A Note from the Publisher
The numbers identifying passages of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá refer to paragraphs rather than pages. Thus a passage identified as 4-W refers to paragraph four of the Will and Testament. Numbering begins with the paragraph 'All-Praise to Him...' and continues throughout the book to the final paragraph, number 56. The passage in parentheses following paragraph 29 and beginning This written paper...' is unnumbered, as are the headings at the start of each section.
[NOTE: The "References" listed the first endnote as appearing in this "...Note from the Publisher; however, there is no endnote noted in the text. The note referenced is as follows: (1 Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 144.)]
The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá constitutes a fundamental document of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. It is described by Shoghi Effendi as 'the Child of the Covenant' and 'the Charter of a future world civilization, which may be regarded in some of its features as supplementary to no less weighty a Book than the Kitab-i-Aqdas'. The necessity of a deeper study of this momentous document becomes obvious when we note that Shoghi Effendi has stipulated that one of the qualifications of a true believer is 'loyal and steadfast adherence to every clause of our Beloved's sacred Will'.
[2 Ibid. (Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 144.)]
[3 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 328.]
[4 Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Administration, p. 90.]
With these statements in mind, the author of this book, having previously published The Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, decided to prepare a detailed study guide for the Will and Testament itself. The organizational principle behind this guide is the relationship of various aspects of the Covenant and its verities to almost every subject mentioned by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament. In some instances a study is made of a full paragraph, in many cases of a sentence, and sometimes of certain words. Parts of this book are extracted from my earlier volume The Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and the reader will therefore find some materials familiar but will appreciate each subject in a different light in the context of the Will and Testament.
To deepen one's knowledge of the Faith is a personal obligation, achieved through the study of the holy writings in a spirit of humility and in a prayerful attitude. This is especially true for an in-depth study of the Will and Testament, of which steadfastness in the Covenant is the major component. Another factor to be borne in mind is the following warning uttered by Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf on 25 March 1930:
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
[5 From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 25 March 1930, quoted in Compilation, vol. 1, p. 366.]
It is the hope of the author of this book that this study guide, however inadequate in scope and depth, will stimulate the believers in their own study of this weighty document. To facilitate this, apart from the Table of Contents, a special table has been provided at the end of
the book linking each paragraph of the Will and Testament to the corresponding chapters of the book.
Excerpts from the Bahá'í holy writings are either from translations by Shoghi Effendi or those authorized by the Universal House of Justice. Quotations from memoirs of Persian believers are all translated by the author. Persian and Arabic names are transliterated in accordance with the system adopted for books on the Bahá'í Faith.
I am deeply indebted to Dr Ann Boyles for her skilful editing of this book as well as her valuable suggestions to improve its syntax. My grateful thanks to Miss Alda Rendina for excellent typing of the manuscript from my scribbled and often illegible handwriting. My warmest thanks to Miss Breda Nagle for her meticulous checking of the manuscript. I also wish to extend my thanks to Miss Golara Khayltash, Miss Orkideh Mohajeri and Miss Mahsa Vossugh who have assisted in typing certain sections of the book. I am grateful to Wendi Momen for the skilful production of the index. I am also grateful to the Bahá'í Publishing Trust of the United States for permission to quote their booklet A Tribute to Shoghi Effendi by Amelia Collins and to the Bahá'í Publishing Trust of the United Kingdom for permission to quote passages from The Priceless Pearl by Ruhiyyih Rabbani. And last, but not least, my deepest appreciation is offered to my dear wife, Lesley, for her loving support and encouragement, which she has showered upon me throughout.
Haifa, July 1999
The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh has given birth to the institution of the Covenant, which endows the human race with undreamt-of potentialities and provides the means for man's infinite progress and spiritual development in this Dispensation.
The terms of this Covenant were revealed by Bahá'u'lláh's pen in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, followed by His Will and Testament, known as the Kitab-i-'Ahd. Through these writings Bahá'u'lláh established a mighty and irrefutable Covenant with His followers, a Covenant unprecedented in the annals of past religions. Never before has a Manifestation of God left behind an authoritative statement in which He has explicitly directed His people to turn, after Him, to a successor with the authority to promote the interests of His Faith, to interpret His words, to unravel the significance of His teachings and to expound the aim and purpose of His Revelation. Nor has a Manifestation previously devised a system of administration for governing the religious affairs of the community.
The Gospels are silent on the question of successorship. Only a vague and inconclusive statement, 'And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church' has led a section of the followers of Christ to consider Peter as His successor. Such a claim, which is not upheld by a clear and unequivocal declaration in the Gospels, has caused bitter conflicts throughout the chequered history of Christianity. As a result, the religion founded by Christ has been divided into major sects which have multiplied through time. A similar situation arose in Islam. The story of Muhammad and the statement He is reported to have made concerning 'Ali, His cousin and son-in-law, at Ghadir-i-Khumm[*] may be regarded merely as an allusion to the Prophet's successor and not an explicit and unequivocal appointment. This episode, recounted by both the Shi'ah and Sunni sects of Islam, is interpreted differently by each. The story is as follows:
[* See also chapter 4]
[6 Matt. 16:18.]
Having completed the rites of pilgrimage to Mecca in the last year of His life, Muhammad, on His way back to Medina, ordered the large concourse of His followers to stop at a place known as Ghadir-i-Khumm. In that vast plain a number of saddles were stacked up,
making an improvised pulpit from which Muhammad delivered an important address to the congregation. There, He is reported to have taken 'Ali by the hand and said, 'Whoever considers Me as his Lord, then 'Ali is also his Lord.'
The Shi'ahs consider this verbal statement to be authoritative and on its basis believe 'Ali to be the lawful successor to the Prophet. The Bab and Bahá'u'lláh also confirm this belief. But the majority of the Muslims, the Sunnis, reject this view. Almost immediately after Muhammad's passing, His followers were divided into these two major sects which multiplied with the passage of time.
In contrast, one of the distinguishing features of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is that its Author has established a mighty Covenant with His followers concerning His successor, a Covenant whose characteristics are delineated by Bahá'u'lláh Himself in His 'Book of My Covenant', written in His own hand, unequivocal in the provisions it makes for the future of His Cause and acknowledged as an authentic document even by those who violated it. It is through this divinely-ordained instrument alone that the unity of the Bahá'í community has been preserved, the purity of its teachings safeguarded and the incorruptibility of its institutions guaranteed. This is 'the Day which shall not be followed by night' is Bahá'u'lláh's own testimony in this regard.
[7 Bahá'u'lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 245.]
Revelation of the Word of God by His Manifestation resembles the down-pouring of rain. In the same way that showers in the spring season vivify the world of nature, the Word of God is creative and a source of life to human souls. It penetrates people's hearts and imparts to them the spirit of faith. This process continues throughout the Revelation of the Prophet but the vernal showers of the divine springtime cease with His passing.
During the rainy season pastures become verdant and the rain also creates pools of reviving waters. Likewise, when the Manifestation of God is no longer with man, the words He has left behind become the source of spiritual life for His believers. For the Christians the Gospels and for the Muslims the Qur'an have acted as the spiritual reservoir of the water of life and the repository of God's teachings.
However, the water that flows to all the people, who have free access to it, soon loses its purity, being mixed with the mud and pollution of man-made ideas. In older Dispensations, the Manifestations of God left their words to posterity, with no clear provision made for further guidance. Their followers had to interpret their utterances as best they could. As a result, people disagreed in their understanding of the teachings. The followers interfered with the Word of God: they compromised the laws and precepts which were promulgated by the Prophet. Man-made dogmas and rituals were added, human
innovations and practices were introduced and the purity of the teachings was lost. Schisms occurred and sects and denominations were created within a religion. The unity and love which had existed among the followers during the lifetime of the founder of the religion disappeared after Him and in the course of time were replaced by enmity and contention.
In the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh the revelation of the Word of God has taken a different form altogether. Whereas in former times, with the exception of the Qur'an and the writings of the Bab, the words of the Prophets, in most cases, were recorded years after their revelation, the words of Bahá'u'lláh were taken down by His amanuensis the moment they were uttered. In some cases He Himself inscribed the verses revealed to Him. These writings, usually referred to as sacred text, or Tablets, are preserved and safeguarded and their authenticity is assured. The words of God in this Dispensation have been revealed with such profusion that — as Bahá'u'lláh Himself testifies — were His writings to be compiled, they would produce no less than one hundred volumes of holy scripture for mankind in this age. The analogy of the pool is no longer apt. More appropriate is the analogy of an ocean created when the words of God were sent down as copious rain.
The Qur'an consists of over six thousand verses and was revealed by Muhammad in 23 years. The speed of the revelation of the words of Bahá'u'lláh was about one thousand verses in an hour! For example, the Kitab-i-Iqan (Book of Certitude), one of the most important of Bahá'u'lláh's works, was revealed in the course of two days and two nights. During the do-year ministry of Bahá'u'lláh the world of humanity was immersed in an ocean of divine revelation whose latent energies are destined to revitalize the whole of humankind.
[8 For more information on the manner of revelation of Tablets, see Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 1, pp. 23-4.]
A distinguishing feature of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh is that, until the Dispensations of the past, the Word of God, sent down for the spiritualization and guidance of man, has not been simply handed over to him freely. To no one is given the right to interpret His words, to add even a dot or to take one away. Bahá'u'lláh has preserved the purity of the water of His Revelation against all pollution. On the one hand, He has revealed the Word of God for the benefit of all mankind; on the other, He has not allowed anyone to interfere with it. He resolved these two contrasting features through the institution of the Covenant, firmly established in the Kitab-i-Aqdas and His Will and Testament which was written in His own hand and designated as 'The Book of My Covenant'.
Instead of leaving His Revelation freely to man and allowing him to interpret His writings and act upon them as he likes, Bahá'u'lláh has created, in the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a pure channel for the
interpretation of His Revelation and the guidance of the community. As the primary recipient of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, He is the authorized interpreter of the sacred words. His soul embraced every virtue and power which that Revelation conferred upon Him, virtues and powers which, through the operation of the institution of the Covenant, are to be vouchsafed progressively to humanity in the course of this Dispensation and which are the cause of the social, the intellectual and spiritual development of man on this planet until the advent of the next Manifestation of God.
'Abdu'l-Bahá acts in this analogy as a receptacle. Before a receptacle is filled, it must first be empty. The person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá had so surrendered His will to that of Bahá'u'lláh that He was utterly empty of self and had nothing to express or manifest in His being except self-effacement and absolute servitude. His whole being became the incarnation of every goodly virtue, a stainless mirror reflecting the light of glory cast upon Him by Bahá'u'lláh.
'Abdu'l-Bahá states that there are three stations in this vast creation: the station of God, which is unapproachable; the station of the Manifestations of God, which is equally inaccessible; and the station of man. The only station befitting man is that of servitude. To the extent that the individual believer abides on the plane of servitude, he will grow closer to God and become the recipient of His power, grace and bounties. As 'Abdu'l-Bahá reached the lowest depths of servitude, hence He became the embodiment of all divine qualities and attributes. Although He genuinely considered Himself a servant of the servants of Bahá'u'lláh, He manifested a majesty and grandeur which no human being could ever hope to possess. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was not a Manifestation of God but by virtue of His being the repository of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, 'the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized' in His person. He knew the secrets of the hearts of men and His words were creative.
[9 Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 134.]
The Most Great Infallibility mentioned by Bahá'u'lláh is inherent in the Manifestation of God and no one can share in it. 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not possess this but Bahá'u'lláh conferred infallibility upon Him. The Manifestation of God is like a sun which generates its own heat and light; the moon does not possess its own light but receives it from the sun and reflects it towards the earth. Similarly, Bahá'u'lláh acts as the Sun of Truth and 'Abdu'l-Bahá as the Moon of this Dispensation.
[10 See Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4, pp. 143, 149-53.]
'Abdu'l-Bahá should not be viewed as an ordinary human being who persevered in His efforts until He emptied Himself of selfish desire and consequently was appointed by Bahá'u'lláh as His successor Rather, He should be seen as having been created by God for the
purpose of becoming the recipient of God's Revelation in this age. We shall never know His real station because He was 'the Mystery of God', a title conferred upon Him by Bahá'u'lláh. He was the priceless gift of Bahá'u'lláh to mankind. In many of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has extolled the station of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in laudatory terms. To cite an example, in the Suriy-i-Ghusn Bahá'u'lláh testifies to this truth:
We have sent Him down in the form of a human temple. Blest and
sanctified be God Who createth whatsoever He willeth through His
inviolable, His infallible decree. They who deprive themselves of
the shadow of the Branch, are lost in the wilderness of error, are
consumed by the heat of worldly desires, and are of those who will
[11 Bahá'u'lláh, in Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 135.]
When 'Abdu'l-Bahá was in His early teens in Baghdad, Bahá'u'lláh designated Him 'the Master'. Other titles conferred upon Him in His youth are all indicative of a mysterious being who is the Centre of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant.
Every Covenant has two sides, each with its own obligations. Bahá'u'lláh has fulfilled His side of the Covenant by bequeathing to humanity two precious gifts: one, the outpouring of His Revelation; and the other, His Covenant with its centre in the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. To revert to our analogy: Bahá'u'lláh vouchsafed to mankind the ocean of His Revelation. He also created an unbreachable reservoir for it in the Covenant, in the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, to provide an unfailing supply of pure water, no matter how much pollution men may try to introduce into the life-giving waters of that Revelation. Having identified the part that Bahá'u'lláh fulfils in this Covenant, we note that the followers of Bahá'u'lláh, who constitute the other side of the Covenant, have the obligation to draw the life-giving waters of His Revelation from that reservoir, to become revived, to live in accordance with His teachings and be transformed into a new creation.
During the ministry of Bahá'u'lláh, the believers had the inestimable privilege of turning to Him in person; many were honoured to attain His presence. These believers received the bounties of God directly from Bahá'u'lláh and were guided by Him in numerous Tablets revealed for them. Consequently they were enabled to conduct their lives according to His good-pleasure. Those souls who acquired spiritual qualities through their direct contact with the Supreme Manifestation of God were magnetized by Him and were transformed into spiritual giants of this Dispensation.
After the passing of Bahá'u'lláh, it was 'Abdu'l-Bahá who, by virtue of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh as revealed in His Will and Testament
(the Kitab-i-'Ahd), possessed the authority and infallibility to guide the friends to the spiritual potencies of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. Thus the believers turned to 'Abdu'l-Bahá for guidance and He imparted to them the soul-stirring truths which were enshrined in the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh and shared with them the inestimable gems of spirit which were hidden in the depths of the ocean of His Revelation.
Also during this period a number of faithless relatives of 'Abdu'l-Bahá joined hands with some unscrupulous individuals in both the East and the West in an assault on the mighty wall of the Covenant which the hand of omnipotence had placed around the sanctuary of His Cause. These persons asserted that their objections were founded on the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh but, although they had access to the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, they distorted their meaning and betrayed their purpose. Turning away from 'Abdu'l-Bahá and denying the authority with which Bahá'u'lláh had invested Him, they deprived themselves of the centre of infallible interpretation and guidance and thus they extinguished the spirit of the Faith within their hearts.
In a Tablet emphasizing the importance of steadfastness in the Covenant, 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that in this day the confirmations of Bahá'u'lláh will reach only those who are firm in the Covenant.' The Master affirms that even should one who was an embodiment of the Holy Spirit fail to turn to the Centre of the Covenant, he would become a dead body. For a period of 29 years 'Abdu'l-Bahá guided the Bahá'ís of the world to fulfil their part of the Covenant and at His passing He bequeathed an undivided Faith and the pure, life-giving water of the teachings to future generations.
[12 Ma'idiy-i-Asmani, vol. 5, pp. 98-9.]
With the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Apostolic Age of the Faith came to an end and the Faith entered the Formative Age. The forces of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, which streamed forth from the person of 'Abdu'l-Bahá during His ministry, had now ceased. But 'Abdu'l-Bahá had a plan for the believers. He did not abandon them to their own devices. He delineated in His Will and Testament the outline of a marvellous scheme to enable the believers to raise up the institutions created by Bahá'u'lláh for the governance of society in His Dispensation. Thus the believers in the Formative Age were given the opportunity to play their part, as bidden by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, in the building up of the institutions of the Faith which are to act as channels for carrying the spiritual energies released by Bahá'u'lláh to every part of the planet. Central to this design was the institution of the Guardianship, which continued the essential task of preserving the purity of the water of the revelation after 'Abdu'l-Bahá, interpreted its provisions and guided the believers in erecting the administrative order of the Faith.
Shoghi Effendi has singled out the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá from among all His writings as being specially invested with
divine authority capable of shaping the destiny of the Community of the Most Great Name during the Formative and Golden Ages of the Faith, saying:
It was 'Abdu'l-Bahá Who, through the provisions of His weighty
Will and Testament, has forged the vital link which must for ever
connect the age that has just expired with the one we now live in
— the Transitional and Formative period of the Faith — a stage that
must in the fullness of time reach its blossom and yield its fruit in
the exploits and triumphs that are to herald the Golden Age of the
Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.
[13 Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 98.]
The Will and Testament, described by Shoghi Effendi as the Charter of the New World Order, was written in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's own hand and is signed and sealed by Him. It consists of three parts, written at different times during the darkest days of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's life, when He was living in the house of 'Abdu'llah Pasha. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was incarcerated in the fortress city of 'Akka through the machinations and intrigues of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the arch-breaker of the Covenant, who was ably assisted by his brothers and other Covenant-breakers. The date on which each part was written is not given but the first part of the Will is likely to have been written sometime in 1906 or later.[*]
[* One clue to the date of the Will's completion is that Shu'a'u'llah, a son of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, sent a letter from the United States to Majdu'd-Din, the arch-enemy of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, dated 27 Tashrin 2nd (27 November) 1905. Somehow this letter came into the possession of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He refers to this letter in the first part of the Will and Testament (see Will and Testament para. 9). Bearing in mind the time it took for the letter to reach the Holy Land by surface post, and not knowing when or how it fell into 'Abdu'l-Bahá's hands, it is reasonable to assume that the first part of the Will was written sometime in 1906 or later.]
The dangers surrounding 'Abdu'l-Bahá were great. Every day was fraught with perils and tribulations and 'Abdu'l-Bahá took great care for the protection of the historic document, placing it under ground. These are His own words:
This written paper hath for a long time been preserved under
ground, damp having affected it. When brought forth to the light
it was observed that certain parts of it were injured by the damp,
and the Holy Land being sorely agitated it was left untouched.
[14 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Will and Testament, p. 15.]
Concerning the significance of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi writes:
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.[l5]
[15 Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p.8.]
He also states:
...the full meaning of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
as well as an understanding of the implications of the World Order
ushered in by that remarkable Document, can be revealed only
gradually to men's eyes, and after the Universal House of Justice
has come into being. The friends are called upon to trust to time
and to await the guidance of the Universal House of Justice, which,
as circumstances require, will make pronouncements that will
resolve and clarify obscure matters.
[16 Shoghi Effendi quoted in Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 54-5.]
Of the genesis of the Will and Testament Shoghi Effendi writes:
The creative energies released by the Law of Bahá'u'lláh, permeating
and evolving within the mind of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, have, by their
very impact and close interaction, given birth to an Instrument
which may be viewed as the Charter of the New World Order which
is at once the glory and the promise of this most great Dispensation.
The Will may thus be acclaimed as the inevitable offspring
resulting from that mystic intercourse between Him Who communicated
the generating influence of His divine Purpose and the
One Who was its vehicle and chosen recipient. Being the Child of
the Covenant — the Heir of both the Originator and the Interpreter
of the Law of God — the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá can
no more be divorced from Him Who supplied the original and
motivating impulse than from the One Who ultimately conceived
it. Bahá'u'lláh's inscrutable purpose, we must ever bear in mind,
has been so thoroughly infused into the conduct of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
and their motives have been so closely wedded together, that the
mere attempt to dissociate the teachings of the former from any
system which the ideal Exemplar of those same teachings has
established would amount to a repudiation of one of the most
sacred and basic truths of the Faith.
[17 Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 144.]
The Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá has been described by Shoghi Effendi as the document which has fulfilled the prophecy of the Bab concerning the establishment of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, of which the Will and Testament is a charter. Shoghi Effendi further identifies the Will and Testament as 'the Charter of a future world
civilization, which may be regarded in some of its features as supplementary to no less weighty a Book than the Kitab-i-Aqdas'.
[18 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 328.]
A careful study of the relationship between the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Kitab-i-Aqdas may bring to light the workings of a process of organic evolution in the realm of divine revelation. It appears that instead of revealing in detail every aspect of His laws and teachings, Bahá'u'lláh intentionally left certain aspects of His Revelation to mature and then be revealed during the ministry of 'Abdu'l-Bahá Thus 'Abdu'l-Bahá's contribution to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh may be described as the supreme act of enriching the vast ocean of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation. Shoghi Effendi describes this process in these words:
In fact, he who reads the Aqdas with care and diligence will not
find it hard to discover that the Most Holy Book itself anticipates
in a number of passages the institutions which 'Abdu'l-Bahá
ordains in His Will. By leaving certain matters unspecified and
unregulated in His Book of Laws, Bahá'u'lláh seems to have
deliberately left a gap in the general scheme of Bahá'í Dispensation,
which the unequivocal provisions of the Master's Will have
filled. To attempt to divorce the one from the other, to insinuate
that the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh have not been upheld, in their
entirety and with absolute integrity, by what 'Abdu'l-Bahá has
revealed in His Will, is an unpardonable affront to the unswerving
fidelity that has characterized the life and labours of our beloved
[19 Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 4.]
When the provisions of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and those of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá are realized at their appointed time, the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh will come into being, unveiling to mankind the glory and majesty of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh. As we have already stated, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, through His Will and Testament, left for the Bahá'ís of the Formative Age a master plan for the building of the institutions of the Administrative Order and it was Shoghi Effendi, whom 'Abdu'l-Bahá extolled as a pearl, unique and priceless, the Sign of God, the Guardian of the Cause of God and the Expounder and Interpreter of His Word, who guided the believers in the execution of this task. In the course of his 36 years as Guardian, Shoghi Effendi, in addition to all his other achievements, expounded the relationship between the two divinely-ordained, uniquely guided institutions of the Faith: the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. In his letter addressed on 21 March 1930 to the members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada he wrote, referring to the unique nature of the Administrative Order created by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá:
Not only have they revealed all the directions required for the
practical realization of those ideals which the Prophets of God have
visualized, and which from time immemorial have inflamed the
imagination of seers and poets in every age. They have also, in
unequivocal and emphatic language, appointed those twin institution
of the House of Justice and of the Guardianship as their
chosen Successors, destined to apply the principles, promulgate
the laws, protect the institutions, adapt loyally and intelligently the
Faith to the requirements of progressive society, and consummate
the incorruptible inheritance which the Founders of the Faith have
bequeathed to the world.
[20 ibid. pp. 19-20. (Shoghi Effendi, World Order.)]
Now, since the passing of Shoghi Effendi, it is the Universal House of Justice, the other of the two 'chosen successors' of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, which performs the function of protecting the purity of the Revelation. It ensures that no one may infringe the exclusive prerogative of the Guardian by attempting to assert authoritative interpretations of the writings. At the same time, it performs the various functions conferred upon it in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá and, through its legislative actions, provides that element of elasticity which enables the Faith to meet the challenging needs of a fast-evolving human society.
The world-vivifying forces of the Faith stream out from this divinely-ordained institution into a vast network of Assemblies, bestowing spiritual life upon multitudes in every part of the world. Concerning the significance of these divinely-ordained channels, Shoghi Effendi makes this remarkable statement:
The moment had now arrived for that undying, that world-vitalizing
Spirit that was born in Shiraz, that had been rekindled in
Tihran, that had been fanned into flame in Baghdad and
Adrianople, that had been carried to the West, and was now
illuminating the fringes of five continents, to incarnate itself in
institutions designed to canalize its outspreading energies and
stimulate its growth.
[21 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 324.]
A deeper study of the writings of Shoghi Effendi makes it abundantly clear that the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá is a momentous document endowed with undreamt-of potentialities whose import only the passage of time can reveal. Its provisions are designed not only to guide the believers in the erection of the divinely-ordained institutions but it also provides, like the Kitab-i-'Ahd, rigorous tests of faith to every follower of Bahá'u'lláh. As we study the following pages of this book, we will observe that many believers, including some outstanding but egotistical and ambitious teachers of the Cause, were severely tested.
They failed to abide by the sacred provisions of these vital documents and consequently the flame of their faith was extinguished and they spiritually perished.