Dr. Firaydun Mithaq- THAILAND
It is through the undeserved mercy of Baha’u’llah, that I have had the bounty of meeting fourteen Hands of the Cause of God. Each one of them influenced my life in a different way. However, it was with Dr. Rahmatullah Muhajir that I associated most for fifteen years from 1964 to 1979. I earned the bounty of being with him on numerous teaching trips and meetings in India, Iran, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, South Korea, the Philippines and in the World Centre.
I recollect some of my precious moments with Dr. Muhajir, whom I adore as a role model in my life. He is still very much alive in my thoughts. Before meeting Dr. Muhajir, I had to some extent, read the Baha’i literature and thought I had a good understanding of the essence of the Baha’i Faith. I was not right. Through my continued association with Dr. Muhajir I gained a better understanding of the Faith, which only helped me further in serving the Cause to the best of my ability. It was Dr. Muhajir who taught me how the Cause needs to be served. His power of love had a profound spiritual influence in moving me forcefully into action in the field of service. The loving assistance and guidance he gave believers, communities, assemblies, and committees during consulting, planning, teaching and consolidation activities are still fondly remembered to this day. When Bahá’is came to him with broken hearts, tearful eyes or disenchantment due to turbulent circumstances in their personal or community lives, he was there as a balm to console them. They certainly returned home with joyful hearts, renewed hope, stronger faith and reassurance.
Dr. Muhajir not only led us in the field, but on most occasions worked side by side with us as a co-worker throughout the operation of plans and projects. Unfavorable or unresponsive situations did not daunt his spirit, but he kept persevering until success was achieved.
A Sweet Beginning
I began pioneering to Laos in 1962. In May 1964 I had my first meeting with Dr. Muhajir at the first National Convention of the Bahá’ís of Thailand in Bangkok. He invited me to his hotel where Dr. Muhajir, his wife Iran Khánum, and their four-year-old daughter Gisoo were staying. There he inquired about the status of the Faith in Laos. He asked me several questions which puzzled me. He seemed to have mastered the local situation in Laos from his first visit in 1960. I updated him with the latest status. He told me what had to be done in Laos, and assured me of his visit to Laos soon. In that very first meeting I received the tremendous outpouring of his love and consoling words and opened a new horizon of thinking and vision in my mind.
With Bijan to my left in Laos
Knew the right time to harvest
One day in October 1964, Bijan, my fellow pioneer and I lived among the northern tribes. While shopping for necessities and collecting mail in a nearby town we received a letter from Dr. Muhajir, advising us to establish Local Spiritual Assemblies in all the hill tribal communities, villages of Sayaboury province as well as in other localities in Laos. The suggestion of forming the Assemblies at that early stage of the development of the Faith in Laos appeared to be an impossible task for us. However, since the directive came from a Hand of the Cause we decided to do our best. We worked day and night. Finally we were drowned in an ocean of joy as the friends succeeded in electing six local spiritual assemblies in the tribal communities. When we field-workers could never dream of electing assemblies, it was Dr. Muhajir who felt it was possible. He seemed to know the possibilities in a far-off land like Laos.
Soon after that, a letter came from the Universal House of Justice advising us to train the native believers to become teachers of the Faith among their people. We made all attempts to train them, but as time passed, that effort proved to be a difficult task, because we were dealing with believers who were illiterate. We prayed for assistance. Soon we received a sound and clear-cut guidance from Dr. Muhajir in his visit to Laos in June 1965. Dr. Muhajir gave us many explanations and examples on how to train local believers to become the teachers of the Faith. He said, “The training must be goal-oriented and its contents address the spiritual needs of the people whom we approach to teach. We must talk to them in the terms and in the language, that they can understand. We must use simple metaphors and analogies to explain deep spiritual concepts such as the analogies of light, mirror, tree, etc. that Abdu’l-Baha has used in His speeches. We must help them to realize that they are the members of one world community and one world family.” We were surprised how he made things not only simple, but most practical as well. We absorbed all his guidance like sponges absorbing water.
Opposition is a blessing
As the Faith was growing in Laos there were signs of impending opposition from some quarters. We raised this matter with Dr. Muhajir. He said the Faith needs opposition for promoting greater proclamation and fostering internal unity. He said opposition comes out of prejudice, ignorance or even fear of losing grip in society. We have to identify the root cause of opposition he said. Through such oppositions, we have much to learn on how the ill-informed outside world thinks. Only then can we act accordingly. He said oppositions are best to be handled in the field itself, but with great wisdom.
Results are not in our hands
Dr. Muhajir said the efforts are in our hands, not the results. The results are in the hands of God. At times results are not seen during our own lifetime. We have to keep on ploughing the ground and sowing seeds. They are sure to germinate one day. The important thing to bear in mind is to understand that we are only the channels or instruments of God. It is only the power of the love of God that moves us into action and brings victory. This power inspires, leads and strengthens us and opens new windows of opportunity. Armed with the full faith in God, problems and difficulties would just vanish, he said. He said at times the victories are far from overwhelming, and at such moments we should thank God, and never have the slightest thought that we are the ones who brought in success. He cautioned that harboring such thoughts would turn out to be perfect recipe for our downfall.
Tadpole to water
Dr. Muhajir was one of the most adaptable teachers I had known. He would adjust to all situations. In May 1966, Dr. Muhajir visited Laos. I was then in Thakhek, a provincial town in the south. Bijan met them at the Vientiane airport, settled them in a hotel and invited the friends in Vientiane to meet them. On the following day Bijan sent me a telegram informing me that he was coming to Thakhek the following day with three others. The three others were Mr. Yankee Leong who was Auxiliary Board Member from Malaysia, Bijan from Vientiane and Mrs. Chosiri Faridian. I was overjoyed by this exciting news. But I was equally worried on the hardship that Dr. Muhajir had to endure while traveling in a passenger truck to reach Thakhek. He had to sit on hard wooden seats while travelling on bumpy, dusty and dirty roads. As a seasoned traveler who knew Laos well, he was well prepared. By the time, Dr. Muhajir arrived in Thakhek he and his companions were coated in a thick layer of red dust. The thickness of the dust was to the extent that it had even penetrated their suitcases and clothes. On his next trip to Laos, Dr. Muhajir told us he had carried the Laotian red dust with him all the way to the Holy Land and finally dusted it off in Haifa. Dr. Muhajir simply taught us how we should adapt to any situation like tadpoles taking to water.
The kind of truck in which Dr. Muhajir traveled with us.
Man of Great Courage
It was in the above trip that I saw the courage of Dr. Muhajir. After doing two days in Thakhek he decided to leave Laos by crossing the Mekong River to Thailand, and take a bus from the Thai border to Bangkok, and then fly to Haifa. I had the bounty to accompany him to Thai border. We crossed the river and checked in at the immigration office. The immigration officer, upon examining the passport of Dr. Muhajir said Dr. Muhajir could not pass the border on land since he had come to Laos by air. Therefore he was told to go back to Vientiane and leave by air. Dr. Muhajir tried to explain that he was rushing for an important meeting in Haifa, and was running out of time. The officer refused to listen to the explanation and plea of Dr. Muhajir and kept insisting saying it was impossible. Dr. Muhajir knew there was no such rule, and asked for the rule from the books. The officer did not produce any and kept on insisting for him to return to Vientiane. At this point Dr. Muhajir was fully convinced that the officer just wanted to show his power. Suddenly, Dr. Muhajir with a great determination and courage said, ” Why it is impossible? Just do like this.” Then Dr. Muhajir picked up the departure stamp from the desk and chopped it on his passport. Dr. Muhajir told him, “See it is possible. Now please sign on the stamp.” The officer was simply speechless and turned pale while I froze and turned white! Since the passport was chopped with exit stamp, the officer reluctantly signed it and let Dr. Muhajir go. As we walked away from the immigration check-point I thought to myself of the great courage of Dr. Muhajir. At that moment, Dr. Muhajir turned to me and said in a soft and yet firm tone, “He just cannot frustrate God’s work. Greater is God than every great one.” From the Thai border I accompanied Dr. Muhajir by local bus to Muk-Dahan city from where he took the express bus to Bangkok.
Basic Needs to be addressed first
In June 1966 Dr. Muhajir arrived in Vientiane with exciting news. Every one of us was overjoyed and treasured the precious moments we had with him. At a special meeting Dr. Muhajir asked what basic assistance was needed to push further for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith in Laos. We mentioned the need of Baha’i literature and trained teachers. It was unanimously agreed that the translation and publication of more prayer books, the books on the Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah and The New Garden were urgently needed at that early stage of the development of the Faith in Laos. The friends began to work immediately on this task. I was assigned to work with Mr. Maha Chonsook, a literary Buddhist, who had studied for some years in India and America and had a good command of English, Laotian and of religious terminology. He worked with the USIS (United States Information Service) as a translator and the editor of the popular Horizon magazine published in Laotian. He was well known for his translation skills and had previously translated small Baha’i materials. His translations were good and he willingly agreed to undertake the indicated translations. Within ten months, this goal was accomplished and the enrichment of Bahá’i literature in Laos placed the Faith in a new pedestal. The Faith was now taken to the elite in society. It was a next phase of development of the Faith. Dr. Muhajir was much prophetic in getting the basic needs in place for the Faith to grow from phase to phase.
Do not postpone for tomorrow
Dr. Muhajir always told us what the Master had been telling the believers to the effect that if something could be done today, do not postpone for tomorrow. When we were in a restaurant in Thakhek having supper, Dr. Muhajir suddenly turned to me and asked a direct question, “What do you think about having the National Spiritual Assembly of Laos elected next Ridván?” I thought it was wonderful idea, but needed more carefully thinking. Meanwhile some questions cropped up in my mind, “Are we ready for it? Can our infant local spiritual assemblies and communities understand the implications of establishing a National Assembly? How will our resources cope up?” Other three friends who had followed Dr. Muhajir seemed to be quite relaxed as I believed they had discussed the subject before coming to Thakhek. Dr. Muhajir detected my bewilderment and shot another question: “How many Spiritual Assemblies and how many believers do you have in Laos?” I replied, “Seventeen spiritual assemblies and approximately five thousand believers or more.” Dr. Muhajir smiled and said, “This means you have the basis for establishing your National Spiritual Assembly next year.” Then he gave the news that the Universal House of Justice has planned for its election in the coming Ridván of 1967. Then he released the actual situation. He broke the news that the election of the National Assembly of Laos was not in the original plan of the House of Justice. The election of the national assembly for Laos was brought forward to 1967 because of the rapid development of the Faith in Laos. Dr. Muhajir continued, “You will no doubt have a good National Spiritual Assembly, and be assured you will do well”. Everyone present was in a state of joy hearing these assuring words coming from the Hand of the Cause of God. With hope coming from Dr. Muhajir and directives coming from the Universal House of Justice, the stage was set for us to work round the clock to elect the first national assembly for Laos. A few months prior to the formation of the National Spiritual Assembly, Mr. Yankee Leong arrived in Laos and assisted us until the National Spiritual Assembly was successfully established.
Yan Kee Leong, Dr. Muhajir, Firaydun Mithaq and Mrs. Chosiri Fardian, in the town of Thakhek- Cammuan, 1966
Tact and Wisdom
In November 1965 Dr. Muhajir visited Laos- prior to the formation of the first National Spiritual Assembly of Laos. Dr. Muhajir met with the Teaching Committee and gave feedback, guidance and encouragement to take the Faith to the next stage of growth. While he was meeting informally with some friends over a cup of tea he remarked, “The time has come for you to have your Auxiliary Board Member.” He asked, “All of you are capable of this responsibility, and which one of you is more suitable?” That question was too direct. None of us made a comment, as how could we volunteer not knowing where we stood and what were the responsibilities of a Board Member. All we knew was field teaching.
Early next morning, I went to the hotel to take Dr Muhajir to see the Baha’i Temple Site. He had been praying, and asked me to join him. He handed me compilation of selection of prayers and the Hidden Words of Baha’u’llah wrapped in an olive silk cover. He asked me to open it and chant a prayer. After I had chanted, Dr. Muhajir said, “It is for you.” That was a precious gift that I had received from the Hand of the Cause of God. Then he went on explaining some of the duties of Auxiliary Board members. We then adjourned for breakfast at a Chinese coffee shop. While having breakfast he asked a direct question, “Among you who do you think is better to be appointed as an Auxiliary Board member? Chester Lee, Manijeh, Bijan or you?” I was put on a tight spot. I didn’t know what to say. But the Hand of the Cause was expecting an answer from me. I thought for a minute and said, “Of course Bijan, as I think he is wise and thoughtful. Besides, Bijan is more knowledgeable.” He asked, “How is your relationship with Bijan?” I told him we had a perfect relationship like one soul in two bodies. “That is good,” he said. I could see Dr. Muhajir wanted to avoid any friction between pioneers. What a wisdom. In February 1966 Dr. Muhajir appointed Bijan as Auxiliary Board Member for propagation in Laos. Bijan performed his duties well and continued this service till August 1968 when he left Laos. I felt very proud of his performance in that capacity.
Manijeh Javid Bayzayee, Dr. Muhajir, Chestor Lee, Firaydun and Bijan in an urban setting
Just one of us
After that meeting, we went to visit the Baha’i Temple Site and the National Endowment land that were near Vientiane. He wanted to follow me on my motorcycle. How could I offer a motorcycle ride for a most revered, much loved and distinguished personage of a Hand of the Cause of God? I suggested hiring a taxi, but he insisted coming as a pillion rider. He sat on the back of my motorbike on the way to the Temple Site. That was the most uncomfortable ride I had in my entire life. As I started the engine, he grabbed my waist tight and reminded me to drive slowly. He was of a large frame. I kept driving very carefully. Visiting the friends at the temple site and checking the site greatly pleased him. We said more prayers at the site and returned. I must admit that was not the first time that he had ridden with me on a motorbike. He moved just like one of us in Laos. There was never an air of superiority in him.
Dr. Muhajir with believers in the house of ABM Maha Bouasi in the mass teaching area of Ban Nam Poth, 1974
Dr. Muhajir with believers in the mass teaching area of Ban Nam Poth, 1974
First National Spiritual Assembly
Dr. Muhajir came back to Laos on Ridvan 1967 for the historic event of the election of the first National Spiritual Assembly as representative of the Universal House of Justice. The National Baha’i Centre was prepared for the event, and Mr. Yankee Leong decorated the walls of the convention room with his beautiful watercolor paintings that depicted the Lao people’s culture and life. The delegates were enthused by the presence of Dr. Muhajir. The convention generated important suggestions on teaching subjects and focused on launching the first national teaching campaign. Dr. Muhajir stood at the heart of the discussions. Not only did he repeatedly emphasize the importance of the training of the new believers, but also spelled out how a training program had to be developed. He emphasized the need for preparing necessary materials and practical plans of action. The suggestions were presented to the newly elected National Spiritual Assembly for approval. He had three meetings with the newly elected National Spiritual Assembly of Laos. On the final day of the convention, the first outline of the plan for a nationwide teaching campaign was approved and presented to the believers. It was a very simple but comprehensive plan, in which full-time and part-time teachers in each area would open new communities to the Faith while other teams would follow up with consolidation, deepening and field training of new part-time teachers. Several adults and youths from rural communities and Vientiane arose to take the Message of Baha’u’llah to the masses that lived in villages and refugee camps. This campaign was the beginning of the wide expansion of the Faith in Laos and large human resource development.
First National Spiritual Assembly of Laos. Seated L-R: Firaydun Mithaq, Khamsing, Dr. Muhajir, Bun-Mi, Manijeh Javid Bayzayee
He had the pulse of Laos in his finger tip
The convention was successfully completed, but for Dr. Muhajir the work in Laos had to see a new beginning. One of the major, well-organized series of activities that the National Assembly initiated immediately after its establishment was the training of a group of local travel teachers. After completing a week-long training course, they would scatter into the three major regions in Laos for expansion and consolidation activities. These regions included; Luang Prabang Main Refugee Camps outside Luang Prabang, Viang-Kham Refugee Camps located outside Vientiane and Thakhek Refugee Camps outside Thakhek.
Dr. Muhajir had initiated all the activities but surprisingly was not in the habit of corresponding and writing letters to our National Assembly. In one of the meetings when we asked him how he would know about the details of our activities and progress, he simply said that he would get a copy of our progress reports from Haifa and read them with interest.
Understanding the local minds
Unlike tribal people, who are traditionally spirit worshipers, Laotians believe in Buddhism and are passionately devoted to Buddhist rituals. Our numerous teaching activities in Lao villages in the past had been challenging and slow. On one occasion, after the appointment of the National Teaching Committee we were having dinner at a restaurant. While waiting for dinner, we asked Dr. Muhajir if he could tell us what would be a suitable approach for teaching the Faith to Buddhist masses in rural areas. We knew Dr. Muhajir had extensive teaching experiences around the world.
He graciously and simply explained that we must follow the way of Abdu’l-Baha. Dr. Muhajir said, “First, we must go to receptive areas, then, establish bonds of friendship with people even if for only a few minutes. Next, we must convey the life-giving Message of Baha’u’llah in the language that they understand. We must do this with utmost love. While we are delivering the Message, it is helpful to have background information about the culture and religion of the people we teach so that the Message can be delivered in familiar terms that they will understand. Finally, we must return to them for consolidation and training while we continue the teaching work.”
The guidance that Dr. Muhajir gave us was vital to our teaching work and helped us in numerous circumstances for many years. Following Dr. Muhajir’s advice, familiarizing ourselves with Buddhist sacred literature and prophesies proved to be effective. Mass-teaching then began in Laotian villages. With the grace of God, the doors opened one by one. Teaching among the Buddhist communities took momentum in the mid-sixties as people in village after village embraced the Cause of God. These victories inspired us to write a small book about Buddhist prophesies that was translated to Laotian. The book titled, “Baha’u’llah and The Fulfillment of Buddhist Prophesies” was published by the National Spiritual Assembly of Laos in 1970, and reprinted in1972 and 1975. It was also published and distributed by the Asian Committee of the US National Spiritual Assembly for the Laotian refugees that reside in the United States. It is currently in use. At every teaching trip, whenever I thought of Dr. Muhajir, I would consult with him in my mind and visualized his guidance based on my experiences and memories gained in his company.
Summoned to India
In the spring of 1967 Dr. Muhajir made another visit to Laos. I went to Bijan’s home where Dr. Muhajir was talking to a small group of friends. After the meeting was over, Dr. Muhajir bade everyone goodbye and started back to his hotel. I longed to be with Dr. Muhajir a little longer. He sensed my feeling and asked me if I would like to walk with him to his hotel. On the way, he reminded me of the international conference to be held in New Delhi in October 1967. Then Dr. Muhajir asked me to come to India for one or two months for teaching and assisting in proclamation activities. Upon reaching the hotel room, he asked me to chant a prayer. After that he chanted the Tablet of Ahmad. The melody of his voice still echoes in my mind while I am writing these words. Then Dr. Muhajir reached for his bag and took out a mini cassette-tape-player and turned it on. I could hear his melodious recorded voice once again chanting a tablet from the writings of Abdu’l-Baha. He then took the cassette tape out of the recorder and gave it to me. He said there are more tablets on this tape, and then passed the tape to me. I took the tape and thanked him. It was the most precious gift I had received in a long time.
The next day I was in his company eating snacks at one of the small food-stalls facing a river. He spoke again about the importance of some of the Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha. I inquired if those tablets were on the tape that he had given me. “They are there,” he replied. I thought I must quickly find a record player and listen to those tablets, but in those days, the mini cassette-tape-player was new in Laos, and very seldom did people own one. Again Dr. Muhajir must have read my thoughts. He said. “Aey Shaytun (You naughty boy), don’t you tell me you want this tape-player. Then it is yours, take it. I knew it would finally be yours,” he said humorously.
I kept listening to those tablets over and over so that they were recorded in my memory with his melodic voice. I memorized parts of those tablets and would chant them frequently to myself. One day our house was robbed and everything was gone, including the mini tape-recorder. But fortunately, the tape of Dr. Muhajir was still in my possession. It was in my desk drawer. You can imagine how happy I was.
After attending the Summer School that was held in 1967 in Songkhla, the border city of Thailand and Malaysia, I began my trip to India. To economize the trip, I took the train from the Lao-Thai border to Bangkok. From Bangkok, I flew to Calcutta and then took the train to New Delhi via Bombay. On the night train from Bombay to New Delhi, the temperature dropped and I caught a bad cold. In New Delhi, I had to see a doctor, who gave me medication. I then went to the National Baha’i Centre at Canning Road and stayed in bed. Dr. Muhajir came to my bedside and said he had a good plan for me, but I had to get well first. Next morning, I felt better and went straight to see Dr. Muhajir. He asked about my health. I said I was fine. He asked me if I was ready to travel and I answered in the affirmative.
Abdul Baha’s wishes to be fulfilled
Then Dr. Muhajir talked about teaching potential in Himachal Pradesh, in the Himalayan province. He particularly emphasized the importance of the state of Punjab and gave me another cassette tape containing tablets of Abdu’l-Baha about the receptivity of people in Punjab. He said, “These are the places which Abdu’l-Baha mentioned in His tablets. These are only a few selected tablets of Abdu’l-Baha concerning teaching the Faith in India. In fact, there are many more in a compilation. You can meet people in schools, colleges, universities, social clubs and organizations where people understand and speak English. You will be traveling alone and you will find the way. Please see Mr.R.N. Shah, the NSA secretary, and he will give you all the information you need for your trip.” He also told me to always look if any references had been made by the Central Figures, the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice about the goal areas. Those references would give one a sense of direction as to what had to be done in the goal areas.
As per Dr. Muhajir’s guidance, I undertook one month of travel teaching to Chandigarh, Simla, Bilaspur, Mandi, Kullu Valley and Dharamsala where a Tibetan community lived. In every one of the above-mentioned cities, I began searching for receptive souls and shared the Message of Baha’u’llah. I checked into some guesthouses before visiting schools, colleges, universities, social clubs, associations and various organizations. Fortunately, with very few exceptions, everywhere that I stepped the doors opened. I was warmly received and the Baha’i Message was delivered. These activities were usually followed by evening firesides with interested souls in attendance, some of whom embraced the Cause of God and declared their belief in Baha’u’llah. I was astonished at their receptivity. Dr. Muhajir must have been remembering me in his prayers.
Fatherly Figure for my family
Giti Maani joined me in Laos after we got married in October 1968. In the seventies when I was frequently traveling and visiting the believers and meeting the spiritual assemblies that extended to periods of several weeks. Each time I stated my journey Giti was worried. She thought that our two small children, Sahba 5 and Samoa 1 in the primitive and harsh climate of Laos needed longer presence of their father. We had talked about that and I had tried to cut my travels to shorter periods but Giti was still concerned. One day she told me that she had spoken to Dr. Muhajir on one of his visits about it. Dr. Muhajir had sympathized with her, but also told her that there are times when people accept the hardship of being away from their loved ones because they are serving the Faith, and that she and our children had a share of it. Dr. Muhajir himself had spent the great deal of his time away from his wife and child while traveling to many countries around the world. Giti knew that well. Dr. Muhajir told Giti not to worry about the well-being of her children and assured that Baha’u’llah will protect them. He said, “Let Firaydoun travel and do his work. Opportunities to serve as now may not come again in the future.” Finally, Giti was satisfied and life went on. I kept traveling and missed Giti’s company and our children. But I credit Giti, for it was her that in my absence made the real sacrifice and single handed raised our children with good manners and orientated them with an attitude of service to the Cause of God.
Dr. Muhajir with Giti, holding our first child Sahba, Laos
Was this his routine?
In 1974 Dr. Muhajir and I flew to Singapore. Since there was only one room available, Dr. Muhajir invited me to share his room. You can imagine how overjoyed I was for having the chance of sharing the room with Dr. Muhajir! That night Dr. Muhajir spoke to me about the importance of the education of youth and children. He mentioned the education of children of the Iban tribe that lived in long houses in Sarawak, East Malaysia. Most of these children were deprived of any schooling. He emphasized the importance of children receiving Baha’i education in these words, “The institutions of the Faith must pay attention to this need with simple but effective programs. Counselors, Board Members and their Assistants must support and assist the Spiritual Assemblies in realizing this work.” When we returned to our room he asked me to say a prayer. I chanted a prayer for teaching. Then he chanted a long prayer in Arabic for assistance. I was then serving the Faith in the capacity of Counselor and I saw how naturally Dr. Muhajir was educating me with his invaluable tips and preparing me for future undertakings. It was around 11:00 pm when I retired to bed and fell asleep. Afterwards, I woke up noticing that the lights were still on. Dr. Muhajir was awake sitting on his bed and praying. I checked the time. It was 2:40 am. That night Dr. Muhajir did not sleep. He prayed until after dawn and then closed his eyes and took a short nap. I wondered if this was his daily routine.
Ambitious Plans have to be Manageable As Well
Next afternoon we went to the National Baha’i Center to meet with the National Youth and Children’s Committee. At the meeting, Dr. Muhajir gave a few suggestions for the acceleration of teaching activities since the teaching was rather stagnant. The chairperson of the committee was a bit pessimistic and kept making negative remarks saying, “We have tried this and that, and it doesn’t work”. Dr. Muhajir was very calm. Finally, he stood up and softly and yet firmly said, “You can combine your energies for collective actions. Plan a manageable teaching campaign and try again, you have nothing to lose by trying. Once you take the step with conviction and unity, the Divine Assistance is promised to descend upon you and doors are bound to open.” The Committee was finally convinced to make some teaching plans which we learned later were all successful. Dr. Muhajir taught us that plans can be ambitious, but they must be equally manageable and practical.
Faith comes first
Several times during the sixties, when Dr. Muhajir was visiting Laos, he encouraged Bijan and me to leave our jobs to be free to devote our time and energy fully for the expansion and consolidation of the Baha’i communities. He believed that at this point and time, there was no other treasure worthy enough to compare with the value of teaching and consolidation. Dr. Muhajir visited Laos in November 1965, he advised me to leave my job and engage in full-time travel teaching. He himself sent a cable to the World Centre and requested a monthly sum of Fifty dollar as subsidy from the International Deputizing Fund to assist me in my living and traveling expenses. Consequently, I gave up my job at USAID and engaged in travel teaching work for nearly seven years until 1972. I am happy I obeyed the words of Dr. Muhajir. I realized that I could not have performed my duty well at the crucial time. Divided energy would have yielded only little results.
There is always time for everything.
Once in 1966 when Dr. Muhajir was on one of his short visits in Laos I gathered enough courage to tell him about my desire of pursuing college education in Thailand and sought his advice. He had previously discouraged me from seeking employment but as education has a high place in everyone’s life, I thought he might consent. Replying to my query he very lovingly said it is very good. He then emphatically reminded me that the condition of the Faith in Laos was that the doors were open and masses of people were attracted to the Faith. It was important to focus on teaching and consolidation of the Faith until a strong foundation for the steady development of the cause was established. He further said: ‘Look at me I am a medical doctor but now where is my medical degree? Where is my medical education and practice? The need of the Faith is of highest priority…” I discussed this subject no more. I left it for the future and confident that the time for pursuing my education would someday arrive.
About twelve years in July 1977, with recommendation of the Hand of the Cause of God, Dr. Muhajir, we moved to South Korea and remained there for sixteen years. In South Korea, we lived in Anyang city. It was March 1979 when I began my college education at an advance age of 38. I finally obtained my doctoral degree in education. Throughout the years, I did not forget Dr. Muhajir’s advice that “There is always time for everything. All we have to do is to understand the Will of God, act accordingly and be patient.”
Simple and Thrifty, and Yet Majestic
In June 1978, Dr. Muhajir visited us. It was his last visit to Korea before he passed away to the Abha Kingdom. Giti and I met him at the airport and took him to the four stars President Hotel. When we got to the hotel, a few friends were already there to welcome him. He greeted everyone with much love and a big smile. He looked very tired and his smile could hardly hide the weariness of his long and continuous travels. After he had finished greetings he said, “I don’t want to stay in this hotel. Let’s go to the Hamilton Hotel since it would cost less and I am more familiar with its surroundings.” So, we took a taxi to the Hamilton. I invited two other friends who had come to see Dr. Muhajir, to sit with Giti in the back and let Dr. Muhajir take the front seat. I was going to take another taxi but Dr. Muhajir asked me to share the front seat with him although the seat was not large enough for two persons.
A Dose of “Spiritual Scolding”
On the way to the Hamilton Hotel in that taxi Dr. Muhajir scolded me for the report I had written on Counselor Mumtazi’s request explaining the critical status of the Faith in Korea and because not knowing what must be done to improve the situation I called for guidance and help. The report pointed out that despite continuous consolidation and rescue efforts the local spiritual assemblies were disappearing one after another and communities were shrinking. The National Spiritual Assembly of Korea attributed this sad situation to “The Saemaul Undong Movement”, that is, the industrialization of Korea that took momentum in the mid-seventies. Mr. Mumtazi had shared that report with the body of the Continental Board of Asia. Dr. Muhajir had seen that report and was unhappy because of its negative connotation. Dr. Muhajir was usually concerned more about the positive aspects of the Faith’s progress. “Why did you write that pessimistic report? Its impact is international. Don’t you know that the Faith grows through crisis and victory?” I knew he was right. I just put my head down in submission. After a moment of silence, he softly asked me if I was upset with his scolding. I accepted the spiritual scolding and thought it was for the good of the Faith. He put his hand on my head and shook me up with a broad smile. He just commented that Bahá’is would grow, and the Faith too would advance if only they could take positive criticism.
Set fire within minutes
Dr. Muhajir had the rare ability to set believers on fire within minutes. I had witnessed this on numerous occasions. On the following day, I went to the Hamilton Hotel to take him to the National Baha’i Center for a meeting with the National Spiritual Assembly. Three Persian youth pioneers who studied in Seoul, came to see Dr. Muhajir in the hotel. He had very little time to spare. Within a few minutes, Dr. Muhajir talked about The Báb and read a few quotations from His writings regarding the rewards of serving the Cause of God. Listening to him drowned us in an ocean of joy. Within a few minutes, Dr. Muhajir was able to set us on fire, which only he alone could do.
Blinked with a Blank cheque
In those days, I had a hobby of developing Baha’i jewelry. I collected a few rings, pendants and pins with the Greatest Name inscribed on them and offered them as my humble gift for Dr. Muhajir. He liked them and asked me to make a parcel of one hundred pieces of each for him to give away as gifts to friends in his travel to other lands. He asked me how much he should pay. I declined accepting any payment. Finally, he signed a blank cheque and inserted it into my chest pocket. I just blinked with a blank cheque. Then he told me to write a reasonable amount and cash it. I wanted him to have the jewelry as a humble present. I wrote a nominal amount on the cheque and cashed it. He had that much trust that I would not fill in more than the value of them. I felt proud to have earned this much trust.
Able soldiers and lieutenants
Dr. Muhajir worked with both soldiers and lieutenants he himself chose and trained. He was happy to have had a group of teachers, Auxiliary Board Members and Continental Board of Counselors whom he nurtured into maturity with patience and love. I had the privilege of serving as Counselor. When Dr. Muhajir met me after my appointment as Counselor, he told me in no uncertain terms that this position was to be seen as only an avenue and a channel to serve the Cause in a different capacity. Under the guidance of the Universal House of Justice, the International Teaching Center, and Dr. Muhajir the services of the Counselors and national institutions found expression and the Cause of God won many victories in this part of the world. It was Dr. Muhajir who traveled personally to guide, supervise, monitor and assist where needed. He made sure the Auxiliary Board Members and Counselors worked well among themselves and the national institutions in their respective areas of jurisdiction. To me he was a great diplomat in cementing the hearts of both the institutions of the learned and the elected bodies. Dr. Muhajir not only established an excellent working relationship between national institutions and the Counselors, but involved both arms in devising the plans and implementing them. The Counselors could feel the extent to which Dr. Muhajir loved us. The Counselors equally loved this most lovable Hand of the Cause. Part of the reason why the Counselors achieved all the tasks entrusted to us was the fear of deprivation of his love. We cherished and treasured his love more than anything else. History has it that the late Counselor Inbum Chinniah of Malaysia passed away soon after the passing of Dr. Muhajir, mostly out of the shocking blow from that tragic news.
Continental Board of Counselors for South-East Asian zone at a meeting in Manila, 1973.
L-R: Dr. Chellie J. Sundram, K. H Payman, Firadun Mithaq, Yankee Leong, Vicente Samaniego.
A Wonder that cannot be easily fathomed
What I have written thus far is only the tip of the iceberg, owing to space constraints. I cannot say with confidence that I have understood the majestic personality of Dr. Muhajir. He comes into a new territory for the first time and sets the goals and targets that only a person who had resided in that place for decades would devise. His plans, target and goals were very practical and always achievable. Somehow, he seems to understand the pulse and vibration in any community. I still wonder how he had this rare instinct. When he was in a village, he moved with them as one of them, eating their food and appreciating their culture and finally winning them over. When visiting institutions in urban areas Dr. Muhajir was totally a different caliber. He could pass nights in a wooden hut in a remote village, and sleep in star hotels. He somehow knew the capacity of each and everyone in the community, and gave them tasks according to their capacity. Dr. Muhajir memorized the names of almost all workers in the community and would call them by their names in all his visits. He was always prayerful and prayed for more than one hour each morning. He moved workers through his warm words and by leading the way in the field. He was always optimistic and in all his visits he inspired us with success stories in other parts of the world and with the Holy Writings. His words had a penetrative influence in me. Even in his casual conversations he had a message for us, though the relevance of such conversations come to the fore some months later. He was the greatest Bahá’i teacher I had witnessed, moving like an orb of fire in the teaching field. People used to say that the company of a saintly person would enhance one’s spirit. My personal observation is that the very sight of Dr. Muhajir had inspired me, what more his company, what more his words! To this day, he remains a wonder to me.
15 June, 2017
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dr. Firaydun Mithaq (Mithaqiyan) was 20 years old when he pioneered to Laos in 1962, thus catching up with the last year of the Ten Year Crusade-Plan. Coming from the fifth generation of Baha’is on his father’s side and fourth generation from mother’s side, he was raised in a devoted family. From the age of two to fifteen, he grew up in home-pioneering locations among the Kurd populations with his four siblings. He spent the first seven years of pioneering among the tribal masses of spirit worshipers in the hills, mountains and the urban and rural Buddhists communities in Laos. Mithaq witnessed mass teaching in these areas in 1963, from a single village of forty-five tribal people to about one hundred thousand believers in 1973. In 1973 he was appointed to serve on the Continental Board of Counsellors in South East Asia. From 1975 to 2017 he and his family pioneered to Hong Kong, South Korea, China and Thailand. From 1987to 1992 he lived in the aboriginal communities in Northwest Australia such as Carnarvon, Onslow, Karatha, Roburn, Port headland, Brume and Derby and engaged in travel teaching and community building activities. He currently lives with his wife Giti in Thailand. His pioneering life was highly inspired under the direct love and guidance of the Hand of the Cause of God Dr. Rahamatullah Muhajir.