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Recollections of Pilgrimage:
Nine Days with the Guardian in 1957

by Bill Washington

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Chapter 10

Appendix III


Items in the Major Archives:

Pocket Qur'an of the Báb

Bloodstained shirt of the Báb

Original manuscript of the Kitáb-i-Íqán in ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's own handwriting, as dictated by Bahá'u'lláh

Original manuscript of the Persian Bayán, in the handwriting of the Báb's amenuensis

Original Tablets by the Báb to the Letters of the Living, and many other original Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá

Original manuscript of the Arabic Hidden Words in the handwriting of Bahá'u'lláh

Relics (hair, finger nails, etc), personal effect and clothing of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu'l-Bahá

Pen cases and ring seals

One photograph and three small paintings of Bahá'u'lláh

One small painting of the Báb

Large photograph of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, taken at the Revell home in Philadelphia, U.S.

Painting of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá, looking out over 'Akká, painted from a dream by a Polish painter of New York, and signed "A. Ivanenski"

Items in the Minor Archives:

The sword of Mullá Husayn, used at the siege of Fort Tabarsi.

Seals and original tablets of Quddús

Photographs and relics of the Holy Family and of early believers and martyrs of the Heroic Age

Appendix IV

Supplementary Achievements and Goals – additional to the Ten Year Plan

Opening of the islands of Trinidad, Pemba, Corisco and Fernando Po

60 additional languages (7 American Indian, 25 African, 28 Pacific and others)

Mashriqu'l-Adkhár for Sydney and Kampala (goal)

Temple sites purchase in London (England) and Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Hazíratu'l-Quds in Serecunda (West Africa)

Land for summer school in Chile and Baghdád (Iraq)

Bahá'í burial ground in Tripoli and Tanganyika

Transfer of the body of the Báb's son to a Bahá'í burial ground in Shíráz (Iran)

Establishment of historic sites in the Holy Land and Adrianople

Bahá'í schools in Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Mentawai and New Hebrides

Appendix V

Anecdotes from Jessie Revell, Leroy Ioas, and Habib Sabet

Comments made by Jessie Revell to the pilgrims gathered after dinner one evening:

The Guardian and Rúhíyyih Khánum were married about 1937, and Jessie Revell knew of no family (children) and feels that there could be none. Although Rúhíyyih Khánum was confined very closely to the home in the first three years, there were always some of the servants about. The feeling at the World Centre was that this will be provided for in the Guardian's Will and Testament.

All the Guardian's family, even his parents, had deserted him during the years after his appointment as Guardian (although his parents were never declared Covenant-breakers). This was the reason that Mason Remey, Amelia Collins, Leroy and Sylvia Ioas, and she and her sister Ethel (Revell) were called to Haifa to assist with the administrative work. At that time – around 1948-49 – he was alone at the World Centre with only Rúhíyyih Khánum and a few faithful servants.

For two or three years after the passing of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá and the appointment of the Guardian, and before Shoghi Effendi took over permanently in Haifa (he was studying at Oxford, England, and after the passing of the Master, he had been very ill), the progress of the Faith was directed by the Greatest Holy Leaf (Bahíyyih Khánum) who was the only close member of ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's family to adhere to His Will and Testament and accept the Guardianship.

A story related by Leroy Ioas to Habib Sabet, in the Eastern Pilgrim House:

Shortly after the first year of the Ten Year Plan, when over 100 of the 131 goals had been settled, the Guardian had mentioned at dinner to Leroy Ioas that the progress of the Faith was well ahead of Daniel's prophecy concerning the year 1963.

"Daniel did not know what sort of a prophet Bahá'u'lláh was going to be," the Guardian had remarked, and Leroy Ioas had replied: "Yes, and Daniel did not know what sort of a Guardian we were going to have."

Purchase of the Siyáh-Chál – related by Habib Sabet

Following an offer made at the New Delhi Conference in 1953, Habib Sabet of Tehran had negotiated a private purchase of the site of the Siyáh-Chál dungeon in Tehran for US $430,000. Mr Sabet (who was on pilgrimage with Sabet Khánum) in January, passed on to the Guardian a manuscript account of the negotiations and purchase of the Siyáh-Chál. During his pilgrimage, the Guardian bestowed on Mr Sabet the title of Nasíri'd-Dín (Protector or Friend of the Faith) as it had been Nasíri'd-Dín Sháh who had imprisoned Bahá'u'lláh in the Siyáh-Chál.

Mr Sabet related briefly to his fellow pilgrims the negotiations as outlined in the account given to the Guardian:

Negotiations had proceeded for 14 months to purchase the site of the dungeon, over which buildings, including a bank, had been erected. In the spring of 1954, Sabet finalised the deal for an amount of $430,00 (U.S.) According to the Land Registry officer in Tehran, this was the largest cheque ever paid in Iran for a single property transaction. Also it was the largest single cheque every written in the Bahá'í community – the previous record was one for US $170,000 signed by Leroy Ioas on the Wilmette Temple project.

Mr Sabet was the legal owner of the prison site for 16 days; then the property was transferred to the name of Mrs Sabet for 2 days, and then transferred to the name of the Guardian. Mr Sabet now holds the keys to the dungeon.

Almost two-thirds of the original prison cell has been destroyed for the building of a warehouse but fortunately not the part that Bahá'u'lláh was imprisoned in. The destroyed portion can be rebuilt from existing photographs.

Entrance to the dungeon is by a passage 35 metres long, 3 metres wide and 1 metre high. Only a few of the Hands of the Cause, Dr Lotfullah Hakim and Sabet himself have been in the dungeon. The purchase of the site is recorded in Bahá'í World Vol. XII.

[According to information received from Bahá'ís in Bombay, the property purchased by Sabet to secure the original site of the Siyáh-Chál was later subdivided; the land where the dungeon is had been transferred to the name of the Guardian and the rest of the unwanted property resold – for more than the original purchase price of the land.]

Mr Sabet has also been directing the negotiations to have 90 local Hazíratu'l-Quds in Iran handed back to the Bahá'ís, after they were seized during the persecutions in 1955-6 – and is now in the process of negotiations to have the National Hazíratu'l-Quds in Tehran – the last confiscated property – handed back to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran.

On leaving Haifa, Mr Sabet has been instructed by the Guardian to go to Germany (Frankfurt, and then Berlin) for two purposes: first that the German Bahá'ís settle the issue of the Frankfurt Temple site and, second, to organise the sending of pioneers from Germany into the Soviet Union and the satellite territories. Sabet has also been organising the pioneering work of the Iranian Bahá'ís going to nearby Soviet countries. The Guardian had told Sabet that the pioneers were only to establish themselves in Soviet territories and not to even mention Bahá'í at present.

Mr Sabet remarked one morning that in the 20 or so visits he had made to the Holy Land, he had never before seen the Guardian so happy. Jessie Revell also mentioned that the Guardian has been happy for quite a while now – because of the outstanding success of the Ten Year Plan. The Crusade had succeeded beyond the Guardian's expectations.

Mr Sabet also related a story of a conversation with Rúhíyyih Khánum at the Intercontinental Conference in Wilmette in 1953, at the commencement of the Ten Year Crusade. All those present had been saying what a gigantic task the Plan would be and many were worried that it was being pushed a little too fast. Sabet had told Rúhíyyih Khánum the story of the man who owed his neighbour $100 and lay awake night after night worrying, because he knew he could not pay the debt. Finally, late one night, his wife said, "Go over and tell him that you cannot pay. Let him do the worrying." The man did so and slept soundly, while his neighbour now lay awake worrying. He had passed on the worry to the neighbour. Sabet told Rúhíyyih Khánum to return to the Guardian and tell him that he had been working on the Ten Year Plan for so long. Now he should rest and let the others around the Bahá'í world do the worrying.

Leroy Ioas remarked to Sabet that marvellous things had happened to and for the Faith in the past few years, and would continue to happen. Sabet replied: "Yes, under his guidance" – (and after a long pause) – "if we deserve it."

Mr Sabet started out as a street vendor in Tehran, selling buttons, needles and thread. Now he is a millionaire businessman with interests in Iran and the United States. He holds a General Motors and Studebaker agency for Iran, the Pepsi Cola agency, a television monopoly in Tehran and hopes to get the same for the whole of Iran; office equipment agencies (he once presented the Shah with a gold-plated Hermes typewriter for some celebration). In the recent (1955) persecutions the rumour went around that Sabet's Pepsi Cola had a Bahá'í drug and was alcoholic; Sabet told us that as soon as the rumour was wide-spread, sales of Pepsi Cola doubled.

When Dr Mossedeq took over the government of Iran, and the Shah disappeared for a few days, Sabet went to the Shah's mother and pledged the support of himself and his business behind the Shah, on the basis that as a Bahá'í we must support the government and just monarchs. Previously the Shah's mother had had no sympathy for Sabet or the Bahá'ís but, by this action, Sabet won her confidence and gained great prestige for the Faith This in turn had assisted greatly in having the Hazíratu'l-Quds handed back to the Bahá'í communities.

Mr Sabet told us (the Iranian pilgrims, while I was present) one morning that the previous day he had asked the Guardian if it would be allowable for one man to finance a Temple project. The Guardian had replied that it would be preferable for several Bahá'ís to finance a Temple but, if necessary, one believer could do so. Sabet was very excited about this.

Mr Sabet had a keen sense of humour which was always just below the surface. One day, while speaking with the Iranian pilgrims of more serious matters, he suddenly broke off and asked. "If a man stands to do it and a woman sits, and a dog lifts one leg, what is the action?" Blank faces, but all thinking of one thing. Then he replied for us: "Shaking hands."

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