Who was `Abdu'l-Bahá, and why did He come to the West?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

More on Naw-Ruz, Paris, 1913

Anne Corcoran has again provided a translation of yet another account 
of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Naw-Rúz in Paris!

Memories of Young A. Achraf, Iranian Bahá’í Student in Paris                                  1913 the Return of ‘Abdu’l Bahá from America.
During the 2nd half of the month of March 1913, we received a letter of invitation from the Iranian Ambassador for Naw Rúz day. On Friday 21st of March, Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Khán Sahíhí and I left for Paris & headed for Saint Didier Street where Docteur Muhammad Khán lived.   The concierge led us to a hotel on 97 Loriston Street.  In the hotel restaurant we met Ághá Mírzá Ahmad Sohráb and Ághá Mírzá Ahmad Bágherov who were drinking coffee. In the meantime ‘Abdu’l Bahá had come down from the terrace and had situated himself in a private room, decorated with a central table on which were arranged specialties for the New Year, like oriental nuts and different confectionaries and Iranian & western sweets.  It was in this room that we had the honor of finding ourselves in the presence of ‘Abdu’l Bahá.  Ághá Siyyid Ahmad Bágherov was seated in front of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.  The Master wished us happy new year and told us to take our seats.  From his clean hands he offered us sweets and said “the Iranians eat, the Westerners only taste.  You are Iranian, you must eat.”  We obeyed without hesitation. Meanwhile Ághá Mírzá Mahmúd Zarqaní and Docteur Muhammad Khán entered.  After a few minutes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left the room leaving Jinábi Zarqaní in charge of hospitality. Mírzá Jalál, Ághá Mírzá ‘Alí Adíb (son of Jinábi Adíb and Ághá Mírzá, Asadu’lláh arrived later.
            We got up because we were expected at the embassy, but near the door of the hotel we met Mírzá Husayn Quazvíní (not a bahá’í) who came to pay his respects to ‘Abdu’l and to tell us that the Embassy reception would take place only in the afternoon.  We couldn’t have asked for better and we rejoined the friends once more.  Mírzá Mahmúd Morshedzádih and ‘Iísá Sadíq who were students of pedagogy at the School of Versailles also arrived. At this moment the Master returned and we all followed him to the function room.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked about the health of all the new arrivals and wished them a happy new year.
Then he spoke of the festival of Naw-Rúz Ághá Mírzá Ahmad Sohráb translated as he had a few English and French friends, in the audience, and also a distinguished non Bahá’í young man who having heard of the name of ‘Abdu’l- Bahá, read in the newspapers the news of his arrival in Paris and had asked permission to pay his respects.  All, bahá’ís and non-bahá’ís fixed their eyes on ‘Abdu’l- Bahá and listened to his words with delight.  Then before midday the Westerners asked to be excused.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá went into the dining room.  Four of us got ready to take a break, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá invited us to stay.  There were nine of us around the table: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Entezámu’s-Saltanih, Docteur Muhammad Khán, Achráf, Issá Sádíq, Mírzá Husayn Quazvíní, Mírzá Mahmúd Morshedzádih, Agha Mírzá Jalál, and Ághá Mírzá Habíbu’lláh Khán Sahíhí.  ‘Abdu’l Bahá spoke about Iranian & western food and also on the theme of the traditions and customs of both cultures.  After lunch Ághá Mírzá Ahmad Sohráb presented ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with two bouquets of flowers offered by an English friend who had been present in the morning.  ‘Abdu’l- Bahá accepted them and then retired to rest.
            At mid-day we met up at the Iranian Embassy.  The Iranian bahá’ís who passed through or were resident in Paris, were obliged, by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to present themselves at the embassy.  Everyone arrived gradually, the students remained longer than others in order to tell their problems to the plenipotentiary minister Momtázu’s-Saltanih.  It was at that moment that ‘Abdu’l Bahá arrived with M. Dreyfus, into the large hall of the embassy.  The minister invited all the students to present themselves to ‘Abdu’l Bahá.  We placed ourselves all around the large hall.  There were about thirty of us.  ‘Abdu’l- Bahá extended his greetings and kindness to all, good wishes for the new year and praised them for their efforts in the road of commerce, science and learning.  He spoke in detail on the subject of historical antecedents of arab and european culture and affirmed that the latter had much of the former.  He described the transmission of science and learning from the Arabs to the Europeans through the Spanish intermediaries. He added     “You also, must learn from the Europeans and acquire the qualities and knowledge, which they have to offer, in order to offer them the gifts of Iran.  I pray for you that you will may be successful.”  All the audience listened in silence with the greatest concentration and the greatest respect.  At the end of ‘Abdu’l Bahá’s explanation, the minister invited him in to another room for tea. After a quarter of an hour the Master returned and we had the honor of seeing him once more before his departure with M. Dreyfus.
But before leaving M. Dreyfus announced to the Bahá’í students that there would be a party that evening at his home.  So having dined at a restaurant we presented ourselves at the home of M. Dreyfus.  There was a large gathering - western and Iranian bahá’ís.  ‘Abdu’l Bahá explained Naw-Rúz.  He covered the history of the creation of this holiday, from ancient times until the era of Bahá’u’lláh, and described the traditions and Iranian customs.  Dressing in new clothes, eating and drinking sweets, celebrating.  To conclude he compared the Festival of Naw Rúz with divine revelation and the inauguration of a new era.  He recalled the customs of the ancient kings which. In those days, consisted in planning and founding new buildings, works and institutions. He expressed the necessity of founding, at such a blessed time, charitable institutions, to lay the foundations of peace assemblies as  a memory of the holiday, so that people can say in the future, this work is the result of the festival of Naw-Rúz of such a year. ‘Abdu’l- Bahá spoke in Persian and M. Dreyfus translated.  When the Master finished his talk he shook the hands of everyone present and left the room.
This is the account of six meetings which I had the privilege of having with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. [‘The other accounts were about 1911 visit. A.C.]
Achraf Achraf Extract from” Payam-í-Bahá’í” july-august 1981.                                Translation Mahnaze A. de Silveira. [English translation Anne Corcoran.  Words of ‘Abdu’l Bahá are not exact]
Sur les pas de ’Abdu’l Bahá a Paris.   Paris deviendra un Jardin de Roses   p 53                           
 (In the steps of ‘Abdu’l Bahá.  Paris becomes a Garden of Roses)
Librairie Baháí 1998   A book produced for the centenary of the Baháí Faith in France in 1998.

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