Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Heavenly Consort's Story

Asiyyih Khanum, or Navvab

By John Taylor; 2008 Nov 12, 09 Qudrat 165 BE

Asiyih Khanum, titled Navvab, married some time between 24 September and 22 October 1835; died 1886; seven children, (of whom three survived childhood). (Universal House of Justice, 1995 Oct 23, Wives of Baha'u'llah, p. 2)

"And truly the humiliation and reproach which she suffered in the path of God is a fact which no one can refute. For the calamities and afflictions mentioned in the whole chapter (Isaiah 54) are such afflictions which she suffered in the path of God, all of which she endured with patience and thanked God therefor and praised Him, because He had enabled her to endure afflictions for the sake of Baha. During all this time, the men and women (Covenant-breakers) persecuted her in an incomparable manner, while she was patient, God-fearing, calm, humble and contented through the favour of Her Lord and by the bounty of her Creator." (Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha'u'llah, p. 120)

During our children's classes we have been reviewing "The Promise of all Ages," a Canadian documentary with professional production values. The Haldimand Community also viewed the entire film biography of Baha'u'llah last night at our Birth of Baha'u'llah celebration. It provoked an enthusiastic reaction from those present and I highly recommend it. Here is some of what it says about it on the film's website.

"Now for the first time in a feature length documentary, The Promise of All Ages explores the Life of Baha'u'llah... Narrated by CBC's Michael Enright, The Promise of All Ages is a remarkable account of the birth of a new Revelation and the Life of its Founder. Herein lies a story, historically accurate, deeply moving, and as intriguing as the meteoric rise of the Faith that bears His name." (

As we were going through the first parts of the film, Silvie was inspired by the story of Navvab's (Baha'u'llah's wife) plight while Baha'u'llah was secluded in the Sulaymaniyyih Mountains. She made up a comic about the sad events, which are retold in the movie by a Canadian mother. She expresses dismay at the part of Navvab's to do with events leading up to the death of Navvab's seventh and last child (three survived childhood, Abdu'l-Baha, Bahiyyih and Mihdi). I have been looking for the source of this story about Navvab without success so far.

As depicted in the movie, Baha'u'llah upon leaving Baghdad to become a dervish, had asked Navvab to show the utmost obedience and consideration to Mirza Yahya, who was in hiding in their home. Yahya was deadly afraid to be recognized as the nominal leader of the Babis -- undoubtedly he had even stronger reasons to lay low, for, as told in "God Passes By", Yahya had also plotted the assasination of Dayyan and an uncle of the Bab, and more recently was wanted for, among lesser crimes, stealing the turbans of pilgrims to the Muslim holy shrines near Baghdad. When the baby -- who had survived in its mother's womb the arduous exile from Teheran -- caught a fever Navvab wanted to call a doctor but Yahya would not hear of it. It died as a result, and Yahya would only permit the door to be opened a crack to let the body of the babe be passed out to a hired fellow who buried it in a place unknown. Navvab was distressed that, not knowing its burial place, she could not mourn the loss.

No doubt this sad news of the death of thier infant added to Baha'u'llah's sufferings when He returned and found out about it. Baha'u'llah's Writings around this time (they are summed up in God Passes By) are lachrimos and anguished, not surprisingly.

In Silvie's comic she speculates on Yahya's reasons for refusing to allow a doctor to treat the baby. In the end, Silvie has Yahya take over the doctoring of the baby for himself. Silvie had noticed that earlier in the film it had mentioned that a half-brother of Baha'u'llah was a doctor and had treated some family members just before their exile from Tihran. This half-brother the doctor could not have been Mirza Yahya since they only met Yahya later on, during the voyage, cowering away in a small village near the border. Anyway, Silvie assumes in the comic that Yahya at least aspired to being a doctor.

All through the film Silvie would protest, "Hey, that is not how I imagined this." The world of her comics made the story a funnier, lighter thing than it was. But it is a creative, imaginative response to the Revelation and God surely will bless her for it.

From SilvieandTommy

John Taylor


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