Brief biographies of Baha’is mentioned in ‘Memorials of the Faithful’ and ‘The Baha’i World’ volumes.

August 11, 2015

Ustád Ismá’íl

Yet another from amongst that blessed company was Ustád Ismá’íl, the builder. He was the construction overseer of Farrukh Khán (Amínu’d-Dawlih) in Tihrán, living happily and prosperously, a man of high standing, well regarded by all. But he lost his heart to the Faith, and was enraptured by it, till his holy passion consumed every intervening veil. Then he cast caution aside, and became known throughout Tihrán as a pillar of the Bahá’ís.

Farrukh Khán ably defended him at first. But as time went on, he summoned him and said, “Ustád, you are very dear to me and I have given you my protection and have stood by you as best I could. But the Sháh has found out about you and you know what a bloodthirsty tyrant he is. I am afraid that he will seize you without warning, and he will hang you. The best thing for you is to go on a journey. Leave this country, go somewhere else, and escape from this peril.”

Composed, happy, Ustád gave up his work, closed his eyes to his possessions, and left for ‘Iráq, where he lived in poverty. He had recently taken a bride, and loved her beyond measure. Her mother arrived, and by subterfuge, obtained his permission to conduct the daughter back to Tihrán, supposedly for a visit. As soon as she reached Kirmansháh, she went to the mujtahid, and told him that because her son-in-law had abandoned his religion, her daughter could not remain his lawful wife. The mujtahid arranged a divorce, and wedded the girl to another man. When word of this reached Baghdád, Ismá’íl, steadfast as ever, only laughed. “God be praised!” he said. “Nothing is left me on this pathway. I have lost everything, including my bride. I have been able to give Him all I possessed.”

March 15, 2015

Albert R. Windust (1874- 1956)

"Deeply grieved passing much loved greatly admired staunch ardent promoter Faith, Albert Windust, Herald Covenant, whose notable services Heroic Formative Ages Faith unforgettable. Assure friends relatives fervently supplicating progress soul Kingdom.
Shoghi”

Albert Robert Windust was born on Chicago's west side near Hull House on March 28, 1874. His parents were Thomas and Sarah Sheffield Windust. His father was a printer, who, shortly after Albert was born, moved with his family to a section of Chicago known as Woodlawn. They were members of the Episcopal Church. Mrs. Windust, a school teacher and a very active church worker, was the founder of the First Christ Church of Woodlawn (Episcopalian). 

In his early years, Albert Windust was not physically strong and this may have accounted for the fact that he had very little formal schooling. He was tutored in his early years by his mother and entered a public school at the fourth grade level. He ended his formak education in the sixth grade. Despite this, Albert Windust during his life attained a depth of knowledge and spiritual wisdom reached by very few.

At the age of fourteen Albert became an apprentice in the printing firm where his father worked. The following November his mother died. His interest in nature awakened a desire to draw, and he became a pupil at Chicago's Art Institute. Through associations made in the printing business, he illustrated stories of many authors, including Opie Read and H. Rider Haggard.

January 18, 2015

Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí, the Afnán

In the days of Bahá’u’lláh, during the worst times in the Most Great Prison, they would not permit any of the friends either to leave the Fortress or to come in from the outside. “Skew-Cap” [1] and the Siyyid [2] lived by the second gate of the city, and watched there at all times, day and night. Whenever they spied a Bahá’í traveler they would hurry away to the Governor and tell him that the traveler was bringing in letters and would carry the answers back. The Governor would then arrest the traveler, seize his papers, jail him, and drive him out. This became an established custom with the authorities and went on for a long time—indeed, for nine years until, little by little, the practice was abandoned.

It was at such a period that the Afnán, Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-‘Alí—that great bough of the Holy Tree [3]—journeyed to Akká, coming from India to Egypt, and from Egypt to Marseilles. One day I was up on the roof of the caravanserai. Some of the friends were with me and I was walking up and down. It was sunset. At that moment, glancing at the distant seashore, I observed that a carriage was approaching. “Gentlemen,” I said, “I feel that a holy being is in that carriage.” It was still far away, hardly within sight.

“Let us go to the gate,” I told them. “Although they will not allow us to pass through, we can stand there till he comes.” I took one or two people with me and we left.

At the city gate I called to the guard, privately gave him something and said: “A carriage is coming in and I think it is bringing one of our friends. When it reaches here, do not hold it up, and do not refer the matter to the Governor.” He put out a chair for me and I sat down.

November 16, 2014

John David Bosch (1855-1946)

At the gate of the garden some stand and look within, but do not care to enter. Others step inside, behold its beauty, but do not penetrate far. Still others encircle this garden, inhaling the fragrance of the flowers, but having enjoyed its full beauty, pass out again by the same gate. But there are always some who enter, and becoming intoxicated with the splendor of what they behold, remain for life to tend the garden. (‘Abdu'l-Baha)

Such a gardener was John David Bosch. And the flowers he tended were the men, women and children in whose hearts he had, at one time or another, planted the seeds of spiritual truth. When he spoke of spiritual things and of Baha'u'llah, there was a light in his clear blue eyes that seemed to be a reflection of a splendor that few others have had the joy of beholding, and when he looked into the eyes of a fellow human being a glow of friendliness lighted up his face, crinkled his eyes at the corners and brought a quick smile to his lips.

Although there are many friends who remember him as a young man and possibly somewhat different in appearance, most of us who knew him only in his later years were sure that he must always have been a distinctive individual. He was tall and straight. His hair was white and he wore a well-trimmed white beard. In the summertime, when he dressed in his spotless white serge and Panama hat, he had the look of a man of noble rank.

September 14, 2014

Mrs. Esther Tobin (1863-1944)

Mrs. Esther (“Nettie") Tobin, who will ever be remembered as the one inspired to find the dedication stone of the first Baha'I House of Worship in the Western World, ascended to the Abha Kingdom April twenty-eighth, 1944. On October ninth of the year previous she commemorated her eightieth birthday.

Mrs. Tobin was born in Detroit, Michigan, and lived there until shortly after the death of her husband in 1892. She then moved to Chicago with her two small sons, John, and Harold, and her half-sister and brother. At first she had a difficult time supporting herself and family by means of dressmaking. Although extremely busy, her spirit of determination and faith in prayer became a silver lining to the clouds of worry and despair. Daily she prayed for spiritual guidance in meeting her many problems with her little ones.

Mrs. Tobin felt that her prayers had been answered when she met Paul K. Dealy, one of the early believers in the Baha'i Faith in America. She recognized his great faith and spiritual power as a teacher. After attending his classes she was convinced that Baha'u'llah was the “Son of Man" and the “Lord of the Vineyard" promised by Jesus Christ, and the “Everlasting Father," the Prince of Peace" promised by Isaiah to come in the “latter days." She not only accepted the Baha'i Message, but wanted others to hear the glad tidings of the fulfillment of that great Event.

Regarding the finding and delivery of the dedication stone: according to her nurse [1] for three and a half years before her departure, Mrs. Tobin mentioned the following:

June 8, 2014

John Henry Hyde Dunn

John Henry Hyde Dunn was born in London, England, the son of a consulting chemist. In early childhood he was dandled upon the knee of Charles Dickens, and was amused and entertained by Cruikshank, the famous illustrator of Dickens' works. As a young man, after engaging in business in Great Britain and on the continent, he emigrated to the United States.

While waiting in a tinsmith's shop in Seattle, Washington, he overheard two men speaking. One man quoted these words of Baha'u'llah, "Let not a man glory in this, that he loves his country, but let him glory in this, that he loves his kind." Mr. Dunn interrupted the conversation by saying, “Surely these words are a message from God." The speaker turned, and, including Mr. Dunn in the conversation, gave the message of the Baha'i Revelations.

Mr. Dunn accepted the truth of the Baha'i Revelation immediately and it was not long before he and Mr. Ward Fitzgerald, the one who had brought him the Message, were traveling together, doing business and spreading the Faith. At one time they took advantage of a brief period of unemployment to journey to Walla Walla, Washington, where they held meetings for this purpose. This journey necessitated extreme economy on the part of the teachers so that they were often obliged to go hungry. A certain lady, who remained after one of the meetings to learn more about the great Message, soon learned, as she talked with the two teachers, that they were as hungry physically as she was spiritually. She tactfully insisted on offering them hospitality and spread a bountiful meal for them.

January 4, 2014

Shaykh Salmán – "From the dawn of history until the present day, there has never been a messenger so worthy of trust; there has never been a courier to compare with Salmán" - by 'Abdu'l-Baha

In 1266 A.H. [1849-1850] the trusted messenger, Shaykh Salmán, first heard the summons of God, and his heart leapt for joy. He was then in Hindíyán. Irresistibly attracted, he walked all the way to Tihrán, where with ardent love he secretly joined the believers. On a certain day he was passing through the bázár with Áqá Muhammad Taqíy-i-Káshání, and the farráshes followed him and discovered where he lived. The next day, police and farráshes came looking for him and took him to the chief of police.

“Who are you?” the chief asked.

“I am from Hindíyán,” replied Salmán. “I have come to Tihrán and am on my way to Khurásán, for a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Imám Ridá.”

“What were you doing yesterday,” the chief asked, “with that man in the white robe?”

Salmán answered, “I had sold him an ‘abá the day before, and yesterday he was to pay me.”

“You are a stranger here,” the chief said. “How could you trust him?”

“A money-changer guaranteed the payment,” Salmán replied. He had in mind the respected believer, Áqá Muhammad-i-Sarraf (money-changer).

The chief turned to one of his farráshes and said, “Take him to the money-changer’s and look into it.”

October 13, 2013

Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney - “a sustaining and comforting companion, a most valued counsellor, an intimate and trusted friend” of Shoghi Effendi

An Appreciation by Shoghi Effendi

Dearly beloved brothers and sisters in 'Abdu'l-Baha:

With feelings of profound sorrow I am moved to address you these few lines, mourning the loss which the Cause has undoubtedly sustained by the passing of one who, for many years and in circumstances of exceptional significance, rendered the sacred Threshold distinctive and inestimable services. The hand of Divine Decree has removed, by the death of our talented and dearly beloved friend, Mr. Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney, yet another outstanding figure in the Cause of Baha'u'llah, who, by his brilliant gifts of mind and heart as well as by the divers achievements of his life, has truly enriched the annals of God's immortal Faith.

A pioneer of the Cause of Baha'u'llah ever since its celestial light first warmed and illuminated the West, he has, by his close association with the person of 'Abdu'l-Baha, by his numerous and extensive travels in Eastern and Western lands, by his contact with all sections of society, by his scholarly presentation of the history and fundamentals of the Faith, and lastly by his unforgettable share in the settlement of the complex and pressing issues that called for expert assistance in the days following 'Abdu'l-Baha's passing, achieved a standing which few have as yet attained.

August 17, 2013

Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper (d.1938) - the first Baha'i in England

Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper was the first Baha'i in England and one of the first Western people to recognize the Revelation of Baha'u'llah. She received the name "Maryam Khanum" from 'Abdu'l-Baha. She put her car at the Master's disposal during His visits to London. Her tall, graceful figure with her serene angel face shining beneath a crown of silver hair, her blue eyes, and the soft blend of blues and purples in her dress, gracious to all, and ready to be of constant service to her exalted Guest.

In a letter to Lady Blomfield, now published in The Chosen Highway, Mrs. Thornburgh-Cropper tells how she became aware of the new Revelation. "Early in 1900 I received a letter from Mrs. Phoebe Hearst, my life long friend from California, telling me of a wonderful new religious teaching she had contacted. She said that she felt it would be of great interest to me, and that when she came to London, she would tell me all about it. A short time later I was searching in the encyclopedia for some information about King David, about whom I had had an argument. In turning over the pages, my eye was caught by a name "Báb." . . . There was something so moving in this story of a martyr for His faith, that so moved me that I went to the British Museum to search for further information regarding Him and His teaching."

January 1, 2013

Hand of the Cause Dr. John Esslemont (1874-1925)

John Ebenezer Esslemont, who passed away at Haifa November 22, 1925, was born on May 19, 1874, the son of John E. Esslemont of Fairford, Cults, Aberdeenshire.

He received his preliminary education at Ferryhill public school and continued his studies at the Robert Gordon College and ultimately at Aberdeen University, where he graduated with honors in April, 1898, obtaining not only the medical degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and of Surgery, but also a Philip Research Scholarship at the University. He spent the second half of 1899 at Berne and Strasburg, at both of which places he wrote papers on his research work, which were published and considered valuable.

Returning to Scotland in December, 1899, Esslemont took up the position of assistant to Professor Cash at Aberdeen University, which position he held until 1901, when he went to Australia, remaining there two years. During this residence in Australia, he married on December 19, 1902.

Early in his life Esslemont’s health proved a cause of trouble and anxiety, and in 1903 he was obliged to leave Australia, returning to Aberdeenshire, where he spent the summer, but found it necessary in the winter of that year to proceed to South Africa, the climate of which country it was hoped would prove beneficial to his pulmonary ailment. He remained in South Africa for five years, returning to his native country in 1908, when he obtained the post of resident medical officer at the Home Sanatorium, Bournemouth, which he continued to hold until 1923, when, owing to the death of the proprietor, the Sanatorium was closed and Esslemont found himself without medical occupation.

December 21, 2012

Hand of the Cause: Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar-i-Shahmirzadi, known as Haji Akhund (1842-1910) - by 'Abdu'l-Baha

Yet another Hand of the Cause was the revered Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar, upon him be the glory of God, the All-Glorious. Early in life, this illustrious man attended institutions of higher learning and labored diligently, by day and night, until he became thoroughly conversant with the learning of the day, with secular studies, philosophy, and religious jurisprudence. He frequented the gatherings of philosophers, mystics, and Shaykhís, thoughtfully traversing those areas of knowledge, intuitive wisdom, and illumination; but he thirsted after the wellspring of truth, and hungered for the bread that comes down from Heaven. No matter how he strove to perfect himself in those regions of the mind, he was never satisfied; he never reached the goal of his desires; his lips stayed parched; he was confused, perplexed, and felt that he had wandered from his path. The reason was that in all those circles he had found no passion; no joy, no ecstasy; no faintest scent of love. And as he went deeper into the core of those manifold beliefs, he discovered that from the day of the Prophet Muhammad’s advent until our own times, innumerable sects have arisen: creeds differing among themselves; disparate opinions, divergent goals, uncounted roads and ways. And he found each one, under some plea or other, claiming to reveal spiritual truth; each one believing that it alone followed the true path—this although the Muhammedic sea could rise in one great tide, and carry all those sects away to the ocean floor. “No cry shalt thou hear from them, nor a whisper even.” [Qur’án 19:98]

December 15, 2012

Hand of the Cause: Mulla Sadiq-i-Muqaddas-i-Khurasani, surnamed Ismu’lláhu’l-Asdaq - by 'Abdu'l-Baha

Among the Hands of the Cause of God who have departed this life and ascended to the Supreme Horizon was Jináb-i-Ismu’lláhu’l-Asdaq. Another was Jináb-i-Nabíl-i-Akbar. Still others were Jináb-i-Mullá ‘Alí-Akbar and Jináb-i-Shaykh Muhammad-Ridáy-i-Yazdí. Again, among others, was the revered martyr, Áqá Mírzá Varqá.

Ismu’lláhu’l-Asdaq was truly a servant of the Lord from the beginning of life till his last breath. When young, he joined the circle of the late Siyyid Kázim and became one of his disciples. He was known in Persia for his purity of life, winning fame as Mullá Sádiq the saintly. He was a blessed individual, a man accomplished, learned, and much honored. The people of Khurásán were strongly attached to him, for he was a great scholar and among the most renowned of matchless and unique divines. As a teacher of the Faith, he spoke with such eloquence, such extraordinary power, that his hearers were won over with great ease.

After he had come to Baghdád and attained the presence of Bahá’u’lláh, he was seated one day in the courtyard of the men’s apartments, by the little garden. I was in one of the rooms just above, that gave onto the courtyard. At that moment a Persian prince, a grandson of Fath-‘Alí Sháh, arrived at the house. The prince said to him, “Who are you?” Ismu’lláh answered, “I am a servant of this Threshhold. I am one of the keepers of this door.” And as I listened from above, he began to teach the Faith. The prince at first objected violently; and yet, in a quarter of an hour, gently and benignly, Jináb-i-Ismu’lláh had quieted him down. After the prince had so sharply denied what was said, and his face had so clearly reflected his fury, now his wrath was changed to smiles and he expressed the greatest satisfaction at having encountered Ismu’lláh and heard what he had to say.

December 12, 2012

Hand of the Cause: Aqa Muhammad-i-Qa'ini, surnamed Nabíl-i-Akbar (1829-1892) - by 'Abdu'l-Baha

There was, in the city of Najaf, among the disciples of the widely known mujtahid, Shaykh Murtadá, a man without likeness or peer. His name was Áqá Muhammad-i-Qá’iní, and later on he would receive, from the Manifestation, the title of Nabíl-i-Akbar. [For the author of The Dawn-Breakers, see Nabíl-i-Zarandí] This eminent soul became the leading member of the mujtahid’s company of disciples. Singled out from among them all, he alone was given the rank of mujtahid — for the late Shaykh Murtadá was never wont to confer this degree.

He excelled not only in theology but in other branches of knowledge, such as the humanities, the philosophy of the Illuminati, the teachings of the mystics and of the Shaykhí School. He was a universal man, in himself alone a convincing proof. When his eyes were opened to the light of Divine guidance, and he breathed in the fragrances of Heaven, he became a flame of God. Then his heart leapt within him, and in an ecstasy of joy and love, he roared out like leviathan in the deep.

With praises showered upon him, he received his new rank from the mujtahid. He then left Najaf and came to Baghdád, and here he was honored with meeting Bahá’u’lláh. Here he beheld the light that blazed on Sinai in the Holy Tree. Soon he was in such a state that he could rest neither day nor night.