This is a very brief account of Dr. Youness Afrukhtih and the story of how he took the “title”, the Hungry Interpreter.

Dr. Youness Afrukhtih was one of those special souls that had the honor to serve the Master for a long time. He was a doctor by profession and went on pilgrimage twice during the ministry of the Master. His first pilgrimage took place a few years before the turn of the 19th Century and lasted a few months.

His second journey took him to the Holy Land in April 1900 and lasted for nine years.  During these nine years, he served the Master as secretary, translator, envoy and physician. He was a steadfast soul that for nine years witnessed some of the most difficult times in the Ministry of the Master, due to the threats, malicious activities and actions of the covenant breakers.

Fortunately for us, he wrote his memoirs covering these nine years he was in Akka (Memories of Nine Years in Akka).

“His account of some of the most significant events of the period, his graphic and stirring pen-portraits of Abdu l-Bahá, and the description of his own emotions – all expressed in a lively and at times mischievous language of humour and wit – make this volume uniquely memorable.”

This wonderful soul continued to serve the Faith as long as he could. He passed away, after a prolonged illness, in Tehran on November 28, 1948.

Shoghi Effendi sent the following telegram after Dr. Youness Khans passing.

“Hearts grief-stricken passing dearly beloved Youness Afrukhtih distinguished promoter Holy Faith herald Covenant trusted secretary beloved Master staunch supporter His Testament. His services enrich annals both Heroic Formative Ages Faith. Instruct assemblies all provinces hold befitting memorial gatherings. Inform Varqa erect my behalf monument his grave. Ardently praying Almighty’s inestimable blessing his soul.”

 

The Hungry Interpreter

It was Dr. Youness Khan interpreted the questions of Laura Barney and the answers of the Master (these conversations later became the book “Some Answered Questions”). He has himself told the following story:

“The Master would sit at the head of the dinner table while Laura Barney usually sat on His left and Ethel Rosenberg took the seat next to her.  Also about eight or nine other pilgrims and residents were present. I used to sit beside the Master, facing Laura Barney, rendering first her questions into Persian, then the answers given by the Master into English, while Ethel Rosenberg noted down both the questions and answers in English.”

Since the nourishment of the spirit was given priority over that of the body, it often happened that eating was delayed. The Master when elucidating the problems used to speak in such a manner that the hearer would be enchanted. One day when He was insisting that I should first eat and then speak, and I was deeply engrossed in the subject under discussion, He asked Laura what was the English word for ‘mutarjim’; she said ‘interpreter.’ Again He asked what was the word for ‘gorosneh.’ She said ‘hungry.’ Thereupon ‘Abdu’l-Baha pointing at me, exclaimed: ‘Hungry interpreter! Hungry interpreter!’

I enjoyed this remark immensely and wonder what would some one else have done if he were in my place.  I adopted this kingly title for myself and had it engraved on a seal, …”

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