The Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith
'ABDU'L-BAHA'S ASCENSION AND ITS CONSEQUENCES
The address of Major Tudor Pole, in London, was often used as the distributing point for cables and letters to the Bahá'ís. Shoghi Effendi himself, whenever he went up to London, usually called there. On November 29, 1921, at 9:30 in the morning the following cable reached that office:
Cyclometry London His Holiness 'Abdu'l-Bahá ascended Abha Kingdom. Inform friends.
In notes he made of this terrible event and its immediate repercussions Tudor Pole records that he immediately notified the friends by wire, telephone and letter. I believe he must have telephoned Shoghi Effendi, asking him to come at once to his office, but not conveying to him at that distance a piece of news which he well knew might prove too much of a shock. However this may be, at about noon Shoghi Effendi reached London, went to 61 St. James' Street (off Piccadilly and not far from Buckingham Palace) and was shown into the private office. Tudor Pole was not in the room at the moment but as Shoghi Effendi stood there his eye was caught by the name of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on the open cablegram lying on the desk and he read it. When Tudor Pole entered the room a moment later he found Shoghi Effendi in a state of collapse, dazed and bewildered by this catastrophic news. He was taken to the home of Miss Grand, one of the London believers, and put to bed there for a few days. Owing to passport difficulties Shoghi Effendi cabled Haifa he could not arrive until the end of the month. He sailed from England on December 16th, accompanied by Lady Blomfield and
Rouhangeze, and arrived in Haifa by train at 5:20 p.m. on December 29th, from Egypt where his boat from England had docked. Many friends went to the station to bring him home; it is reported he was so overcome on his arrival that he had to be assisted up the steps. Awaiting him in the house was the only person who could in any measure assuage his suffering — his beloved great-aunt, the sister of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. She had already — so frail, so quiet, so modest at all times — shown herself in these past weeks to be a strong rock to which the believers clung in the midst of the tempest that had so suddenly burst upon them. The calibre of her soul, her breeding, her station, fitted her for the role she played in the Cause and in Shoghi Effendi's life during this extremely difficult and dangerous period.
When 'Abdu'l-Bahá so unexpectedly and quietly passed away, after no serious illness, the distracted members of His family searched His papers to see if by chance He had left any instructions as to where He should be buried. Finding none they entombed Him in the centre of the three rooms adjacent to the inner Shrine of the Bab. They discovered His Will — which consists of three Wills written at different times and forming one document — addressed to Shoghi Effendi. It now became the painful duty of Shoghi Effendi to hear what was in it; a few days after his arrival they read it to him.
There is no doubt that the Greatest Holy Leaf, and probably a selected few of the Master's family knew, before Shoghi Effendi reached Haifa, the gist at least of what was in the Will because it had been examined to see if He had made any provisions for His own burial. That this is so is borne out by cables sent to the Persian and to the American believers, by the Greatest Holy Leaf, on December 21, 1921. The one to America read as follows: "Memorial meeting world over January seven. Procure prayers for unity and steadfastness. Master left full instructions in His Will and Testament. Translation will be sent. Inform friends." But the provisions of the Will were not made known until it was first read to Shoghi Effendi and, indeed, until it was officially read on January 3, 1922.
It was befitting that the Greatest Holy Leaf, and not Shoghi Effendi himself, should announce to the Bahá'í world the provisions of the Master's Will. On January 7th she sent two cables to Persia as follows: "Memorial meetings all over the world have been held. The Lord of all the worlds in His Will and Testament has revealed His instructions. Copy will be sent. Inform believers." and "Will and Testament forwarded Shoghi Effendi Centre Cause." On
January 16th she cabled: "In Will Shoghi Effendi appointed Guardian of Cause and Head of House of Justice. Inform American friends." In spite of the fact that from the very beginning Shoghi Effendi exhibited both a tactful and masterful hand in dealing with the problems that continually faced him, he leaned very heavily on the Greatest Holy Leaf, whose character, station and love for him made her at once his support and his refuge.
Immediately after these events Shoghi Effendi selected eight passages from the Will and circulated them among the Bahá'ís; only one of these referred to himself, was very brief and was quoted as follows: "O ye the faithful loved ones of 'Abdu'l-Bahá! It is incumbent upon you to take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi ... For he is, after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the guardian of the Cause of God, the Afnan, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause and the beloved of the Lord must obey him and turn unto him." Of all the thundering and tremendous passages in the Will referring to himself, Shoghi Effendi chose the least astounding and provocative to first circulate among the Bahá'ís. Guided and guiding he was from the very beginning.
These early years of his Guardianship must be seen as a continual process of being floored and rising to his feet again, often staggering from the terrible blows he had received, but game to the core. It was his love for 'Abdu'l-Bahá that always carried him through: "yet I believe," he cries out, "and firmly believe in His power, His guidance, His ever-living presence..." In a letter written in February 1922, to Nayyir Afnan, a nephew of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the agony of his soul is clearly reflected: "Your ... Letter reached me in the very midst of my sorrows, my cares and afflictions ... the pain, nay the anguish of His bereavement is so overwhelming, the burden of responsibility He has placed on my feeble and my youthful shoulders is so overwhelming..." He goes on to say: "I am enclosing for you personally the copy of the dear Master's Testament, you will read it and see what He had undergone at the hands of His kindred ... you will also see what a great responsibility He has placed on me which nothing short of the creative power of His word can help me to face..." This letter is not only indicative of his feelings but in view of the fact that the one he wrote it to belonged to those who had been the enemies of the Master in the days after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension and were of that breed of kindred He had so strongly denounced in His Will, shows how courageously Shoghi Effendi holds up the mirror of the past and at the same time
appeals for his support and loyalty in the new situation which exists.
His earliest letters reveal Shoghi Effendi's characteristic strength, wisdom and dignity. To one of the professors of the American University in Beirut he wrote, on March 19, 1922, clearly and unequivocally stating his own position: "Replying to your question as to whether I have been officially designated to represent the Bahá'í Community: 'Abdu'l-Bahá in his testament has appointed me to be the head of the universal council which is to be duly elected by national councils representative of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in different countries..."
It must not be thought, however, that the act of promulgating the Master's Will solved all problems and ushered in a new era in the Cause with the greatest of ease. Far from it. Before Shoghi Effendi reached Haifa the Greatest Holy Leaf had been obliged to cable America on December 14th: "Now is period of great tests. The friends should be firm and united in defending the Cause. Nakeseens [Covenant-breakers] starting activities through press other channels all over world. Select committee of wise cool heads to handle press propaganda in America."
One of the oldest and most staunch of the American believers wrote to Shoghi Effendi on January 18, 1922, less than two weeks after the public announcement of the provisions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will: "As you know we are having great troubles and sorrows with violators in the Cause in America. This poison has penetrated deeply among the friends..." In many reports, in great detail, accusations and facts poured in upon the newly-made Guardian. There was, of course, another aspect. With touching pure-heartedness and trust the Bahá'ís of East and West rallied round their young leader and poured out avowals of their love and loyalty: "We long to assist the Guardian in every way and our hearts are responsive to the burdens upon his young shoulders..."; "Word has reached us here in Washington that our beloved Master has placed the guidance and protection of the Holy Cause in your hands and that He named you as the head of the House of Justice. I write you these few lines responding with all my heart to the sacred instructions of our Beloved Lord and assuring all the support and fidelity of which I am capable..."; "Beloved of our beloved," he was addressed by two pillars of the Faith in America, "how our hearts sang with joy at the news that the Master had not left us comfortless but had made you, His beloved, the centre of the unity of His Cause, so that the hearts of all the friends may find peace and certainty."
"Our lives have been in utter darkness until the blessed cablegram of the Greatest Holy Leaf arrived with the first ray o r light, and that is your appointment by the Merciful Lord as our Guardian and our Head as well as the Guardian of the Cause of God and the Head of the House of Justice."; "Whatever the Guardian of the Cause wishes or advises these servants to do, that is likewise our desire and intention."
On January 16th the Guardian wrote his first letter to the Persian Bahá'ís, encouraging them to remain steadfast and protect the Faith and sharing with them in moving terms his grief at the passing of the beloved Master. On January 22nd Shoghi Effendi cabled the American Bahá'ís: "Holy Leaves comforted by Americans' unswerving loyalty and noble resolve. Day of steadfastness. Accept my loving cooperation." The day before he had written his first letter to them, beginning: "At this early hour when the morning light is just breaking upon the Holy Land, whilst the gloom of the dear Master's bereavement is still hanging thick upon the hearts, I feel as if my soul turns in yearning love and full of hope to that great company of His loved ones across the seas..." Already he has placed his hand on the tiller and sees the channels he must navigate clearly before him: "the broad and straight path of teaching", as he phrased it, unity, selflessness, detachment, prudence, caution, earnest endeavour to carry out the Master's wishes, awareness of His presence, shunning of the enemies of the Cause — these must be the goal and animation of the believers. Four days later he is writing his first letter to the Japanese Bahá'ís: "Despondent and sorrowful though I be in these darksome days, yet whenever I call to mind the hopes our departed Master so confidently reposed in the friends in that Far-Eastern land, hope revives within me and drives away the gloom of His bereavement. As His attendant and secretary for well nigh two years after the termination of the Great War, I recall so vividly the radiant joy that transfigured His face whenever I opened before Him your supplications..."
While Shoghi Effendi was thus occupied and was gathering his powers and beginning to write letters such as these to the Bahá'ís in different countries, he received the following letter from the High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, dated January 24, 1922:
Dear Mr. Rabbani,
thank you for the kind expression it contains.
However friendly its tone, it demanded on the part of His Majesty's Government to be informed of what was going on. And this is not the least surprising in view of the activities of Muhammad 'Ali. Shortly after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ascension, this disgruntled and perfidious half-brother had filed a claim, based on Islamic law (he who pretended he had still a right to be the successor of Bahá'u'lláh!) for a portion of the estate of 'Abdu'l-Bahá which he now claimed a right to as His brother. He had sent for his son, who had been living in America and agitating his father's claims there, to join him in this new and direct attack on the Master and His family. Not content with this exhibition of his true nature he applied to the civil authorities to turn over the custodianship of Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine to him on the grounds that he was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's lawful successor. The British authorities refused on the grounds that it appeared to be a religious issue; he then appealed to the Muslim religious head and asked the Mufti of 'Akka to take formal charge of Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine; this dignitary, however, said he did not see how he could do this as the Bahá'í teachings were not in conformity with Shari'ah law. All other avenues having failed he sent his younger brother, Badi'u'llah, with some of their supporters, to visit the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh where, on Tuesday, January 30th, they forcibly seized the keys of the Holy Tomb from the Bahá'í caretaker, thus asserting Muhammad 'Ali's right to be the lawful custodian of his father's resting-place. This unprincipled act created such a commotion in the Bahá'í Community that the Governor of 'Akka ordered the keys to be handed over to the authorities, posted guards at the Shrine, but went no further, refusing to return the keys to either party.
It does not require much imagination to conceive this was another terrible shock to Shoghi Effendi, the news arriving after dark, by a panting and excited messenger, all the believers aroused and distressed beyond words at the thought that for the first time in decades the Most Sacred Remains had fallen into the hands of the inveterate enemy of the Centre of His Covenant.
The situation in which Shoghi Effendi now found himself was truly crushing. Although the body of the believers was loyal, the Cause was being attacked from all sides by enemies emboldened by and rejoicing over the death of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
The strain of this was more than he could bear. He appointed a body of nine people to act tentatively as an Assembly and we find that on April 7, 1922, this body enters in its records that a letter has been received from the Greatest Holy Leaf in which she states that "the Guardian of the Cause of God, the Chosen Branch, the Leader of the people of Baha, Shoghi Effendi, under the weight of sorrows and boundless grief, has been forced to leave here for a while in order to rest and recuperate, and then return to the Holy Land to render his services and discharge his responsibilities." She goes on to say that in accordance with his letter, which she encloses, he has appointed her to administer, in consultation with the family of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and a chosen Assembly, all Bahá'í affairs during his absence. Shoghi Effendi had already left Haifa for Europe, on April 5th, accompanied by his eldest cousin.
On April 8th the Greatest Holy Leaf wrote a general letter to the friends. She first acknowledges the letters of allegiance they have sent and says Shoghi Effendi is counting upon their co-operation in spreading the Message; the Bahá'í world must from now on be linked through the Spiritual Assemblies and local questions must be referred to them. She then goes on to say: "Since the ascension of our Beloved 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi has been moved so deeply ... that he has sought the necessary quiet in which to meditate upon the vast task ahead of him, and it is to accomplish this that he has temporarily left these regions. During his absence he has appointed me as his representative, and while he is occupied in this great endeavour, the family of 'Abdu'l-Bahá is assured that you will all strive to advance triumphantly the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh..." The typewritten letter in English is signed in Persian "Bahá'íyyih" and sealed with her seal.
It all looked very calm on paper but behind it was a raging storm in the heart and mind of Shoghi Effendi. "He has gone", the
Greatest Holy Leaf wrote, "on a trip to various countries". He left with his cousin and went to Germany to consult doctors. I remember he told me they found he had almost no reflexes, which they considered very serious. In the wilderness, however, he found for himself a partial healing, as so many others had found before him. Some years later, in 1926, to Hippolyte Dreyfus, who had known him from childhood and whom he evidently felt he could be open with as an intimate friend, he wrote that his letter had reached him "on my way to the Bernese Oberland which has become my second home. In the fastnesses and recesses of its alluring mountains I shall try to forget the atrocious vexations which have afflicted me for so long ... It is a matter which I greatly deplore, that in my present state of health, I feel the least inclined to, and even incapable of, any serious discussion on these vital problems with which I am confronted and with which you are already familiar. The atmosphere in Haifa is intolerable and a radical change is impracticable. The transference of my work to any other centre is unthinkable, undesirable and in the opinion of many justly scandalous ... I cannot express myself more adequately than I have for my memory has greatly suffered."
In the early years after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's passing, although Shoghi Effendi often travelled about Europe with the restless interest of not only a young man but a man haunted by the ever-present, towering giants of his work and his responsibility, he returned again and again to those wild, high mountains and their lofty solitude. In spite of his withdrawal — for that is really what this first absence from the Holy Land amounted to — the forces Shoghi Effendi had set in motion were bearing fruit. One of the returning pilgrims informed the American Bahá'í Convention, held in April 1922, that: "our visit was at the summons of Shoghi Effendi. At Haifa we met Bahá'ís from Persia, India, Burma, Egypt, Italy, England and France ... On arrival the impression that came strongly over me was that God is in His Heaven and all is well with the world ... We met Shoghi Effendi, dressed entirely in black, a touching figure. Think of what he stands for today! All the complex problems of the great statesmen of the world are as child's play in comparison with the great problems of this youth, before whom are the problems of the entire world ... No one can form any conception of his difficulties, which are overwhelming ... the Master is not gone. His Spirit is present with greater intensity and power ... In the center of this radiation stands this youth, Shoghi Effendi.
The Spirit streams forth from this young man. He is indeed young in face, form and manner, yet his heart is the center of the world today. The character and spirit divine scintillate from him today. He alone can ... save the world and make true civilization. So humble, meek, selfless is he that it is touching to see him. His letters are a marvel. It is the great wisdom of God in granting us the countenance of this great central point of guidance to meet difficult problems. These problems, much like ours, come to him from all parts of the world. They are met and solved by him in the most informal way ... The great principles laid down by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá now have their foundation in the external world of God's Kingdom on earth. This foundation is being laid, sure and certain, by Shoghi Effendi in Haifa today."
Being by nature very methodical Shoghi Effendi in these early years kept fairly complete records and copies of letters sent; he lists 67 centres that he wrote to, East and West, during the months he was in the Holy Land in 1922. From December 16, 1922, to February 23, 1923 he records 132 places he wrote to, some more than once. In a letter dated December 16, 1922 he wrote: "... I shall now eagerly await the joyful tidings of the progress of the Cause and the extension of your activities and will spare no effort in sharing with the faithful, here and in other lands, the welcome news of the progressive march of the Cause." The correspondence of this period covers 21 countries and 67 cities, but he does not seem to have written to more than a score of individuals, many of whom were not Bahá'ís. The countries he corresponded with at the very outset of his ministry included Persia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Canada, Australia, Pacific Islands, Japan, India, Burma, Caucasus, Turkistan, Turkey, Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt.
In his first letter to the newly-elected National Assembly of America he writes, on December 23rd, that: "To have been unable, owing to unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances, to correspond with you ever since you entered upon your manifold and arduous duties is to me a cause of deep regret and sad surprise." These are the words of a man coming up from the depths of nightmare and reflect how deep had been the abyss of affliction into which he had fallen during the past year of his life. "I am however", he goes on to say, "assured and sustained by the conviction, never dimmed in my mind, that whatever comes to pass in the Cause of God, however disquieting in its immediate effects, is fraught with
infinite Wisdom and tends ultimately to promote its interests in the world."
In these early letters he invites the Assemblies to write to him, and he asks them to inform him of their "needs, wants and desires, their plans and their activities", so that he may "through my prayers and brotherly assistance contribute, however meagrely, to the success of their glorious mission in this world." He is deeply grateful for the manner in which "my humble suggestions" have been carried out, and assures the friends of his "never-failing brotherly assistance."
"I am now", Shoghi Effendi wrote to Tudor Pole in 1923, "fully restored to health and am intensely occupied with my work at present." Correspondence, however, was far from being his only activity; he was also "engaged in the service of the various pilgrims that visit in these days this sacred Spot." It was customary for him, in these early days of his ministry, to hold regular meetings in the home of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. In December 1922, five days after his return, he writes: "I have shared fully your news with those loving pilgrims and resident friends in the Holy Land whom I meet regularly in what was the audience chamber of the Master." These might be described as the more pleasant phases of his work in the discharge of his high office, though they exacted from him a great deal of time and energy. But what really burdened him beyond all endurance were the activities of the Covenant-breakers. It was, in Shoghi Effendi's own words, "amidst the heat and dust which the attacks launched by a sleepless enemy precipitated" that he had to carry on his work.
The position of the Faith necessitated the cultivation of careful relations with the Mandatory authorities. 'Abdu'l-Bahá had been well known and highly esteemed, though it is unlikely that anyone in Palestine had the faintest inkling of the vast implications of the "Movement", as it was so often referred to in the early days, of which they accepted Him as Head. On December 19, 1922 Shoghi Effendi had wired to the High Commissioner for Palestine in Jerusalem: "Pray accept my best wishes and kind regards on my return to Holy Land and resumption of my official duties." As there must have been a considerable buzz of gossip, ardently fed no doubt by the Covenant-breakers, about his eight months' withdrawal, this was a carefully calculated move on Shoghi Effendi's part as well as an act of courtesy.
The matter which concerned Shoghi Effendi most, however, was
the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji. The keys of the inner Tomb were still held by the authorities; the right of access to other parts of the Shrine was accorded Bahá'ís and Covenant-breakers alike; the Bahá'í custodian looked after it as before, and any decision seemed in a state of abeyance. Shoghi Effendi never rested until, through representations he made to the authorities, backed by insistent pressure from Bahá'ís all over the world, he succeeded in getting the custody of the Holy Tomb back into his own hands. On February 7, 1923, he wrote to Tudor Pole: "I have had a long talk with Col. Symes and have fully explained to him the exact state of affairs, the unmistakable and overwhelming voice of all the Bahá'í Community and their unshakeable determination to stand by the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Recently he sent a message to Muhammad 'Ali requiring from him the sum of 108 for the expenses of the policeman, contending that he being the aggressor is liable to this expense. So far he has not complied with this request and I await future developments with great anxiety."
The following day Shoghi Effendi received this telegram from his cousin, who was in Jerusalem:
His Eminence Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, Haifa.
The letter referred to was one written by Sir Gilbert Clayton, Chief Secretary of the Palestine Administration, to the High Commissioner. Shoghi Effendi, in another letter to Tudor Pole, informed him that he was on very warm terms with the Governor of Haifa, Col. G. Stewart Symes and had met Sir Gilbert; it was no doubt due to these contacts that the authorities decided in favour of the Guardian and the key was officially returned to the legitimate Bahá'í keeper of the Shrine, from whom it had been wrested by force over a year before.
Though the safety of the Qiblih of the Bahá'í world was now assured once and for all time, the house Bahá'u'lláh had occupied in Bagdad was still in the hands of the Shi'ah enemies of the Faith, and continues to be so until the present day; the battle to get it back into Bahá'í custody was to worry and to exercise Shoghi Effendi for many years.
Every time one goes into the details of any particular period in the Guardian's life one is tempted to say, "this was the worst
period", so fraught with strain, problems, unbearable pressures was his entire ministry. But there is a pattern, there are themes, higher and lower points were reached. The pattern of 1922, 1923 and 1924 reveals itself, insofar as his personal life is concerned, as an heroic attempt to come to grips with this leviathan — the Cause of God — he had been commanded to bestride.
With the passing of 1923 one could almost say that the winged Guardian emerged from the chrysalis of youth, a new being; the wings may not yet be fully stretched, but their beat gains steadily in sweep and assurance as the years go by until, in the end, they truly cast a shadow over all mankind. In his early writings one sees this mastery unfolding, in style, in thought, in power. Let us pick certain facts and quotations at random and see how clearly they substantiate this evolution that was taking place. From the very beginning he turned to the believers, with that inimitable trusting and confiding touch that won all hearts, and asked them to pray for him, that he might, in collaboration with them, achieve the "speedy triumph of the Cause of God" in every land. His questions are challenging, his thoughts incisive: "Are we to be carried away by the flood of hollow and conflicting ideas, or are we to stand, unsubdued and unblemished, upon the everlasting rock of God's Divine Instructions?"; "... are we to believe that whatever befalls us is divinely ordained, and in no wise the result of our faint-heartedness and negligence?" Already in 1923 he sees the world and the Cause as two distinct things, not to be mixed up in our minds into one sentimental and haphazard lump. The Will of God he asserts is "at variance with the shadowy views, the impotent doctrines, the crude theories, the idle imaginings, the fashionable conceptions of a transient and troublous age."
Shoghi Effendi's interest in the Pacific and his awareness of the future development of the Cause in that area is manifested in the first years of his Guardianship. He wrote to the Pacific Islands, in delightfully romantic terms, in January 1923, that "their very names evoke within us so high a sense of hope and admiration that the passing of time and the vicissitudes of life can never weaken or remove", and addressed a letter in January 1924 "To the dearly-beloved ones of 'Abdu'l-Bahá throughout Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and the adjoining islands of the Pacific. Friends and heralds of the Kingdom of Bahá'u'lláh! A fresh breeze laden with the perfume of your love and devotion to our beloved Cause was wafted again from your distant Southern shores to the Holy
Land and has served to remind us one and all of that unquenchable spirit of service and self-sacrifice which the passing of our Beloved has in these days kindled in almost every corner of the world."
The words he wrote to one of the American Assemblies in December 1923 sound almost like a soliloquy: "The inscrutable wisdom of God has so decreed that we, who are the chosen bearers of the world's greatest Message to suffering humanity, should toil and promote our work under the most trying conditions of life, amidst unhelpful surroundings, and in the face of unprecedented trials, and without means, influence or support, achieve, steadily and surely, the conquest and regeneration of human hearts." Many of these early letters to various Spiritual Assemblies have this quality, not of disquisition, but of voicing his own innermost considerations. That same month he wrote: "... True, the progress of our work, when compared to the sensational rise and development of an earthly cause, has been painful and slow, yet we firmly believe and shall never doubt that the great spiritual Revolution which the Almighty is causing to be accomplished, through us, in the hearts of men is destined to achieve, steadily and surely, the complete regeneration of all mankind. "; "However great our tribulation may be, however unexpected the miseries of life, let us bear in mind the life He [the Master] has led before us, and, inspired and grateful, let us bear our burden with steadfastness and fortitude, that in the world to come, in the divine Presence of our loving Comforter, we may receive His true consolation and reward of our labours..."; "Whatever may befall us, and however dark the Prospect of the future may appear, if we but play our part we may rest confident that the Hand of the Unseen is at work, shaping and moulding the events and circumstances of the world and paving the way for the ultimate realization of our aims and hopes for mankind. "; "Our primary duty is to create by our words and deeds, our conduct and example, the atmosphere in which the seeds of the words of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá cast so profusely during well-nigh eighty years, may germinate and give forth those fruits that alone can assure peace and prosperity to this distracted world. "; "... Let us arise to teach His Cause with righteousness, conviction, understanding and vigour ... Let us make it the dominating passion of our life. Let us scatter to the uttermost corners of the earth, sacrifice our personal interests, comforts, tastes and pleasures, mingle with the divers kindreds and peoples of the world; familiarize ourselves with their manners, traditions, thoughts and customs". The tone of some of
these sounds like his great messages during the prosecution of the Divine Plan, but they were written in the winter of 1923-1924. He had set himself the task of seeing that the Faith emerged into "the broad daylight of universal recognition", a term he used that same year.
Steeped in the Teachings from his infancy, privileged to hear, read and write so many of the Master's words during his youth, Shoghi Effendi firmly guided the friends in East and West along their destined course. Already in March 1922, in one of his first letters to the American believers, he had stated: "the friends of God the world over are strictly forbidden to meddle with political affairs". He is using the term "pioneer", in his earliest letters, and in 1925 is keeping a list of Bahá'í centres throughout the world!
In spite of what he described as the "thorny path of my arduous duties", in spite of the "oppressive burden of responsibility and care which it is my lot and privilege to shoulder", he was clear in expressing and brilliant in understanding the needs of the Cause and the tasks facing the believers. He was equally clear in defining what relationship he wished the Bahá'ís to have with him and in what manner they should regard him. On February 6, 1922 he wrote to one of the Persian Bahá'ís: "I wish to be known, to realize myself however far I may proceed in future, as one and only one of the many workers in His Vineyards ... whatever may betide I trust in His ['Abdu'l-Bahá's] wondrous love for me. May I in no wise by my deeds, thoughts or words, impede the stream of His sustaining Spirit which I sorely need in facing the responsibilities He has placed on my youthful shoulders..." and on March 5th he added the following postscript to a letter to the American friends: "May I also express my heartfelt desire that the friends of God in every land regard me in no other light but that of a true brother, united with them in our common servitude to the Master's Sacred Threshold, and refer to me in their letters and verbal addresses always as Shoghi Effendi, for I desire to be known by no other name save the one our Beloved Master was wont to utter, a name which of all other designations is the most conducive to my spiritual growth and advancement." In 1924 he cabled India clearly and succinctly: "My birthday should not be commemorated". In 1930 his secretary wrote on his behalf: "Concerning Shoghi Effendi's station: he surely has none except what the Master confers upon him in His Will and that Will also states what Shoghi Effendi's station is. If anyone misinterprets one part of the Will he misinterprets all the
Will." When Shoghi Effendi wrote the general letter known as The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh he made clear, once-for-all, his own position, disassociating himself categorically from the prerogatives and station Bahá'u'lláh had conferred upon 'Abdu'l-Bahá: "In the light of this truth to pray to the Guardian of the Faith, to address him as lord and master, to designate him as his holiness, to seek his benediction, to celebrate his birthday, or to commemorate any event associated with his life would be tantamount to a departure from those established truths that are enshrined within our beloved Faith." In 1945 his secretary wrote on his behalf: "... he has never gone so far as to forbid the friends to have pictures of himself in their possession; he merely would rather they placed the emphasis on the beloved Master."