This limitless universe is like the human body, all the members of which are connected and linked with one another with the greatest strength. How much the organs, the members and the parts of the body of man are intermingled and connected for mutual aid and help, and how much they influence one another! In the same way, the parts of this infinite universe have their members and elements connected with one another, and influence one another spiritually and materially. – Abdu’l-Baha
Ever since small boats could sail beyond the horizon, each person who has journeyed to a new home has a unique story, with their own motivation for leaving the home of their ancestors and for starting out as a foreigner in a new land. There is sometimes a push: famine or war. There is sometimes a pull: freedom or economic stability. For Baha’is, the strongest reason for their exodus from Iran over the past fifty years is religious persecution. Continue reading
My dear friend and prolific writer and scholar Hussein Ahdieh has just released a memoir of his experiences as a Baha’i in Iran and an immigrant to the United States. You may recognize his name from the books Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz or The Calling: Tahirih of Persia and Her American Contemporaries. Both books were co-written with Hillary Chapman, and now the dynamic duo have teamed up again for their latest book based on Hussein Ahdieh’s life, called Foreigner. It’s funny, it’s tender, and it sheds a powerful light on what it feels like to be an immigrant.
Hussein agreed to tell us about his book and what inspired him to write it:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Hussein, can you tell us a little bit about your new book ‘Foreigner’, and what it’s all about?
‘Foreigner’ tells my story as an Iranian Baha’i immigrant to the United States in a series of moving and humorous episodes set against the backdrop of a changing Iran, the plight of the Baha’is there, and the tumult of the 60’s and 70’s in the United States. It’s a vivid re-telling of a foreigner’s experience — as a Baha’i in a Shi’a Muslim country, as an immigrant in a foreign land, as a poor person in New York City, as a Middle Easterner in the West – it’s full of my experiences with challenges and personalities from all walks of life.
Many Baha’is are familiar with the events described in the book The Dawnbreakers, where followers of the Bab were under attack and siege by the Persian army, but aside from these descriptions in the Dawnbreakers, very little is known about the many events which took place during this turbulent period of our Faith’s early history. That is why the new book Awakening: A History of the Babi and Baha’i Faiths in Nayriz by Dr. Hussein Ahdieh and Hillary Chapman is so important.
Now for the first time, many of the gaps in the history of our Faith during that period have been filled, as one of Dr. Ahdieh’s ancestors, a young boy named Shafi, was one of the few male survivors who had witnessed the horrific events which took place around him in the Persian town of Nayriz. At the request of Baha’u’llah, Shafi documented these events in his diary, and it is this diary which played an important role in the research for this book.
Besides being a Baha’i Historian and an author, Dr. Hussein Ahdieh is also a good friend of mine and I was able to spend some time with him while I was visiting New York recently. We spoke about this wonderful new book and he agreed to tell me and our Baha’i Blog readers more about Awakening. Continue reading