Shah

The following article was published in the World Order magainze in 2000 showing the attitude of the Crown towards the Baha'is.

“The Bahá’í Problem”:

A Report to the Shah, 1901

 

 

Translation by Ahang Rabbani

 

 

Introduction

The 1901 dispatch written by Mahmúd Khán ‘Alá‘u’l-Mulk, the Iranian ambassador to the Sublime Port, and addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran (here translated by Dr. Ahang Rabbani) is yet another document revealing the attitude of the Iranian government establishment toward the Bahá’ís.[1] The ambassador, like most Iranians at that time, refers to the Bahá’ís as Bábís and expresses anxiety over the improvement of their “condition” in Acre. He is especially disturbed by the flow of visitors from Iran who are returning to Iran and spreading throughout the country the influence of the Head of the Faith, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who is not named in the text. The ambassador suggests the means of counteracting that influence. It is noteworthy that he does not trust Muslim agents to infiltrate the Bahá’í community since they may themselves succumb to the influence of the Bahá’ís. Neither does he trust the ability of learned seminarians to convert Bahá’ís to Islam, in the end placing more reliance on police measures.

The remark by the Shah, penned in the margin of the document, refers to advice given to him by Mírzá ‘Alí Asghar Khán Amín’u’s-Sultán, long-time prime minister, who was well aware that Bahá’ís posed no threat to the state and that persecution would only add to the grave problems Iran was experiencing at the time.

The Editors

 

 

Written in Shavvál 1318 a.h. [between 22 January and 19 February 1901] Report of ‘Alá‘u’l-Mulk, the Iranian Ambassador in Istanbul, to the Foreign Ministry.[2] Confidential.

The condition of the Bábís in Acre, where their leader [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] resides, is improving significantly each day, and from all corners of Iran people come to visit him and bring with them the collected funds. In a similar manner, on behalf of the same leader, representatives are sent to all towns of Iran. To consider this situation unworthy of attention [by the Iranian government] and not exert appropriate influence is unwise, and gradually this problem will become intractable. The solution is not in imprisoning, beating, or slaying them, as an increase in application of such remedies would worsen the situation.

What comes to the mind of this servant is that first the exalted government should appoint a Christian agent with a salary, as a Muslim agent of any kind will attract attention, or, because of greed, will become one of them and a propagator of their thoughts. This agent should be instructed to attract their interest and to infiltrate their confidential activities. He should report the names and details and, where possible, a picture of anyone from Iran who arrives there [Acre] to the Foreign Ministry and the Embassy [in Istanbul].

And, in like manner, the Embassy should follow in secret those returning from Acre by using Russian agents until they reach the border, and from there by using the border agents and governors who should determine the whereabouts of the emissaries of the leader of Bábís and other details about them. After they are identified, a few of the learned tulláb [seminary students] should find ways to engage them in conversation and, without showing that they are aware of their beliefs, through wise and informed exhortations, rescue them from the false path [that is, convert them to Islam]. In certain instances, when necessary, police and authorities are to stop their activities.

At any rate, such persons [the Bahá’ís], should, wherever they are, be identified and be known to the general population. In addition, should other measures also be necessary, the government authorities should issue appropriate instructions to governors, as otherwise one does not know with what sort of people one is associating.

As their number increases day by day, surely in time this will result in great mischief.

[signed] Mahmúd.

 

[Written on the back of the envelope] From the Office of the Foreign Minister: This report is to be presented to the most holy threshold of the King of Kings.

 

[In the hand of Muzaffari’d-Dín Sháh]: By the reasons known to his honor Atábak-i A‘zam [the Prime Minister] we should not pursue this matter and to the degree possible must remain silent.

 

 

copyright © 2000 by Ahang Rabbani



[1] The original text was published in Guzídih-yi Asnád Síyásy-i Írán va ‘Uthmání (Selections from the Political Correspondences of Iran and the Ottoman Government), Qajar Period, vol. 5 (Tehran: 1370Sh), published by Váhid-i Nashr-i Asnád and reprinted in Payám-i Bahá'í 187 (June 1995): 31–32.

[2] The text reprinted in Payám Bahá'í incorrectly translates Shavvál 1318 A.H. as April 1901.