Speaking Persian in America 1
On Sunday, June 30, 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá traveled by car through the countryside to Morristown, New Jersey. Mr. [Haozoun Hohannes ] Topakyan had invited him and his attendants for a barbecue. The consul sported a Western suit with a jacket that draped past his belly. He didn’t wear a fez, unlike the Persians who joined him, but kept an imperial mustache that curled slightly upwards. He was known for his “Oriental barbecues,” as The New York Times called them, at which an entire lamb was roasted and served on a bronze and gold table.
Mr. Topakyan was gracious when he thought it was warranted. On June 30 he refused to sit without ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s permission. Topakyan had invited several reporters to come and speak with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. After they had eaten lunch, a photographer came and took ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s picture.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá met with Mr. Topakyan on several more occasions, and kept in touch with him for years after he left America. One of his letters reads: “I will pray for you and Madame so that the Doors of the Kingdom of God, be always open before your faces and the Infinite Divine bestowals may descend upon you uninterruptedly so that according to the statement of Christ you may be of those who are chosen and not of those who are called.”
New Jersey: The Unity Feast 2
‘Abdu’l-Bahá left Montclair at 8:30 A.M. on Saturday, June 29, and, after transferring to four different streetcars, arrived at Roy Wilhelm’s home in West Englewood, New Jersey. This was the large outdoor gathering—the Unity Feast—to which Abdu’l-Bahá had invited the friends before he left New York. He rested as the friends arrived and sat in a circle in the shade of the large trees. Then He spoke to individuals as He walked among them. Addressing the entire group He said, “This is a new Day and this hour is a new Hour in which we have come together. . . . True Bahai meetings are the mirrors of the kingdom wherein images of the Supreme Concourse are reflected. . . . First, you must become united and agreed among yourselves. . . .
Talk at Unity Feast, Outdoors, West Englewood, New Jersey 3
First, you must become united and agreed among yourselves. You must be exceedingly kind and loving toward each other, willing to forfeit life in the pathway of another’s happiness. You must be ready to sacrifice your possessions in another’s behalf. The rich among you must show compassion toward the poor, and the well-to-do must look after those in distress. In Persia the friends offer their lives for each other, striving to assist and advance the interests and welfare of all the rest. They live in a perfect state of unity and agreement. Like the Persian friends you must be perfectly agreed and united to the extent and limit of sacrificing life. Your utmost desire must be to confer happiness upon each other. Each one must be the servant of the others, thoughtful of their comfort and welfare. In the path of God one must forget himself entirely. He must not consider his own pleasure but seek the pleasure of others. He must not desire glory nor gifts of bounty for himself but seek these gifts and blessings for his brothers and sisters. It is my hope that you may become like this, that you may attain to the supreme bestowal and be imbued with such spiritual qualities as to forget yourselves entirely and with heart and soul offer yourselves as sacrifices for the Blessed Perfection. You should have neither will nor desire of your own but seek everything for the beloved of God and live together in complete love and fellowship. May the favors of Bahá’u’lláh surround you from all directions. This is the greatest bestowal and supreme bounty. These are the infinite favors of God.
New Jersey: The Unity Feast 4
When He had finished, the meal was ready; but just as it was announced, thunder was heard, and large raindrops began to fall. Abdu’l-Bahá walked to the road, taking a chair, and several friends grouped around Him. As He sat, His face turned upward, a strong wind began to blow, the clouds began to disperse, and the sun shown through. Then He rose and walked back into the grove. After the meal of Persian food Abdu’l-Bahá anointed the two hundred fifty guests with attar of roses. After dark, as the friends sat on the lawn with candles, Abdu’l-Bahá spoke, ending as He walked into darkness, “Peace be with you. I will pray for you.” 5
Saturday, June 29, 1912
‘Abdu’l-Bahá and we were invited to the home of the Persian Consul General, Mr Topakyan. On the way the Master stopped by the home of the minister who had visited Him the previous day. When he saw the Master approaching from the distance, he rushed out of his house and with great humility and reverence thanked the Master for gracing his home. His zeal and joy increased minute by minute as he listened to the Master’s encouraging words.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá then continued the journey by automobile through the wooded countryside and went directly to the home of the Persian Consul General in Morristown, which is one of the most delightful places in the region. One of its charming features is the creek that runs through the green-clad hills whose trees and verdure face the Consul-General’s house. This beautiful setting appealed both to the heart and the soul. After the arrival of the Master, who was welcomed by the Consul General and his staff, several important people were invited to meet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. A number of reporters also interviewed Him and expressed their delight in His answers to their questions. Around lunch time, a photographer arrived and took two photographs of the Master, one before lunch was served and the other while He was seated at the table. In brief, the Consul General was most courteous and humble in the Master’s presence, to such an extent that he refused to sit without permission. He recorded ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk and conversations for publication in the newspapers and was honored to host the Master.
After the Master had a brief rest and a stroll in the afternoon, another reporter came to the house. As he listened to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s explanations about the teachings, he recorded them for publication. Then with great majesty, dignity and grandeur, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left for New York. When He arrived home, He did not permit us to prepare dinner for Him. Instead, He ate some watermelon and bread and retired for the night. 6
’Abdu’l-Bahá in America, 1912-2012: Calling America to It’s Spiritual Destiny
Celebrating the Centenary: The Master in America
Curated by Anne Perry
- Jones, Caitlin Shayda. “Speaking Persian in America.” 239 Days in America, 29 June 2012, https://239days.com/2012/06/29/speaking-persian-in-america/. ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 102. ↩
- ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 215. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/15#477829896 ↩
- Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 102-103. ↩
- Thompson, Juliet. The Diary of Juliet Thompson. Edited by Marzieh Gail. 1st ed. 1947. Reprint, Los Angeles: Kalimát Press, 1983, 324. https://archive.org/details/diaryofjuliettho0000thom/page/324/mode/2up. ↩
- ’Abdu’l-Bahá, and Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=4#section97 ↩