Mr. Manisegaran’s latest book, ‘DIFFUSERS OF DIVINE FRAGRANCES – An Account of the Hands of the Cause of God Who Visited Malaysia’ is a captivating, inspiring, and informative account of the visits by twelve Hands of the Cause of God to this country. It stands out as a work of pre-eminence among the books that this historian has penned.
Biographies of several Hands of the Cause have been published in other parts of the world. While some of those Hands did visit this country, not all those biographies carry information on their visits to Malaysia, or at the most, make only passing statements on their visits to Malaysia. This book fills those gaps and presents fuller details, for the first time, of their visits and the legacies they left behind.
The book starts with a well-researched introduction on the origin and development of the Institution of the Hand of the Cause, which sets the tone for the readers to go through the 824 pages of the book, including a general index at the end. Drawing upon a wide range of authentic sources including eyewitness accounts, the author paints vivid pictures of the visits by those twelve Hands to the then Malaya and later Malaysia. The accounts pieced together in the book offer us a great deal to ponder and invite deep, meditative reflection. With new research findings the author has unearthed, this book completes for the first time the details of the visits of the Hands who set their feet on the Malaysian soil. Mr. Manisegaran has accurately and meticulously recorded and narrated in moving terms their visits and has captured the spirit and emotion of the early days.
The twelve Hands are Siyyid Muṣṭafá Rúmí, Martha Louise Root, Dhikru’lláh Khádem, Shu’á’u’lláh ‘Alá’í, Agnes Baldwin Alexander, Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir, Abu’l-Qásim Faizi, Harold Collis Featherstone, Ṭarázu’lláh Samandarí, Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, Enoch Olinga and Jalál Kházeh. The first two were posthumously appointed Hands, while the rest were appointed during their lifetime.
Siyyid Muṣṭafá Rúmí Martha Root
We learn from this book that Siyyid Muṣṭafá Rúmí mentioned the Faith in Penang in 1883, during the lifetime of Baháʼu’lláh, while Martha Root did the same in Penang and Singapore, during the lifetime of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian. Mr Dhikru’lláh Khádem came to Johor Bahru in the then Malaya, and paid a courtesy call on Dato’ Onn Jaffar, founder of the Malayan Union. From there he proceeded to Kuching in Sarawak in December 1953 where he met 14 members of the community. Mr Shu’á’u’lláh ‘Alá’í came to Malacca in 1956 and in 1960. He spoke in French and his talk was translated into English. His visit in 1956 was to give encouragement to the nascent community and the following visit in 1960 was to stress on unity among believers at a time when a tempest was blowing in the community, caused by an ambitious individual. Miss Agnes Alexander came only once to Malacca town in 1958 for the first Bahá’í wedding of Malaya. Dr Muhájir made his first visit in 1957 to Malacca, followed by numerous visits until his passing. Mr Abu’l-Qásim Faizi came four times – first in 1958 to Malacca for the first Bahá’í wedding of Malaya, followed by the years 1967, 1968, and finally in 1976. Mr Harold Collis Featherstone visited several times starting with his first visit in 1960. Mr Ṭarázu’lláh Samandarí visited Malaysia three times – first in 1961 to Malacca, followed by 1966 and 1967 to several parts of the country. Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum visited this country first in 1961, and then for the first National Convention in 1964. In 1987, she met the believers of the region including a large delegation from Malaysia in Hat Yai in South Thailand. Mr Enoch Olinga came on a lightning visit to Kuala Lumpur in 1971 while Mr Jalál Kházeh came on a quick visit to Malacca in 1972. William Sears passed through Singapore in 1986 and a large contingent of Malaysian believers travelled there to meet him. Among the Hands, Dr Muhájir made the greatest number of visits to this country and was directly involved in many teaching plans with the close collaboration of the institutions.
Dhikru’lláh Khádem Shu’á’u’lláh ‘Alá’í Miss Agnes Alexander
The author has written that along with their visits came their advice, guidance, example, and words of wisdom. Thus, the book is not only a historical presentation of the visits by the Hands to Malaysia but also offers tremendous learnings on the Faith that emanated from the talks and the exhortations from their brilliant minds. Those words of guidance and exhortations stem from the tenets of the Faith. Although those words were spoken to the believers of yesteryears, they are very much relevant for today and tomorrow and applicable for believers from all parts of the world. These esteemed members of the ‘institution of the learned’ came at a time when literature on the Faith was scarce, often quoting from the Holy Writings that had not yet been translated. The believers absorbed the talks they gave like sponges. The Hands clarified to the early believers many unanswered questions they had in their minds. Mr Ṭarázu’lláh Samandarí was able to share a first-hand account of his meetings with the Blessed Beauty, the Master, and the Guardian. The other Hands of Cause did not fail to mention their meetings with the Guardian. The message of the Hands by and large, was to serve the Cause, be firm in the Covenant, and show unquestioned loyalty to the divine institutions. The Blessed Beauty and the Master placed upon them the task as ‘Diffusers of Divine Fragrances’ and in carrying out this task they transformed the lives of many individuals and the community at large, which the author brings to the fore. The author also quotes their full talks where available – talks which are soul-stirring to the core.
Dr. Raḥmatu’lláh Muhájir Abu’l-Qásim Faizi Collis Featherstone
A striking feature in the book is the high reverence, respect, admiration, obedience, and adoration the early believers showed to these much loved Hands of the Cause. Each time they came, the believers who were few in number, flocked to attain their presence. Some of these Hands visited rubber plantation settlements (estates), Chinese villages, and even Asli settlements.
The book unearths the most interesting and inspiring anecdotes of those visits. The extensive research that the author has carried out, with copious footnotes and bibliography and the assiduousness he has taken to record accurately information about their visits, makes the book an authentic and compelling read. The author has laboriously gathered reports, rare photographs, documents, notes, personal letters and archival materials hitherto unknown. The list of individuals who provided first-hand account of their meetings with the Hands adds fascinating details to the book. This scrupulous attention the author gave to detail and accuracy is clear throughout the book. With a simple yet moving style, the author reaches out to the reader to convey the emotion and spirit of those visits by the Hands. The work is not only a worthy addition to one’s library but will also prove to be an invaluable reference book for future historians and researchers to glean from. For this, the book will be valued for posterity.
Ṭarázu’lláh Samandarí Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum Enoch Olinga
Another highlight is the presence of the Hands of the Cause themselves. The early Malaysian believers were undeniably privileged to have had the extraordinary opportunity to meet, converse, interact with, and profoundly benefit from the spiritual wisdom imparted by these learned persons – often on multiple occasions. Many dedicated their lives to pioneering abroad. Their only desire was to serve the Cause they cherished. There can be no doubt that the Hands of the Cause, like well-trained physicians, held the pulse of the community in their able hands – and prescribed the requisite solution.
The book also contains hundreds of rare photographs of the activities of the Hands in this country. These photographs speak volumes about the spirit of those days. The book also carries personal recollections from several believers who attained the presence of the Hands of the Cause of God, basked in their talks, and had their lives transformed.
The book is a treasure trove of invaluable lessons that transcend the boundaries of time, offering enduring value. Another highlight of the book are the spiritual themes. It is filled with penetrating insights that were effectively delivered and instilled in the hearts of the believers by the Hands. The author astutely chose the title ‘Diffusers of Divine Fragrances’ for this book, as it encapsulates the sacred duty entrusted to the Hands of the Cause of God by the Blessed Beauty and the Master in Their Writings – a duty they unwaveringly fulfilled to the best of their abilities.
Jalál Kházeh William Sears
In its message for the book, the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Malaysia has mentioned:
Thus, we can only be profoundly thankful that Mr. Manisegaran has spent his precious time in researching and recording for posterity the events associated with the twelve Hands of the Cause who set foot in Malaya / Malaysia. Many young believers and especially those of second, third or fourth generation would not have had the precious privilege of meeting a Hand of the Cause. These pages narrate for them how their parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts were touched by these venerated beings, and how with that inspiration, they arose to serve the Cause with added fervour and devotion. A glance at the rich collection of photographs itself is sufficient to stir our emotions and pause in awe at the privilege that our early believers had in associating with the Hands, learning from their wisdom, and inspired to action in the field of service. We convey our sincere appreciation to Mr. Manisegaran for this precious addition to his admirable collection of historical works.
The author concludes the book as follows:
“The Hands of the Cause who visited this country had left indelible legacies and traces … This country was richly blessed to have had the constant visits by several Hands of the Cause, an opportunity that not many countries had enjoyed … There are moments in history that are precious, and never to be repeated, and the times when the Hands of the Cause lived on earth belong to that moment that shall never come again. The very precious legacy bequeathed to us by Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi are no more with us. It behooves us to reflect that in their visits to this country the Hands of the Cause of God who had in accordance to the weighty Will and Testament of the Master, diffused the Divine Fragrances, edified the souls of believers, promoted learning, improved the character of the believers. Truly they have left a void never to be filled!”
The author is clearly committed to the trust placed in him as a renowned historian. The extensive research he has carried out, leaving no stone unturned in his quest to obtain corroborated information, the sheer volume of footnotes, references, photos and first hand recollections and anecdotes gives the reader an understanding of the great pains he has taken to ensure the accuracy of the book. This book has effectively bridged the many gaps in the records of the services of these distinguished servants of the Faith. Mr. Manisegaran has certainly earned the gratitude of the community for producing a much needed work in narrating the coming of the Hands to this blessed country. The Bahá’ís of Malaysia owe a debt of gratitude to him.
With the untimely passing of the beloved Guardian in November 1957, the appointment of the Hands of the Cause of God too ceased. The incidents of believers meeting the Hands in person belong to ages gone by, and this is history that will never be repeated. With the passage of time, the Malaysian Bahá’ís who interacted with these servants of the Faith are also decreasing and this book serves to record for posterity the invaluable lessons and experiences they earned. The era with the Hands is truly an age of its own in the history of our Faith, a time that these dearly loved Hands of the Cause nurtured an infant community to maturity.
This book will be an invaluable personal treasure for countless individuals and for generations to come. The author’s dedicated and strenuous efforts have yielded a book that enriched the literature on Bahá’í history. Thus, Mr. Manisegaran as Malaysia’s Bahá’í historian has brought us a precious addition to Bahá’í history in the English language. For those who want to be informed, inspired and encouraged by the legacy left by the Hands who came to this country, this book comes as a priceless gift and a must-read.
The Early Birds …
N. S. S. Silan of Australia, with first copy from the printing press.
Sha’in and Shahrinna of Petaling Jaya community.
Sathasivam of Malacca deeply immersed in reading the book.
Kingdom of Cambodia
31 October 2023
THE BOOK IS NOW AVAILABLE AT:
Mr. Michael McNeill
Bahá’í Bookshop of Malaysia
19A, Jalan Bandar 6/1
Pusat Bandar Puchong
Tel: +60 11-1449 2208
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