Sunday, 23 January, 2000, 15:01 GMT
Bahai leader buried
By religious affairs correspondent Jane Little
The funeral has taken place in Israel of the last surviving member of the holy family of the Bahai faith.
Madame Ruhiyyah Rabbani, who died in Haifa on Wednesday at the age of 90, had a major impact on the growth of the faith.
This marks the passing of an era for the Bahai religion.
Madame Rabbani was the childless widow of the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, the great-grandson of Baha'u'llah, who founded the faith in 19th-century Persia.
The religion has no clergy, but Madame Rabbani was known as a Hand of the Cause, appointed to provide moral and educational guidance.
And she achieved great respect in her own right.
Born Mary Sutherland Maxwell in Canada, she married the head of the world faith in 1937 and was left to secure its future after his death 20 years later.
Expansion of faith
She played a key role in establishing an elected governing body in Haifa, and saw the faith expand from 40 countries to 190 today.
She travelled for much of the last 35 years, including a four-year journey by Land Rover throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
She produced films, wrote books and poetry and lectured widely in several languages.
Few civil rights
But the community still suffers persecution in its land of origin. Bahais in Iran have few civil or religious rights.
More than 200 have been executed since the 1979 revolution, often accused of converting Muslims to what is regarded as a heretical sect.
Madame Rabbani will be buried in a garden across from her home in Haifa. Her husband was buried in Britain.
According to Bahai tradition, a body must be buried within an hour's journey of the place where the person died.
©Copyright 2002, BBC (UK)