Tag Archives: Baha’i history

Bahiyyíh Khánum – Bahá’u’lláh’s daughter, also known as The Greatest Holy Leaf.

What a woman.

I have just finished reading a book about Bahiyyíh Khánum, the beloved heroine of the Baha’i Faith, daughter of Bahá’u’lláh and Asiyyíh Khánum (please note that the term khánum means a woman of rank or position especially in Turkey and Iran*1), and it was amazing.

When I was growing up, I would hear about this great personage and throughout my life, I have met a lot of women named after her. It seemed quite obvious that she was a special person in the Baha’i religion but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered the magnitude of her contributions to her Father’s Cause as well as her importance in the establishment of the Bahá’í Faith throughout the entire world. There is so much to be said about her and I will do my best to give a brief summary that conveys the love and admiration I feel for this incredible woman.

Young age portraitFrom a young age she suffered poverty, need, banishment, imprisonment and all the torments her Father and family were subjected to. There are lots of letters and writings of her own describing these sad and extremely difficult times. If one pays attention, she very rarely expresses her own feelings and her own sufferings. Even as a young child she was her mother’s helper, her brothers’ carer and her Father’s dedicated servant. If you have visited the Bahá’í Holy places in Israel, there are numerous relics belonging to Bahá’u’lláh that we are lucky to have thanks to His beloved daughter.

Here is an excerpt from a Tablet He wrote to her:

“Let these exalted words be thy love-song on the tree of Bahá, O thou most holy and resplendent Leaf: ‘God, besides Whom is none other God, the Lord of this world and the next!’ Verily, We have elevated thee to the rank of one of the most distinguished among thy sex, and granted thee, in My court, a station such as none other woman hath surpassed. Thus have We preferred thee and raised thee above the rest, as a sign of grace from Him Who is the Lord of the throne on high and earth below. We have created thine eyes to behold the light of My countenance, thine ears to hearken unto the melody of My words, thy body to pay homage before My throne. Do thou render thanks unto God, thy Lord, the Lord of all the world.”*2

Portrait

Servitude to her Father and His Faith was not limited and did not come to a halt after His passing. Once Bahá’u’lláh designated His eldest son ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as his successor, and the head of the Baha’is at the time, Bahiyyín Khánum dedicated all her efforts through loving support and great sacrifice to her brother. Both her Father and Brother loved and admired her dearly and held her in great esteem. Here are some quotes from letters of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá addressed to or in mention of His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf:

“O my well-beloved, deeply spiritual sister! Day and night thou livest in my memory. Whenever I remember thee my heart swelleth with sadness and my regret groweth more intense. Grieve not, for I am thy true, thy unfailing comforter.”

“Dear sister, beloved of my heart and soul! The news of thy safe arrival and pleasant stay in the land of Egypt has reached me and filled my heart with exceeding gladness. I am thankful to Bahá’u’lláh for the good health thou dost enjoy and for the happiness He hath imparted to the hearts of the loved ones in that land.”

“To my honoured and distinguished sister do thou convey the expression of my heartfelt, my intense longing. Day and night she liveth in my remembrance. I dare make no mention of the feelings which separation from her has aroused in my heart, for whatever I should attempt to express in writing will assuredly be effaced by the tears which such sentiments must bring to my eyes.”*3

Aren’t these the most beautiful letters you have ever read a brother send to His sister? Their love trascended the limits of this world and family life. Their bond was completely spiritual, of mutual support and utmost love and respect.

Now, after the passing of their Father, things did not come easy especially from those individuals who stirred conflict and refused to recognize ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the Center of the Covenant as it was explicitly written by Bahá’u’lláh in His will. Both Bahiyyíh Khánum and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made great sacrifices that included cutting ties with members of their own family. As you can imagine, this took a great toll on The Greatest Holy Leaf’s loving heart, but she endured all calamities for the love of God. During ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s travels to Europe and North America, it was her, Bahiyyíh Khanúm who was left in charge of the affairs of the Faith in Israel. During this time she did not let the conventions of her gender or the criticism of the ill wishers to stop her from fulfilling this most great task. Amazing thing is that it was the first time in the history of religion that a woman had such a responsibility, – where she is publicly and openly given the same rank as her male counterparts. Equality of men and women at its best! And during that time and in that part of the world!! Isn’t that something?

Shoghi Effendi spoke very highly of this great aunt and he loved her dearly. As you may be aware, it was him who was appointed as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s successor after the latter’s passing. This time was one of great difficulty and several times he had to find strength in some absences from Haifa. Bahiyyíh Khánum was his support and companion in tests and difficulties, and in those moments of absence, it too was her who was left holding up the standard of the Faith and maintaining the unity of the Bahá’í world. Yes, the whole Baha’i world. Again, the individual who was temporarily holding it all together was a woman, a woman in a time and from a culture where women were not seen as equal to men; where little is known of their lives because they were spent in anonymity.

She was extraordinary. Not only did she dedicate her whole life to serve God; not only did she communicate extensively with institutions and individuals; not only did she build relationships to protect her Father, brother and great grandson; not only did she encourage the building of the Temple in Chicago, USA; not only did she manage the Holy household and hosted the pilgrims; above all, she was the archetype of every Baha’i believer.

To further show you the amount of love and admiration as well as Shoghi Effendi’s reliance on her, here is part of a letter to his great aunt:

Shoghi Effendi with Bahiyyiíh Khaánum

 

“O my sister in the spirit, and the companion of my heart!
God willing, the climate of Haifa hath proved favourable. I hope that out of the bounties of the Ancient Beauty thou wilt gain a measure of peace and health. I bring thee to mind both night and day. Just recently I had hoped to come to Haifa to visit thee, but various problems and the pressure of work have left me no time; for I want to see the travellers off, and every one of them presented a long list of names. God be thanked, I have written to them all.
Kiss the fresh flower of the garden of sweetness, Shoghi Effendi.”*4

 

After her passing, Shoghi Effendi really felt the loss. Her remains are buried on Mount Carmel, in the area called “The Arc” where Bahá’í administrative buildings exist today. Her resting place was established at the center of this significant mountain on purpose, and there is a beautiful meaning to the design of her monument. We might talk about that in another post 🙂

If you would like to know more about The Greatest Holy Leaf, you can read one of the many books written about her. The one I read is called “Prophet’s Daughter” by Janet A. Khan. There is also mention of her on Book 8 of the Ruhi Institute.

Whatever you study, I hope you enjoy, admire, thank and fall in love with her just like we did.

 

REFERENCES

*1 Definition on the Merriam-Webster dictionary

*2 Bahíyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf: A Compilation from Bahá’í Sacred Texts and Writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum’s Own Letters, Bahá’í World Centre, 1982 edition, Page 231

*3 Bahíyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf: A Compilation from Bahá’í Sacred Texts and Writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum’s Own Letters, Bahá’í World Centre, 1982 edition, Page 231

*4 Bahíyyih Khánum, the Greatest Holy Leaf: A Compilation from Bahá’í Sacred Texts and Writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum’s Own Letters, Bahá’í World Centre, 1982 edition, Page 231

 

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The martyrdom of The Báb – History of the Bahá’í faith July 9th 1850.

The following was extracted from the book “God Passes by”, written by the Guardian: Shoghi Effendi; page 51.-

“The usual formalities designed to secure the necessary authorization from the leading mujtahids of Tabriz were hastily and easily completed. Neither Mulla Muhammad-i-Mamaqani, however, who had penned the Báb’s death-warrant on the very day of His examination in Tabriz, nor Haji Mirza Baqir, nor Mulla Murtada-Quli, to whose houses their Victim was ignominiously led by the farrash-bashi, by order of the Grand Vizir, condescended to meet face to face their dreaded Opponent.

Immediately before and soon after this humiliating treatment meted out to the Bab two highly significant incidents occurred, incidents that cast an illuminating light on the mysterious circumstances surrounding the opening phase of His martyrdom. The farrash-bashi had abruptly interrupted the last conversation which the Bab was confidentially having in one of the rooms of the barracks with His amanuensis Siyyid Husayn, and was drawing the latter aside, and severely rebuking him, when he was thus addressed by his Prisoner: “Not until I have said to him all those things that I wish to say can any earthly power silence Me. Though all the world be armed against Me, yet shall it be powerless to deter Me from fulfilling, to the last word, My intention.” To the Christian Sam Khan — the colonel of the Armenian regiment ordered to carry out the execution — who, seized with fear lest his act should provoke the wrath of God, had begged to be released from the duty imposed upon him, the Bab gave the following assurance: “Follow your instructions, and if your intention be sincere, the Almighty is surely able to relieve you of your perplexity.”

Sam Khan accordingly set out to discharge his duty. A spike was driven into a pillar which separated two rooms of the barracks facing the square. Two ropes were fastened to it from which the Bab and one of his disciples, the youthful and devout Mirza Muhammad-‘Ali-i-Zunuzi, surnamed Anis, who had previously flung himself at the feet of his Master and implored that under no circumstances he be sent away from Him, were separately suspended. The firing squad ranged itself in three files, each of two hundred and fifty men. Each file in turn opened fire until the whole detachment had discharged its bullets. So dense was the smoke from the seven hundred and fifty rifles that the sky was darkened. As soon as the smoke had cleared away the astounded multitude of about ten thousand souls, who had crowded onto the roof of the barracks, as well as the tops of the adjoining houses, beheld a scene which their eyes could scarcely believe.

The Bab had vanished from their sight! Only his companion remained, alive and unscathed, standing beside the wall on which they had been suspended. The ropes by which they had been hung alone were severed. “The Siyyid-i-Báb has gone from our sight!” cried out the bewildered spectators. A frenzied search immediately ensued. He was found, unhurt and unruffled, in the very room He had occupied the night before, engaged in completing His interrupted conversation with His amanuensis. “I have finished My conversation with Siyyid Husayn” were the words with which the Prisoner, so providentially preserved, greeted the appearance of the farrash-bashi, “Now you may proceed to fulfill your intention.” Recalling the bold assertion his Prisoner had previously made, and shaken by so stunning a revelation, the farrash-bashi quitted instantly the scene, and resigned his post.

Sam Khan, likewise, remembering, with feelings of awe and wonder, the reassuring words addressed to him by the Bab, ordered his men to leave the barracks immediately, and swore, as he left the courtyard, never again, even at the cost of his life, to repeat that act. Aqa Jan-i-Khamsih, colonel of the body-guard, volunteered to replace him. On the same wall and in the same manner the Bab and His companion were again suspended, while the new regiment formed in line and opened fire upon them. This time, however, their breasts were riddled with bullets, and their bodies completely dissected, with the exception of their faces which were but little marred. “O wayward generation!” were the last words of the Bab to the gazing multitude, as the regiment prepared to fire its volley, “Had you believed in Me every one of you would have followed the example of this youth, who stood in rank above most of you, and would have willingly sacrificed himself in My path. The day will come when you will have recognized Me; that day I shall have ceased to be with you.”

Nor was this all. The very moment the shots were fired a gale of exceptional violence arose and swept over the city. From noon till night a whirlwind of dust obscured the light of the sun, and blinded the eyes of the people. In Shiraz an “earthquake,” foreshadowed in no less weighty a Book than the Revelation of St. John, occurred in 1268 A.H. which threw the whole city into turmoil and wrought havoc amongst its people, a havoc that was greatly aggravated by the outbreak of cholera, by famine and other afflictions. In that same year no less than two hundred and fifty of the firing squad, that had replaced Sam Khan’s regiment, met their death, together with their officers, in a terrible earthquake, while the remaining five hundred suffered, three years later, as a punishment for their mutiny, the same fate as that which their hands had inflicted upon the Bab.”

Drawing by Hand of the Cause of God William Sutherland Maxwell of the Shrine of the Báb with the superstructure he designed, 1944.