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.

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