World Order of Baha'u'llah:
|Foreword to the Second Edition|
|Bullet Points for the Six Talks (outline)|
|1.||The Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace|
|2.||The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice under the provisions |
of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament
|3.||The constitution of the Universal House of Justice|
|4.||the Bahá’í administrative order in contrast to religious and secular systems|
|5.||The role of the American Bahá’í community |
in the emergence of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh
|6.||The evolution of the Bahá’í Administrative Order - its spirit and form|
(the Rulers and the Learned)
|Quotations in the Six Talks|
|Download this book as a PDF: nakhjavani_talks_world_order.pdf|
This is now ready for inclusion in the second edition of the book. It has been added at the beginning as an introduction to the contents of the earlier editions. A Chart has also been included as an Appendix which attempts to portray the twin processes of integration and disintegration at work ever since the inception of the Faith in 1844.
As the Administrative Order, which is the Harbinger of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, has been described by Shoghi Effendi as the "Child of the Covenant" (God Passes By 243), it is important that in any discussion of the various aspects of the World Order, and as an introduction to such a theme a study of the Bahá'í Covenant be made, however cursory this might be. A Covenant is an agreement between two parties. When this term is used in a religious context, it defines the bond between God and His Messenger, and the Latter's relationship with the human race in respect of conveyance of authority to designated Successors, of responsibilities to be discharged by individuals and society, and the stages to be reached in fulfilment of the vision of the future.
In his God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi has identified two types of Covenant: the Greater and the Lesser. The Greater is the Covenant which, in the words of the Guardian "God had, from time immemorial, entered through the Prophets of all ages, with the whole of mankind, regarding the newborn Revelation" (God Passes By 27). This Revelation, again in Shoghi Effendi's words, signals "the end of the Prophetic Era and the beginning of the Era of Fulfilment" (God Passes By 100). As a sub-set of this Covenant we could include the Covenant entered by Bahá'u'lláh with His followers regarding the next Manifestation, after the lapse of a minimum period of a thousand years. (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶37)
The Lesser Covenant, on the other hand, is that Covenant that the Manifestation of God makes with the body of His followers regarding His immediate and subsequent Successors, assigning to them specific powers and functions. To this category belongs Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant in respect of His appointment of `Abdu'l-Bahá as His immediate Successor, as well as the Covenant embedded in the Writings of both Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá concerning the responsibilities of the Chief Institutions of the Administrative Order, namely the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. (Lights of Guidance 181) The Hand of the Cause George Townshend identifies yet another type of Covenant, which he describes as the "Ethical Covenant" which deals with the obligations and duties prescribed by God's Messenger for the believers to accept and obey, and to live the way of life laid down in His teachings. (e.g. Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶1 & ¶149)
The comments made in this Introduction will be concerned with the various aspects of the Lesser Covenant, often referred to as the Bahá'í Covenant. We will discuss the background of the appointment of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the Law of Succession as set forth in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the anticipation of the Institution of the Guardianship as set out in the verses of the Most Holy Book, and the provisions which establish the Institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. Finally we will consider the references in the authentic Writings of our Faith regarding the Power of the Covenant and its functions.
The Station of `Abdu'l-Bahá
Referring to the Most Great Branch, Bahá'u'lláh in His Suriy-i-Ghusn which was revealed in Adrianople, has written: "Verily the Limb of the Law of God hath sprung forth from this Root which God hath firmly implanted in the Ground of His Will... Magnified be He, therefore, for this sublime, this blessed, this mighty, this exalted Handiwork... Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance, for verily He is the most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you, and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from Him hath turned away from My Beauty, hath repudiated my Proof, and transgressed against Me." (World Order 135)
In His Kitáb-i-Aqdas there are two verses, which Shoghi Effendi has translated and which refer to the station of the Master: The first is as follows: "When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶121). And the second adds to `Abdu'l-Bahá's prerogatives the right to interpret the Holy Writ: "When the mystic Dove will have winged its flight from its Sanctuary of Praise and sought its far-off goal, its hidden habitation, refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶174). In order to dispel any doubt about His intention, Bahá'u'lláh in His Kitábi-`Ahd, after quoting the first of the two verses cited above, declares: "The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [`Abdu'l-Bahá]." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 221)
On two pages of the "Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh" Shoghi Effendi has recorded passages from several Tablets of the Blessed Beauty where He, in an awe-inspiring tone, affirms the exalted station of `Abdu'l-Bahá. Those who wish to enhance their understanding of the lofty station of the One Who was the Mystery of God, are encouraged to read these passages and meditate on the inner meanings deposited in them (World Order l35-136).
The Law and Line of Succession
One of the most important and vital paragraphs of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is, in my opinion, paragraph ¶42. In this paragraph, Bahá'u'lláh makes mention of "endowments dedicated to charity", and states that these revert to the "Dawning-place of Revelation" as long as He is alive. He then goes on to declare: "After Him, this authority shall pass to the Aghsán, and after them to the House of Justice – should it be established in the world by then... Otherwise the endowments will revert to the people of Bahá who speak not except by His leave..." In explaining the line of succession stipulated in this passage, Note 66 (Kitáb-i-Aqdas 196) of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas points out that the word "Aghsán" means "Branches" or male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh. It then goes on to state the following: "This term [Aghsán] has particular implications not only for the disposition of endowments but also for the succession of authority following the passing of Bahá'u'lláh and of `Abdu'l-Bahá"(Kitáb-i-Aqdas 196). Elaborating further this theme, this same Note states: "This passage of the Aqdas, therefore anticipates the succession of chosen Aghsán and thus the institution of the Guardianship, and envisages the possibility of a break in their line. The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very situation provided for in this passage, in that the line of the Aghsán ended before the Universal House had been established" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas 197). To sum up, the line of succession after Bahá'u'lláh Himself, as stipulated in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, consists of the chosen Aghsán (i.e. `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi), the Chief Stewards (i.e. the Hands of the Cause during the interregnum), and finally the Universal House of Justice.
It is highly significant that Bahá'u'lláh makes a clear distinction between the Aghán in a general way and the specified, the "chosen" Aghsán who become Focal Points of the Covenant. For example in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas He states: "God hath bidden you to show forth kindliness towards My kindred, but He hath granted them no right to the property of others" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶61). As a further confirmation of this general rule, He is even more emphatic in His Kitáb-i-`Ahd where He declares: "It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsán, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others" (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 222). However, in the same Book He ordains that the Aghsán who are designated as His Successors certainly do not fall in the general category of Aghsán, in the broad sense of the term.
As to the term "people of Bahá" mentioned in paragraph ¶42 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas quoted above, we find the following explanation in Note 67 of the Book (Kitáb-i-Aqdas 197): "The term `people of Bahá is used with a number of different meanings in the Bahá'í Writings. In this instance, they are described as those `who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet'. Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the Hands of the Cause of God directed the affairs of the Cause until the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963". We must remember in this connection that Shoghi Effendi in his last message to the Bahá'í World, dated October 1957, had described the responsibilities of the Hands of the Cause as "the Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth, who have been invested by the unerring Pen of the Centre of His Covenant with the dual function of guarding over the security, and of insuring the propagation, of His Father's Faith" (Messages to the Bahá'í World 127). The term "steward" according to the Oxford Dictionary is "a person entrusted with management of another's property."
As Custodians of the Faith, the Hands of the Cause of God managed the affairs of the Cause entrusted to them in a most exemplary manner. In their message of November 1959 they announced that the election of the Universal House of Justice will be held at Ridván 1963, coinciding with the termination of Shoghi Effendi's World Crusade (The Ministry of the Custodians 166). When it was formed, the Universal House of Justice paid the following tribute to the Hands of the Cause: "The entire history of religion shows no comparable record of such strict self-discipline, such absolute loyalty, and such complete self-abnegation by the leaders of a religion finding themselves suddenly deprived of their divinely inspired guide. The debt of gratitude which mankind for generations, nay, ages to come, owes to this handful of grief-stricken, steadfast, heroic souls is beyond estimation." (The Ministry of the Custodians 2)
The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice
While the institution of the Guardianship was unequivocally and formally established in the provisions of the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, its anticipation could be found in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. This subject has been fully addressed by the Universal House of Justice in a letter dated 27 May 1980. We read as follows: "Although there is no explicit reference to the Guardianship in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Synopsis and Codification lists `Anticipation of the Institution of the Guardianship'. On page 214 of God Passes By, when summarizing the contents of the Aqdas, Shoghi Effendi states that in it Bahá'u'lláh `anticipates by implication the institution of Guardianship', and again, on page 147 of The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh the Guardian refers to `the verses of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the implications of which clearly anticipate the institution of the Guardianship'. One such implication is in the matter of Huqúqu'lláh (The Right of God) which is ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas without provision being made for who is to receive it; in His Will and Testament `Abdu'l-Bahá fills this gap by stating `It is to be offered through the Guardian of the Cause of God...' Other implications of this institution can be seen in the terms in which `Abdu'l-Bahá is appointed as the Successor of Bahá'u'lláh and the Interpreter of His Teachings. The faithful are enjoined to turn their faces towards the one whom `God hath purposed ` and who `hath branched from this Ancient Root', and are bidden to refer whatsoever they do not understand in the Bahá'í Writings to him who `hath branched from this mighty Stock'. Yet another can be seen in the provision of the Aqdas concerning the disposition of international endowments – a passage which not only refers this matter to the Aghsán (male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh) but also provides for what should happen should the line of Aghsán end before the coming into being of the Universal House of Justice." (Messages from the Universal House of Justice 450-452)
As to the exalted station of the Guardian as ordained in the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, it would suffice to quote the key thoughts and terms incorporated in that Immortal Document. `Abdu'l-Bahá refers to him as "the Light that after My passing shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance", as "the primal branch", "the blest and sacred bough", "the sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all... His loved must turn. He is the expounder of the words of God", who is "under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty [and] under the shadow of His Holiness the Exalted One [the Báb]... Whoso obeyeth him not ...hath not obeyed God... whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God". And finally: "Well is it with him that seeketh the shelter of his shade that shadoweth all mankind." (Will and Testament 3 & 11)
Regarding the station of the Universal House as Head of the Faith, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas refers to its members as "the trusted ones of the Merciful" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶30) – also translated by the Guardian as "Trustees of the All-Merciful" in God Passes By p. 214. Likewise, the Supreme Elected Institution is established as the Focal Point of the Cause after the Aghsán (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶42), and, furthermore, its members are referred to as "men" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶52) and as "Deputies of God." (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶147)
Furthermore in the Eighth Leaf of the Words of Paradise, Bahá'u'lláh gives the community of the faithful the assurance that "God will verily inspire them [members of the Universal House of Justice] with whatsoever He willeth (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 68). `Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament has also stated that the Universal House of Justice is "under the care and protection" and "the shelter and guidance" of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb. Referring to the Guardian as well as the Universal House of Justice He has written: "Whatsoever they decide is of God." He goes on to state that whoso does not obey the Universal House of Justice "hath not obeyed God" (Will and Testament 11). The Supreme House of Justice has also been described as "the source of all good and free from all error" (Will and Testament 14) and in the same Document we read that the decisions of the Body, whether taken unanimously or by majority of votes are "verily the purpose of God Himself... Whatsoever they [the elected members] decide has the same effect as the Text itself." (Will and Testament 19)
`Abdu'l-Bahá in other Tablets declares that the "Supreme House of Justice will take decisions and establish laws through the inspiration and confirmation of the Holy Spirit" (Messages from the Universal House of Justice 85). He describes the Institution, as a "blessed, sanctified and all-subduing body, whose sovereignty is divinely ordained" (Messages from the Universal House of Justice 85). Shoghi Effendi has added his voice to the foregoing by stating that the elected members have "been made the recipients of the divine guidance which is at once the lifeblood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation." (World Order 153)
The Power of the Covenant and its Functions
The full text of the Will and Testament of Bahá'u'lláh, which is known to the friends as "The Book of My Covenant" or "The Book of the Covenant", and quite often referred to, in its Persian form, as the "Kitáb-i-`Ahd", is found on pages 219-223 of Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas . The second sentence of the first paragraph reads as follows: "We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless Heritage." The generality of the friends understood that this "Heritage" was a reference to the Cause of God. However, when Shoghi Effendi wrote his God Passes By, it was realized that the "Heritage" was indeed Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant bequeathed by Him to His heirs – namely, the Community of the Most Great Name. (God Passes By 314)
In a way, we could say that the entire Document is about the Covenant, in both its specific and general sense. Shoghi Effendi has given us a summary of the contents of the Kitáb-i-`Ahd in the following terms: "In this weighty and incomparable Document its Author discloses the character of this `excellent and priceless heritage' bequeathed by Him to His `heirs'; proclaims afresh the fundamental purpose of His Revelation; enjoins `the people of the world' to hold fast to that which will `elevate' their `station'; announces to them that `God hath forgiven what is past'; stresses the sublimity of man's station; discloses the primary aim of the Faith of God; directs the faithful to pray for the welfare of the kings of the earth, `the manifestations of the power, and the daysprings of the might and riches, of God; invests them with the rulership of the earth; singles out as His special domain the hearts of men, forbids categorically strife and contention; commands His followers to aid those rulers who are `adorned with the ornament of equity and justice'; and directs, in particular, the Aghsán (His sons) to ponder the `mighty force and the consummate power that lieth concealed in the world of being'. He bids them, moreover, together with the Afnán (the Báb's kindred) and His own relatives. to `turn, one and all, unto the Most Great Branch (`Abdu'l-Bahá); identifies Him with `the one Whom God hath purposed', `Who hath branched from this pre-existent Root', referred to in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; ordains the station of the `Greater Branch' (Mirza Muhammad-'Alí) to be beneath that of the `Most Great Branch' (`Abdu'l-Bahá); exhorts the believers to treat the Aghsán with consideration and affection; counsels them to respect His family and relatives, as well as the kindred of the Báb; denies His sons `any right to the property of others'; enjoins on them, on His kindred and on that of the Báb to `fear God, to do that which is meet and seemly' and to follow the things that will `exalt' their station; warns all men not to allow `the means of order to be made the cause of confusion, and the instrument of union an occasion for discord'; and concludes with an exhortation calling upon the faithful to `serve all nations' and to strive for the `betterment of the world.'" (God Passes By 239-240) The entire passage, which contains the reference to the Covenant as possessing "force" and "power" is as follows: "A mighty force, a consummate power lieth concealed in the world of being. Fix your gaze upon it and upon its unifying influence, and not upon the differences which appear from it" (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 221). In this passage Bahá'u'lláh admits that God's Covenant will provoke "differences", however, as Bahá'í history eloquently and repeatedly has demonstrated, these "differences" never led to a rift or cleavage in the ranks of the faithful. Shoghi Effendi has assured us that any temporary "setbacks and reverses" caused by the external and internal enemies of the Faith, have never, and could never "impair its unity" and will always fail "to arrest its march" The "unifying influence" of the Covenant has always prevailed. (God Passes By 61
`Abdu'l-Bahá has emphatically declared that God's Covenant in this Dispensation is "firm and mighty", that "no religious Dispensation has produced its like", and that the "pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant"(God Passes By 238). Furthermore He has stated that the "lamp of the Covenant is the light of the world", that its power is "as the heat of the sun which quickeneth and promoteth the development of all created things on earth", and that it is the "Magnet of God's grace". (God Passes By 234-235) Shoghi Effendi has further developed this vital theme by stating that the Bahá'í Covenant has been "bequeathed to posterity" (God Passes By 239), that it is endowed with an "invincible" and an "indomitable strength", that it has an "energizing power", and has the "ability to safeguard the unity and integrity of the Faith" (God Passes By 239). Viewed in their proper perspective, the crises it engenders are but "inevitable manifestations of the mysterious evolution" of the Faith, and an agency "for the purification and revitalization of the life of the community". Therefore, each of these crises could "confidently be pronounced as a blessing in disguise, affording a providential means for a fresh outpouring of celestial strength" (God Passes By 61). Indeed, Shoghi Effendi has clearly declared that the statement made by Bahá'u'lláh that His Dispensation is "the Day which shall not be followed by night", should be regarded as His testimony that it is on account of His Lesser Covenant that His glorious "Day" shall not be followed by "night" (God Passes By 245).
It was undoubtedly by virtue of the potency and power of the Covenant vested in Him by Bahá'u'lláh that 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote His fourteen Tablets which constitute His Divine Plan for the spiritual conquest of the planet, and that Shoghi Effendi was moved to devise the Teaching Plans assigned by him to various National Spiritual Assemblies of the world, thus paving the way for the launching of his World Crusade. It is this self-same driving force, we must be confident, which today prompts the Universal House of Justice to formulate the objectives of its series of Teaching and Consolidation Plans for the Bahá'í World Community and to take the necessary steps for their execution.
Q. Do you advise us to read books that oppose the Faith, such as books of Covenant-breakers to prepare ourselves to better defend the Faith?
A. It is useful to know what claims or arguments the enemies of the Faith are advancing, in order to disprove their misrepresentations. The purpose of courses such as the one we are engaged in is precisely for this purpose. However, those who oppose the Faith usually put forward their provocative statements with such venom, that reading the full text is like exposing our otherwise healthy souls to the breath of a consumptive person. Nevertheless, the reading of such books is not forbidden in our teachings, but a clear warning is given. Furthermore, as the Faith will be encountering wave after wave of opposition, and undoubtedly more fierce and relentless than those of the past, if Bahá'ís would choose to read intensively all articles and books written by enemies of the Faith and by Covenant-breakers, they would be spending their time doing almost nothing but reading this type of poisonous material. By studying the deeper teachings of the Faith, and as Bahá'u'lláh has advised us, by reading the Writings with the aim of knowing "what hath been purposed in the Books of God" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶36), we will immediately be able to discover what is being misrepresented by our enemies, whether internal or external, and refute their false arguments.
Q. The Báb appointed Mírzá Ya yá as the leader of the community after His death. This was done upon Bahá'u'lláh's suggestion. Do we have copies of the correspondence between the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh? Was Bahá'u'lláh aware of His Divine Mission prior to His experience in the Síyáh-Ch ál?
A. In the Bayan, the Báb states that He has not appointed any Successor within His Dispensation. This is confirmed by Shoghi Effendi: "A successor or viceregent the Báb never named, an interpreter of His teachings He refrained from appointing" (God Passes By 28). He, of course, knew that His Dispensation would be a brief one. Shoghi Effendi has further explained that all that the Báb did was "to nominate, on the advice of Bahá'u'lláh and of another disciple, Mírzá Ya yá, [he was a teenager at that time] who would act solely as a figure-head pending the manifestation of the Promised One, thus enabling Bahá'u'lláh to promote in relative security, the Cause [of the Báb] so dear to His heart" (God Passes By 28-29).
Until now, as far as I know, the correspondence between Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb has not been found. As to whether Bahá'u'lláh was conscious of His Mission prior to His experience in the Síyáh-Ch ál, we have the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá about this general subject concerning all Divine Messengers, as follows: "Verily, from the beginning that Holy Reality [God's Manifestation] is conscious of the secret of existence, and from the age of childhood signs of greatness appear and are visible in Him. Therefore, how can it be that with all these bounties and perfections He should have no consciousness?" (Some Answered Questions 155).
Q. As President of the Universal House of Justice, why did Shoghi Effendi comment in his "Dispensation" about his relationship to that Institution, apparently assuming that he would co-exist with the Universal House of Justice?
A. Shoghi Effendi was not appointed as the "President" of the Universal House of Justice. This was a mistake made by Mason Remey and those who followed him. The Guardian was appointed as the "sacred head" (Will and Testament 14) of that Body. Indeed, when in 1952 Shoghi Effendi announced the members as well as the officers of the International Bahá'í Council – the "embryonic" stage and "forerunner" (Messages to the Bahá'í World 7) of the Universal House of Justice – he made a clear distinction between the position to be occupied by Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyíh Khánum, as his "chosen liaison" with the Council, and the lower position of "president" which was assumed by Mason Remey (Messages to the Bahá'í World 22).
As to whether a Guardian as a male descendent of Bahá'u'lláh is to coexist with the Universal House of Justice, this matter has been discussed in the second chapter of this book. Briefly stated, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas does not envisage such a co-existence. In `Abdu'l-Bahá's Will, however, while co-existence is envisaged only in the first part of the Document, its provisions unequivocally declare that the Universal House of Justice's divine guidance does not depend upon the membership or participation of a Guardian. This is one of the "mysteries" deposited in the contents of the Master's Will, which Shoghi Effendi kept referring to in the course of his Ministry. Beyond any doubt this act on the part of `Abdu'l-Bahá must have its own wisdom, specially as Shoghi Effendi emphatically wrote that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament are not "incompatible and contradictory in spirit" (World Order 4).
Q. In the former Pilgrim House by the Shrine of the Báb, there is a room that has pictures of the Hands of the Cause, which include that of Mason Remey. Why was this done? Shouldn't we also have a picture of Muhammad-Alí, for example, in the Mansion?
A. A list of the Hands of the Cause of God would normally include the name of Mason Remey. Likewise a room which portrays all the Hands, should include Mason Remey as well, as this is a historical fact. Of course it would be out of place to put a picture of Muhammad-Alí in the Mansion. However his calligraphic rendering of the Most Great Name was placed by Shoghi Effendi on the southern wall of the main hall of the Mansion. Likewise, we admit that the architect of the Kampala and Sydney Houses of Worship, as well as of the Archives Building and the future House of Worship on Mount Carmel was Mason Remey. We cannot meddle with historic events.
Q. What answer can we give to the allegation that Shoghi Effendi interpreted the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá in a manner which would favour his own station?
A. Your question would be relevant if Shoghi Effendi had been a political leader. But he was not a secular leader. He was formally appointed by the Centre of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant as Guardian of the Cause of God, and authorized Interpreter of the Writings of the Faith. The self-same Pen of `Abdu'l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, referred to Shoghi Effendi as the Sign of God, chosen to be the Inspired Authority in the Cause to which the faithful must turn, and "the Light that after My passing shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance" (Will and Testament 3).
-The integration process refers to the expansion of the Faith.
-The disintegration process is the dismantling of the old world order that has existed up till now.
-A third process of integration follows the advancement of the world in general towards the Most Great Peace, independent of the direct influence of the Bahá'í community.
-It will be established by the nations of the world of their own accord.
-It will be a secular peace, not a religious one.
-It will include a form of world government, comprising "a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men," topped by an "international executive."
-It will involve the underlying recognition that the world is one.
-It is not dependant on the direct efforts of the Bahá'í community.
-Unity in the political realm (League of Nations, UN)
-Unity of thought in world undertakings (international initiatives)
-Unity in freedom (end of communism, colonialism, etc)
-Unity of nations (the idea of the world as common fatherland)
-Unity of language
Those that will be established by the Most Great Peace are:
-Unity of race
-Unity of religion
-Whenever reference is made simply to reducing armaments, peace in the political sphere, etc, Shoghi Effendi translates this as Lesser Peace.
-Whenever the context is broader and includes the idea of mass conversion, Shoghi Effendi translates it as Most Great Peace.
-Whenever the context points to an intermediate stage between the two, Shoghi Effendi calls this the Greater Peace or the Great Peace.
-It is a period of gradual evolution towards a truly spiritual civilization.
-It includes the creation of a world "super-state," which has binding power on a world federation of nations (as opposed to simply an advisory system like the UN.)
-This super-state will be secular in form.
-The secular world polity and the Bahá'í system will develop
separately and in parallel.
1) Obscurity. During this stage the Faith is unknown in the country.
2) Repression. We see clear examples of this in Iran.
3) Emancipation. Freedom from oppression by religious orthodoxy.
4) Recognition. Official status in a country as a recognized religious organization, empowered to perform its own marriages, etc.
5) State religion. Official acceptance of the Bahá'í Faith as the state religion of a country, if the population has become majority Bahá'í.
6) The Bahá'í State. A merger between the civil system and the Bahá'í administration of a particular country (if majority Bahá'í.)
7) Bahá'í Commonwealth. All Bahá'í states join in the initial stages of the Most Great Peace.
Day Two- The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice under the provisions of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and Abdul-Baha's Will and Testament.
"Endowments dedicated to charity revert to God... None hath the right to dispose of them without leave from Him Who the Dawning-place of Revelation. After Him this authority shall pass to the Aghsáns [male heirs of Bahá'u'lláh] and after them to the House of Justice-should it be established in the world by them..."
-Headship of the Faith
-Authoritative interpretation of the sacred texts
-Protection and propagation of the Faith (in which he is aided by Hands of the Cause.)
-The Guardian must appoint his successor within his lifetime.
-The choice must be approved by the nine elected Hands of the Cause of God in Haifa.
- In addition to being an Aghsan, the future Guardian must be "he whom God would indicate," ie possessing a good character, not a covenant breaker.
"...After Him this authority shall pass to the Aghsans and after them to the House of Justice-should it be established in the world by them..."
-Headship of the Faith
-Legislation to cover issues not specifically covered in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and the timing and application of all laws
-Elucidation of obscure questions in the Writings (NOT interpretation.)
-Protection, propagation and administration
-Ensuring integrity, flexibility and unity of Faith.
"Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn, and all that is not expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the truth and the purpose of God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that love discord, hath shown forth malice, and turned away from the Lord of the Covenant."
Day Three- The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice
-The authority of Bahá'u'lláh as Manifestation of God for this age.
-The vital function of the Covenant in canalizing the forces of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.
-The station of the Universal House of Justice as one of the two successors of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul-Baha, under that same Covenant.
- The precepts and principles at the core of the Bahá'í Faith, and its fundamental purpose. This is "to safeguard and promote the unity of the human race" and "foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men."
-The sphere of responsibility of the Universal House of Justice, namely to decide on "all that is not expressly recorded" in the Most Holy Book, and the Body to which "everyone must turn."
-The foundation of the Universal House of Justice on "the revealed Word of Bahá'u'lláh" and "the interpretations and expositions" recorded by Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.
-Limiting the authority for interpretation of Bahá'í scripture solely to Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.
-The authority of these Texts is absolute until the advent of the new Manifestation in one thousand years.
-With the passing of Shoghi Effendi, The Universal House of Justice is now Head of the Faith and Its Supreme Institution.
-The members of the House are not responsible to those they represent. They are to "follow, in a prayerful attitude, the dictates and promptings of their own conscience."
-The House members, to counter-balance to the first point, have the duty to "acquaint themselves with the conditions prevailing among the community."
-It is the Universal House of Justice, not those who elect it, is the recipient of divine guidance.
Day Four- The Bahá'í Administrative Order in contrast to other religious and secular systems.
What is new about the Baha'I Faith? What can stop its administration from succumbing to the same evils that corrupted religious organizations in the past?
Shoghi Effendi points out that the way the Administrative Order functions makes it "inclined to democratic methods." But with a living Guardian at the Head of the Faith, and the absolute powers he wields, it is possible that the Faith would be inclined to autocratic methods. In light of this, Abdul-Baha may have envisaged two stages in the development of the Administrative Order after Him:
-A temporary stage, with the Guardian as living Head of the Faith, and autocracy as its dominant characteristic;
-A subsequent stage, with the Universal House of Justice as Supreme Organ, and democracy as the dominant characteristic.
-The Bahá'í electoral system determining the membership of the local, national and international administrative bodies.
-The feature of parliamentary debate incorporated into Bahá'í consultation.
-The degree of autonomy provided to elected councils at the local and national levels.
Dissimilarities: under the Bahá'í system the elected are not responsible to those who elect them, but must follow the dictates of their own conscience. Partisanship and campaigning for office are likewise forbidden.
-The appointed branch of the administration, comprising the institution of the Counsellors on the international and continental levels, and the Auxiliary Board members and their Assistants.
-The principle of freedom from outside control that governs the functioning of the Universal House of Justice.
Dissimilarities: The Counsellors and Auxiliary Board Members are not appointed for life, but for a fixed term. They also do not possess decision-making authority, as this power is vested in the elected branch. No position now existing in the Administrative Order is based on birth and its inherited privileges.
-The absolute and binding authority given to the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, and his two authorized Interpreters, Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.
Dissimilarities: Flexibility is guaranteed by the fact that there is an unlimited field of legislation to implement, and supplement in subsidiary matters, the Laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh. This responsibility is discharged by an elected body, the Universal House of Justice.
Day Five- The role of the American Bahá'í community in the emergence of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
-Protecting the persecuted.
-Opposing the oppressor.
-Championing the Faith.
The Tablets of the Divine Plan invested the North American Bahá'í community with a unique spiritual primacy. This was in contrast to the patent evils present in the society around it. (The same principle of contrast governed the Faith's appearance in Persia in the 19th century.) Shoghi Effendi identifies the evils of Western society in general as:
-Immersion in a sea of materialism.
-Being prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing forms of racial prejudice.
-Being a victim of political corruption, lawlessness and laxity in moral standards.
Abdul-Baha states: "May this American democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace."
-The structure of federalism, as conceived and practiced in the United States, with autonomy given to the federated states of the country, is, in Abdul-Baha's estimation, an acceptable system of organisation for the world.
-The best way to promote the interests of the part is for that part to uphold the interests of the whole.
Day Six- The Evolution of the Bahá'í Administrative Order- its spirit and form (the Rulers and the Learned.)
-The establishment of the first Spiritual Assemblies
-The institution of the Hands of the Cause.
-The Bahá'í Fund.
-The Bahá'í Temple Unity in the US and the purchase of property dedicated to the Faith and its future institutions.
-The founding of publishing houses for printing of Baha'I literature.
-The construction of the Bab's mausoleum.
-The institution of hostels for itinerant teachers and pilgrims.
-To strengthen the administrative structure of the Faith, through the establishment of Local Assemblies, its "foundation", through to National Assemblies, the "columns" of the administrative structure, leading up to the creation of the "dome", the Universal House of Justice.
-To use these administrative institutions to promote the teaching work of the Faith in a united and systematic manner, using the Tablets of the Divine Plan.
-They should not dictate, but consult.
-They should never think of themselves as "central ornaments"
-They should approach their task with extreme humility, open-mindedness, a high sense of justice and duty, candour, modesty, and devotion.
-They must win the genuine support of those they serve.
-They must rid themselves of the spirit of exclusiveness, the atmosphere of secrecy, or a domineering attitude.
-They must banish all forms of prejudice and passion from their deliberations.
-They should, within the limits of discretion, take the friends into their confidence.
-When they must make a decision they should, "after dispassionate, anxious and cordial consultation, turn to God in prayer."
- Shoghi Effendi explains that the Learned are the Hands of the Cause, the Counsellors, Auxiliary Board members and their assistants, while the Rulers are the Local, National and International Houses of Justice.
-The House of Justice states, "the proper functioning of human society requires the preservation of ranks and classes."
-There is a safeguard in the Bahá'í Faith against the rigidity of academia and the abuse of priests. Shoghi Effendi writes: "the Pen of Glory has done away with the unyielding and dictatorial views of the learned and the wise... and ordained that all matters be referred to authorized centers and specific Assemblies."
-There is a difference between being appointed to a rank, and seeking to be so appointed. Bahá'u'lláh writes: "Ever since the seeking of preference and distinction came into play, the world hath been laid waste."
-The House also writes: "The true spiritual station of any soul is known only to God. This is quite a different thing from the ranks and stations that men and women occupy in the various sectors of society."
In order to place this subject in its proper context it would be useful to have a general understanding of the twin processes, frequently expounded in the writings of Shoghi Effendi, of disintegration and integration, as they unfold in the world today.
I feel it would be helpful to look at the parable of the Lord of the Vineyard, as given by Jesus Christ. "A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the Lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the Lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others." (New Testament, Luke 20:9-16)
Here are a few comments:
(1) According to "God Passes By" the Lord of the Vineyard is a reference to Bahá'u'lláh. (2) The Son is obviously a reference to Jesus Christ and the parable shows that Christ anticipated His own martyrdom. (3) The servants sent by the Lord are God's Prophets. We note that there is not only succession but progression in the degree of the authority they wield. (4) The Father dismisses the tenants who are obviously the religious and secular leaders, and He gives the Vineyard to 'others'.
This final point leads us to our subject, namely that the appearance of Bahá'u'lláh carries with it the dismantling of the old order and the establishment of a new system for the management of the Vineyard. In other words, we see here the two processes of integration and disintegration. These twin processes are also envisaged in the New Testament, as we read in the Revelation of St. John: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away"- (New Testament, Revelation 21:1)
We find this theme embedded in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh Himself. For example He says on the one hand: "The time for the destruction of the world and its people hath arrived"- (PDC p.1), or: "From two ranks of men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics"- (PDC p.19). At the same time He says: "The whole earth is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits"- (PDC p.3). He then joins the two processes together in one sentence, saying: "Soon will the present day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead"- (WOB p.161).
We find 'Abdu'l-Bahá also referring to these two processes in His Writings: "The ills from which the world now suffers will multiply; the gloom which envelops it will deepen"-(WOB p.30). This is counter-balanced by: "The world of humanity will be wholly transformed and the merciful bounties become manifest"-(SWAB p.282).
Shoghi Effendi gives us his description of the two processes in the following words: "A two-fold process... can be distinguished, each tending, in its own way and with an accelerated momentum, to bring to a climax the forces that are transforming the face of our planet. The first is essentially an integrating process, while the second is fundamentally disruptive. The former, as it steadily evolves, unfolds a System which may well serve as a pattern for that world polity towards which a strangely-disordered world is continually advancing; while the latter, as its disintegrating influence deepens, tends to tear down, with increasing violence, the antiquated barriers that seek to block humanity's progress towards its destined goal. The constructive process stands associated with the nascent Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and is the harbinger of the New World Order that Faith must erelong establish. The destructive forces that characterize the other should be identified with a civilization that has refused to answer to the expectation of a new age, and is consequently falling into chaos and decline."- (WOB p.170)
It may be useful to form a mental image in our minds of these two processes which obviously have their starting point in the year 1844. At the beginning, the two processes are seen to move along what appears to be parallel lines, one above the other. The higher line, which is the Faith, exerts its influence on the lower one, which, in turn quite often reacts, consciously or unconsciously, in opposition. As this movement proceeds and the interaction intensifies we see the two lines diverging away from each other: the Faith in an upward flight and the world in a downward fall. In this connection the prophetic words of Shoghi Effendi are of utmost significance: "The Champion builders of Bahá'u'lláh's rising World Order must scale nobler heights of heroism, as humanity plunges into greater depths of despair, degradation, dissension and distress. Let them forge ahead into the future serenely confident that the hour of their mightiest exertions and the supreme opportunity for their greatest exploits must coincide with the apocalyptic upheaval marking the lowest ebb in mankind's fast-declining fortunes"- (CF p.58.) The interaction has not stopped. We witness it under our very eyes at this time in history.
The letters of Shoghi Effendi point to a new phenomenon. They show that almost imperceptibly a third line between the two that I have just described has been set in motion and is in steady progress. This new line is a positive one, and has come into existence as an indirect impact of the Faith of God on the minds and hearts of men. This new line represents the forces which are in harmony with the spirit of the age, while its protagonists are unconscious of the true source of this constructive process.
This thought is clearly explained by Shoghi Effendi: "The principle of the Oneness of Mankind...finds its earliest manifestations in the efforts consciously exerted and the modest beginnings already achieved by the declared adherents of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh who...are forging ahead to establish His Kingdom on this earth. It has its indirect manifestations in the gradual diffusion of the spirit of world solidarity which is spontaneously arising out of the welter of a disorganized society."(WOB pp.43-44)
Shoghi Effendi also saw in the creation of the 'League of Nations', after the first World War, a welcome by-product of this positive development. He wrote: "And yet while the shadows are continually deepening, might we not claim that gleams of hope, flashing intermittently on the international horizon, appear at times to relieve the darkness that encircles humanity? Would it be untrue to maintain that in a world of unsettled faith and disturbed thought, a world of steadily mounting armaments, of unquenchable hatreds and rivalries, the progress, however fitful, of the forces working in harmony with the spirit of the age can already be discerned? Though the great outcry raised by post-war nationalism is growing louder and more insistent every day, the League of Nations is as yet in its embryonic state, and the storm clouds that are gathering may for a time totally eclipse its powers and obliterate its machinery, yet the direction in which the institution itself is operating is most significant...A general pact on security has been the central purpose towards which these efforts have, ever since the League was born, tended to converge...For the first time in the history of humanity the system of collective security, foreshadowed by Bahá'u'lláh and explained by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, has been seriously envisaged, discussed and tested."- (WOB pp.191-2)
Writing on the same theme, Shoghi Effendi describes the condition of the world as having been; "contracted and transformed into a single highly complex organism by the marvellous progress achieved in the realm of physical science- [and] by the world wide expansion of commerce and industry"- (WOB p.47). He further points out that by virtue of the "celestial potency which the Spirit of Bahá'u'lláh has breathed" into the world, "an increasing number of thoughtful men not only consider world peace as an approaching possibility, but as the necessary outcome of the forces now operating in the world"- (WOB p.47)
As you know the League of Nations was replaced after the Second World War by the United Nations. Ever since its inception over half a century ago, it has been evolving positively in its spirit, fair judgement and efficiency. There is no doubt that this middle process, brought into being with the inception of the Faith, will eventually lead to the Lesser Peace.
Shoghi Effendi has given us this definition of the Lesser Peace: [This gradual process...] must, as Bahá'u'lláh has Himself anticipated, lead at first to the establishment of that Lesser Peace which the nations of the earth, as yet unconscious of His Revelation and yet unwittingly enforcing the general principles which He has enunciated, will themselves establish"- (PDC p.128). The Guardian further amplifies his own statement when he anticipates gradual steps in this process. These steps he identifies as: "The political unification of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, the emergence of a world government and the establishment of the Lesser Peace as (anticipated)...by the prophet Isaiah"- (CF p.33). He further adds that this step involves "the reconstruction of mankind, as the result of the universal recognition of its oneness and wholeness."- (PDC p.128)
The Words of Bahá'u'lláh on the subject of the Lesser Peace, as quoted by Shoghi Effendi in his writings, addressing the Kings and rulers of the earth, are as follows: "Now that ye have refused the Most Great Peace hold ye fast unto this, the Lesser Peace, that haply ye may in some degree better your own condition and that of your dependants... Be reconciled among yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments save in a measure to safeguard your territories and dominions... Be united, O concourse of the sovereigns of the world, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest. Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice" – (WOB p.162 and p.192). In another Tablet He writes: "The time must come...when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world's Great Peace among men...Should any king take up arms against another, all should unitedly arise and prevent him."- (WOB p.162 and p.192)
It is now important to focus our attention on the Most Great Peace and its features, Shoghi Effendi has given us the following definition: "The Most Great Peace... as conceived by Bahá'u'lláh—a peace that must inevitably follow as the practical consequence of the spiritualization of the world and the fusion of all its races, creeds, classes and nations—can rest on no other basis, and can be preserved through no other agency, except the divinely appointed ordinances that are implicit in the World Order that stands associated with His Holy Name"- (WOB pp.162-163). Shoghi Effendi further considered the following words addressed to Queen Victoria by Bahá'u'lláh to refer to the Most Great Peace and not to the Lesser Peace: "That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of the world is the union of all its peoples in one universal cause, one common faith. This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled, an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all else naught but error..."- (WOB pp.163). In another Tablet Bahá'u'lláh refers to the unity of all mankind. According to Shoghi Effendi Bahá'u'lláh had in mind the Most Great Peace: "It beseemeth all men in this Day to take firm hold on the Most Great Name, and to establish the unity of all mankind. There is no place to flee to, no refuge that any one can seek, except Him"- (WOB pp.163)
In the original texts the words for the Lesser Peace are 'Sulh-i-Asghar' and the words for the Most Great Peace 'Sulh-i-A'zam'. In the original texts we find a third term used quite frequently, namely 'Sulh-i-Akbar'. This is translated in various ways, at times as 'the Lesser Peace', at others as 'the Greater Peace', 'the Great Peace' or even sometimes as 'the Most Great Peace'. It is most interesting that the beloved Guardian in his capacity as interpreter of the Writings, has sometimes translated 'Sulh-i-Akbar' as the 'Lesser Peace' and the same word as the 'Most Great Peace', depending on the context. When one reads these carefully it becomes quite clear that whenever reference is made merely to reduction of armaments, the need for consultation among nations or the principle of collective security, Shoghi Effendi's translation is always the "Lesser Peace." However, when the context goes beyond political unification and deals with unity in all its aspects, including unity of race and of religion, the translation becomes the "Most Great Peace."
A careful reader will not find it difficult to conclude that 'Sulh-i-Akbar' is a stage between the "Lesser" and the "Most Great Peace"—that is between the "Asghar" and the "A'zam". In my humble opinion the three stages can be capsulated in the following terms used by him: "political unification", as the Lesser Peace; "spiritualization of the masses", as the intermediate stage; and the "fusion of races, creeds, classes and nations" as the Most Great Peace.
Suffice it to say at this point that it is clear to me that the Super-state with all its attendant institutions, described by Shoghi Effendi in 'The Goal of The New World Order', pages 40-41, is a reference to this intermediate stage, namely 'Sulh-i-Akbar'. While the features of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth, minutely and movingly described by Shoghi Effendi in 'The Unfoldment of World Civilization', pages 203-204, are clear references to the 'Sulh-i-A'zam', namely the Most Great Peace.
It is interesting in this connection to note that in his description of the world's Super-state, the first world body mentioned is the "International Executive", while in his illuminating description of the Most Great Peace, the "World Executive" takes second place and the word "Legislature" first place. We could assume that the reason could well be that during the intermediary stage of 'Sulh-i-Akbar', the spirit of the peace is certainly Bahá'í in its essence, but the outward form has to continue for a time to be the external structure of the old world.
As you are aware, in the world today the Executive Branch of government is usually, and even invariably, the leading entity and represents the Headship of the State. In the Bahá'í concept of World Order, as I understand it, the hierarchy is different. Headship is vested, not in the Executive, but in the Legislative Branch. That seems to be the reason why in Shoghi Effendi's description of the Bahá'í World Commonwealth of the future, the first and primary entity, is the "world legislature".
When we examine the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on this subject we find a similar pattern. A typical example is His Tablet of "The Seven Candles". This Tablet was revealed in the year 1906. This date is important because 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers in this Tablet to: "this century" in connection with one of the Candles, namely the one on the "unity of nations", and it is clear that He was referring to the twentieth century.
The Seven Candles, as given by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, are: (1) Unity in the political realm; (2) Unity of thought in world undertakings; (3) Unity in freedom; (4) Unity in religion; (5) Unity of nations; (6) Unity of races; and (7) Unity of language. Five of the seven candles, beyond any doubt, are preliminary steps towards the Lesser Peace, whereas the fourth and sixth, namely the unity of religions and of races, refers to forms of unity that can be achieved only when the spiritualization of the masses has taken place.
The first candle for example, which is "Unity in the Political Realm", has certainly been realized through the establishment of the United Nations. The third, being the "Unity in Freedom", is surely a clear hint at the approaching end of colonization, as it continued to exist during the first half of the century. The fifth, namely "Unity of Nations" represents the spirit of world consciousness, expressed in the recognition that we are all, in the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá about this candle, "citizens of one common fatherland"— a consciousness which was fully realized during the twentieth century. The remaining two candles, i.e. the second and the seventh, namely 'Unity of Thought in World Undertakings' and 'Unity of Language' are obvious to us all and need no elaboration in this discussion.
As Bahá'ís we have yet many challenges ahead of us to systematize our consolidation work through our institutes and study circles and to extend our teaching work through greater proclamation, more intense teaching activity and closer adherence to living a Bahá'í way of life, collectively and individually. We should likewise open the doors of our homes and our community to seekers, sympathizers, and new friends of the Faith. Such activities are bound to generate waves of spiritual influence which will accelerate the constructive processes of integration pursued by well meaning leaders of thought and men of good will everywhere, as they move forward towards finding solutions to their economic, social and political problems, problems that impede from time to time their advancement towards the goal set for them by the Blessed Beauty, when in His Tablets He established the minimum requirements of the Lesser Peace.
To summarise what I have said, and to project our thoughts into the future, perhaps we could suggest the following scenario: the world, its social fabric, its political configurations, its economic structure, and its moral standards, will continue to deteriorate and will bring the current civilization to its lowest ebb. While, we as Bahá'ís, on the one hand, continue to expand the scope of our Faith, to consolidate its foundations, to diffuse its light throughout the planet, and to proclaim its life-giving message to the masses, and while, on the other hand, the harmonizing forces which are activated and supported by the spirit of Bahá'u'lláh's Message continue to develop, to strike their roots into the soil of human consciousness and eventually lead humanity to the universal prosperity generated by the Lesser Peace, we can well imagine that, later rather than sooner, the two integrative and parallel lines, namely the Faith of God and its constructive worldly counterpart, will merge into one, single, organically united and divinely propelled process which will lead to the Most Great Peace and prepare the way for the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth during the Golden Age of God's Holy Faith. In order to understand, perhaps with greater clarity, the different stages in the attainment of universal peace, so well defined by the progression implied in the adjectives qualifying the word "peace", namely the Lesser, the Great or Greater, and the Most Great, corresponding to the words in the original text, namely Asghar, Akbar, and A'zam, it may be useful for us to look at Shoghi Effendi's stages of the development of the Faith on the national level as it unfolds in different countries of the world.
As you know, Shoghi Effendi outlined seven stages for the onward march of the Faith in each country. I will mention the first four stages first. As you know they are: obscurity, repression, emancipation, and recognition. Stage one, which is obscurity, is clearly over throughout the world, as the House of Justice has also said. The Bahá'í community in Iran, as well as in a number of countries in the Muslim East, is at stage two, which is repression. Stage three, namely emancipation, is when the religious authorities in a country, as happened in Egypt, officially announce that since the Bahá'í Faith has laws and principles at variance with the canonical law of Islam, it can only be considered as an independent entity, not as a branch of the Muhammadan Faith. Stage four, namely recognition, is when the government in authority recognizes the Faith in accordance with its own legal system: this is when the Bahá'í community is given a status as a religious organization empowered to perform officially certain rites related to personal status, such as marriage. So far, this has been the highest form of recognition in any given country, as it represents the possession of a status equal to that enjoyed by other recognized religious communities. One or another of the first four stages could well be bypassed and has indeed been bypassed depending on the prevailing circumstances in any given country.
As to the last three stages, the fifth is the official acceptance of the Faith as the "State religion" of a nation- (ADJ p.12). The sixth stage is when there is a merger between the civil system of government administration and the national institutions of the Bahá'í Administrative Order. This sixth stage has been described by Shoghi Effendi as the emergence of the "Bahá'í State"-(ADJ p.12). The seventh stage is when the "Bahá'í State" of a given country joins hands with other Bahá'í states to form together the first Bahá'í Commonwealth of the future – a Commonwealth which will represent the initial stages of the Most Great Peace and will operate in accordance with the Laws and Principles enunciated by Bahá'u'lláh. As you can well realize, Bahá'ís in no single country have gone beyond stage four. This means that all national Bahá'í communities are developing slowly and sometimes painfully through the first four stages.
Moving from stage four to stage five will require the input and guidance of the Universal House of Justice, when circumstances permit, at their own appointed time. This is why Bahá'u'lláh has written: "All matters of state should be referred to the House of Justice"- (TB p.129). We can confidently conclude that, at the national level, stage six, namely, when the Faith is recognized as a "State religion", and stage seven, namely, when the "Bahá'í State" emerges, correspond on the international level to the Great or Greater Peace— Sulh-i-Akbar, followed by the next stage, namely the Most Great Peace, Sulh-i-A'zam. We firmly believe, as Bahá'ís, that the last two, and indeed the last three stages are all part of the all-embracing, all-encompassing, Major Plan of God.
Q. Shoghi Effendi has written that the years ahead may well be pregnant with events of unimaginable magnitude and ordeals more severe than what has transpired in the past. Are we "in the years ahead"? Should we be afraid?
A. The word "pregnant" implies a process. I have no doubt that we are in the so-called period of "the years ahead", but why should we be afraid? We should place our trust in Him, live the Bahá'í life, and face the future with full confidence. Faith is not enough, we should also have trust in Him. If we have doubts we should arise and prove to ourselves the reality of His assistance. In one of his letters to the American believers Shoghi Effendi said: "There is no time to lose...The stage is set. The firm and irrevocable Promise is given. God's own Plan has been set in motion...The powers of heaven and earth mysteriously assist in its execution...Let the doubter arise, and himself verify the truth of such assertions." (TDH p. 28)
Q. What is "the Most Great Justice"?
A. I think this is a reference to the institutions of the House of Justice on its three levels: universal, national and local.
Q. Is entry by troops important to the Lesser Peace?
A. I don't see it that way. Entry by troops is an internal process in the development of the teaching work. The House of Justice wishes us to prepare ourselves through the institutes, study circles, devotional meetings and children's classes to open our doors for the troops to come in and be adequately and systematically deepened in the Cause. Shoghi Effendi's writings indicate that this stage of entry by troops will prove to be a prelude to the conversion of the masses.
The Lesser Peace however, is the result of the efforts of leaders in the political world uniting at last to establish what we could call a secular political peace among the nations.
Q. Do we know when the Lesser Peace will come about? Why did we think it would be by the year 2000?
A. When Shoghi Effendi was asked when exactly the Lesser Peace will be established, he wrote back saying that we did not know the exact time. The speculation about the year 2000 stems from the fifth candle of unity which is "unity of nations" and, as you recall, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in that Tablet states that it is "a unity which in this century will be securely established" (WOB p. 39) As this Tablet was revealed in 1906 it is obvious that this century meant the 20th century, especially as the recipient was one of the friends in the British Isles. The point that was missed was that the stage of "unity of nations" is clearly defined by 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself in the same Tablet. It is when "the peoples of the world will regard themselves as citizens of one common fatherland." (WOB p. 39) This is a reference to an awareness in the peoples of the world that the world is really one world, and the planet the home of the human race. This consciousness is of course an important step towards the Lesser Peace, but not the Lesser Peace itself.
Q. What is the relationship between the seven stages of the evolution of the Faith and the seven candles of unity?
A. These are two processes. One is related to the internal development of the Faith within the setting of the world surrounding it, and the other is a description of the various aspects of the universal peace anticipated in the Writings.
Q. When the Faith becomes the official established religion of a country will independent investigation of truth continue to be upheld?
A. The principle of independent investigation of truth is an overarching principle which overshadows the entire Dispensation. The Báb tells us that God's method for the spread of His religion at any given time was never meant to be through force and coercion. (SWAB p. 77)
Q. What is the meaning of Shoghi Effendi's statement in his "Unfoldment": "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh should be viewed as marking the last and highest stage in this stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet"?
A. Shoghi Effendi has likened the process of world federalism to the stages which lead the American Republic to become a unified community of federated states. Describing the latter process he describes the federal system created in the United States as an event which proclaimed the coming of age of the American people. He goes on to state: "Within the territorial limits of this nation, this consummation may be viewed as the culmination of the process of human government. The diversified and loosely related elements of a divided community were brought together, unified and incorporated into one coherent system. Though this entity may continue gaining in cohesive power, though the unity already achieved may be further consolidated, though the civilization to which that unity could alone have given birth may expand and flourish, yet the machinery essential to such an unfoldment may be said to have been, in its essential structure, erected, and the impulse required to guide and sustain it may be regarded as having been fundamentally imparted. No stage above and beyond this consummation of national unity can, within the geographical limits of that nation, be imagined, though the highest destiny of its people as a constituent element in a still larger entity that will embrace the whole of mankind, may still remain unfulfilled. Considered as an isolated unit, however, this process of integration may be said to have reached its highest and final consummation." (WOB p.165)
As with the geographical limits of one nation, so it will be within the geographical limits of the planet. It is in this vein that the following words of Shoghi Effendi referring to the emergence of a world community should be understood... "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh...should be viewed ... as marking the last and highest stage in this stupendous evolution of man's collective life on this planet. The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture... should, by their very nature, be regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society, though man, as an individual will, nay must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress and develop." (WOB p. 163)
Q. Bahá'u'lláh says: "Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye [i.e. Sovereigns of the world] against him for this is naught but manifest justice." (WOB p.40) Is there such an option under the Most Great Peace?
A. If we read the antecedent to this sentence in the original, it becomes clear that this guidance regarding the principle of collective security is written in the context of the Lesser Peace. It appears highly unlikely that such a situation will arise under the Most Great Peace. If it does, however, the instruction of Bahá'u'lláh will certainly be immediately enforced.
Q. Where does the line of disintegration lead to and will it finally disappear?
A. I spoke about the two opposite and diverging lines of integration and disintegration. The former symbolizing the growth and consolidation of the Faith and the second representing the deterioration and decline of human society. What we should remember is that according to Bahá'u'lláh we are approaching the stage of humanity's maturity. This maturity has been described by Shoghi Effendi in these words: "That mystic, all pervasive, yet indefinable change which we associate with the stage of maturity, inevitable in the life of the individual and the development of the fruit, must... have its counterpart in the evolution of the organization of human society.... Such a stage of maturity in the process of human government must, for all time, if we would faithfully recognize the tremendous claim advanced by Bahá'u'lláh, remain identified with the Revelation of which He was the Bearer." (WOB p. 164)
"To take but one instance. How confident were the assertions made in the days preceding the unification of the states of the North American continent regarding the insuperable barriers that stood in the way of their ultimate federation? ... Could anything less than the fire of a civil war with all its violence and vicissitudes -- a war that nearly rent the great American Republic -- have welded the states, not only into a Union of independent units, but into a Nation, in spite of all the ethnic differences that characterized its component parts?... That nothing short of the fire of a severe ordeal, unparalleled in its intensity can fuse and weld the discordant entities that constitute the elements of present day civilization, into the integral components of the world commonwealth of the future, is a truth which future events will increasingly demonstrate." (WOB pp. 45-46)
As we saw in the quotations above universal suffering is a prerequisite for universal spiritual awareness. To the observations quoted above from the pen of Shoghi Effendi I feel I should add the following momentous pronouncement by him. "The process of disintegration must inexorably continue and its corrosive influence must penetrate deeper and deeper into the very core of a crumbling age. Much suffering will still be required ere the contending nations, creeds, classes and races of mankind are fused in the crucible of universal affliction... Adversities unimaginably appalling undreamed of crises and upheavals, war, famine and pestilence, might well combine to engrave in the soul of an unheeding generation those truths and principles which it has disdained to recognize and follow. (WOB p. 193)
According to a Tablet revealed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá the line of disintegration propelling the world towards godlessness will sink to such a point that it will lead to universal chaos and confusion -- a chaotic condition that the world would be unwilling to bear. This stage will lead the world to turn to religion and to realize the importance of turning to God. That would be the time when the Bahá'í youth of today will have the unique opportunity to proclaim and teach the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, as a far greater receptivity for His message would prevail in the hearts of men everywhere. It is quite possible, in my view, that at such a time, the stage of mass conversion anticipated in the writings of Shoghi Effendi would occur and, which will result in a sudden "thousandfold" increase in the "numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh". (CF p. 117)
Q. When does the Bahá'í community move from the state of "recognition" to the stage of "State Religion" in any given country?
A. Shoghi Effendi refers to the "majority" of the population of the country (WOB p. 7) He does not define how large a majority this should be. As it is a matter of "State" when such a situation arises, it should be referred to the Universal House of Justice.
Q. When in a certain country a "Bahá'í State" is established will non-Bahá'ís have the right to vote, and/or occupy positions in the administration of the State?
A. All I can say is that this issue has not been dealt with in the Writings of our Faith, and, therefore, should be referred to the Universal House of Justice, in accordance with His statement already mentioned before: "All matters of State should be referred to the House of Justice". (TB p. 27)
Q. In addition to the United Nations, which you have mentioned, what do you think of such organizations as the European Union, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund?
A. All these manifestations of humanity's awareness of its own universal solidarity, and as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has predicted in His second "candle of unity", humanity was moving steadily towards "unity of thought in world undertakings". (WOB p.39) The examples you cite are few among many examples of efforts to create projects, promoting the welfare of all classes, races and nations comprising the world community. For example WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF, The Red Cross, and the various agencies which are operating today to protect the environment, to research the oceans, the explore the solar system, to promote the positive values of globalisation, to eradicate illiteracy etc... Such world undertakings did not exist in the past, but these ideals are being earnestly and successfully pursued for the first time, on a global scale, from the early beginnings of the 20th century. This is why 'Abdu'l-Bahá called it the "Century of Light".
Furthermore, we see Bahá'u'lláh exhorting, and indeed giving a special mission to the rulers of the entire Western Hemisphere, addressing them as leaders of one geographical unit. Does this not imply a process of solidarity of the components parts of this unit? Many efforts have already been made towards this objective, although they have met with setbacks and reverses. Shoghi Effendi, following Bahá'u'lláh's lead, likewise refers to the Eastern Hemisphere, as a counterpart to the Western Hemisphere (CF p.33), and specifically mentions the prospect of the political unification of the two Hemispheres, as a stage towards the establishment of world peace. Shoghi Effendi has described for us the stages of humanity's social evolution towards its maturity, in the following inspired words: "The long ages of infancy and childhood, through which the human race had to pass, have receded into the background. Humanity is now experiencing the commotions invariably associated with the most turbulent stage of its evolution, the stage of adolescence, when the impetuosity of youth and its vehemence reach their climax, and must gradually be superseded by the calmness, the wisdom, and the maturity that characterize the stage of manhood. Then will the human race reach that stature of ripeness which will enable it to acquire all the powers and capacities upon which its ultimate development must depend.
Unification of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life." (WOB p.202)
Shoghi Effendi has singled out Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Aqdas and 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament as chief depositories "wherein are enshrined those priceless elements of that Divine Civilization, the establishment of which is the primary mission of the Bahá'í Faith"- (WOB pp.3-4) and as the "the twin repositories of the constituent elements" of the "Sovereignty which the Bahá'í teachings foreshadow"-(WOB p.16). He furthermore describes the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the "Charter of the future world civilization"- (GPB p.214). He calls the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá by exactly the same title- (GPB p. 328).
We should be aware that when the Friends in Iran read for the first time the Kitáb-i-Aqdas they merely regarded it, albeit with great reverence, as Bahá'u'lláh's Mother Book or the Book of His Laws, just as the Qur'án, was the Mother Book for the Muslim world. Some of the verses of the Aqdas were not understood or, alas, even misunderstood. For example the celebrated passage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas announcing the emergence of the New World Order was understood to mean that the order of the verses of the Aqdas followed a unique pattern different from that of the Bayán or Sacred Books of former Dispensations.
As you know, there is also in the Persian Bayán a Verse which refers to the Order of Bahá'u'lláh. This corresponding Verse in the Bayán foreshadowing the Order of Bahá'u'lláh was also understood along the same lines, namely that the contents of Bahá'u'lláh's Mother Book, unlike the Bayán, would not be divided into chapters and verses, but would have a unique format of its own. It was only in 1934, some thirteen years after the launching of the institution of the Guardianship, that Shoghi Effendi produced his translation of this key verse in Bahá'u'lláh's Mother Book. For the first time it became clear to the Bahá'ís in the East and the West that the Order mentioned had nothing to do with the style or format of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, but instead was an announcement that the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh was the begetter of a New World System for the conduct of the affairs of the world and the establishment of the Promised Kingdom of God on earth.
As to the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Bahá'ís in both East and West considered it a document in which the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh was being extended by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to cover the line of succession after His passing. In Shoghi Effendi the Bahá'ís of the world saw the successor of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He would henceforth be the Interpreter of the Divine Word and the Centre of the Cause to whom all must turn. All this was of course true, but it was only a simplistic and minimal appraisal of what Shoghi Effendi later described as the: "Charter of the future world civilization".
Shoghi Effendi lifted the veil gradually. For example in 1923, barely two years after the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he described the contents of His Will and Testament: "amazing in all its aspects" and that its provisions had: "challenged and perplexed the keenest minds"- (BA p.50). Writing in the same year to the friends in Persia he wrote: "God's Supreme House of Justice shall be erected and firmly established in the days to come. When this most great Edifice shall be reared...God's purpose, wisdom, universal truths, mysteries and realities of the Kingdom, which the mystic revelation of Bahá'u'lláh has deposited within the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, shall gradually be revealed and made manifest."(MUHJ p.57)
A year later he wrote: "We are called upon by our beloved Master in His Will and Testament not only to adopt it [Bahá'u'lláh's New World Order] unreservedly, but to unveil its merit to all the world. To attempt to estimate its full value, and grasp its exact significance after so short a time since its inception would be premature and presumptuous on our part. We must trust to time, and the guidance of God's Universal House of Justice, to obtain a clearer and fuller understanding of its [The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá] provisions and implications"-(BA p.62). And some five years later in 1929 he called it the chief depository enshrining the priceless elements of God's Divine Civilization- and added the following comment: "We stand indeed too close to so monumental a document to claim for ourselves a complete understanding of all its implications, or to presume to have grasped the manifold mysteries it undoubtedly contains. Only future generations can comprehend the value and the significance attached to this Divine Masterpiece, which the hand of the Master-builder of the world has designed for the unification and the triumph of the world-wide Faith of Bahá'u'lláh."- (WOB p.8)
Shoghi Effendi did not stop there, he continued in his assessment and praise of the manifold mysteries contained in 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament. About a year later, on 25th March 1930 his comments about the hidden mysteries of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá reached their crescendo, when in a letter written on his behalf he pointed out the following: ""The contents of the Will of the Master are far too much for the present generation to comprehend. It needs at least a century of actual working before the treasures of wisdom hidden in it can be revealed."- (UHJM1963-1986, p.161)
The Friends were wondering where the mysteries could be. Could these relate to their own limited understanding of the station of the Guardianship? Were the mysteries in relation to the functions of the Universal House of Justice? Why should it take so long for Bahá'ís to understand what appeared to them to be a straight forward document about the future administration of the Faith? I will now deal with these questions.
For example Shoghi Effendi says that the provisions of the two Charters, namely the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá are neither incompatible nor contradictory and indeed "mutually confirm one another and are inseparable parts of one complete unit"- (WOB p.4.) However, a basic outward contradiction between the two documents did exist, because the Kitáb-i-Aqdas envisages a time when there will be no Aghsáns, meaning thereby that there would be no future Guardians, while the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá provided for a succession of Guardians.
The verse in The Kitáb-i-Aqdas referring to the Aghsáns reads as follows: "Endowments dedicated to charity revert to God... None hath the right to dispose of them without leave from Him Who is the Dawning-place of Revelation. After Him this authority shall pass to the Aghsáns and after them to the House of Justice-should it be established in the world by then...Otherwise the endowments shall revert to the people of Bahá who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet"- (KA pp.34-35) In explanation of this verse notes 66 and 67 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas read as follows: Note 66- "Aghsán" (plural of Ghusn) is the Arabic word for "Branches". This term is used by Bahá'u'lláh to designate His male descendants. It has particular implications not only for the disposition of endowments but also for the succession of authority following the passing of Bahá'u'lláh and of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Bahá'u'lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, appointed 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His eldest son, as the Centre of His Covenant and the Head of the Faith. Abdu'l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, appointed Shoghi Effendi, His eldest grandson, as the Guardian and Head of the Faith. This passage of the Aqdas, therefore, anticipates the succession of chosen Aghsán and thus the institution of the Guardianship and envisages the possibility of a break in their line. The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very situation provided for in this passage, in that the line of Aghsán ended before the Universal House of Justice had been established.
Note 67. Bahá'u'lláh provides for the possibility that the line of Aghsán would terminate prior to the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. He designated that in such a situation "endowments shall revert to the people of Bahá". The term "people of Bahá" is used with a number of different meanings in the Bahá'í Writings. In this instance, they are described as those "who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet". Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the Hands of the Cause of God directed the affairs of the Cause until the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963."- (KA p.196)
An important point about the Aghsáns needs some clarification. In the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, there is a clear distinction made between such Aghsáns as are appointed Heads of the Faith and Interpreters of its teachings and the rest of the Aghsáns who do not fall into this category. Regarding the latter general group of Aghsáns we read the following from the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh in His Kitáb-i-'Ahd: "It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsáns, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others"- (TB p.222). The prohibition to claim certain rights relates to practices allowed in some sects of Islam, granting prerogatives to the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad to claim financial privileges for themselves.
As you are all aware, the Will and Testament clearly states: "It is incumbent upon the Guardian of the Cause of God to appoint within his life time him that shall be his successor that differences shall not arise after his passing". Furthermore, the Will states that the Guardian of the Cause of God is the Universal House of Justice's "sacred head" and the "distinguished member for life" of that body. The Will further stipulates: "The Hands of The Cause of God must elect from their own number nine persons that shall at all times be occupied in the important services in the work of the Guardian of the Cause of God...These, whether unanimously or by a majority vote must give their assent to the choice of the one whom the Guardian of the Cause of God hath chosen as his successor" - (BA p.8 and p.10).
An amazing feature of the Will is its flexibility. It provides on the one hand for a Universal House of Justice with a Guardian heading its membership, and on the other, in the same document the Author of the Will envisages a Universal House of Justice, equally divinely guided, without the physical presence or membership of a Guardian. From two passages in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, it becomes clear that the elected members of the Universal House of Justice receive independent divine guidance—a guidance which is not conditioned upon the presence of the Guardian as sacred Head of that institution. The first reference is as follows: "[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 Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness the Exalted One... Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, has not obeyed God..."
The second reference is incorporated in the second part of 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will, most probably written in 1907. Here are His own words: "I am now in very great danger and the hope of even an hour's life is lost to me. I am thus constrained to write these lines for the protection of the Cause of God, the preservation of His Law, the safeguarding of His Word and the safety of His Teachings."- (WTA p.18)
In this portion of the Will when Shoghi Effendi was only about ten years old and when as Shoghi Effendi later indicated was a period which he described as: "the darkest moments of [the Master's] life under Abdu'l-?amid's regime when He stood ready to be deported to the most inhospitable regions of Northern Africa, He wrote the following"(WOB p.17):" Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn, and all that is not expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the truth and the purpose of God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that love discord, hath shown forth malice, and turned away from the Lord of the Covenant. By this House is meant that Universal House of Justice which is to be elected from all countries, that is from those parts in the East and West where the loved ones are to be found... It is incumbent upon these members [of the Universal House of Justice] to gather in a certain place and deliberate upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book. Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself."- (WTA p.19)
As indicated by the Universal House of Justice, in its letter of 9 March 1965 (MUHJ p.53), it was also at this very time that 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote to the cousin of the Báb, the chief builder of the 'Ishqábád Temple, Hájí Mírzá Taqí Afnán, a Tablet in which He describes the dangers to His life, and adds that He has written a Will and Testament in which He has given directions for the election of the Universal House of Justice. He therefore instructs him in that Tablet to come to the Holy Land, should the threats against Him materialize, open His Will and Testament, and carry out His wishes.
Of course these precautionary measures taken by 'Abdu'l-Bahá were never realized. The coup of the Young Turks overthrew the Ottoman monarchy, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was released from prison, and intense activity on His part followed for over a decade. Could we not assume, therefore, that in accordance with God's inscrutable Purpose, all this happened, so that 'Abdu'l-Bahá could, in a natural and matter of fact way, leave for posterity His clear testimony that the Universal House of Justice could certainly operate fully without the physical presence of the Guardian as its Head?
The fact that the Universal House of Justice is, with only its elected members, the direct and independent recipient of Divine guidance throughout this Dispensation is further confirmed in the words of Shoghi Effendi in his 'Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', page 153. He writes: "In the conduct of the administrative affairs of the Faith, in the enactment of the legislation necessary to supplement the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the members of the Universal House of Justice... are to follow with a prayerful attitude, the dictates and promptings of their conscience...They, and not the body who either directly or indirectly elect them, have thus been made the recipients of the divine guidance which is at once the life-blood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation"- (WOB p.153).
In the light of what occurred after the passing of Shoghi Effendi who neither left a will nor in his own life time appointed a Branch to be his successor-(an appointment to be confirmed by nine elected Hands residing in the Holy Land) it became clear to the Hands of the Cause of God and the entire Bahá'í world that the second possibility provided by the provisions of the Will was indeed inevitable and fully compatible not only with the Will itself but also with the provisions of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
It would be useful, at this point, for us to review briefly the contents of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the light of the provisions of Bahá'u'lláh's "Book of the Covenant". As you know the Book of the Covenant is published in full in "Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas", pages 217-223. In this document known as Kitáb-i-'Ahd Bahá'u'lláh clearly appoints 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Most Great Branch, as His successor. But then He goes on to say "Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad-'Alí] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch ['Abdu'l-Bahá]...We have chosen the Greater after the Most Great..." This meant that after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Muhammad-'Alí, half-brother of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, would be the Centre of the Cause, provided of course that he would be firm in the Covenant and realize that his station was beneath the exalted position reserved for the Master. However, as undoubtedly you all know, before even the interment of the sacred remains of Bahá'u'lláh when 'Abdu'l-Bahá was washing with His own hands His Father's body, Muhammad-'Alí, his brothers and his brother-in-law as well as members of their immediate family leagued together to oppose 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Their first act of disloyalty was to steal the two cases which contained documents and papers entrusted by Bahá'u'lláh to the care of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, including a number of His seals. Muhammad-'Alí subsequently embarked on a series of attacks on the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá by sending letters, followed by emissaries, to establish his right as one mentioned in Bahá'u'lláh's Will, and to discredit 'Abdu'l-Bahá Who, as alleged by him, had claimed the station of the Manifestation of God. We should recall that Muhammad-'Alí had already, during the Ministry of his Father advanced the claim of being God's "finger", "the spokesman of the Aghsáns" and the "upholder of the Holy Writ" (GPB pp.248-9). For such claims as these, Bahá'u'lláh personally slapped Muhammad-'Alí in the face, with His own hand. (GPB p.249)
In one of His Tablets to the Friends in Iran Bahá'u'lláh explicitly rules out the assignment of any spiritual station to Muhammad-'Alí, and adds the categorical statement: "Should he for a moment pass out from under the shadow of the Cause, he surely shall be brought to naught". 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament quotes this passage from Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet, enumerates the acts of disloyalty by His half-brother, including his plot to assassinate Him, and irrefutably draws the conclusion that Muhammad-'Alí had broken the Covenant and thus had disqualified himself from being second in succession to Him.
Many of these violations came to be known in 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís lifetime to the friends in Iran. A few would ask what would happen after His passing. Sometimes He would say that the Universal House of Justice would be formed. At other times He would state that this was a "secret", and that "the time will come when its light will appear"(WOB p.150)
Amatu'l-Bahá Rœhíyyih Khánum in her 'Priceless Pearl' quotes the recollections of a German woman physician, Dr J. Fallscheer, who lived in Haifa and attended the ladies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's household. In these recollections, which were published first in German, she says that the Greatest Holy Leaf had informed her that Shoghi Effendi was destined to be the successor of the Master. One day in August 1910, after the young Shoghi Effendi left the room of the Master, He turned to Dr Fallscheer and told her "How do you like my future Elisha?... And do you know why?...Bahá'u'lláh, the Blessed Manifestation reminded me that I... must observe among my sons and grandsons whom God would indicate... My sons passed to eternity in their tenderest years; in my line, among my relatives; only little Shoghi has the shadow of a great calling in the depths of his eyes."- (PP pp.11-12)
I cannot refrain from sharing with you, at this juncture, the fact that there was a private belief current among some of the early believers in Iran that since Muhammad-'Alí had broken the Covenant, 'Abdu'l-Bahá would have to choose one of His grandsons to be His successor. This was not because of Dr. Fallscheer's reminiscences which obviously were not available in Persian, but they had arrived at this assumption on the basis of the contents of the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. In this Tablet, three figures prominently emerge. (1) The Holy Mariner, namely Bahá'u'lláh Himself; (2) The Maid of Heaven, who flooded: "with the light of her countenance the heaven and the earth", namely 'Abdu'l-Bahá; and (3) One of the handmaidens of the Maid of Heaven who is also described as the "favoured damsel who perfumed all things in the lands of Holiness and Grandeur" namely Shoghi Effendi. These speculations acquired added importance when in one of His last Tablets 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote: "Study the Tablet of the Holy Mariner that ye may know the truth, and consider that the Blessed Beauty hath fully foretold future events. Let them who perceive, take warning"- (BP1975 p.51)
We should now turn our attention to the Law of Succession as it was applied not only to Shoghi Effendi, as Guardian of the Faith, but also to the Administrative Order which Shoghi Effendi quite often referred to as: "The Child of the Covenant"-(GPB p.243). It should be recalled however, that in one instance Shoghi Effendi also described the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as the "Child of the Covenant"- a Child which was born resulting from the interaction of the creative energies of the Law of Bahá'u'lláh on the mind of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. We should not be perturbed by the fact that the term- "Child of the Covenant"- has been used to describe the Charter of the Administrative Order as well as the Order itself. The one is the establishment of the entity in the Holy Writ and the other is the emergence of that reality for all to see.
In this connection we should remember that the Bahá'í Covenant is not something which began and ended with the Ministry of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. While 'Abdu'l-Bahá was the Centre of the Covenant and will continue to be so for all time, the Bahá'í Covenant is an essential feature inseparable from the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh until the end of this Dispensation. In fact in one of His Tablets, 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers to His Ministry as "The Morn" of the Bahá'í Covenant. This implies that the unfoldment of the Covenant in its fullness, throughout the Day of Bahá'u'lláh's Dispensation, was yet to come. This important point is explained by Shoghi Effendi: "As regards the meaning of the Bahá'í Covenant: The Guardian considers the existence of two forms of Covenant both of which are explicitly mentioned in the literature of the Cause. First is the covenant that every Prophet makes with humanity or, more definitely, with His people that they will accept and follow the coming Manifestation Who will be the reappearance of His reality. The second form of covenant is such as the one Bahá'u'lláh made with His people that they should accept the Master. This is merely to establish and strengthen the succession of the series of Lights that appear after every Manifestation. Under the same category falls the covenant the Master made with the Bahá'ís that they should accept His administration after Him..."-(1932, LOG p.181)
From the above text it is clear that the successor to the Master under the Bahá'í Covenant was the Administration after Him. It is in this light that we should understand the term used by Shoghi Effendi, describing the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice as the: "chosen Successors" of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá- (WOB p.20). We should recall that the term 'Administrative Order' was used by Shoghi Effendi for the first time in his "Dispensation", which was written in February 1934. During the first thirteen years of his Guardianship, that is, from 1921 to 1934, he referred to the System conceived by Bahá'u'lláh for the administration of His Cause, as the 'Bahá'í Administration'. In the passage therefore, that I have just quoted from Shoghi effendi about the Bahá'í Covenant, we should clearly understand that what he meant by the "Administration after Him", was the Administrative Order, as the letter is dated 1932.
In the "Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh", Shoghi Effendi points out that the Administrative Order has two pillars: the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. One way of understanding the word 'pillars' is that there are two columns and a structure is placed on them. Thus if one of them is removed, the structure will be lop-sided and fall. But when one reads, with diligence and care, the writings of Shoghi Effendi, we see that what he meant by 'pillars' were institutions which reinforced the stability of the structure.
For example in the 'Dispensation' he refers to these twin institutions as means provided to "buttress" the structure of the Administrative Order – (WOB p.157). "To buttress" means to provide support and strength to the structure. There are other metaphors that Shoghi Effendi used for these institutions. For example, in one of his messages, he describes the Guardianship as: "the head cornerstone of the Administrative Order"-(TDH p.15). The relation of the cornerstone to a structure is different from that of a pillar or a buttress to that structure. The cornerstone of a building is a foundation and indispensable stone which is the first block used as a basis for the erection of the structure.
As regards to the Universal House of Justice, the metaphors of 'pillar' and 'buttress', equally apply to that institution, but using the same concept of a building, he describes the Universal House of Justice as "the apex of the Bahá'í Administrative Order"- (GPB p.332). He also refers to it as the "crowning glory" of the administrative institutions of the Faith- (ADJ p.24), "the supreme organ of the Bahá'í Commonwealth"- (WOB p.6), as well as "the last refuge of a tottering civilization"- (WOB p.89). Although all of us are not architects, we can all easily understand that the first unit in the building of a structure is its cornerstone, and its last unit is the apex. It is interesting in this connection to recall that in one of his Persian letters to the friends in the East, he refers to the Guardianship as the 'first pillar' and the Universal House of Justice as the "second." This could mean the 'first' in rank, or the 'first' in time. In terms of the timeline, as we all know, this is exactly what happened. When one Successor, namely the Guardian, was providentially removed from the scene, the other Successor, namely the Universal House of Justice, was naturally and inevitably expected to assume the Headship of the Cause.
When we discuss the two institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, we tend to be perplexed by two paragraphs in 'The Dispensation', which underline the essential features of these two Successors to the Founders of our Faith. One paragraph begins with the words: "Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship, the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh would be mutilated" the other paragraph begins with the words: "Severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice, this same System would be paralysed"- (WOB p.148). These two paragraphs, in the light of the reality of what happened after the passing of Shoghi Effendi, who neither wrote a Will nor appointed someone after him to occupy the seat of the Guardianship, would obviously mean that the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh without any Guardian would have resulted in the mutilation of the World Order, just as that same World Order would have been paralysed if it did not have any Universal House of Justice to supplement the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh. But since we have had 36 years of the institution of the Guardianship operating in full and intensive action, and we now have the Universal House of Justice, the structure of the World Order is neither mutilated nor paralyzed.
There could well be a lingering thought remaining in some minds as to why Shoghi Effendi left no will. Was it an accident or a conscious action on his part? From Violette's 'A Tribute to Amatu'l-Bahá', we gather that Shoghi Effendi, towards the end of his life, and, contemplating his own death, gave advice to Amatu'l-Bahá regarding the travels she should undertake after his own passing. He is also reported to have told her, during the last remaining days of his life in London, that he did not want to go back to Haifa, and that she should go alone.
If someone is concerned about the condition of his own wife after him, and gives advice as to what she should do, would he not, as the Guardian, as the Chief Protector and responsible Head of the Faith—would he not also think about the welfare and future destiny of the Faith he was called upon by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to protect and promote? The only logical conclusion is that he knew he was passing away, that he was fully conscious that he had not appointed another "ghusn" to succeed him as Guardian, and that he preferred not to leave any Will and Testament. The Universal House of Justice, reflecting on this apparent dilemma, made the following pronouncement: "The fact that Shoghi Effendi did not leave a will cannot be adduced as evidence of his failure to obey Bahá'u'lláh— rather should we acknowledge that in his very silence there is a wisdom and a sign of his infallible guidance"- (UHJM1963-1986 p.84).
I recall the gist of my private conversations with many friends in November 1957 when it was realised that Shoghi Effendi had unexpectedly passed away, had not appointed a successor as Guardian after him and had left no will. We concluded that the best thing we could do was to reread more carefully 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament as well as Shoghi Effendi's writings in order to understand more clearly the hidden implications and mysteries of these inspired documents.
I will share with you my own personal insights on what some may have regarded as a predicament in the fortunes of our beloved Faith. Shoghi Effendi had often said to Hands of the Cause of God and visiting pilgrims that his 'Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh' was like his Will and Testament. Amatu'l-Bahá in her 'The Priceless Pearl', quotes Shoghi Effendi as having indicated that: "he had said all he had to say, in many ways, in 'The Dispensation'"-(PP p.213). Apart from this observation, we should note that Shoghi Effendi, referring to 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will, had written in his "Dispensation": "His Will and Testament...should be regarded as the perpetual, the indissoluble link which the mind of Him Who is the Mystery of God has conceived in order to insure the continuity of the three ages that constitute the component parts of the Bahá'í Dispensation"- (WOB p.143). In the same document, Shoghi Effendi categorically stated: "The axis round which [the] institutions [of the Administrative Order] revolve are the authentic provisions of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá"-(WOB p.156)
We should therefore consider that as Bahá'ís we did not live only for thirty-six years under the provisions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament but that the world-wide Bahá'í community does now and in the future continue to live under the provisions of that same Will for the rest of the Dispensation, as it is this document which links the Formative and Golden Ages together.
There is one other area that needs to be clarified, as unfortunately, a slight confusion has been created in the minds of some of the friends regarding the respective areas of infallibility of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Shoghi Effendi's 'Dispensation' define the specific areas of responsibility of these two institutions, namely: "interpretation" exclusively confined to the Guardianship, and "legislation" exclusively assigned to the Universal House of Justice. There is nothing in either the Will or 'The Dispensation', however, which restricts the condition of infallibility to these two areas of specific responsibility. Shoghi Effendi's "Dispensation", referring to the twin institutions of the Guardianship and of the Universal House of Justice, assures us: "Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other"- (WOB p.150). The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá categorically states, referring to these two institutions: "Whatsoever they decide is of God"- (WTA p.11). This is not only broad-based, but all-comprehensive.
According to the terms of this Will, the Universal House of Justice, in addition to legislation is the "body to which all things must be referred".(WTA p.14) It is furthermore the body to resolve "all the difficult problems", all problems which have caused differences" and "all questions that are obscure"-(WTA p.20). Shoghi Effendi, in his 'Dispensation', assigns to it the additional responsibility "to apply" (WOB p.145) the Laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, to conduct the "administrative affairs of the Faith"- (WOB p.153), and to ensure the "integrity" of the teachings (WOB p.148), the "flexibility" of the Faith and the "unity" of its followers (WOB p.148).
In fact, as I have already quoted before from one of Shoghi Effendi's early letters, he gives us this impressive view of the work of the House of Justice: "We must trust to time and the guidance of God's Universal House of Justice to obtain a clearer and fuller understanding of [the] provisions and implications [of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá]"- (BA p.62)
As you know, the Declaration of trust and by-laws of the National Assembly were drawn up by the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, under the direct guidance of Shoghi Effendi. Moreover, he wanted the clauses of this National Constitution to be adopted by every National Spiritual Assembly. As, the document includes clauses which deal with legal issues related to official incorporated associations in every country, Shoghi Effendi stated that such secondary provisions could be changed by each National Assembly, to conform to the requirements of the law current in its country. But as the document contained basic Bahá'í principles and concepts, these fundamental provisions were to be universally adopted throughout the Bahá'í World. In this context, it is highly significant that the provisions of Article IX of the National By-Laws are as follows: "Where the National Spiritual Assembly has been given in these By-laws exclusive and final jurisdiction and paramount executive authority, in all matters pertaining to the activities and affairs of the Bahá'í Cause in...[the given country], it is understood that any decision made or action taken upon such matters shall be subject in every instance to ultimate review and approval by the Guardian of the Cause or the Universal House of Justice"- (BW, vol13, p.554)
The reason why I am quoting this particular clause, so carefully worded and approved by Shoghi Effendi, is to draw your attention to the word "or" in the last two lines. If the word had been 'and', instead of 'or' you can well imagine the laborious task which all incorporated National Assemblies would have faced with their respective governments, in order to amend the wording of this clause.
I once again repeat that the exclusivity attached to the areas of specific responsibility of each of the twin institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, is one thing, and the extent of infallibility attached to their respective activities on behalf of the promotion and protection of the Faith (WOB p.20) is another thing. Unfortunately these two separate concepts have not been kept separate in some minds and thus some confused thinking has arisen. A moment's reflection on this point would dispel these misgivings.
Q. Could you comment on the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as to when and under what circumstances it was written?
A. The Master's Will and Testament is in three parts. No dates are fixed on the document itself. From the context, however, we could assume that the first part must have been written during the period when the first Commission of Investigation arrived in the Holy Land, i.e. around 1901. The second section must have been clearly written in 1907 when the second Commission of Investigation was sent, because it is in this section where 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that He is "in very great danger". We have no clues so far on the possible period when the third section was written.
Q. Was the first conclave of the Hands of the Cause and the appointment of nine Hands to serve in the Holy Land a fulfilment of the provision in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá?
A. It does not appear to me to be so, because the nine were selected in the light of the availability of those Hands who could be in, or move to the Holy Land, and not through a process of election. Furthermore, the nine elected Hands of the Cause, envisaged in 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will, were meant to assist Shoghi Effendi during his lifetime in his work.
Q. How was the unity of the Faith protected during the six or so years between the passing of the Guardian and the election of the Universal House of Justice?
A. The Hands in their messages to the Bahá'í world made it quite clear that since the entire Bahá'í world was engaged in prosecuting the objectives of the Ten Year Plan, all efforts were being exerted under the infallible guidance of Shoghi Effendi's objectives for the Crusade. After the Crusade was over, there was no choice but to establish the Universal House of Justice, so that once again the Bahá'ís of the world would labour under Divine Guidance. It is clear therefore that the unity of the Cause was preserved through nothing other than the power of the Covenant.
Q. If the two cases stolen by the Covenant-Breakers are found, what will be the situation regarding the possible falsification by them of the Holy Texts?
A. This is of course a decision that will be taken by the Universal House of Justice, if the contents of the cases are recovered. Rœhíyyih Khánum often said that Shoghi Effendi had mentioned more than once that there can be no assurance that the texts of the documents had not been tampered with by the Covenant-Breakers.
Q. What happened to the International Bahá'í Council after the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957?
A. The International Bahá'í Council continued to exist under the Custodians of the Faith, namely the Hands in the Holy Land, until 1961 when there was an international election by mail by members of National Assemblies existing at the time. This election resulted in a new membership.
Q. Is the institution of the Guardianship embodied in his writings?
A. We cannot say of course that the Guardianship, as an on-going institution, is found in his writings. Just as the office of the Centre of the Covenant is not with us as an on-going institution, but we refer to 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís writings for guidance, in the same way we turn to the writings of Shoghi Effendi, as interpreter of our Faith, for the guidance he has shed on the purport, intent and implications of Those Who had the reins of the Faith in Their Hands, before him.
Q. I think 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave two alternatives of succession after Him, namely, a House of Justice with the Guardian and a House of Justice without him in order to protect Shoghi Effendi after Him. Do you think 'Abdu'l-Bahá knew what will happen to Shoghi Effendi during the latter's ministry?
A. As you know Shoghi Effendi in his Dispensation states "... [I]n the person of Abdu'l-Bahá the incompatible characteristics of human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized". (WOB p. 134) It is obviously impossible for anyone in any discussion to take away from 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís inner reality His "superhuman knowledge and perfection". In the light of this it would be entirely in order, I think, to be confident in the conclusion that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in His inner being, would have been aware of future events.
As to the question of using two alternatives for the future House of Justice, in light of what happened to the Aghsán, all of whom broke the Covenant during Shoghi Effendi's lifetime, I tend to agree with you that 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís purpose was to protect Shoghi Effendi. During Shoghi Effendi's ministry, there were seven Aghsáns, all grandsons of 'Abdu'l-Bahá: two of them were his own brothers and five of them were male first cousins.
Shoghi Effendi's first reference to "future Guardians" is found in his Dispensation. At that time all the seven contemporary Aghsáns were alive and still outwardly faithful under the Covenant. He also referred to future Guardians in a letter to an individual believer written in November 1948. (LOG pp. 309-310) At that time some Aghsáns were still within the pale of the Faith. Indeed in a letter addressed to the friends in the East, dated Naw-Rœz 105 of the Bahá'í era, that is some eight years before he passed away, Shoghi Effendi wrote a prayer in which he supplicates Bahá'u'lláh that those who have removed themselves from the Bahá'í Fold may have a change of heart, may compensate for what has escaped them and may be reinstated in the Bahá'í community. As you see he was still hoping that some of the Aghsáns would sincerely repent for their past actions -- a possibility which never materialized. As you all know of course, Shoghi Effendi himself had no offspring and therefore he found himself, by force of circumstance, unable to appoint anyone to succeed him as Guardian, in accordance with the provisions of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
On October 18th 1927, referring to the Declaration of Trust and By-Laws of the National Spiritual Assembly, Shoghi Effendi wrote the following addressing that National Assembly: "You can but faintly imagine how comforting a stimulant and how helpful a guide its publication and circulation will be to those patient and toiling workers in Eastern lands... You can hardly realise how substantially it would contribute to pave the way for the elaboration of the beginnings of the constitution of the worldwide Bahá'í Community that will form the permanent basis upon which the blest and sanctified edifice of the first International House of Justice will securely rest and flourish."- (BA p.143). In a letter referring to the same subject, addressed to the Bahá'ís in Iran, Shoghi Effendi referred to the need for the Persian National Assembly to have its own constitution, and pointed out that the constitution of National Assemblies is the Greater Law of God's Holy Faith, while the constitution of the Universal House of Justice is its Most Great Law. In 1934, when he wrote his "Dispensation", Shoghi Effendi once again referred to the future constitution of the Supreme Body of the Faith.
When the Universal House of Justice was formed in 1963, it was able to launch its first teaching and consolidation Plan in April 1964, which was the Nine-Year Plan. One of the goals of that Plan, set aside as an objective of the World Centre, was to draft the Constitution governing the operation of the House of Justice, as well as the affairs of the worldwide Bahá'í Community. In view of the mounting cares and responsibilities of the Universal House of Justice, and the meticulous concentration required to produce such a vitally important document, it took most of the nine years under this first Plan to bring this project to conclusion.
On November 26th 1972, the following message was sent to all National Spiritual Assemblies: "WITH GRATEFUL JOYOUS HEARTS ANNOUNCE ENTIRE BAHÁ'Í WORLD ADOPTION PROFOUNDLY SIGNIFICANT STEP IN UNFOLDMENT MISSION SUPREME ORGAN BAHÁ'Í WORLD COMMONWEALTH THROUGH FORMULATION CONSTITUTION UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE. AFTER OFFERING HUMBLE PRAYERS GRATITUDE ON DAY COVENANT AT THREE SACRED THRESHOLDS BAHJI HAIFA, MEMBERS GATHERED COUNCIL CHAMBER PRECINCTS HOUSE BLESSED MASTER, APPENDED THEIR SIGNATURES, FIXED SEAL ON INSTRUMENT ENVISAGED WRITINGS BELOVED GUARDIAN, HAILED BY HIM AS MOST GREAT LAW FAITH BAHÁ'U'LLÁH. FULLY ASSURED MEASURE JUST TAKEN WILL FURTHER REINFORCE TIES BINDING WORLD CENTER TO NATIONAL LOCAL COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT WORLD, RELEASE FRESH ENERGIES, INCREASE ENTHUSIASM CONFIDENCE VALIANT WORKERS HIS DIVINE VINEYARD, LABORING ASSIDUOUSLY BRING MANKIND UNDER SHELTER HIS ALL-GLORIOUS COVENANT"- (MUHJ p.229)
The constitution of the Universal House of Justice was published as a separate document, comprising 14 pages. It was also published in Bahá'í World, Volume XV, Pages 555-564. It has two sections: "The Declaration of Trust", which consists of 5 pages, and the "By-Laws", which consists of 9 pages. The Declaration of Trust has a preamble which is a quotation from the opening paragraphs of Bahá'u'lláh's "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf", described by Shoghi Effendi as: "the last outstanding Tablet revealed by the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh."- (GPB p.219)
This preamble, consisting of Bahá'u'lláh's own Words, I will proceed to quote in full: "IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE ONE, THE IMCOMPARABLE, THE ALL-POWERFUL, THE ALL-KNOWING, THE ALL-WISE. The light that is shed from the heaven of bounty, and the benediction that shineth from the dawning-place of the will of God, the Lord of the Kingdom of Names, rest upon Him Who is the Supreme Mediator, the Most Exalted Pen, Him Whom God hath made the dawning-place of His most excellent names and the dayspring of His most exalted attributes. Through Him the light of unity hath shone forth above the horizon of the world, and the law of oneness hath been revealed amidst the nations, who, with radiant faces, have turned towards the Supreme Horizon, and acknowledged that which the Tongue of Utterance hath spoken in the Kingdom of His knowledge: 'Earth and heaven, glory and dominion, are God's, the Omnipotent, the Almighty, the Lord of grace abounding!"- (ESW p.3)
It is significant that in this passage, Bahá'u'lláh refers to "the light of unity [that] hath shone forth above the horizon of the world, and the law of oneness [that] hath been revealed amidst the nations". Likewise, the reference in the last sentence to "earth and heaven" belonging to God, is also significant, when we recall the words in the Revelation of St. John, which I have already quoted before, giving the promise that a new earth and a new heaven will be manifested. The "earth", beyond any doubt, refers to the earthly civilization that the Cause of God is destined to establish, and the "heaven", mentioned by Bahá'u'lláh in this passage, is undoubtedly the heaven of His new Revelation.
After this potent introductory passage, revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, which is so appropriate as an opening statement to His Most Great Law, the Universal House of Justice expresses its elation and gratitude with the following sentence: "With joyous and thankful hearts we testify to the abundance of God's Mercy, to the perfection of His justice and to the fulfilment of His Ancient Promise". - (CUHJ p.1)
The next paragraph is of 17 lines, in which the following points are solemnly and explicitly made:
The next paragraph is a passage extracted from the Tablet known as "Lawh-i-Maqhœd", revealed in 'Akká, and described by Shoghi Effendi as one of the Tablets revealed by Him as His Mission drew to a close and contained "precepts and principles which lie at the very core of His Faith"- (GPB p.216). This passage is highly relevant as it defines the "fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion". In Bahá'u'lláh's words, this purpose is: "to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race" and "to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men". In the same passage He describes His Faith as "The Straight Path" and I think, His New World Order as "the fixed and immovable foundation" whose "strength" can never be "impaired" nor its structure "undermined" by the "changes and chances of the world" and the "revolution of countless centuries".
The next paragraph is a quotation from 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament in which the sphere of responsibility of the House of Justice has been defined, namely to decide on "all that is not expressly recorded" in the Most Holy Book, and to be the Body to which "everyone must turn".
The following paragraph clearly determines what constitutes "the binding terms of reference of the Universal House of Justice", and which "are its bedrock foundation". These have been identified as "the revealed Word of Bahá'u'lláh" and "the interpretations and expositions" recorded by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi as Interpreters of the Revealed Word. This sentence clearly specifies that Shoghi Effendi was, after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, "the sole authority for the interpretation of Bahá'í Scripture". This sentence further confirms the refusal of the House of Justice to engage in interpreting the Writings.
The last sentence of this paragraph is extremely weighty, as it categorically states: "the authority of these Texts is absolute and immutable until such time as Almighty God shall reveal His new Manifestation, to Whom will belong all authority and power".
The paragraph that follows, calls to mind the passing of Shoghi Effendi without appointing a Guardian of the Cause to succeed him. In view of this circumstance, the Universal House of Justice declares that it is now the "Head of the Faith and its Supreme Institution".
Therefore, the coordination of the work of the Hands of the Cause, the extension into the future of their functions of protection and propagation, and the receipt and disbursement of the Huqœqu'llˆh, would, of necessity, devolve upon the Universal House of Justice.
A word of explanation about the offering and receipt of the Huqœqu'llˆh would, I feel, be appropriate. As you know, the Law of the Huqœq was revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in paragraph 97 on page 55. In this verse, Bahá'u'lláh stipulates that the Huqœq "belonged to God" and had "to be rendered unto Him". Nowhere in the Aqdas, or in His other Writings, does Bahá'u'lláh specify explicitly who should be the recipient of this offering after His Ascension. It was clear, however, that whoever had been specified as Successor of Bahá'u'lláh, namely, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was the Centre of the Covenant to Whom all must turn, would be, beyond any doubt, the recipient of such payments. In His Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Bahá provides for this money offering to be paid "through the Guardian of the Cause of God"- (WTA p.15). This was so because Shoghi Effendi was the institution to whom all were to turn after the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Following the same pattern, the Universal House of Justice, in its capacity as Successor, not only to Shoghi Effendi, but also to 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Bahá'u'lláh, found that it was logically and correctly the Institution destined to receive and expend the Huqœqu'llˆh, in accordance with the spirit and purpose of this Fund, as clearly enunciated in 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament, namely "the diffusion of the Fragrances of God and the exaltation of His Word, for benevolent pursuits and for the common weal"- (WTA p.15). In the light of these circumstances, the following Words of Bahá'u'lláh acquire added significance: "There is a prescribed ruling for the Huqœqu'llˆh. After the House of Justice hath come into being, the law thereof will be made manifest, in conformity with the Will of God."-(CH no59)
We have so far discussed the contents of the first six paragraphs of the text of the Constitution. These six paragraphs are followed by five sections which are described as "powers and duties with which the Universal House of Justice has been invested". I must explain here that the Universal House of Justice commissioned its Research Department to compile and present to it each and every statement made in the original texts of Bahá'u'lláh, of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and of Shoghi Effendi on the subject of the Universal House of Justice, its powers, and its duties. Many of these texts had already been translated into English or, as in the case of the writings of Shoghi Effendi, were already available in English. However, a great deal had to be translated and supplied to the House of Justice for its consideration. The contents of these five sections are all, without any exception, based on these texts. I hope that it will not be in the too distant future, when students and scholars of the Faith will be able to identify the powers and duties tabulated in these sections, and to find their roots in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the interpretive expositions made by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.
It is beyond the scope of my presentation to provide you with a list of references, showing the source of each of the functions of the Supreme Body, as set forth in these five sections. However I will refer to each section separately, and will give you my commentary on any aspect which may need some clarification.
SECTION ONE: "To ensure the preservation of the Sacred Texts and to safeguard their inviolability; to analyse, classify, and coordinate the Writings; and to defend and protect the Cause of God and emancipate it from the fetters of repression and persecution;"- (CUHJ p.5). The preservation of the Sacred Texts is clearly a primary responsibility of the Head of the Faith. This is why Shoghi Effendi constructed the International Archives Building, and later the Universal House of Justice added an extension to that Edifice in order to provide the latest scientific facilities available to preserve papers, documents and artefacts. The word 'inviolability', used in this connection, refers to the need to protect the Sacred Texts from any physical harm, as well as to uphold the sacredness of the Holy Writings, and to preserve their integrity.
The duty to analyse, classify, and coordinate the Writings is of course one which is currently being discharged by the Research Department, for and on behalf of the Universal House of Justice. These functions have their home in the present Edifice around the Arc which is known to the friends as the Centre for the Study of the Texts.
The duty of defending and protecting the Cause of God, is clearly implicit in the Words of Bahá'u'lláh calling on the Men of the House of Justice in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: "O ye Men of Justice! Be ye, in the realm of God, shepherds unto His sheep and guard them... even as ye would guard your own sons"- (KA para52). This section ends with the statement that in the House of Justice is vested the responsibility to emancipate the Faith "from the fetters of repression and persecution", as we discussed yesterday. The second stage in the evolution of the Faith is its emancipation from the fetters of repression. This emancipation will take place when the religious authorities in a given country pronounce and regard the laws and principles of the Faith as separate from and alien to the official established religion of that country. As you know, the steps taken by National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world, and the Bahá'í International Community with its seat in New York—all under the direction of the Universal House of Justice—have succeeded in protecting the Persian Bahá'í community, from the professed intention of the Iranian government to destroy the Cause of God, root and branch, in Bahá'u'lláh's native land. It is of course hoped that these efforts will eventually lead to the emancipation and deliverance of the Persian Bahá'í community from the clutches of a traditional enemy, which has sought to strangulate it, ever since its inception sixteen decades ago.
SECTION TWO: This entire section deals with the obligations of the Universal House of Justice in the three fields of proclamation, expansion and consolidation. A partial and initial implementation of the provisions of this section can be seen through the release of the "Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas" and subsequently the translation into English of its entire text, supported by copious annotations; the dissemination of newly translated texts from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, of the Báb, and of 'Abdu'l-Bahá; and more particularly the publication of the book entitled "The Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh"