The Priceless Pearl
THE CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH OF SHOGHI EFFENDI
Salutation and praise, blessing and glory rest upon that primal branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree, grown out, blest, tender, verdant and flourishing from the Twin Holy Trees; the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin Surging Seas.Like a cloud-break in a stormy sky these words, even as a mighty shaft of sunlight, broke through the gloom and tempest of dangerous years and shone from on high upon a small boy, the grandson of a prisoner of the Sultan of Turkey, living in the prison-city of Akka in the Turkish province of Syria. The words were written by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the first part of His Will and Testament and referred to His eldest grandchild, Shoghi Effendi.
Although already appointed the hereditary successor of his grandfather, neither the child, nor the ever-swelling host of followers of Bahá'u'lláh throughout the world, were made aware of this fact. In the Orient, where the principle of lineal descent is well understood and accepted as the normal course of events, there was hope no doubt, that even as Bahá'u'lláh Himself had demonstrated the validity of this mysterious and great principle of primogeniture, so would 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His son and successor, do likewise. Many years before His passing, in answer to a question from some Persian believers as to whether there would be one person to whom all should turn after His death, 'Abdu'l-Bahá had written: "...Know verily that this is a well-guarded secret. It is even as a gem concealed within its shell. That it will be revealed is predestined. The time will come when its light will appear, when its evidences will be made manifest, and its secrets unravelled."
More light is thrown on this subject by the diary of Dr Yunis [page 2] Khan, who spent three months in Akka with 'Abdu'l-Bahá during 1897, and returned in 1900 for a stay of many years. From his words we infer that, perhaps due to news having reached the West that a grandson had been born to the Master, a believer in America had written to Him that in the Bible is mentioned that after 'Abdu'l-Bahá "a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6) and does this mean a real, live child who exists? Dr Yunis Khan was not aware, in 1897, that this question had been put and that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had revealed the following Tablet in answer to it:
O Maidservant of God!It may seem surprising that such an important Tablet was not known in the East but we must remember that there was practically no contact between the Bahá'ís of the West and East in those days and Tablets were circulated among the American friends by copy or word of mouth. When Yunis Khan received a letter from America, at a time when the dark clouds of Covenant-breaking were gathering ever thicker about the Master, he was therefore wholly unaware of the background which might have brought about the question this friend now asked him to put to 'Abdu'l-Bahá; indeed he states in his diary that it was not until many years later he heard of this Tablet's existence. Yunis Khan writes: "'Abdu'l-Bahá was walking in front of the khan [the building where many believers used to stay in Akka]; I approached and told Him 'someone has written to me from America that we have heard the Master has said that the one whose appearance will follow me has recently been born and is in this world. If this is so we are answered, but if this is not so then -?" After waiting a moment, with a look full of meaning and secret exaltation, He said: 'Yes, this is true.' Hearing this glad tidings my soul rejoiced; I felt assured that the Covenant-breaking will come to naught and the Cause of God triumph throughout the world and this world become the mirror of the heavenly world. However, to understand [page 3] what He meant by 'appearance', as we Bahá'ís conceive its meaning, was very difficult for me, and remained in my mind a mystery; seeking further information I thereupon asked Him: 'Does this mean a revelation?' If He had replied with 'yes' or 'no' this would have created more complications and aroused more questions, but fortunately His answer was conclusive and such as to silence any questioner, and in even clearer words He said: "The triumph of the Cause of God is in his hands!'" Yunis Khan then goes on to state that he wrote this answer to the believer in America but did not share it for many years with anyone and even in his own mind refused to contemplate its implications or ask himself if that child was in Akka or somewhere else. He explains this reserved attitude on his part as due to the words of Bahá'u'lláh in the book of His Covenant in which He says that all eyes must be focused on the Centre of the Covenant ('Abdu'l-Bahá), and to the defections, machinations and mischief which for two generations disrupted the family of the Manifestation of God.
In another part of his diary Yunis Khan describes his first glimpse of the Master's eldest grandson: "For many days the occupants of the Pilgrim House had begged the Afnan [Shoghi Effendi's father] to see Shoghi Effendi. One day, unexpectedly, this child of four months was brought to the biruni [reception room of the Master]. The believers approached him with joy and I too had this privilege, but I said to myself 'only look upon him as a Bahá'í child'. However I could not control my feelings because an inner force obliged me to bow low before him and for a moment I was bewitched by the beauty of this suckling child. I kissed the soft hair of his head and sensed such a power in him that I can find no words to express it, but only say he looked like the babe one sees in the arms of the Blessed Virgin. For several days the face of this child was before me, then gradually I forgot it. Two other times I had these same feelings, once when he was nine years old and once when he was eleven years old."
Yunis Khan also records that after he had observed in Shoghi Effendi's babyhood and early childhood inner and outer evidences of his great spirituality and unique character he could contain himself no longer and confided to an old and trustworthy believer those memorable words he had heard from 'Abdu'l-Bahá regarding a child in whose hands would be the triumph of the Cause of God.
Be this at it may, the fact remains that until the Master passed away in November 1921, and His Will and Testament was found [page 4] in His safe and opened and read, no one in the Bahá'í world knew that Shoghi Effendi was the "unique pearl", and just how unique and glorious a pearl it was that 'Abdu'l-Bahá left behind Him no one really understood until November 1957 it was recalled to the Seas from which it had been born. On the 27th day of Ramadan, 1314 of the Muslim calendar, Shoghi Effendi was born. This was Sunday, 1 March 1897 of the Gregorian calendar. These dates have been found in one of Shoghi Effendi's notebooks which he kept during his boyhood, written in his own hand. He was the eldest grandchild and first grandson of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, born of His eldest daughter, Diya'iyyih "Khanum, and her husband Mirza Hadi "Shirazi, one the Afnans and a relative of the Bab. He was invariably addressed by his grandfather as "Shoghi Effendi"; indeed, He gave instructions that he should at all times have the "Effendi" added and even told Shoghi Effendi's own father he must address him thus and not merely as "Shoghi". The word "Effendi" signifies "sir" or "mister" and is added as a term of respect; for the same reason ""Khanum", which means "lady" or "madame", is added to a woman's name. At the time of Shoghi Effendi's birth 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His family were still prisoners of the Sultan of Turkey, Abdu'l Hamid; it was not until the revolution of the Young Turks, in 1908, and the consequent release of political prisoners, that they were freed from an exile and bondage that, for Him and His sister at least, had lasted for over forty years. In 1897 they were all living in a house known as that of Abdullah Pasha, a stone's throw from the great Turkish military barracks where Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and the company of believers who were with Them, had been incarcerated when they first landed in Akka in 1868. It was in this home that the first group of pilgrims from the Western World visited the Master in the winter of 1898-9, and many more of the early believers of the West; travelling along the beach in an omnibus drawn by three horses they would proceed from Haifa to Akka, enter the fortified walls of the prison-city, and be welcomed as His guests for a few days in that house. It was from this home that 'Abdu'l-Bahá left to reside in freedom in Haifa, twelve miles away on the other side of the Bay of Akka. Entering through a passage across which the upper story of the building ran, one came upon a small enclosed garden where grew flowers, fruit trees and a few tall palms, and in one corner of which a long stairway ran up to the upper floor and opened on an inner, unroofed court from which doors led to various [page 5] rooms and to a long corridor giving access to other chambers.
To catch even a glimpse of what must have transpired in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's heart when this first grandson was born to Him at the age of fifty-three, one must remember that He had already lost more than one son, the dearest and most perfect of them, Husayn, a beautiful and very dignified little boy, having passed away when only a few years old. Of the four surviving daughters of 'Abdu'l-Bahá three were to bear Him thirteen grandchildren, but it was this oldest one who bore witness to the saying "the child is the secret essence of its sire", not to be taken to mean in this case the heritage of his own father, but rather that he was sired by the Prophets of God and inherited the nobility of this grandfather 'Abdu'l-Bahá. The depths of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's feelings at this time are reflected in His own words in which he clearly states that the name Shoghi - literally "the one who longs" - was conferred by God upon this grandson:
...O God! This is a branch sprung from the tree of Thy mercy. Through Thy grace and bounty enable him to grown and through the showers of Thy generosity cause him to become a verdant, flourishing, blossoming and fruitful branch. Gladden the eyes of his parents, Thou Who giveth to whomsoever Thou willest, and bestow upon him the name Shoghi so that he may yearn for Thy Kingdom and soar into the realms of the unseen!By the signs Shoghi Effendi showed from earliest childhood and by his unique nature, he twined himself ever more deeply into the roots of the Master's heart. We are fortunate, indeed, to possess, from one the earliest western believers, Ella Goodall Cooper, her own account of a meeting she witnessed between 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi at the time of her pilgrimage in March 1899, in the house of Abdullah Pasha:
One day...I had joined the ladies of the Family in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf for early morning tea, the beloved Master was sitting in His favorite corner of the divan where, through the window on His right, He could look over the ramparts and see the blue Mediterranean beyond. He was busy writing Tablets, and the quiet peace of the room was broken only by the bubble of the samovar, where one of the young maidservants, sitting on the floor before it, was brewing the tea.How great must have been the struggle of the grandfather to keep within bounds His love for this child lest the very blaze of that love endanger his life through the hatred and envy of His many enemies, ever seeking an Achilles heel to bring about His downfall. Many times when Shoghi Effendi spoke of the past and of 'Abdu'l-Bahá I felt not only how boundless and consuming had been his own love for the Master, but that he had been aware of the fact that 'Abdu'l-Bahá leashed and veiled the passion of His love for him in order to protect him and to safeguard the Cause of God from its enemies.
Shoghi Effendi was a small, sensitive, intensely active and mischievous child. He was not very strong in his early years and his mother often had cause to worry over his health. However, he grew up to have an iron constitution, which, coupled with the phenomenal force of his nature and will-power, enabled him in later years to overcome every obstacle in his path. The first photographs we have of him show a peaky little face, immense eyes and a firm, beautifully shaped chin which in his childhood gave a slightly elongated and heart-shaped appearance to his face. Already in these earliest pictures one sees a sadness, a wistfulness, a haunting predilection for suffering that is like a shadow on the wall - the shadow of a child magnified to the stature of a man. Fine-boned, even as a mature man, shorter than his grandfather had been, Shoghi Effendi was more akin physically to his great-grandfather, Bahá'u'lláh. He told me himself that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf, would sometimes take his hand in hers and [page 7] say "These are like the hands of my father". They were what I call intellectual hands, more square than tapering, strong, nervous, the veins standing out, very expressive in their gestures, very assured in their motions. Amelia Collins, who lived in Haifa many years, always said that to her all the suffering of the Guardian's life was reflected in those hands. His eyes were of that deceptive hazel colour that sometimes led people who did not have the opportunity to look into them as often as I did to think they were brown or blue. The truth is they were a clear hazel which sometimes changed to a warm and luminous grey. I have never seen such an expressive face and eyes as those of the Guardian; every shade of feeling and thought was mirrored in his visage as light and shadow are reflected on water. When he was happy and enthusiastic over something he had a peculiar habit of opening his eyes wide enough to let the upper rim of the iris show and this always made me think of two beautiful suns rising above the horizon, so brilliant and sparkling was their expression. Indignation, anger and sorrow could be equally clearly reflected in them, and alas, he had cause to show these too in his life, so beset with problems and sorrows. His feet were as beautiful as his hands, small like them, high arched, and giving that same impression of strength.
It may sound disrespectful to say the Guardian was a mischievous child, but he himself told me he was the acknowledged ringleader of all the other children. Bubbling with high spirits, enthusiasm and daring, full of laughter and wit, the small boy lead the way in many pranks; whenever something was afoot, behind it would be found Shoghi Effendi! This boundless energy was often a source of anxiety as he would rush madly up and down the long flight of high steps to the upper story of the house, to the consternation of the pilgrims below, waiting to meet the Master. His exuberance was irrepressible and was in the child the same force that was to make the man such an untiring and unflinching commander-in-chief of the forces of Bahá'u'lláh, leading them to victory after victory, indeed, to the spiritual conquest of the entire globe. We have a very reliable witness to this characteristic of the Guardian, 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself, Who wrote on a used envelope a short sentence to please His little grandson: "Shoghi Effendi is a wise man - but he runs about very much!"
It must not be inferred, however, that Shoghi Effendi was mannerless. Children in the East - how much more the children of 'Abdu'l-Bahá - were taught courtesy and manners from the [page 8] cradle. Bahá'u'lláh's family was descended from kings and the family tradition, entirely apart from His divine teachings which enjoin courtesy as obligatory, ensured that a noble conduct and politeness would distinguish Shoghi Effendi from his babyhood.
In those days of Shoghi Effendi's childhood it was the custom to rise about dawn and spend the first hour of the day in the Master's room, where prayers were said and the family all had breakfast with Him. The children sat on the floor, their legs folded under them, they would chant for 'Abdu'l-Bahá; there was no shouting or unseemly conduct. Breakfast consisted of tea, brewed on the bubbling Russian brass samovar and served in little crystal glasses, very hot and very sweet, pure wheat bread and goat's milk cheese. Dr Zia Baghdadi, an intimate of the family, in his recollections of these days records that Shoghi Effendi was always the first to get up and be on time - after receiving one good chastisement from no other hand than that of his grandfather!
He also tells us the story of Shoghi Effendi's first Tablet from 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Dr Baghdadi states that when Shoghi Effendi was only five years old he was pestering the Master to write something for him, whereupon 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote this touching and revealing letter in His own hand:
He is God! O My Shoghi, I have no time to talk, leave me alone! You said "write" - I have written. What else should be done? Now is not the time for you to read and write, it is the time for jumping about and chanting "O My God!", therefore memorize the prayers of the Blessed Beauty and chant them that I may hear them, because there is no time for anything else.It seems that when this wonderful gift reached the child he set himself to memorize a number of Bahá'u'lláh's prayers and would chant them so loudly that the entire neighbourhood could hear his voice; when his parents and other members of the Master's family remonstrated with him, Shoghi Effendi replied, according to Dr Baghdadi, "The Master wrote to me to chant that He may hear me! I am doing my best!" and he kept on chanting at the top of his voice for many hours every day. Finally his parents begged the Master to stop him, but He told them to let Shoghi Effendi alone. This was one aspect of the small boy's chanting. We are told there was another: he had memorized some touching passages written by 'Abdu'l-Bahá after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh and when he [page 9] chanted these the tears would roll down the earnest little face. From another source we are told that when the Master was requested by a western friend, at that time living in His home, to reveal a prayer for children He did so, and the first to memorize it and chant it was Shoghi Effendi who would also chant it in the meetings of the friends.
The childhood nurse of Shoghi Effendi used to recount that when he was still a baby the Master was wont to call one of the Muslims who chanted in the mosque to come at least once a week and chant to the child, in his melodious voice, the sublime verses of the Qur'an. The Master Himself, the Guardian's mother and many others in the household had fine voices. All of this must have deeply affected Shoghi Effendi, who continued to chant to the end of his life. He had an indescribable, full voice, neither very high nor very low, clear, with a beautiful cadence in speaking, whether in English or Persian. To me it always had that lamenting quality of a dove that coos to itself alone on the branches of a tree. It used to wring my heart - that something sad and plaintive under the assured, swelling tones of the chanting, and the strange thing was the marked difference in the quality of his voice when, after chanting in the Bab's Shrine, he would go into the Master's Shrine and recite there the prayer of 'Abdu'l-Bahá "Lowly and tearful I raise my suppliant hands..." Into the Guardian's voice would come a tenderness and longing that one did not hear anywhere else; this distinction never failed, never changed, was always there.
In his recollections of those early years one of the Bahá'ís has written that one day Shoghi Effendi entered the Master's room, took up His pen and tried to write. 'Abdu'l-Bahá drew him to His side, tapped him gently on the shoulder and said "Now is not the time to write, now is the time to play, you will write a lot in the future." Nevertheless the desire of the child to learn led to the formation of classes in the Master's household for the children, taught by an old Persian believer. I know that at one time in his childhood, most likely while he was still living in Akka, Shoghi Effendi and other grandchildren were taught by an Italian, who acted as governess or teacher; a grey-haired elderly lady, she came to call shortly after I was married.
Although these early years of Shoghi Effendi's life were spent in the prison-city of Akka, enclosed within its moats and walls, its two gates guarded by sentries, this does not mean he had no occasion [page 10] to move about. He must have often gone to the homes of the Bahá'ís living inside the city, to the khan where the pilgrims stayed, to the Garden of Ridvan and to Bahji. Many times he was the delighted companion of his grandfather on these excursions. We are told that sometimes he spent the night in Bahji in the house now used as a pilgrim house; 'Abdu'l-Bahá would Himself come and tuck him in bed, remarking "I need him." He also was taken to Beirut, the only large city in the entire area and one often visited by members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family. Dr Baghdadi recounts how, on one of these visits when Shoghi Effendi, a child of five or six years of age, accompanied his parents, the Greatest Holy Leaf and other members of the family there, he spent most of his time in Dr Baghdadi's room, looking at the pictures in his medical books and asking questions. It seems Shoghi Effendi wanted to see something actually dissected; he was not satisfied with just pictures. This zeal for knowledge (and no doubt those large eyes, so insistent and intelligent) quite won over the young medical student who had a victim provided - a large wildcat - and proceeded to cut it up in front of Shoghi Effendi, one of his aunts and the servant who had shot it. They watched in absorbed silence. When it was over, and Dr Baghdadi was asking himself how such a small child could have understood what it was all about, he was astonished to hear Shoghi Effendi recapitulating word for word the salient points of what he had described during his dissection. "I said to myself," Dr Baghdadi then writes, "this is not an ordinary child, verily this is a precious and darling angel!" As one of Shoghi Effendi's subjects in 1916 was zoology, he must have recalled his first early lesson in anatomy. Dr Baghdadi goes on to recount that, in addition to this great capacity to learn, Shoghi Effendi had a heart so tender and a nature so sweet that if he had offended any playmate - even though he would never do so unless the child had cheated or schemed - he would not go to sleep before he had embraced him and left him happy; he always urged his little companions to make up their differences before they went to bed.
Shoghi Effendi was sometimes subject to vivid and significant dreams, both pleasant and unpleasant. It is reported that in his babyhood he woke one night crying and the Master told his nurse to bring Shoghi Effendi to Him so that He could comfort him; the Master said to His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf, "See, already he has dreams!"
There are very few records of what any non-Bahá'í may have [page 11] thought of this grandson of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. One of them, however, deserves to be quoted at some length. It is the reminiscences of a German woman physician, Dr J. Fallscheer, who lived in Haifa and attended the ladies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's household. It should be borne in mind that her highly interesting account was not set down until at least eleven years after the event she relates, but nevertheless it has great significance:
When I returned to my house, on August 6, 1910, from a professional visit on Mt. Carmel our old servant Hadtschile said to me: "Just now a servant of Abbas Effendi was here and said that the doctor should come at 'asser' (3 o'clock) to the ladies quarters of the Master as one of the maids has a very bad finger." I did not very much like to start my visits so early on Saturday afternoon. But as I knew the Master would never call me out of hours without some urgent reason I decided to go on time...When it was all over, finger, hand and arm bandaged and put in a sling, Behia Khanum sent the little sufferer to bed and invited me to take refreshment with her and the ladies of the household. As we were sipping coffee and talking Turkish, which was easier for me than Arabic, a servant came and said: "Abbas Effendi wants the doctor to come to Him in the selamlik (drawing room) before she leaves"...The Master asked me to report to Him how the finger of the young girl was and if the danger of blood poisoning has passed. I could give Him a reassuring report. At this moment the son-in-law (the husband of the eldest daughter of Abbas Effendi), entered the room, evidently for the purpose of taking leave of the Master. At first I did not notice that behind the tall, dignified man his eldest son Shoghi Effendi, had entered the room and greeted his venerable grandfather with the oriental kiss on the hand. I had already seen the child fleetingly on a few other occasions. Behia Khanum had recently informed me that this young boy of perhaps twelve years of age was the oldest direct male descendant of the family of the Prophet and destined to be the only successor and representative (vazir) of the Master. As Abbas Effendi spoke in Persian regarding some matter to Abu Shoghi (the father of Shoghi Effendi), who was standing in front of Him, the grandson, after greeting us politely and also kissing the hand of his great aunt, remained near the door in a most respectful attitude. At this moment a number of Persian gentlemen entered the room and greetings and leave-takings, comings and goings, took place for a quarter of an hour. Behia Khanum and I withdrew to the right near the window and in lowered voices continued our conversation in Turkish. However, I never removed my eyes from the still very youthful grandson of Abbas Effendi. He was dressed in European summer clothes, with short pants but long stockings [page 12] that came up above his knees and a short jacket. From his height and build one would have taken him to be thirteen or fourteen...In the still childish face the dark, already mature, melancholy eyes struck me at once. The boy remained motionless in his place and submissive in his attitude. After his father and the man with him had taken their leave of the Master, his father whispered something to him as he went out, whereupon the youth, in a slow and measured manner, like a grown up person, approached his beloved grandfather, waited to be addressed, answered distinctly in Persian and was laughingly dismissed, not however, without being first permitted the respectful kiss on the hand. I was impressed by the way the youth walked backwards as he left the room, and how his dark, true-hearted eyes never for a moment wavered from the blue, magical glance of his grandfather.As many years later 'Abdu'l-Bahá requested His friend, Lord Lamington, a distinguished Scottish peer and a man who deeply respected and admired Him, to use his good offices in getting Shoghi Effendi admitted to a college in Oxford University it is not impossible that He mentioned such a plan to Dr Fallscheer, but, of course, we have no corroborative evidence to support her words.
When 'Abdu'l-Bahá first moved into the new home in Haifa (which was in use by members of His family in February 1907, if not earlier) the rooms were occupied by all the members of His family; eventually the families of two of His daughters moved to homes of their own near His, but the house was always crowed with relatives, children, servants, pilgrims and guests. In later years, when Shoghi Effendi was home from school, his room was a small one next to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's. As electricity was not installed until just before 'Abdu'l-Bahá passed away and not connected until after His ascension the family used lamps. Many times the Master would see Shoghi Effendi's light still shining late at night and get up and go to his door, saying "Enough! Enough! Go to sleep!" But this serious-mindedness of Shoghi Effendi pleased Him greatly. The Guardian told me once the Master came to him in the drawing room, where he was working, and stood and looked out of the window into the garden, His back to Shoghi Effendi; the laughing and chattering voices of the family could be heard in another room. 'Abdu'l-Bahá turned to Shoghi Effendi and said "I [page 14] do not want you to be like them - worldly." Another time, Shoghi Effendi told me, he remembered the Master turning to His wife and saying "Look at his eyes, they are like clear water." Shoghi Effendi also recalled how the Master, Who had evidently been standing in a window facing the main gate, had observed Shoghi Effendi enter briskly and come up the steps. He sent for him and told him: "Don't walk like that, walk with dignity!" This was at the time when Shoghi Effendi was already grown up and serving the Master in many capacities. In those days before he left for England, he wore long robes, a sash or cummerbund and a red fez on his head. Photographs often show this pushed well back on his head, a wave of his soft dark brown, almost black hair showing, his forehead wide and unfurrowed, his face filled out and always the beautiful, firm chin and large eyes that gave the impression of being dark. He had a mouth which had the peculiar characteristic of the lower lip appearing to be almost like an imprint of the upper one, both distinctly red in hue. After his boyhood he always were a small, trim dark moustache.
Before the Master undertook His journeys to the West the household was much more oriental in its habits. Gradually some western habits were introduced when He returned. I have recorded the following in my diary: "Shoghi Effendi has just been giving me a very vivid sketch of lunch time in the Master's days. He says that about 11 A.M. the Master would come into the big hall and ask AM Quli 'Saat chaneh? [What time is it?] The function of Am Quli was to give the time. The maids would place a cloth on the floor of the old tea room and bowl in from the corridor, where it was kept, a huge round table with low legs; this they placed on the cloth and on this they put some of the old type plates of metal [probably enamel] and some spoons - never enough to go round, just at random - they also would scatter bread over the table and at the top place a few napkins...The Master would enter and seat Himself and call 'biya benshnid' [come and sit down] to whoever was there - His sons-in-law, His uncle, His cousin, etc., etc...and He would eat, sometimes with a spoon, sometimes with His hand. He would also sometimes serve the others, rice etc., with His own hand. When He was about half through "Khanum [the Greatest Holy Leaf] would come in from the kitchen and change her slippers at the entrance of the corridor...and with a plate of tit-bits go and sit by the Master; her place was always kept for her. Gradually some of the others would come, women guests, children, the [page 15] daughters of the Master, etc. [The Master and the men having eaten first would leave the room.] Shoghi Effendi says then bedlam would break out, the children crying, shouting, everyone talking, general confusion. He says what the grandchildren used to watch for [himself included] was the mouthful of "Khanum's food that she would give to this or that one as it always tasted best. They called it 'the mouthful of "Khanum'; the Guardian usually got it as he was a favorite of hers! After the ladies of the household had eaten the women servants would all sit at the same table and eat... After the Master returned from the West gradually more western ways of eating were introduced, china, chairs, cutlery and so on."
But let us return to Akka and the earlier years of Shoghi Effendi. Although there is no doubt that 'Abdu'l-Bahá did everything to ensure Shoghi Effendi had as happy and carefree a childhood as possible, it must have been out of the question to hide from so sensitive and intelligent a child the fact that great dangers threatened his beloved grandfather in those years immediately preceding the overthrow of the Sultan of Turkey. The visits of Turkish authorities, sent to investigate the poisonous accusations against 'Abdu'l-Bahá made by the Covenant-breakers, their constant machinations against His very life, the threat of separation and a new exile to Libya, must have created an atmosphere of anxiety and great tension in the Master's family and cannot have left Shoghi Effendi untouched. It was a time of violent Covenant-breaking; the community of believers who had come into exile with Bahá'u'lláh, with the exception of a handful of faithful souls, were, for the most part, infected with the germ of this deadly disease, some openly joining 'Abdu'l-Bahá's rebellious half-brother, Muhammad 'Ali, some overtly sympathizing with him. It was during these years that 'Abdu'l-Bahá told Shoghi Effendi never to drink coffee in the homes of any of the Bahá'ís. He was afraid this precious grandchild might be poisoned! Shoghi Effendi told me this himself, and when one remembers that he was only a young boy at the time one realizes how great were the dangers surrounding them all in those days.
Perhaps because of this situation, constantly worsening, 'Abdu'l-Bahá sent Shoghi Effendi to live in Haifa with his nurse, where already some of the believers resided;l at what date this occurred I am unaware, but it was while he was still a young child. French was his first foreign language and although in later years he was reluctant to speak it officially, as he felt his fluency in it was rusty through [page 16] disuse, he retained, at least to my ears, a perfect command of it and invariably did all his addition, like lightning, in French. By 1907 he was living with this same nurse, Hajar "Khatun, who had always been with him from his infancy, in the newly construction house of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which became his last home and later the home of the Guardian. It was here that Shoghi Effendi had a very significant dream which he recounted to me and which I wrote down. He said that when he was nine or yen years old, living with his nurse in this house and attending school in Haifa, he dreamed that he and another child, an Arab schoolmate, were in the room in which 'Abdu'l-Bahá used to receive His guests in the house in Akka, where the Master was living and where Shoghi Effendi had been born. The Bab entered the room and then a man with a revolver appeared and shot at the Bab; then he told Shoghi Effendi "Now it is your turn" and began to chase him around the room to shot him. At this Shoghi Effendi woke up. He repeated this dream to his nurse, who told him to tell it to Mirza Asadullah and ask him to tell the Master Who replied by revealing for Shoghi Effendi this Tablet. The strange thing, Shoghi Effendi said, is that it was just about this time that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in great danger and wrote one of His Wills in which He appointed Shoghi Effendi as Guardian.
He is GodShoghi Effendi was particularly attached to this nurse, who is mentioned in a letter 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote to His sister, in which He says: "Kiss the flower of the garden of sweetness, Shoghi Effendi, and convey greetings to Hajar "Khatun". In my diary I recorded: "Shoghi Effendi was telling me tonight how sad he was when his nurse, who had brought him up, died in Alexandretta. He said his mother was determined to get rid of her when she got older and he felt it and resented it bitterly although he was only nine or ten. [page 17] When the news came that she had died he was in Carm, his father's garden. He said he went away in the dark and cried for her - he was about twelve then. His devotion to his nurse was a byword in the family."
Shoghi Effendi entered the best school in Haifa, the College des Freres, conducted by the Jesuits. He told me he had been very unhappy there. Indeed, I gathered from him that he never was really happy in either school or university. In spite of his innately joyous nature, his sensitivity and his background - so different from that of others in every way - could not but set him apart and give rise to many a heart-ache; indeed, he was one of those people whose open and innocent hearts, keen minds and affectionate nature seem to combine to bring upon them more shocks and suffering in life than is the lot of most men. Because of his unhappiness in this school 'Abdu'l-Bahá decided to send him to Beirut where he attended another Catholic school as a boarder, and where he was equally unhappy. Learning of this in Haifa the family sent a trusted Bahá'í woman to rent a home fore Shoghi Effendi in Beirut and take car of and wait on him. It was not long before she wrote to his father that he was very unhappy at school, would refuse to go to it sometimes for days, and was getting thin and run down. His father showed this letter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá Who then had arrangements made for Shoghi Effendi to enter the Syrian Protestant College, which had a school as well as a university, later known as the American College in Beirut, and which the Guardian entered when he finished what was then equivalent to the high school. Shoghi Effendi spent his vacations at home in Haifa, in the presence as often as possible of the grandfather he idolized and Whom it was the object of his life to serve. The entire course of Shoghi Effendi's studies was aimed by him at fitting himself to serve the Master, interpret for Him and translate His letters into English.
Shoghi Effendi told me that is was during these early years of study in Haifa that he asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá to give him a name of his own so he would no longer be confused with his cousins, as they were all called Afnan. The Master then gave him the surname of Rabbani, which means "divine", and this was also used by his brothers and sisters. In those days there were no surnames, people were called after their city, their eldest son or a prominent person in their family.
It is very difficult to trace the exact course of events in these years. All eyes were fixed on the grandfather and much as people [page 18] loved and respected the eldest grandson, when the sun shines the lamp is ignore! Some pilgrims' accounts, like that of Thornton Chase, the first American believer, who visited the Master in 1907, mention meeting "Shoghi Afnan". Indeed Chase published a photograph of Shoghi Effendi in what must have been his usual costume in those days, short pants, long dark stockings, a fez on his head, a jacket and a huge sailor's collar covering his shoulders. But there is not enough material available at present to fill in all the gaps. Even those who accompanied 'Abdu'l-Bahá on His journeys to the West, and kept careful diaries, did not think to record very much about the comings and goings of a child who was only thirteen when 'Abdu'l-Bahá set forth on His historic visits to Europe and America.
No sooner had 'Abdu'l-Bahá been freed from His long imprisonment and taken up His permanent residence in Haifa, than He began to contemplate this journey. A report published in America in Bahá'í News, 1910, states: "You have asked for an account of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's departure for the land of Egypt. 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not inform anyone that He was going to leave Haifa...within two days He summoned to His presence M.N., Shoghi Effendi and K. and this servant." One of the Bahá'ís recalls that a little before sunset, on that September afternoon when 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ship set sail for Port Said in Egypt, Shoghi Effendi was seated on the steps of the Master's house, disconsolate and forlorn, and remarked: "The Master is now on board the ship. He has left me behind, but surely there is a wisdom in this!" or words to this effect. Well knowing, no doubt, what was passing in the heart of His grandson, the loving Master lost no time in sending for the child to soften the blow of this first, serious separation from Him; but more reference than this to that event has not been found. We know the Master stayed about a month in Port Said, later proceeding to Alexandria rather than to Europe, which was His original intention. How long Shoghi Effendi stayed with Him on that occasion in Egypt we do not know but as school opened in early October one presumes he returned to Syria. What we do know is that in April 1911 Shoghi Effendi was again with the Master, in Ramleh, a suburb of Alexandria, for a visiting Bahá'í from America, Louis Gregory, the first negro Hand of the Cause, mentions meeting, on 16 April, "Shogi", a beautiful boy, a grandson of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and says he showed great affection for the pilgrims. In August of that same year the Master left on His first visit to Europe, returning in [page 19] December 1911. How long it was before He again sent for His eldest grandson to join Him we do not know, but we do know that He now had a plan - perhaps influenced by His own impressions of Europe, perhaps because of the degree to which He had missed Shoghi Effendi - which was none other than to take Shoghi Effendi with Him to America.
The Guardian himself told me how the Master had ordered for him long robes, and two turbans, one green and one white like His own, for Shoghi Effendi to wear in the West; when these were delivered and Shoghi Effendi dressed himself in them to show 'Abdu'l-Bahá, he said the Master's eyes shown with pride and pleasure. What this journey to the West in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá would have meant to Shoghi Effendi is incalculable, but it was prevented by the machinations of one who later became a perfidious and despicable Covenant-breaker, Dr Amin Fareed, the nephew of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's wife, who caused Him such constant distress that Shoghi Effendi said when the Master returned at length to His home in Haifa on 5 December 1913, He proceeded at once to the room of His wife, sat down and said with a feeble voice, accompanied by a gesture of His hand, "Doctor Fareed has ground me down!" There was never any doubt in Shoghi Effendi's mind that it was due to Fareed that he was prevented from making this historic journey.
On 25 March 1912 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and various secretaries and servants sailed for Europe from Alexandria on the S. S. Cedric of the White Star Line. When the boat docked at Naples the Italian health inspectors declared that the eyes of one of the secretaries, one of the servants and Shoghi Effendi were diseased and they were ordered to return to the Middle East. In his diary, Mirza Mahmud records these facts and says that in spite of every effort exerted by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, by those who accompanied Him and by American friends, these three were denied landing privileges and that the authorities stated that even if they permitted them to go on, in America the health authorities would send them back. 'Abdu'l-Bahá spent an entire day during which He did everything possible to change this decision, but in the evening, after a sorrowful leave-taking, He was forced to embark on His ship and sail for America. The words which He addressed that night to those who accompanied Him make it quite clear He did not believe Shoghi Effendi was sent back on any other than a [page 20] trumped-up pretext: "These Italians thought we were Turks and they reported us as such. They have stopped three of us. One was the secretary and one was the cook; this was not important. But this child, Shoghi Effendi, was helpless, why were they so strict with him? They have ill-treated us in this way, but I have always given support and assistance to their community whether in Alexandria or in Haifa..."
Shoghi Effendi told me that there was nothing the matter with his eyes (he always had very strong eyes) but Dr Fareed had insisted to 'Abdu'l-Bahá that he must be sent back, raising all kinds of arguments in support of what the Italian doctor said. He attributed the whole thing to Fareed's own intervention in the situation, so typical of his boundless ambition and the endless intrigues within oriental families. ONe can well imagine what heart-break this brought to a boy of fifteen, setting out on the first great adventure of his life, how much more to Shoghi Effendi, so attached to his grandfather, so excited over the trip on a big boat, the great journey to the West in a day when such long voyages were relatively rate and eventful! He always remembered this episode with sadness, but in a touching spirit of submissiveness to the constant blows he received all his life. It is easy to say it was the Will of God - but who knows how often the next step, planned by God, is diverted into another, less perfect path, by the evil plotting of men? There is no doubt the Master was greatly grieved by this event, but had to keep His own counsel, lest the secret of Shoghi Effendi's future be prematurely revealed and worse befall him through the malice and envy of others.
We have a letter written by Shoghi Effendi about six months later to one of the secretaries of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in America telling him that although he has subscribed to the Star of the West some copies have not been received and will he please make sure that he gets all the copies giving reports of the Master's travels in America. he gives his address from October as that of the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut, Syria, which, he writes, he will be shortly entering. He signs his name "Choki Rabbani". he seems, in his early years, to have spelt his name this way, also sometimes "Shawki" or "Shogi". It eventually became "Shoghi", which conveyed more clearly its correct pronunciation in English. In a notebook of these Beirut days he has written his name out with its complete transliteration, "Shawqi Rabbani, showing he was aware of this rendering - but he never used if for his own name. [page 21]
'Abdu'l-Bahá's thoughts, in spite of the arduous nature of His daily preoccupations during those exhausting months in America and later in Europe, must have often gone to His beloved grandson. We find mention of Shoghi Effendi in three of the letters the Master wrote to His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf, Bahiyyih "Khanum, during His travels, showing His anxiety over Shoghi Effendi and revealing His great love for him: "Write to me at once about Shoghi Effendi's condition, informing me fully and hiding nothing; this is the best way." "Kiss the light of the eyes of the company of spiritual souls, Shoghi Effendi." "Kiss the fresh flower of the garden of sweetness, Shoghi Effendi." Such references clearly indicate His anxiety over a child who had not always been well and who, He well knew, missed Him terribly and suffered. We also have a Tablet of 'Abdu'l-Bahá addressed to Shoghi Effendi, expressing His concern about his health, but at what period it was written I do not know:
He is God!At last the long journey was over and the Master, sixty-nine years old and exhausted from His herculean labours, returned to Egypt on 16 June 1913. His family hastened to His presence there, among them Shoghi Effendi, who joined Him about six weeks after His arrival. If one wonders why he did not get there sooner one must remember that school was not out until after the first week of July and then Shoghi Effendi most probably had to take ship for Haifa from Beirut (the alternative being to come overland with a caravan, which was a cheaper but longer and more arduous method of getting there), where he joined some of his family and then sailed from Haifa to Egypt, arriving in the company of the Greatest Holy Leaf and others on 1 August in Ramleh, where 'Abdu'l-Bahá had once again rented a villa. So many times Shoghi Effendi would say "the Master was like an ocean", meaning He could receive everything and give forth no sign of disturbance. This immense self-control is nowhere better shown than in the diarist's report that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, after hearing of the arrival of the two people He [page 22] loved best in the world, sat for an hour with Bahá'ís and friends before returning home to greet them! On 2 August the diary notes: "Today the beloved did not come to see us in the morning because He was entertaining the 'Greatest Holy Leaf' and the rest of the friends who had come with her." When one imagines the joy of the reunion and reads this trite indication of it one realizes something of the dignity and reserve which always surrounded the family of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Nevertheless we have some indication of Shoghi Effendi's life there: the old custom of prayers in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was resumed and Shoghi Effendi would chant too, with his lovely young voice, and 'Abdu'l-Bahá would sometimes correct and instruct him. There was nothing unusual in this; I myself often heard older members of the family correct the tune or the pronunciation of someone who was reciting verses or poems out loud; no doubt the Master must have done this many times over the years to Shoghi Effendi. Intensely active and always capable, Shoghi Effendi, during the months he was with 'Abdu'l-Bahá, before he returned to his studies in Beirut, made himself constantly useful to the Master, taking down His letters to the Persian believers, which He would dictate to him as he sat in the garden of His villa, where He was wont to drink His tea and receive His guests, waiting on Him, doing errands for Him, being sent by Him with others to receive visitors or meet them at the railway station. We are told how 'Abdu'l-Bahá sent Shoghi Effendi to show some of the friends the famous park and zoo of Alexandria, how he visited Cairo - where one imagines he lost no time in visiting the pyramids, for Shoghi Effendi had an adventurous spirit and longed to visit distant places, as witnessed by the keen interest it is recorded he showed in some "Travel" magazines sent from America.
There was tremendous movement about 'Abdu'l-Bahá; pilgrims arriving from East and West, amongst them such famous old Bahá'ís as Lua Getsinger and Mirza Abul Fazl, who were to eventually rest, in Egypt, under the same tombstone, many, many years later; believers departing for India to spread the Message of Bahá'u'lláh; delegations of young Bahá'í students from Beirut and Persia; interviews accorded by the Master to press representatives and people of distinction and standing. One of His secretaries who had been with Him in America wrote at this time of what infinite joy and bounty these precious days in the Master's presence were. And if this registered itself so vividly on his mind and heart then [page 23] what must have been the effect on Shoghi Effendi, so disappointed when he had been denied the bounty of accompanying 'Abdu'l-Bahá to the West, so starved for His presence and news of Him during almost fifteen months of separation? The heart at sixteen is capable of a kind of joy that seldom repeats itself later in life; in spite of the war years so soon to come, I believe that this period, up until the Master's passing in 1921, was the happiest of Shoghi Effendi's entire life.
I remember two stories associated with the days Shoghi Effendi spent in Egypt with the Master, which he himself recounted to me. He said that one day, after partaking of a particularly rich repast, the Master had recalled the days in Baghdad when His Father had returned from His self-imposed exile in the mountains of Sulaimaniya, when they had all been so poor - the days, however, when from Bahá'u'lláh's pen had streamed such a torrent of exalted writings which night after night until down the believers gathered to hear chanted, in ecstasy at this wonderful Revelation - and the Master said that the taste of the dry bread and dates of those days had been sweeter than all the other food in the world. The other story surprised me - and enlightened me - very much; I heard it more than once: Shoghi Effendi said that one day he was driving back from Alexandria to Ramleh with the Master in a rented carriage, accompanied by a Pasha who was going to the Master's house as His guest; when they arrived and got out the Master asked the strapping big coachman how much He owed him the man asked an exorbitant price; 'Abdu'l-Bahá refused to pay it, the man insisted and became abusive to such an extent that he grasped the Master by the sash around His waist and pulled Him roughly back and forth, insisting on this price. Shoghi Effendi said this scene in front of the distinguished guest embarrassed him terribly. he was too small to do anything himself to help the Master and felt horrified and humiliated. No so 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Who remained perfectly calm and refused to give in. When the man finally released his hold the Master paid him exactly what He owed him, told him his conduct had forfeited the good tip He had planned to give him, and walked off followed by Shoghi Effendi and the Pasha! There is no doubt that such things left a lifelong imprint on the Guardian's character, who never allowed himself to be browbeaten or cheated, no matter whether or not this embarrassed or inconvenienced him, and those who were working for him.
The character we saw in Shoghi Effendi as Guardian was already [page 24] there in his youth and adolescence. In a letter written by him from Beirut on 8 March 1914 to one of the Master's secretaries in Haifa, whom he knew well, he rebukes him for neglecting to write to him: "A long time elapsed during which I have had neither any news from Haifa nor a word from you. Indeed I never expected this. I hope that the rarity of correspondence will be changed to numerous letters full of glad-tidings of the Holy Land." The seventeen-year-old boy is firm and princely. He goes on to hope that "Our Lord and Master is in perfect health" and asks that any and all talks and references made by the Master, and information His correspondent may have, regarding the question of a Supreme Tribunal be sent to him before 20 March. The keenness with which he was following the talks and thoughts of the Master is reflected in this letter as well as the one requesting all copies of Star of the West covering 'Abdu'l-Bahá's visit to America. But there is a still more illuminating sidelight on Shoghi Effendi's interests and nature in this same letter: "I have pretty near finished the map of the United States of America. It is a very picturesque and beautiful map. Please send me the list of the cities of the United States visited by our Lord in order one after the other. I will be then able to locate them in the map." The great map-maker of the Bahá'í world was already busy!
In notebooks of Shoghi Effendi from the year 1917, we find he has checked off the days ice was delivered to the house he lived in, in Beirut - so typical of the methodical nature of all his work. To the end of his life he was wont to keep track by date of the receipt of his paper, The Times of London, which he no doubt formed the habit of subscribing to when he lived in England - probably the best English-language daily paper in the whole world and the only newspaper addressed by Bahá'u'lláh, by name, in one of His Tablets. These notebooks also contain a detailed enumeration of the Bahá'í calendar, the basic principles of the Faith, notes on the period of the Hebrew Prophets in French, solar and lunar calculations, measurements, weights, copies of Tablets and data showing he had mastered the Abjad system of numerology, as well as sundry other things. the essential characteristics of the Guardian were all there in the boy.
Shoghi Effendi was always active in corresponding with Bahá'í friends through personal letters. We learn from one of these, addressed to "Syed Mustafa Roumie" in Burma, and dated "Caiffa, Syria, July 28, 1914", in which he says he is much pleased [page 25] with the "glad-tidings of the rapid progress of the Cause in the Far East", that he shared this letter with the Master and "a Holy tender smile ran over his radiant Face and his heart overflowed with joy. I then came to know that the Master is in good health for I recollected his sayings which I quote now. 'Whenever and wherever I hear the glad tidings of the Cause my physical health is bettered and ameliorated.' I therefore tell you that the Master is feeling very well and is happy. Convey this happy news to the Indian believers. I do hope that this will double their courage, their firmness, and their zeal in spreading the Cause."
Shoghi Effendi also played a dominant role in the activities of the Bahá'í students studying in Beirut, through which passed so many of the pilgrims from Persia and the Far East on their way to and from Haifa. He writes, in another letter to that same correspondent, headed "Syrian Protestant College, Beirut, Syria, May 3rd 1914": "Going back to our college activities our Bahá'í meetings, which I have spoken to you about, are reorganized and only today we are sending letters, enclosing glad tidings of the Holy Land, to the Bahá'í Assemblies of various countries."
In February 1915 Shoghi Effendi won first prize in the Freshman - Sophomore Prize Contest - what for is not stated - awarded by the Student's Union. He was a good student, but he himself never claimed he had been considered a brilliant or outstanding scholar. There is a very great difference between a deep, wide, farseeing and logical mind and the quality of brain, spurred on more often than not by ambition and conceit, which wins acclaim from faculty and fellow-students. There was never any conceit in Shoghi Effendi's nature and no ambition. He was fired by a supreme motive - to serve 'Abdu'l-Bahá and lift some of the load of work and cares from His shoulders. In a letter dated 15 January 1918, addressed to Him from Beirut by Shoghi Effendi, he puts this in his own words: "I have resumed my studies, directing and concentrating all my efforts on them and doing my utmost to acquire that which will benefit and prepare me to serve the Cause in the days to come." Shoghi Effendi had just returned to Beirut from Haifa, evidently after the Christmas vacation period, and "arrived", he wrote, "happily and safely in the university" after weathering cold and rain on the way. Shoghi Effendi pours out, in every revealing phrase of this letter, "my love and longing for you" and ends: "I have sent you by post a piece of cheese, hoping it will be acceptable to Thee." He signed it "Thy lowly and humble [page 26] servant Shoghi". When one remembers that during the war tens of thousands were estimated to have died of starvation in the Lebanon, this gift of a piece of cheese assumes different proportions.
That the war years, during which Shoghi Effendi was studying in Beirut to obtain his Bachelor of Arts degree at the American University, cast a deep shadow of anxiety upon him, in spite of his naturally buoyant and joyous nature, is evinced in a passage of one of his letters written in April 1919, in which he refers to the "long and dismal years of war, bloodshed, famine, and pestilence, when the Holy Land was isolated from the different regions of the world and was undergoing the utmost and severest degree of repression, tyranny and devastation..." They were years of ever-increasing danger for his beloved grandfather, years of dire starvation for much of the population,of privations shared by all, including his own family. As the world struggle approached its end the threat of a bombardment of Haifa by the Allies reached such proportions that 'Abdu'l-Bahá removed His family to a village at the foot of the hills on the other side of the Bay of Akka where they lived for some months and where He, too, spent some of His time. But the greatest threat to the Master's life and to His family came at the moment when the Turkish Commander-in-Chief, "the brutal, the all-powerful and unscrupulous Jamal Pasha, an inveterate enemy of the Faith," as Shoghi Effendi described him, contemplated crucifying the Master and His whole family, according to Major Tudor which entered Haifa in August 1918, and who states this hideous act was due to take place two days before their entry, but was frustrated by the rapidity of the British advance and the consequent hasty retreat of the Turkish forces. We assume Shoghi Effendi had completed his studies in Beirut, and was with 'Abdu'l-Bahá at this time and shared the agonizing uncertainty of those days. It seems strange to me, as I write this, to realize how little Shoghi Effendi ever mentioned personal events in life; he hated anecdotes and had no time for reminiscences when they referred to himself. His tired mind and spirit were, during the period I was privileged to be with him, wholly preoccupied with the work of the Cause, the immediate task to be accomplished then, right before him, waiting, weighing on him each day.
It was in 1918 that Shoghi Effendi received his Bachelor of Arts degree. In a letter to a friend in England dated 19 November of [page 27] that year, he wrote: "I am so glad and privileged to be able to attend to my Beloved's services after completing my course of Arts and Sciences in the American University in Beirut. I am so anxious and expectant to hear from you and of your services to the Cause for by transmitting them to the Beloved I shall make him happy, glad and strong. The past four years have been years of misery, of sever famine and distress, of unparalleled bloodshed and strife, but not that the dove of peace has returned to its nest and abode a golden opportunity has arisen for the promulgation of the Word of God. This will be now promoted and the Message delivered in this liberated region without the least amount of restriction. This is indeed the Era of Service." Nothing could be more revealing of the character of the future Guardian than these lines, in which his devotion to the work of the Master, his consuming longing to make Him happy and well, his concise summary of where his own life now stands in relation to this service, his analysis of what the war's end signifies for the immediate future of Bahá'í work are all clearly shown. His nascent rhetorical style, still hampered by an imperfect command of the English language, but already showing the bare bones of its future greatness is reflected in passages such as this: "the friends...are all...large and small, old and young, healthy and sick, at home and abroad glad of the events that have recently transpired; they are all one soul in different bodies, united agreed, serving and aiming to serve the oneness of humanity."
Shoghi Effendi was now twenty-one years old. His personal relationship to 'Abdu'l-Bahá was made clear in some of these early letters, for the most part written in 1919, in which he refers to "my grandfather, 'Abdu'l-Bahá" and signs himself "Shoghi Rabbani (grandson of 'Abdu'l-Bahá)". One must remember that in the immediate months after the war ended, when contact was being re-established between the Master and the believers in so many countries which had been cut off from Him during the long years of hostilities, it was highly desirable that Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike should know who this "Shoghi Rabbani" was who was not acting as the Master's secretary and right-hand man. The Star of the West, in its issue of 27 September 1919, publishes a full-length photograph of Shoghi Effendi, entitled, "Shoghi Rabbani, Grandson of 'Abdu'l-Bahá", and states he is the translator of recent Tablets and his Diary Letters begin in this issue. Personally I believe, [page 28] knowing from experience how completely Shoghi Effendi directed even minutiae at the World Centre, that it is probable the Master Himself directed him to make clear their family relationship.
The work of 'Abdu'l-Bahá increased from day to day as floods of letters, reports and eventually pilgrims poured into Haifa. This is reflected in Shoghi Effendi's personal letters to various Bahá'í friends: "...this interruption of correspondence with you on my part has been solely due to a great pressure of work in connection with the dictation and translation of Tablets...The whole afternoon has been spent in translating for him only the contents of a part of the supplications from London." He ends up by saying "I enclose, out of my Bahá'í and particular affection for you, two photographs..." "My head is in a whirl, so busy and so eventful was the day. No less than a score of callers from prince and pasha to a simple private soldier have sought interview with 'Abdu'l-Bahá." "The Beloved from morn till eve, even at midnight is engaged in revealing Tablets, in sending forth his constructive, dynamic thoughts of love and principles to a sad and disillusioned world." "As I am writing these lines, I am again moved to present myself in his presence and take down his words in response to the recently arrived supplications." Every word reflects the boundless energy, devotion and enthusiasm of this princeling at the side of the old king, serving and supporting Him with all the vitality of his youth and the singular eagerness of his nature.
Shoghi Effendi frequently accompanied the Master to the steadily increasing number of official functions to which He was invited. This included visits to the British Military Governor of Haifa and interviews with the Commander-in-Chief, Sire Edmund Allenby, the General who had led the Allied forces in Palestine and who later became Lord Allenby and was largely responsible for 'Abdu'l-Bahá's receiving a knighthood from the British Government. Shoghi Effendi wrote: "This was the second time 'Abdu'l-Bahá had called on the General and this time the conversation centered around the Cause and its progress...He is a very gentle, modest and striking figure, warm in affection, yet imposing in his manners." In these circles the grandson of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was not becoming known. An official letter, from the Military Governor to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, says: "Your Eminence: I have today received from your grandson the sum of ___". This was in response to Shoghi Effendi's having called upon him with a further contribution from the Master to the "Haifa Relief Fund". Shoghi Effendi also spent [page 29] much time with the pilgrims, not only in the presence of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, during which he eagerly obtained information from them about the progress of Bahá'í activities in various countries.
Although the Master's work had now increased to such an extent that many people were engaged in constantly serving and assisting Him, there can be no doubt that no one compared with Shoghi Effendi. I remember the Guardian telling me of how (I believe it must have been in early 1920) one of the old American Bahá'ís had sent a gift to the Master of a Cunningham automobile; notice of its arrival at the quayside in port came just as the weekend commenced and the Master gave Shoghi Effendi instructions to see that it was cleared and delivered to the house. Shoghi Effendi told me that although the next day there were no high officials in the port and it was not a business day, he succeeded in getting the car delivered and when it arrived he went to the Master and informed Him it was outside the door. He said the Master was very surprised and immensely pleased and asked him how he had succeeded in doing this. Shoghi Effendi told Him he had taken the papers and gone to the homes of various officials, asking them to sign the documents and give the necessary orders for the car of Sir 'Abdu'l-Bahá 'Abbas to be delivered to Him at once. This was typical of the way Shoghi Effendi did his work throughout his entire life. He always wanted everything done at once, if not sooner, and everything he had any personal control over progressed at that speed.
Wherever 'Abdu'l-Bahá went, as often as possible the beloved grandson went with Him. This constant companionship, which lasted for about two years, must have been a deep satisfaction to them both and have exerted a profound and decisive influence on Shoghi Effendi. During these years, when the star of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's fame was rising locally, as well as internationally, Shoghi Effendi had the opportunity of observing how the Master dealt with high officials and the numerous men of distinction drawn to one Whom many regarded as little less than an oriental prophet and the greatest religious figure in Asia, as well as how the Master conducted Himself in the face of the ever-present envy and intrigue of His enemies and ill-wishers. The lessons learned were to be reflected in the thirty-six years of Shoghi Effendi's own ministry to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
In a letter to a friend dated 18 February 1919 Shoghi Effendi writes he is in Bahji with the Master and begins: "Greetings with [page 30] sweetest remembrances to you, my far-off friend, from this hallowed spot!" He goes on to describe the peacefulness of Bahji, after the increasing activity in the city of Haifa and says "The air over there was filled with gases and vapors which steam and motor engines continuously discharge, while the atmosphere here is as pure, as clear and as fragrant as it can be." When we remember that as late as 1923 I went to Bahji in the horse-drawn carriage of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and that in 1918 automobile traffic was practically non-existent in post-war Palestine, we must assume that Shoghi Effendi was inordinately fond of nature - which, indeed, he was! His description of the Master, visiting the Holy Shrine twice a day, and walking in the flowering wilderness, reflects his joy in these precious days, close to his best-beloved. But the end of this blessedness for Shoghi Effendi was rapidly approaching. It had been decided he should now go to England and enter Oxford University, his avowed purpose being to perfect his English in order to better translate the Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, as well as the other sacred writings, into this language.
The decision of Shoghi Effendi to leave 'Abdu'l-Bahá, after less than two years spent constantly in His service, and at a time when the Master's vast post-war correspondence was steadily increasing, was based on a number of factors: if he intended to pursue his studies the sooner he did so the better; 'Abdu'l-Bahá now had a number of people acting as His secretaries; Shoghi Effendi's eldest cousin had finished his studies in Beirut and was now at home; the Master's own condition and plans were propitious and, above all, His health had been steadily improving. In 1918 Tudor Pole, who was the Allenby's conquering army in Palestine, wrote: "...the Master is vigorous and more healthy than when He was in London." Shoghi Effendi, in letters of his own, written respectively during April and August 1919, bears this out: "The Beloved is in perfect health, strong and vigorous, happy and joyous..." "The Beloved Master, is indeed in the best of health, physically strong, ever active, revealing hundreds of Tablets a week, perusing innumerable supplications, receiving many visitors and pilgrims and often waking up at mid-night for meditation and prayer." During this same period Shoghi Effendi, in letters to friends in England and in Burma, conveys the startling news that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was seriously considering another very long journey: "What is significant and alluring is the intimation of the Beloved himself that he is planning and thinking of such a journey [page 31] across the Indian Ocean. He even declared that, God willing, he wishes to undertake a voyage to India, and thence to Indo-China, Japan and the Hawaiian Islands, from there across the American Continent to your beloved city of London, to France, Germany and Egypt. Oh! how fervent, how deep and how sincere is our hope that such a great journey which he himself has fixed its duration to be four or five years, will be undertaken. Let us hope and prepare for it." "The Beloved, has intimated of late his intention to travel to India and we hope this will be soon realized, and India, through the unity and energy of the friends, will acquire the capacity to receive him."
Very few of us, least of all when we are twenty-three years old, imagine our loved ones dying, how much less when they are in the best of health and planning such a journey as this! So it is not surprising that Shoghi Effendi should have left 'Abdu'l-Bahá, some time in the spring of 1920, with a tranquil conscience, fully believing he would return to His side better equipped to serve Him, and, I have no doubt, confident in his own heart that this time he would certainly accompany his grandfather on such a marvellous voyage, and be privileged to serve Him day and night for many years to come. In anticipation of such years as these that seemed to stretch ahead of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi ignored His age (the Master was now seventy-six) and ignored that factor that so often dashes our hearts and hopes forever - the obscure intervention of Providence in our plans and lives. How terrible the blow was for the young Guardian when it suddenly fell upon him is reflected in his own anguished words in a letter he wrote in February 1922, a few months after his grandfather's death, to a distant cousin: "Ah bitter remorse of having missed Him - in His Last Days - on this earth, I shall take with me to the grave no matter what I may do for Him in future, no matter to what extent my studies in England will repay his wondrous love for me."
In is a significant sidelight on his life as Guardian, and on his early death at the age of sixty, that although Shoghi Effendi was still little more than a boy in 1920 when 'Abdu'l-Bahá sent him abroad for his studies, in the company of Lotfullah Hakim who was returning to England after his first pilgrimage to Haifa, the Master insisted that on his way to England he should go first to a sanatorium and take a good rest. It shows how depleted Shoghi Effendi's nervous strength must have been, after the long years of war and attendant strain, and the heavy post-war work and intense [page 32] activity in the Master's service, and how solicitous for his health his grandfather was at this time. Shoghi Effendi took the rest that had been enjoined upon him in a sanatorium in Neuilly, a suburb of Paris. he was not ill, but run down; he associated with the believers there, played some tennis, went sight-seeing, becoming familiar with a city that is in itself so beautiful and houses one of the world's greatest museums, visited some Bahá'ís in the town of Barbizon, stayed about two months and then proceeded to England in July.
He was received there by the many devoted friends of 'Abdu'l-Bahá with genuine warmth and affection. Some of them he already knew personally, such as Dr J. E. Esslemont, who had recently been in Haifa and collaborated with him and other friends in the translation of an important Tablet of the Master; Major W. Tudor Pole, who had met 'Abdu'l-Bahá during His stay in London and had been in Palestine with the British Army of Occupation, rendering the believers every assistance within his power; and Lord Lamington.
Shoghi Effendi was the bearer of letters from this grandfather to some of His English friends, as is attested in a letter he wrote shortly after his arrival to the wife of Ali Kuli Khan in France:
July 28, 1920Of particular interest is a letter written a few days later by Lord Lamington to the Master:
8th August 1920The above correspondence gives us an indication of when Shoghi Effendi was in London; as he was the bearer of a letter from 'Abdu'l-Bahá to Lord Lamington we may surmise he lost no time in presenting it to him and can also imagine that the eagerness of the young man to see the workings of the Mother of Parliaments could not be hidden from the kindly and experienced peer, who would see to it that Shoghi Effendi was admitted to some of the sessions of the House of Lords and the House of Commons present. I remember that after our marriage, when we first went to London together, he took me to the House of Commons and we sat in the visitor's gallery during one of the sessions. If this was a big experience for me - still so dazed and overcome by the recent honour of being permitted to be so near to the Sign of God on earth - one can imagine how much it thrilled and impressed Shoghi Effendi as a young man. He became very familiar with London during this period in England and visited its famous sites. On more than one occasion, when we went to such places together as Westminster Abbey, St Paul's, the Tower of London, the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the City, Kew Gardens and so on, I realized how many associations this famous city had left him from his student days. He also no doubt saw as much of England as he could on his very modest student's allowance which he received from 'Abdu'l-Bahá. That he practised many economies I know from things he told me, such as that he had bought an electric iron with which to press his clothes! [page 34]
Shoghi Effendi visited Dr Esslemont more than once at his private sanatorium in Bournemouth. A photograph shows the two of them, heads close, in front of the building, and a letter of Shoghi Effendi to a Dr Hall, written after Esslemont died, eloquently expresses what these visits meant to him: "I shall ever recall the happy and restful days I spent at Bournemouth in the company of our departed friend John Esslemont and I will not forget the pleasant hours we spent together while taking our meals in the sanatorium." While he was in that part of England Shoghi Effendi also visited the seaside resort of Torquay. Many years later we were to go there together, and I was shown the famous Babbacombe downs by the Guardian and we walked in the park he had visited so long before - a park with deep red-coloured paths which I believe were the very ones that impressed upon his mind the beauty of red paths and green lawns and ornamental vases in conjunction and inspired him years later to duplicate them in his own beautiful gardens at Bahji and on Mt Carmel.
The remembrance of those student days never really died out in Shoghi Effendi. I can remember his once telling an English pilgrim, during the last years of his life how good the thick slices of brown bread, raspberry jam and Devonshire cream had tasted to him.
During his stay in England he was particularly close to one of the old and trusted Persian believers who lived in London, Ziaollah Asgarzadeh, as well as to Dr Esslemont, Lady Blomfield and others, and some of the Manchester Bahá'ís. In spite of the fact that he spent most of his time at Oxford, and concentrated on his studies, he was closely associated with the British Bahá'í Community and share in its activities. In a letter dated 5 May 1921, written by an Indian believer who was in England, we find that "On Wednesday evening I went to attend the usual Bahá'í meeting at Lindsay hall. Mr. Shoghi Rabbani read a paper dealing with the economic problems and their solution. His paper was beautifully worded and was very good...." It seems his reading of papers was not confined to Bahá'í meetings for in a letter from Balliol College to one of the believers he states: "I shall also later send you a paper on the Movement which I read some time ago at one of the leading societies in Oxford."
Oxford and Cambridge are still words to conjure with; in 1920 they shone in even more splendid academic isolation than they do in these days when universities and university education have [page 35] become more prevalent. Balliol, to which Shoghi Effendi was admitted, had a very high standing, being one of Oxford's oldest colleges. Here too I was conducted, years later, by the Guardian, to see the streets he had passed through,the Bodleian Library, the placid river in its greensward surroundings beyond the wroughtiron gates, to thousand-year-old Christ Church with its vast kitchen and fairy web of Gothic arches, to Magdalen and its beauties and to the peaceful quad inside the walls of Balliol, which Shoghi Effendi crossed to his studies, to the dining hall where he ate, and to gaze on the narrow entrance that led to the room he had once lived in as a student. It all, obviously, held many memories for him, but I think few of them were really happy ones.
Many years ago one of the Bahá'ís wrote to the Guardian of a conversation with A. D. Lindsay, who had at that time become Master of Balliol, and who in Shoghi Effendi's days had been his tutor. I kept a copy of his words; one must remember they were voiced in a short informal conversation, not in a special interview. "Shoghi Effendi's idea of education was to discover somebody whose opinions he valued and then question him. When Shoghi Effendi got his answers he wrote them all in a small black book. I had posted my schedule (as we say in England, skedule, as you say in America); Shoghi Effendi came to me asking, 'What do you do between seven and half past eight?' 'Why man,' I cried, 'I dine!' 'Oh', said Shoghi Effendi with obvious disappointment, 'but must you have all that time?" I had not found so much eagerness for knowledge at Oxford. So I gave him another quarter-hour and went with less dinner. so it was - I suffered for him." This incident had arisen out of the fact that Shoghi Effendi wanted his tutor to give him more than the time already allotted to him." In spite of the above remarks, which are kindly in intent, there is no evidence that this learned man had the faintest inkling of the fact that his only real distinction in the eyes of posterity will be that he tutored Shoghi Effendi. Though everyone at college, how much more this tutor, knew why Shoghi Effendi had broken off his studies and returned to Palestine, there is no letter to be found expressing the slightest personal feeling for his pupil.
There was, however, an exchange of letters between them for in 1927 Shoghi Effendi wrote to Dr Lindsay C.B.E. saying he was sending him the Bahá'í Year Book "showing the character of the work I have been engaged in ever since my sudden and deeply-regretted recall from Balliol." He goes on to say "The invaluable [page 36] assistance I have received under your tutorship has proved of great benefit in my arduous and responsible task and I welcome this opportunity to express my grateful appreciation of all that you have done for me." Over two years later Lindsay, in an appeal to all old members for funds for something to do with the College, thanks him for the book. Shoghi Effendi replied the next day, enclosed a 20 [pound] contribution, and thanked him for his letter with "served to remind me of the happy and valuable days I spent under your tutorship at Balliol." Great as was the station of the Guardian his modesty and sense of justice, as well as his courtesy, always impelled him to give credit wherever he felt credit was due. In 1923 in a letter to Professor Dodge at the American University in Beirut he referred to "this great educational institution in the Near East, to which I feel so deeply indebted..."
The attitude of Professor D. S. Margoliouth and his wife was quite different, for in 1930 she, in thanking Shoghi Effendi for a book he has sent them writes: "We like to be reminded of the pleasure that we had in welcoming you in this house during your all too short sojourn in Oxford." This was not the only home that we know received him for we have a letter of his to a Mrs Whyte, five years after he left England, in which he says: "I shall always remember, with the liveliest and most pleasant recollection your most valuable help to me as well as your generous hospitality during my stay in Oxford...Always your grateful and affectionate friend Shoghi".
From the college register of 1920 we discover that the Guardian has designated himself, in his own handwriting, as Shawqi Hadi Rabbani 1st son of Mirza Hadi Shirazi, aged 23. From a notebook he kept we find the following list, which he had carefully made out, and which shows the dates he began his studies in 1920:
Oct. 14, 1920 Political Science: - Rev. Carlyle
[page 37] He kept notes of some of these classes, at least those for his first attendances. The Guardian's own idea of why was at Oxford was quote clear; fortunately we have an expression of this in a letter he wrote to an oriental believer on 18 October 1920: "My dear spiritual friend...God be praised, I am in good health and full of hope and trying to the best of my ability to equip myself for those things I shall require in my future service to the Cause. My hope is that I may speedily acquire the best that this country and this society have to offer and then return to my home and recast the truths of the Faith in a new form, and thus serve the Holy Threshold." There is no doubt he was referring to his future translation of the teachings into the perfect English for which he laid the foundation during his sojourn in England.
On 22 November 1921, in a letter to one of the English believers, the advances made by Shoghi Effendi in his work as Oxford are clearly reflected; one senses a new mastery and self-assurance: "...I have been of late immersed in my work, revising many translations and have sent to Mr. Hall my version of Queen Victoria's Tablet which is replete with most vital and significant world counsels, so urgently needed by this sad and disillusioned world! If you have not yet perused it be sure to obtain it from Mr. Hall as it is in my opinion one of the most outstanding and emphatic pronouncements of Bahá'u'lláh on world affairs." He goes onto say he is enclosing extracts "some new and some old" which he has made "in the course of my readings at the Bodleian on the Movement". In a Persian letter of this same period, written to a friend in London, he refers to the fact that "I am engaged in this land, day and night, in perfecting myself in the art of translation...I do not have a moment's rest. Thank God that to some extent at least the results are good." He states that his preoccupations and studies, as well as college regulations, are such that he is only free on Sundays and can his friend come and see him on Sunday at 45 Broad Street.
From his Beirut days until practically the end of his life Shoghi Effendi had the habit of writing vocabularies and typical English phrases in notebooks. Hundreds of words and sentences have been recorded and these clearly indicate the years of careful study and he put into mastering a language he loved and revelled in. For him there was no second to English. He was a great reader of King James version of the Bible, and of the historians Carlyle and Gibbon, whose style he greatly admired, particularly that of Gibbon whose [page 38] Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Shoghi Effendi was so fond of that I never remember his not having a volume of it near him in his small room and usually with him when he travelled. There was a small Everyman's copy of part of it next to his bed when he died. It was his own pet bible of the English language and often he would read to me excerpts from it, interrupting himself with exclamations such as "Oh what style; what a command of English; what rolling sentences; listen to this." With his beautiful voice and pronunciation - in the direction of what we call an "Oxford accent", but no exaggeratedly so - the words fairly glowed with colour and their value and meaning came out like shining jewels. I particularly remember one peaceful hour (so rare, alas) when we sat on a bench facing the lake on a summer afternoon in St James' Park in London and he read me Gibbon out loud. He revelled in him and throughout Shoghi Effendi's writings the influence of his style may clearly be seen, just as the biblical English is reflected in his translations of Bahá'u'lláh's Prayers, The Hidden Words and Tablets.
I know Shoghi Effendi was at Oxford at the same time as Anthony Eden; they were acquainted but not friends, indeed I never heard him mention any person as having been a friend; his ties remained with some of his professors but he seems to have kept himself aloof from others, perhaps because of a shyness that was not easily detectable in the majesty of the Guardian, but was a strong characteristic of the human nature of the man. he belonged to a debating society and liked to play tennis; but details of his days in Oxford are singularly lacking. This whole episode in his life was so overshadowed by the Master's passing, so utterly devastating in the effect it produced on his life, that the only real record we have of it is in the influence it produced on his writings and his character. Even so short a stay in a university with the atmosphere and quality of Oxford shaped and sharpened his already clear and logical mind, heightened his critical faculties, reinforced his strong sense of justice and reasoning powers, and added to the oriental nobility which characterized Bahá'u'lláh's family those touches of the culture we associate with the finest type of English gentleman. [page 39]