Abdu’l-Baha on Baha’i Persecutions in 1903 (part 3)

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Editor’s Note:  In response to several inquiries, it should be noted that the original of this remarkable narrative by Abdu’l-Baha is found in Makatib ‘Abdu’l-Baha, vol. 3, pages 122-47.  For ease of reference, a copy is attached.

By Abdu’l-Baha

One of them is the ‘Son of the Wolf’ (Aqa Najafi) in Isfahan. Even though through various means he has amassed a vast fortune, stealing it all from the people, is immersed in all forms of carnal desires, and everyone testifies to his ill intentions, nevertheless the ignorant population follows his lead. For the purpose of plundering the friends’ possessions, they obey his command, extending their hands to pillage and attempting brute force. When this man witnessed the ascendancy of God’s Cause and the rise of the Divine Words, his breast was filled with the fire of hatred and jealousy. He raised the standard of mischief and caused enmity. He began by confusing the minds of the people by forging a telegram in the name of the Prime Minister of Iran and ordering his trusted confederates, under the cover of night, to post four hundred copies upon the walls of the city. The essence of this telegram was: ‘Shaykh Taqi (Aqa Najafi), the Hujjatu’l-Islam, must protect the religion (of Islam).’ This telegram was a pure fabrication and lie. Nevertheless when morning came, the rabble and the vagabonds seeing and hearing of it became excited and proceeded to the house of Shaykh Taqi, who immediately issued a fatwa[8] for the killing of innocent Baha’is.

It is evident that in midst of such tumult and under such circumstances when the guide of an ignorant populace issues such a fatwa what commotion and mischief results. The ravenous mob invaded the shops and houses of the believers and began to destroy and pillage. But the divine friends, knowing it to be unlawful to defend themselves without the permission and consent of the government, were obliged to appeal to the governor of the city. Finding him, for some reason and purpose, negligent in the matter, they thought it best to gather the dispersed [Baha’is] in one place in order that some course of action might be determined upon. They assembled in the Russian Consulate, this being the only door open to them. There they passed the whole night in prayer, raising the cry, ‘Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!’ (O Thou Glory of the Most Glorious!) and at times they referred their difficulties to the Governor, hoping thereby the mob might be quieted and the meek defended.

The governor inquired of Shaykh Taqi the cause of the riot and asked concerning the telegram, what it was and whence it came. In answer he declared complete ignorance of the telegraph matter. He then went to the Russian Consulate and erecting a pulpit, began to outwardly exhort and adjure the mob, which had assembled to injure and murder the believers, to disperse. The governor then addressed a letter to the friends of God saying, ‘Be tranquil and at ease. The tumult has ceased and people have dispersed. Now return to your homes and attend to your work, and pray meanwhile for His Imperial Majesty, the King of Iran, for hereafter no one will molest you.’ The governor’s letter was registered in the consulate, after which the Baha’is came out of their retreat to go to their own homes.

However, in private, Shaykh Taqi had advised his trusted men that, when the believers emerged from the consulate proceeding to their own homes, they should incite the mob to attack and slay them. Therefore, when the friends of God came out of the consulate to go home, on the streets, the malicious multitude attacked them like bloodthirsty wolves, seizing and beating whomever they could. With utmost viciousness they tortured and wounded seventy people in all, killing some outright.

The honoured Sayyid Abu’l-Qasim Marnuni was one of the martyrs. This righteous Sayyid was about eighty years of age, and during his life was renowned in that realm for his piety, faith, knowledge and virtue. He was evident light and spirit incarnated. Even enemies bore witness to his chastity and sanctity, testifying to his generosity, charity and benevolence. He was in truth a help to the poor, and a refuge and support for the afflicted; his word was influential, honoured and accepted by all the people. In his last days, once he became known as a Baha’i, then the people of enmity, jealousy and denial, attacked him. They themselves testify, ‘When we assaulted him, he cried out: “We are from God and unto Him we return. Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!”’ And in the very moment of his expiration he spoke this verse with great joy and exultation: ‘You have done us no harm, we shall but return to our Lord!’[9]

While his tormentors, like wild beasts, attacked him with rocks, clubs, axes and cleavers, he, single and alone, under the weapons of his evil-doing persecutors who were wounding and cursing him, suffered it all in fortitude with grandeur and majesty. He faced the Kingdom of Lights as though he felt not a blow nor received a wound, but rather perceived the open gates of the Supreme Concourse, and yielded his life to his Beloved with utmost joy, happiness and exhilaration. O that I had been with him to partake of his joy and to attain his great happiness!

Finally the prince governor, seeing the intensity of the hostility of those ferocious wolves, had no alternative but to arrest and seize the divine friends and as such many were protected by being confined in prison. Behold how great was the outbreak and tumult that the prison-house became a place of refuge and the dungeon a court of safety. This much is sufficient and [the graveness of the matter] needs no further exposition.

When the intensity of the violence and tumult had reached its zenith in Isfahan, a certain Sayyid Ibrahim, son of Yazd’s Imam Jum’ih, was returning from the sacred cities of Karbala and Najaf. In the exalted ‘Atabat [lit. ‘thresholds’; a designation for Karbala and Najaf] he had received from Sayyid Kazim Yazdi, the chief of the [Shi’ite] religion, a fatwa and authority to shed the blood of the innocent. When he arrived at Isfahan, and perceived the flames of the fire of tyranny and persecution, read the forged and false telegram and saw the excitement of the people, he determined to hasten forthwith to Yazd. He received complete instructions from Shaykh Taqi to carry out, upon his arrival, whatever would cause destruction to the foundation of the friends of God. With these wicked intentions he reached the city of Yazd.

This decadent man, however, perceived that the governor would not tolerate such a violation, deeming it to be a cause of riot and revolt which would result in the destruction of Iran and the defaming of Iran’s name. Therefore he carefully devised a stratagem and a ruse. Having arrived by chance upon the anniversary of the birth of the Messenger of God [Muhammad] – peace be upon Him – the people of the city came to visit him. In that gathering he related incidents concerning the rampages in Isfahan, describing in detail the courage and bravery of the people who had stood for the annihilation of the Baha’is, looting their wealth and property, and pillaging their possessions and belongings. At the same time, through pure lies and calumny, he insinuated that – I take refuge with God! – the just government would connive in such action and consent to these violations and transgressions. In reality, however, His Imperial Majesty and the illustrious prime minister had not a thought save that of justice and protection for their subjects. In short, this heartless man commended the people of Isfahan so greatly that the audience was inspired by religious zeal and fanatical enthusiasm to eradicate the Baha’is. In such ways he encouraged and provoked many, menaced others who refused to listen, and instigated the rabble and hoodlums to rob and plunder [the Baha’is].

[8] A religious ruling issued by a mujtahid (doctor of law) the execution of which is considered binding upon Muslims.

[9] Qur’an 26:50

AbdulBaha Treatise 1903


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