May 18, 2020

‘Abdu’l-Baha’s surprising response to two believers trying to identify the most acceptable form of martyrdom – recalled by one of His secretaries

Some thirty years ago when 'Abdu'l-Baha was surrounded by His bitter enemies; when they were instigating the Turkish Government to illtreat Him; when in His confined place of 'Akka He had a very small group of true and faithful Baha'is, 'Abdu'l-Baha always expressed great joy and happiness at the thought of being martyred like unto Jesus Christ and His disciples, and like unto thousands of faithful followers of the blessed Báb and Baha'u'llah.

In those days the doors were opened wide for the Oriental friends to enter heaven.[1] All the true believers prayed to God and yearned to be accepted for martyrdom. One day one of the pilgrims and I were discussing the best way of being admitted to sacrifice. My friend, M. Fazlullah, said that he preferred to be killed by Shamajeen like Suleiman Khan, who danced with joy during that terrible torture. (Shamajeen means decorated, grafted with candles.)

This is the way that Suleiman Khan was martyred. His body was cut through in several places and burning candles were planted in the wounds. In such a horrible state he was driven for several hours throughout the city to show the people the fate of a distinguished and honorable man converted to the new Faith. This was the way that the government, instigated by the clergy, punished the believers, in order to terrify those who desired to know about the new religion.

Now my friend, M. Fazlullah, preferred this way of being sacrificed in the Path of Baha'u'llah. But I did not choose this way. I preferred to be put to death by cannon shot, for that was the best way of propagating throughout the world the call to steadfastness. Several prominent people have been martyred in that way. This was the way that I had chosen, and I implored God to help me to attain to it. But I could not convince my friend that mine was the best way. He stuck obstinately to his own way. The discussion lasted a long time without being able to convince each other.

At last we left the pilgrims' room and went to the room of 'Abdu'l-Baha. In His simple courtyard room, we found Him standing among a dozen of the faithful ones who were from the different oriental countries. They had surrounded Him like unto a number of butterflies of various colors gathered around a lighted candle. He was full of joy, uttering heavenly words, giving divine exhortation. And the first words we heard Him say, as we arrived, in continuation of His speech was: "In the Path of Baha'u'llah, the faithful Baha'i
must become Shamajeen."

On hearing this my friend looked at me severely. I understood what he meant by that look.

But lo! What heard we after that? 'Abdu'l-Baha, without paying any attention to our arrival, said: "Yes, the true believer is he who wishes to be sacrificed with cannon shot for the sake of the Cause of Baha’u’llah!"

Hearing this, I did not fail to look at once at my friend, and could not help smiling. I am sure he understood what I meant to say.

This was the end of our discussion. None of us has ever proved worthy to attain to the zenith of such a desire. But the remembrance of the heavenly power of 'Abdu'l-Baha to know our mind and to conciliate the different thoughts of His disciples gives me such an eternal joy and spiritual happiness that I mentioned this event once in Europe and am repeating it now in order to sanctify His Name for ever and ever.

- Dr. Youness Afroukhteh (One of ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s secretaries between 1900 to 1909, told this story to some Baha’is in Germany; Star of the West [The Baha’i Magazine], vol. 22, no. 9, December 1931)
[1] So violent were the persecutions that thousands were being put to death at this time.