I am not here, but I will always be there

I would wish you to come and see me
but now you cannot. Those fools thought me made
of wood, brick, and plaster
and adorned with carpets, paneling, and a lamp.
But I am made of faith, will, and testament
and adorned with the hearts of those who
circle around me!

The House of the Báb, located in Shíráz, Iran, was where the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, the Báb, first declared Himself to His first follower, Mullá Husayn in 1844. This poem gives voice to that building and its story.

Its significance in the Bahá’í Faith is tremendous, even beyond its historical importance; it has been designated by Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá’í Faith, as a place of pilgrimage, indeed the central place of pilgrimage for the Bahá’í Faith.

Although at one point in the mid 1880s the House had fallen into disrepair when occupied (and nearly stolen) by non-Bahá’ís, it was restored to prominence in the late 1890s and re-occupied by the Widow of the Báb, Khadijih Bagum. Then in 1905 it was again re-modeled and put back into exactly the same configuration and decor as it had been in 1844 at the time of the Declaration of the Báb. Interestingly, this was done by the last person alive who had intimately known the house at that time and just prior to his passing. Below is a photograph of the refinished room where the Declaration took place. It is paneled and opulently furnished with a beautiful Persian carpet and a lamp in the exact spot where the Báb sat on that famous night. These are the adornments referred to in the poem.

Room in the House of the Báb where the Declaration took place.

Room in the House of the Báb where the Declaration took place.

Unfortunately, the House of the Báb often drew the enmity of the fanatical populace, especially when incited by the equally fanatical clergy, and the building was often attacked. One such time was particularly bad in 1955. Then in 1980 during the post-Khomeini era when the clergy first became the government, the building was illegally seized, razed to the ground and the lot paved over. This event also coincided with the martyrdom of ten Bahá’í women of Shíráz, one of whom was the 17 year old Mona Mahmudnizhad, who asked to be hanged last so that she could support the others if they needed it.

The building itself may be gone but it still exists in the hearts and minds of Bahá’ís the world round. There it will stay until it can be re-built in the fullness of time.

Thank you for reading I am not here, but I will always be there. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge, https://bookofpain.wordpress.com.


Filed under Poetry

7 responses to “I am not here, but I will always be there

  1. Barbara C Minor

    The feeling of resistance, love and determination came alive while I was reading this poem. And the story shows how the house stays alive through our love of the Bab. So glad to have this John.

  2. Wow, it was a wonderful historical narrative, I didn’t expect the house to be gone now. This post is a sweet memorial

    • Elizabeth, thank you so much! I was a young dude in 1983 and remember well the pain of the news of the destruction of the House of the Bab and the martyrdom of the ladies of Shiraz, and especially that brave young lady, Mona. It was so sad then, and of course is sill sad now…but with age comes perspective and great pride in the Iranian Baha’i community and their strength and faith. Thank you again!

      • I know I’m sheltered, I can’t understand how anyone could do such a thing. Everything I know about the Baha’i faith seems respectful and progressive. It doesn’t make any sense… I sincerely hope that with time things will be easier for those in Iran.


  3. In the west we all live a sheltered life! But honestly, it gives me great joy that as a non-Baha’i you are still aware of the suffering of my brothers and sisters in Iran and are sympathetic to their plight. That means that their sacrifice is not in vain.

  4. Pingback: the orange tree | the Book of Pain