How I Became a Baha’i

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Source: mbamdadan.blogspot.com

Translation by Iran Press Watch

Mazdak Bamdadan – Recently, I was invited by the Iran Society in Frankfurt to give a talk about the Shahnameh of Firdawsi.  After the talk and the conversation that ensued, I headed home after midnight. As is my habit, in order to ease the tension of the talk and regain my inner calm, I listened to the magical sound of the tar (a traditional Persian musical instrument similar to the Indian sitar) played by Ahmad Ibadi, performing the radif (traditional Persian musical composition) by his father, Mirza Abdullah.  Ebadi had reached the “Nahib” gousheh (melody), when a dear friend called and, in a tone laced with sarcasm, said:  “Did you know you have become a Baha’i?”  Apparently, a progressive Muslim had recently purchased my book1 and said to the sales clerk:  “Did you know the author of this book is a Baha’i?”  Besides, at the talk in Frankfurt, someone had mentioned that the speaker was a Baha’i.

Ibadi had reached the “Naghmeh” gousheh, and the name of this gousheh threw me back to times of my childhood.  Naghmeh was the name of a Baha’i girl, and a close friend of one of my relatives.  I remember one day we were guests in that kind relative’s house, and Naghmeh was also helping in the kitchen, and on our way back home, the conversation was all about whether she had touched the food in our plates.  And if I could set myself free of my shame, the question was whether what we had eaten was “unclean”.

My true introduction to the “misguided Baha’i sect”, though, started at the age of ten or eleven, when of my own will and curiosity, and perhaps in the hope of becoming a better Muslim, in the city of Marand I started attending the summer course on “the Qur’an and the Principles of the Faith”, taught by an exiled cleric and a follower of the “Hojjatieh Society”.  It was there that I learned that Baha’is get together in weekly gatherings, and when the night comes, turn off the lights, and men and women, strangers to each other, mix together.  Midway through adolescence, I gradually took small halting steps in research in the history of Iran, and found that Muslim historian, have also said about the Khoramdinan:  “Up to this day, a group of Babakian remain in the mountains of Bazin, who are supported by the rulers of Azerbaijan.  They are the Khorramieh, and one night a year, men and women get together, and turn off the lights, and any man who can take a woman, she is his.”2

Ibadi had reached the “Jameh Daran” gousheh of his father, Mirza Abdu’llah’s radif.  The bird of my thoughts had flown to the skies of a faraway past, as if thousands of years away.  We moved to Tehran in 1976.  Almost immediately, I registered in the Imam-ul-Qa’im library.  What a surprise that the first book I found was the book “Prince Dolgoruki”.  It was by reading this book that I learned how a Russian spy, by the name of Kiniaz Dolgoruki3, came to Iran, and by assuming the name Sheikh Ali Lankarani, gained access to the lessons of Sheikh Ahmad Ahsa’i and Siyyid Kazim Rashti, and in a short time succeeded in convincing Siyyid Ali Muhammad, who had apparently lost his mind and all reason in the scorching sun of Bushihr, that he was the promised Mahdi, and thus, by the order of the Tsar of Russia, created the Babi Faith, which was the beginning of the Baha’i Faith.

It was in Europe that I was introduced to the writings of a historian and figure in the Islamic regime, Abdollah Shahbazi, about the Baha’is.  Shahbazi, is a modern version of Morteza Ahmad Akhundi, the author the book “Prince Dolgoruki”, who attempted, through fallacious logic, to prove that the “misguided Baha’i sect” was from the beginning a product of imperialist forces, and that they should not be dealt with as followers of a religion, but as spies and foreign agents.

In Tehran, I had a few Baha’i schoolmates, with whom I would discuss their Faith, and it was perhaps their good nature that did not let what I had learned about them pull me over the precipice of animosity towards them, to the point that I even lied to my family about one of them so I could go to his home and celebrate his birthday with him.  Ibadi was now playing the “Tarab-Angiz” gousheh.

Before I realized it I was in my adolescent years, and the horrific storm of the Islamic Revolution appeared and rolled up the scroll of my life.  Ibadi was playing the “Shahr-Ashoob” gousheh, and I kept running staggeringly around the back alleys of a world that was no more.  In the early years I would only hear that here and there a Baha’i had been dismissed from work, and since everyone unanimously spoke of their ties to Israel, the United States and England, and since they were associated with a group of “capitalist leeches”, such as Sabet-Pasal, not only those dismissals, but even the execution of Baha’is and their leaders were not given much attention by the revolutionaries, whether Marxists, or Islamists.  Our shortcoming was that in those days we had not yet read the “Three Letters by Mirza Aqa Khan Kirmani”, to know what had befallen the Babis in the days of the Martyr King (Naser al-Din Shah Qajar):

“Those poor people, their hands tied, their clothes torn, their beards and moustaches shorn off, their faces soiled in dirt and blood, and spat on, were brought from Shamsu’l-Imareh to Shah Square.  Anyway, in that tumult and uproar, that ruckus and terror, where innocent itinerants and vulgar ruffians alike were hurling blame and insults upon them, they were seated in the center of the square, and those cruel people were striking them with saws and axes, as they chanted verses – in praise of Imam Ali – and each one of them was faced with a Dervish, and as the round of chanting finished, the saws and axes were brought down on their heads.  The townspeople were standing around observing, clapping, cheering, and admiring these violent and unseemly acts.  This encouragement affected those Dervishes, such that each round of chanting was louder than the last, and the axes were brought down harder on those people’s heads, until they were finished with them.  After those godless thugs had murdered those heartsore people in this manner, they did not leave their dead bodies alone.  For the pleasure of the spectators, and the enjoyment of the observers, they doused those shattered corpses with gasoline, set them on fire, and ended with another round of their sacred chant.”

Ibadi was playing the “Jameh Daran” gousheh, and the darksome and terrific years of the ‘80s arrived.  While fleeing one city for another, I met a Baha’i family in Qazvin.  The father, to escape death, had recanted his Faith and deserted his beloved children.  Every time he wished to see, embrace and inhale the fragrance of his adolescent daughter, he had to go far out of town to a desolate place, hidden from the eyes of the guards of the Imam Faqih (Islamic jurist), where his tears would blend with his daughter’s.  Then there was another family: both husband and wife were teachers who had been dismissed from their jobs and had started a small shop, to which no Muslim customers would go, so an educated man who had made his living by teaching children, rolled up his sleeves to work as a manual laborer.  The Revolution was here.  These were foreign spies, and that they were not all massacred was a sign of the wisdom of our glorious Revolution.

“Mooyeh” is one of the goushehs that always makes me sad.  Ibadi was playing, and in that midnight slowly turning to dawn, I was thinking that we Iranians should one day accept responsibility for our own actions, and just like the current generation of Germans who are paying for the sins of their fathers, know that, in different aspects, we are indebted to the Baha’is and the Babis, and we should one day repay this historic and cultural debt.  When for the first time I took a book by Aramesh Doostdar to a gathering of friends, an acquaintance asked me:  “Did you know he is a Baha’i too?”  I did not answer him.  But I thought to myself:  “No, I did not know.  But, why do you want me to know?”  Another time, at a tar and sitar seminar in the Netherlands, we hosted that year’s special guest, Rahmatullah Badie and his daughter Parisa.  Again, someone sitting next to me asked:  “Do you know he is a Baha’i too?”, and before I lost my temper, he said with a smile:  “How is it that such a small minority can produce so many brilliant individuals in all fields?”

Anti-Baha’i sentiment is not limited to Muslims alone.  Reza Fani Yazdi, a member of the Tudeh Party, writes:

In early 1983, the Party suddenly issued a directive to its provincial organizations, ordering the expulsion of all Baha’i individuals from the Party.  Accepting this directive was very difficult for me…. Our regional head was Habibullah Foroughian….  As justification for the expulsion of the Baha’i comrades, he used the same rationale as the authorities of the Islamic Republic: that the Baha’i network is a very complicated political network, which is run by the Israeli Intelligence Service (Mossad).  I was sure the Party’s rationale was nonsense.  The Party was more concerned about answering to the authorities of the Islamic Republic than it was about Mossad’s influence.  The cleansing of the Baha’is was done to please the Islamic Republic.4

Is Yazdi right in thinking that the Tudeh Party expelled Baha’is out of fear or adulation?  In my view, and that of anyone who knows Ehsan Tabari, that is not true:

“What is certain is that not every Baha’i can be considered a foreign agent.  But there is no doubt as to a relationship between the major Baha’i centers, the same as the Dashnak and the Zionist centers, and imperialist circles, and one can assume that imperialist espionage organizations, such as the CIA and the Intelligence Service, use Baha’i organizations for their own purposes.”5

Ibadi had reached the “Bidad” gousheh.  I suddenly remembered that Abdullah Shahbazi was also a member of the Tudeh Party who recanted in prison, and joined the Islamic regime’s security institutions, and wrote history for them.  And, thus it is that murdering Baha’is is not done by the hand of the Faqih’s agents alone.  Those “ruffians and riffraff”, who according to Mirza Aqa Khan carried out the dreadful massacre of the Babis, still reside in the depths of our psyche, to occasionally come out of hiding and ask:  “Did you know he is also a Baha’i?”

And, that is how, in a cold winter morning of 2019, while listening with all my being to the “Hazin” gousheh of the Radif of Mirza Abdullah, I, Mazdak Bamdadan, realized, whether I wanted to or not, I had become a Baha’i.

By the way, does anyone know that Mirza Abdullah is also a Baha’i?

May God protect Iran from enemies, famine and lies.

_____

  1. The Dark Abyss of History, How did Islam come about?
  2. Kitab-al-Ansab, Abi Saad Abdul-Karim ibn Muhammad ibn Mansour Sam’ani
  3. Dimitri Ivanovich Dolgorukov
  4. http://www.velvelehdarshahr.org/node/164
  5. The Iranian Society in the time of Reza Shah, Page 116-117, Ihsan Tabari
  6. Gousheh (گوشه) or Melodic motion is the quality of movement of a melody, including nearness or farness of successive pitches or notes in a melody.  The common repertoire in the Persian classical music consists of more than 200 short melodic motions, which are classified into seven modes (dastgāh دستگاه).  Two of these modes have secondary modes branching from them that are called āvāz. This whole body is called radif, of which there are several versions, each in accordance to the teachings of a particular master (ostād).
  7. Baha’is are supposed to avoid membership in political parties.  The central teaching and a fundamental principle of the Baha’i Faith is the unity of mankind.  The sole purpose of the Baha’i community and the primary focus of its endeavors all over the world is to establish true and universal peace on earth.  In contrast, the inherent nature of partisan politics, and the intent of their members and activities is to devote their efforts to overcoming the rival parties, and to oppose their ideals and tenets.  This is in direct repudiation of the above principle of unity promoted by the Baha’i Faith.  By membership in different political parties, members of the Baha’i Faith would be expected to show allegiance to their respective parties, therefore, opposing their fellow-Baha’is belonging to other parties.  This would mean that a community whose mission is to unite mankind, would itself be divided internally by the differing and often opposing ideas and goals of its members by virtue of their political party affiliations.

 

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