Date: Sat, 16 Dec 95
From: “Ahang Rabbani”
Subject: Zuhur’l-Haqq and Encyclopedia
Once again through sheer brilliance, Chris Buck has managed to cut through all the smoke and put his finger right on the heart of the issues — the short answer is: yes, there are a lot of similarities between what happened to Zuhuru’l-Haqq and the current status of the Baha’i Encyclopedia.
Let me first state what I know as to what happened with Zuhuru’l-Haqq project. The lessons may then be obvious. On 11 Jalal 107 BE (1951) the NSA of Iran (Ali-Akbar Furutan was NSA secretary) published a 16 page open letter which at the end contains a short response by Fadil. This letter was the kiss of death for both Zuhurh’l-Haqq series and Fadil’s scholarship and reputation.
He spent the latter part of his life away from the Baha’i community — though extremely active in teaching field. After the passing of his wife, he married a Muslim woman and his three sons were raised with deep resentments towards the Baha’i community in general — though they are very knowledgeable about the Cause and have many good Baha’i friends. His youngest son lives here in Houston, another passed away (in Ohio?) with the eldest (he is about 80 years old now) being in the States now seeking medical treatment (heart problem).
Of most concern is that Fadil had some extremely valuable and *unique* Texts and documents in his possessions, not to mention the fact that he had completed a number of very important books on the Faith which I believe he never shared with the administration and left with his sons — which either have all been destroyed or awaits freezing of hell before they are handed over to the Faith. As an example of some of the books which he has completed but you never hear anyone mentioning it is a massive Encyclopedia on the Cause under the title “Asraru’l-Athar-i Umumi” (General Mysteries of the Writings). Years earlier he published a 5-volume Baha’i encyclopedia series titled “Asraru’l-Athar-i Khususi” (Specific Mysteries of the Writings) which no serious Baha’i student should be without. But his “Umumi” version was apparently the finest single piece of scholarship ever attempted in the Cause and its a great shame if destroyed — or never published. But again, what is of greatest importance is the massive amount of Tablets and original documents which he had in his possession which never found their way to the Cause.
Some time ago, when I was posting on Quddus (I believe my first post on this topic), I discussed that for example he had a Tablet of Baha’u’llah in his possession where He states that had the Bab not declared, then Quddus would have. (Dr. Muhammad Afnan in Andalib states there is not such Tablet, but I think he knows better.) Anyway, the question is what happened with this most productive Baha’i scholar of all time (in my view, several orders of magnitude above Mirza Abu’l-Fadl or anyone else in the Faith)?
The answer to this question is with “the Dawnbreakers”! All roads eventually lead to “The Dawnbreakers” which the beloved Guardian has stated is the “standard for Baha’i history”, but in reality has served as the standard for Baha’i fundamentalism. “The Dawnbreakers” in my view is the biggest barrier to Baha’i scholarship! In fact, one can trace back the emergence of Baha’i fundamentalism right to the publication of this book and then exaggerated statements about it being “THE STANDARD”. And that’s when Fadil’s troubles began. Fadil’s view of history was based on several decades of incomparable collection of Texts, documents, narratives, interviews with old believers and extensive travels throughout the region — not to mentioned a very elevated sense of devotion to the Cause which both Abdu’l-Baha and the beloved Guardian have praised repeatedly. So, what happened? Fadil had completed his first 3 volumes when Ali-Akbar Furutan got all bent out of shape. Now Furutan was (and is) somewhat of intellectual lightweight (and I’m afraid history won’t be very kind to him on his writings, unless the House send out (which they will!) an extremely glowing cable after his death to silence all his critics (which are many)). This is all in early 1930’s. So, Furutan, knowing that he couldn’t take on a great mind like Fadil, got together with a real intellectual superstar (well, fast becoming one in those days), namely, my other hero, Ishraq-Khavari.
Together they made a case that certain points in Zuhuru’l-Haqq series do not conform to The Dawnbreaker — the “standard”! So, they write to the Guardian. This makes Shoghi Effendi all upset with Zuhuru’l-Haqq as he didn’t like anything that deviated by a dot from the Dawnbreakers. So on 15 September 1932, he writes (my inadequate translation):
“Immediately organize a special committee to investigate, reorganize and bring into conformity Jinab-i Fadil’s history with that of Nabil’s history [the Dawnbreakers]. Of this task and grave responsibility, no delay is permitted, and utmost effort must be diligently exerted.”
Poor Fadil. After a letter like this from the Guardian, well, his goose was cooked. What happened next is the ugliest chapter in Baha’i scholarship which has ever occurred. If you think things are bad now with respect to scholarship, well, you ain’t seen nothing. (I have no intention of discussing the details on Talisman, and if pressed, will move the conversation over to Tarjuman, but in truth really rather not disclose any details, mostly because there is no guarantee that what I know is really what happened. Remember, I’m just a young lad in my 30’s, I wasn’t around in those days.) What is a matter of public record and I can safely state is that a committee was organized and closely (word by word) examined Zuhuru’l-Haqq. Now the Guardian wanted this to be done overnight. Well it took nearly 20 years to complete this process (Fadil’s “confessional” letter is dated 1951).
So, those hoping for a quick resolution of Baha’i Encyclopedia impasse may wish to make note of this. At the end, as I said, NSA of Iran published a 16 page letter outlining all the “errors” in ZH-3 and included Fadil’s own short letter giving a blanket agreement with their comments. This letter of NSA of Iran is the greatest stupidity ever committed by a Baha’i institution and shows only their depth of ignorance. I will share its content as our discussion of ZH-3 unfolds. This letter resulted in discouraging a model servant of the Faith from further association with Baha’i administration and silenced anyone who dared to do serious or independent scholarship.
Forever though the memory of this illustrious scholar of the Cause is inscribed upon the hearts of those seeking knowledge. The incredible injustice that took place a half-century ago must be set right, and it is my intention to speak publicly, openly and supportive of the Hand of the Cause of God Fadil-i Mazandarani wherever I can. If justice means anything to you, I implore you to do likewise.
With devotion to the Faith,