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When Tarazu’llah Samandari held my big baby self in his lap in 1967, I obviously had no idea he had actually met Baha’u’llah, the founder of my Faith.
I mean, to get a sense of the monumental nature of that brief lap-sit in my life, you can compare the early Baha’i heroes like Mr. Samandari to the disciples of Jesus, spreading out across the globe after Christ’s passing to spread the gospel, the “Good News,” the coming of a divine teacher who brings a message of peace, love and unity to transform the world:
The divine religions must be the cause of oneness among men, and the means of unity and love; they must promulgate universal peace, free man from every prejudice, bestow joy and gladness, exercise kindness to all men and do away with every difference and distinction. Just as Baha’u’llah addressing the world of humanity saith: “O people! Ye are the fruits of one tree and the leaves of one branch.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 28.
Baha’u’llah proclaimed the cause of human brotherhood. In the midst of calamities he waved aloft the standard of universal peace; from captivity he summoned the kings of the earth to the cause of unity and world-wide love. The more they tried to stifle the proclamation the more it resounded throughout the world. Today it has reached from east to the west. Baha’u’llah was banished, but his dominion prevailed and spread. – Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 73.
There are countless stories about Mr. Samandari, this historic icon of the Baha’i movement, devotedly travelling the world in service to his Faith. Through dozens of countries. Through Africa, Alaska and Korea his homeland of Iran. Sometimes on the back of a donkey. He was self-educated and yet esteemed by all for the depth and breadth of his knowledge. His tremendous passion and deep humility were legendary. Mr. Samandari was renowned for his calligraphy, which, to someone from the Middle East, is not simply fancy penmanship—it’s an ancient art form where the detail, grace and artistry of the writing mirror the personality of the artist and the beauty of the words, combining poetry with the movement and meaning of the letters themselves. Also, fun fact: he taught the Baha’i Faith to jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, one of the most well-known practitioners of the religion.
Mr. Samandari’s father, a close friend and early follower of Baha’u’llah, was named as one of his nineteen original apostles and had many tablets, prayers and letters written for him. In fact, their family name used to be Qazvini, until Baha’u’llah gave his father the title “Samandar” which metaphorically translates to the English equivalent of Phoenix, that mythical king of birds that rises from the ashes. That’s how special this guy was. His first name, “Tarazu’llah” means “ornament of God.” Put it all together and you get “Hand of the Cause of God, Ornament of God… Phoenix.” Pretty catchy, right?
Mr. Samandari was one of the first early Baha’is to be given the title “Hand of the Cause.” The “Hands,” as they were called for short, were specially-appointed counselors to the nascent Baha’i community in the early days, and played a significant role in the spread of the Faith through the first part of the 20th Century.
To give you, dear reader, an idea of just how revered Mr. Samandari was, let’s go over a list of some of the other titles and honorifics that were bestowed upon him by early leaders of the Baha’i Faith.
Abdul Baha, the son of Baha’u’llah, referred to him as “the Divine Adornment,” “A luminous candle,” “a cause of happiness of souls,” “a mine of joy,” “a cause of happiness of hearts.” Shoghi Effendi, the great-grandson of Baha’u’llah and the “Guardian” (leader) of the Baha’i Faith for many decades, honored him as “An Apostle of the Crimson Ark,” “A strong Pillar of the Luminous Faith of God,” “faithful custodian of the fortified citadel,” a “Knight of the arena of detachment,” “foremost exemplar for the righteous,” “a true herald of the Greatest Name,” and, finally, “The shining lamp among Baha’i Teachers.”
You get the idea. People really dug him.