New History Society

These are the followers of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab.

Mírzá Ahmad Sohráb (1893 - 1958) was secretary and interpreter to `Abdu'l-Bahá from 1912 to 1919. He was a Persian-American author and Bahá'í who co-founded the New History Society and the Caravan of East and West in New York, and was excommunicated from the Bahá'í Faith in 1939 by Shoghi Effendi.

New History Society

By 1911, he had founded an organization called the Persian-American Educational Society. He along with Lewis Stuyvesant Chanler and his wife Julie. Together they formed the "New History Society" in 1929 as an indirect way of spreading the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith.

Caravan of East and West

The New History Society gave rise in 1930 to the Caravan of East and West, and the Chanler's New York house was now called Caravan House. This foundation was designed to prepare children and youth to join the New History Society. This group had a quarterly magazine called The Caravan

Split from Shoghi Effendi

The confrontation aroused between Sohrab and Horace Holley, "one of the chief men in the American Bahá'í Administration". But Sohrab refused to allow the New York Spiritual Assembly, to have oversight of the affairs of the New History Society. Since Holley sat on the National Spiritual Assembly at this time, this led to a confrontation which resulted in Sohrab and the Chanlers being expelled from the Bahá'í community.

NSA of US files Lawsuit against Sohrab

In 1941, Allen McDaniel and others, as members of the National Spiritual Assembly, filed suit against Sohrab to try to stop him from using the name Bahá'í. This suit was filed in the Supreme Court of New York County. The judge granted a motion to dismiss, stating that "the plaintiffs have no right to a monopoly of the name of a religion. The defendants, who purport to be members of the same religion, have an equal right to use the name of the religion..." The judge mentioned that the complaint could be further amended and the NSA appealed but the Appellate Court affirmed the decision of the lower court.

Sohrab Challenges Shoghi Effendi in court

After his excommunication, Sohrab joined forces with other people who opposed Shoghi Effendi. Part of this combination was a court case raised by Qamar Bahá'í, Jalal the grandson of Mírzá Músá and others in about 1950-1, challenging Shoghi Effendi's right to carry out major construction work around the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. One of their key witnesses, Nayyir Afnan, died shortly before the case was due to open, and it all came to nothing.

Three sects of Bahá'ís tried to built a mausoleum over the grave of Mirza Yahya

One of the culminations of this was a meeting that was held in Famagusta in the late 1950s. Representatives of all three main generations of Bahá'ís were present including: Jalal Azal representing the followers of Mirza Yahya (Bayanic), `Ismat and others represented the followers of Mírzá Muhammad `Alí (Unitarian Bahá'ís) , and Ahmad Sohrab represented those opposed to any form of administration. One of the aims of this conference was to build a mausoleum over the grave of Mírzá Yahyá. But the project did not see the light of the day.

Sohrab died Apr 20, 1958. In his obituary he is described as "leader of the Reform Bahá'í Movement in the United States and co-director of the Caravan of East and West".

In 2004, H-Net, a scholarly website supported by Michigan State University and Humanities & Social Sciences Online, reprinted in digital format the works of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, who for over eight years served Abdu’l-Baha as a secretary and translator in the Middle East and on his American and European journeys. In Sohrab’s several books, especially in Broken Silence: The Story of Today’s Struggle for Religious Freedom (1942) and The Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha: An Analysis (1944), Sohrab presents his opinion that the Baha’i Faith was already well on the road to becoming an oppressive organization in the 1920s and ‘30s, exploitative of the individual, and departing further, with every year, from the moderation and predominately democratic liberalism of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha. Sohrab located the source of the emerging problems of conscience and religious freedom in the desire of some early American Baha’is for absolute control, modeled on the Roman Catholic Church and other forms of autocratic religious organization, leading to and encouraging Shoghi Effendi’s increasingly fanatical interpretation of Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament:

Selected works of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab

Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. I Heard Him Say. Words of Abdu'l-Bahá as Recorded by his Secretary. New York: The New History Foundation, 1937.

Ahmad Sohrab's Broken Silence: The Story of Today's Struggle for Religious Freedom. New York: Universal Publishing, 1942.

Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. Abdu'l-Bahá's Grandson: Story of a Twentieth Century Excommunication New York: Universal Publishing for The New History Foundation, 1943

Excerpts at bottom: Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá, An Analysis. New York: Universal Publishing, 1944.

Sohrab, Mirza Ahmad. The Story of the Divine Plan. Taking Place during, and immediately following World War I. New York: The New History Foundation, 1947. Digitally republished, East Lansing, Mi.: H-Bahá'í, 2004.

Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. My Bahá'í Pilgrimage. Autobiography from Childhood to Middle Age.
New York: New History Foundation, 1959.

Mirza Ahmad Sohrab (1893 - 1958) Biography by Will Johnson, Professional Genealogist

Works about Mirza Ahmad Sohrab

  • Biographical Sketch of Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, Director of the Caravan of East and West, Inc. 3. n.p. [New York?]: n.d. [1954]. Collins 12.10.
  • Light-Bearer Magazine: A Persian Rosary, Winter 2000, pg 50 (reprint from The Theosophist, 1978)