by Necati Alkanpublished in Encyclopaedia Iranica
New York: Columbia University, 2012
MEDḤAT PASHA, a liberal Ottoman statesman of the 19th century, who served both as provincial governor and grand vizier (b. Istanbul, 18 October 1822; d. Ṭāʾef, 8 May 1884).
Medḥat, whose real name was Ahmed Şefik (Aḥmad Šafiq), was called “father of the liberals.” He displayed tolerance toward other religions on several occasions, as in the case of the Bahais and the Noṣayris. For instance, while passing through Mosul in the beginning of his governorship of Baghdad (1869-72), he set free seventy exiled Bahais who had been subject to maltreatment(Māzandarāni, p. 62; Alkan, p. 109). Later, when Nāṣer-al-Din Shah intended to visit the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf in 1870 (Medḥat Pasha, 1325, I, pp. 95-96), the Persian foreign minister, considering security, asked the Ottoman authorities for the removal of the Babis from Baghdad (Medḥat Pasha, I, pp. 95-96). The acting British consul in Baghdad at that time, having heard the rumour that the order had been issued for the imprisonment of the Babis in Baghdad, asked Medḥat Pasha about the situation. The latter wrote that he had received orders from Istanbul to take measures in order to prevent any occurrence that might endanger the safety of the shah. Therefore, he asked the Babis to leave the city for some time, and he also offered financial assistance to those who might be without the means of traveling. He added that he himself was reluctant to persecute good subjects of the empire and did not have problems with their religious ideas (Momen, p. 267; Alkan, p. 110).
Medḥat Pasha was governor of the Syrian province (1878-80) when he met ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ ʿAbbās Effendi in ʿAkkā, Palestine in May 1880. ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ had been in contact with like-minded Ottoman reformers, and it was probably through them that Medḥat had heard about him. Medḥat Pasha, apparently impressed by ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ’s character and erudition, invited him to Beirut, the provincial capital, which the latter then visited in June 1880. The contact with Medḥat Pasha is regarded from the Bahai viewpoint as beneficial to the prestige of the Bahai faith (Shoghi Effendi, p. 242; Balyuzi, 1971, pp. 37-38; idem, 1991, p. 378; Alkan, pp. 111-14).
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