Prologue by Rouhollah Mehrabkhani

The book Awakening: A History of the Bábí and Bahá’í Faiths in Nayriz, tells the story of a Bábí community (later Bahá’í), from its inception in the forties of the nineteenth century until today. It is a story of so much blood, tears and suffering that the reader cannot help but shed tears. Mr. Ahdieh, the author of this book, has managed to bring together all the memories of those, such as Muhammad Shafi, who participated in the events of Nayríz, as well as many documents that confirm and add details to the story. Here one takes into account, on the one hand, the hard-heartedness of fanatics incited by priests of a religion that originally held that: "There is no compulsion in religion" (Koran", 2:256) and on the other, men and women who were willing to hold onto the priceless jewel of faith and belief that had enriched their hearts and souls.

The story of the Nayríz community, a small city in southeastern Persia (present-day Iran), is the true story of the Phoenix, the mythical bird of Ancient Egypt who from time to time would succumb to the flames caused by the intensity of its own flapping, only to be reborn from its own ashes. This community has also been destroyed many times at the hands of its oppressors; its houses have been burned, its inhabitants have been annihilated. While the enemies celebrated their triumph; this celestial bird has always reemerged triumphant from its ashes.

In Mr. Ahdieh’s book we read how women did not have the right to cry for their martyrs and how, when Bábí orphans went out in the streets, they came upon the bodies of their parents and siblings, mutilated at the hands of mobs and the children who played with them.

We also learn of the triumphal march arranged by the victors, who, after finishing off all the able men above twelve years of age, set off on an expedition, headed by a detachment bearing the severed heads of the men aloft their spears. For hundreds of kilometers this spectacle was being watched by the elderly, forced to cover the march on foot, and a trail of women and children riding on donkey. This sorry caravan was the trophy that the authorities wanted to lay at the feet of His Majesty, the King of Kings and Pivot of the Universe, as a token of servitude.

The reader will encounter in this drama men and women who turned into heroes the likes of which only rarely has history ever witnessed, people who were filled with courage, faith, willpower and a staunch resistance against the forces of unkindness, deceit, fanaticism and oppression. They were headed by a peerless learned man, a "unique and incomparable figure in his time", a man entrusted by the King, Muhammad Shah, with the mission of setting off for Shiraz in order to make enquiries into the good news. When this man, Siyyid Yahya Darábí (Vahíd), reached the presence of The Báb his own pride turned into faith and submissiveness. In a treatise recalling his impressions of his first encounter, he quotes from an Arabic poem that reads as follows:

When you are in His presence (The Báb´s)
You contemplate eternity in one hour, and humanity in just one person
And the whole earth in just a single abode

This Phoenix, this celestial bird, the Nayríz community, has been reduced again to ashes by the present regime, The Islamic Republic: houses burned, the believers scattered, until it should once again rise, spread its wings and give asylum not to those that "the wolves have scattered" but to the good and noble citizens of this city who have born silent witness to the actions of corrupt oppressors.

In my youth, while traveling through Irán, I had the privilege of being commissioned by the National Assembly to accompany these wonderful believers and share in their activities for one year. I treasure the indelible memories that year left in me. I shared difficult moments with them, at that time the community received news that, coinciding with "Muharram" – days of celebration of the third iman’s martyrdom – Muslims were intent on attacking the Bahá'í district and that the police and the governor had declared their inability to prevent it. Thanks to the actions of the Local Assembly, another catastrophe was avoided and this servant did not have the honor of sharing in the sufferings of these jewels of humanity.

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