October 1, 2014

Hand of the Cause Mr. Faizi’s first exposure to the Baha’i Faith as a child

Leaving the city of Qum, Faizi’s Muslim family settled well in Tehran. Shortly after they were joined by Faizi's newly married brother and his wife. Because their father was worried about his young son getting lost in the big, busy city, Faizi was left to studying on his own at home.  When his brother became aware of this situation, he was concerned that he had not been registered in any school and persuaded their father that it would be better to send him to school. Having already sent his eldest son to a school run by Baha'is, their father agreed to send Faizi to the Baha'i Tarbiyat School for boys, which was near where they lived, so there was no danger of him getting lost. His older brother arranged for him to be interviewed by the principal of the school. 

Early one morning, Faizi, accompanied by his older brother, set off for Tarbiyat School, the younger one in trepidation of what awaited him, the older one happy that he was going to entrust his dear brother to the daily care of a benevolent institution. The classes were already in session when they arrived and the principal, 'Aziz Misbah, was waiting for them in his office. How different was the young Faizi's reception at this school compared to what he had received earlier at the religious school (maktab) in Qum, how genial and kindly Mr. Misbah was compared to the so-called teachers in his hometown. No wonder that, as soon as Faizi met this much-loved principal he was immediately drawn to him. After welcoming the two brothers the principle asked Faizi a few questions to ascertain his level of literacy and decided to place his new pupil in grade five.

Tarbiyat School, which was the first of several schools established throughout Iran in 1898 by the Baha'is of Iran -- separate schools for boys and girls. It was considered to be the best and most respected school of the capital. Many well-known Muslim families as well as almost all the Baha'is of Tehran sent their boys to it. Most of the teachers were Baha'is and the ethos of the school was based on nurturing the latent talents of its pupils, encouraging them to have high moral standards and fostering in them a love for and desire to be of service to humanity. 

Faizi's first day at Tarbiyat arrived. Gone was his reluctance to get up and go to school due to the earlier unpleasant experiences he had received when attending the religious school in Qum. He jumped out of bed early in the morning, excitedly ate a hasty breakfast, put on the clean clothes that his mother had laid out for him and dashed off enthusiastically to his new school.

Faizi followed the other children when the bell rang for the start of the day and was guided to stand in line with the rest of the pupils in a respectful manner, each row in front of the door to their own class. There was order and calm and the new pupil immersed himself in the quiet and peaceful atmosphere. He lifted his head up to 'the tall cypress trees in the grounds of the school gently swaying in the breeze', feasted his eyes on 'the riot of bright flowers planted everywhere' and was absorbing the natural beauty around him when he was suddenly jolted out of his daydream by the voice of one of the students rising in sweet melody with the daily prayer chanted at the beginning of every school day:  

O Thou kind Lord! We are poor children, needy and insignificant, yet we are plants which have sprouted by Thy heavenly stream and saplings bursting into bloom in Thy divine springtime. Make us fresh and verdant by the outpourings of the clouds of Thy mercy; help us to grow and develop through the rays of the sun of Thy goodly gifts and cause us to be refreshed by the quickening breeze wafting from the meadows of Truth. Grant that we may become flourishing trees laden with fruit in the orchard of knowledge, brilliant stars shining above the horizon of eternal happiness and radiant lamps shedding light upon the assemblage of mankind.

O Lord! Should Thy tender care be vouchsafed unto us, each one of us would, even as an eagle, soar to the pinnacle of knowledge, but were we left to ourselves we would be consumed away and would fall into loss and frustration. Whatever we are, from Thee do we proceed and before Thy threshold do we seek refuge.

Thou art the Bestower, the Bountiful, the All-Loving.

‘Abdu’l-Baha [1]

Faizi stood riveted. Since his arrival in the city his senses had been bombarded with sights and sounds which were alien, strange and amazing to him. He had a lot to learn and to cope with in his new life but this was beyond all his expectations.

After his introduction to 'education' in the maktab in Qum under the guidance of tutors who seemed to have had little interest in whether the children learned anything, let alone had any regard for their feelings or spiritual development, one can only imagine the effect of this beautiful prayer on the young boy. He now stood on the shores of an ocean of knowledge and experience that even he with his vivid imagination could not foresee.

First Baha’i Class

Faizi very quickly became so attached to all his newly-found friends that he wanted to spend his whole time in school. During the course of the week he heard some of his friends talk about their Friday class, so as soon as Friday (which is the day of rest in Islamic countries) arrived he got up at the crack of dawn to make sure he did not miss following them. Unaware that these were Baha'i classes, Faizi joined his friends, who happily took him along with them without question.

When they reached the house where the class was to be held they all sat down on the floor of a carpeted room. Faizi felt a little lost but was happy to be in the company of his friends. As soon as they were all settled the owner of the house entered the room with a tray of tea and, as the children took their glass from his tray, lovingly greeted every child individually. They had finished drinking their tea when a tall, well-dressed young man entered the room and sat down in a corner. Faizi remembered that the young man wore a red cravat, that he was extraordinarily radiant, and that he felt an instant deep affection for him. He was the teacher and his name was Nuru’d-Din Fatheazam. [2]

The class began and the students started reciting in turn the quotations they had been given to learn the previous week. One quoted from the sayings of Muhammad, another from Christ, another from Moses and so on, leaving the new student in a state of total astonishment. Sinking deep in thought, the confused boy wondered, 'Oh my God! What is happening here? Where have they gathered these words from?' He was shaken from these thoughts by the realization that it would soon be his turn and he had no idea what to say. It had, of course, not escaped the attention of the kindly teacher that he had a new student in his class so he did not ask anything of Faizi. Instead he gave him a quotation from the Baha’i Writings to learn for the following week and explained to him that the words were not only to be memorized but to be understood, pondered and put into practice.

The words Faizi heard in that class had a deep effect on him and were the inspiration for the man he was to become. He was so fascinated by what he learned that day that thereafter he waited impatiently for the Friday Baha’i classes. Faizi’s mother who soon became aware of what he was learning in these classes, always gave him clean clothes to wear on Fridays. She also continued to 'nip any bad behavior or language in the bud by saying that it was contrary to her wishes' and would 'seriously prevent any repetition' of unseemly conduct.

To the end of his life Faizi never stopped thanking God for having guided him to Nuru’d-Din Fatheazam’s Baha’i class. Even as an adult he could not bring himself to regard him as a friend but rather as the respected tutor to that child from Qum who first heard of the teachings of Baha'u'llah from him. 
(Adapted from ‘Faizi’, by May Faizi-Moore)
[1] Prayer book: ‘Let Thy Breeze Refresh Them’
[2] Mr. Fatheazam’s eldest son was to become one of Faizi’s closest friends and a member of the Universal House of Justice.