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TAGS: Abul-Qasim Faizi; Agnes Alexander; Ali Akbar Furutan; Amatul-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum; Clara Hyde Dunn; Collis Featherstone; Enoch Olinga; Hands of the Cause; Jalal Khazeh; John Robarts; Leroy Ioas; Rahmatullah Muhajir; Ugo Giachery; William Sears
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Hands of the Cause of God:
Personal Recollections

by Bill Washington

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Chapter 8

Dr Rahmátu’lláh Muhajir

My first hearing about Dr Muhajir was from Collis Featherstone when he returned from the first Conclave of the Hands of the Cause in November 1958. Collis spoke of some of the Hands whom we both knew or I had met briefly, and then said there was a young Persian there, a pioneer to Mentawai Islands: he was a ‘real dynamo’, enthused and fully ‘charged’ with teaching the Faith. Mr Featherstone was deeply impressed with this fellow Hand of the Cause whom he had met for the first time, and his impression and how he described him left an indelible mark on my memory. At that time he was just another name on the list of Knights of Bahá’u’lláh who had gone out to conquer the world in 1953 but, catching something of Collis’s enthusiasm, his name remained as someone really special.

My next recollection of Dr Muhajir was through a transcript of a talk he had given at the Indian summer school and teaching conference in Deolali, India, in October 1958. The transcript had been sent to Shapoor Soheili, with whom I had shared my first pioneering experience in New Caledonia – we were both there in 1956, trying to open the virgin goal of Loyalty Islands – and I had kept in close touch with him when I later spent time in the New Hebrides.

In his talk to the friends gathered at that Indian summer school, Dr Muhajir had stressed that teaching the Faith was now so easy. He said: “Teaching of the Faith means to give the life to the people … the fruit within us should be conveyed by our own spirit … It is very easy … It should be conveyed from our hearts and it will be easy for us to teach … we have this light of guidance within us and, since we are Bahá’ís, we can give it to others.”

He mentioned two things that we must avoid: pride and timidity or lack of courage. He said: “We should never think that we are the ones who teach. … it is Bahá’u’lláh Who teaches the Cause.” He quoted the Guardian: “If the greatest teacher thinks for a moment in the heart of his heart that he is changing the hearts of the people, his downfall will begin from that very same moment.” He said that this was the “reason why sometimes the great and revered teachers cannot do anything but a simple man, without having any knowledge and prominence in any respect, teaches the Faith very much because of his humility, and Bahá’u’lláh works through him”.

Indicating that the second thing to be avoided “can be found in all of us – that is, being afraid to give the Message of God”, he said that “a pure heart is required. Good intention is also required to teach the Cause … we are asked to rise and forget ourselves and only be mindful of Bahá’u’lláh. It means forget yourselves and have no pride, except devotion and the intention to serve Bahá’u’lláh and also make your heart to reflect the light of Bahá’u’lláh …”

He stressed very much this issue of “intention” – he said: “if you want to go out for teaching, your intention must be teaching alone. Do not think you can teach and do shopping also. When you go for teaching, you must go for teaching alone and nothing else … when you pack your clothes, your intention should be teaching only. Even, Bahá’u’lláh says, that when in the same city, if you go from one house to another for teaching, on the way you should think of teaching.”

He then related a story that came from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, saying that we must remember it always, as “it will lead you to the way of teaching”.

“Nabílzádeh, one of the teachers who had also come to India, once was in the presence of the beloved Master. The Master told him to go to India and Persia to teach the Faith. Then he started crying bitterly and said: ‘How could I be worthy to teach?’ The master embraced him and said: ‘I will give you the key of teaching. When you intend teaching somebody, you must love him first and, when you love him, he would also love you. When he loves you, then your words will influence him. This is the key to teaching that I am giving you’.”

My first personal contact with Dr Muhajir came in the early 1970s, while we were living in Melbourne and the community there was actively engaged in teaching. A number of Hands of the Cause came through Melbourne in those days, each adding his own brand of spiritual inspiration. On his first visit Dr Muhajir had encouraged the community to engage in what he termed ‘saturation teaching’ – the campaign was based around a gradual spread of the teaching work to nearby country towns along the three main roads leading out of Melbourne. First would come letterboxing of the whole town with teaching material and invitations to a public meeting the following weekend; then the public meeting, supported by ‘street teaching’ – actively inviting individuals to attend the meeting or accept some teaching material to start their enquiries. The activity was ‘time’ intensive but it worked to some degree; certainly it drew the community together in a common focus. And each time Dr Muhajir came through – as he did several times during that period – he would expect reports on what had been done (which was a stimulus to do as much as we possibly could). And each time he would have some new suggestion to vary the plan. It seemed to us that in his travels, he would pick up ideas of teaching activity that ‘worked’ and pass those ideas on to the friends in the next place he stopped – and his stops were very brief. Each time we would have a community gathering for him to address and I remember that his focus was always on’ teaching’. He was always very simply dressed: a well-worn navy blue suit, with red jumper, and he insisted on staying at some low-priced hotel that he had found on his first visit. He avoided staying with the friends, although many offered – I felt that gave him a certain freedom of action – and one visit I remember one of the Iranian friends invited him for dinner at her home, inviting a few of the friends and preparing a lavish meal (Persian food). He declined, politely but firmly, even though the lady was almost in tears, begging him to come, but he insisted on returning to his hotel, to eat whatever. Persian rice parties were not on his program; they were not ‘teaching’.

Later during the mid-70’s, while we were living in Japan, we also saw him a number of times – we used to joke that he always came to where the Faith was struggling most – and again his visits were brief; if there were teaching activities, he stayed a while and enthused the friends; if not, he moved on quickly.

At one national convention in Japan he came and encouraged the friends to travel teach to Korea, which at that time was struggling; but he insisted that the travel teaching be done in small groups, mixing Japanese, Persian and American – not groups of the one nationality or members of the same family. He used the example of a Japanese sweet made from rice, which was very sticky and called ‘dungo’ – if two lumps came together they were difficult to separate, and he referred to the Persian friends who were very active in the teaching work, as ‘dungo’ – they always stick together; he wanted to separate them to make more effective teaching teams.

Once travelling by train, while Hiroko was accompanying him as interpreter, he picked up a can of drink from the passing refreshment trolley that moved up and down the corridor. He opened it and took a sip, then asked one of the Japanese friends in the party, “What is this?” Glancing at the can and realizing with horror what it was, he said. “It’s beer – Japanese beer.” “Hmmm,” he said, “It’s nice” - and he put the can down beside the seat, undrunk.

Usually on these visits, I remember, he would stay with Ruhi Momtazi, a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors in North-East Asia at that time, who had in his library bound volumes of photo-copied Tablets, which had been sent there for safe keeping by the Universal House of Justice. This was mid-1970’s, and the House of Justice had earlier arranged for Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, sent to many individuals in Iran, and held as family treasures, to be collected and copied into several sets – each set to be sent to a different location in the globe for safety. The originals of many of these were, of course, lost during the 1979 revolution but, through the unerring wisdom of the House of Justice, their contents were preserved. On occasions when Dr Muhajir stayed at the Montazi residence, Ruhi told us that he had great difficulty in getting Dr Muhajir to bed, to get the sleep he needed, as he would sit up all night pouring over these documents, many of which he may not have read before – such was his thirst to drink from the fountain of Revelation. And often in the morning he would mention to Ruhi some passage that had caught his attention. One such passage, I recall, was in a Tablet of Bahá’u’lláh where He said that if the Báb had not accepted to be the Manifestation of God, then Quddús was next in line – which indicates not only the extremely high station that Quddús held, but also that the Manifestation does have a choice in accepting His Mission. [Note: this is a personal recollection and interpretation of the author, which cannot be substantiated. -ed.]

On another of his visits to Japan, when he was scheduled to speak to a group of the friends in Kansai, we realized that he was not keen on having his talks recorded – in fact, he firmly declined. He said that what he had to say was valid only for that time, no need to record it for later on. The needs of the Faith would change and what he needed to say to the friends then would not be the same in times ahead. There was a certain degree of humility in it too; he felt that whatever he was saying was not really worthy of being recorded for posterity; it was just the needs of the hour that he was focused on. That is perhaps why we do not have a great deal of Dr Muhajir recorded on audio tape.

Another impression of Dr Muhajir came from Hand of the Cause Alí-Akbar Furútan who had been in the Philippines and was visiting Japan at the time – mid-1970s. He told us that while he was in Manilla he learned that Dr Muhajir was coming through for a brief visit – on his way to wherever – and he was really looking forward to seeing him and catching up on some family matters – Dr Muhajir was, of course, his son-in-law. He went out to the airport with a group of local Bahá’ís to pick up Dr Muhajir and sat with him in the car on the way back to the Bahá’í centre. He asked Dr Muhajir what his plans were for the day, and Dr Muhajir replied: “The Five Year Plan” (that was, the first Five Year Plan - 1974-79). Mr Furutan, thinking that he had not clearly understood the question, repeated, “Yes, Rahmat, but just for today, or tomorrow.” Dr Muhajir again replied: “The Five Year Plan” – he was singularly focused! Mr Furutan said that Dr Muhajir was so committed, that he could not take it; he packed and left for Japan the next day.

This was characteristic of Dr Muhajir: from day to day, he was totally focused on the teaching work. It was his life. Nothing else mattered; nothing else was of any value. His was a total commitment. His whole being was focussed on teaching the Faith – and of all those spiritual giants whose paths our lives cross at some time, I feel he most strongly epitomised the words of Bahá’u’lláh in the Gleanings:

“If they arise to teach My Cause, they must let the breath of Him Who is the Unconstrained stir them and must spread it abroad on the earth with high resolve, with minds that are wholly centred in Him, and with hearts that are completely detached from and independent of all things, and with souls that are sanctified from the world and its vanities.”

His mind was truly “wholly centred in Him” and his soul was certainly “sanctified from the world and its vanities.” Of all the Hands of the Cause whom I have had the immense bounty of meeting – with the exception of Mr Faizi who was someone really special – I think that Dr Muhajir had the greatest impact upon me, and on my life. I would have followed him anywhere; I think that if he had told me to jump in the fire, I would have quite cheerfully jumped. He was of such spiritual stature.

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