The Afnan Library Secures a New Home
This article was prepared from information in Biggleswade Today; from a brochure about the Afnan Library; and from information provided by Wendi Momen.
The Afnan Library Trust has submitted a planning application to open the research library in The Old Chapel (a former Baptist chapel) in Sandy, Bedfordshire, UK, about forty-five minutes north of London. The Sandy Town Council had planned to open its new offices in the building but withdrew its plans in December 2012.
In the application Hasan Balyuzi’s son Robert Balyuzi, noted that
The library has had various temporary and not wholly satisfactory homes during the years since 1985 but at last we feel that we have found a perfect building and location for it to be permanently housed. The Old Chapel is an elegant building in the late Regency style and we believe that the purpose that we wish to use it for is meaningful and appropriate to its original dignified purpose as a house of worship.
The building contains some 2,600 square feet, spread over two floors. No alterations will be made to the building except for the addition of bookshelves and desks/research alcoves for researchers. The building will also temporarily house the archives of the National Spiritual Assembly of the UK.
A Rich Resource for Students and Academics
The Afnan Library began with a large collection of materials, for Mr. Balyuzi, in a codicil to his will, indicated that he wished his vast and unique collection of precious papers letters, notebooks—many in his own hand, manuscripts, rare books, photographs, and newspaper cuttings to form the basis of a research library “for the benefit of all who seek knowledge.”
Since Mr. Balyuzi’s death in 1980, the Library has been actively acquiring materials, books, and other items. The Library presently contains some 10,000 books and vast quantities of manuscripts, handwritten letters, maps, documents, periodicals, and unpublished items. It also owns books, tablets, documents, diaries, letters, manuscripts, photographs and newspaper clippings related to the Bahá’í Faith, as well as materials related to Middle Eastern studies; the history of Persia; some British, European, and world histories; and books on major world religions.
Important collections include:
• Mr. Balyuzi’s own collection
• Philip Hainsworth collection
• Hormuzdiar Sabet collection
• Dorothy Ferraby collection
• Abul-Qasim Afnan collection
• Claudia Coles collection
• Books in Arabic and Persian from an office of the Universal House of Justice
• 80 volumes of manuscripts from the Iran National Bahá’í Archives
• Bahá’í periodicals from around the world
The Organization and Management of the Afnan Library
To fulfill Mr. Balyuzi’s wishes, the Afnan Library Trust was established as an independent charity in 1985. The Trustees nominated by Mr. Balyuzi were the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United Kingdom, Robert Balyuzi (his son), and Dr. Moojan Momen (author, researcher, teacher, a partner of the Sandy Medical Center, and resident of Northill).
Trustee Momen will oversee the Afnan Library. Volunteers will set up the library and catalogue the collection. Eventually a paid librarian will be employed.
The library will be open to researchers by appointment.
The Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Hasan M. Balyuzi
The Hand of the Cause of God Hasan M. Balyuzi was an Afnán, a descendant of the Báb. His great-grandfather—and the great-grandfather of Shoghi Effendi—was Hájí Mírzá Abu’l-Qásim, one of the two brothers of Khadíjih-Bagum, the wife of the Báb.
The Universal House of Justice called Mr. Balyuzi one of the Bahá’í world’s “most powerful defenders” and “most resourceful historian,” who produced “outstanding literary works.” It was the House of Justice’s prayer that Mr. Balyuzi’s “exemplary achievements,” his qualities of steadfastness, patience, and humility and his “outstanding scholarly pursuits” would “inspire many devoted workers” among the “rising generations” to follow in his “glorious footsteps.”
The Universal House of Justice has indicated that it “views the final accomplishment of the wishes of the late Hand of the Cause as of the very greatest importance.”
Financial Support of the Afnan Library
The Afnan Library relies entirely on financial gifts from benefactors and friends. The new property was purchased with a donation from a Bahá’í family. People wishing to contribute to the Afnan Library’s development and maintenance may contact the Treasurer of the Afnan Library, Mr. Robert Balyuzi, on Info@Compass-Properties.co.uk. All other enquiries should be sent to email@example.com.