Posted by Sen on March 13, 2010
A Short Historical Survey of the Baha’i Movement in India, Burma, Java Islands, Siam, and Malay Peninsula.
by Siyyid Mustafa Roumie
Published in Star of the West 1931, Vol. 22, in 7 installments
Volume 22. No.3 pages 76-79, June 1931
The Author, one of the leading Baha’is of Mandalay, was in his youth an ardent associate and companion of the great Mirza Jamal Effendi who first brought the Baha’i Message to the countries of southern Asia. These chronicles are both fascinating themselves in the spiritual adventure they narrate, and also invaluable as a history written by one who was an eye witness.
When through the mighty Will of God, His Holiness Baha’u’llah, came out of the terrible prison walls in the fortress of ‘Akka (where He had been exiled and incarcerated for a number of years by the Turkish government at the instigation of the fanatical Muslim clergy of Persia) and finally settled at Bahji, at a distance of about a couple of miles from the Great Prison, His numerous devoted followers and many ardent admirers of His teaching and high ideals poured forth from all corners of the world, especially from Persia, to lay their allegiance at His feet and to receive His command to serve the great Cause of the “upliftment of humanity” for which He and His noble adherents had undergone severe sufferings and privations and suffered diverse humiliations, chastisements and persecutions of which there is hardly a parallel in the history of the world.
Among these followers was a venerable figure of rather an advanced age, a great scholar of Arabic, Turkish and Persian, the selfless striking character of whose personality and whose singular courteous manners most eloquently testified to his noble birth and high rank. Sulayman Khan was his original and official name, and Tanakaboon in Mazindaran (Persia) was his birthplace. He subsequently came to be known in the Baha’i world as Jamal Effendi or Jamaluddin Shah. As an orthodox believer in the Bab since the early period of His Declaration, he was well aware of the prophecies regarding the Manifestation of His Holiness Baha’u’llah. Therefore he with peaceful heart pledged his faith in Him. Leaving his dear home in Persia he renounced all his worldly possessions, very cheerfully gave up his official rank and position and presented himself to His Holiness Baha’u’llah, offering most humbly and meekly to sacrifice himself at the Holy Threshold of his Lord so that he might attain His supreme pleasure which to him was more precious than all the treasures of the universe put together. Such was the condition of the early sincere devoted believers.
His Holiness revealed a Tablet conferring upon him the distinguished title of “Lamia” (i. e. the brilliant one) The opening words of that holy Tablet which was written by the Supreme Pen were as follows: O thou the brilliant one! We have conferred upon thee the title of “the brilliant one” so that thou mayest shine forth in the universe in the name of thy Lord the Possessor of the Day of Distinction.” He then received a command to proceed to India with his kinsman, Mirza Hussain, who was directed to accompany him. These two noble and heroic souls, without the slightest wavering, at once set out from the Holy Land with unflinching determination to serve the Divine Cause, and took the first boat available from Port Said to India. They landed in Bombay about the year 1872-73. On their arrival here they met Jinabi Haji Sayed Mirza Afnan and the great sage Jinabi Haji Muhammad Ibrahim, “the moballigh” – both of Yazd (Persia). Since they were quite strangers to the country and were not acquainted with the language, customs and manners of the people of India, they decided for the time being to act under the advice and guidance of these two gentlemen of Yazd, who were well known as general merchants and commission agents, and had their business of long standing in Fort Bombay under the celebrated name of Messrs. Maji Sayed Mirza and Mirza Muhammad Co. So Jamal Effendi’s first place of residence in India was “The Hussainieh.” This was a building dedicated to the celebration of the mourning ceremony of Imam Hussain by its founder a zealous Shi’ih philanthropist from Lucknow, India, called Babri Ali.
During his short stay in Bombay Jamal Effendi did not remain inactive. Despite the language difficulty he managed to deliver the Great Message to many distinguished Persian residents, such as the late Agha Khan (the then head of the Khoja Ismailieh Community and grandfather of the present well known leader of that Community) and the Persian High Priest of the Shi’ih Isna Asharieh Mosque, Neer Sayed Muhammad. The latter accepted the Message and proved to be one of the most confirmed and devout believers. Within a short period Jamal Effendi became a marked figure in the public eye, and the nature of his activities became widely known, which necessitated his friends advising him in the interests of the Cause and their own protection to leave Bombay and go to the interior provinces of India. Accordingly he left Bombay and traveled through many important towns proclaiming the glad tidings everywhere and resurrecting souls from the dark graves of error and prejudice whenever such opportunity presented itself. Finally he reached Rampur Rohilkhand, which was then under a native chief by the name of Nawab Kalbi Ali Khan, an orthodox Sunni Muslim. Jamal Effendi was the guest of the chief’s uncle Colonel Nawab Asghar Ali Khan. During the stay there the chief one day arranged for a meeting at his palace of the Muslim clergy of his State for a discussion with him about the Baha’i doctrine of the “nonexistence of evil.” Jamal Effendi in the course of his address told the audience that the Baha’is do not believe that there exists any positive evil in the creation. According to Baha’i philosophy all is good. The Creator of all things is but one God. He is good, and therefore His creation is purely good. Evil never exists in His creation. It is a nonexistent thing.
At the end of his discourse the High Priest of the State, who was noted for his learning, pointed to the fire on the hubble-bubble which the chief was smoking and questioned Jamal Effendi. “Is this not a positive evil? It may burn the palace and reduce to ashes all present here in no time.”
Jamal Effendi answered the question with great eloquence. He asked the audience to imagine what would be the consequence if fire were to cease to exist upon earth for a moment. In its absence the very existence of human life would be impossible, as it is a principle element in the creation system believed by the cosmologists, and generally in cold countries people would be simply frozen to death without fire. We ought to be thankful to the Creator for creating such a useful thing for the preservation of our life. How can one justly call it a positive evil! The improper and wrong use of it, as of all things in the world, is undoubtedly an evil.
It is the same with all the natural qualities of man. If they be used and displayed in an unlawful way they become offenders and blameworthy. The gist of the Divine Laws in all religions is to use each and everything in its proper place as ordained by its Author. Then each thing is termed as good and lawful. Only when used in a wrong place is it called unlawful, evil, or sin. The chief object of the Prophets of God was to teach this doctrine to mankind according to their condition and the necessity of that time. Thus have arisen the “Commandments” and “Prohibitions.”
He also illustrated the same principle from a pen knife which was shown to him by the Chief. Referring to it he said, “How useful an article is this. But its misuse (for example, if it is used for the purpose of stabbing) is an evil. The creation of metal is not an evil in itself. It is one of the necessities of our life. But when men turn it into a deadly weapon it becomes an evil.”
The Chief and the whole Assembly of the learned men accepted his scholarly exposition of the doctrine with great applause; and many became interested in the teachings of the New Philosophy of the New Age.
About this time in 1876, there was held an historic gathering in Delhi, the ancient capital of the Mogul Empire in India, on the occasion of the assumption of the title of the “Empress of India” by her Majesty Queen Victoria. Almost all the Rulers of the various Native States with their entourage, high officials of the British Government and many notable persons, Indians as well as nonindians, came to the gathering. Jamal Effendi was not slow in taking advantage of a unique opportunity. There he came in contact with almost all the celebrities of India and quietly unfolded to them the Great Mystery of the age. He met here Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, and found in him a true and sympathetic friend of the Cause. Finally he proceeded to Deecan Hyderabad – the Nizam’s dominion. The Nizam being very young at that time Jamal Effendi was introduced to the Prime Minister, Sir Salar Jang Mukhtaru’l Mulk, who was a staunch Shi’ih. Through the magnetic personality and eloquence of Jamal Effendi this statesman soon became deeply interested in the Baha’i Movement and eventually a Tablet from the Supreme Pen was revealed in his favor. (According to the laws of the Kingdom, high officials could not confess openly any religion except their ancestral faith declared on oath, even though they were ruling monarchs.)
His next move was towards Madras, in southern India. While in Hyderabad and Madras he conceived the idea of visiting Burma and unfurling the banner of Ya Baha Ul Abha on the shore of the Irrawaddy, as he received information that King Mindon of Burma was a monarch of exceptionally generous disposition and absolutely unprejudiced mind, and though himself a Buddhist was tolerant to all forms of worship. In those days the steamships running between India and Burma were very few in number, so he had to wait for some time before he could catch a boat to take him to Rangoon. While he was thus waiting, a message from the Chief of Rampur State was received, soliciting his immediate presence there, because the brother of the Chief Nawab Muhammad Ali Khan had displayed a tendency towards atheism and it was the conviction of the Chief that Jamal Effendi was the only person qualified to demonstrate to his brother the absurdity of his belief and bring him round to the true faith of Islam. Jamal Effendi readily accepted the invitation. But before proceeding to Rampur he sent Mirza Hussain with a servant to Rangoon by a cargo boat, and he also sent along with them all his luggage.
It was in Madras that Siyyid Mustafa the writer of this account, met Jamal Effendi the first time. I was then quite a young man and was just preparing to return to my native country, Karbala and Baghdad, after having settled my dues in consequence of a heavy loss sustained in the rice business. Jamal Effendi’s eloquent address, his silver voice and his flowery language frequently attracted large gatherings around him. This humble servant was one of his ardent admirers. I soon became so devotedly attached to him that I actually approached my father, Siyyid Muhammad, celebrated as Roumie, for permission to accompany Jamal Effendi to Rampur. My father, who was a very learned Muslim divine and held in great esteem and reverence by the Muslim public, did not approve of the proposal; and although he did not exactly know that the theme of Jamal Effendi’s talk was the Baha’i Revelation, yet he not only refused permission but even prohibited me from entering his house. I was determined, however, to accompany Jamal Effendi to Rampur and succeeded in doing so.
Vol. 22, pages 112-116
In the first installment of this spiritual autobiography, Mr. Roumie told us of the work of the great teacher, Jamal Effendi, Persian apostle of the Baha’i Cause who had proceeded to India by the command of Baha’u’llah; how he spread the Baha’i teachings there; the author’s own meeting when a youth with this great teacher and his keen desire to accompany him on his missionary tour of India. The second installment follows.
At the time I succeeded in carrying out my desire to accompany Jamal Effendi on his missionary tour through India, he had with him two other Baha’is as his constant companions: they were Rafiuddin Khan of Hassanpur, and Haji Ramadhan of Rampur. After leaving Madras, our journey was broken for a couple of days at Gulburga where friends and officials from Hyderabad came to meet him. After a short trip to Bombay we set out for Rampur. On our way to the Cawnpore Railway Station Jamal Effendi met the very brother of the Ruler of Rampur State for whose sake he had undertaken this long journey. What happened was that the Rampur Chief, with the object of forming a closer acquaintance between Jamal Effendi and his brother, sent the latter to Cawnpore to meet him and travel with him up to Rampur State.
Jamal Effendi on this occasion stayed about a month and a half at Rampur, in the mansion of the Chief’s brother, and availed himself of this opportunity to hold several public and private discourses on the ideals and ethical teachings of the Baha’i religion. Within a few days the Chief’s brother and those who were prompting him were silenced, their atheistic doctrines were thrown into the shade, and all their casuistry proved to have no real foundation. In this way Jamal Effendi incurred the displeasure of one Nazi’ Ahmad Hassan of Aligarh, a most zealous supporter of atheism, who wielded considerable influence over the Chief’s brother and who, by some treacherous means, had cheated him out of more than thirty thousand rupees which resulted in much heated conversation and correspondence between the two. The Chief’s brother was indignant at the conduct of this old atheist friend and had imprisoned him. From his prison he wrote to Jamal Effendi asking him to intercede for his release. Jamal Effendi did so and he was duly released, eventually having to leave the State. He swore vengeance against Jamal Effendi, although from him he had received nothing but kindness.
Jamal Effendi and I accompanied by a servant boy, left Rampur for Lucknow via Kashipur State and Moradabad. At Lucknow he met the Rajas of Asethi and Balarampur States, who accorded him a very cordial reception. Meanwhile the Raja of Kashipur also arrived and took him to meet and interview the Governor of United Provinces (India). The Rajas gave us a letter of introduction to the Maharaja of Benares, the sacred city of the Hindus.
Jamal Effendi then proceeded to Benares and for a fortnight remained the guest of the Maharaja at his palace. During this short period he became acquainted with many leading citizens of Benares, Hindus as well as Muslims of all schools of thought. One of his acquaintances was Abha Mohammed Taqi Benarasi of Khurasan, at whose house he happened to meet Haji Ahmed Bindani, an influential and wealthy citizen of Rangoon; and several leading Persian Muslims of Calcutta.
At the very first interview the conversation gradually turned on the question of time regarding the appearance of Imam Mahdi, the Qa’im and the Raj-at-i Hussayni according to Shi’ih creed. A learned Shi’ih theologian who happened to be present in the assembly at the time, declared that no time had been specifically mentioned in regard to that, either in the Qur’an or in the sacred traditions of the revered Imams. Jamal Effendi then cited several passages from the holy Qur’an and the traditions of Imam Jafari Sadiq which pointed to the year 1260 A. H. (corresponding to 1844 AD) – as the time when one should look for the coming of the expected Mahdi who would be born like other human beings in accordance with the natural law of procreation. He refused the theory of the sudden and phenomenal appearance of a youth of one thousand years of age from the strange and unknown region of ‘Jabulqa’ and ‘Jabulsa.’
Jamal further maintained that the Imam on his appearance would introduce a New Cause, a New Dispensation, a New Revealed Book, and a New Divine Law for the guidance of mankind. He also quoted numerous passages from the sacred traditions to the effect that the Imam would be subjected to all kinds of persecutions humiliation and opposition, and eventually he and his followers would be martyred by men of his own race. It was an exceedingly interesting discussion which went on for a couple of days, at the conclusion of which the learned divine protested that although there was a good deal of force in Jamal Effendi’s argument, were they justified in accepting it since there was no appearance of the Anti-Christ or Sufyani. Jamal Effendi then in his usual friendly manner said, “Let us jointly pray for the divine guidance and endeavor to grasp the true significance and right meaning of the Words of the Holy Book, which according to the saying of Imam Jafar Sadiq could be comprehended only by his chosen ones and faithful servants whose hearts are pure.”
From Benares we proceeded to Calcutta, visiting Patna on the way. We arrived at Patna at dusk and went directly to an Inn where we spent the night. Early next morning, information was received that the police had surrounded the Inn the previous night and had been checking the arrival and departure of the guests. Shortly thereafter some high European officials came directly to Jamal Effendi and informed him that the Chief Commissioner desired to see him, and that he should accompany them. So we went with the officials to Danapur where the seat of government was at that time. On arriving at Danapur, we were ordered to wait in a room under police surveillance and remained there for four hours without knowing the cause of this sudden arrest. I suggested however that Nazir Ahmed Hassan, the atheist, who was offended with Jamal Effendi at Rampur, must have had something to do with this little surprise. My surmise proved to be quite correct for very soon a clerk came to Jamal Effendi with one of the letters which he had written to Nazir Ahmed Hassan, and began to question him about it. Finding that the reason of the arrest was some misunderstanding about this letter in the mind of the officials, I asked for permission to produce the letter of Nazir Ahmed Hassan to which that one was a reply. Upon receiving permission I promptly produced the letter in question, a reference to which at once cleared all doubts. We were immediately set free and all our effects were returned to us. Thus the attempt of an atheist to do mischief to the Cause was frustrated.
As this incident took place during the month of Moharram (Muhammadan New Year) the majority of the best citizens, like Nawab Mohammad, Nawab Welayat Ali Khan, and other illustrious persons, sympathetically, gathered together around Jamal Effendi and invited him to their homes, where he had opportunity to deliver the Baha’i Message freely in those large meetings.
After a week or two we left for Calcutta. On arriving there the party went to live in a house in Kolutollah which had been engaged for us by Nawab Safdar Ali Khan, the paternal uncle of the Rampur Chief. Here, too, within a very short time the magnetic personality of Jamal Effendi and his exceedingly affable manners attracted many leading citizens of Calcutta and its neighborhood. He soon became a well known figure in the community, particularly among men of a religious and philosophic turn of mind. Jamal Effendi however, was always eagerly seeking an opportunity to deliver the Great Message of universal love and peace, the message of the wonderful revelation of God’s mystery, the message of the advent of the New Age.
At last the opportunity presented itself when he met Haji Mirza Abdul Karim Shirazi, a renowned Persian merchant of Calcutta, at whose residence leading Muhammadans used to meet every day to discuss current topics. This was the time of the Russo Turkish war of 1877, and so the main subjects discussed were the events of the war as they appeared in the newspaper reports. In the course of these discussions, Jamal Effendi, as often as possible, directed the attention of his audience to various prophecies in the Holy Qur’an and the Tradition of the Prophet, regarding the signs of the appearance of the Promised Redeemer. His marvelous eloquence and his unique method of presenting the subject made a great impression on his audience.
About this time Jinabi Haji Mirza Mohammed Ali Afnan and his assistant Abha Mirza Abdul Hamid arrived from Honkong, China. They were enroute to Persia via Bombay. Jinabi Afnan was one of the maternal uncles of His Holiness the Bab. Both these gentlemen had business in China and came to see Haji Mirza Abdul Karim in this connection, and were his guests. They were known to Jamal Effendi, and they recognized each other at the meeting in Haji Mirza Abdul Karim’s house. The unusual joy expressed by these friends on their sudden and unexpected meeting, the extraordinary warmth and affection manifested as they inquired about each other’s welfare, astonished all who were present at the gathering. The people then began to suspect that Jamal Effendi was a member of the new sect.
On the following day the visitors came to see Jamal Effendi, and after a long conversation about the war and much discussion of various passages of the Holy Tablet of Baha ‘llah (Lawhi Rais – the Tablet of the Chief) relating to prophecies concerning Turkey, Jamal Effendi requested me to chant the Tablet for his two honored guests. As it was the first time that he had heard these supreme utterances, – while I was chanting the Tablet – he was conscious of a sudden flash of Heavenly Light and was quite overwhelmed with an inexpressible divine illumination. He could not at the time fully realize the cause of the strange emotion that completely overpowered him. After the chanting of the Holy Tablet was over, the revered guests and Jamal Effendi discussed between themselves the fulfillment of Baha’u’llah’s prophecies, His teachings for the upliftment of mankind, His noble ideals raising the standard of morality, and the majesty of His mission, all of which I listened to attentively as if spellbound. At the termination of the discussion, I confessed the truth of Baha’u’llah’s claim and decided to dedicate my life to the service of the Divine Cause. The three veterans at once embraced me, and kissed me most affectionately. Jamal Effendi then in his supplication to the Sacred Threshold submitted my name, and a Holy Tablet was revealed in my behalf, the English translation of which is as follows: “O Mustafa (the chosen one or selected as the best one): The supplication of Jamal, who is soaring in the atmosphere of the love of his Lord, the Opulent and Exalted, was submitted in the Holy Presence, and thy name was mentioned therein. We testify to thy truthfulness and sincerity, that thou mayst read it and be among the thankful ones. Say, ‘O God of the universe, who appeared with the Greatest Name! I beseech Thee by the essence of the existence in the name of those who were not prevented by the hosts from turning towards Thy Face, and those whom the Kings could not prevent from beholding towards Thy Horizon, to write for me with Thy Supreme Pen that which behooveth Thy Generosity. O possessor of the Names and the Creator of heaven! O my Lord! I hereby testify that which Thou hast already testified before the creation of heaven and earth, and I acknowledge that which Thy tongue has already declared before the manifestation of the Kingdoms of Thy Command and Creation. Verily Thou art He, there is no God but Thee. I supplicate Thee that thou mayst draw me in every condition near to Thy Horizon, and destine for me, O my God! that which is good in every world of Thy worlds. Verily, Thou art the Mighty, the Exalted, the High and the Great.”
Vol. 22, pages 208-211
The missionary journeys of the author, Mr. Roumie, with the great Baha’i teacher Jamal Effendi throughout India were successful in, a general way. Jamal, a cultured Persian scholar of refined, venerable appearance and eloquent discourse, found no difficulty in attaining access to leading people of various Indian States, including high government officials and rulers themselves. During his stay of two years in India, he visited many important States. Everywhere he received a warm reception and his message was listened to courteously. In many cases men of influence became followers of the Bahai Faith, and in several places Baha’i Assemblies were formed. The work thus begun, by Jamal has continued unbroken succession to the present day when India has reached the point of being second, perhaps, in importance to Persia itself in the number of Baha’is.
We left Calcutta May 1878 and reached Rangoon after a trip of seven days, steamers at that time being very slow. Our arrival in Burma was rather unusual. Though we had no acquaintances in this city, the news of our missionary journeys had been widely spread and because the difficulties in regard to our baggage and the police department had been noised abroad, all of the citizens of Rangoon knew of our arrival. At the wharf were many people who had come to meet us, among them a young man, Haji Siyyid Mahdi Shirazi of Egypt. We had written to him about our coming, requesting him to procure a suitable place for our residence. This he attended to, and was at the wharf to meet us upon our arrival.
Here we found in this picturesque new country everything different: new faces, new kinds of dress, new language, new manners, new food, new religion, and new forms of worship which were not known in India. There were very few Persians then living in Rangoon, and most of them rich merchants; the other foreign peoples frequenting Rangoon were Chinese and Indians. Our new friend, Haji, assuming us to belong to the wealthy commercial class had secured a large building in the business quarter. Later, because of defects in the roof, we moved to adjoining quarters in Mogul Street. Here people of all nationalities, creeds and castes came daily to see us. Jamal Effendi had the faculty of speaking to each soul in accordance with its own needs. His wisdom as a teacher was extraordinary. His audiences were always attracted and as a rule felt themselves blessed by his eloquent addresses.
The Chief Commissioner gave us a wonderful reception and listened with kind attention to our statements, promised to help us in every way possible, and gave us a letter of introduction to the then chief secretary, Mr. J. E. Bridges. The next day we went to interview this gentleman. He received us courteously, was very kind to us, and after due inquiry into our affairs, directed us to see the Deputy Commissioner to whom he gave us a letter of introduction.
As a result of this mission of Jamal Effendi in Rangoon many wonderful souls accepted the Faith enthusiastically, and in a very short time the Cause was widely promulgated. Then occurred a peculiar incident due to the unwise zeal of our Rangoon friend, Haji Shirazi. Being a novice in the Cause and untrained in the best way of giving the Baha’i Message, he took it upon himself, in a moment of great zeal, to go to the Shiite Mosque in the midst of the Friday worship; and there making a stand loudly called upon the congregation inviting them to come and see the Baha’i teacher, Jamal Effendi. “Dont pause or tarry for a moment,” he said, “come immediately. The appointed time foretold in the Holy Books has arrived. The prophecies have been fulfilled. The Promised Ones have duly appeared. The glad tidings of Their Manifestation is widely known in Persia and all over the world. Thousands of people in Persia have accepted this Faith, and have sacrificed lives, family and wealth in this path. Come immediately and hear Jamal Effendi in his wonderful way expound this Movement. You will see with your own eyes the new heaven and the new earth, the new sun and the new moon, the new religion and the new faith. etc.
This unwise and ill timed discourse created the greatest commotion and tumult among the fanatical Shiite congregation in the Mosque. Outcries curses, abuse, scoffings, – were raised from every side. A terrible excitement reigned, in the midst of which Haji fortunately escaped and slipped out of the Mosque, otherwise he would undoubtedly have received fatal injuries from the mob and perhaps have been killed then and there. The Muhammadans called a meeting to deal with this “‘infidel,”‘ and a special priest named Abha Sayed Jawad, a visitor to Rangoon, brought there to officiate especially at the Feast of Moharram, rose in the pulpit and openly denounced and abused and cursed our friend Haji, mentioning him by name. He roused the mob to fierce excitement, urging them to unite in force and violence and to eradicate the Baha’is from Burma. He urged that our friend Haji be expelled from the Shiite Mosque, excommunicated and killed on the spot lest the whole province be won over to this heretic faith.
This provocative sermon impressed only a few of the audience. Fortunately the majority were of too much culture and intelligence to pay any attention to it.
Meanwhile we were all in the dark concerning this event – Haji, probably because he was ashamed, having given us no information concerning it. It had been done entirely without consultation with us.
What he did do was to bring a charge of defamation of character against the priest who had delivered the violent sermon against him. This charge, brought before the District Magistrate Court, after full investigation, was decided against the fanatical priest. He was obliged to execute a bond for keeping the peace for six months. Feeling disgraced by this, the priest left Burma by the next boat for Calcutta.
Soon Haji came to us again bringing half a dozen of his relatives and friends to Jamal Effendi to hear the Baha’i Message. Haji’s father-in-law – a well known merchant – having died, his wife had inherited the property and rule of the family. Since she did not sympathize with Haji in his Baha’i Faith, it was necessary for him to leave his kindred and become separated from the family.
The result of Haji’s mistaken zeal in the Mosque did not cause any violent hindrance to the work as was feared, but it was some time before the poisonous effect of the incriminating sermon of the priest had died away. After all, some results did come from Haji’s public announcement of Jamal’s mission as given in the Mosque, for some of the people who heard it were curious to investigate the truth of the matter.
One afternoon a young Persian gentleman of about thirty came up to see us, evidently by his appearance some one of high family. But he was most rude and course in his manner to us, and we soon noticed that he was intoxicated. Evidently he had been under the impression that we were people of low class. As soon as he entered into the presence of Jamal Effendi and recognized his culture and station in life, he realized his mistake, became silent and remained only a little while, asking permission as he left to come and see Jamal Effendi the next day.
He came pulnctually as promised, a perfect gentleman now both in manner and dress. We welcomed him warmly, and as Jamal Effendi discoursed to him with love and wisdom, gradually the young man’s face shone as a result of the effect of the Divine Message with which he seemed to be delighted. He remained seated for a long time in silence, a soul enchanted. Then Jamal told him to come again the next day, for he should take time now to digest what he had heard this day. It was enough of a lesson for the present.
Jamal Effendi learned upon inquiry about him that he was a descendant of the “Kad Khoda” family of Shiraz, Persia, and his name was Agha Muhammad Kassim Shirazi. He had come to Rangoon to visit his uncle and cousins who had settled here many years before and were clothing merchants.
This youth now came every day to see us and soon was a confirmed Baha’i. Later he told us how he had come first to see us as a foe, and purposely had made himself intoxicated in order to inflict some fatal injury upon us. But what a miracle, he said, that he had returned the next day and the next and the next, impelled by his attraction to the Cause. This youth received many wonderful Tablets from Baha’u’llah. In Rangoon we had many followers from the Sunnite community and some from the Shiite community.
In the Sunnite community were Meolvi Abdul Subhan Koreishes, his five sons, his wife and his wife’s sister and mother, as well as other relatives belonging to this family. This composed the largest Baha’i family in Rangoon. They subsequently received many Tablets from Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l Baha.
Among the Shiite community also there were a large number who received Tablets from Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l Baha, and from this community a group journeyed in 1899 to Haifa; they were the pilgrims who went with the sacred marble coffin, made in Mandalay for His Holiness the Bab, which was placed in the Tomb of the Bab on Mt. Carmel.
Vol. 22, pages 250-253
Jamal Effendi, accompanied by the author, Mr. Roumie, during two years of pioneer missionary work in India, found no difficulty in obtaining access to the leading people of many important Indian states including high government officials and rulers themselves. Everywhere Jamal received a warm reception and his message was listened to courteously. In many cases men of influence became followers of the Baha’i Faith, and in several places Baha’i Assemblies were formed. The work thus begun by Jamal has continued unbroken succession to the present day when India has reached the point of being second, perhaps, in importance to Persia itself in the number of Baha’is.
In 1878 they left Calcutta for Rangoon. Here their mission was highly successful, and in a short time the Baha’i Cause was widely promulgated in spite of some instances of attempted persecution.
After the establishment of the Cause in Rangoon we left for Mandalay early in 1879 with several Persian companions. As there was no railroad communication at that time, we had to go by a slow river steamer which ran once a week from Rangoon to Mandalay, capital of the then independent kingdom of Burma.
There were many obstacles to successful missionary work in Burma. In the first place we did not know the Burmese language. Secondly, we had no arrangements for our entertainment there or for contact with the natives, and had to shift for ourselves until we were fortunate in finding, as later described, a Persian from Calcutta who knew us and who gave us our first opening in the city. Thirdly, under the rule of the despotic Burmese king, teaching of the Cause was extremely dangerous. Promulgation of a new religion was, by Buddhist law, to be punished either by banishment, or execution by torture.
But did not a Tablet from His Holiness Baha’u’llah give us the Divine command to proceed to Mandalay and establish the kingdom there? This, then, was our spiritual duty. What difference did it make to the lives of obedient servants if they were killed or spared in the line of duty? They considered nothing to be their own, all belonged to their Lord.
The trip to Mandalay was long and tedious, as the boat did not run at night, and it took us more than ten days to reach our destination. We arrived at Mandalay about an hour before sunset, and had great difficulty in finding lodgings there. At the advice of the chief of customs, who was a Muhammadan, we took shelter for the night at a Mosque called Joon Pulli where we slept as well as we could in an open shed adjoining the Mosque.
Fortunately on the very next morning a Calcutta friend, previously referred to, Haji Abdul Kareem upon hearing of our arrival, came to see us bringing with him a Burmese friend named Haji Abdul Aziz (in Burmese Ko Pooh) a dealer in precious stones. This Burmese gentleman was well known and respected by the Moslem community of Burma. We asked him if he could procure us a house, which he did – a residence in the Moslem quarter not far from the Mosque.
News of our arrival spread through the Moslem community of Mandalay, and men of all classes came now and then to see us asking many religious questions. One gentleman who had already accepted the Cause in Rangoon, Agha Mohammed Kassim Shirazi, came rejoicing to see us, and became a regular and enthusiastic visitor thereafter.
Also our Calcutta friend Haji Abdul Kareem came regularly to question Jamal Effendi upon spiritual problems connected with the Moslem law. He joined us every day to take with us the Persian tea.
As far as possible in our missionary travels, we tried to mingle with all races, creeds and nationalities, but the people brought to us at this time were chiefly Muhammadans. As it was in this circle that we mingled mostly, we felt it necessary to observe all due Muhammadan rites. There was for instance the Fast of Ramhadan and the Feast that follows it; all the obligatory prayers we also attended; but although we were associating constantly in this way with Muhammadan Burmese, we were unfortunately not able to converse with them in Burmese, and our Calcutta friend Haji Kareem interpreted for us.
Thus our days went on until one evening as we were returning home, all of a sudden, stones were thrown at us from the darkness opposite our house. We were seated at the time in front of the house in conversation with friends who had been waiting to see us. Fortunately no Siyyid Mustafa Roumeie, a renowned Baha’i one was hurt, and the landlord came out, shouted loudly, and the stoning ceased. The next morning our friend Haji Kareem came to tell us that the people of the quarter disliked our presence there and it would be best to move somewhere else they wanted to get rid of us. We thought it best to comply with their desire and engaged a house with a compound at some distance from this one. Here our friends continued to meet with us, occasionally bringing new seekers of truth. These people Jamal Effendi welcomed and entertained in the most kindly way, conversing with them on spiritual subjects, and they would depart strong admirers of him and of the message which he had presented.
This quiet and unobtrusive method of teaching led to some important results. One of our new friends, Abdul Wahid, who, like many other Muhammadan merchants in Burma, had taken the Burmese name, Ko Thin, carried the news of Jamal Effendi and his spiritual message to his uncle Abdus Sattar (in Burmese U Koo) a very well known silk merchant, a man of great intelligence and influence in his circle. Abdul Wahid related to his uncle all that he had heard and seen during his visits with Jamal. The old gentleman, Abdus Sattar, an ardent seeker of truth, told his nephew to invite us both to dinner in his home an invitation which we accepted with great pleasure.
They came to fetch us with a bullock chariot, then the chief vehicle in Burma, and after our evening prayers, we accompanied them to the home of Abdus Sattar where we found our host very eagerly awaiting us. We observed that we were the only guests, and after the dinner and the usual exchange of politenessss Abdus Sattar began to put all sorts of questions to Jamal relating to Sufi mysticism. Jamal Effendi with great promptness and brilliancy answered all of his questions and solved all of his spiritual problems to his entire satisfaction. We talked until the early morning hours and it was about two o’clock when we made our apologies and took our departure. Later we heard that our aged host, through the sheer delight and pleasure he had in conversing with Jamal, was unable to sleep that night.
The very next day, to our great surprise, his nephew came with a bullock cart and a chariot to take us with all our belongings to a home which Abdus Sattar had assigned to us. Upon arrival there we found the old gentleman busily at work, engaged in having constructed for us a meeting house on a vacant piece of land adjoining our home. Soon this meeting house became a center which attracted a sincerely devotional audience. This was the real beginning of the Divine Cause of Baha’u’llah in Mandalay. It is evident that the chief credit for the opportunity to spread the Cause in Burma must be given to Abdus Sattar and his nephew. They were the first to become believers in Mandalay, noble souls, each of them, and they were the recipients of many Tablets from His Holiness Baha’u’llah.
Gradually the number of believers increased from day to day until it reached the number of some two hundred or more. These were busy and happy days. Indeed we worked day and night, and I was also kept busy translating Tablets into the Urdu language, translating verses from the Qur’an and the Traditions regarding the time, place and person of the Divine Manifestation prophesied in these Holy Books. This subject finally extended itself into a book of some three hundred pages, _The Standard of Truth or Reality, which I wrote for Abdus Sattar.
We stayed in Mandalay for eighteen months. When the time came to leave, Abdul Wahid was appointed as our representative. Through him we were able to continue communication with the Mandalay friends. In order to prepare him for this responsibility we had been teaching him daily the divine principles of Baha’u’llah.
How grateful we were to God that in a city where there was such danger in spreading the message of Baha’u’llah, we had been protected by the friendship and influence of our new Baha’i brother, Abdus Sattar. This was our salvation, for although the Persian Shiite community publicly denounced Jamal Effendi as a Baha’i and incited the people to do us injury, yet so great was the influence of Abdus Sattar that no one was found who dared to come forward and oppose or obstruct the Movement.
Meanwhile our Persian friend, Agha Muhammad Kassim Shirazi, was working independently within the circle of the Persian Shiite community where he was able to guide many souls to the Truth, among them Agha Sayed Mehdi Shirazi and Abha Muhammad Sadiq, both of them partners of his in his Mandalay shop, and others some of whom had become natives of Mandalay.
In the course of time the prejudice of the Persian Shiite community became somewhat decreased. Two well known merchants, Mirza Muhammad Ali Isfahani and Agha Muhammad Ibrahim Shirazi, each invited us to dinner in their homes where we found gathered all the notable Persians of Mandalay. Jamal Effendi took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to deliver a most convincing address on the expectation of the Gha’im and the Messiah. The audience received this address in the most respectful silence except for a few polite questions. It seemed these souls had been impressed, but due to their ignorance of Truth and to their intellectual pride they preferred to follow blindly their own dogmatic creeds.
The Priest of the Chinese Muhammadan Mosque, a learned sage, came to see us bringing with him a written question, a spiritual puzzle, which he wanted made clear. This Jamal Effendi accomplished to his great satisfaction, pointing out how the Bab and Baha’u’llah had fulfilled all these prophecies. The Chinese gentleman retired completely satisfied with his answers.
Thus having finished our duties for the present in Mandalay, feeling that much of importance had been accomplished and that the Supreme Cause of Baha’u’llah was well founded there, we returned to Rangoon by the same river steamer by which we had arrived.
Vol. 22, pages 272-276
Jamal Effendi, accompanied by the author, Mr. Roumie, during two years of pioneer missionary work in India, found no difficulty in obtaining access to the leading people of many important Indian states including high government officials and rulers themselves. Everywhere Jamal received a warm reception and his message was listened to courteously.
In 1878 they left Calcutta for Rangoon. Here their mission was highly successful, and in a short time the Baha’i Cause was widely promulgated in spite of some instances of attempted persecution.
After establishing the Cause in Rangoon the missionaries went, early in 1879, to Mandalay. Here they met with some persecution. Their teaching had to be quiet and unobtrusive. Fortunately they were befriended by a wealthy merchant of great influence who built them a small hall in which to carry on their work, and put them under his personal protection. Feeling that they had given a good foundation to the Cause in Mandalay, they now return to Rangoon.
Our safe arrival back at Rangoon delighted the hearts of the friends and uplifted their spirits. We found awaiting us there many holy Tablets revealed by His Holiness Baha ‘llah for the friends in India and Burma as well as for ourselves.
As we planned to stay for a while in Burma, it was thought best to undertake some kind of business in order that, like the apostle Paul, we might earn our own living and pay our own way as we went about our missionary work. It was finally decided to open a pony market, also have a line of hackney carriages, and a shop for the sale of provender. This business in due time proved quite successful and profitable.
The Cause of Baha’u’llah, meanwhile, was gradually progressing; but although we had a goodly number of followers, they were, as a rule, of our own race, and we felt it very necessary that the Cause should reach out among the natives. Otherwise the foundations of the Baha’i Movement in Burma would not be strong enough to withstand the changes that time brings about among a foreign population who are constantly on the move, going here and there in search of business. The result would be that unless the Cause was spread among the native population, it would gradually die away again.
By this time we counted among our followers only two native families in Rangoon: that of Jenabi Agha Haji Sayed Miehdi Shirazi from amongst the Shiites; and secondly that of Molvi Abdus-Subhan Korishee. Even these, however, were not actually natives of Burma, although they had become naturalized citizens: the former family being from Persia, and the latter from India.
We did our very best to remedy this defect in the establishment of the Cause in Burma, and exerted our utmost to attract the natives to the Kingdom. But our endeavors at this time were not effectual. After the lapse of one year we took a second trip to Mandalay to see the friends, upon their invitation and continual requests, so that we could nourish them with new and higher teachings. A member of the Shiite Persian community of Mandalay who was very hostile to the Baha’i Movement engineered a piece of chicanery which proved quite fatal to our work at Mandalay at this time.
He instigated a professional cook, who had been with us at Hyderabad while we were sojourneying in that city, to start, falsely, a civil suit against us for one hundred and seventy six thousand five hundred and nine rubies, stating that he had sold goods to us in Hyderabad for which he had not been paid.
The courts in Mandalay, we were informed, were entirely lawless and unjust at this time and well known for their bribe taking. Many bona fide claims had been dismissed by them as false, and many false claims had been decided in the affirmative. Many defendants, and some of the plaintiffs even, had been sent to jail and violently tortured preliminary to the first court hearing.
Fortunately some of our influential Baha’i friends managed to secure all of the details of this claim and a copy of the complaint from the Court. We also had an interview with the Prime Minister Kewun Mingyi through the kind intervention of our Baha’i friend Mulla Ismail, the Chief Commissioner of Customs. After listening to our story, he promised to give us justice upon the following day when the case was called. He was as good as his word, and the case against us was dismissed on the ground that it was not a case for the judiciary of the Burmese Court, but should be presented at the Court where the business transaction had taken place. The Judge stated in his judicial opinion that the case seemed to be nothing but a piece of religious antagonism and hatred toward the revered personage of the defense.
Although thereafter we found ourselves free from this danger, the Baha’is of Mandalay had no peace of mind even after the decision of the case in our favor, for they well knew the lawlessness of their courts. Anybody might bring an action, civil or criminal, against any person without much trouble or expense. Therefore it was deemed too risky for us to stay longer in this city, and after a few months we departed for Rangoon although it was a great disappointment to our friends. This was the decision of the Mandalay believers, although it was a bitter disappointment and sorrow to them.
We came back to Rangoon distressed and heartbroken over the results of our trip to Mandalay, but we could not sit down and lament in idleness. We had to earn our living. So the writer was sent with some ponies and some jewelry to Calcutta, from which trip he returned with great profits. He was then sent on another trip of the same kind with livestock and gems to Penang in the Malay peninsula. This was an entirely new part of the world to him, but I managed to find lodgings, upon my arrival, in the house of a well known leader of mysticism, Omar Khalidi, a man of Malay descent. He was about sixty years of age with half a dozen grown up sons and daughters, most of whom were able to speak in Arabic. Thus I was able to converse with them and got along very well. Because this island was quite small, I became within a week a conspicuous figure everywhere, and although I had not yet found educated and interesting souls, yet I continued to deliver the message of Baha’u’llah to all receptive and intelligent people. Finally after disposing of all my ponies and gems favorably, I returned safely to Rangoon.
After a couple of months I was sent on a similar errand to Calcutta. Now it was decided that Jamal Effendi and the writer should go on a long trip through India, and if possible around the Malay peninsula and to the Java Islands. The friends in Rangoon unanimously agreed to this proposition. Therefore leaving our business in charge of some of the friends, we took the first boat to Calcutta. Here we found that most of the Baha’i friends had either moved or died, therefore we did not stay long here, but left for Dacca, an important city of Bengal. Here we met with some interesting and important people. From there we went to Bombay where we stayed about three weeks. Bombay at this time was an important center of the Baha’i Movement in India.
We next went to Madras where the Cause had a large number of followers, about four hundred in all. The number of believers was considerably increased after our arrival in Madras, and the writer was kept busy delivering public lectures every night in various parts of the town. He was delighted to be again with his aged Father, Sayed Muhammad Roumie, then in his one hundred and fourteenth year.
During our stay in Madras many eminent persons joined the Baha’i religion, among them: Nawab Ferooz Hossein Khan, Nawab Muhammad Miyan, Sayed Kazim Ali, Osman Khan Subadar, Major Bahadur, Sayed Dawood, and one mullah, Muhammad Ali Rampuree, a very learned sage, also his nephew, Morad Ali, a merchant.
Our next stop was Singapore, where we were the guests of the Turkish Vice Consul, a well known Arab merchant. From here we sailed for Batavia, the chief seaport of Java. We had great difficulty in getting a passport for traveling in Java, but finally secured one from the British passport office. This allowed us, however, to travel only in seaport towns and for only six months.
During all our travels in Java, we were closely watched by detectives and spied upon everywhere, as the Dutch government was exceedingly afraid of religious propaganda in Java. We were also hampered here by lack of facility in the Javanese language, which Jamal Effendi did not understand.
From Batavia we went to Sarabaya where we sojourned for a couple of months, leaving there finally for the island of Bali Lombac. The inhabitants of this island had originally been Hindus and Buddhists, but their religion now had become somewhat corrupted; the king of this province could hardly be said to practice any religion except perhaps a corrupted form of Buddhism. His queen had been a Muhammadan by birth. This queen was keenly desirous of seeing Jamal Effendi. She sent some high officials to fetch us to the palace, bringing two beautiful ponies for us to ride on as there was not any kind of a vehicle. Accompanied by the palace escort, and by our friend the Chief Commissioner of Customs who served as interpreter for us, we reached the palace and were cordially welcomed. For hours the king and queen questioned us earnestly about spiritual subjects. It was a most interesting conversation. Finally, after partaking of coffee and some sweets, we received permission to retire.
After a couple of days, we sailed for the Celebes islands, the chief seaport of which is Macassar, now the seat of the Dutch Governor. We landed here safely and the police instructed the porters to take us with our luggage to the Arab quarters, where we were to be put under the guardianship of the Chief of this quarter. We were greeted cordially by this Arab Chief, who had been born and brought up here. A very large brick building with an iron gate was given us to live in, of which we occupied only two rooms on the top floor, one for Jamal Effendi, and one for our luggage, occupied by the writer.
As experienced travelers, it occurred to us to inspect carefully the whole building. We closed the doors of all vacant rooms, especially we took particular pains to close the huge gate opening on the public road. The wisdom of this precaution will soon be seen. The building, owned by a rich Chinese merchant, seemed to have been abandoned for many years. It took hours to lock the gate with the utmost difficulty. Meanwhile news of our arrival and of the location of our lodgings was being spread over the whole town.
In the morning, to our amazement, when we looked out we saw a throng of citizens outside the building. They asked us with great astonishment how it was that our lives had been spared that night. Had no ghost, demon, or evil spirit disturbed us? How was it that we had been safe from harm? Had we overcome the Monstrous Devil? It had always been the case previously that those who spent the night in this great edifice, were found dead in the morning, and from no known cause. So terrible had been the reputation of this residence that the surviving heirs of the Chinese owner of the building dared not live in it.
We told them that we had driven out the evil spirits, ghosts, demons and devils from the house and made it habitable, thus wiping out the superstitious ideas that the Chinese and natives had had about this house for years. Knowing that the Chinese have many superstitions and a great fear of demons, we concluded that, owing to some deaths in this household, they had abandoned the place because of the belief that it was haunted. But to our amazement we subsequently learned that their fears were by no means groundless. The Chief of this Arab quarter who was in charge of the residence, had been in the habit, it seems, of bestowing it as a shelter upon inexperienced and unknown fellow countrymen traveling to that city, if he considered them to be rich. They would retire for the night assured of the careful protection of this Arab Chief and would go to sleep without taking any precaution. Once they were sound asleep, some of the Chief’s men would creep in, dressed up to resemble demons, and choke the sleeping men until they were dead. The next morning they would be buried by the Chief and their belongings would be taken away by the said Chief for safe custody!
But in our case the evil designs of the Chief were thwarted by our precaution. His men did come to the big gate, it seems, and tried hard to force it open. Jamal had been awakened by the noise and shouted loudly in Arabic, “Who is there?” and looking out he saw men running away from the gate. In spite of this knowledge which we had acquired of the evil designs of our native Chief, we dared not disclose to him our awareness of his villainy for we needed his help in all of our movements. So instead of confronting him with his crimes, we deemed it best to present him with a gem worth twenty dollars and thanked him for his kind protection.
Vol. 22, pages 313-315
Jamal Effendi, accompanied by the author, Mr. Roumie, during two years of pioneer missionary work in India, found no difficulty in obtaining access to the leading people of many important Indian states including high government officials and rulers themselves. Everywhere Jamal received a warm reception and his message was listened to courteously.
In 1878 they left Calcutta for Rangoon. Here their mission was highly successful, and in a short time the Baha’i Cause was widely promulgated in spite of some instances of attempted persecution.
After establishing the Cause in Rangoon the missionaries went, early in 1879, to Mandalay where they laid a good foundation for the Baha’i Cause.
Several years were spent in missionary journeys to Burma Mandalay and the chief cities of India. Then Jamal Effendi and the author left for more distant journeys to Singapore, Java and the Celebess Islands where they met with extraordinary adventures.
During our stay in Macassar we became well known as experts in the healing of the sick and the soothing of nervous ailments. With the supreme power and help of the Greatest Name we were able to heal many of the sick, and those who thought themselves possessed by evil spirits were also relieved by our prayers. Through this healing work we were able to deliver the message of Baha’u’llah to every one with whom we came in contact; and when the time arrived for us to depart, it was only with the greatest difficulty that we were able to tear ourselves away from these people who had begun to depend so much upon us.
From Macassar we proceeded in a small sailing vessel to a seaport of the Celebes islands called Pari Pari, then ruled by a native independent chief called Fatta Aronmatua Aron Raffan [sic: Rappang], which means “The Great Monarch and King of all Kings.” On our arrival I went directly to the customs official to ask permission for landing. The officer in charge gave me a pony on which to ride to the royal palace (a palace built of bamboo) to obtain this permission from their King. The King, who was advanced in age, was eagerly awaiting our arrival and watching with a telescope through the window of his palace. As soon as I entered the royal palace the King got up from his seat and warmly embraced me saying that he was happy to see his honorable guest. Then he eagerly inquired the whereabouts of Jamal Effendi, who, I replied, was still in the ship await in for his royal command to disembark.
When I entered the royal presence I saw there two envoys sent to the King by the Dutch Governor of Macassar with a private letter to the King indicating the arrival of the two visitors Jamal Effendi and the writer and requesting the King to refuse any help that they might request for the purpose of making their journey into the interior of the native states; for the letter stated these two men were necromancers, and would use the art of enchantment to win the chiefs and their subjects for their mystic religious rites.
The King was not favorably impressed with this defamatory letter. In fact he was noticeably annoyed by it and in an angry tone he said to the two envoys, “These venerable visitors are our guests and under our protection, and the Dutch Governor should not interfere with our religious affairs. This is my reply to his offensive letter, and an unofficial message which should be conveyed by you to him.”‘ The envoys, thunderstruck, immediately retired disheartened and unsuccessful in their hostile mission.
The King enjoined upon the customs official to apologize to Jamal Effendi on his behalf for not being able to do him the honor of a public reception, and directed the customs official to accommodate the guests in his own house. This was done, and we were honorably received by this official. The day after our arrival we were summoned to the Court to have an audience with the King. We were warmly received by him. He embraced each of us and bade us be seated close beside him. After the usual salutations and politenesss he inquired about our voyage and the object of our unexpected and delightful arrival at such an unfrequented spot.
With perfect sincerity and candor, yet with tact and sympathy, we explained to him our whole missionary adventure in a way calculated to produce interest and satisfaction on his part. The King was exceedingly delighted and asked us to call again on the next morning. So on the morrow we were again furnished with ponies and rode a distance of about two miles to the palace, and this time had audience with the Queen and also with the princes. In fact we found ourselves becoming very intimate with the King and all the royal family.
The King was suffering with an ugly disease called psora His whole body was covered with scales like fish scales which caused constant irritation and itching. His skin was so sensitive that he could stand but little clothing and so he wore but very few garments. Jamal Effendi had inspired such faith and admiration in the King as to make him confident that his spiritual visitor could heal his painful disease, and he requested this of Jamal. The latter replied, “We are not qualified physicians or trained in the healing of material ills. But we will earnestly pray for divine guidance, and by means of that try to find the remedy for you.”
When we returned home we consulted and prayed together for the solution of this problem and responsibility which the King’s sickness and his faith in us had placed upon us. The results were, as the reader will see, a remarkable confirmation of the fact that no matter what the difficulty, Baha’is will find a heavenly guidance through consultation and prayer.
Having sought the guidance, then, we immediately proceeded to act. We went out to the neighboring jungle to search for medical herbs, as we had nothing of this nature with us. We found many trees of cassia fistula with its abundant fruits which are mildly laxative. We collected some of these fruits; and going further into the jungle found some plants of jungle mint and gathered the leaves of this also. We sought to be guided in the collection of other plants and herbs, continually using the Greatest Name while we were engaged in this extraordinary search. We brought them home, and praying also the while, prepared from them a brew, and also a purgative from the cassia. We had a few cakes of carbolic soap with us fortunately, and we prepared three bottles of oxymel combined with vinegar and sugar, and took all of these preparations and the soap with us to the royal palace the next day. We gave four doses of the purgative to the King on alternate days, and gave him nourishment in between times. Every day he had a hot bath with a strong application of carbolic soap, taking internally some of the herb brew we had made and the oxymel.
As the natives were unable to carry out any of these services, even the bath, the writer personally executed everything necessary. It took more than a month to soften the skin and gradually bring it to a smooth and velvety condition as before this sickness. Finally through divine confirmations and the glorious powerful effects of the Greatest Name, we succeeded to a certain extent in affecting a cure. After all, the faith of the old King was certainly a great factor in his remarkable recovery. Needless to say, the royal family were greatly impressed because of this healing, and were won to our friendship and to attachment to our Message more than ever before.
Vol. 22, pages 342-344
Jamal Effendi, accompanied by the author, Mr. Roumie, during two years of pioneer missionary work in India, found no difficulty in obtaining access to the leading people of many important Indian states including high government officials and rulers themselves. Everywhere Jamval received a warm reception and his message was listened to courteously.
In 1878 they went to Rangoon, where their mission was highly successful. In 1879 they started on an extensive missionary tour of Burma, Mandalay and the chief cities of India. They then undertook a still more distant journey to Singapore, Java and the Celebese Islands where with the primitive people they met with extraordinary adventures and success.
After several minor trips we reached the province of Padalia, ruled by Fatta Chikourdi. When our boat, after a rather alarming trip through a crocodile infested river, reached the town in which the King resided, his officers met us at the landing and took us to a commodious guest house on the river side. They then presented to us the formal greetings of the King and took in return our greetings to His Majesty. The next day we were summoned to the palace. King Fatta Chikourdi, of Padali and his Queen Diammarala welcomed us warmly and invited us to visit them and have audience with them daily. In our judgment, however, this place was utterly devoid of spiritual souls. The people were not at all interested in our mission, nor did they have capacity, it would seem, for receiving our declaration of the divine dispensation. So we made up our mind to move further on to the province of Boonay as soon as the King should deign to provide us with canoes and other requisites for our trip. We could not of course ask for this immediately as it would be rude to make too short a visit.
As we were waiting an opportunity to tactfully talk of our departure, to our surprise a serious epidemic of smallpox broke out in the principle towns of Padalia. The houses around the palace had many victims, especially among children, and the loss of life was very great.
The King felt uneasy about this and asked us to do something to arrest the ravages of the plague. We had no instruments or medical material to handle such a situation. We found ourselves forced, however, to take some steps to oblige the King. I was instructed by Jamal Effendi to procure some ordinary needles, tie them up tight and put them in a small vial together with some ripe scabs from long effected children, adding to this the milk of some woman who was giving suck to a male child. With this I was to vaccinate the children of the province. I carried out the instructions to the letter and later I vaccinated daily upwards of five hundred children. Of these only one per cent died; all the rest were saved by this treatment.
Through this medical work we found opportunity to deliver the Message to all. We were not able to stay long enough however, to prove the results of this missionary activity, for we soon left for the province of Boonay. The King generously supplied us with all the necessary traveling equipment and three long canoes with full escort. He affectionately bade us adieu, and we started down the crocodile infested river once more. Before sunset we reached our destination and were warmly received by the King and his officials and given the guest house opposite the palace for our residence. After dinner we were invited to the audience chamber where we were received enthusiastically by the King and Queen. In this very first interview we became intimately acquainted with each other, and the King as simply as a child put all sorts of questions to us, both material and spiritual.
With our party, as it happened, was an Arab from the province of Yemen He happened to journey with us down the river. The King undertook to recite a prayer known in Islam mystical denominations as Jeljelutich. This Arab suddenly interrupted and impertinently attempted to correct the pronunciation of an Arab word in the prayer which the King had, in reality, pronounced correctly. The King, very much annoyed, told him that he was mistaken as to the proper pronunciation but the Arab, who was quite impolite and rude and even insane in his obstinacy, continued to contradict the King. So irate did the King become that he ordered the Arab put out of the palace, and gave instructions that he should never be admitted again. He then turned to us and asked us if we had brought this monster in our company. We explained the facts as to how he happened to be with us, and the King became appeased.
The King was so attracted by the stirring talks of Jamal Effendi that he kept him answering religious questions until the late hours of the night; in fact, it was not until two o’clock in the morning that we were permitted to retire.
Every day and evening we were now in the audience chamber holding religious conferences with the King, continuing to solve his spiritual problems. After a few days the King asked us to write a handbook in Arabic outlining principles for the administration of his State, as well as a booklet for teaching Arabic colloquial conversation. This gave us an unusual opportunity to present the principles of Baha’i administration and government to the King, for we based our handbook upon the universal laws of Baha’u’llah.
Meanwhile the Arab, really partially insane it would seem, deprived of the privilege of entering the palace turned his grudge upon the writer. It took a good deal of precaution on my part to avoid trouble, but one day as I was working on the manuscript of the handbook above mentioned, the Arab, sitting upon his bed, started to vehemently shake the bamboo floor of the house in such a way as to prevent my writing. Upon my polite request to him to desist, he suddenly appeared quite naked from behind the curtain of his bed and struck me upon the head with a heavy block of wood. Fortunately the Queen, happening to look out from her palace window, saw this attack and informed the King who with a large corps of his followers rushed in and arrested the Arab. He also had my wound treated and dressed. Then he gave orders to have the Arab executed. As Baha’is, Jamal Effendi and myself both begged the King to forgive the criminal; and after a long entreaty upon my part, it was granted and the order was given that he should not be executed but banished with a criminal record to the Dutch settlement. The King and Queen, great admirers of Jamal Effendi and the writer, kindly permitted us to present to the insane man some gifts for his journey, about ten dollars in cash and five dollars worth of native cloth.
The books were finally completed and presented to the King and Queen respectively. Also we gave the King lessons in the translation of his books into the Malay language which were exceedingly appreciated.
The King and Queen accepted the Baha’i Cause and made a vow to promulgate it in all the provinces of the Celebese Islands as soon as they should receive confirmation for this missionary effort.
Thus having raised the standard of Ya Baha El Abha, we made our preparations to return. With great sorrow at our departure, the King and Queen had all necessary preparations made for our voyage. The atmosphere was very melancholy when we went to bid adieu to their Royal Highnesses.
This ends with the words “To be continued” (Star of the West, Vol. 22, p. 344) but appears not to have been completed. The manuscript is in the Bahai archives in Wilmette.There must be considerably more material there, since Jackson Armstrong Ingram reports that, about 1884, he and Jamal Effendi were summoned from Calcutta by the Afnan family in Bombay. When they arrived they found found they were to meet Mohammad Ali, who had come to India to arrange for the printing of the Aqdas, Suratu’l-Haykal, Iqan, and various other works. Roumie says he got into a physical fight with the Afnan Haji Siyid Mirza because he (Roumie) did not prostrate before Mohammad Ali. He says he explained that the Aqdas prohibited prostration before individuals and that “we are commanded to look towards the Branches of the Sacred Tree reverently and respectfully but without any exceptional distinction.” Roumie says that Haji Siyid Mirza attacked him violently, and he was then banned from the Afnans’ office. After a few weeks in Bombay, Roumie left with Jamal Effendi on an extended trip that took them to Madras for a couple of months and then to Singapore, Surabaya, Lombok, the Celebes, and Siam, arriving back in Burma in early 1886. (Personal communication from JAI, May and June 1988)
Jelle de Vries has an article in Bahai Studies Review in which he uses Dutch colonial sources to cast more light on the Celebes (Suluwesi) part of the journey described above, including the conversion of the King and Queen of Boné. The article is free to download, and it is an excellent read.
In 1922, Siyyid Mustafa Roumie was one of the leading Bahais from many countries who were summoned to Haifa by Shoghi Effendi to discuss the course of the community in the new era which, with the death of Abdu’l-Baha, it was embarking. (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, 55). He was murdered in 1945 in Daidanaw, in the course of ethnic violence which took the lives of 11 Bahais and destroyed Bahai homes, a school, and the Bahai Centre. However he is buried in Mandalay – with the express permission of the Guardian. He was posthumously appointed a Hand of the Cause by Shoghi Effendi, who calls him “beloved and unforgettable pioneer and martyr.” (Dawn of a New Day, 118)
Short link: http://tinyurl.com/RoumieofBurma
Even shorter: http://wp.me/pcgF5-173