High-ranking member of the Baha'i Faith passes away26 November 2003
HAIFA, Israel — The worldwide Baha'i community has lost one of its most cherished figures with the death on 26 November of Ali-Akbar Furutan.
Mr. Furutan, who carried the rank of Hand of the Cause of God, was one of the only two surviving members of this company of senior officers of the Faith appointed by its late Guardian, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, who died in 1957.
Mr. Furutan was 98 years of age, but had maintained a demanding schedule of activities at the Faith's World Centre in Haifa, Israel.
He died of natural causes.
His wisdom and gentle sense of humor had contributed greatly to deepening the understanding of the Faith's spiritual teachings by the steady stream of Baha'is from all over the world who come as pilgrims to the Shrines of their religion.
Born in Sabzivar, Iran, on 29 April 1905, Ali-Akbar Furutan moved with his family to Ashgabat in what was then Russian Turkestan (now part of Turkmenistan), and, through his years of school and university, he took an active part in the work of the Baha'i communities of Ashgabat, Baku, Moscow, and other parts of Russia.
In 1930 he was expelled from the Soviet Union during the Stalinist persecution of religion, and, from that time on, played an ever more significant role in the work and administration of the Iranian Baha'i community.
Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi, Mr. Furutan was one of the nine Hands of the Cause selected, at their first Conclave, to serve as Custodians in the Holy Land, pending the election of the Universal House of Justice, the governing body of the religion envisioned by its Founder, Baha'u'llah.
As a young man, Mr. Furutan had won a scholarship to the University of Moscow, from which he obtained degrees in education and psychology.
On returning to Iran, with his wife, Ataieh, he served as principal at the influential "Tarbiyat School for Boys" which was eventually closed by the Pahlavi government as a result of pressure brought by fanatical Islamic elements in the country.
Despite the circumstances of his departure from the Soviet Union, Mr. Furutan retained to the end of his life a deep love for the people of that region of the world.
A source of great joy was his return in 1990, as the guest of honor at the election of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the Soviet Union.
It seemed a particularly fitting conclusion for a long life of service to humankind that his death should have occurred at the close of a meeting where he had addressed assembled Baha'i pilgrims from many countries, as was his practice, concluding his remarks with the exchange of a few words with some of the Russian-speaking believers in attendance.
Mr. Furutan's wife predeceased him. He is survived by his daughters, Iran Muhajir and Parvin Furutan, and two granddaughters, Gisu Muhajir-Cook and Shabnam Rahnema.