Report of Consul Smith Murray on Iran's Baha'is, 1925
Documents on the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Movements No. 2 (July, 1997)

Report on Baha'is of Iran, 1925

W. Smith Murray, U.S. Embassy, Tehran

Here is the follow-up 15 page report made by W. Smith Murray dated
January 8, 1925, "A consideration of the Bahai religion, its tenets,
the character of its followers, and the possibility of its spread in Persia
and elsewhere" from the U.S. State Department Records, Near
East Affairs Division.

Robert Stauffer


Legation of the United States of America
Teheran, Persia
January 8, 1925

Department of State Department of Near Eastern Affairs

The Honorable
The Secretary of State,


I have the honor to submit for the information of the Department A

A treatment of this topic at the present time appears to be particularly
opportune owing to the fact that, as the Department is aware, Bahaism
formed the background of the Imbrie incident, and that the late Vice
Consul's denunciation as a Bahai at the Sakha [sic] Khaneh probably
resulted in his tragic death.

[page 2]

In discussing the matter with the Bahais of Teheran, they have
repeatedly stated that they consider Mr. Imbrie to have been a
martyr to the cause. It is claimed that the Mohammedan clergy
had prepared a list of more than one thousand Bahais and designated them
for massacre on the tenth day of Moharrem (August 12, 1924); and that
the premature explosion of fanatical fury which resulted in the death
of Mr. Imbrie relieved for the same time being the pressure upon them
and doubtless saved their lives.

There is some reason to give credence to this statement of the Bahais,
owing to the incident with which Mr. Imbrie was connected in affording
protection to Dr. Susan I. Moody, and ardent American Bahai, who has
lived in Teheran for more than fifteen years. It appears from Dr.
Moody's own story that, as a result of certain rumors which
had reached her ears as to the intention of a certain fanatical group
of Moslems to murder her upon July 12, she appealed to the American
Vice Consul some days previously, requesting that he assure her
adequate protection. Vice Consul Imbrie immediately addressed himself
to the Chief of Police and requested that an ample guard be stationed
in the neighborhood of Dr. Moody's house. During the night of July 12 a
mob, estimated by Dr. Moody to exceed two hundred and fifty persons,
gathered outside her door demanding her blood. Thanks, however, to
the intervention of the police, who arrived in a flying column to her
rescue, the mob was immediately dispersed and no damage was
done. A significant phase of the affair was that the column was led by
a prominent Bahai officer which doubtless accounted for its efficient action.
In the succeeding days, and until the killing of Mr. Imbrie,
Dr. Moody was constantly

[page 3]

threatened in the streets, and she heard even children remark "they are
going to kill Dr. Moody".

The above mentioned incident raises the question which is an
exceedingly difficult one, namely, of protecting American Bahais in Persia.
The Department will recall the unfortunate experience in 1913
of two American Bahai women, Dr. Sarah A. Clock, and
Miss Lillian F. Kappes, the latter being at the time the Director
of the Bahai Girls' School in Teheran, who were cruelly beaten and robbed.

Dr. Moody, despite her advanced years, appears to be a lady of unwonted
courage, and seems even to thrive under the constant threats of violence
made against her by the Mohammedan masses. Instead of living in discreet
seclusion in some out of the way part of town, Dr. Moody has her office on
the Nasserieh, one of the principle business streets
leading to the bazaar, and over the drug-store of a prominent Persian
Bahai. In this way she has scarcely been able to draw near her windows
without attracting the attention of passersby below in the street who rarely
fail to brandish their fists at her and threaten her with violence. She has
been living for the past years with Miss Elizabeth
H. Stewart, a Bahai trained nurse.

The Legation was much relieved when both ladies left Teheran last
November to return to the United States, ostensibly only for a visit.
It is hoped however that they will decide not to return to Persia inasmuch
as it is extremely difficult to guarantee them adequate
protection in this fanatical country. Like many converts to a new
religion, Dr. Moody is a militant champion of her adopted faith, which
she preaches with the energy of a Carrie Nation.

[page 4]

One of the most remarkable features of Bahaism in this country has been
the active interest evinced in its propagation by the Bahais of
American. Aside from Dr. Moody's medical activities, their principal efforts
have been concentrated upon the Bahai Girls' School founded in 1907, and
which has, until very recently, always had an American
woman as its head. Miss Kappes was until her death in December 1920 the
director of that turbulent institution, and during the summer of 1922, Dr. G. Coy,
her successor, a young women of unusual scholastic attainments and
enthusiasm for the cause, arrived to carry on the work. Owing to the
constant friction with the Persian authorities and
obstructions placed in her way she decided last year to return to
America. I am informed that the Bahais are at the present time negotiating
with their American co-religionists for the dispatch to Persia of Miss Coy's successor.

As was to be expected, the activity of American Bahais in Persia has
aroused the bitterest antagonism of the American Christian missionaries
in the country who regard the presence of their non-Christian
compatriots in the country as damaging evidence to the Moslems of the
lack of solidarity in the Christian world.

Before proceeding to a consideration of Bahaism as such, which is the
last of five purely Persian religious movements in the Persian Empire,
during the period of three thousand years, it may well to refer in brief to
the four preceding movements, two of which successfully invaded Europe.

From the point of view of religious inspiration, Persia remains
incomparable among the nations of the ancient and modern world.
Zoroaster, who was their first and greatest

[page 5]

prophet, was born in Urumia in about 660 B.C., and founded a religion
which was destined to hold undisputed sway in Persia for a thousand
years and to the persist even to the present day.

About a half century before the Christian era, a modified form of
Zoroastrianism called Mithraism, whose followers worshipped Mithra,
the god of Light and Prosperity as well as the protector of monarchs,
made its appearance in Rome where it gained a considerable following
among the common people. It interesting that, for more than a
century, Mithraism and Christianity were bitter rivals for the
religious conquest of Europe, and that the outcome of the struggle
between these two faiths was at first by no means a foregone conclusion.

The third religious movement of Persian origin, and the second to make
a successful invasion of Europe, was the cult founded by Mani, whose
followers were styled Manichaeans. He was born in 215 A.D., converted
the contemporary Persian monarch, Shapur, and acquired a considerable
following in his own country. His religion has been styled a Christianized
Zoroastrianism, although its outstanding feature
was its rigid asceticism which prohibited marriage in the belief that
the extinction of the human race and its reabsorption into the God-head
was for the best of humanity.

Manichaeism spread eastward into Tibet, where it is still practiced,
and westward into southern France where its followers were the
Albigenses against whom a crusade for their destruction was led by
Simonde Montfort in 1209.

The fourth great movement, this time religio-communist in character,
was that of Mazdak, born about the middle of the fifth century, A.D., who,
during the reign of King Kobad

[page 6]

in 487 of the Christian era, converted thousands to his doctrines.
According to these, all men were bon equal and had the right to
maintain their equality through life. Consequently property and women
should be held in common. On the more spiritual side he taught
abstemiousness, devotion and the sacredness of animal life.

King Kobad who had meanwhile been converted to the new cause, finally
ordered the massacre of the Mazdakites in 523 A.D. owing to a
conspiracy to depose him.

The founder of the Bahai religion, Seyid Ali Mohammed, the son of a
grocer of Shiraz, was born in that city in 1820. Owing to his early
piety and intelligence he was sent to Karbela, the sacred Shia city of Iraq,
to be educated where, at the age of twenty-four, he
proclaimed himself to be the "Bab" or Gate, a term doubtlessly
intended to convey the idea that he was the Gate to Heaven and the
expression of the Divine Will on earth. He shortly thereafter proceeded
to Mecca, and upon his return to Persia began to preach the
new faith at Bushire, where he rapidly acquired a considerable
following. His success, as in the case of Christ, immediately aroused
the alarm of the orthodox clergy who set a trap for him in order to be
able to accuse him of heresy. He was asked to write down a statement
of his claims, which he consented to do. When it was examined it was
found to be illegible, so he was immediately seized and thrown into prison.

He was conveyed a prisoner to Maku, in the province of Azerbaijan,
where he remained until his transfer to Chirik near Urumia. It was
there that he declared himself to be the twelfth Imam whose coming
the orthodox Mohammedans are

[page 7]

awaiting in the same fashion as do the Jews the Messiah and the
Christians the Christ.

He was finally executed in Tabriz in the year 1850, and his remains
were secretly borne to the Holy Land and interred on Mount Carmel.

The Bab has always been regarded by the Bahais as merely a forerunner
of one greater than him who was to succeed him. He is the John the Baptist
of the Bahais.

He was succeeded by Mirza Yahya, a youth of nineteen, known as the
Subh-i-Ezel (Morning of Eternity), who was apparently nominated by the
Bab to be his successor. He appears to have held unquestioned away
over the faithful until 1866 when his authority was disputed by his elder
brother, Bahaullah (Glory of God), born in Teheran in 1817,
who succeeded in deposing him and in assuming full authority as the
Bab's successor. Owing to the hostility of both the Shiah and Sunni
Mohammedans, the latter was interred at Acre where he died in 1892.

Bahaullah was succeeded by his son Abdul-Baha, who was born in Teheran
in 1844. During the greater part of his life he remained at Haifa in
the holy Land. In 1912 however he made a tour of Europe and the
United States and is said, during an address in California in October
of that year, to have prophesied in the following words the outbreak of the
World War within two years:

"We are on the even [sic] of the Battle of Armageddon referred to in
the sixteenth chapter of Revelations. The time is two years hence,
when only a spark will set aflame the whole of Europe. The social
unrest in all countries, the growing religious scepticism
antecedent to the millennium, and already here, will set aflame the
whole of Europe as is prophesied in the Book of Daniel and in the
Book (Revelation) of John. By 1917 kingdoms will fall and cataclysms
will rock the earth.".

[page 8]

A further interesting pronouncement of Abdul-Baha was made in November
of that year in Cincinnati when he is said to have foretold in the following
words that America would be the instigator of the League of Nations:

"America is a noble nation, a standard bearer of peace throughout the
world, shedding her light to all regions. Other nations are not untrammelled
[sic] and free of intrigues like the United States, and
are unable to bring about Universal Peace. But America, thank God, is
at peace with all the world, and is worthy of raising the flag of
brotherhood and International Peace. when the summons to International
Peace is raised by America, all the rest of the world will cry: `Yes,
we accept.' The nations of every clime will join in adopting the teachings
of Bahaullah, revealed over fifty years ago. In
His Epistles He asked the Parliaments of the world to send their best
and wisest men to an international world-parliament that should decide
all questions between the peoples and establish peace. then we shall
have the Parliament of Man of which the prophets have dreamed."

After the World War and the acquisition of Palestine by the British
Abdul-Baha was knighted in 1920 by the British Government and given
the designation K.B.E. He passed away in 1921.

The first Bahai missionary to America appears to have been Arab Ebrahim
Khairullah who went to the United States about thirty years ago and
made numerous converts at Chicago, which has remained the center of
the American Bahais since that time. He was later followed by a second
Bahai missionary named Amirza Abdul Fazl who was accompanied by
Ali Kuli Khan, Nabil-ed-Dowleh. The latter is doubtless known to the
State Department as the Persian Charge d'Affaires in Washington
responsible for the engagement in 1911 of the Schuster financial mission.

In addition to the United States where Bahais have been most successful
outside of Persia there have been considerable converts in Turkestan, India,
Burmah, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and France.


Owing to the persecutions to which the Bahais have been subjected in
Persia, it is exceedingly difficult to estimate exactly their number here.
They have been forbidden moreover by Bahaullah to divulge the
names of their fellow-Bahais. It may be well however to quote so great
an authority on Persia as Lord Curzon who, in his work "Persia
and the Persian Question", published in 1892, the year of Bahaullah's
death, states:

"The lowest estimate places the present number of Babis in Persia at
half a million. I am disposed to think, from conversations with persons well
qualified to judge, that the total is nearer one million. They are to be found
in every walk of life, from the ministers and nobles of the Court to the
scavenger or the groom, not the least arena of their activity being the
Mussulman priesthood itself... If Babism continues to grow at its present
rate of progression, a time may conceivably come when it will oust
Mohammedanism from the field of Persia. This, I think, it would be
unlikely to do, did it appear upon the ground under the flag of a hostile
faith. But since its recruits are won from the best soldiers of the garrison
whom it is attacking, there is greater reason to believe that it may ultimately

Bahaism is an eclectic religion, which can, in my opinion, lay little
claim to originality. Its universal and all-embracing character has
however been of great advantage in proselytizing mong [sic] the Jews,
Zoroastrians, and Christians. This is expressed by Abdul-Baha in the
following words:

"It is not necessary to lower Abraham to raise Jesus. It is not
necessary to lower Jesus to proclaim Bahaullah. We must welcome the
Truth of God wherever we behold it. The essence of the question is
that all these great Messengers came to raise the Divine Standard of
Perfections. All of them shine as orbs in the same heaven of
the Divine Will. All of them give Light to the world."

The Bahais have always contested the claim that their religion is
primarily an oriental one and adapted only to

[page 10]

the needs of Eastern peoples. In refutation of this opinion, Abdul-Baha

"As to the meaning of the cause of Bahaullah, whatever has to do with
the universal good is divine, and whatever is divine is for the
universal good. If it be true, it is for all; if not, it is for no one; therefore
a divine cause of universal good cannot be limited to either the East or
the West, for the radiance of the Sun of Truth illumines
both the East and the West, and it makes its heat felt in the South and
in the North - there is no difference between one Pole and another. At
the time of the Manifestation of Christ, the Romans and Greeks thought
His Cause was especially was especially for the Jews. They thought
they had a perfect civilization and nothing to learn from Christ's
teachings, and by this false supposition many were deprived of His
Grace. Likewise know that the principles of Christianity and the
Commandments of Bahaullah are identical and that their paths are
the same. Every day there is progress; there was a time when this
divine institution (of progressive revelation) was in embryo, then
new-born, then a child, then an intellectual youth;'

There is in Bahaism a striking resemblance to Christian Science in the
attitude of its adherents towards evil which they claim to be non-existent.

While there would appear to be little that is new in Bahaism, it adheres
to certain principles that have a ring of progress and modernity unknown
to unreformed Islam. These outstanding features are that:

(a) It is a religion of tolerance; Abdul-Baha has said that "any
religion which is not the cause of love and unity is no religion";

(b) It advocates the complete emancipation and equality of women;

(c) It espouses the cause of a universal language and calender [sic];

(d) It advocates the establishment of a League of Nations, the
realization of which was forecaste [sic] as early as 1875. Of the character
of such a League, the Bahaullah has to say:

"In such a universal treaty the limits of the borders and boundaries of
every state should be fixed, and the customs and laws of every government;
all the agreements and affaires of state and arrangements between the various

[page 11]

governments should be propounded and settled in due form; the size of
the armaments for each government should likewise be definitely agreed upon,
because if in the case of any state there were to be an increase
in the preparation for war, it would be a cause for alarm to the other states.
The basis of this powerful alliance should be so fixed that, if one of the states
afterwards broke any of the articles of it, the rest
of the nations of the world would rise up and reduce it to submission.
Yea, the whole human race would band its forces together to overthrow
that government."

(e) It has preached the limitation of armaments in the following words
of Abdul-Baha:

"By a general agreement all the governments of the world must disarm
simultaneously. It will not do if one lays down its arms and the others
refuse to do so. The nations of the world must concur with each other
concerning this supremely important subject, so that they may abandon
together the deadly weapons of human slaughter. As long as one
nation increases her military and naval budget other nations will be
forced into this crazed competition through their natural and supposed interests."

(f) Though advocating non-resistance, it has consistently justified
righteous warfare, of which Abdul-Baha writes as follows:

"Even war is sometimes the great foundation of peace, and destroying
is the cause of rebuilding. This war may be essentially attuned to the
melodies of peace; and then verily this fury is kindness itself, this
oppression is the essence of justice and this war is the
source of reconciliation. Today, the true duty of a powerful king is to
promote universal peace; for verily this signifies the freedom of all
the people of the world."

(g) Finally, in discussing the struggle between capital and labor,
Abdul-Baha has advocated profit-sharing with the employees in
order to prevent wasteful strikes and lockouts. With regard to the
latter, while in Dublin, New Hampshire, in 1912, he spoke as follows:

"Now I want to tell you about the law of God. According to the divine
law, employees should not be merely paid by wages. Nay, rather
they should be partners in every work. The question of socialization is
very difficult. It will not be solved by strikes for wages. All the
governments of the world must be united, and organize an assembly,
the members of which shall be elected from the parliaments and the noble
ones of the nations. these must plan with wisdom and power, so that
neither the capitalists suffer enormous losses nor the labourers become
needy. In the utmost moderation they should make the law, then
announce to the public that the rights of the working people are to
be effectively preserved; also the

[page 12]

rights of the capitalists are to be protected, when such a general law
is adopted, by the will of both sides, should a strike occur, all the
governments of the world should collectively resist it. Otherwise
the work will lead to much destruction, especially in Europe. Terrible
things will take place. One of the several causes of a universal
European war will be this question. The owners of properties, mines
and factories, should share their incomes with their employees, and
give a fairly certain percentage of their profits to their working-men,
in order that the employees should receive, besides their wages, some
of the general income of the factory, so that the employee may strive
with his soul in the work."

During the reign of Mozaffer-ed-Din, Bahaullah prophesied in the
following words the establishment of a Persian republic:

"Soon affairs will be changed in thee, and a republic of men shall rule
over thee."

These words proved to be an effective weapon against the republican
movement of 1924, and the accusation that the entire plan was a
Bahai conspiracy was frequently heard. This led to a denouncement
of Sardar Sepah as a Bahai and to the secret publication of a falsified
photograph of him wearing the portrait and insignia of Bahaullah. Realizing the
danger of such propaganda among the fanatic populace, the Prime
Minister instigated the Shiah clergy of Karbela and Nejaf to present
him with a portrait of the Imam Ali, as reported in the Legation's
despatch [sic] No. 815 of December 26, 1924.

I have been informed by prominent Bahais in Teheran that the Prime
Minister secretly cherishes a high regard for the cause, but that,
owing to political considerations, he dares not express himself. It
is said that at the time when he was a simple Cossack on duty at
the Roshanee hospital, a Bahai institution, he was greatly impressed
by the kindliness and humanitarianism of the Bahai attendants which
he has never forgotten.

[page 13]

Be that as it may, the fact is that he has permitted Bahai officers of
unquestionable ability to rise to high rank in the army. The outstanding of these are:

Colonel Shoa-ed-Din Khan Alai, Chief of Accounts, Ministry of War.

Colonel Ataollah Khan Alai, recently returned to Teheran from France
where he was sent with the delegation of Persian officers sent to Saint Cyr.

Major Rahmatollah Khan Alai, Inspector.

Major Rouhollah Khan, Special Adjutant to the War Minister.

Owing to the fact that Bahaism is a proscribed religion in this
officially Islamic state, no professed Bahai can be a deputy in
Parliament or act as a member of the Cabinet. The most prominent
Bahais moreover are inclined to adhere to the admonition of Bahaullah
that they withdraw entirely from political activity. Owing to the high
moral qualities and ethical standards of the Bahais in contrast with
the orthodox Mohammedans, this withdrawal from public life is
greatly to be regretted. Among the leading Bahais outside
the army are:

Nabil-ed-Dowleh, Ali Kuli Khan, and Madam Moraveh-os-Saltaneh (an

Ezzatollah Khan Alai, Department of Accounts, Ministry of Posts and

Valiollah Khan Vargha, First Drogman, Turkish Embassy

Azizollah Khan Vargha, farmer.

Hassan Khan Ahiai, Imperial Bank of Persia.

The Bahais, who had placed great hopes in the former religious
liberalism of the Prime Minister, have now lost all faith in him as a
reformer. Since the collapse of the republican movement his defection
from their cause has been complete, and he has left no stone unturned
in order to

[page 14]

integratiate himself with the corrupt Orthodox clergy. A recent evidence
of this was his ostanatious [sic] visit to the holy shrines of Iraq
after his campaign in Arabistan and his visit to the shrine of Sh.
'Abdul Azim outside Teheran before entering the city.

Even to the casual student of Islam it is obvious that Mohammedanism is
in hopeless decay, more hopeless than was Catholicism before the
Reformation. If it is to be saved at all, there must arise an oriental
reformer who will denounce the Islamic `indulgences' as did Luther
the Papal ones.

The disinterest of Bahais, though in origin a Moslem sect, in the
reform of Allah's faithful is a somewhat discouraging omen. Their
striving for an all-expansive universality, though comprehensible, has
so diluted their force in Persia as to diminish greatly their beneficent
influence. One is constrained to remark that if they had
concentrated less on Europe and America and more on morally bankrupt
Persia their efforts would be more praiseworthy.

On the other hand, it must not be forgotten that Islam, a Semitic
religion that has never been adapted to Aryan needs as has Judaism
through the teachings of Christ, has always remained a misfit on this
light-hearted, imaginative Aryan people, who, to escape the
yoke of the Caliphate, created that absurd schism called Shiism.

Failing therefore the ideal remedy for Persia's present religious
decadence, namely a national renaissance of their great historic
religion Zoroastrianism, Bahaism, in which there are signs of a
Protestant Reformation, and

[page 15]

which after all is of purely Persian origin, may prove itself to be the
best solution under the circumstances.

I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,

(signed) W. Smith Murray


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