A literary gem has just been released: it is brilliant not only because it tells the life story of an incredible person and is written by an incredible person, but, most significantly, it includes newly translated tablets of Abdu’l-Baha. Mirza Ali-Akbar-i-Nakhjavani: With Newly Translated Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha is a loving tribute by Mr. Ali Nakhjavani about his illustrious father who translated many Baha’i tablets and letters into Russian. Mirza Ali-Akbar-i-Nakhjavani also had the great honor of traveling with Abdu’l-Baha as part of His entourage on His journey through North America in 1912. Abdu’l-Baha’s fondness for this young man is evident not only in the details of their interactions but in the many tablets that the Master addressed to him.
Mr. Ali Nakhjavani is also distinguished in the services he has rendered the Baha’i Faith over the years: Mr. Ali Nakhjavani has served on the Universal House of Justice, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Central and East Africa, as an Auxiliary Board member, and in the 1950’s, as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran.
Mr. Ali Nakhjavani shared some precious words with us about his new book. To say that we are deeply honoured and immensely grateful for this would be the understatement of the year. We hope you cherish this interview as much as we do:
Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much Mr. Nakhjavani for taking the time to do this interview with us. What was the inspiration or impetus for putting this book together?
The beloved Guardian reminded my older brother and myself so very often of the services of our dearly loved father, rendered by him under the direct guidance of the beloved Master. He wanted us to follow in the footsteps of such a father. Although I never met my father in this life, because he had passed away just before I was born, I was inspired by these exhortations. But very little had been written about Mirza Ali Akbar Nakhjavani. Over the years I collected what information I could and researched everything I could find but the final impetus for writing the book came when I was invited to travel across the USA during the century celebrations of Abdu’l-Baha’s visit there, in 2012. My father had been a member of the Master’s entourage, and there are several photographs of him standing, or walking, or sitting in the presence of the Master during that historic trip. I discovered that many of the American Baha’is did not know who this particular gentleman was, in his oriental robes, and so I was encouraged by dear Ken Bowers, the secretary of the NSA at that time, to finalize my notes at that time.
Baha’i Blog: We would love to hear a little about the newly translated tablets in the book and the process involved in including them.
Since my father was a pillar of the Baku community, and a vital link between the World Centre and countries to the north and east of the Caspian Sea, there was a treasure-trove of tablets addressed by Abdu’l-Baha giving Mirza Ali Akbar instructions and guidance which had been carefully preserved by my mother and brought back to the Haifa after the Bolshevik Revolution. These tablets were another primary motivation for my writing this little book. In them the Master gives answers to some of my father’s questions, advises him as to the Tablets of the Blessed Beauty and of Himself that my father should translate into Russian, and urges him to share these with and for the benefit of Tolstoy and a famous playwright by the name of Isabella Grinyevskaya, with whom he was in correspondence.
Regarding the translation of the tablets included in the book, this important project was undertaken with the close collaboration of Mr. Mark Hellaby, a British Baha’i, who is a first class translator of tablets from Arabic and Persian into exquisite English prose. Since all such translations should always be submitted for review, they have been approved by a translation committee operations in the Holy Land under the direction of the World Centre’s Research Department. A great deal of research work had to be undertaken by Mr. Hellaby Himself in the course of helping me with these translations and his unique contributions have been included in the notes at the back of the book and provide an invaluable historical and cultural context to this story. My brother and I had a general idea of the contents of these Tablets, but it was not until thorough research was undertaken that I learned of all that they contained. I am immensely grateful to Mark Hellaby for his unique assistance in this regard and to the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice for their meticulous review.
Baha’i Blog: What was one challenge that was overcome in order to put together this tribute to an early believer who rendered distinguishing services to the Cause?
It had always been my hope and intention to undertake such a task, but there were a few people still alive who knew my father personally, when I started thinking of writing this biography. The paucity of historical documents and the absence of personal information related to my father were therefore the greatest challenge. Of course our mother had always been a source of valuable information about him which she willingly shared with us, but she was widowed after only five brief years of marriage and after she was forced to leave the country in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution, all contact with the Baha’is of Baku and remaining members of my father’s family were broken off. We knew that many of my father’s papers that she had been forced to leave behind, were destroyed during the reign of terror that ensued and so the details of his life were lost to posterity. After my mother herself passed away in 1939, there was no one else that I could ask about my father, but Shoghi Effendi himself invariably spoke to us of his achievements, and repeatedly urged us to emulate this distinguished servant of the Cause.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you immensely, Mr. Nakhjavani, for sharing these details with us about this beautiful book.
We’d also like to sincerely thank Bahiyyih Nakhjavani for her assistance in making this interview possible — we are truly grateful.
If you’d like to read Mirza Ali-Akbar-i-Nakhjavani: With Newly Translated Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, it can be purchased from the US Baha’i Bookstore: https://bit.ly/2Hl3RC8