August 13, 2017

Baha’u’llah’s servant: Isfandiyar - "the essence of love, radiant with sanctity and perfection, luminous with light"

Isfandiyar was a gem from Africa, pure and untarnished, and yet firm and steadfast as a diamond under all pressures and persecutions. He manifested his inherent qualities when faced with perils which endangered his life as a Babi. His wonderful countenance reflected the rays of love and courage.

Isfandiyar was a servant in the house of Baha'u'llah and, as a fruitful tree planted in good soil, he yielded a spiritual harvest. His love for Baha'u'llah was unlimited and, though many Ministers and other high government officials coveted him as a servant in their household, he remained ever-faithful to his own Master.

At the time when the persecution of the Babis began in the capital and Baha'u'llah was taken to the Siyah-Chal, the enemies of the new Faith were looking for Isfandiyar so that they could force him to betray the followers of the Bab whom he had seen in the house of Baha'u'llah. The Shah had commanded many people to find Isfandiyar and they were searching for him everywhere. But when he heard of the misfortune which had befallen the family of his beloved Master, nothing could keep him away from them.

We can imagine Isfandiyar standing among the ruins of his Master's house, drowned in an ocean of tribulation, his heart heavy with the weight of anguish. He seemed to have lost everything in the world. He did not think of all the rich furnishings, clothes and jewels which had been looted from the house of Baha'u'llah. But the thought of his Master in the Siyah-Chal and the members of that noble family now dispersed and at the mercy of their foes was more than he could bear. "Where are the children?" he asked himself. "What has befallen their saintly mother?" Isfandiyar decided to find them, but there was no trace of the family in the surrounding neighbourhood. No one knew where they had gone or what fresh misfortune had overtaken them.

Isfandiyar pondered, planned and came to a decision; then he rose up like one of the lions of his own continent. But bravery alone was not enough and here is where we discover the purity of his heart. He put his trust in divine guidance and, as he went out to trace the steps of his lost ones, a mysterious force directed his steps and led him to his goal. It seemed as though he had become invisible as he walked on the streets and passed through the market-place, because no one recognized or molested him.

The joy of the children at their reunion with Isfandiyar was great, for they loved him dearly. Speaking of him years later, 'Abdu'l-Baha said, "Whenever I think of Isfandiyar I am moved to tears although he passed away fifty years ago." [1]

After her home was looted, Asiyih Khanum had little to give her children to eat and they went hungry most of the time. She did not know whom to turn to or how to provide for them. Worst of all, she had no more news of her beloved Husband and wondered what had befallen Him in the Siyah-Chal. She was surrounded by grave danger and in need of assistance and yet, when she saw their faithful servant standing before them, her first thoughts were for his safety. She said to him, "There are a hundred policemen seeking for you. If they catch you they will not kill you at once but will torture you with fire. They will cut off your fingers. They will cut off your ears. They will put out your eyes to force you to tell them the secrets of Baha'u'llah. Go away! Do not stay here!" [2]

Isfandiyar was deeply touched by her noble expressions of true concern, but he refused to go away. He told Asiyih Khanum he could not leave until he had paid the family debts to shopkeepers from whom he had bought supplies. He could not bear to hear the fair name of his Master belittled in the market-place, and he did not leave until he had sold a few things he had and paid Baha'u'llah's debts to the last penny.

'Abdu'l-Baha spoke most lovingly of Isfandiyar during His tours of Europe and America. He praised him as "the essence of love, radiant with sanctity and perfection, luminous with light." [3] He crowned his head with the diadem of eternity when He said, "If a perfect man could be found in the world, that man was Isfandiyar." [4] “He was a point of light. Although his color was black, yet his character was luminous; his mind was luminous; his face was luminous. Truly, he was a point of light.” [5]
- Hand of the Cause, Abu’l-Qasim Faizi  (‘A Gift of Love’)
[1] The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Talks Delivered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912’)
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid