Covenant-Breakers' Attacks on Shoghi Effendi
17-WT He that opposeth him hath opposed the True One, will
make a breach in the Cause of God, will subvert His Word and
will become a manifestation of the Centre of Sedition. Beware,
beware, lest the days after the ascension (of Bahá'u'lláh be
repeated when the Centre of sedition waxed haughty and rebellious
and with Divine Unity for his excuse deprived himself and
perturbed and poisoned others.
With the appointment of Shoghi Effendi as the Guardian of the Cause, the Bahá'í world embarked upon a new age. In a previous chapter[*] the Kitab-i-'Ahd and the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá have been likened to an examination paper placed before students, Just as some pass and some fail the test, the followers of Bahá'u'lláh who came face to face with the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá were divided. The great majority remained faithful to the Covenant. However, some egotistical personalities failed the tests of the Covenant and were cast out, with the result that the community was purged.
[* See chapter 3.]
In the passage quoted above 'Abdu'l-Bahá warns the believers not to allow the reprehensible accusations levelled against Him by the Covenant-breakers following Bahá'u'lláh's ascension to be repeated after His own passing. But, unfortunately, the forces of evil arrayed themselves against those of righteousness. The excuse of 'Divine Unity' mentioned in the above passage of the Will and Testament refers to slanderous accusations by the Covenant-breakers that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had claimed the station of divinity for Himself.[**]
[** See chapter 13.]
The news of Shoghi Effendi's appointment as Guardian of the Cause of God was warmly greeted by the entire Bahá'í world. Nevertheless, there were some faithless individuals, motivated by their ambition to emerge as leaders of the community, who arose in
opposition to Shoghi Effendi and, despite all his efforts to save them, proved unrepentant and were consequently expelled from the community. After some time these egotistical personalities surfaced and launched their attacks.
There was another category of people who, although they did not openly oppose Shoghi Effendi in those early days, ultimately revealed their lack of faith in him as the Guardian of the Cause of God. These included most of the members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family. They failed to see Shoghi Effendi in the light of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament, which refers to him in terms such as the 'sign of God', the 'expounder of the words of God' and the 'Light that ... shined from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance'. These people contended that since Shoghi Effendi was only a youth, he ought to establish the House of Justice to assist him in his work. In later years, one by one, they rose up against him, violated the Covenant and were responsible for the greatest sufferings inflicted upon him during his ministry.
One of Bahá'u'lláh's titles is 'the Wronged One of the World' — a title that could well be applied to Shoghi Effendi too, for he silently suffered at the hands of those closest to him. Whereas Bahá'u'lláh's main enemies had been the divines of Islam and the despotic monarchs of Persia and Turkey, the primary adversaries of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi were the Covenant-breakers. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, unlike Shoghi Effendi, did not always remain silent when sufferings were heaped upon him. In His writings and public appearances He disclosed the evil-doings of the Covenant-breakers and thus, to some extent, frustrated their wicked schemes. But Shoghi Effendi acted differently; he did not follow 'Abdu'l-Bahá's pattern of life as a public figure. He directed the affairs of the Cause and built the institutions of the Faith mainly through correspondence, privately enduring the onslaught of the Covenant-breakers with resignation and forbearance. Consequently, he suffered greatly.
Immediately upon Shoghi Effendi's return to the Holy Land after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's passing, opposition arose from the quarter of the old, established Covenant-breakers, especially Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, his brother and his associates. These unscrupulous men, who during the latter part of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry had become demoralized, with no choice but to creep into the limbo of ignominy and defeat, raised their heads once again when they saw a youth of 25 years at the helm of the Faith. They thought they could wrest the leadership of the Bahá'í community from him — but soon discovered that they were gravely mistaken.
The Arch-breaker of the Covenant in the Holy Land and a few of his supporters in America and Persia actively tried to create division within the community. At the same time that Mirza Muhammad-'Ali
was calling on the Bahá'ís to follow him as 'Abdu'l-Bahá's successor, he took ruthless action to seize custody of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh for himself. Ruhiyyih Khanum describes this episode:
Shortly after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ascension, this disgruntled and perfidious
half-brother had filed a claim, based on Islamic law (he who
pretended he had still a right to be the successor of Bahá'u'lláh!),
for a portion of the estate of 'Abdu'l-Bahá which he now claimed
a right to as His brother. He had sent for his son, who had been
living in America and agitating his father's claims there, to join
him in this new and direct attack on the Master and His family.
Not content with this exhibition of his true nature he applied to
the civil authorities to turn over the custodianship of Bahá'u'lláh's
Shrine to him on the grounds that he was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's lawful
successor. The British authorities refused on the grounds that it
appeared to be a religious issue; he then appealed to the Muslim
religious head and asked the Mufti of Akka to take formal charge
of Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine; this dignitary, however, said he did not see
how he could do this as the Bahá'í teachings were not in conformity
with Shariah law. All other avenues having failed he sent his
younger brother, Badiullah, with some of their supporters, to visit
the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh where, on Tuesday, 30 January, they
forcibly seized the keys of the Holy Tomb from the Bahá'í caretaker,
thus asserting Muhammad 'Ali's right to be the lawful
custodian of his Father's resting-place. This unprincipled act
created such a commotion in the Bahá'í Community that the
Governor of Akka ordered the keys to be handed over to the
authorities, posted guards at the Shrine, but went no further,
refusing to return the keys to either party.
[245 Rabbani, Priceless Pearl, pp. 53-4.]
Following Shoghi Effendi's arrival in Haifa, the shock of the announcement of his appointment as the Guardian of the Faith, coupled with the terrible ordeal of the passing of the Master, took their toll on his health. He was so crushed under the weight of bereavement that he could not even attend a memorial meeting for the Master which was held in His residence 40 days after His ascension. Three weeks later, the seizure of the sacred Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh by the Covenant-breakers came as a further blow.
The seizure of the keys of the Shrine by this bitterest enemy brought shock and sorrow to the tender and sensitive heart of Shoghi Effendi. Yet, despite his physical weakness, the evidence of divine guidance was apparent in his actions, which were characterized by a resolve and a wisdom that called to mind the wisdom of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His penetrating foresight. While Shoghi Effendi's appeal to the government for the return of the keys was postponed by his absence from the Holy Land, which lasted about eight months, he continued
to pursue this matter with great diligence until full rights of possession were restored to him by the authorities. Ruhiyyih Khanum writes in some detail about this episode:
The matter which concerned Shoghi Effendi most, however, was
the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji. The keys of the inner Tomb
were still held by the authorities; the right of access to other parts
of the Shrine was accorded Bahá'ís and Covenant-breakers alike;
the Bahá'í custodian looked after it as before, and any decision
seemed in a state of abeyance. Shoghi Effendi never rested until,
through representations he made to the authorities, backed by
insistent pressure from Bahá'ís all over the world, he succeeded
in getting the custody of the Holy Tomb back into his own hands.
On 7 February 1923 he wrote to Tudor Pole: 'I have had a long
talk with Col. Symes and have fully explained to him the exact
state of affairs, the unmistakable and overwhelming voice of all the
Bahá'í Community and their unshakable determination to stand
by the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Recently he sent a
message to Muhammad 'Ali requiring from him the sum of £108.
for the expenses of the policeman, contending that he being the
aggressor is liable to this expense. So far he has not complied with
this request and I await future developments with deep anxiety.'
The following day Shoghi Effendi received this telegram from
his cousin, who was in Jerusalem:
His Eminence Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, Haifa.
Letter received immediate steps taken the final decision by the
High Commissioner is in our favour the key is yours.
[246 ibid. (Rabbani, Priceless Pearl, pp. 70-1.)]
Given his ill health and the weight of the custodianship of so mighty a Cause so suddenly placed upon his shoulders, the pressures which were building up around Shoghi Effendi were intolerable. In these circumstances he decided to leave the Holy Land for a period, during which he hoped to pray and commune with his Beloved in solitude, regain his strength and confidence, and return to the duties waiting him at the World Centre. He announced his decision in a letter written in English to the Bahá'ís of the West and in a similar one in Persian to the Bahá'ís of the East:
He is God!
This servant, after that grievous event and great calamity — the
ascension of His Holiness 'Abdu'l-Bahá to the Abha Kingdom —
has been so stricken with grief and pain and so entangled in the
troubles (created) by the enemies of the Cause of God, that I
consider my presence here, at such a time and in such an atmosphere,
is not in accordance with the fulfilment of my important and
For this reason, unable to do otherwise, I have left for a time
the affairs of the Cause, both at home and abroad, under the
supervision of the Holy Family and the headship of the Greatest
Holy Leaf — may my soul be a sacrifice to her — until, by the Grace
of God, having gained health, strength, self-confidence and
spiritual energy, and having taken into my hands, in accordance
with my aim and desire, entirely and regularly the work of service,
I shall attain to my utmost spiritual hope and aspiration.
The servant of His Threshold,
[247 Shoghi Effendi, quoted in ibid. p. 57.)]
Shoghi Effendi's absence from the Holy Land lasted only a few months. When he returned, he took the reins of the Cause of God in his hands and with great vigour and zeal directed its affairs uninterruptedly until the end of his life.
Opposition to the Guardian was not limited to Covenant-breakers residing in the Holy Land. Several believers raised their heads in violation of the Covenant in other parts of the world and began their onslaught against him from the early days of his ministry. One of the age-old factors which led certain believers to violate the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh was their ambition and pride in wanting to become leaders of the community and to obtain positions of importance in the Cause. The truth, however, is that the Bahá'í community has no leaders as such and those who are elected or appointed to administrative office are expected to be servants of the Cause, manifesting self-effacement, humility and detachment from the things of this world. An inherent characteristic of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh is that it does not harbour egotistical personalities. Its watchword is the servitude exemplified by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, whose supplication to God was to give Him 'to drink from the chalice of selflessness' and to make Him as 'dust' in the pathway of the loved ones of God.
[248 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, p. 320.]
Considering these attributes of servitude that must govern the activities of the friends, it is not surprising to witness the eventual downfall of those who, either through their folly or their ambition and pride, tried with all their power to introduce into the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh the concepts of leadership and dominance and to create the cult of personality within its ranks. In their struggle for power these people brought about severe crises in the community; they violated the Covenant, rose up against Shoghi Effendi and, in the end, tragically destroyed themselves.
Soon after Shoghi Effendi assumed the office of the Guardianship and while there was widespread expectation among the Bahá'ís of the immediate establishment of the Universal House of Justice, some individuals longed to become members of that august institution. One such person in the East was 'Abdu'l-Husayn, entitled by
'Abdu'l-Bahá Avarih (Wanderer). In the West it was Ahmad Sohrab. Both men were prominent teachers of the Faith, in Persia and North America respectively, and both had one thing in common: a passionate love of leadership.
Avarih was a native of the village of Taft in the province of Yazd. Before he embraced the Faith he was a Muslim clergyman. Soon after becoming a follower of Bahá'u'lláh he was recognized by the believers to be a man of learning and knowledge and became renowned as one of the erudite teachers of the Faith. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was fully aware of the vices and corrupt practices of this man, did not prevent him from serving the Cause, and as long as he acted faithfully in relation to the Faith, He encouraged him, praised his work and wrote several Tablets in his honour. However, from the beginning of his involvement with the Bahá'í Faith, Avarih displayed a pride and vanity that puzzled those Bahá'ís who were in close contact with him.
On 19 January 1922 Shoghi Effendi wrote a letter to the Persian believers stating that he would soon establish the Universal House of Justice. He then called a number of well-known believers to the Holy Land in March 1922 for consultation. Among these was Avarih, who arrived late. Many of the believers, including Avarih, thought that Shoghi Effendi should call for the election of the Universal House of Justice immediately. However, it became apparent to Shoghi Effendi that the election of that body had to wait until such time as local and national spiritual assemblies could be formed in various countries and were fully functioning. But Avarih, dissatisfied with this decision, was still determined to press his point of view.
Following Avarih's short stay in the Holy Land, he travelled to England in January 1923 and soon after he went to Egypt. During the few months that he remained in Cairo, he created dissension and disunity among the believers to such an extent that the Spiritual Assembly of Cairo complained to Shoghi Effendi. Thus he was invited to return to the Holy Land. Here he questioned the authenticity of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá but was satisfied when shown the original copy in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's handwriting. He then met with the Greatest Holy Leaf and reiterated to her his opinion that Shoghi Effendi should be advised to call for the election of the Universal House of Justice. He is reported to have uttered a veiled threat that if his demand were not acted upon, he would have no choice but to arouse the Bahá'ís of Persia to rebel against the Guardian.
In the meantime, he wrote letters to the believers expressing his dissatisfaction with the way the affairs of the Cause were being conducted. Upon his arrival in Persia he began propagating his misconceived ideas aimed at creating division among the friends there, with the result that in May 1924 the Spiritual Assembly of
Tihran sought guidance from the Guardian about to how to deal with Avarih. The response was that the friends must be protected from his misguided intentions.
This clear violation of the Covenant isolated Avarih from the believers. Even his wife left him and refused to associate with him. Soon he changed his tactics and wrote a series of letters to various members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family, saying that there had been misunderstandings and suggesting that if Shoghi Effendi were willing to arrange an annual income for him, he would alter his attitude and stop his activities against the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.
Covenant-breaking is a spiritual disease and those who are affected by it are victims of their own selfish ambitions. It is only through a real awakening of the soul and the recognition of his transgressions against God that a Covenant-breaker can find the urge to repent. When the repentant is sincere, God will forgive his past deeds and restore his spiritual health, and indeed, there were a number of Covenant-breakers who were forgiven in this way by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.
In the several letters Avarih wrote asking for reinstatement, however, there was no expression of repentance, and when he received no positive response, he unveiled his satanic nature and wrote abusive letters to Shoghi Effendi, using offensive language and vowing to destroy the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh altogether. There was never among the Covenant-breakers during Shoghi Effendi's ministry a man so vile and hypocritical as he.
Covenant-breakers usually oppose the Centre of the Faith but most of them claim to be believers in Bahá'u'lláh. In this case, however, Avarih rebelled against the Faith itself, in spite of the fact that he had spent more than two decades teaching the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh and had published voluminous writings declaring its truth and testifying to the authenticity of its Founder's message. He joined hands with the Muslim clergy and Christian missionaries in attacking the Faith in Persia. He disseminated far and wide a series of his despicable publications against the Faith. In foul language, he attacked every aspect of the Faith, misrepresented its aims, and uttered slanders about its Central Figures, whom he attacked in most distasteful terms. 'The volumes', Shoghi Effendi writes, 'which a shameless apostate composed and disseminated ... in his brazen efforts not only to disrupt that Order [Administrative Order] but to undermine the very Faith which had conceived it, proved ... abortive.'
[249 Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 327.]
In one of his letters to the Bahá'ís of Persia, who had completely ignored the activities of this ignoble man, Shoghi Effendi referred to Avarih as a dead body which the surging ocean of the Cause of God had cast upon its shores, thus cleansing itself of pollution. Shoghi Effendi predicted that Avarih would live to a very old age in order to see with his own eyes the progress of the Faith throughout the world. And, indeed, he did live to be about a hundred years of age and witness the rising prestige of the Faith, the inauguration of the Holy Year in 1953, the completion of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab, the launching of the Ten Year Crusade and the convocation of several international conferences at which a host of teachers and pioneers arose to carry the message of Bahá'u'lláh to many virgin territories and establish the institutions of His Faith all over the globe. In a cable of 16 December 1953 announcing the death of Avarih, Shoghi Effendi referred to him as one who 'will be condemned by posterity as being the most shameless, vicious, relentless apostate in the annals of the Faith, who, through ceaseless vitriolic attacks recorded in voluminous writings and close alliance with its traditional enemies, assiduously schemed to blacken its name and subvert the foundations of its institutions'.
[250 Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World, p. 53].
The defection of Avarih in Persia resulted in the expulsion from the Faith of a handful of unfaithful persons who were influenced by his propaganda. In the same way that all impurities are discharged at intervals from the body of man to keep it healthy, the process of the expulsion of the Covenant-breakers had a cleansing effect upon the Bahá'ís of Persia. It invigorated the community and gave it the extra stimulus necessary to expand and consolidate the institutions of its divinely ordained Administrative Order.
One of the people influenced by Avarih was his close friend, the evil-minded Hasan-i-Niku. A teacher of the Faith who had spent some time in India and who visited Shoghi Effendi in Haifa at the end of 1923, Hasan-i-Niku was an ambitious man who looked for leadership in the Bahá'í community. When he did not find it he followed the same path as Avarih. He published three volumes in which he viciously attacked the Faith and attributed appalling things to its Founders, totally misrepresenting its tenets in a language full of bitterness hatred and falsehood. He was ignored by the believers and his hopes of discrediting the Faith and breaking up the solidarity of its adherents were frustrated.
Another notorious Covenant-breaker in Persia who became a close associate of Avarih was Faydu'llah Subhi, who had served as the Master's secretary for a number of years, A vacillating person, he had on more than one occasion rebelled against the institutions of the Faith and each time had repented, only to resume his opposition to the Cause. Although brought up in a Bahá'í family, he fell victim to the influence of Avarih. His father tried hard to save him from spiritual extinction but he remained adamant and continued in his odious activities against the Cause, sustaining a prolonged campaign of shameful vilification not only against the Guardian but also against Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá. At the height of his rebellion, he wrote a letter to Ayatu'llah Burujirdi, a high-ranking Muslim cleric, in which he repented of having taken part in Bahá'í activities in his earlier days. The offensive language he used against Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice in this letter demonstrated the depraved character of this man, who remained in the abyss of ignominy and godlessness until the end of his life. All he left behind is the memory of his vile language and despicable conduct.
Notorious among the few Covenant-breakers outside Persia and the Holy Land was an Armenian by the name of Fa'iq who caused much agitation among the Egyptian Bahá'ís. He rebelled against Shoghi Effendi and tried to create an alternative organization to the Administrative Order — a 'Scientific Society', an experiment that ended in utter failure. After the friends dissociated themselves from him, he was left to his own devices and, deprived of the bounty of faith, died a Covenant-breaker.
Yet another Covenant-breaker was Fallah, a resident of Iskandarun, Turkey. He was a proud and arrogant man who misled a number of his relatives in that city and remained unrepentant until the end of his life.
These men were the ringleaders of the violators of the Covenant in the East but those who followed them were very few in number. As in the days of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Covenant-breakers did not make any headway in Persia and the havoc they created in the early years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry was, within a short period of time, utterly eradicated.
The first to arise in opposition to Shoghi Effendi in the West was Ahmad Sohrab. He had been to the United States when he was a teenager to act as a servant and cook for Mirza Abu'l-Fadl, whose solitary habits caused the friends deep concern for his health. When Mirza Abu'l-Fadl left the United States in 1904, Ahmad was ordered by 'Abdu'l-Bahá to accompany him but he disobeyed and remained in the United States until 1912 when the Master took him back to the East, although he seemed loath to go. While in America, Ahmad became proficient in English and when the Master went to the United States he served Him as interpreter. From the beginning, however, Ahmad showed signs of insincerity and faithlessness and many times his behaviour caused 'Abdu'l-Bahá deep sorrow. But he remained with 'Abdu'l-Bahá throughout the journey and when he later went to Haifa he continued to serve Him as a secretary. The Master knew that Ahmad would rebel against the Centre of the Cause after His passing and had intimated this to one or two people who were close to Him.
Indeed, the Master's prediction was fulfilled. One of the believers, Mrs Nellie French, has recounted the reaction of Ahmad Sohrab when she communicated to him the contents of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Intensely agitated, his face black, and pacing back and forth, he exclaimed: 'This cannot be. Shoghi Effendi knows nothing about the Cause. He was never with 'Abdu'l-Bahá as I have been. I am the one who should have been appointed.'
[251 Letter from Nellie French to Albert Windust, 20 April 1948.]
By the time of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's passing, Ahmad had become well-known among the believers of the West. Having emerged as a prominent Bahá'í, he, like Avarih, wanted the establishment of the Universal House of Justice immediately after the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and opposed Shoghi Effendi's creation of local and national spiritual assemblies. With the help of a certain wealthy woman, Mrs Lewis Stuyvesant (Julie) Chanler, he formed an organization known as the New History Society and made a great deal of propaganda to recruit members. Using the name and teachings of the Faith to attract people to his cause, he clearly denounced Shoghi Effendi's directives for the building of the Administrative Order. He also created the 'Caravan of East and West', the chief activity of which was international correspondence.
Ahmad Sohrab, who was referred to by the believers as the 'Avarih of the West', tried to create a new sect of his own based on the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. He did not question the authenticity of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá but maintained that Shoghi Effendi had erred in his function as the Guardian of the Faith. He made great efforts to penetrate the American Bahá'í community in order to undermine the foundation of the local and national spiritual assemblies and to establish himself in place of Shoghi Effendi but he utterly failed. The Bahá'ís remained faithful to the Covenant; they shunned him entirely and with the passage of time his hopes were dashed and his plans and activities bore no fruit whatsoever. At the height of Ahmad's endeavours, Shoghi Effendi through his secretary wrote the following to the American National Spiritual Assembly:
In regard to the activities of Ahmad Sohrab, Shoghi Effendi has
already stated that such attacks, however perfidious, do not justify
the friends replying or taking any direct action against them. The
attitude of the National Spiritual Assembly should be to ignore
[252 From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, Bahá'í News, May 1934.]
Most Covenant-breakers engage in a common pattern of behaviour, at first claiming to be devoted and sincere Bahá'ís but later demonstrating by their actions that they are not. For instance, those who broke the Covenant during Shoghi Effendi's ministry declared their faith in Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the early stages, but as time went on and they foresaw the bankruptcy of their position, they compromised and progressively distanced themselves from their earlier practices and assertions. In almost every case the new Covenant-breakers joined hands with the old, whom they had previously denounced. For example, Ahmad Sohrab at first did not have anything to do with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and his associates, whom he regarded as enemies of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. But later when he noticed the ascendancy of the Cause of God, he forged links of friendship and cooperation with them. In fact, he even went so far as to denounce 'Abdu'l-Bahá, whom he used to regard in the early days of his rebellion as the Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh and whose writings he used to quote in his public pronouncements.
In 1954, the year that witnessed the extraordinary expansion of the Faith as hundreds of Bahá'í pioneers settled in virgin territories of the globe, Ahmad Sohrab, incensed by the growth and consolidation of the institutions of the Cause worldwide, visited the Holy Land and went to the home of some of the old Covenant-breakers. Holding meetings there, he gave them his support and encouragement and created much agitation in the region.
Ahmad continued his shameful activities until the end of Shoghi Effendi's ministry but they produced no results. On the contrary, towards the end of his life, the movement which he had created and spent so much effort in promoting was near extinction and it disintegrated completely after his death in 1958. All endeavours exerted by this misguided man over several decades to undermine the Cause of God had quite the opposite effect: stimulating its growth. The message of Bahá'u'lláh reached the furthest corners of the earth and the institutions of His Faith were established in almost every country and territory of the globe.
Another person who rose up in opposition to Shoghi Effendi and to the establishment of the institutions of the Faith was Mrs Ruth White in the United States. A veteran believer, she had visited 'Abdu'l-Bahá in the Holy Land in 1920. She claimed that the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was not authentic and created much agitation in the community by attacking the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, whose establishment she considered to be against the teachings and wishes of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. For several years Mrs White persevered in her determination to prevent the establishment of the institutions of the Faith. One of her actions was to write a letter to the United States Postmaster General asking him, among other things, to prohibit the National Spiritual Assembly from 'using the United States mails to spread the falsehood that Shoghi Effendi is the successor of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian of the Bahá'í Cause'.
[253 Quoted in Rabbani, Priceless Pearl, p. 119.]
Another of Mrs White's letters was addressed to the High Commissioner for Palestine. In it she completely misrepresented the position of Shoghi Effendi but the authorities in the Holy Land were well aware of the facts and did not heed her appeals.
Mrs White also wrote many letters to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada, as well as to some believers, vehemently objecting to the directives of Shoghi Effendi and the administration of the Cause through the local and national institutions. One of Mrs White's converts was Dr Herrigel, a founding member of the German Bahá'í community. He, too, rejected the authority of the Will and Testament and became numbered among the Covenant-breakers.
It is interesting to note that no one who has studied the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, with the exception of Mrs White and a few others whom she influenced, has ever questioned its authenticity. Even other Covenant-breakers who rose up against Shoghi Effendi did not agree with her. Ahmad Sohrab and Subhi for example, who had both served 'Abdu'l-Bahá as His secretary, never questioned the authenticity of the Will. Neither did Muhammad-'Ali, nor Badi'u'llah nor other enemies who were looking for any excuse they could find to attack the Guardian of the Faith.
It must be remembered that the Will and Testament was in Abdu'l-Bahá's handwriting and bore His seal. These were very familiar to the Persian believers because 'Abdu'l-Bahá had written innumerable Tablets in His own hand and almost every Bahá'í family in Persia had received one or mote of them. Thus, when the photostatic text of the Will and Testament was sent to Persia and elsewhere, it was easily acknowledged by everyone to be in the handwriting of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Another criterion for the Will's authenticity was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's unique style and mode of expression, with which the Persian 'friends were familiar. Indeed, anyone who is versed in the writings of the Faith in the original language can easily tell the difference between the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, as each has its own special tone and style.
The behaviour of those who rose up in opposition to Shoghi Effendi, such as Ruth White, Ahmad Sohrab and others, clearly demonstrates the truth of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words, found in the following passages from the Will and Testament:
17-WT No doubt every vainglorious one that purposeth dissension
and discord will not openly declare his evil purposes, nay
rather, even as impure gold, will he seize upon divers measures
and various pretexts that he may separate the gathering of the
people of Baha.
55-WT He that obeyeth him not, hath not obeyeth God; he that
turneth away from him, hath turned away from God and he
that denieth him, hath denied the True One. Beware lest anyone
falsely interpret these words, and like unto them that have
broken the Covenant after the Day of Ascension (of Bahá'u'lláh)
advance a pretext, raise the standard of revolt, wax stubborn and
open wide the door of false interpretation.
Each one of those who violated the Covenant and openly challenged the authority of the Guardian seized 'upon divers measures and various pretexts' to justify his or her position. Avarih opened 'wide the door of false interpretation', maintaining that since Shoghi Effendi was only a youth, the House of Justice needed to be established immediately. Ahmad Sohrab's pretext was that Shoghi Effendi should not have engaged in building up the Administrative Order. Similarly, Mrs White was bitterly against the establishment of organizational institutions such as the national spiritual assembly, so she raised 'the standard of revolt' and contended that the Will and Testament of the Master was a forgery. Indeed, every other person who broke the Covenant justified his action through false interpretation of the writings, and as we have observed, the motivating force behind many of these violations of the Covenant was an intense ambition for leadership in the Bahá'í community.
Although the violators of the Covenant in the East and the West during Shoghi Effendi's ministry were few in number, their relentless attacks against the Faith during that entire period of his ministry were fierce. In spite of their persistent efforts to create a breach within the Bahá'í community, however, they did not succeed. The vast majority of believers remained firm in the Covenant, turned to Shoghi Effendi with great devotion and laboured to promote the Faith and establish its divinely ordained institutions throughout the world.