Identity of Man Who Asked "What is the object of life to a Bahá'í?"
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justice2004-11-09
From: "Bahá'í World Centre"
To: [name on file]
Sent: Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Subject: Your email letter of 3 October 2004
Dear Bahá’í Friend,
Your email letter of 3 October 2004, concerning the identity of a person mentioned in a letter written by Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum, has been received at the Bahá’í World Centre.
Enclosed you will find a memorandum prepared by the Research Department in response to your query. It is hoped that its contents will be of assistance to you in your study of the subject.
Department of the Secretariat
To: The Universal House of Justice
Identity of the individual to whom Shoghi Effendi said: “The object of life to a Bahá’í is to promote the oneness of mankind.”
The Research Department has studied the request presented by Ms. ... in her email letter of 3 October 2004 to the Bahá’í World Centre. She states that she has been asked to research the name of the man mentioned in the first line of a letter dated 1948, written by the Hand of the Cause of God Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum and addressed to the Bahá’í youth.
This letter was apparently published many years ago by the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada under the title “What does It Mean to be a Bahá’í Youth”? [online here] She appends the text of the letter in question to her email, and it begins:
The other day a man asked Shoghi Effendi: “What is the object of life to a Bahá’í?” As the Guardian repeated his answer to me (I had not been present with the visitor), indeed, before he did, I wondered in my own mind what it had been. Had he told the man that to us the object of life is to know God, or perfect our own character? I never really dreamed of the answer he had given, which was this: the object of life to a Bahá’í is to promote the oneness of mankind. The whole object of our lives is bound up with the lives of all human beings: not a personal salvation we are seeking, but a universal one.”Ms. ... states that some of the friends have suggested that the man in question was Dr. Marcus Bach, but he did not meet the Guardian until 1953. She asks for more information.
While we do not have access to the Canadian publication cited by Ms. ..., the Research Department has found published accounts of the interaction between the Guardian and the man in question that identify him as a former teacher of Shoghi Effendi’s at the American University in Beirut. The earliest reference we have found to date appears in Rúhíyyih Khánum’s article titled “The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith” published in “The Bahá’í World”.
She writes the following:
I remember in the course of a conversation Shoghi Effendi had with a former teacher of his at the American University in Beirut, how beautifully he answered this man’s question as to what was the purpose of life to a Bahá’í. The Guardian answered that the object of life to a Bahá’í was to promote the oneness of mankind.1In addition, the first edition of “The Priceless Pearl”2 provides a clue as to when this interaction may have taken place. In the chapter titled “Intimate Glimpses”, Rúhíyyih Khánum quotes from entries made in the personal diaries she kept during her life with the Guardian. She quotes “Remarks of Shoghi Effendi” taken from entries dated “22-1-40”,3 as follows: “The object of life to a Bahá’í is to promote the oneness of mankind”; “Our aim is to produce a world civilization which in turn will react on the character of the individual”.
In view of Ms. ...’s interest, we also draw attention to additional descriptions of this incident included in “The Priceless Pearl”, pages 375–376, and “The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith”,4 page 192. These descriptions are similar to that in the above-mentioned article from “The Bahá’í World”.
Unfortunately, the Research Department has been unable to identify the teacher with any certainty and has found no information regarding the circumstances of his visit with the Guardian.
1 “The Bahá’í World”, volume XIII (1954–1963), page 180. Identity of the individual to whom Shoghi Effendi said: “The object of life to a Bahá’í is to promote the oneness of mankind.” 4 November 2004
2 Rúhíyyih Rabbani, “The Priceless Pearl” (London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1969).
3 Note that in later editions of “The Priceless Pearl”, the dates associated with these entries have been removed.
4 Rúhíyyih Rabbani, “The Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith” (London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988).