faith. He was elected several times to membership on the National Spiritual Assembly, and the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tihrán, and he served on various committees. In about 1940 he built the hospital that he offered to the Bahá'í community of Írán.1 Until the end of his life he contributed to the development and enlargement of the Missaghiyeh Hospital and Maternity Clinic, one of the most important and best equipped in the Iranian capital. Soon a school for nurses and later a home for the aged were created as auxiliaries of the hospital. These institutions to which persons of all backgrounds were admitted, sometimes free of charge, were 'silent teachers', the only Bahá'í-operated service institutions with which Iranians of all religions had a relationship. Abdu'l-Missagh took a deep personal interest in the hospital and his generosity made it unnecessary for appeals to be made for the purchase of new equipment or to meet deficits in the operating costs.

      During the ministry of Shoghi Effendi, Abdu'l-Missagh was privileged to make pilgrimages in 1927 and 1952. During his second pilgrimage he fell ill as soon as he arrived in Haifa. The beloved Guardian himself came to visit him. Moved by this great honour, Abdu'l-Missagh recited these verses: 'If it is you who, as a compassionate physician, comes to my bedside, I would not give to anyone the pleasure of being ill!' On the occasion of his second pilgrimage the Guardian entrusted him with the mission of transferring the remains of Mírzá Akhaván-I Safá from the cemetery in which they were laid to the shrine of the martyrs Sultán'u'l-Shudadá and Mahbúb'u'l-Shuhadá in Isfahán.[sic]

      In addition to the services he rendered as a member of Bahá'í institutions and through the teaching trips he made throughout Írán offering encouragement to the friends, he made generous gifts of funds which made possible the acquisition of lands and buildings for the Faith in Asia, Europe and Africa. These gifts were made without ostentation, often without even his family being informed and in many cases in response to Shoghi Effendi's wishes. Although it is impossible to compile a complete record, his munificence can be glimpsed by mentioning that in Africa alone he had up to 1958 purchased no less than forty-four Temple sites, Teaching Institutes, Bahá'í Centres and other sites. This very generous man was, however, sparing with himself, residing in a simple house and living a modest life. As to his wife, Maryam, she was the refuge of needy people, finding jobs for some and personally supplying the needs of others. When Abdu'l-Missagh was asked why he did not spend a little more money on himself, he answered: 'This money does not belong to me, it belongs to 'Abdu'l-Bahá; I am only giving it back to Him!' It might be said that Abdu'l-Missagh was 'poor for himself and rich for the Faith'

      On 21 November 1981 he passed away in Tihrán at the age of ninety-one. The members of his family residing outside Írán were honoured by being informed of his passing by the Universal House of justice in a cable addressed to the National Spiritual Assembly of France on 25 November:


(Adapted from a memoir by ROSHAN MAVADDAT)

Footnote :
[1] See Írán, persecution des Bahá'ís: un livre blanc (Paris: National Spiritual Assembly of France, 1982), p. 61.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá about the future of Haifa

About Haifa’s Development
Sunday, 13 Jaddí 1298 [4 January 1920], Haifa (During a Visit to the Shrine of the Exalted One [the Báb])

[‘Abdu’l-Bahá] stated:
Haifa will develop to such a degree that this mountain will be covered entirely in light. From here to ‘Akká will be connected by roads and on each side trees will be planted. This will be become the most important port in the world. Innumerable ships will come and go. I now see ships have anchored in this bay and with utmost humility and modesty, monarchs will come to visit of the Shrine of the Exalted One [the Báb].
Mrs. Parsons asked, “Where will the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar be built?” [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] replied, “Near the Shrine of the Exalted One. On one side, the largest and the most important scientific school will be raised.” Then He added, “On the other side, there will be an asylum for the invalids and on the opposite side an orphanage.”
From "With ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: By Mírzá ‘Isá Isfahání"
Translated by Ahang Rabbani