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Welcome to the Bahá’í Recollections Historical Blog

Welcome to the Bahá’í Recollections Historical Blog

The Bahá’í  Recollections Historical Blog features a collection of stories of individual Bahá’ís. This is a personal initiative site developed to enable the believers to freely post their inspiring stories for the purpose of inspiring the current generation of readers, and for preserving for posterity their contributions. The official website of the Bahá’í Faith  is: bahai.org. The official  website of many national Bahá’í communities can be found here.

Stories are welcome in these three categories:

  1. Bahá’í Stories – Bahá’í describing their experiences
  2. In Memoriam – About heroic believers who have passed away
  3. How I came into the Faith – How individuals were guided to accept the Faith

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“What you could do, and should do, is to use your stories to become a source of inspiration and guidance for those who read them. With such a means at your disposal, you can spread the spirit and teachings of the Cause.” — Shoghi Effendi

 

A RARE ENCOUNTER WITH JALÁL KHÁZEH

A RARE ENCOUNTER WITH JALÁL KHÁZEH

The Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Jalál Kházeh, also known as Colonel Jalál Kházeh made his only visit to this part of the world for Riḍván 1972. It was just a single visit on his part, but multiple lessons were learnt through his penetrative talks and utterances which left everlasting impacts in the hearts of the listeners.  His visit to this region was in the capacity as the official representative of the Universal House of Justice for the First National Convention of Singapore as well as the First National Convention of Eastern Malaysia and Brunei. Taking advantage of his coming to these two conventions, he was able to quickly squeeze some time to make a lightning visit to the Malacca town community in West Malaysia. This story carries anecdotes and lessons learnt from this sporadic and only trip the beloved Hand of the Cause of God made to Singapore, Sarawak, and Malacca.

MAIDEN VISIT

Mr. Kházeh had attended national conventions in other parts of the world, but not in South East Asia. He represented the Guardian at the National Bahá’í Convention of Japan held in Tokyo in 1955 and 1957. He also represented the Guardian at the formation of the National Spiritual Assembly for North-East Asia in Tokyo in 1957. In the same year he visited Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. He was so close and yet far. The communities in Singapore and Sarawak were delighted to receive the good news that the Hand of the Cause would be in their midst for their first national conventions.

When the first National Spiritual Assembly for Malaysia was elected in 1964, the national body had its jurisdiction over West Malaysia, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, and the countries of Singapore and Brunei respectively. The Bahá’í community of Singapore was administratively placed under the jurisdiction of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia from the time the national institution was first elected in Riḍván 1964. At the Oceanic Conference of the South China Seas held in the early part of January 1971, the Supreme Body sent a message to say that Singapore would have its own National Spiritual Assembly in Riḍván 1972. This was the most unexpected and yet the most welcoming announcement. As Singapore needed much manpower, the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia sent travel teachers to help strengthen the community by increasing the number of Local Spiritual Assemblies. At the time of the formation of the National Spiritual Assembly in Singapore, there were seven Local Spiritual Assemblies in Singapore. These were the Local Spiritual Assemblies of Katong, Macpherson, Serangoon, Bukit Timah, Bukit Panjang, Jurong, and Queenstown. When Riḍván 1972 approached, the Supreme Body informed that Hand of the Cause of God Jalál Kházeh would be their official representative to the National Convention of Singapore as well as Eastern Malaysia and Brunei.

The Bahá’ís in this region were already quite familiar with several other Hands of the Cause who had been visiting Malaya or Singapore in the days beginning the 1950s. They are Mr. Dhikru’lláh Khádim, Mr. Shu’á’u’lláh ‘Alá’í, Miss Agnes Baldwin Alexander, Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir, Abu’l-Qásim Faizi, Mr. Harold Collis Featherstone, Mr. Tarázu’lláh Samandarí, Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, Mr. Enoch Olinga, Mr. Leroy C. Ioas and Dr. ‘Ali Muhammad-Varqá. But this was the maiden visit by Hand of the Cause Mr. Jalál  Kházeh to this part of the world. While there was an intensive air of excitement to receive one more Hand of the Cause in this region, there was also a keenness to get some background information on him.

Briefly, Mr. Kházeh had served the Cause effectively in various praiseworthy capacities, before and after he was appointed as a Hand of the Cause. The beloved Hand of the Cause was highly courageous and was known as a strict disciplinarian, coming from his military background.  In 1943, he retired from the military with the rank of Colonel or a one-star General. In 1944 he was elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran and served on this institution for five years. He was then elected to the Spiritual Assembly of Tehran and served for three years as its esteemed secretary. During this time, he travelled continuously throughout Persia. He resigned in 1951 to spend more time for travel teaching. It was in 1952 that he attained the presence of the beloved Guardian, who requested him to teach the Cause throughout Persia. He earnestly complied and carried out his spiritual task until the Guardian requested him to travel to teach in Africa, which he also obliged with great pleasure. When he returned from Africa, there was a cable from the Guardian dated 7 December 1953 waiting for him.  However, the news did not reach him until December 27 as he was traveling. The cable read:

“YOUR ELEVATION RANK HAND CAUSE CONFIDENT DIVINE BLESSINGS FUTURE SERVICES. SHOGHI.”

While holding the rank of Hand of the Cause, Mr. Kházeh was re-elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran in 1954. It was the Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Kházeh who gave guidance and conveyed directions to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Bushihr to transfer the remains of the wife of the Báb from Shiraz. He continued his numerous journeys abroad, reporting on the successes of the communities and also carefully monitoring the activities of the covenant breakers. Mr. Kházeh then served in the Holy Land from 1957 to 1963. In 1969 he and his wife returned to Tehran. From there they moved to (Babul Sar) Babulsar. After his beloved wife passed away, the Revolutionary Guard Corps of the Islamic Republic of Iran attacked his house. He was interrogated, and all his writings, documents, and books were confiscated. The friends wisely moved him to Tehran while the authorities continued searching. When the Guardian passed away in November 1957, Mr. Kházeh could not attend the funeral as he was not able to secure travel documents in time.  He was among the Custodians of the Faith till the election of the Supreme Body in 1963. One of his primary tasks was taking care of the Eastern Pilgrims in the Holy Land.

THE  SINGAPORE CONVENTION

Wheels started to turn faster and all arrangements went ahead as planned. Present from Malaysia at this convention were all the three Counsellors from the South East Asia region – Yankee Leong, K. H. Payman, and Dr. Chellie J. Sundram. The National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia was represented by Dr. John Fozdar who was residing in Kuching, East Malaysia, Mrs. Shanta Sundram from Penang Island, and Mr. Inbum Chinniah from Kuala Lumpur. Mrs. Shirin Fozdar who came to pioneer to Singapore in 1950 and moved to Thailand in 1961 was present as an Auxiliary Board member. She, along with all others were naturally very delighted to witness the birth of the first National Spiritual Assembly of Singapore. The convention was held at the Y.M.C.A on 22 and 23 April 1972, in two air-conditioned rooms adorned with flowers and welcoming banners. Since the year 1964, the believers of Singapore and Malaysia had witnessed national conventions. But this was certainly one that had placed the delegates and organisers on a higher pedestal.

Mr. Wong Meng Fook, a believer from Penang Island in West Malaysia arrived a few days in advance of the convention to help out with some teaching work in Singapore. He then stayed back for the convention. When attending national conventions in Malaysia, he had observed that the delegates and the observers were not separated but were seated together. He had known that the past national conventions in Malaysia went on without any flaws. But for the first time, he observed a new atmosphere at the national convention of Singapore, with a new, but a much needed directive coming from the Hand of the Cause Mr. Jalál Kházeh. Meng Fook  describes the dramatic events that ensued:

On the national convention day, the friends and delegates started arriving to the main hall. As was usual at any Bahá’í gatherings the friends greeted each other with hugging and exchanging greetings of Allah’u’Abha and handshakes. Within a split of a second, the atmosphere changed completely. There was a loud voice which sounded more of a command for all who had gathered to sit down. Stunned and taken aback by the loud voice everyone sat down in absolute silence, and at the same time trying to identify the source of the voice. It was from Hand of the Cause Mr. Jalál Kházeh. The reactions from the delegates and friends present were one of compliance, and yet asking themselves, “What went wrong?” While looking for the answer the Hand of the Cause came forward and told the delegates and friends why he had to do that. He made it very clear that there is a difference between a National Conference and a National Convention. He said to this effect, “Standing in front of the hall talking to delegates and friends, waving hands and exchanging greetings to those arrived into the hall or displaying themselves by walking across the hall is tantamount to a kind of subtle canvassing.” But that was how delegates and observers had mingled when coming together for conventions. They had no intention of canvasing in any way. Yet Meng Fook saw the weighty, meaningful and invaluable advice and viewpoint of the Hand of the Cause, who was not only representing the Supreme Body but playing his own task of protecting the Cause. After his frank explanation, we were best behaved and most obedient.

The Hand of the Cause of God had his duty to discharge. As early as 1923 the beloved Guardian had already warned the penetration of outside influence into the sacred Faith of ours.  We can call to mind a letter written by him to a Spiritual Assembly dated 30 January 1923 in which he mentioned, “Beware, beware lest the foul odour of the parties and peoples of foreign lands in the West, and their pernicious methods, such as intrigues, party politics and propaganda—practices which are abhorrent even in name—should ever reach the Bahá’í community, exert any influence whatsoever upon the friends, and thus bring all spirituality to naught…” Protection and preservation of the Faith at this early stage in the sphere of its administrative evolution is an inevitable necessity. The Hand had to clearly and strikingly send this cardinal message into the hearts of the delegates, which he so well did, thus paving the way for the right atmosphere.

CONVENTION BY THE BOOKS

Mr. Kházeh was a strict disciplinarian having retired as a Colonel in the Iranian army. He ensured that the convention in Singapore went on by the book. As the convention started on the afternoon of 22 April, he was very delighted to observe there was 100 percent attendance of the nine delegates.  All the delegates and observers sat together, waiting for the Hand to speak. As witnessed by Meng Fook, Mr. Kházeh issued an unexpected instruction or something that had never happened in the previous national conventions in Malaysia. Mr. Kházeh called upon all delegates to be seated in the first few rows, and the non-delegates or observers to be separated and seated behind the delegates. Some members of the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia who were present at this Singapore Convention took note of this new directive from the Hand of the Cause. For the first time, the delegates and non-delegates were separately seated at the National Convention in Singapore. Having set the right atmosphere for the occasion, the convention proceeded. Prayers were read in English, Chinese, and Tamil languages. They were very careful in ensuring that the convention went on according to strict administrative procedures as expected by the Hand of the Cause. Greetings from eighty countries were received and read by Mrs Elizabeth Gibson, an American serving in Malaysia. After the reading of the message from the Universal House of Justice, a committee was appointed to send a reply cable. Dr. John Fozdar, member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia read out a message from the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia, after presenting a short history of the Faith.

Before the election, the writings of the Guardian on “Nature of Bahá’í Elections” were carefully read. After the election, a special message to the community of Singapore from the Universal House of Justice was presented. The message mentioned that two intercontinental conferences not originally meant for Singapore were held there, one in 1958 and the other in 1971. The conference of 1958 was planned to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia but was shifted to Singapore at the very last moment. Likewise, the Oceanic Conference of 1971 was planned for Kuala Lumpur but held in Singapore owing to unavoidable circumstances that had just cropped up in Malaysia.

MEMBERS ELECTED

The members elected to serve on the first National Spiritual Assembly of Singapore were Mrs. Lena Tan, Mrs. George Lee, Mrs. Rose Ong (Chairperson), Miss Navanita Sundram (Secretary), Mr. Kenneth Mak, Mr. Teo Geok Leng (Treasurer), Mr. G. Machamboo (Vice-Chairman), Mr. Edward Teo and Mr. Henry Ong.


First National Spiritual Assembly of Singapore. Seated (L-R) Mrs. Lena Tan, Mrs. George Lee, Mr. Kházeh, Mrs. Rose Ong, Miss Navanita Sundram. Back row (L-R) Mr. Kenneth Mak, Mr. Teo Geok Leng, Mr. Machamboo, Mr. Edward Teo, Mr. Henry Ong.

BEACON OF GUIDANCE

The Universal House of Justice sent a gift of a hand-woven carpet using the Greatest Name. Dr. Fozdar gave photographs of earlier believers of Singapore. All the hard work and strict adherence to convention rules paid off well, and handsomely. Mr. Kházeh praised the Singapore convention as the best he had attended. He pointed out that during the time of the beloved Master, there was no National Spiritual Assembly, but this Riḍván, a total of 113 National Spiritual Assemblies were elected across the globe. Mr. Kházeh proclaimed Singapore’s potential as “one of the few seats of predominantly Chinese culture”. He then called on the new national institution to “become a beacon of guidance to the great Chinese race…” Everyone felt proud and happy that the convention was graced by a Hand of the Cause of God. Many felt that his very presence ushered the electrifying atmosphere. But to everyone’s surprise, Mr. Kházeh mentioned that the highly charged atmosphere prevailing at the convention was none other than the blessing of the Universal House of Justice, which he represented at the convention. How could it be otherwise when it is none other than a Hand of the Cause saying that!  That statement triggered the thoughts of all the love and respect the Hand of the Cause had for the infallible Supreme Body, which is destined to be the last refuge for a tottering civilisation.

Meng Fook who concurred with the view of Mr. Kházeh commented, “I had been fortunate to attend two International Conventions in Haifa. I witnessed that the strict discipline in the election of the members of the Universal House of Justice was evident. My mind immediately rushed back to the first National Convention in Singapore which to me remains a benchmark for all national conventions. There is certainly and clearly a difference between the exchange of fellowship at a normal conference and business at national conventions. We were all impressed by the candour of his speech when touching on a difficult subject. The Hand of the Cause had rightly educated us on that”.


The Hand with some friends. (L-R) Yankee Leong, Santhanam Krishnan, Elizabeth Gibson, Shirin Marion Fozdar, Mr Khazeh, Shirin Fozdar, Mrs George Lee, Dr John Fozdar, Teo Geok Leng.


Mr. Kházeh at the First National Convention of Singapore.

The Nineteen Day Feast Newsletter of Singapore for the month of Jamál dated 28 April 1972 reported:

Were you there at this historic Convention on the 22 and 23 to witness the birth of the first National Spiritual Assembly of Singapore? It was such an exciting Convention, blessed by the presence of beloved Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Jalál Kházeh who represented the Supreme House. Members of the mother Assembly of Malaysia were present to assist the friends, but it was the beloved Hand himself who guided the delegates throughout the Convention, sometimes very sternly and sometimes with joyous laughter. The National Spiritual Assembly was elected in a very wonderful atmosphere highly charged with prayers… The inspiring message from the Universal House of Justice was read by the beloved Hand…

LIGHTNING VISIT TO MALACCA TOWN

Having received the good news that Mr. Kházeh would be coming for the National Convention of Eastern Malaysia and Brunei and the National Convention of Singapore, the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia made plans to organise meetings for him in other parts of West Malaysia as well. Unfortunately, the plan had to be cancelled at the last moment owing to unavoidable circumstances. The Malaysian Bahá’ís were sad that they could not be blessed with the visit of the Hand of the Cause of God who was already right at their doorstep. Their prayers were answered when after the convention of Singapore was over, the Hand of the Cause was able to make a lightning visit to Malacca town. The national convention in Singapore ended on 23 April, and the next was the National Convention for the Eastern Malaysia and Brunei which was to start on 28 April. So, there was still time for him to make a lightning visit to West Malaysia. And in West Malaysia, he could visit Malacca town alone.

A DELICATE TOPIC MADE SIMPLE

Once his coming to Malacca was confirmed at the last moment by a phone call from Singapore, there was a pleasant panic and excitement in getting the logistics organised. Phone calls were made requesting all to come. As this was a last-minute visit, believers in distantly placed communities could not find it possible to be on time in Malacca town. He flew into the Batu Berendam Airport in the state of Malacca on 24 April 1972 and met with the believers at the National Teaching Institute, in Bukit Baru on 25 April 1972.  Many outstation Bahá’ís from Seremban and Kuala Lumpur rushed to this gathering of historical significance. The attendance of over 100 believers was so large that many had to sit on the floor. Though advanced in years, Mr. Jalál Kházeh was a vibrant speaker who did not need a public address system to be heard by all. Mr. Kházeh was impressed with the enthusiasm he saw on the faces of the believers who had gathered. But the atmosphere in Malacca town was diametrically different from what it was in Singapore. The gathering in Singapore was a national convention that went on along strict convention rules. The gathering here in Malacca was one where he met the believers to inspire them. He spoke, in unmistakable language on a very heavy and serious subject – “Bahá’í Administration”.   Yet Mr. Kházeh kept the crowd in stitches with his humorous presentation. Those were moments of heart-bursting laughter. The question-and-answer session that followed his talk was equally exciting and informative. It was like a mini-convention, and the atmosphere became charged with a spiritual intensity. The meeting was originally planned for an hour to end at 7 in the evening. But it went on till 10:00 pm. The organisers decided to end it, most reluctantly, to allow Mr. Kházeh to rest. The spirit was so high that the Hand of the Cause decided to go on throughout the night, the friends were willing to keep awake the whole night.

MOVING MOMENTS FOR LEONG TAT CHEE

If at all there was one person who was visibly moved to tears it was none other than Mr. Leong Tat Chee, a much loved first Auxiliary Board member for Malaysia.   At the time of the visit by the Hand, Mr. Leong Tat Chee was suffering from terminal cancer. Though in obvious pain, he was seen radiant that evening. Leong Tat Chee had been staying in Singapore, along with Mr. Yankee Leong to work on laying the foundation for the election of the National Spiritual Assembly but had to return to Malacca town when his health forced him to slow down. While getting treatment, he told his daughter Lily Chinniah, “I shall die happily when I know that the National Spiritual Assembly of Singapore is formed. It is my dearest wish to witness its formation.” Now he was seated right next to Mr. Kházeh who had just arrived at Malacca town after officiating at the first national convention of the first National Spiritual Assembly of Singapore. Leong Tat Chee could not suppress his joyful tears as Mr. Kházeh showed him a photograph taken at the first convention in Singapore. Mr. Kházeh signed the prayer book of Leong Tat Chee and dated it 25 April 1972.  Mr. Kházeh commented that he was very impressed with the depth of the studies conducted and the vigour and enthusiasm of the believers he met in Malaysia. It was most unfortunate that this greatly loved Hand could not visit other communities in Malaysia.


Group photo taken late at night with Mr. Kházeh in Malacca.

FIRST NATIONAL CONVENTION OF EASTERN MALAYSIA AND BRUNEI

After the meeting he had with the believers in Malacca town on 25 April 1972 he returned to Singapore from where he flew to Kuching in East Malaysia for the first National Convention for Eastern Malaysia and Brunei. He arrived in Kuching town in Sarawak on 27 April 1972. Mr. Kházeh was met at the airport by dignitaries and treated with great respect. The convention was to be held from 28 to 30 April 1972.

A HEAVY LESSON

The organising committee had requested P. Thinathayallam, from West Malaysia working in the Air Force and serving as Secretary of the Administrative Committee of Sarawak to meet the Hand of the Cause in his hotel that evening itself and brief him on the arrangements being made for the convention to start the following morning. The Hand was informed earlier that Thinathayallam would meet him at his hotel and brief him. By his own accounts, Thinathayallam says he was not able to see the greatness and majesty of the Hands of the Cause in those days. Though disciplined as an Air Force personnel he arrived a few minutes late at the hotel. Mr. Kházeh welcomed Thinathayallam and with soft and yet firm words told him that he was saying prayers and was in a prayerful mood to welcome and meet the latter. Mr. Kházeh further stressed to Thinathayallam that the latter was not merely meeting a Hand of the Cause, but more importantly a representative of the Supreme Institution on the planet. Taken aback quite surprisingly by those heavy statements, Thinathayallam apologised very sincerely to Mr. Kházeh for being late. Thinathayallam says Mr. Kházeh raised the matter most gently, yet his words had a penetrative influence on him. It was only much later that he was informed Mr. Kházeh had served as a Colonel in the Army, and he felt guilty that he himself as an Air Force personnel should have been punctual in meeting the Hand of the Cause. Mr. Kházeh was a large man, but greater than his life-size was his majesty in carrying himself with dignity and yet with a humility that was rarely seen in anyone.

He then briefed the Hand of the Cause thoroughly on the convention program in store and shared some statistics on the stage of development of the Faith in Sabah, Brunei, and Sarawak. The Hand of the Cause raised a few sharp questions for further clarification. Thinathayallam would recall later that his meeting with the Hand of the Cause forever remained intact in his memory as he was lovingly enlightened on the majesty of the Universal House of Justice.

STRICT ARRANGEMENTS

While waiting for the Hand to arrive after the meeting in Malacca, Dr. John Fozdar member of the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia returned to Kuching, his home town after attending the Convention in Singapore. He apprised the local believers in Kuching of the strict atmosphere in Singapore, as guided by Mr. Jalál Kházeh. Auxiliary Board member for protection Mrs. Grete Fozdar then ensured adherence to strict convention rules, practices and maintained a reverent atmosphere. The organising committee decided that all physical movements while the convention was in progress, such as the movement of chairs, tables, and serving water to the main table were tasked to the youth, and not the adults. The youth were selected to assist those illiterate native believers in filling the names of the delegates on the ballot papers, with strict warnings not to suggest, implicate or infer, however indirectly it may be. The guidelines that Mr. Kházeh had given the convention in Singapore on 22 and 23 April had greatly paved the way for a smooth convention for Eastern Malaysia and Brunei.

The delegates and observers were excitedly waiting for the arrival of the Hand of the Cause at the ‘Uma Orang Ulu’ opposite the Radio-Television Malaysia station in Kuching town. That was the venue for the convention. A total of 170 friends attended this historical convention. As the distinguished Hand of the Cause entered the hall, the friends welcomed him with a thunderous applause. Present at this first convention were Counsellor Chellie J. Sundram and Auxiliary Board member Mrs. Grete Fozdar while Mr. S. Nagaratnam and Mr. K. Rajah represented the National Spiritual Assembly of West Malaysia respectively.


Mr. Kházeh addresses the Convention. Seated on the table at his back are Dr. John Fozdar (L) and Chin Yun Sung (R).

Being the first national convention for Eastern Malaysia and Brunei,  congratulatory messages poured in. Board member Mrs. Grete Fozdar took a large map of the world and pointed out the countries from where those messages came. Next came the keynote message from the Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Kházeh. He spoke on the station, tasks, and duties of the delegates, urging them to elect only those whom they thought were, among other qualifications pure, responsive, and active. Dr. John Fozdar, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly residing in Kuching, Sarawak, has this interesting information that he shared with the author, “Hand of the Cause Colonel Kházeh came with some preconceived ideas. He was under the impression that there could be some ‘fiddling’ going on with Bahá’í elections. He stated that he would sit with the tellers, count the votes, and also see if the votes were all in the same handwriting. So, he went out with the tellers and sat through the counting and saw that everything was in order”.

True enough, he did exactly that. He was paying careful attention throughout the convention proceedings, and everybody was happy with the spirit that pervaded the convention. The following were elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of Eastern Malaysia and Brunei: Mr. M. Maniam (Secretary), Mr. Lim Boon Huat, Mr. G. Kuppusamy, Mr. Choo Yeok Boon (Treasurer), Mr. P. Thinathayallam, Mr. Rusi Irani (Vice Chairman), Dr. John Fozdar (Chairman), Mr. Sapong anak Andar and Mr. Ragai anak Lang.

First National Spiritual Assembly of Eastern Malaysia and Brunei. Standing L-R:  Mr. Ragai anak Lang, Mr. P. Thinathayallam, Mr. Lim Boon Huat, Mr. G. Kuppusamy, Mr. Sapong anak Andar.  Seated L-R:  Mr. Rusi Irani,  Dr. John Fozdar,  Mr. Kházeh, Counsellor Dr. C. J Sundram, Mr. M. Maniam,  Mr. Choo Yeok Boon.

There was a call for travel teachers at the convention, and as they came up to the front, Mr. Kházeh happily welcomed them and gave them words of encouragement. While   Mr. Kházeh was very strict inside the convention hall, he was very much at ease with the observers and delegates outside the hall during the break sessions. He was joking and laughing away, while many took personal and group photographs with him. The friends were able to observe with keenness that there was a difference in the atmosphere inside and outside the convention hall. One was strict business, and the other was strong fellowship. Without saying much in words, the Hand did convey in his actions that a convention is different from a fellowship gathering.


Mr. Kházeh greeting some believers outside the hall during a break session. Second from left is Thinathayallam.

On the night of the election, the new National Spiritual Assembly met for consultation with Mr. Kházeh. On the following morning, Mr. Kházeh read out the message from the Supreme Body to the convention and explained the main points one by one. After the convention was over, Mr. Kházeh arrived in Singapore to proceed to the Holy Land.

FAITH COMES FIRST

It has to be mentioned that Mr. Kházeh was a very close friend of Dr. John Fozdar and his wife Grete. In April 1957, Dr. John Fozdar left for the United Kingdom to pursue studies to obtain a Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) and while there  married Miss Margarethe Frener on 22 November 1958 during a Bahá’í weekend school in Torquay, England. On the way back to their pioneering post in Brunei, the couple undertook pilgrimage to the Holy Land in November 1959 together with their three-month old daughter Shirin.  Accommodation was provided for pilgrims in those days. Dr. John, an easterner, stayed in the Eastern Pilgrim House, next to the Shrine of The Báb, while Grete and Shirin were accommodated in the Western Pilgrim House, opposite `Abdu’l-Bahá’s house. Mrs. Kházeh would at times look after Shirin to allow Dr. John and Grete to visit the Shrines together or to join a guided tour of the holy places on Mount Carmel by Mr. Kházeh. Since then, Dr. Fozdar had kept in constant touch with Mr. Kházeh. But when the Hand of the Cause met Dr. John, and his  daughter Shirin at the Singapore Convention earlier, the Hand acknowledged them and exchanged greetings. But at the Convention held in Kuching town, which was the home base of Dr. Fozdar and Grete, the Hand of the Cause used his wisdom in not portraying his closeness to the couple. Perhaps he was more careful than others not to influence the voters through revealing his closeness to Dr. John. Likewise, Dr. Fozdar  too did not over express his closeness to the Hand of the Cause while at the Convention.


Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in November 1959. In the middle is Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Jalal Khazeh and to his left are Dr. John and Grete.

But when the results of the election were announced and the Convention was over, Mr. Kházeh was invited to the home of Dr. Fozdar for dinner.  The Hand of the Cause was such a strict representative of the Supreme Body at the Convention, but very simple and casual at the home of the Fozdars. He even taught Grete to cook rice the Persian way.

Mr. Kházeh returned to the Holy Land through Singapore. Upon landing in Singapore, he expressed to the few friends who saw him at the Changi Airport his profound satisfaction with how the national convention took place in Kuching.  He remarked that he was happy to see mature believers elected to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Eastern Malaysia and Brunei.  Mr. Kházeh also mentioned that he was happy that the delegates had elected Dr. John Fozdar, a pioneer and a Knight of Bahá’u’lláh, who would be an asset to the institution.

What the delegates and observers witnessed at the two first national conventions – in Singapore and East Malaysia were highly educational, deeply gratifying, and uplifting in every way. So much was learnt from the talks and guidance of the Hand of the Cause throughout this memorable period.

The important direction that the Hand of the Cause of God gave at the first national convention of Singapore, which was separating the delegates from the observers, with the delegates occupying the front rows was a pattern and proactive that was adhered to at the national convention in Malaysia during Riḍván 1972. Mrs. Elizabeth Gibson, an American believer who came to serve in Malaysia at this time was elected the Convention Chairperson at the national convention of Malaysia. She was present at the first National Convention in Singapore where she had witnessed the Hand of the Cause giving strict convention procedures. Mrs. Gibson, as Chairperson announced for the delegates to occupy the front rows, followed by observes sitting behind them.  Since then, this arrangement is being followed in all the national conventions in Malaysia,  Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak.

MR. KHÁZEH LONGED TO RETURN

Mr. Kházeh was quite touched by the love that the believers of Singapore, West Malaysia, Brunei, and East Malaysia showered upon him during his short visit to the region in Riḍván 1972. He wanted to come back for an extended period to meet more believers in the entire country. An opportunity came when a National Bahá’í Youth Conference was held in Port Dickson from 23 to 25 December 1973. The Hand of the Cause wrote a letter dated 19 October 1973 to the National Spiritual Assembly of West Malaysia of his possible visit to attend the said National Bahá’í Youth Conference. The National Spiritual Assembly was very glad and tasked Auxiliary Board member Mr. Inbum Chinniah to attend to the Hand during the youth conference. Since the Hand had not met the Aboriginal believers of West Malaysia in his previous visit, the national institution had also planned a meeting with the Asli believers. While all preparations were on way,  news reached the national institution that he could not come to the said events. Therefore, his only visit to the region ended with Riḍván 1972.

In 1984, on the advice of the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, age 87, moved to Canada. During the last ten years of his life, he was homebound because of poor health. He had to content himself with assisting the friends through giving advice.  Mr. Kházeh spent his final years in Canada and passed away peacefully in that country on 21 February 1990. He was befittingly buried in Toronto. On 25 February 1990, the Universal House of Justice sent the following message after his passing:

DEEPLY GRIEVED ANNOUNCE PASSING STAUNCH TIRELESS PROMOTER FAITH HAND CAUSE GOD JALÁL KHÁZEH. HIS STRENUOUS ENDEAVORS CRADLE FAITH HOLY LAND LATIN AMERICA AND WORLDWIDE TRAVELS AFTER PASSING BELOVED GUARDIAN SET SHINING EXAMPLE OF UNSHAKEABLE DEDICATION AND COURAGE, OF UNDEVIATING LOYALTY AND PERSEVERANCE. IMPERISHABLE RECORD HIS STERLING SERVICES AS GIFTED TEACHER DEFENDER CAUSE NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN. HIS NOBLE SPIRIT NOW ABHÁ KINGDOM WILL UNDOUBTEDLY INTERCEDE BEHALF PERSIAN BAHÁ’Í COMMUNITY WHOSE VITAL INTERESTS HE SERVED WITH SUCH HIGH DISTINCTION OVER SEVERAL DECADES. FERVENTLY PRAYING HOLY SHRINES FOR PROGRESS HIS ILLUMINED SOUL IN REALMS ON HIGH. ADVISE FRIENDS EVERYWHERE HOLD BEFITTING MEMORIAL GATHERINGS HIS HONOR PARTICULARLY ALL HOUSES OF WORSHIP.

When news reached the communities in the region befitting memorial gatherings were held for the Hand of the Cause of God.

We learn from the Writings that the Hands are tasked with the duties of diffusing the Divine Fragrances, edifying the souls of men, promoting learning, and improving the character of all they met.  Although Mr. Kházeh made a single visit to the region, he too had directly and indirectly carried out those duties, as evidenced by some episodes found in this story.  We are living during days when we do not have any living Hands of the Cause in our midst. There are still sizeable pockets of living believers who have been privileged to attain the presence of some Hands of the Cause of God. The time will soon come when these believers too would be no more. But the institution of the Hands of the Cause – the very precious legacy bequeathed to us by Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi shall continue to live in the history of the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh.

 

(Adapted from the book: DIFFUSERS OF DIVINE FRAGRANCES – An Account of the Hands of the Cause of God Who Visited Malaysia, by the author of this article.)

 

A. Manisegaran

31 May 2024

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