Bahai News - `Abdu'l-Baha Meeting with Two Prominent Iranians
The original Persian of this article by Muhammad Qazvini was
printed in 1949 in Yadgar.
A good book outlining the activities of these two men--Muhammad Qazvini
and Siyyid Hasan Taqizadeh--during that period is: "The Iranian Constitutional
Revolution, 1906-1911", Janet Afary, Columbia University Press, 1996.
`Abdu'l-Baha Meeting with Two Prominent Iranians
Two of the important figures of the literary and political life of the
Iran are Muhammad Qazvini and Siyyid Hasan Taqizadeh whose paths often
the Faith of Baha'u'llah, and who have left a poignant description of
meetings with `Abdu'l-Baha in October 1911 in Paris.
Muhammad Qazvini is one of the foremost scholars of the Persian
history and culture who has edited and published numerous manuscripts
historical documents, including: The Lubabu'l-Albab, the oldest
Persian poets compiled about 1221 AD by Muhammad `Awfi; The Marzuban-
book of fables by Sa'du'd-Din Warawini; Al-Mu'jam fi Ma'ayiri
an old treatise on the prosody and poetic art of the Persians by
Muhammad ibn Qays ar- Razi; Chahar Maqala, (the Four Discourses), by
al-'Arudi of Samarqand; The Kitab-i Nuqtatu'l-Kaf, a purported early
the Babis; and the Tarikh-i Jahan-gusha, by 'Ala'u'd- Din 'Ata Malik-i
1260AD. It should be noted that many of these efforts were in
with the British Persianist Edward G. Browne and mostly were published
the E.J.W. Gibb Memorial series.
In addition to editing and publishing literary and historical
Qazvini wrote extensively about the life and works of the men of letters
accomplishments of Iran and the Middle East, including a series of
notes under the title, "Vafiyyat-i Mu`asiryn" (the passing of the
contemporaries) which appear in 1949 in the celebrated Yadgar journal
Dr. `Abbas Iqbal Ashtiyani). The ninth section of these "notes", lists
biographical information on those contemporary figures whose name began
the letter 'ayn, the first being `Abdu'l- Baha under the entry "`Abbas
Effendi", which appeared in two consecutive issues, no. 6-7 of Bahman
Esfand 1327Sh (January and February of 1949). In this note, Qazvini
outlines a brief history of the Master's life and then pens his
meeting Him in Paris. He has also asked his old and close friend, Siyyid
Taqizadeh, a renowned figure in the political, diplomatic and literary
of Iran, to also describe his own meetings with `Abdu'l-Baha at the same
which appear appended to this note.
The significance of this note lies in the fact that two very prominent
Iranians who because of their deep Babi-Azali identity had exerted
efforts against the Faith of Baha'u'llah, were now writing sincerely
their meetings with the Center of the Covenant who received them with
customary love, affection, and sin-covering eye -- never mentioning the
deeds of these individuals -- and immersing them in the ocean of His
compassion. From their description, it is very evident that meeting
`Abdu'l-Baha left such a deep impression that caused them to pen these
nearly four decades later and to risk their own reputation and standing
society by publishing it in an environment filled with hatred towards
associated with the Baha'i Faith.
Another point that makes this note important to the student of history
fact that Muhammad Qazvini openly admits to having written the Persian
Introduction of the Kitab-i Nuqtatu'l- Kaf, edited its text and being
the force behind its publication -- a fact suspected for some time, and
clearly documented in Qazvini's own words. It should be noted that the
of this book, allegedly an early history of the Babis, caused
distress to the point that He instructed Mirza Abu'l-Fadl to write a
account refuting its content and also instructed several prominent
Tihran to aid him in his research -- a task eventually completed after
Fadl's passing by Siyyid Mihdi of Gulpayigan, and titled
A translation of Qazvini's entry for `Abdu'l-Baha follows.
comments are by the author, while those in square brackets  are by the
`Abbas Effendi (1260 - 1340H): Known as `Abdu'l-Baha, He is the eldest
Mirza Husayn-`Ali Nuri, known as Baha'u'llah. The birth of `Abdu'l-Baha
place on the night of 5th of Jamadiyu'l-Avval of the year 1260H,
to 1844AD, in the Arab neighborhood of Tihran, in the personal residence
Baha'u'llah. His mother is the first wife of Baha'u'llah, known as
surnamed Ummu'l-Ka'inat, and `Abbas Effendi Himself was styled the Most
From this first wife, namely, Navvabih, another Son was also born to
Baha'u'llah, named Mirza Mihdi and surnamed the Purest Branch, Who
during the lifetime of His Father, Baha'u'llah, in the year 1286H at the
nineteen in `Akka.
The second wife of Baha'u'llah was known or surnamed Mahd- `Ulya, who
three sons for Baha'u'llah: first, Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, titled the
Branch; second Mirza Badi'u'llah; and third, Mirza Diya'u'llah. After
passing of their Father, a fierce disagreement took place among these
brothers and their fourth Brother, `Abbas Effendi, over the matter of
successorship, and as such the followers of `Abbas Effendi call
Thabityn (the steadfast) and the partisan of the other three brothers as
Naqizyn (the Covenant-breakers).
The third wife of Baha'u'llah was known as Guhar Khanum and commonly
as the Haram-i Kashi [the Kashi wife]. Except a daughter named
this women did not bare any children for Baha'u'llah.
In the middle of 1908 when a revolt took place in the Ottoman Empire
Sultan `Abdu'l-Hamid was dismissed from the throne, all the political
and exiles were freed including `Abbas Effendi Whom on Ramadan of 1328H
(1910AD) left the city of `Akka and commenced traveling to various
first went to Egypt, from there to Switzerland, and thence to London,
returning back to Egypt. From there again at the beginning of the year
He voyaged to the north America and in the middle of the year arrived at
York. After travelling and preaching in many of the American cities, at
of that same year, He returned to Europe and on the 14th of December
Liverpool. From there, in the year 1913, He journeyed to many other
countries, including Germany, Austria and Hungary, and eventually by the
of this year returned to Egypt and from there went forth to Haifa. From
date forward, He selected Haifa as oppose to `Akka as His headquarters.
Therefore, in sum, the travels of `Abdu'l-Baha which were commenced at
1328H when He first went from Palestine to Egypt and then to Europe and
America, until Muharram 1332H [December 1913] when He returned back to
Palestine took a total of two years, three months and some days.
The passing of `Abbas Effendi took place on 27th Rabi'u'l- Avval,
corresponding to 28 November 1921, in Haifa, at the age of 78 according
solar reckoning and 80 years based on lunar years. He was interned on
Carmel overlooking the city of Haifa and next to the resting place of
After the passing of `Abbas Effendi -- as both His sons had passed away
childhood and He was not survived by a male descendent -- His successor
leading the Baha'is in accordance with His own Will and Testament was a
grandson, Shoghi Effendi, a son of Diya'iyyih Khanum daughter of
and the wife of Aqa Mirza Hadi ibn Aqa Siyyid Husayn ibn Haji Mirza
(who was a brother-in-law of the Bab). Shoghi Effendi is a graduate of
Oxford University in England, and was born in 1314H . At the time
`Abdu'l-Baha's passing he was still at Oxford when his family urgently
him to return at once to Haifa, but due to distance, he arrived there a
after `Abdu'l-Baha's passing. Therefore, if we have correctly recorded
of his birth, presently, that is, Esfand of 1327Sh [March 1949], he must
fifty-four years old.
Description of My Meeting with
`Abbas Effendi `Abdu'l-Baha in Paris
I, Muhammad ibn `Abdu'l-Vahhad-i Qazvini, arrived at Paris by the way
Clarens, Switzerland, on October 6th, 1911, and immediately contracted a
cold such that for a week I stayed home. During this period, I did not
dwelling and remained thoroughly unaware of news of the land. One day,
Siyyid Muhammad, the Shaykhu'l-Islam of Gilan, who was the
the late Mirza Karim Khan-i Rashti, and whose brother, the late Sardar
[the Mu`izzu's-Saltanih,] was visiting me at my house, in the course of
conversation informed me: "Did you know that `Abbas Effendi, the leader
Baha'is, is now in Paris?" With astonishment I replied that I was
"Yes, it is about twelve days," he continued, "that He is in Paris and
house is near Passy among the well-known neighborhoods of Paris."
I immediately wrote to Dr. Muhammad Khan-i Mahallati, one of my old
Paris and notorious for being devoted to this path [ie. Baha'i] and
to arrange, if possible, for me to visit `Abbas Effendi. I inquired that
necessary to request permission for me to come, thinking that much like
here too one should appeal to intermediator to contact the Chief, and
is only possible after receiving the proper consent.
At noon time the following day, Saturday, October 14, 1911, the
Dr. Muhammad Khan came to our house and asserted that intermediator,
and permissions were not needed:
"Har kih khahad gu biya vu har kih khahad gu buru, Kibr-u naz-u hajib-u
bedin dargah nist."
"All wishing to come forth, may, and those desire to leave, may; Pride,
coquetry, chamberlain and doorkeeper, have no place at this
We agreed for him to return the next morning at 9 a.m. so that together
would proceed to `Abdu'l-Baha's place of residence.
The next morning (Sunday, October 15, 1911, or 21 Shavval 1329H), Dr.
Khan came to my house and by the underground rail (metro), we went forth
`Abdu'l-Baha's house at 4, rue camoens. His residence was at a
newly-constructed, exquisite building, and furnished with all the latest
of comfort, such as, an elevator, electricity, carpeting in the
telephone, etc. The building is a large apartment with six or seven
perhaps even more, two formal sitting rooms and superbly furnishing.
entered the apartment, I noted that separate groups of twos or threes
conversing with one another and were not concerned with the traffic of
visitors. I quickly thought that its much like the Ruzih-khani [ie.
soothsaying] gatherings of Iran and none pays attention to others, and
formalities as invitation, calling ahead of time, presenting one's
card, or requesting permission to enter, etc, were not required.
My friend became engaged in conversation with one of the groups
the hallway and was nearly out of my sight. For about six minutes I
not knowing what to do. I then suddenly spotted one of my acquaintances
the previous year's visit to Paris, titled Tamaddunu'l-Mulk, who is a
from Shiraz and a devote Baha'i, and went towards him and he too in
came forth and we shook hands. I inquired about attaining `Abdu'l-Baha's
presence and he responded: "He is in the next formal room, and if you
please lets go there." With this, he picked up a chair and went to the
sitting room and after about half a minute returned and invited me to go
I entered the room and my eyes fell upon `Abdu'l-Baha whom I
recognized as I had seen Him picture many times in various journals,
and certain books, and my eyes was well acquainted with His countenance.
wore a small head-dress which simply was a white piece of cloth wrapped
a small white Fez, and a large brownish labbadih with wide sleeves. His
and eye brows were white as cotton, and He possessed brilliant, sharp
a strong features which from the profile resembled that of Tolstoy. He
sitting on a velvet- covered chair (fauteuil) at the head of the room
back to the window and all around the room -- there were actually two
connecting rooms, one larger where He was present and a smaller one --
sitting in absolute silence and motionless men and women from Iran,
America, England, France, etc. Not one noise could be heard or felt from
anyone, particularly the Persians who wearing their customary hats and
arms folded on the breast remained still and upright like statues. Each
with down cast eyes and truly one could mistake them for statues as they
all extremely quite, fixed and reverent.
Quietly, I entered the room, offered my greetings and wanted to sit by
entrance when `Abbas Effendi raised from His seat, warmly greeted me,
me to move up by saying "Higher please, higher please." I went a bit
the room and was about to sit when again He said: "Higher please. Come
here." And pointed to a chair on His own right hand side, and since I
wish Him to remain standing, quickly took my seat next to Him on the
He had appointed. For the next two or three minutes He continued to
and inquired of my well-being, which alas I do not recall the exact
further added: "I have asked of you and was told that you are not in
was a bit bewildered as to how it was that He knew me which had prompted
inquire of me. The thought then came to my mind that perhaps this is a
add me to the rank of His well-wishers. My reasoning was that I knew Mr.
Dreyfus was fully aware of the circumstances of me publishing the
Nuqtatu'l-Kaf, having edited its Persian text, and prepared an
based on the English introduction of the late Edward Browne and some
his writings, therefore, I thought that as soon as I had requested an
he must have told `Abdu'l-Baha that "This person who is now seeking an
is the same publisher of the infamous Nuqtatu'l-Kaf, and in order to
his heart, when he comes do not mention any of this business." It seems
Dreyfus did not wish to be present in the room when I entered and must
momentarily exited from another door, but came in after my entrance and
his eyes greeted me pretending to have just come into the room.
'Abdu'l-Baha quickly turned to him [ie. Dreyfus] and it was evident
was engaged in presenting a talk, that is, `Abdu'l-Baha would utter His
in Persian much like a sermon to teach His audience, and others were all
listening to Him, and Dreyfus would translate from Persian into French.
However, Dreyfus said: "I am hesitant to translate further in presence
old and much learned friend, Mirza Muhammad." `Abdu'l-Baha turned to me
said: "We were discussing a subject with the friends and after Our talk
visit with you extensively. If you wish, translate for them that 'The
of Israel had sank into the depth of darkness...'" I replied that since
just arrived and was uninformed of the details, its best if Mr. Dreyfus
`Abbas Effendi continued with His talk and would utter each sentence in
eloquent Persian, and Dreyfus would translate its essence to French, and
most instances, translation was far from the original and one had to
to connect this translation to the materials presented by `Abbas Effendi
originally , and required much imagination to tie each of his [Dreyfus']
sentences to the next.
At any rate, from the point that I entered the gathering, the jest of
`Abdu'l-Baha's talk was that the children of Israel had sank into the
darkness and constantly were at war and battle with one another,
multitude of gods, and as such, God sent Moses for their guidance and He
able to take them from waywardness to the path of faith. After the
many centuries, because of the material attachment of the divines of
the religion of Moses decayed and corrupted and became the source of
for the Rabbis, therefore, God sent forth Jesus, the Sprite of God, Who
His life for this mission ... and similarly, the Prophet Muhammad, and
Siyyid `Ali- Muhammad-i Bab, and Baha'u'llah, and now He, etc.
In short, after concluding His talk, He took my hand and led me to the
room situated next to this larger one and we conversed on a variety of
not related to religion. I asked him several questions about Isma'iliya
during that time I was in process of publishing the third volume of
Jahan-gusha-i Juwayni which concerned itself for the most part with
Isma'iliyas) particularly about the present Isma'iliyas and He responded
them all sufficiently and accurately.
I then asked Him a few questions about Azalis and He immediately
always referring to them as Yahya'ian and never calling them Azalis.
"It is rumored in Iran," I further queried, "that in accordance with
Excellency's instructions, the remains of the Bab has been moved from
vicinity of Tihran to the mountain of Carmel overlooking [the city of]
and is now buried there. Is this true?" Clearly and explicitly He
in such a year (and now I cannot recall the exact year that He
took care of this matter."
After discussing various matters, He kept me for lunch which among
things included a very delicious broth [Per. Abgusht] that contained
garbanzo beans -- a very rare item in Paris.
On several more occasions, either in His residence or in the house of
and his wife, Mrs Barney-Dreyfus, I had lunch or dinner with `Abbas
until I left Paris.
During the same time that in Paris I attained the presence of
his honored Siyyid Hasan-i Taqizadeh, the former Ambassador of Iran to
British Isle, was also in town and he too went to meet Him, and with
respect and honor was received. Now in Tihran, I have asked him to
paper whatever he may recall of those meetings to be included in these
Yadgar journal, and he, with his customary desire to assist such worthy
scholarly causes, has accepted my request and prepared the following
which appear exactly as he penned.
Details of the Meeting of Aqay-i Taqizadeh with `Abdu'l-Baha
It was towards the end of 1911 that I arrived in Paris from Istanbul,
had been staying since the beginning of February of that year. I made
journey at the request of Haji `Ali Quli-Khan-i Sardar Is`ad-i
stayed only a short while (perhaps about two or three weeks) and during
time I travelled to London for a few days, but returned to Paris from
subsequently returned back to Istanbul. These days coincided with the
ultimatum issues by the Russian government against the Iranian regime
dismissal of the American Mr. Shuster which resulted in the horrible
of Tabriz and the hanging of the Thiqatu'l-Islam on `Ashura 1330 [10
corresponding to December 31, 1911, that I heard about upon arrival at
During my stay at Paris, one day in accordance with a previous
went to see `Abbas Effendi `Abdu'l-Baha, the leader of the Baha'is.
Though I do
not recall the exact date, but it was at the same time that the Russians
issuing ultimatums to Iran, one morning I was received by Him [`Abud'l-
at His residence, an exquisite building (which was said to have been
Him for four thousands franks, that is, 160 British gold pounds).
From the hallway I was lead into a large sitting room which apparently
as His formal receiving room and where He delivered His talks. From
went further to a smaller room that served as His bedroom, and it was
that He graciously received me and we spoke until about noon.
Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered in the larger room in anticipation of
audience with Him, and as it was getting late, Mr. Deryfus, a Jewish
and a close companion of His, came into the room and standing with hands
his breast said: "People are waiting." `Abdu'l-Baha did not pay much
to him and only replied "Fine," and continued to converse with me.
From what I recall of the conversation, one topic was that I asked Him:
what I have heard, You desire establishment of freedom in Iran, and as
it not proper that Your followers, in accordance with Your command and
necessary, aid and assist those (non-Baha'i) elements promoting
freedom, such as in the elections, etc.?" He replied that: "In
prefer freedom as it is one of the Divine blessings and pleases God.
this is not because freedom helps with the diffusion and propagation of
Cause, as it is the opposite, namely, Our Cause grows better in a
environment." What I have noted is the essence of His utterance as I do
recall the exact words.
A few days later, Mirza Asadu'llah (dressed as a traditional [Muslim]
clergy) in company of Mirza `Azizu'llah Khan-i Varqa (who worked at the
Russian Bank in Tihran) and both were among `Abdu'l-Baha's companions came
to see me bearing an affectionate message from `Abdu'l-Baha. They stated:
"The Master wishes you to join Him for dinner one night." I agreed and went
there at the appointed evening. When Mirza Asadu'llah and `Azizu'llah Khan
had come to see me, they had spoke of `Abdu'l-Baha deep love for Iran and
its independence, and has said: "The Master is constantly inquiring as to
what is reported in the newspapers as He is worried about the Russian
ultimatum." (I suspect that they said such things as these people [ie.
Baha'is] speak to each person depending on his interests so to attract
hearts, and since they had noted my love and commitment for Iran which has
consumed my whole being, they emphasized this aspect of the Master's
interest. Of course, it may well be very possible that `Abdu'l- Baha indeed
desired the independence of Iran.)
The night that I went to `Abdu'l-Baha's house for dinner was rainy and when
I left my residence at about 8 p.m. it was difficult to locate transportation,
and as such I was a little tardy to arrive (about 8:15 or 8:30) and found
`Abdu'l-Baha and His companions waiting for me. In that gathering, in addition
to Mirza Asadu'llah Khan, Tamaddunu'l-Mulk was present as well, but the thing
that caused my astonishment was that there was no news of dinner! For a while
we continued conversing. I had imagined that dinner would be served at eight
o'clock (according to the European customs). I was hungry and perplexed. I
waited longer, but still no news of dinner. I thought I had come late and they
have already had dinner. For a while, `Abdu'l-Baha, `Azizu'llah Khan and I
continued with our conversation, and occasionally because of my hunger and not
wishing to overstay my welcome, I wanted to leave, but being reserved I did
not say anything. Eventually after a while, perhaps closer to eleven o'clock,
one by one the honored companions begin to arrive, and it was nearly
mid-night when they informed us that dinner is served. An extensive table
filled with delicious food was spread, including a rice dish that is mixed
with Ghaymih stow (apparently is called Islambuli Pulo, or has some other
After dinner, we returned to the original room to continue our conversation
and enjoy coffee. Shortly after coffee was served, signs of fatigue began to
appear in `Abdu'l-Baha, and one of His companions whispered to me that He
observes the custom of sleeping shortly after dinner. From this it was
evident that `Abdu'l-Baha lived according to the Persian customs. So, I
rose to leave and He asked: "Do you have an automobile?" "I will find
transportation," I replied. However, He did not permit it, and even though
was sleepy insisted that I should wait until one of His attendants located
a taxi for me, which they did and with that I returned home.
The conversation that night was charming and delightful. The topic of
religion was not discussed that much and He spoke of the early years of His
life and recalled His childhood. He related: "My mother tied a two-qiran
silver piece in the corner of a handkerchief and asked me to go out and buy
some food. As I was passing through the streets in the Karbila'i `Abbas-'Ali
marketplace of Tihran, one of the youngsters cried out: "This child is a
Babi!". Whereupon the children in the street rushed towards me to beat me. I
was frightened and escaped. They chased me, until eventually I was able to
hid in the entrance to a house belonging to the father of Sadru'l-`Ulama
(apparently the father of Sadru'l-`Ulama and Aqa Mirza Muhsin, the son-in-law
of Siyyid `Abdu'llah Bihbahani, who was well-known at the beginning of the
constitutional movement or perhaps their grandfather). I stayed in that dark
entrance until the streets were deserted and returned home to find my mother
perturbed over my fate."
Of the events of that night, after `Abdu'l-Baha's companions had left us to
journey in town and He and I were left alone, at one point the French maid
came in and informed Him [in French] that He had a telephone call. He asked
me: "What is she saying?" I translated. He said: "Find `Azizu'llah Khan and
tell him to take the call." I translated that too. The maid said that he is
not here. He then said: "Tamaddun should take the call." The maid responded
that he is not there either. Finally, `Abdu'l-Baha had to take the call
Himself, and went by the phone, which apparently was from an American Baha'i
woman who spoke Persian. When He returned back He said to me: "That was the
first time in My life that I spoke on telephone." He also related that same
French maid has a fiance who writes her regularly, but now for a few days
she has not received a letter and cries constantly which has caused much
distress for everyone. `Abdu'l-Baha Himself had consoled her and told her
that soon she would receive a letter, but she had not regained her composure.
`Abdu'l-Baha was extremely polite and wise, and possessed excellent manners.
He left a deep, positive impression with those that He met. Because He
exerted much care for cleanliness, and observed the European customs, He was
very respected. Every time that He journeyed outside and walked in streets
or parks wearing His perfectly clean `aba [overcoat] and shirt, French
people naturally would gravitate towards Him. He also was very polite and
respectful towards me, and during our first meeting, when I left His bedroom
and passed through the large sitting room [occupied with guests], on my exit
in the hallway, one of His companions informed me: "The Master has said that
we should tell people that you are an Egyptian visitor so that no one would
be informed of your visit here."
However, a while later, towards the end of 1912 or early part of 1913 that
He was in London and I was there too, I did not see Him. I heard that He was
informed of my association with the late Professor Edward Browne, and since
He was deeply annoyed with the late Browne over the publication and
dissemination of the Kitab-i Nuqtatu'l-Kaf and certain of his other writings,
He must have been weary of me too. God only knows.
Apparently the night I had gone to visit `Abdu'l-Baha, He had inquired
of `Azizu'llah Khan: "What do the newspapers and media report of Iran?"
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