One of the Iranian traditions has been storytelling and recitation. In teahouses, professional storytellers have long practiced this tradition. Gradually, the practice was picked up by families who would pass the time telling stories around the family Kursí, (a traditional Iranian heating system. A charcoal heater is placed under a low table and a huge quilt is draped over the table with seats placed around the table. This serves as a favourite gathering place and the centre of activities on cold evenings) with a grandmother or grandfather assuming the role of storyteller.
When Bahá’u’lláh was in Baghdád, He would often visit teahouses at the riverside, where storytelling took place, in order to promulgate the Cause of God. In my childhood, my grandmother would come from Sháhrúd to Tihrán to visit us once or twice a year. Whenever she came, storytelling around the Kursí was a favorite pastime and she would mesmerize us with fairy tales and stories about the beautiful princess, and stories from the Book of Kings and One Thousand and One Nights. During her stay, the stories would be repeated several times as she would tell them so enchantingly that we would insist upon it even though it was repetitious.
Storytelling has a respected position in Iranian culture; often kings would have court storytellers to keep them entertained in the evenings. Sháh ‘Abbás, the Safavid, would sit in an upper chamber in the Chihil Sutún Palace among his courtiers listening to storytellers’ recitations in a special room down below, equipped with special sound-conveying pipes, carrying the sound to his chamber. Most stories would be epic poetry, often conveying moral messages.
When my sisters, brother and I were older and married and had children, my children would often ask me to tell them stories on long winter evenings. Being weary after the day’s work and concerned that the children attend to their school work I would not usually agree to their request, but on holidays and weekend evenings I would consent and entertain them. Whenever I found Bahá’í story books I would utilize them for this purpose. Time passed; the children grew up and got married and had their own children, blessing me with twelve grandchildren. In 1969 we immigrated to Canada. Now it was the grandchildren who would ask me to tell them stories. As they did not know Persian well, I would often have to use very simple language in telling them stories. Mostly these were Bahá’í stories. Once, a Victoria area Local Spiritual Assembly organizing a gathering asked me to tell a few stories. My presentation was warmly received. Similarly, at a gathering in the presence of Amat’ul-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, I was honored to tell a short Bahá’í story, which received her warm encouragement.
On a trip to the South of France I met a dear old friend, Mr. Amír Farhang Ímání, and shared with him my wish to put together a collection of stories. He encouraged me and gave me a copy of an eight hundred page memoir of Dr. Zíá Baghdádí in Arabic, containing many stories. Dr. Baghdádí had spent some ten years in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s presence recording his memoirs daily. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was wont to relate wonderful stories during His conversations and discourses, lifting the spirits of His audience. Dr. Baghdádí recorded these stories. I was much obliged to Mr. Ímání to receive a copy of such a wonderful book.
When I returned to Canada, I asked a few friends to get together once a week, reading and translating stories from these memoirs. When the translation into Persian was nearing completion, it occurred to me to have them translated into English as well, which was accomplished with Ehsan Erfanifar’s assistance. My thanks to him and to Mr. Akbar Fana’ian and Mrs. Naghmeh Rahmánían who assisted with the Arabic-Persian translation, and to Mr. Enayat Bahrami for copy transcription of the stories. It should be noted here that some of the stories have previously appeared in other books but such stories are still enjoyable even repeated. I hope the reader will view this book with forgiving eyes; I am not a writer and my profession entailed working with construction material.