World Order of Baha'u'llah:
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Shoghi Effendi has singled out Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Aqdas and 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament as chief depositories "wherein are enshrined those priceless elements of that Divine Civilization, the establishment of which is the primary mission of the Bahá'í Faith"- (WOB pp.3-4) and as the "the twin repositories of the constituent elements" of the "Sovereignty which the Bahá'í teachings foreshadow"-(WOB p.16). He furthermore describes the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the "Charter of the future world civilization"- (GPB p.214). He calls the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá by exactly the same title- (GPB p. 328).
We should be aware that when the Friends in Iran read for the first time the Kitáb-i-Aqdas they merely regarded it, albeit with great reverence, as Bahá'u'lláh's Mother Book or the Book of His Laws, just as the Qur'án, was the Mother Book for the Muslim world. Some of the verses of the Aqdas were not understood or, alas, even misunderstood. For example the celebrated passage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas announcing the emergence of the New World Order was understood to mean that the order of the verses of the Aqdas followed a unique pattern different from that of the Bayán or Sacred Books of former Dispensations.
As you know, there is also in the Persian Bayán a Verse which refers to the Order of Bahá'u'lláh. This corresponding Verse in the Bayán foreshadowing the Order of Bahá'u'lláh was also understood along the same lines, namely that the contents of Bahá'u'lláh's Mother Book, unlike the Bayán, would not be divided into chapters and verses, but would have a unique format of its own. It was only in 1934, some thirteen years after the launching of the institution of the Guardianship, that Shoghi Effendi produced his translation of this key verse in Bahá'u'lláh's Mother Book. For the first time it became clear to the Bahá'ís in the East and the West that the Order mentioned had nothing to do with the style or format of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, but instead was an announcement that the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh was the begetter of a New World System for the conduct of the affairs of the world and the establishment of the Promised Kingdom of God on earth.
As to the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Bahá'ís in both East and West considered it a document in which the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh was being extended by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to cover the line of succession after His passing. In Shoghi Effendi the Bahá'ís of the world saw the successor of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He would henceforth be the Interpreter of the Divine Word and the Centre of the Cause to whom all must turn. All this was of course true, but it was only a simplistic and minimal appraisal of what Shoghi Effendi later described as the: "Charter of the future world civilization".
Shoghi Effendi lifted the veil gradually. For example in 1923, barely two years after the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá he described the contents of His Will and Testament: "amazing in all its aspects" and that its provisions had: "challenged and perplexed the keenest minds"- (BA p.50). Writing in the same year to the friends in Persia he wrote: "God's Supreme House of Justice shall be erected and firmly established in the days to come. When this most great Edifice shall be reared...God's purpose, wisdom, universal truths, mysteries and realities of the Kingdom, which the mystic revelation of Bahá'u'lláh has deposited within the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, shall gradually be revealed and made manifest."(MUHJ p.57)
A year later he wrote: "We are called upon by our beloved Master in His Will and Testament not only to adopt it [Bahá'u'lláh's New World Order] unreservedly, but to unveil its merit to all the world. To attempt to estimate its full value, and grasp its exact significance after so short a time since its inception would be premature and presumptuous on our part. We must trust to time, and the guidance of God's Universal House of Justice, to obtain a clearer and fuller understanding of its [The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá] provisions and implications"-(BA p.62). And some five years later in 1929 he called it the chief depository enshrining the priceless elements of God's Divine Civilization- and added the following comment: "We stand indeed too close to so monumental a document to claim for ourselves a complete understanding of all its implications, or to presume to have grasped the manifold mysteries it undoubtedly contains. Only future generations can comprehend the value and the significance attached to this Divine Masterpiece, which the hand of the Master-builder of the world has designed for the unification and the triumph of the world-wide Faith of Bahá'u'lláh."- (WOB p.8)
Shoghi Effendi did not stop there, he continued in his assessment and praise of the manifold mysteries contained in 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament. About a year later, on 25th March 1930 his comments about the hidden mysteries of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá reached their crescendo, when in a letter written on his behalf he pointed out the following: ""The contents of the Will of the Master are far too much for the present generation to comprehend. It needs at least a century of actual working before the treasures of wisdom hidden in it can be revealed."- (UHJM1963-1986, p.161)
The Friends were wondering where the mysteries could be. Could these relate to their own limited understanding of the station of the Guardianship? Were the mysteries in relation to the functions of the Universal House of Justice? Why should it take so long for Bahá'ís to understand what appeared to them to be a straight forward document about the future administration of the Faith? I will now deal with these questions.
For example Shoghi Effendi says that the provisions of the two Charters, namely the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá are neither incompatible nor contradictory and indeed "mutually confirm one another and are inseparable parts of one complete unit"- (WOB p.4.) However, a basic outward contradiction between the two documents did exist, because the Kitáb-i-Aqdas envisages a time when there will be no Aghsáns, meaning thereby that there would be no future Guardians, while the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá provided for a succession of Guardians.
The verse in The Kitáb-i-Aqdas referring to the Aghsáns reads as follows: "Endowments dedicated to charity revert to God... None hath the right to dispose of them without leave from Him Who is the Dawning-place of Revelation. After Him this authority shall pass to the Aghsáns and after them to the House of Justice-should it be established in the world by then...Otherwise the endowments shall revert to the people of Bahá who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet"- (KA pp.34-35) In explanation of this verse notes 66 and 67 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas read as follows: Note 66- "Aghsán" (plural of Ghusn) is the Arabic word for "Branches". This term is used by Bahá'u'lláh to designate His male descendants. It has particular implications not only for the disposition of endowments but also for the succession of authority following the passing of Bahá'u'lláh and of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Bahá'u'lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, appointed 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His eldest son, as the Centre of His Covenant and the Head of the Faith. Abdu'l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, appointed Shoghi Effendi, His eldest grandson, as the Guardian and Head of the Faith. This passage of the Aqdas, therefore, anticipates the succession of chosen Aghsán and thus the institution of the Guardianship and envisages the possibility of a break in their line. The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very situation provided for in this passage, in that the line of Aghsán ended before the Universal House of Justice had been established.
Note 67. Bahá'u'lláh provides for the possibility that the line of Aghsán would terminate prior to the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. He designated that in such a situation "endowments shall revert to the people of Bahá". The term "people of Bahá" is used with a number of different meanings in the Bahá'í Writings. In this instance, they are described as those "who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet". Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the Hands of the Cause of God directed the affairs of the Cause until the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963."- (KA p.196)
An important point about the Aghsáns needs some clarification. In the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, there is a clear distinction made between such Aghsáns as are appointed Heads of the Faith and Interpreters of its teachings and the rest of the Aghsáns who do not fall into this category. Regarding the latter general group of Aghsáns we read the following from the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh in His Kitáb-i-'Ahd: "It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsáns, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others"- (TB p.222). The prohibition to claim certain rights relates to practices allowed in some sects of Islam, granting prerogatives to the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad to claim financial privileges for themselves.
As you are all aware, the Will and Testament clearly states: "It is incumbent upon the Guardian of the Cause of God to appoint within his life time him that shall be his successor that differences shall not arise after his passing". Furthermore, the Will states that the Guardian of the Cause of God is the Universal House of Justice's "sacred head" and the "distinguished member for life" of that body. The Will further stipulates: "The Hands of The Cause of God must elect from their own number nine persons that shall at all times be occupied in the important services in the work of the Guardian of the Cause of God...These, whether unanimously or by a majority vote must give their assent to the choice of the one whom the Guardian of the Cause of God hath chosen as his successor" - (BA p.8 and p.10).
An amazing feature of the Will is its flexibility. It provides on the one hand for a Universal House of Justice with a Guardian heading its membership, and on the other, in the same document the Author of the Will envisages a Universal House of Justice, equally divinely guided, without the physical presence or membership of a Guardian. From two passages in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, it becomes clear that the elected members of the Universal House of Justice receive independent divine guidance—a guidance which is not conditioned upon the presence of the Guardian as sacred Head of that institution. The first reference is as follows: "[The] Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness the Exalted One... Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, has not obeyed God..."
The second reference is incorporated in the second part of 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will, most probably written in 1907. Here are His own words: "I am now in very great danger and the hope of even an hour's life is lost to me. I am thus constrained to write these lines for the protection of the Cause of God, the preservation of His Law, the safeguarding of His Word and the safety of His Teachings."- (WTA p.18)
In this portion of the Will when Shoghi Effendi was only about ten years old and when as Shoghi Effendi later indicated was a period which he described as: "the darkest moments of [the Master's] life under Abdu'l-?amid's regime when He stood ready to be deported to the most inhospitable regions of Northern Africa, He wrote the following"(WOB p.17):" Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn, and all that is not expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the truth and the purpose of God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that love discord, hath shown forth malice, and turned away from the Lord of the Covenant. By this House is meant that Universal House of Justice which is to be elected from all countries, that is from those parts in the East and West where the loved ones are to be found... It is incumbent upon these members [of the Universal House of Justice] to gather in a certain place and deliberate upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book. Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself."- (WTA p.19)
As indicated by the Universal House of Justice, in its letter of 9 March 1965 (MUHJ p.53), it was also at this very time that 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote to the cousin of the Báb, the chief builder of the 'Ishqábád Temple, Hájí Mírzá Taqí Afnán, a Tablet in which He describes the dangers to His life, and adds that He has written a Will and Testament in which He has given directions for the election of the Universal House of Justice. He therefore instructs him in that Tablet to come to the Holy Land, should the threats against Him materialize, open His Will and Testament, and carry out His wishes.
Of course these precautionary measures taken by 'Abdu'l-Bahá were never realized. The coup of the Young Turks overthrew the Ottoman monarchy, 'Abdu'l-Bahá was released from prison, and intense activity on His part followed for over a decade. Could we not assume, therefore, that in accordance with God's inscrutable Purpose, all this happened, so that 'Abdu'l-Bahá could, in a natural and matter of fact way, leave for posterity His clear testimony that the Universal House of Justice could certainly operate fully without the physical presence of the Guardian as its Head?
The fact that the Universal House of Justice is, with only its elected members, the direct and independent recipient of Divine guidance throughout this Dispensation is further confirmed in the words of Shoghi Effendi in his 'Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh', page 153. He writes: "In the conduct of the administrative affairs of the Faith, in the enactment of the legislation necessary to supplement the laws of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the members of the Universal House of Justice... are to follow with a prayerful attitude, the dictates and promptings of their conscience...They, and not the body who either directly or indirectly elect them, have thus been made the recipients of the divine guidance which is at once the life-blood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation"- (WOB p.153).
In the light of what occurred after the passing of Shoghi Effendi who neither left a will nor in his own life time appointed a Branch to be his successor-(an appointment to be confirmed by nine elected Hands residing in the Holy Land) it became clear to the Hands of the Cause of God and the entire Bahá'í world that the second possibility provided by the provisions of the Will was indeed inevitable and fully compatible not only with the Will itself but also with the provisions of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
It would be useful, at this point, for us to review briefly the contents of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the light of the provisions of Bahá'u'lláh's "Book of the Covenant". As you know the Book of the Covenant is published in full in "Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas", pages 217-223. In this document known as Kitáb-i-'Ahd Bahá'u'lláh clearly appoints 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Most Great Branch, as His successor. But then He goes on to say "Verily God hath ordained the station of the Greater Branch [Muhammad-'Alí] to be beneath that of the Most Great Branch ['Abdu'l-Bahá]...We have chosen the Greater after the Most Great..." This meant that after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Muhammad-'Alí, half-brother of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, would be the Centre of the Cause, provided of course that he would be firm in the Covenant and realize that his station was beneath the exalted position reserved for the Master. However, as undoubtedly you all know, before even the interment of the sacred remains of Bahá'u'lláh when 'Abdu'l-Bahá was washing with His own hands His Father's body, Muhammad-'Alí, his brothers and his brother-in-law as well as members of their immediate family leagued together to oppose 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Their first act of disloyalty was to steal the two cases which contained documents and papers entrusted by Bahá'u'lláh to the care of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, including a number of His seals. Muhammad-'Alí subsequently embarked on a series of attacks on the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá by sending letters, followed by emissaries, to establish his right as one mentioned in Bahá'u'lláh's Will, and to discredit 'Abdu'l-Bahá Who, as alleged by him, had claimed the station of the Manifestation of God. We should recall that Muhammad-'Alí had already, during the Ministry of his Father advanced the claim of being God's "finger", "the spokesman of the Aghsáns" and the "upholder of the Holy Writ" (GPB pp.248-9). For such claims as these, Bahá'u'lláh personally slapped Muhammad-'Alí in the face, with His own hand. (GPB p.249)
In one of His Tablets to the Friends in Iran Bahá'u'lláh explicitly rules out the assignment of any spiritual station to Muhammad-'Alí, and adds the categorical statement: "Should he for a moment pass out from under the shadow of the Cause, he surely shall be brought to naught". 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament quotes this passage from Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet, enumerates the acts of disloyalty by His half-brother, including his plot to assassinate Him, and irrefutably draws the conclusion that Muhammad-'Alí had broken the Covenant and thus had disqualified himself from being second in succession to Him.
Many of these violations came to be known in 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís lifetime to the friends in Iran. A few would ask what would happen after His passing. Sometimes He would say that the Universal House of Justice would be formed. At other times He would state that this was a "secret", and that "the time will come when its light will appear"(WOB p.150)
Amatu'l-Bahá Rœhíyyih Khánum in her 'Priceless Pearl' quotes the recollections of a German woman physician, Dr J. Fallscheer, who lived in Haifa and attended the ladies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's household. In these recollections, which were published first in German, she says that the Greatest Holy Leaf had informed her that Shoghi Effendi was destined to be the successor of the Master. One day in August 1910, after the young Shoghi Effendi left the room of the Master, He turned to Dr Fallscheer and told her "How do you like my future Elisha?... And do you know why?...Bahá'u'lláh, the Blessed Manifestation reminded me that I... must observe among my sons and grandsons whom God would indicate... My sons passed to eternity in their tenderest years; in my line, among my relatives; only little Shoghi has the shadow of a great calling in the depths of his eyes."- (PP pp.11-12)
I cannot refrain from sharing with you, at this juncture, the fact that there was a private belief current among some of the early believers in Iran that since Muhammad-'Alí had broken the Covenant, 'Abdu'l-Bahá would have to choose one of His grandsons to be His successor. This was not because of Dr. Fallscheer's reminiscences which obviously were not available in Persian, but they had arrived at this assumption on the basis of the contents of the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. In this Tablet, three figures prominently emerge. (1) The Holy Mariner, namely Bahá'u'lláh Himself; (2) The Maid of Heaven, who flooded: "with the light of her countenance the heaven and the earth", namely 'Abdu'l-Bahá; and (3) One of the handmaidens of the Maid of Heaven who is also described as the "favoured damsel who perfumed all things in the lands of Holiness and Grandeur" namely Shoghi Effendi. These speculations acquired added importance when in one of His last Tablets 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote: "Study the Tablet of the Holy Mariner that ye may know the truth, and consider that the Blessed Beauty hath fully foretold future events. Let them who perceive, take warning"- (BP1975 p.51)
We should now turn our attention to the Law of Succession as it was applied not only to Shoghi Effendi, as Guardian of the Faith, but also to the Administrative Order which Shoghi Effendi quite often referred to as: "The Child of the Covenant"-(GPB p.243). It should be recalled however, that in one instance Shoghi Effendi also described the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as the "Child of the Covenant"- a Child which was born resulting from the interaction of the creative energies of the Law of Bahá'u'lláh on the mind of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. We should not be perturbed by the fact that the term- "Child of the Covenant"- has been used to describe the Charter of the Administrative Order as well as the Order itself. The one is the establishment of the entity in the Holy Writ and the other is the emergence of that reality for all to see.
In this connection we should remember that the Bahá'í Covenant is not something which began and ended with the Ministry of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. While 'Abdu'l-Bahá was the Centre of the Covenant and will continue to be so for all time, the Bahá'í Covenant is an essential feature inseparable from the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh until the end of this Dispensation. In fact in one of His Tablets, 'Abdu'l-Bahá refers to His Ministry as "The Morn" of the Bahá'í Covenant. This implies that the unfoldment of the Covenant in its fullness, throughout the Day of Bahá'u'lláh's Dispensation, was yet to come. This important point is explained by Shoghi Effendi: "As regards the meaning of the Bahá'í Covenant: The Guardian considers the existence of two forms of Covenant both of which are explicitly mentioned in the literature of the Cause. First is the covenant that every Prophet makes with humanity or, more definitely, with His people that they will accept and follow the coming Manifestation Who will be the reappearance of His reality. The second form of covenant is such as the one Bahá'u'lláh made with His people that they should accept the Master. This is merely to establish and strengthen the succession of the series of Lights that appear after every Manifestation. Under the same category falls the covenant the Master made with the Bahá'ís that they should accept His administration after Him..."-(1932, LOG p.181)
From the above text it is clear that the successor to the Master under the Bahá'í Covenant was the Administration after Him. It is in this light that we should understand the term used by Shoghi Effendi, describing the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice as the: "chosen Successors" of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá- (WOB p.20). We should recall that the term 'Administrative Order' was used by Shoghi Effendi for the first time in his "Dispensation", which was written in February 1934. During the first thirteen years of his Guardianship, that is, from 1921 to 1934, he referred to the System conceived by Bahá'u'lláh for the administration of His Cause, as the 'Bahá'í Administration'. In the passage therefore, that I have just quoted from Shoghi effendi about the Bahá'í Covenant, we should clearly understand that what he meant by the "Administration after Him", was the Administrative Order, as the letter is dated 1932.
In the "Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh", Shoghi Effendi points out that the Administrative Order has two pillars: the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. One way of understanding the word 'pillars' is that there are two columns and a structure is placed on them. Thus if one of them is removed, the structure will be lop-sided and fall. But when one reads, with diligence and care, the writings of Shoghi Effendi, we see that what he meant by 'pillars' were institutions which reinforced the stability of the structure.
For example in the 'Dispensation' he refers to these twin institutions as means provided to "buttress" the structure of the Administrative Order – (WOB p.157). "To buttress" means to provide support and strength to the structure. There are other metaphors that Shoghi Effendi used for these institutions. For example, in one of his messages, he describes the Guardianship as: "the head cornerstone of the Administrative Order"-(TDH p.15). The relation of the cornerstone to a structure is different from that of a pillar or a buttress to that structure. The cornerstone of a building is a foundation and indispensable stone which is the first block used as a basis for the erection of the structure.
As regards to the Universal House of Justice, the metaphors of 'pillar' and 'buttress', equally apply to that institution, but using the same concept of a building, he describes the Universal House of Justice as "the apex of the Bahá'í Administrative Order"- (GPB p.332). He also refers to it as the "crowning glory" of the administrative institutions of the Faith- (ADJ p.24), "the supreme organ of the Bahá'í Commonwealth"- (WOB p.6), as well as "the last refuge of a tottering civilization"- (WOB p.89). Although all of us are not architects, we can all easily understand that the first unit in the building of a structure is its cornerstone, and its last unit is the apex. It is interesting in this connection to recall that in one of his Persian letters to the friends in the East, he refers to the Guardianship as the 'first pillar' and the Universal House of Justice as the "second." This could mean the 'first' in rank, or the 'first' in time. In terms of the timeline, as we all know, this is exactly what happened. When one Successor, namely the Guardian, was providentially removed from the scene, the other Successor, namely the Universal House of Justice, was naturally and inevitably expected to assume the Headship of the Cause.
When we discuss the two institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, we tend to be perplexed by two paragraphs in 'The Dispensation', which underline the essential features of these two Successors to the Founders of our Faith. One paragraph begins with the words: "Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship, the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh would be mutilated" the other paragraph begins with the words: "Severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice, this same System would be paralysed"- (WOB p.148). These two paragraphs, in the light of the reality of what happened after the passing of Shoghi Effendi, who neither wrote a Will nor appointed someone after him to occupy the seat of the Guardianship, would obviously mean that the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh without any Guardian would have resulted in the mutilation of the World Order, just as that same World Order would have been paralysed if it did not have any Universal House of Justice to supplement the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh. But since we have had 36 years of the institution of the Guardianship operating in full and intensive action, and we now have the Universal House of Justice, the structure of the World Order is neither mutilated nor paralyzed.
There could well be a lingering thought remaining in some minds as to why Shoghi Effendi left no will. Was it an accident or a conscious action on his part? From Violette's 'A Tribute to Amatu'l-Bahá', we gather that Shoghi Effendi, towards the end of his life, and, contemplating his own death, gave advice to Amatu'l-Bahá regarding the travels she should undertake after his own passing. He is also reported to have told her, during the last remaining days of his life in London, that he did not want to go back to Haifa, and that she should go alone.
If someone is concerned about the condition of his own wife after him, and gives advice as to what she should do, would he not, as the Guardian, as the Chief Protector and responsible Head of the Faith—would he not also think about the welfare and future destiny of the Faith he was called upon by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to protect and promote? The only logical conclusion is that he knew he was passing away, that he was fully conscious that he had not appointed another "ghusn" to succeed him as Guardian, and that he preferred not to leave any Will and Testament. The Universal House of Justice, reflecting on this apparent dilemma, made the following pronouncement: "The fact that Shoghi Effendi did not leave a will cannot be adduced as evidence of his failure to obey Bahá'u'lláh— rather should we acknowledge that in his very silence there is a wisdom and a sign of his infallible guidance"- (UHJM1963-1986 p.84).
I recall the gist of my private conversations with many friends in November 1957 when it was realised that Shoghi Effendi had unexpectedly passed away, had not appointed a successor as Guardian after him and had left no will. We concluded that the best thing we could do was to reread more carefully 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament as well as Shoghi Effendi's writings in order to understand more clearly the hidden implications and mysteries of these inspired documents.
I will share with you my own personal insights on what some may have regarded as a predicament in the fortunes of our beloved Faith. Shoghi Effendi had often said to Hands of the Cause of God and visiting pilgrims that his 'Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh' was like his Will and Testament. Amatu'l-Bahá in her 'The Priceless Pearl', quotes Shoghi Effendi as having indicated that: "he had said all he had to say, in many ways, in 'The Dispensation'"-(PP p.213). Apart from this observation, we should note that Shoghi Effendi, referring to 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will, had written in his "Dispensation": "His Will and Testament...should be regarded as the perpetual, the indissoluble link which the mind of Him Who is the Mystery of God has conceived in order to insure the continuity of the three ages that constitute the component parts of the Bahá'í Dispensation"- (WOB p.143). In the same document, Shoghi Effendi categorically stated: "The axis round which [the] institutions [of the Administrative Order] revolve are the authentic provisions of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá"-(WOB p.156)
We should therefore consider that as Bahá'ís we did not live only for thirty-six years under the provisions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Testament but that the world-wide Bahá'í community does now and in the future continue to live under the provisions of that same Will for the rest of the Dispensation, as it is this document which links the Formative and Golden Ages together.
There is one other area that needs to be clarified, as unfortunately, a slight confusion has been created in the minds of some of the friends regarding the respective areas of infallibility of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will and Shoghi Effendi's 'Dispensation' define the specific areas of responsibility of these two institutions, namely: "interpretation" exclusively confined to the Guardianship, and "legislation" exclusively assigned to the Universal House of Justice. There is nothing in either the Will or 'The Dispensation', however, which restricts the condition of infallibility to these two areas of specific responsibility. Shoghi Effendi's "Dispensation", referring to the twin institutions of the Guardianship and of the Universal House of Justice, assures us: "Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other"- (WOB p.150). The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá categorically states, referring to these two institutions: "Whatsoever they decide is of God"- (WTA p.11). This is not only broad-based, but all-comprehensive.
According to the terms of this Will, the Universal House of Justice, in addition to legislation is the "body to which all things must be referred".(WTA p.14) It is furthermore the body to resolve "all the difficult problems", all problems which have caused differences" and "all questions that are obscure"-(WTA p.20). Shoghi Effendi, in his 'Dispensation', assigns to it the additional responsibility "to apply" (WOB p.145) the Laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh, to conduct the "administrative affairs of the Faith"- (WOB p.153), and to ensure the "integrity" of the teachings (WOB p.148), the "flexibility" of the Faith and the "unity" of its followers (WOB p.148).
In fact, as I have already quoted before from one of Shoghi Effendi's early letters, he gives us this impressive view of the work of the House of Justice: "We must trust to time and the guidance of God's Universal House of Justice to obtain a clearer and fuller understanding of [the] provisions and implications [of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá]"- (BA p.62)
As you know, the Declaration of trust and by-laws of the National Assembly were drawn up by the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, under the direct guidance of Shoghi Effendi. Moreover, he wanted the clauses of this National Constitution to be adopted by every National Spiritual Assembly. As, the document includes clauses which deal with legal issues related to official incorporated associations in every country, Shoghi Effendi stated that such secondary provisions could be changed by each National Assembly, to conform to the requirements of the law current in its country. But as the document contained basic Bahá'í principles and concepts, these fundamental provisions were to be universally adopted throughout the Bahá'í World. In this context, it is highly significant that the provisions of Article IX of the National By-Laws are as follows: "Where the National Spiritual Assembly has been given in these By-laws exclusive and final jurisdiction and paramount executive authority, in all matters pertaining to the activities and affairs of the Bahá'í Cause in...[the given country], it is understood that any decision made or action taken upon such matters shall be subject in every instance to ultimate review and approval by the Guardian of the Cause or the Universal House of Justice"- (BW, vol13, p.554)
The reason why I am quoting this particular clause, so carefully worded and approved by Shoghi Effendi, is to draw your attention to the word "or" in the last two lines. If the word had been 'and', instead of 'or' you can well imagine the laborious task which all incorporated National Assemblies would have faced with their respective governments, in order to amend the wording of this clause.
I once again repeat that the exclusivity attached to the areas of specific responsibility of each of the twin institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, is one thing, and the extent of infallibility attached to their respective activities on behalf of the promotion and protection of the Faith (WOB p.20) is another thing. Unfortunately these two separate concepts have not been kept separate in some minds and thus some confused thinking has arisen. A moment's reflection on this point would dispel these misgivings.
Q. Could you comment on the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as to when and under what circumstances it was written?
A. The Master's Will and Testament is in three parts. No dates are fixed on the document itself. From the context, however, we could assume that the first part must have been written during the period when the first Commission of Investigation arrived in the Holy Land, i.e. around 1901. The second section must have been clearly written in 1907 when the second Commission of Investigation was sent, because it is in this section where 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that He is "in very great danger". We have no clues so far on the possible period when the third section was written.
Q. Was the first conclave of the Hands of the Cause and the appointment of nine Hands to serve in the Holy Land a fulfilment of the provision in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá?
A. It does not appear to me to be so, because the nine were selected in the light of the availability of those Hands who could be in, or move to the Holy Land, and not through a process of election. Furthermore, the nine elected Hands of the Cause, envisaged in 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís Will, were meant to assist Shoghi Effendi during his lifetime in his work.
Q. How was the unity of the Faith protected during the six or so years between the passing of the Guardian and the election of the Universal House of Justice?
A. The Hands in their messages to the Bahá'í world made it quite clear that since the entire Bahá'í world was engaged in prosecuting the objectives of the Ten Year Plan, all efforts were being exerted under the infallible guidance of Shoghi Effendi's objectives for the Crusade. After the Crusade was over, there was no choice but to establish the Universal House of Justice, so that once again the Bahá'ís of the world would labour under Divine Guidance. It is clear therefore that the unity of the Cause was preserved through nothing other than the power of the Covenant.
Q. If the two cases stolen by the Covenant-Breakers are found, what will be the situation regarding the possible falsification by them of the Holy Texts?
A. This is of course a decision that will be taken by the Universal House of Justice, if the contents of the cases are recovered. Rœhíyyih Khánum often said that Shoghi Effendi had mentioned more than once that there can be no assurance that the texts of the documents had not been tampered with by the Covenant-Breakers.
Q. What happened to the International Bahá'í Council after the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957?
A. The International Bahá'í Council continued to exist under the Custodians of the Faith, namely the Hands in the Holy Land, until 1961 when there was an international election by mail by members of National Assemblies existing at the time. This election resulted in a new membership.
Q. Is the institution of the Guardianship embodied in his writings?
A. We cannot say of course that the Guardianship, as an on-going institution, is found in his writings. Just as the office of the Centre of the Covenant is not with us as an on-going institution, but we refer to 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís writings for guidance, in the same way we turn to the writings of Shoghi Effendi, as interpreter of our Faith, for the guidance he has shed on the purport, intent and implications of Those Who had the reins of the Faith in Their Hands, before him.
Q. I think 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave two alternatives of succession after Him, namely, a House of Justice with the Guardian and a House of Justice without him in order to protect Shoghi Effendi after Him. Do you think 'Abdu'l-Bahá knew what will happen to Shoghi Effendi during the latter's ministry?
A. As you know Shoghi Effendi in his Dispensation states "... [I]n the person of Abdu'l-Bahá the incompatible characteristics of human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized". (WOB p. 134) It is obviously impossible for anyone in any discussion to take away from 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís inner reality His "superhuman knowledge and perfection". In the light of this it would be entirely in order, I think, to be confident in the conclusion that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in His inner being, would have been aware of future events.
As to the question of using two alternatives for the future House of Justice, in light of what happened to the Aghsán, all of whom broke the Covenant during Shoghi Effendi's lifetime, I tend to agree with you that 'Abdu'l-Bahá'ís purpose was to protect Shoghi Effendi. During Shoghi Effendi's ministry, there were seven Aghsáns, all grandsons of 'Abdu'l-Bahá: two of them were his own brothers and five of them were male first cousins.
Shoghi Effendi's first reference to "future Guardians" is found in his Dispensation. At that time all the seven contemporary Aghsáns were alive and still outwardly faithful under the Covenant. He also referred to future Guardians in a letter to an individual believer written in November 1948. (LOG pp. 309-310) At that time some Aghsáns were still within the pale of the Faith. Indeed in a letter addressed to the friends in the East, dated Naw-Rœz 105 of the Bahá'í era, that is some eight years before he passed away, Shoghi Effendi wrote a prayer in which he supplicates Bahá'u'lláh that those who have removed themselves from the Bahá'í Fold may have a change of heart, may compensate for what has escaped them and may be reinstated in the Bahá'í community. As you see he was still hoping that some of the Aghsáns would sincerely repent for their past actions -- a possibility which never materialized. As you all know of course, Shoghi Effendi himself had no offspring and therefore he found himself, by force of circumstance, unable to appoint anyone to succeed him as Guardian, in accordance with the provisions of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
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