Tag Archives Persia

Edward Granville Browne: The Only European Historian Who Met Baha’u’llah

Edward Granville Browne (7 February 1862 – 5 January 1926), was a British orientalist who met Baha’u’llah.

You should appreciate this, that of all the historians of Europe none attained the holy Threshold but you. This bounty was specified unto you.

These words Abdu’l-Baha wrote to Edward Granville Browne about his interviews with Baha’u’llah in 1890. From one of these interviews emanated the description of meeting Baha’u’llah famous in the Baha’i community, which you can listen to here.

Foment in the Middle East—the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78—pulled Browne away from the course his family had set for him. Born in 1862 in Gloucestershire, England, Browne was the eldest son among nine children. His father hoped he would pursue the family business of shipbuilding and civil engineering. But Browne’s calling lay elsewhere. In college he studied Turkish, Arabic, and Persian, and in 1882, he ventured eastward, visiting Turkey for several months to pursue his research.

On 30 July 1886, Browne discovered a movement that would absorb his attention for the decades to come: the Babi Faith. He stumbled upon an account of the revolutionary religion in Count Gobineau’s 1865 Religions et philosophies dans l’Asie Centrale. In the words of scholars Sir Edward Denison Ross and John Gurney, “He was spellbound by the story of the courage and devotion shown by the Bab and his faithful followers, and at once resolved to make a special study of this movement.” He wrote admiringly of the Bab’s “gentleness and patience, the cruel fate which had overtaken him, and the unflinching courage wherewith he and his followers, from the greatest to the least, had endured the merciless torments inflicted on them by their enemies.” In the Bab’s Revelation, he recognized, as he put it, “the birth of a faith which may not impossibly win a place amidst the great religions of the world.” Browne resolved to extend Gobineau’s account, which ended with the 1852 massacre of Babis. Continue reading

The Woman Who Read Too Much: A Book About the Life of Tahirih

I have long admired the writing style of Bahiyyih Nakhjavani. Her prose is so masterful that I often read a passage or two and then put the book down, the same way you would put down your fork in order to relish a morsel of truly flavourful food. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani is the internationally bestselling author of The Saddlebag – A Fable for Doubters and Seekers, Paper – The Dreams of a Scribe, Four on an Island, When We Grow Up, Response, Asking Questions: A Challenge to Fundamentalism, and most recently, The Woman Who Read Too Much: A Novel which is a work of creative nonfiction about the life of Tahirih

In these early days of the Faith where we explore what it means to be a Baha’i artist, Bahiyyih has inspired me with a vision of literary excellence and I am truly honoured to ask her about her recent publication.

Baha’i Blog: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! To begin, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, your work as a writer, and about your latest book ‘The Woman Who Read Too Much’? 

I’m a member of an ancient tribe, a venerable race whom some now say is bordering on extinction. There are still many of us around, although like other anthropological groups whose belief system runs counter to that of the majority, we tend to be invisible. High finance ignores us. Politics barely knows of our existence anymore, although at one time it was afraid of us. We are scattered across the five continents and come from different backgrounds, different cultures and generations, but we all share one common faith, one universal cause. We call ourselves Readers.  Continue reading

Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz

Many Baha’is are familiar with the events described in the book The Dawnbreakers, where followers of the Bab were under attack and siege by the Persian army, but aside from these descriptions in the Dawnbreakers, very little is known about the many events which took place during this turbulent period of our Faith’s early history. That is why the new book Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz by Dr. Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman is so important.

Now for the first time, many of the gaps in the history of our Faith during that period have been filled, as one of Dr. Ahdieh’s ancestors, a young boy named Shafi, was one of the few male survivors who had witnessed the horrific events which took place around him in the Persian town of Nayriz. At the request of Baha’u’llah, Shafi documented these events in his diary, and it is this diary which played an important role in the research for this book.

Besides being a Baha’i Historian and an author, Dr. Hussein Ahdieh is also a good friend of mine and I was able to spend some time with him while I was visiting New York recently. We spoke about this wonderful new book and he agreed to tell me and our Baha’i Blog readers more about Awakening. Continue reading