contact with officials and notables whom they could approach; through attempts, made through bribery and intimidation, to purchase a part of the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh; through efforts directed at preventing the acquisition by the Bahá'í community of certain properties situated in the vicinity of the Tomb of the Báb, and at frustrating the design to consolidate the foundation of some of these properties by transferring their title-deeds to incorporated Bahá'í assemblies, they continued to labor intermittently for several years until the extinction of the life of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant himself virtually sealed their doom.
The evacuation of the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh by these Covenant-breakers, after their unchallenged occupancy of it since His ascension, a Mansion which, through their gross neglect, had fallen into a sad state of disrepair; its subsequent complete restoration, fulfilling a long cherished desire of `Abdu'l-Bahá; its illumination through an electric plant installed by an American believer for that purpose; the refurnishing of all its rooms after it had been completely denuded by its former occupants of all the precious relics it contained, with the exception of a single candlestick in the room where Bahá'u'lláh had ascended; the collection within its walls of Bahá'í historic documents, of relics and of over five thousand volumes of Bahá'í literature, in no less than forty languages; the extension to it of the exemption from government taxes, already granted to other Bahá'í institutions and properties in Akká and on Mt. Carmel; and finally, its conversion from a private residence to a center of pilgrimage visited by Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike--these served to further dash the hopes of those who were still desperately striving to extinguish the light of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. Furthermore, the success later achieved in purchasing and safeguarding the area forming the precincts of the resting-place of the Báb on Mt. Carmel, and the transfer of the title-deeds of some of these properties to the legally constituted Palestine Branch of the American Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly, no less than the circumstances attending the death of the one who had been the prime mover of mischief throughout `Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry, demonstrated to these enemies the futility of their efforts and the hopelessness of their cause.
Of a more serious nature, and productive of still greater repercussions, was the unlawful seizure by the Shí'ahs of Iraq, at about the same time that the keys of the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh were wrested by the Covenant-breakers from its keeper, of yet another Bahá'í Shrine, the House occupied by Bahá'u'lláh for well nigh the whole period of
His exile in Iraq, which had been acquired by Him, and later had been ordained as a center of pilgrimage, and had continued in the unbroken and undisputed possession of His followers ever since His departure from Baghdád. This crisis, originating about a year prior to `Abdu'l-Bahá's ascension, and precipitated by the measures which, after the change of regime in Iraq, had, according to His instructions, been taken for the reconstruction of that House, acquired as it developed a steadily widening measure of publicity. It became the object of the consideration of successive tribunals, first of the local Shí'ah Ja'faríyyih court in Baghdád, second of the Peace court, then the court of First Instance, then of the court of Appeal in Iraq, and finally of the League of Nations, the greatest international body yet come into existence, and empowered to exercise supervision and control over all Mandated Territories. Though as yet unresolved through a combination of causes, religious as well as political, it has already remarkably fulfilled Bahá'u'lláh's own prediction, and will, in its own appointed time, as the means for its solution are providentially created, fulfill the high destiny ordained for it by Him in His Tablets. Long before its seizure by fanatical enemies, who had no conceivable claim to it whatever, He had prophesied that "it shall be so abased in the days to come as to cause tears to flow from every discerning eye."
The Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Baghdád, deprived of the use of that sacred property through an adverse decision by a majority of the court of Appeal, which had reversed the verdict of the lower court and awarded the property to the Shí'ahs, and aroused by subsequent action of the Shí'ahs, soon after the execution of the judgment of that court, in converting the building into waqf property (pious foundation), designating it "Husayníyyih," with the purpose of consolidating their gain, realized the futility of the three years of negotiations they had been conducting with the civil authorities in Baghdád for the righting of the wrong inflicted upon them. In their capacity as the national representatives of the Bahá'ís of Iraq, they, therefore, on September 11, 1928, through the High Commissioner for Iraq and in conformity with the provisions of Art. 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, approached the League's Permanent Mandates Commission, charged with the supervision of the administration of all Mandated Territories, and presented a petition that was accepted and approved by that body in November, 1928. A memorandum submitted, in connection with that petition, to that same Commission, by the Mandatory Power unequivocally stated that the Shí'ahs had "no conceivable claim
whatever" to the House, that the decision of the judge of the Ja'faríyyih court was "obviously wrong," "unjust" and "undoubtedly actuated by religious prejudice," that the subsequent ejectment of the Bahá'ís was "illegal," that the action of the authorities had been "highly irregular," and that the verdict of the Court of Appeal was suspected of not being "uninfluenced by political consideration."
"The Commission," states the Report submitted by it to the Council of the League, and published in the Minutes of the 14th session of the Permanent Mandates Commission, held in Geneva in the fall of 1928, and subsequently translated into Arabic and published in Iraq, "draws the Council's attention to the considerations and conclusions suggested to it by an examination of the petition... It recommends that the Council should ask the British Government to make representations to the Iraq Government with a view to the immediate redress of the denial of justice from which the petitioners have suffered."
The British accredited representative present at the sessions of the Commission, furthermore, stated that "the Mandatory Power had recognized that the Bahá'ís had suffered an injustice," whilst allusion was made, in the course of that session, to the fact that the action of the Shí'ahs constituted a breach of the constitution and the Organic Law of Iraq. The Finnish representative, moreover, in his report to the Council, declared that this "injustice must be attributed solely to religious passion," and asked that "the petitioner's wrongs should be redressed."
The Council of the League, on its part, having considered this report as well as the joint observations and conclusions of the Commission, unanimously adopted, on March 4, 1929, a resolution, subsequently translated and published in the newspapers of Baghdád, directing the Mandatory Power "to make representations to the Government of Iraq with a view to the immediate redress of the injustice suffered by the Petitioners." It instructed, accordingly, the Secretary General to bring to the notice of the Mandatory Power, as well as to the petitioners concerned, the conclusions arrived at by the Commission, an instruction which was duly transmitted by the British Government through its High Commissioner to the Iraq Government.
A letter dated January 12, 1931, written on behalf of the British Foreign Minister, Mr. Arthur Henderson, addressed to the League Secretariat, stated that the conclusions reached by the Council had "received the most careful consideration by the Government of Iraq," who had "finally decided to set up a special committee ... to consider
the views expressed by the Bahá'í community in respect of certain houses in Baghdád, and to formulate recommendations for an equitable settlement of this question." That letter, moreover, pointed out that the committee had submitted its report in August, 1930, that it had been accepted by the government, that the Bahá'í community had "accepted in principle" its recommendations, and that the authorities in Baghdád had directed that "detailed plans and estimates shall be prepared with a view to carrying these recommendations into effect during the coming financial year."
No need to dwell on the subsequent history of this momentous case, on the long-drawn out negotiations, the delays and complications that ensued; on the consultations, "over a hundred" in number, in which the king, his ministers and advisers took part; on the expressions of "regret," of "surprise" and of "anxiety" placed on record at successive sessions of the Mandates Commission held in Geneva in 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1933; on the condemnation by its members of the "spirit of intolerance" animating the Shí'ah community, of the "partiality" of the Iráqí courts, of the "weakness" of the civil authorities and of the "religious passion at the bottom of this injustice"; on their testimony to the "extremely conciliatory disposition" of the petitioners, on their "doubt" regarding the adequacy of the proposals, and on their recognition of the "serious" character of the situation that had been created, of the "flagrant denial of justice" which the Bahá'ís had suffered, and of the "moral debt" which the Iraq Government had contracted, a debt which, whatever the changes in her status as a nation, it was her bounden duty to discharge.
Nor does it seem necessary to expatiate on the unfortunate consequences of the untimely death of both the British High Commissioner and the Iráqí Prime Minister; on the admission of Iraq as a member of the League, and the consequent termination of the mandate held by Great Britain; on the tragic and unexpected death of the King himself; on the difficulties raised owing to the existence of a town planning scheme; on the written assurance conveyed to the High Commissioner by the acting Premier in his letter of January, 1932; on the pledge given by the King, prior to his death, in the presence of the foreign minister, in February, 1933, that the House would be expropriated, and the necessary sum would be appropriated in the spring of the ensuing year; on the categorical statement made by that same foreign minister that the Prime Minister had given the necessary assurances that the promise already made by the acting
Premier would be redeemed; or on the positive statements made by that same Foreign Minister and his colleague, the Minister of Finance, when representing their country during the sessions of the League Assembly held in Geneva, that the promise given by their late King would be fully honored.
Suffice it to say that, despite these interminable delays, protests and evasions, and the manifest failure of the Authorities concerned to implement the recommendations made by both the Council of the League and the Permanent Mandates Commission, the publicity achieved for the Faith by this memorable litigation, and the defense of its cause--the cause of truth and justice--by the world's highest tribunal, have been such as to excite the wonder of its friends and to fill with consternation its enemies. Few episodes, if any, since the birth of the Formative Age of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, have given rise to repercussions in high places comparable to the effect produced on governments and chancelleries by this violent and unprovoked assault directed by its inveterate enemies against one of its holiest sanctuaries.
"Grieve not, O House of God," Bahá'u'lláh Himself has significantly written, "if the veil of thy sanctity be rent asunder by the infidels. God hath, in the world of creation, adorned thee with the jewel of His remembrance. Such an ornament no man can, at any time, profane. Towards thee the eyes of thy Lord shall, under all conditions, remain directed." "In the fullness of time," He, in another passage, referring to that same House, has prophesied, "the Lord shall, by the power of truth, exalt it in the eyes of all men. He shall cause it to become the Standard of His Kingdom, the Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful."
To the bold onslaught made by the breakers of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh in their concerted efforts to secure the custodianship of His holy Tomb, to the arbitrary seizure of His holy House in Baghdád by the Shí'ah community of Iraq, was to be added, a few years later, yet another grievous assault launched by a still more powerful adversary, directed against the very fabric of the Administrative Order as established by two long-flourishing Bahá'í communities of the East, culminating in the virtual disruption of these communities and the seizure of the first Mashriqu'l-Adhkár of the Bahá'í world and of the few accessory institutions already reared about it.
The courage, the fervor and the spiritual vitality evinced by these communities; the highly organized state of their administrative institutions; the facilities provided for the religious education and training
unframe page frame page