Becoming Bahá’í

How an Iranian Mullah became a Bahá’í!

The story goes back to some 60 years ago. Mohammad Movahed was a young Muslim priest who had entered the priesthood at an early age.He was around 7 when he asked his father to let him join a Maddreseh of Mullahs, a seminar for becoming a priest. He graduated soon and when he was almost 20 he himself became a professor of such Maddreseh. He had many students under his control and was a very successful professor.

One day he saw one of his pupils had a book and was busy reading it. Curious about the book, he asked the pupil what it was, when the boy said that it was a Raddieh, A book that the Muslim clergy authors rejecting the Bahá’í Faith. In these books they normally cling to calumny, lies and wrong data on the history to defame the Faith. Mr. Mohammad asked the boy to let him read the book as he had never heard about the Bahá’í Faith before and wanted to know why a Raddieh had been written against an unknown religion.

He read the book overnight and the next day he was uncomfortable to see contradictions on the attacks on the Faith by the author. Very few phrases had been taken from the context of the Bahá’í writings and were included there, over which the attacks were focused. He was astonishingly more attracted towards those phrases than on the attacks. He was now more thirsty to know more about the strange religion he had come up with. He went to the library in Shiraz to find more books on the Faith, which he was not so lucky with. He asked the director of the library about such books, and he said that they had some but they were locked in and nobody was supposed to see them. He insisted to get some, and the director supposed that a Mullah would need them just to write Raddieh Raddieh on.

He got the Bayan, Farsi, and the Arabic, the book of Iqan, and a few others. He almost did not sleep for a week to read all those books.

With each book he found himself drown into an ocean of doubts and more questions to which he could not find answers. So he looked for more and more books to read, when one day he was certain of the validity of the Faith, and he felt great love for Bahá’u’lláh. Now the next task was to look for others who had embraced the Faith. He searched and searched but he could not find anyone, until he met a shopkeeper who was known as Bahá’í. He went to his shop and asked to meet him in private to talk about the Faith. He was still wearing the priests' outfit, with the white turban and the long black robe. He asked the shopkeeper to meet him somewhere else to talk about the Faith. The next day he was waiting for the Bahá’í man but he never showed up. He went back to his shop the next day telling him why he did not show up. The man said he would go the next day, to which Mr. Mohammad attended and waited for hours and the shopkeeper did not appear. So he assumed that maybe he was afraid to be abducted or be attacked, so he decided not to look for any other Bahá’í and instead he decided to declare his Faith to his own pupils.

He gathered them together one day in the classroom and announced to them that he was then a believer in Bahá’u’lláh and was no longer considering himself a Bahá’í.

His students remained surprised and none could say anything and one by one they went away and he was left alone in the room. Days later he received swarms of other priests from the city,(Shiraz) reproaching him his decision.

He answered them all with logical proofs why he had accepted Bahá’u’lláh. They called him an apostate, and warned him of the consequences. He said he did not care for the possible consequences as well as losing all the benefits of being a Mullah.

The Ullema had a consulting session and decided to arrange for him hospitalization in a mental institution. They did not tolerate that one of their kinds could declare himself a Bahá’í. He was then taken to an institution and the only favor they did to him was not to take them to the dangerous patients section.

All the patients and the doctors and nurses tried to avoid him as it was rare to see a priest among them. The institution director called him a few days later and told him he did not see any sign of madness in him, and wondered why he had been let it there.

He said that it was because of being a Bahá’í and a priest at the same time. The director said,Then you really are crazy".

Little by little the nurses and the doctors started to get along with him as he had a kindly behavior towards everyone. A patient next door who was almost cured and ready to leave the institution told him that his wife was a Bahá’í and the next time she came , she could have a talk with him, which he welcomed. When she was sure that he was a real Bahá’í and that it was no trick, she passed the word to the local spiritual assembly of Shiraz. The assembly tried to send a representative but he was blocked to meet Mohammad. Later it was known that only the Muslims clergy were allowed to meet with him. But the assembly was able to send him a big box of Persian cookies as a gift for becoming a Bahá’í. That box of cookies he later said was the sweetest candy he had ever had in his life.

The clergy tried to use another tactic to make him recant. They had a well known hypnotizer to meet him and try to make him recant through hypnosis.

The doctor went to his room and said he would love to talk to him, and he said it was fine. The doctor did not know how to start so he asked Mohammad to say about his problem, to which he said it would take long and the doctor said he had lots of time and he would not mind.

So Mohammad started to tell him the long story how he became a Bahá’í. After about some 20 minutes the doctor who seemed to be in a deep sleep, woke up and stood up from the chair and said in a freaked voice, "Who are you? what am I doing here? what was all that you just said?" and he left abruptly. He got worried about the interviewer and went after him but he had left the building. Then he asked a nurse "Who was the guy who just ran away?" The nurse said that he was a new specialist doctor in hypnosis.

The next morning the same psychiatrist showed up at his room and apologized for leaving like that the previous day. When Mohammad asked why he did so, he said that he had been looking for a true religion for 17 years and none had satisfied him and his talk of the past day had brought him answers to all his question he had had for the last 17 years.

Two years later this same doctor declared Bahá’í and left the country for pioneering.

The story goes on and on and Mr. Mohammad was later released from that mental hospital after 95 days with the help of the Bahá’ís of Shiraz, and resided in Tehran. He was one of the very few Bahá’ís who knew the Faith through his own investigation without meeting even one Bahá’í and getting taught in a conventional method.

Years later after the Islamic revolution his ex colleagues spotted him and martyred him for the sin of apostasy.

He has left his testimony in a recorded tape before a group of Bahá’ís and the story is much sweeter from his own words and his own mouth.

I have tried to be brief and yet loyal to his account. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did.

email from author – name withheld

Roy Wilhelm

Roy's mother was a Bahá’í, one of the earliest believers in the United States. But Roy, though tolerant of his mother's beliefs, couldn't see himself fitting into the Bahá’í pattern. He was satisfied with his life-style. He was financially secure, a respected entrepreneur. So he pursued life as he had done for years. You might say he was a creature of habit. Every work day Roy would get up at the same time, wear dark conservative suits, buy the Herald Tribune from the same newstand, and take the same train to Wall Street. When he returned home in the afternoon, he would take the same train, and stop off at the same flower shop to buy his mother flowers. Upon arriving home, he would regularly go to his room, remove his suit coat, replacing it with a dinner-jacket, sit on his bed to remove his shoes and put on slippers.

One day that pattern was altered, but what happened was purely involuntary. He was sitting on his bed, changing his shoes, when his room was suddenly transformed. The walls were whitewashed, and there was a divan. Standing next to Roy was a majestic figure with a long black beard, dressed in what appeared to be an oriental gown. The figure approached Roy, taking off His ring and placing it on Roy's finger and removing Roy's ring and placing it on His finger.

Roy was riveted to the bed, too startled to feel fear, so awed that he couldn't utter a word. When whatever had developed before him faded away, he tried to analyze what had happened, but he was baffled. This practical man was not prone to psychic experiences. Visions were things he heard his mother's friends talk about; and he secretly felt that half of them were less than mentally balanced.

Roy didn't tell anyone about the experience. Certainly not his friends, because they would most certainly consider him crazy; and had he related the incident to his mother, she would resume her campaign to draw him into the Bahá’í Faith. But eventually he shared his secret, despite the fact that he had planned never to reveal it. A power greater than him unlocked his heart.

When Roy's mother received word that she could go to the Holy Land to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, she asked if her son would escort her. It didn't take much to persuade him to go along, because he didn't want his mother travelling alone to a strange and dangerous place halfway around the world. Seeing the Master in 1907 was difficult, because he was still a prisoner of the Ottoman Empire.

So when they reached the Haifa area, they had to be smuggled into the Master's house at night, lest the enemies of the Faith and the Covenant-breakers spotted the Wilhelms. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá saw Roy, He approached him with outstretched arms and hugged him so hard that Roy thought several of his ribs had been cracked. The very proper and Victorian Roy had never been hugged by a man before. It happened so swiftly that he didn't have time to retreat from the Master's embrace. Besides, the hug convinced him that he was most welcome, and whatever reservations he had about the safety and sanity of the place vanished.

Upon the urging of the Master, Roy went to 'Akka and Bahji. Before reaching Bahji, the carriage he was riding in stopped at the Garden of Ridvan. There, one of the Persians led him to a small white house where Bahá’u’lláh had stayed whenever He visited the Garden. As he entered, he sensed that he had been there before. It was the same room in which that extraordinary figure exchanged rings with him. Roy jumped back, retreating quickly to the garden, shaken. He could no longer hide the secret; he felt a strong urge to share this experience with ‘Abdu’l-Bahh - nobody else.

'You had a spiritual experience,' the Master told Roy. 'Bahá’u’lláh had wedded you to His Faith.'

From that day on Mr. Roy C. Wilhelm was a Bahá’í, never entertaining even the thought of divorcing himself from the Faith… Steadfastness and firmness in the Covenant seemed to be reflected in almost everything Roy did. The Faith was the primary force in his life. He knew what Bahá’u’lláh represented to the world; without Him there was death. And he understood ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s relationship to the Blessed Beauty. What the Master said was what Bahá’u’lláh would say. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked Roy to do something, he did it without hesitation. And the Master knew how strong Roy's faith was. That's why he was often called upon to do what most other believers weren't mature enough to do.

Nathan Rutstein, ‘He Loved and Served, The Story of Curtis Kelsey’, pp. 24-27

When he was very young, people thought of ‘Abdu’l-lah Baghdadi as a libertine, solely devoted to pleasure. He was regarded by all as the sport of inordinate desires, mired down in his physical passions. But the moment he became a believer, he was carried away by the sweet savors of God, and was changed into a new creation. He found himself in a strange rapture, completely transformed.  130  He had been of the world, now he was of Heaven; he had lived by the flesh, now he lived by the spirit; he had walked in darkness; now he walked in light. He had been a slave to his senses, now he was a thrall of God. He had been clay and earthenware before, now he was a dear-bought pearl; a dull and lusterless stone before, now a ruby glowing. Even among the non-believers, people were astonished at the change. What could have come over this youth, they wanted to know; how did it happen that he was suddenly detached from the world, eager and devoted? "He was tainted, corrupted," they said; "today he is abstemious and chaste. He was sunk in his appetites, but is now the soul of purity, living a righteous life. He has left the world behind him. He has broken up the feast, dismissed the revelers, and folded the banquet cloth away. His mind is distracted by love." Briefly, he let go his pleasures and possessions, and journeyed to 'Akká on foot. His face had turned so bright, his nature so luminous, that it was a joy to look at him. I used to say: "Aqa ‘Abdu’l-lah, what condition are you in?" And he would answer to this effect: "I was in darkness; now, by the favor of the Blessed Beauty, I am in light. I was a heap of dust; He changed me to a fertile field. I was in constant torment; I am now at peace. I was in love with my chains; He has broken them. I was avid for this one and that; now I cling to the Lord. I was a bird in a cage; He let me out. Today, though I live in the desert, and I have the bare ground for my bed and pillow, it feels like silk. In the old time, my coverlet was satin, and my soul was on the rack. Now I am homeless, and happy." But his burning heart broke when he saw how victimized was Bahá’u’lláh, how patiently He suffered. ‘Abdu’l-lah yearned to die for Him. And thus it came about that he offered up his life for his tender Companion, and hastened away, out of this dark world to the country of light. His luminous grave is in 'Akká. Upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious; upon him be mercy, out of the grace of the Lord.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Memorials of the Faithful, p. 129

There is a situation which we sometimes have in Bahá’í communities where the wife is a Bahá’í and her husband is not, or vice versa. Would any of you be interested in knowing about a technique for overcoming this very sad situation? In Africa, I met a young African, a beautiful soul who was a very active Bahá’í but his wife was not only not a Bahá’í, she was very antagonistic to the Faith. One time he gave an address at a Bahá’í conference. I listened and was surprised to hear him speak very lovingly of his wife. After the meeting I asked him, "George, is your wife a Bahá’í?" "Yes," he said, "she is." I said, "That is wonderful. How did you bring her into the Faith?' He said, "Oh, it was one of those natural kinds of things. She got to the point where she loved to be with the Bahá’ís." He said, "You know, I do a lot of teaching; four or five evenings a week we have meetings, and of course when my wife was so opposed to the Faith, I couldn't have her there, could I? The difficulty was that our house is so small. There is only one room. During those meetings, there was no place for her to go. We have no neighbours. So she would go out to the back and sit or stand under the banana tree.” “Well” he said, “ she became a Bahá’í during the last rainy season!”

John Robarts,