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Hands of the Cause of God:
Personal Recollections

by Bill Washington

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Chapter 1

Abu’l-Qásim Faizi

Hand of the Cause Abu’l-Qásim Faizi was the spiritual beacon that guided – and still guides – my life as a Bahá’í. Were it not for meeting him back in 1953, my life may well have taken a different course. The unassuming kindness that he showered upon each individual, the warmth of his love that instantly embraced you, the sense that he knew you to the depths of the soul and the understanding of the Faith that he so lovingly and unstintingly shared with us all has been a guiding light for this individual, as well as so many other souls around the world. Everywhere we go, we find believers whose lives have been touched – and moved – by meeting with Mr Faizi. Like the ‘pillar of fire’ that guided the early Israelites across the Sinai desert, he has been a guiding light for us, simply by the example of his life, demonstrating so clearly the spiritual heights that humanity as a whole and each individual is able to attain in this life.

While others guided my entry into the Faith and my early maturation of understanding, I had always regarded Mr Faizi as the one who had attracted my soul and was responsible for my recognition of the truth of Bahá’u’lláh at the deepest level of one’s being. But it was some years later, when I met him in Tokyo, Japan, and one of the friends had called him to the door of the meeting room as we entered, saying: “Come and meet two more friends – or perhaps you know him.” And he had replied, with a beaming smile that embraced one’s heart and soul: “Know him – I brought him into the Faith!” I had always known that it was Mr Faizi who had embedded the seed of Faith deep in my heart, but it was a joy to hear him say it. I wonder how many other souls around the world could well have been embraced by the same words from him. The number of his spiritual children throughout the breadth of the world community must be well beyond assessment.

I will interpolate into these recollections some notes, recorded at another time and for another purpose, of my memories of Mr Faizi – they cover most of the story:

A door like no other

The young lad knocked rather tentatively on the door. It was a solid wooden door, in a solid masonry wall – not at all like the doors of residential homes he was used to in his native Australia. But then many things were different in Manama, the main – and really only – city of Bahrein Island, and he had become accustomed to many strange things on the way that had brought him to this point in his travels.

Returning from the incredible experience of pilgrimage to the Qibleh, the Holy Shrines of the Faith, and meeting with the beloved Guardian in January 1957, he had planned to travel back through Iran but had been advised that this would not be possible, perhaps even dangerous – not for the traveller but for those whom he may visit there, Bahá’ís who were under constant threat of persecution which had only recently reached a crisis point, that had seen the Haziratu'l-Quds in Tehran partially destroyed and many believers martyred – perhaps the worst outbreak of persecution in recent times, just past the midway point of the century. He had been advised by Shoghi Effendi that another return route should be chosen and, on enquiring at the travel agency in Haifa, had been delighted to find that this new route would take him through Bahrein Island.

He knew very little about Bahrein, except that it was where he could meet again, after some three years, the one who had first awakened his soul and won his allegiance to Bahá'u'lláh, one who had been travelling with Hand of the Cause 'Ali-Akbar Furútan through Australia and visiting the believers in small country towns there, following the final conference in the first series of Bahá’í intercontinental conferences, held in New Delhi, India, in October 1953. They had been directed by Shoghi Effendi to visit Australia and to meet with every Bahá’í on that continent, which they did – in those early days not an impossible mission. Mr Furútan was at that time recently appointed as Hand of the Cause of God, while Faizi, an Auxiliary Board member, was accompanying him as his translator, Mr Furútan's command of English at that time not being as good as it would be in later years.

Seeking further advice from the Guardian that evening, permission was given for the changed route, also for a stopover breaking the journey in Bahrein, provided that the stay there was brief, as the situation of the community there at that time was not a great deal better that in Iran itself. He was also told by the beloved Guardian that while he was now enjoying pilgrimage to the Shrines in the Holy Land, he would in Bahrein experience "another pilgrimage with Faizi". So was the thrill and expectation already in his heart immeasurably heightened by the Guardian's comment – words which clearly indicated his great love and high esteem for the pioneer of the community in Bahrein, 'Abu'l-Qásim Faizi, whom the Guardian had earlier named "the Spiritual Conqueror of Arabia".

Arriving in Bahrein the previous evening, he had booked into the "Seabird Hotel", a tourist hotel run by BOAC airways and had begun his search, with no address and only a name on his lips. Seeking advice from the local post office – the postman had immediately identified the one he sought as "teacher Faizi" – and from many other people along the way, he was soon standing in front of that door. He knocked again, and soon heard footsteps descending the stairway inside. As the door opened inwards and he uttered the greeting Alláh-u-Abhá – no doubt with very inadequate pronunciation – he found himself engulfed in a mighty hug and being led – almost carried – up the steep stairway by Faizi, through a small courtyard and into a small and simply furnished room where he was invited to sit on the couch. Marvelling that Faizi had remembered him after all these years, he was soon brought down to earth by Faizi's gentle inquiry, “Now, who are you?” He immediately realised that a greeting such as this was not for him alone, but for any Bahá'í who came there – probably for every human being, such was Faizi's inexhaustible love for all humanity.

So began a brief visit during which the visitor glimpsed time and again the vastness of the love which this spiritual giant – a vibrant example of what human beings have the capacity to be in the distant future – showered upon all the friends, indeed all who came into his presence.

Almost his first question was itself a spiritual lesson – the first of many – as Faizi gently inquired of the beloved Guardian, and asked whether he was aware that the young visitor was breaking his journey in Bahrein, and what instructions he may have given. On being told that his only instruction was that the visit should be brief, he immediately said that, even though such visits were rare and precious for the friends there, it must be no more than five days. Implicit in his inquiry was his need to know the Guardian's wishes and his immediate obedience in response – that "instant, exact and complete obedience" referred to in the prayer.

The visitor was then introduced to Faizi's family – his wife, Gloria, who had brought some refreshing tea and sweets, and their children, May and Naysan – the former in early teenage, demonstrating a maturity that came from a life of hardships shared willing with her parents at their pioneering post and the latter still a child, perhaps ten or eleven, of very sweet nature and somewhat shy – a description by which Naysan probably would not recognise himself when the two met again many years later in Tasmania, Australia. With a simple generosity which is not so common in a child of that age, Naysan shyly offered a parting gift when the visit came to an end – a photo frame of coloured mosaic, with the name of its maker on the back: "Gholamreza Golriz Khatami and Sons" in English and Farsi – the postcard of ‘minarets’ soon being replaced with a photograph of the Shrine at Bahji, and still kept as a treasured reminder of the kindness shown the visitor.

The home where the family lived was small and spare; he had first noticed the simplicity of the surroundings: the concrete-floored courtyard at the top of the entrance stairs, with a few struggling plants in pots along the bare wall, which he later learned were lovingly cultivated by Gloria, surviving despite the constant heat and humidity of summer, the dryness of winter, just to have a few touches of greenery in an otherwise barren environ. There were a few places in Bahrein where palm trees grew around a permanent waterhole; he was later taken to visit one by some of the friends, seeing the "sights" of the town, but otherwise it was barren and sandy, so much sand. The room in which they were sitting was sparsely furnished but home-like; he was comforted to see the framed 'Greatest Name' – it was like being in the home of other Bahá'ís whom he knew, it was a common bond that circled the globe. There was a fragrance, too, that reminded him of Haifa – or was it just the spirit he could feel, an almost tangible atmosphere.

Without a word being spoken, he could sense the bareness and deprivation that comes with pioneering in such a place – a bareness that was, as he later understood, more than compensated for by the love and spirit of the community that had grown around the first pioneers, many of them choosing Bahrein as their pioneering post simply to be close to Faizi. He was later told that some of those who had come to join them had been Faizi's students in the village of Najafábád where he had gone in the late 1930s, following the closure of Bahá'í schools in Iran.

He was well aware that one of the hallmarks of pioneering was deprivation – doing without all those things one was used to at home. But in none of the "pioneering" places he had yet experienced was that sense of deprivation so tangible. One day, while walking through the local market with Gloria, she paused outside a shop, looking long at a couple of figurines in the window – a pair of green gazelles, made from some metal. He knew from the wistful expression on her face that she would dearly love to buy them, but they were a luxury that her restricted budget would not permit. It was only a small thing, but he long remembered it – even making a mental note to look for something similar to send her when he reached home. He never found a pair of figurines just like those, but it stayed in his mind. It seemed symbolic of the many things that the pioneer willingly gives up for the joy of serving the Cause. But it also seemed that in Bahrein the call for "giving up" was more insistent.

Immediately following their initial meeting, and accepting Faizi's advice the visitor moved into a local "Arab" hotel – a move strongly cautioned against by the airways people but a place which he found not only safe but most hospitable and friendly. On Faizi's suggestion, over breakfast the following morning he made it known to the owner/manager, a local Arab businessman, that although coming from a Western Christian background, as a Bahá'í he had also embraced a firm belief in Muhammad as the Messenger of God. He was impressed, as Faizi knew he would be.

Over the next few days he also met the several families of pioneers who made up the community living on the islands of Manama and Moharraq, and together formed a warm and loving community which the young visitor found truly unique in its unity – united to such a degree that, while he ate in a different home each evening during that short visit, he found it impossible to identify in whose home he was, such was the warmth of their hospitality, each one eager to serve the guest no matter whose home it was. This also seemed to him to be a reflection of the sweetness, of the love and spirit of service that Faizi constantly demonstrated in all his actions. It was as though the spirit of the individual, who was looked up to as an example for all, had been stamped upon the community itself, each person vying with the other in acts of service.

In the love and all-pervading feeling of unity which seemed to characterise this community of believers the visitor could glimpse some hint of what the beloved Guardian had meant when he spoke of "another pilgrimage with Faizi". Though not yet appointed a Hand of the Cause, already "sanctified and detached from earthly things" his daily actions were "to diffuse" among the friends those "Divine Fragrances" that are a hallmark of the Holy Places. Through his example, Faizi had brought into being a community which gave the young visitor an unforgettable vision of how man will live in the future.

Among them were the Náteq brothers, Ehsán and Rúhu'lláh, both university graduates operating together a small radio-repair shop in order to survive in their pioneering post, who had married two sisters, Parvin and Kokab, eager to pioneer – and for young girls this was the only way possible – along with their mother, Soreyyeh, and Kokab's small baby, all of them living in the one small home. There were Manuchre and Sháhnaz Agáhi – "Jet" the friends called him, for his fast driving; Ehsán and Manijeh Esfaháni, who gave the visitor a treasured copy of the Rubiyyat; Hussain Rafieh – they called him "Refrigerator", always bundled up in an overcoat despite what was, to the visitor, a mild winter climate. There were others – Heshmatu'lláh and Minoo Sabet; Ráhmatu'lláh Jaberi, the carpenter; and a number of other families – the Ansáris, the Azádis, the Shaykhizádehs, the Rawhánis, and the Abdurahimzádehs – and so many beautiful children, all families who had followed Faizi and Gloria to this pioneering outpost in the Persian Gulf and created, as though it were a reflection of his all-encompassing love, a community that was, to the visitor, a glimpse of what the future world will be. He also met one day an old believer – Mr Saroosh who, dressed in Arab garb, was practising to act and look like an itinerant Arab healer, in preparation for pioneering deeper into Arabia. This he was planning to do soon, on foot and with a small box of local medicines. These were all pioneers from Iran, inspired to follow and emulate the one they loved so dearly.

And there were some others: Ahmad Mohseni and his wife, Lamieh, with their four sweet children – these were the only "local" believers to have joined the Faith during the thirteen years that Faizi and Gloria had been at their pioneering post, whose declaration had caused such great trauma for the whole community and almost brought about their expulsion from the island – but that is another story told elsewhere.

There was another believer whom he met – but secretly, as her declaration had not been made known to the community, such was the ever-present danger and threat of persecution under which they all lived. As Faizi had remarked, "Knowledge the friends do not have cannot be demanded of them". This was a middle-aged lady, wife of a wealthy Arab merchant who was aware of her acceptance of Bahá'u'lláh and was prepared to permit it, so long as it was not made public knowledge. Hence the need for secrecy as a protection for the community – he had indeed threatened to have them all expelled if word of it ever leaked out. But as the visitor was returning from a meeting with the Guardian, it was arranged for him to visit with her briefly, to share with her the spirit of that meeting, Faizi and Gloria translating and conversing with her in French.

One quality which the visitor had perceived in Faizi at their initial meeting in Australia was an almost super-human expression of humility, a total lack of the 'ego' that separates man from the animal, and is his ultimate spiritual downfall. Indeed it was precisely this that attracted him so strongly to this remarkable man – and, through this, to the Faith itself. During the days of his visit with him in Bahrein, time and time again he was to witness examples of this distinguishing quality. And yet, along with this, there was in him a distinct air of nobility; he walked like a prince and, when he walked through the market, others seemed to step aside as if to pay their respects to this kingly figure. Gloria had remarked to him that Faizi bore himself like a 'prince' with a dignity that surpassed that of the local sheiks, proud and arrogant as they were. And it was true – he had noticed this himself. It was a combination of qualities that amazed the young visitor. Often he thought: "This is what it must have been like to be in the presence of the Master". Though he well knew that Faizi would have rejected the comparison, it was the only one he could find, and the thought never left him.

Walking together through the local market one day, Faizi paused alongside a disabled man in a makeshift wheelchair, spoke a few kind words in Arabic and quietly dropped a few coins into his lap. A few steps further on he stopped and almost apologetically said, "He did not really beg for it, did he." His remark was a little lost on the young visitor, unaware at the time of Bahá'u'lláh's injunction against giving to beggars. But later he realized the import of Faizi's action and comment: that he knew the person's circumstances and out of the pure love that he felt for all human beings he wished to help him. It was just what 'Abdu'l-Bahá would have done.

So many incidents and actions bear witness to his self-effacement: his insistence that he have no title, even preferring to be known simply as "Faizi" without any title whatsoever – and indeed that is how he is being referred to in the record of this visit, out of respect for that expressed wish of his. It is also seen in his desire that nothing in connection with his own life ever be celebrated, not even remembering his own birth-date, feeling unworthy to mention it, wishing only to celebrate the birthdays of the "Most Exalted" and the "All-Glorious" – the twin Manifestations of God.

Another example of this deep and sincere humility that Faizi demonstration in his life came to the visitor at a later stopover, in Bombay. There a couple of the youth had been asked to take care of the needs of the visitor, and one of them told him that at the time of the New Delhi Conference she had been made responsible for meeting and looking after overseas visitors, and one of these had been a believer from Bahrein Island. In her youthful enthusiasm and knowing it was a rather primitive place and someone coming from there probably knew little English, on meeting him at the airport she spoke to him with very simple words, and he replied in similar language. Feeling rather pleased with herself for handling so well a difficult situation, she was later shocked to see her visitor on the conference platform, not only speaking in fluent and beautiful English but translating so skillfully the talks of others. She realised then that Faizi – who was 'her' visitor of the day before – though himself very fluent in English, had responded to her in the same way as she had spoken, simply so as not to hurt her feelings or embarrass her. From this experience she shared the young boy's amazement that any human being could demonstrate such humility.

Faizi's humility was shown to the friends in so many ways. Years later, in 1975, the young visitor's wife was in Haifa on pilgrimage and with a group of friends – one of them showering praises on Faizi and the other Hands, and questioning him about their station. His response was both touching and instructive: "We must not think too much about 'station' – we are all servants of the Blessed Beauty, working together for the Cause". He also begged the friends present in that gathering not to praise the Hands of the Cause. "Hearing the praise of the friends is not good for us", he said. At a conference in Melbourne in 1969, he had said that we should "empty ourselves of all self and ego. Then Bahá’u’lláh will guide our steps".

Often in his talks with the friends he compared human ego to a sharp knife, and life's journey to a person climbing a steep cliff on a rope: at any time during that climb, he said, the knife could cut the rope, even if one were near to the top of the climb. It was obvious to those close to him, and even those who met him only briefly, that the edge of his own 'knife' was dulled and blunt through a life of conscious self-effacement.

Another quality that was an over-arching theme in Faizi's life – and was glimpsed briefly by the visitor in their initial meeting at Faizi's home – was his absolute obedience to the wishes of the beloved Guardian. He was told during his visit of the trauma that Ahmad Mohseni's declaration had caused for the community some years previously. After twelve long years in their pioneering post, he was the first in Bahrein to declared his belief in Bahá'u'lláh – and he was not even of the local Arab community but a descendant of Iranians who had settled there some generations before. This had caused such an upheaval that the authorities had ordered that all the Bahá'ís must leave the island.

By this time Faizi had long since lost his job with the Anglo-Iranian oil company, solely because of his adherence to a religion that was considered "an heretical sect" and was teaching English privately. One among the locals who was not happy with his imminent departure was the British Agent, an official filling the role of ambassador or trade consul for Britain, whose son was one of Faizi's students. Eager to help in his predicament but seemingly powerless, he was lamenting with Faizi the threat of losing his services as a teacher and assumed that, because of the time they had been living there, he would no longer have his Iranian nationality.

One of the firm instructions that the Guardian had given Faizi when he first pioneered to Bahrein – and to all those who were seeking to serve the Cause in the Arabian region – was that they should never give up their Iranian nationality, no matter how much difficulty this may cause them. Faizi and the others had followed this instruction to the letter and had held onto their Iranian passport, adhering strictly to the wishes of Shoghi Effendi. When this was mentioned to the British Agent he was so happy, exclaiming that because they were 'foreign nationals' they came under his jurisdiction, and not that of the civil authorities – and so he was able to countermand the order for their expulsion. Gloria told the visitor that, all through, she had refused to prepare or pack for their departure, firmly convinced that some way to stay would be found, as indeed it was – through their strict obedience to the instructions of the Guardian.

Another characteristic that the friends really enjoyed in Faizi was his keen sense of humour, derived from his great joy of life. The visitor had witnessed this during his first brief meeting with Faizi at the summer school in Australia where he and Mr Furútan met with all those friends whom they did not actually travel to visit. He saw it again during his visit to Bahrein and later when they were travelling together in the north island of Japan in 1967. At the hotel in Sapporo where they were staying the cleaning lady had accidentally thrown out his medication and he needed to cut short his visit and return to Tokyo where further supplies could be obtained. He told the friends gathered in the village of Shiraoi, where many of the Ainu people had joined the Faith, that he could not be with them for a large gathering the following day and said: "Dear friends, you know that in His book of law Bahá'u'lláh has forbidden the 'kissing of hands'. This is why the Guardian has given us the Auxiliary Board members" indicating one who was present. "Please, you kiss him instead".

Over the years after he left Bahrein Island the young visitor kept in touch with the one whose life he tried in vain to emulate. Occasional letters were received, usually just when they were most needed. Once when difficulties of ego were being experienced in the small community where he was then living, in far northern Australia, a letter was received which provided the very guidance and spiritual sustenance that was needed. It was written from Paris, France, where Faizi had been sent by the Hands in the Holy Land to resolve the unfortunate disturbance that had been caused through Mason Remey's false claims and defection. In it Faizi wrote of the difficulties communities often experience by our being too concerned over the actions of others. He drew the analogy of the Paris Metro – the fast and very efficient underground rail system in that city – and someone complaining over a single cigarette butt left on the seat of a carriage, yet ignoring the marvelous efficiency of the rail system itself, comparing this to our anxiety over some small omission on the part of the friends while not appreciating the majesty and efficacy of the system that Bahá'u'lláh has brought. He wrote, on 23rd June 1960:

    "Yesterday a friend was talking to me about some very insignificant mistake of a member of one of the committees and he was so insistent that he was urging me to take his voting right because of a very little mistake. We were crossing Paris in the underground Metro which are really wonders of speed, exact timing and practicability, when our friend emptied his heart. I told him: 'My dear brother, your statement resembles that of a person who puts aside all this exact, quick and regular movements of the Metro and how very useful it is for the people, and spends his whole time on a stub of a cigarette which some- one by mistake has left on the bench. You see hundreds of people come and go, and each one has a destination towards which he is hurrying and the Metros are taking them to different directions with wonderful rapidity and really miraculous exactitude. No one looks at the dead cigarette on the bench.

    Now the whole world is crying out of hunger that they have for their share of this bread of life. The banquet is spread by the mighty hands of Bahá'u'lláh and people are gathering round it. Some find the food delicious and they still want more. Some do not touch the table. Some do not even approach. Now in the midst of all such great chances of service, sacrifice and winning victory for the Cause, do you want me to waste my time for some very insignificant matter which does not have any bearing on the main problem of the Cause?'

    …. if you have any power in yourself, try to make the believers everywhere to turn their hearts and attentions towards the glory, majesty and immensity of the Cause. It is the day promised by all the Prophets of God. Did they want us to waste the precious hours of such a great Day on petty problems? It is the Day when the secrets of earth will be revealed, the secrets of hearts and souls will be opened, the tremendous powers of God are released and mankind will be able to know the secrets of everything, and this handful of dust will become a mirror of the Kingdom on High."

In that same letter he also spoke of the effects that Mason Remey's unfortunate actions had on the friends in France – the only national assembly to give support to Remey's claim. [On this episode, see Robert Stockman's encyclopedia article Remey, Charles Mason.]

    "My trip to Paris took place on the occasion of Mason's unfounded claim and the misunderstanding which was caused by some foolish, unripe and childish members of the French NSA. … three members, due to their hatred against some people, united together and won two other members to their own side and thus got the majority of the NSA and decided to accept Mason as the 2nd Guardian. This very step led them to many other foolish steps which they were forced to take afterwards and thus cause so much trouble for themselves and for the newly enrolled believers in France. …

    Thanks to God that the news reached Haifa and they sent me immediately to France. First the NSA was met and the five disloyal members resigned, the NSA was dissolved, then I went to every center in France, saw the friends, talked to them, made every point clear and then advised them to go on with the election of a new NSA."

Faizi referred to this unfortunate incident some years later, in a way that reflected so clearly his great love and compassion for all the believers, writing that the Hands in the Holy Land still "hoped that Mason would repent" of his action, and the Hands "would welcome him back into the Faith". Of course, he never did. He himself felt that Mason Remey's actions had been a result of the mental stress brought on by Shoghi Effendi's untimely passing. He was always willing to forgive, even in this extreme circumstance.

Another overriding quality that had deeply impressed the young visitor in all his meetings with Faizi was his absolute submission to the Will of God and to the wishes of the beloved Guardian. Faizi himself expressed this so beautifully in a letter written some time after that most traumatic of all happenings, for the Hands of the Cause and for all the believers around the world. He wrote, in June 1958:

    "Tomorrow will be one complete year that I am far from Bahrein, the lovely friends and their children. Believe me, I am at a loss how to relate the story of this past year. All through, I had been like a bush thrown on the torrent of the Will of God and carried about.

    On the 27th of June 1957, I went out of Bahrein to go to Kuwait for the NSA meeting and I promised my wife, children and friends that I would return within 10 to 20 days. In the last session of the NSA, even after the final prayer, suddenly some one suggested that I should go to Teheran and discuss many of the NSA problems with the NSA of Persia and return after 20 days. I sent a telegram to Bahrein and informed them of my 20 day trip to Teheran. In Teheran they asked me to teach about two weeks in the summer school. The SS was ended and then I was asked to make a trip to Germany … to see the Persian youths. Again I informed Bahrein of my two months trip to Europe. I was touring in Germany when they again asked me to participate in the summer school in Switzerland. It was most wonderful to be there and when finished I returned to Germany to resume my trip, and it was in Frankfurt that I heard the saddest news of the whole world and flew to London, whence I came here [Haifa] and have to stay at least till ' 63.

    I had no will of myself in any of these events. They came over me just like waves of the ocean of the mighty Will of God."

As always, this letter was accompanied by a small packet of pressed flowers, beautifully arranged on the card like a Persian carpet. It was just another expression of Faizi's warmth and caring for each of the friends.

While always knowing in his heart that it was Faizi who had brought him into the Faith, the visitor had never spoken of this to him, and yet years later it was confirmed in an unexpected way. Both happened to be in Japan at the same time – this was in late 1967 - and he was attending a gathering of the friends in Tokyo where Faizi was already present. As he entered the room one of the pioneers in Japan called to Faizi that a visitor from Australia had arrived, asking, "Do you know him?" Faizi responded as he walked towards the entrance, "Know him? I brought him into the Faith". He also had known that at their first meeting in 1953 he had touched a heart that could never be the same again. During the years of his later travels so many souls around the world were to be touched in the same way by Faizi, by his ineffable sweetness and love, and become one of his countless "spiritual children".

That, then, are some of the memories that remain of those days. We all learned so much from Mr Faizi, from the huge store of knowledge and understanding he possessed. During his first visit to Australia in 1953, he spoke to around 70 of the friends gathered at the annual summer school at Yerrinbool. Amongst those were a number who would soon be on their way to pioneering posts in the Pacific, filling goals that would earn them the title of Knights of Bahá’u’lláh. He spoke of ‘history’ and what it means; of the early history of the Jewish faith, of Christianity and of Islam – and all this in preparation for several sessions on Nabil’s Dawn-breakers, opening vistas of understanding so new to most of those gathered there, and giving the Australian believers precious background knowledge of Islam and the teachings of Muhammad.

Reporting later on his talks, the school committee recorded that all “were absorbed with rapt attention – a new horizon opened, flooding hearts with devotion and awe”. The committee also reported on the success of the school to the Guardian and received, in response, through his secretary: “He was very happy that the honoured Hand of the Cause, Mr Furútan, and Mr Faizi, could be with you at this session … and he is sure they were the cause of great happiness and deep enkindlement of the friends present.”

Mr Faizi’s knowledge of the teachings and history of Islam was vast – as one might well expect, because that was the cultural milieu in which he grew up – but his knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith was also far greater than one might expect. Coming from a ‘Christian’ background, I found I was learning so much from him about the religion that was basic to my own background. He was a ‘true’ student of religion – all religion without barrier – and had read widely. History was also his passion, and he suggested historians who were impartial in their assessment, uninfluenced by national interests. He recommended Thomas Carlyle, Will Durant and Toynbee, as historians who were free from prejudice.

On his next visit to Australia late in 1969, he spoke at the first Counsellors’ Conference in Melbourne on his ‘special’ topic: the importance of child education. He compared the mind of man to a precious jewel which needs to be polished and spoke of the three kinds of education: physical, human and divine, saying that we must understand the difference between education and instruction, which was simply the transfer of knowledge from one person to another. He stressed that human knowledge must go hand in hand with divine knowledge and it is more important to commence a child’s education with training in manners, politeness and kindliness. Without this, he said, science and knowledge can be a deadly poison. Mr Faizi said that the greatest crime a Bahá’í can commit is not giving a child religious education, leaving the child to find its own way. And this education should start when the child is in the womb, with the mother’s prayers – as the reading of the Words of Bahá’u’lláh influences the soul of the unborn child.

Mr Faizi had a great love for children; he saw in them the future of the Cause – and it disturbed him greatly that many parents in the West – at least in Australia – had mistakenly ‘neglected’ their children’s education on the grounds of “independent investigation of the truth”, feeling that a child must be given the freedom to choose and, in the process, neglecting to give them any spiritual guidance at all. On his first visit to Australia he had seen the result of this in the failure of a number of the grown children of the early Bahá’ís in Australia to follow the faith of their parents, and he alerted us to this danger. His clarification of this important issue had a very beneficial effect on the Australian community.

A few weeks later in Japan we heard him assure a group of the friends, including a number of pioneers, that wherever he had travelled he had found that any deprivation that the pioneers may suffer or feel they are submitting their children to had never had any adverse effect on the children – they had never suffered any disadvantage from their parents’ pioneering.

On many occasions we were able to directly observe his love and affinity for children. One morning – while we were staying in the same hotel in Hokkaido, Japan, in 1967 – we found him offering our eighteen-month-old daughter sugar cubes from the dining-room table, which she of course relished. Wherever he was, if children were present, he would always pay them due attention, talking with them and drawing out the shy ones – attention to which they always responded, and no doubt remembered as they grew older.

Addressing the conference, he told the friends that the main purpose of his visit was to deepen the friends and stressed the importance of the Hidden Words which he called “a nucleus of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh” because it represents “the embryonic stage of the universal plan of God to help man on his spiritual journey”. During his visit he conducted deepening sessions on studying the Hidden Words, suggesting that each verse be identified as red and green traffic lights, indicating when we must ‘stop’ from taking a certain action and when it is permissible to ‘go’ ahead – it was a topic which he was heard speaking about on a number of occasions in communities throughout the world.

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