April 2, 2017

The Furutan family's first pilgrimage during WW II

Hand of the Cause Mr Furutan 1953
Early in 1941, during the Second World War, means were miraculously provided for me and my family to go on pilgrimage. In the company of my mother, my wife, and my eight-year-old daughter, together with other pilgrims, we set out on our journey. Passing through Qazvin, Hamadan, Kermanshah and Qasr-i-Shirin, we reached Baghdad.

We stayed for two days in that historical city, holy to Baha'is, and met with the friends there. Then via Rutbah, we arrived at Zemakh, which was then on the border of Palestine. Our luggage was inspected at the border, and since we carried two very expensive silk rugs, which were the gift of a believer, we were asked to pay a considerable amount of duty. However, when we explained that these rugs were brought for the House of 'Abdu'l-Baha, they were released without charge.

The director of Customs, who was Christian and a handsome and courteous man, happened to travel in the same bus with us to Haifa, and asked me about the value of the rugs. I said that I did not know as they were the gift of another believer. He offered to pay me an equivalent amount for an identical pair if I would promise to buy and send them to him in Zemakh on my return to Iran. I had to excuse myself from accepting this responsibility while the War was continuing, explaining that I had no experience in these affairs. He said that he would trust me with such a large amount only because I was a Baha'i and could not understand why I refused his request. I replied that I had to excuse myself precisely because I was a Baha'i! When we reached Haifa we parted as friends.

It was during late afternoon of Sunday, 16 February 1941, when we set foot in the garden of the House of 'Abdu'l-Baha in the illumined city of Haifa, passing through a gate marked by a brass plate with "Abdu'l-Baha 'Abbas” beautifully engraved on it. The ladies of our pilgrimage group were guided inside by a believer, and the men were taken to a large basement. A radiant old man, wearing a long black cloak and a Persian head-dress, similar to a Turkish fez, was sitting on the divan (mandar). After exchanging pleasantries, he wrote our names on a piece of paper and left the room. He returned in a few minutes and announced that the beloved Guardian was prepared to receive us, and guided us to the upper floor.

I cannot convey my feelings in those moments. The ecstasy of meeting the Guardian filled my soul, and my impatient heart was beating so hard that I could clearly hear it.

We entered a narrow hallway leading to the reception room. The beloved Guardian was standing at the door to greet us. 'Welcome! Welcome! I have been waiting for you, ' he said. We tried to cast ourselves at his feet, but he quickly came forward and prevented us, and embracing each of us said, 'We embrace as brothers. The Blessed Beauty has forbidden bowing and prostrating oneself.’ [1]

He asked us to enter the room, and when we had, he entered himself and sat on the divan close to the door, while repeatedly guiding us to take the upper seats. He first asked about the health and conditions of the Baha'is and the affairs of the National Spiritual Assembly. When the response was given, he addressed me and said, 'You are the secretary of both the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies. The affairs of the National Spiritual Assembly are conducted in a very organized manner, and I testify to your work. Your services are now local and national, and they will be international in the future.' [2]

He then asked about the persecution of the friends in Iran. I briefly described the difficulties we were facing in obtaining recognition of Baha'i marriage. He replied that these persecutions were not important and would pass, the principal point being the steadfastness and perseverance of the believers. He then quoted words of 'Abdu'l-Baha: 'The government of the native land of the Blessed Perfection will become the most respected government of this world . . . and Iran will become the most prosperous of all lands.' (See Baha'u'llah, The King of Glory, p. 4.) He also emphasized the great importance of Baha'is participating in the Nineteen-Day Feasts, then stood up and said, 'You must be very tired. Take leave and rest in the Pilgrim House. I shall see you again tomorrow. May you be in God's protection.'

The meetings of the Persian Baha'is with the beloved Guardian usually followed this plan: at 4.00 p.m. every day, the pilgrims of both sexes, in the company of the custodian of the Pilgrim House, would rent a car and drive to the House of 'Abdu'l-Baha. The ladies then met with Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, and the men were guided to the waiting-room. The beloved Guardian would leave his office, join the men and walk with them either in the quiet streets of Haifa or in the gardens of the Shrine of the Báb, speaking with them for about forty minutes or more. He would also accompany the men pilgrims to the Shrines of the Báb and 'Abdu'l-Baha on two different days, and chant the Tablets of Visitation himself.

While walking with us in the gardens of the Shrine during our second meeting with him, Shoghi Effendi spoke of Muhammad, Whose station was lofty and great, as the recipient of a Divine Revelation. He returned to this theme on a later occasion, saying that the believers should be aware, and believe, that Islam is the origin of the Baha'i Faith, that the Qur'an is the Word of God and that the Imams were infallible. Their station was very sacred and exalted, particularly that of Imam Husayn (the third Imam, titled the King of Martyrs). As to the traditions of Islam, those which are quoted in the Writings are authentic. He stressed that Baha'is of Christian background should accept these principles concerning Islam, just as those of Jewish or Zoroastrian background should accept Christ as the Word of God and His utterances in the New Testament as authentic. The Guardian also wished the friends to realize that each Manifestation can abrogate the laws of previous Manifestations when they no longer meet the needs of the time.
- Hand of the Cause, Ali-Akbar Furutan  (‘The Story of My Heart')
[1] Athar-i-Qalam-i A'la, vol. 2, p. 82. And from Mahmud's Diary, vol. 2, p. 373: 'Prostration, according to the explicit text of the Book of God, is confined to the Shrine of the Báb, the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh and the Holy House.'
[2] The reported words of the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, in the author's recollections of this pilgrimage are not his exact words, which were spoken in Persian and are here summarized.