Translation by Iran Press Watch
In the name of God, the Most Glorious of the Glorious!
A letter to my first grandchild, Noura, who was born three days ago in Canada
From Behrouz Tavakoli (1), from prison
My dearest granddaughter, welcome to the Century of Light, the sovereign century of ages! I have been awaiting your arrival for a long time and am overjoyed that you have entered the contingent world.
I congratulate your parents, and I am deeply grateful to your mother for getting through this momentous period with patience and fortitude. From the time of your conception I tried to communicate with you in spirit. I have prayed for you every day and will continue to pray for you to fulfill the purpose of your creation. We may never meet in this life, as I am writing to you from prison and I don’t know what Fate has in store for me. But I abide by the will of God and gladly accept whatever He ordains for me. Rest assured that I shall always be with you in spirit; I shall follow you in every step of your life, and wish you may have affirmation and blessings.
I asked your parents to repeat this holy verse from the Bab three times in your right ear: “I have come by God’s command, have been made manifest for His remembrance, and have been created for the service of Him who is the Almighty, the Well-Beloved.” This blessed verse reminds us that we were created by the will of God to serve His purpose. We must endeavor to recognize and fulfill His purpose. This holy verse teaches us that we are created to remember God. I hope that from the moment your parents begin to teach you to speak, you will learn the remembrance of God in words as well as in your heart. While you were in your mother’s womb, I recited this prayer for you every day:
“I beseech Thee, O Lord of all being and Possessor of things visible and invisible, to bestow on me a righteous child, so it may remember Thee on Thine earth and glorify Thee throughout Thy realm… “ (Baha’u’llah) (2)
I hope that throughout your life you will always praise God, and remember that you were created to serve Him.
My dearest Noura, you were born in an era in the history of mankind when the world of humanity has gone through its infancy marked by turmoil, war and bloodshed; it is now on the threshold of its era of adolescence. These are the final days of darkness, promising the dawn of a joyful day. This is the Century of God, it is the Century of the Abhá Kingdom. As humanity attains its spiritual capacity, it manifests its higher qualities; the banner of peace is raised and the unity of mankind proclaimed. You, my dear daughter, have inherited a brutal history. Thousands of your spiritual forbears have given their lives to fulfill this lofty goal. Some were uprooted, imprisoned and subjected to all manner of social and economic hardships; they have borne these tribulations for the love of the Blessed Beauty; therefore we all bear a responsibility and are beholden to them.
A century ago, the Blessed Beauty proclaimed, “Erelong shall the snow-white hand of God rend an opening through the darkness of this night and unlock a mighty portal unto His City. On that Day shall the people enter therein by troops.” (3)
My dear, the effulgence of these glad tidings is quite apparent in the world. The armies of God are growing day by day, and they are all working together to establish Baha’u’llah’s great spiritual civilization to unite East and West. They have raised the call of “is there any helper to assist me?”(4) and invite compassionate and benevolent people of all races, nationalities and creeds to join together to build a better world.
My dearest granddaughter, Noura, neither the thick concrete walls of prison nor these iron gates can prevent my heart from hearing the call of “Make haste to success! Make hast to salvation! Make haste to the great Favor! Make hast to the effulgent Light! Make haste to the great victory!” being raised throughout the world. I yearn to see you one day, either in the physical or spiritual realm, marching at the forefront of this army of God, carrying the banner that your forebears bore, dedicating the precious gift of your life to the call of Baha’u’llah, because it is ordained that through selfless service to our fellowmen we shall know God; that is the purpose of our creation.
My dearest granddaughter, if I am not able to see you, you will undoubtedly learn that your grandfather was imprisoned twice because of his adherence to the Baha’i Faith and for attending to the affairs of the Baha’i community of his country. The second time, he was condemned to 20 years in prison. I want you to know that I am proud to be imprisoned. Divine tests are a sign of God’s mercy. I don’t want you to ever bear any ill will toward your countrymen. It is the will of God that every Manifestation that appears in the world is plagued with fierce opposition, and that His followers are subjected to years of oppression and persecution because of a lack of understanding and awareness of the truth. In our time, that is, in the last three decades, more than 200 of the most honorable, upstanding and reputable people among the Baha’is of Iran, male and female, young and old, were executed by hanging or firing squad. Thousands were imprisoned or suffered immeasurable social and economic privation. Your parents are a perfect example: two talented young people, full of promise, deprived of their natural right to a higher education and entrance to universities in their own country because of their adherence to the Baha’i Faith. They are representative of thousands of Baha’i youth deprived of higher education, a trend that has persisted for three decades. Of course, my dear, there have been countless fellow countrymen who have demanded justice on our behalf and attempted in various ways to defend our rights. In recent years many national and international lawyers, journalists, academics, artists, intellectuals and human rights advocates have endeavored to speak up against human rights abuses toward the Baha’is of Iran, and some have paid a heavy price for their involvement. We are of course grateful to them and history will reward them for their sacrifices.
Dearest granddaughter, I assure you that we even love those who have persecuted us; not only do we not feel hatred toward them, but we pray for them. Abdu’l-Baha says,
“In every dispensation, there hath been the commandment of fellowship and love, but it was a commandment limited to the community of those in mutual agreement, not to the dissident foe. In this wondrous age, however, praised be God, the commandments of God are not delimited, not restricted to any one group of people, rather have all the friends been commanded to show forth fellowship and love, consideration and generosity and loving-kindness to every community on earth … The meaning of this is that ye must show forth tenderness and love to every human being, even to your enemies, and welcome them all with unalloyed friendship, good cheer, and loving-kindness. When ye meet with cruelty and persecution at another’s hands, keep faith with him; when malevolence is directed your way, respond with a friendly heart … and in return for curses, taunts and wounding words, show forth abounding love …”(6)
When I remember my martyred teachers, friends and colleagues, I realize they sacrificed their lives to achieve peace, unity and wellbeing for the very people who executed them.
“O Baha’u’llah, how fierce Your fire!
it burns the lovers’ beings all to stubble
You struck the hearts with one spark
from the flame and set afire whole forests on Sinai
So, from each heart You’ve conjured burning bushes:
O Moses, here it is! come running fast,” (Baha’u’llah) (7)
Indeed, this is all part of love. In this prison there are 31 Baha’is, four of whom are sons of Baha’is who were martyred in the 1980s; young men who not only lost their fathers, but suffered untold deprivations. And yet, they have left their wives and children in order to keep their covenant with Baha’u’llah.
“If thine aim be to cherish thy life,
approach not our Court:
but if sacrifice be thy heart’s desire,
come and let others come with thee
For such is the way of Faith,
if in thy heart thou seekest reunion with Baha:
shouldst thou refuse to tread this path,
why trouble us, Begone!” (Baha’u’llah) (8)
You see, my dear, at what price this “excellent and priceless heritage” has been achieved? And therefore with what a responsibility future generations are entrusted?
My dear Noura, I confess that after conversing with you for a while I miss you terribly, and I wish I could hold you in my arms; the same longing that overcame me when your grandmother showed me your picture in the prison visiting room. But rest assured, this longing will not arouse any expectation in me. I pray and supplicate God to give me continued patience and forbearance to embrace His tests with all my being.
Your loving grandfather,
Rejai Shahr Prison
22 Esfand 1392 (13 March 2014)
1. For information about Behrouz Tavakoli, see http://yaran-iran.net/Behrouz-Tavakoli.htm
2. The original prayer in Arabic can be found at: http://reference.bahai.org/fa/t/c/AK4/ak4-73.html , translation from Kashkul.org at http://www.kashkul.org/2011/02/06/prayer-for-pregnancy/
3. Baha’u’llah, Tablet to Nasiri’d-Din Shah, the Monarch of Persia. The Summons of the Lord of Hosts: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/SLH/slh-9.html
4. Imam Hussain’s call for assistance before His martyrdom in Karbala. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Husayn_ibn_Ali
5. Iran Press Watch translation from Arabic
6. Abdu’l-Baha, Selection from the writings of Abdu’l-Baha (pp 20-21) http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAB/sab-8.html
7. Baha’u’llah, Mathnav-i-Mubarak. Translation by Franklin Lewis: http://bahai-library.com/lewis_poetry_revelation
8. Baha’u’llah, Baza-Beidih-Jami , Ma`iydih-i Asmani vol. 4 186-192. Translated by Shoghi Effendi in The Dawn-Breakers, pp.137-8. http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/nz/DB/db-26.html.utf8?query=Begone&action=highlight#pg138