The Guardianship of Shoghí Effendí

With the establishment of the Guardianship and many years later, the election of the Universal House of Justice – its international governing body – the spiritual as well as the administrative centres of the faith were, unlike those of most other world religions, in one and the same place. Also, unique were the terms of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s will which, by virtue of the power of divinely-guided interpretation it gave to the Guardian, protected the faith from the division and schisms which have dissipated the spiritual forces of earlier religions.

Under the Guardianship of Shoghí Effendí, the faith gradually spread to more and more countries, Bahá’í literature was translated into many more languages and a new world community began to emerge.

The groundwork for many of the advances which have taken place in the Bahá’í world since 1921 was laid down, to a great extent, by Shoghí Effendí. It was his energy, his genius, his dedication and complete devotion which was the driving-force behind the great spiritual enterprises which achived these successes; the development of the worldwide administrative order; the extension and beautification of the world centre of the Bahá’í Faith in the Holy Land and the translation of many of the Bahá’í writings into English. Much has been written about the life and achievement of Shoghí Effendí who worked himself to a relatively early death at the age of sixty in November 1957, but the most comprehensive study is the 450-page tribute, ‘The Priceless Pearl’ written by his widow, Canadian-born Amatu’l-Baha Rúhíyyih Khánum.

It is far too early to assess fully the amazing contribution Shoghí Effendí made to world history, and very little is known about him in the non-Bahá’í world. Were his written English the only evidence of his genius it would suffice to astonish any sincere investigator.

His written work includes 181,000-word history of the first Bahá’í century and his monumental published letters between them contributed another 300,000 words. In addition, many thousand of letters were written to individuals, groups, committees, and local and national assemblies.

He also wrote extensively in Persian and Arabic and a total of almost 15,000 of his authenticated letters have been collected, studied and microfilmed. His superb translations from Persian and Arabic into English of Bahá’í literatute must, in all, total over three-quarters of a million words in the most exquisite and apt English imaginable. It was in this translation work that his powers of interpretation came frequently into play, and scholars in the original languages often find their understanding increased after studying Shoghí Effendí’s English translations. His genious was not confined to his English, however, for his attention to detail when giving the different teaching plans to national assemblies; his concept and design of the gardens round the shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel and around Bahjí, ‘Akká; his understanding of human nature as seen when counselling and inspiring people of all classes and religious backgrounds, and the simplicity of his personal life, were all part of the uniqueness of Shoghí Effendí, the first and only Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith.

He died of a heart attack after a bout of Asian Flu while visiting London with his wife in November 1957 and is buried in the New Southgate Cemetry, London N11. Through his life and works however, the Guardianship of the Bahá’í Faith remains as one of the ‘twin pillars’ of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh.

(The Bahá’í Faith, Mary Perkins and Philip Hainsworth)

Salutation and praise, blessing and glory rest upon that primal branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree, grown out, blest, tender, verdant and flourishing from the Twin Holy Trees; the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin surging seas; upon the offshoots of the Tree of Holiness, the twigs of the Celestial Tree, they that in the Day of the Great Dividing have stood fast and firm in the Covenant; upon the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God that have diffused widely the Divine Fragrances, declared His Proofs, proclaimed His Faith, published abroad His Law, detached themselves from all things but Him, stood for righteousness in this world, and kindled the Fire of the Love of God in the very hearts and souls of His servants; upon them that have believed, rested assured, stood steadfast in His Covenant and followed the Light that after my passing shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance — for behold! he is the blest and sacred bough that hath branched out from the Twin Holy Trees. Well is it with him that seeketh the shelter of his shade that shadoweth all mankind.

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 3)

O my loving friends! After the passing away of this wronged one, it is incumbent upon the Aghsan (Branches), the Afnan (Twigs) of the Sacred Lote-Tree, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God and the loved ones of the Abha Beauty to turn unto Shoghi Effendi — the youthful branch branched from the two hallowed and sacred Lote-Trees and the fruit grown from the union of the two offshoots of the Tree of Holiness, — as he is the sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of God and His loved ones must turn. He is the Interpreter of the Word of God and after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendants.

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 11)

The sacred and youthful branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God. May the wrath, the fierce indignation, the vengeance of God rest upon him! The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the Guardian of the Cause of God. It is incumbent upon the members of the House of Justice, upon all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of God to show their obedience, submissiveness and subordination unto the Guardian of the Cause of God, to turn unto him and be lowly before him. He that opposeth him hath opposed the True One, will make a breach in the Cause of God, will subvert His Word and will become a manifestation of the Center of Sedition.

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 11)

O ye the faithful loved ones of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá! It is incumbent upon you to take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi, the twig that hath branched from and the fruit given forth by the two hallowed and Divine Lote-Trees, that no dust of despondency and sorrow may stain his radiant nature, that day by day he may wax greater in happiness, in joy and spirituality, and may grow to become even as a fruitful tree. For he is, after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Guardian of the Cause of God, the Afnan, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause and the beloved of the Lord must obey him and turn unto him. He that obeyeth him not, hath not obeyed God; he that turneth away from him, hath turned away from God and he that denieth him, hath denied the True One. Beware lest anyone falsely interpret these words, and like unto them that have broken the Covenant after the Day of Ascension (of Bahá’u’lláh) advance a pretext, raise the standard of revolt, wax stubborn and open wide the door of false interpretation. To none is given the right to put forth his own opinion or express his particular conviction. All must seek guidance and turn unto the Center of the Cause and the House of Justice. And he that turneth unto whatsoever else is indeed in grievous error.

(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 24)