Rebellion of Shoghi Effendi's Relatives
While Shoghi Effendi endured many distressing afflictions at the hands of the enemies of the Faith and the Covenant-breakers in the East and the West, they pale into significance when compared with the pain and suffering inflicted upon him by the members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family who broke the Covenant and bitterly opposed him. The rebellion of these family members against Shoghi Effendi is reminiscent of the rebellion of Bahá'u'lláh's family after His ascension. As discussed elsewhere in this volume, it is usually those who are closest to the Manifestation of God or to His Chosen Ones who are in greatest danger of becoming Covenant-breakers.[*] Only those who are true servants of God, who are the embodiments of humility and utter nothingness, can survive spiritually and remain faithful in the holy and rarified atmosphere of Bahá'u'lláh's, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's or Shoghi Effendi's presence. Any trace of ambition or self-glorification which a believer may have in his personality can be fatal if he comes into frequent contact with the source of divine revelation because in that holy presence He shall 'accept naught but absolute virtue and deeds of stainless purity'.
[* For an explanation of this particular phenomena which relates to special tests surrounding the members of the family of Bahá'u'lláh or 'Abdu'l-Bahá see chapter 2.]
[254 Bahá'u'lláh, Hidden Words, Persian no. 69.]
The history of the Faith has shown that many of those who were closest to Bahá'u'lláh fell from grace because of their insincerity and selfish interests. These people, however, could have remained faithful believers had they not served in His presence. A proud and egotistical person who serves the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh in his local community may create many unpleasant problems for himself and the other believers but these difficulties will not necessarily be the cause of the extinction of his faith. To give an analogy, a man who falls while standing on the ground may hurt himself but a fall will be fatal to a person flying high above the ground.
Most members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family were devoid of the spiritual qualities that distinguish men of God from the ungodly. Materialism had eaten into the core of their beings and 'Abdu'l-Bahá knew it. The high esteem in which they were held by the believers and the tokens of respect shown to them by Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike had made them haughty and vain instead of humble and lowly. 'Abdu'l-Bahá was not pleased with the spiritual development of His family and He often remarked on it.
From the early days of Shoghi Effendi's ministry the old Covenant-breakers arose in opposition to him and tried to exploit the weaknesses of the members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family who lacked faith and were devoid of spiritual qualities. Among these instigators of dissension was Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, who outlived the Master by 16 years and did everything in his power to extinguish the light of the Faith. He died in 1937 and all witnessed his tragic downfall.
The next in command, Mirza Badi'u'llah, the youngest son of Bahá'u'lláh, lived to an old age and died in 1950. He opposed Shoghi Effendi in every way he could. The Master knew that he would create great problems for the Cause and wrote these words about Mirza Badi'u'llah, warning the friends to shun his company:
41-WT My purpose is, however, to show that it is incumbent
upon the friends that are fast and firm in the Covenant and
Testament to be ever wakeful lest after this wronged one is gone
this alert and active worker of mischief may cause disruption,
privily sow the seeds of doubt and sedition and utterly root out
the Cause of God. A thousand times shun his company. Take
heed and be on your guard. Watch and examine; should anyone,
openly or privily, have the least connection with him, cast him
out from your midst, for he will surely cause disruption and
It was Badi'u'llah who, on the instructions of the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, seized the keys of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh from their custodian. It was he who complained to the British authorities, vehemently opposing the transfer of the remains of the Purest Branch to Mount Carmel. His acts of treachery, deceit and arrogance, perpetrated over almost 60 years, stained the annals of the Faith that his own father had founded.
Another unrepentant Covenant-breaker was the notorious Majdu'd-Din, son of the faithful brother of Bahá'u'lláh, Aqay-i-Kalim. He was an inveterate enemy of the Master and later of Shoghi Effendi. He lived to an old age and was one of those who succeeded in spreading the poison of Covenant-breaking among the family of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He died in 1955, realizing the futility of his deeds and witnessing the triumph of the Cause on the global scale.
Haji Siyyid 'Ali Afnan, a brief account of whose life appears in chapter 13, was yet another veteran Covenant-breaker. The members
of his family were chiefly responsible for delivering the most painful blows to the person of Shoghi Effendi.
When Shoghi Effendi became the Guardian of the Faith, the family of the Master were expected to turn to him devotedly in a spirit of lowliness and humility, as true believers did. But of course this was not easy for his brothers, sisters and cousins to do. After all, Shoghi Effendi had grown up with them and they were his peers and next of kin. Although they acknowledged his appointment and outwardly showed their submissiveness to him, it was obvious from the very beginning that they were not sincere in their hearts.
During the first few years of the ministry of Shoghi Effendi his family remained outwardly loyal but the seed of rebellion and Covenant-breaking had been planted in their hearts, only needing time to germinate and bring forth the fruit of sedition and opposition. In direct contrast stood the Greatest Holy Leaf. Although she was the most venerable member of the Holy Family and the most outstanding woman in the Bahá'í era and had seen Shoghi Effendi grow up in the household of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, yet she turned to him in a spirit of devotion and humility. She did this because she believed the words of 'Abdu'l-Bahá that Shoghi Effendi was the Guardian of the Cause and the 'sign of God' on earth. In His Will and Testament 'Abdu'l-Bahá exhorts the believers 'to show their obedience, submissiveness and subordination unto the guardian of the Cause of God, to turn unto him and be lowly before him'.
[255 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Will and Testament, para. 17.]
Shoghi Effendi's attitude towards the followers of Bahá'u'lláh who turned devotedly to him in the spirit of the Master's exhortation was absolute love and humility. Unlike some of the world leaders who show an air of superiority and authoritarianism to their subjects, Shoghi Effendi extended to all the believers, and especially to his relatives, the hand of fellowship and brotherhood. To the Western Bahá'ís he often signed himself 'Your true brother, Shoghi', and in his Persian letters, 'The servant of His ['Abdu'l-Bahá's] Threshold'.
Yet Shoghi Effendi's relatives did not respond with sincerity and faithfulness to his meekness and magnanimity. Knowing very well that most of the members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family were not able to turn to him as befitted his station as Guardian, Shoghi Effendi turned a blind eye to their aloofness and instead showed them extra warmth and encouragement. But he could see their insincerity from the very start, and although he looked upon them with a sin-covering eye, he suffered immensely. This suffering did not stem from the fact that they did not obey him personally but because the Will and Testament enjoined them to be obedient to the Guardian and he knew that as Guardian he would have to expel them from the Faith if they continued in this way.
For several years Shoghi Effendi called on the services of his close relatives in the work of the Faith in the Holy Land. His younger brother Husayn and some of his cousins served him as secretaries. He bore with resignation and forbearance all of their deceitful and faithless actions and their disobedience to him as Guardian.
In the early years of the Guardianship, through the influence of the Greatest Holy Leaf, everyone in the household of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, even though insincere, rallied around Shoghi Effendi. The Greatest Holy Leaf acted as a shield for 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family, all of whom stood firm against the company of the old Covenant-breakers, who were the only people who publicly opposed the Cause and the person of the Guardian.
The passing of the Greatest Holy Leaf in 1932 caused untold sorrow to Shoghi Effendi and broke his heart forever. He built a befitting monument over her resting place in the vicinity of the Shrine of the Bab on Mount Carmel. With her passing, the great shield protecting the members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family was removed. Then, six years after Bahiyyih Khanum, in 1938, Munirih Khanum passed away. She and 'Abdu'l-Bahá had four surviving daughters; they were all married and between them had 13 children, of whom Shoghi Effendi was the eldest. The remaining 12, one by one, rebelled against him and were expelled from the Faith. The other members of the family were likewise disobedient to Shoghi Effendi; in some cases, he denounced them as Covenant-breakers and in others he remained silent about their status.
The eldest daughter of 'Abdu'l-Bahá was Diya'iyyih Khanum, who married Mirza Hadi, an Afnan and a grandson of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, a brother of the wife of the Bab. This marriage brought forth three sons, Shoghi Effendi, Husayn and Riaz, and two daughters, Ruhangiz and Mehrangiz. Their family name was Rabbani, a name given them by 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Tuba Khanum married Mirza Muhsin, an Afnan, a son of Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan (the Great Afnan), the other brother of the wife of the Bab. They had three sons, Ruhi, Suhayl and Fu'ad, and one daughter, Thurayya. Their family name was Afnan.
Ruha Khanum married Mirza Jalal, the son of the 'King of Martyrs'. They had two sons, Munib and Hasan, and two daughters, Maryam and Zahra. Their family name was Shahid (Martyr).
Munavvar Khanum married Ahmad Yazdi, the youngest son of Haji 'Abdu'r-Rahim-i-Qannad. They had no children.
Every member of the Master's family knew well that the old Covenant-breakers were all deadly enemies of the Master and of the Faith and were to be shunned as He had directed. They had not associated with them during the lifetime of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and they did not do so
in the early years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry. It did not take very long, however, before secret ties were established between the old Covenant-breakers and certain members of the Master's family. As if a virus had attacked, the disease of Covenant-breaking spread and eventually infected all the surviving members of that noble family, sparing no one. This grievous downfall occurred because of their disobedience to the commandment to shun the Covenant-breakers. How clearly 'Abdu'l-Bahá admonishes the believers to avoid associating with them! In His Will and Testament, He thus enjoins:
38-WT And now, one of the greatest and most fundamental
principles of the Cause of God is to shun and avoid entirely the
Covenant-breakers, for they will utterly destroy the Cause of
God, exterminate His Law and render of no account all efforts
exerted in the past.
And in another passage He repeats the same injunction:
52-WT Hence, the beloved of the Lord must entirely shun them,
avoid them, foil their machinations and evil whisperings, guard
the Law of God and His religion, engage one and all in diffusing
widely the sweet savours of God and to the best of their
endeavour proclaim His Teachings.
It is clear, then, that the most obvious reason why the members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family failed to obey the Master was their lack of faith in Him and in His words.
'Abdu'l-Bahá wanted his family to turn to Shoghi Effendi in a spirit of devotion and servitude. In His Will and Testament He warned them in clear and unequivocal language that if they turned away from him, disobeyed him or contended with him, they had turned away, disobeyed and contended with God. Yet they chose to disregard the exhortations of the Master and rose up in open opposition against Shoghi Effendi.
The tragic spiritual extinction of the family of 'Abdu'l-Bahá as its members fell, one by one, victim to the devouring flames of Covenant-breaking, left Shoghi Effendi entirely on his own. Over the years, his brothers and sisters, his several cousins, his aunts (the daughters of 'Abdu'l-Bahá) and other relatives were cut off from the tree of the Cause. As they rebelled against him, the Guardian tried his utmost to save them. He even refrained from disclosing their rebellion to the community for a considerable period of time. Instead he ignored their insults and endured their despicable conduct in silence until, at the
end, he was left with no choice but to declare them Covenant-breakers and announce this to the Bahá'í world.[*]
[* For the text of these announcements and other details of Covenant-breaking by members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family and their expulsion from the Faith, see Taherzadeh, Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh, chapter 32.]
Every one of these messages sent by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'í world at different times during his ministry was the consequence of many agonizing episodes of Covenant-breaking, acts of opposition, betrayal and open defiance by the members of the family of the Master. But far from weakening the fabric the Bahá'í community, the defection of these family members and that of some outstanding Bahá'ís who broke the Covenant strengthened and invigorated it. Through such a cleansing process the impurities are expelled from the body of the Cause.
As for the effect of the Covenant-breakers' rebellion, Shoghi Effendi wrote:
We should also view as a blessing in disguise every storm of mischief
with which they who apostatize their faith or claim to be its
faithful exponents assail it from time to time. Instead of undermining
the Faith, such assaults, both from within and from without,
reinforce its foundations, and excite the intensity of its flame.
Designed to becloud its radiance, they proclaim to all the world
the exalted character of its precepts, the completeness of its unity,
the uniqueness of its position, and the pervasiveness of its
[256 Shoghi Effendi, quoted in Rabbani, Priceless Pearl, pp. 120-1.]
In 1948 a fierce political upheaval erupted in the Holy Land. The State of Israel was founded, bringing an end to the British Mandate. War broke out between Arabs and Jews and a great many Arabs fled the country. During this period Shoghi Effendi remained in Haifa and, in the face of great dangers and severe difficulties, carried on his work as usual, including the building of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab. But the rest of the family, who were Covenant-breakers, allied themselves with the Arab community and fled the land. Among them were the family of Mirza Jalal Shahid, which included Ruha Khanum, the daughter of 'Abdu'l-Bahá; Tuba Khanum, another daughter of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, and her son Ruhi, his wife Zahra and his brother; three cousins of Dr Farid; and Nayyir Afnan, his wife Ruhangiz (sister of Shoghi Effendi) and their children. Others who fled to Lebanon were Badi'u'llah (next in command to the Arch-breaker of the Covenant) and his relatives, together with those Bahá'ís who were disloyal to Shoghi Effendi. As time went on these people, who were already cut off from the Holy Family by virtue
of their association with the enemies of the Faith, integrated themselves into Islamic society.
Although the Cause of God benefits from the expulsion of unfaithful individuals who break the Covenant, the Centre of the Faith is the one who suffers most. In the case of Shoghi Effendi, this suffering was deepened by the fact that he was duty bound, by virtue of his position as Guardian of the Faith, to expel his closest loved ones. We cannot estimate the agony Shoghi Effendi must have undergone when he had to expel his brothers, sisters and aunts from the Faith.
Among those instrumental in raising up the spirit of Covenant-breaking, which had lain dormant within the hearts of most members of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family during the early years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry, were the family of Siyyid 'Ali Afnan, an inveterate adversary of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.[*] Now his sons — the grandchildren of Bahá'u'lláh, all Covenant-breakers — inflicted the greatest injury upon the person of Shoghi Effendi.
[* See chapter 13.]
Shoghi Effendi was dealt a great blow when Ruhangiz, his eldest sister, married the second son of Siyyid 'Ali, Nayyir Afnan, who proved to be the greatest enemy of Shoghi Effendi throughout his ministry. This marriage created an unprecedented convulsion in the family and was followed by two similar marriages, one between the Covenant-breaker Hasan, another son of Siyyid 'Ali, and Mehrangiz, the younger sister of Shoghi Effendi, and the other between another son, Faydi, and Thurayya, Shoghi Effendi's cousin. Shoghi Effendi refers to Nayyir as the 'pivot of machinations, connecting link between old and new Covenant-breakers'. He wrote: 'Time alone will reveal extent of havoc wreaked by this virus of violation injected, fostered over two decades in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's family.'
[257 Cablegram of Shoghi Effendi, 5 April 1952, in Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World, pp. 24-5.]
These inroads made by the old Covenant-breakers into the family of 'Abdu'l-Bahá were fatal and soon most of its members became Covenant-breakers. Ruhiyyih Khanum writes the following about the effect of the Covenant-breaking in the household of the Master:
But the tale of defections such as these does not convey the true
picture of what Covenant-breaking signified in the ministry of
Shoghi Effendi. To understand that one must understand the old
story of Cain and Abel, the story of family jealousies which, like
a sombre thread in the fabric of history, runs through all its epochs
and can be traced in all its events. Ever since the opposition of the
younger brother of Bahá'u'lláh, Mirza Yahya, the poison of
Covenant-breaking, which is opposition to the Centre of the Covenant,
entered the Faith and remained. It is difficult for those who have
neither experienced what this disease is, nor devoted any consideration
to the subject, to grasp the reality of the power for destruction
it possesses. All the members of the family of Bahá'u'lláh grew up
in the shadow of Covenant-breaking. The storms, separations,
reconciliations, final sundering of ties, which are involved when
a close, distinguished and often dear relative is dying spiritually
of a spiritual disease, are inconceivable to one who has not experienced
It looks simple on paper. But when year after year a house is
torn by heart-breaking emotions, shaken by scenes that leave one's
brain numb, one's nerves decimated and one's feelings in a turmoil,
it is not simple, it is just plain hell. Before a patient lies on
the operating table and the offending part is removed there is a
long process of delay, of therapeutic effort to remedy the disease,
of hope for recovery. So it is with Covenant-breaking; the taint is
detected; warning, remonstrance, advice follow; it seems better;
it breaks out again, worse than before; convulsive situations arise —
repentance, forgiveness follow — and then all over again, the same
thing, worse than before, recommences. With infinite variations
this is what took place in the lifetimes of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá
and Shoghi Effendi.
[258 Rabbani, Priceless Pearl, pp. 121-2.]
In the following passage Ruhiyyih Khanum shares her insights as to how the Centre of the Faith reacts when confronted with the unfaithful who rise in opposition to the Cause:
Whereas we ordinary human beings react in one way, these extraordinary
human beings react in an entirely different way. They
are, in such matters — however great the difference in their own
stations — entirely different from us. I used to wonder, in the early
years of my life with the Guardian, why he got so terribly upset by
these happenings, why he reacted so violently to them, why he
would be prostrated from evidences of Covenant-breaking. Gradually
I came to understand that such beings, so different from us,
have some sort of mysterious built-in scales in their very souls;
automatically they register the spiritual state of others, just as one
side of a scale goes down instantly if you put something in it
because of the imbalance this creates. We individual Bahá'ís are
like the fish in the sea of the Cause, but these beings are like the
sea itself, any alien element in the sea of the Cause, so to speak,
with which, because of their nature, they are wholly identified,
produces an automatic reaction on their part; the sea casts out its
[259 ibid. pp. 122-3. (Rabbani, Priceless Pearl.)]
The Covenant-breakers struggled continually to hurt Shoghi Effendi in whatever way they could. They attacked him from every direction and inflicted unbearable pain upon him, while he resisted their onslaught until they were vanquished one by one. In 1957, a few months before he passed away, he accomplished the task of removing
once and for all the last traces of the Covenant-breakers' evil influence from the Holy Land. During his development of the gardens around the Mansion of Bahji, he had made repeated efforts to secure from the government orders for demolition of the Covenant-breakers' houses around the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. The following is part of the cable Shoghi Effendi sent in June 1957 to the Bahá'í world when he achieved this goal.
With feelings of profound joy, exultation and thankfulness, announce
on morrow of sixty-fifth Anniversary of Ascension of
Bahá'u'lláh, signal, epoch-making victory won over the ignoble
band of breakers of His Covenant which, in the course of over six
decades, has entrenched itself in the precincts of the Most Holy
Shrine of the Bahá'í world, provoking through acts of overt hostility
and ingenious machinations, in alliance with external enemies
under three successive regimes, the wrath of the Lord of the Covenant
Himself, incurring the malediction of the Concourse on
high, and filling with inexpressible anguish the heart of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
The expropriation order issued by the Israeli government,
mentioned in the recent Convention Message, related to the entire
property owned by Covenant-breakers within the Haram-i-Aqdas,
recently contested by these same enemies through appeal to
Israel's Supreme Court, now confirmed through adverse decision
just announced by same Court, enabling the civil authorities to
enforce the original decision and proceed with the eviction of the
wretched remnants of the once redoubtable adversaries who, both
within the Holy Land and beyond its confines, laboured so long
and so assiduously to disrupt the foundations of the Faith, sap their
loyalty and cause a permanent cleavage in the ranks of its supporters...
The implementation of this order will, at long last, cleanse the
Outer Sanctuary of the Qiblih of the Bahá'í world of the pollution
staining the fair name of the Faith and pave the way for the adoption
and execution of preliminary measures designed to herald the
construction in future decades of the stately, befitting Mausoleum
designed to enshrine the holiest dust the earth ever received into
[260 Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 3 June 1957, in Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World, pp. 120-2.]
Obtaining this expropriation order was Shoghi Effendi's last act in rooting out the nests of corruption and hatred that had plagued the holiest Shrine of the Bahá'í world for over six decades. During this time countless schemes had been devised against 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi by the Arch-breaker of the Covenant, his kinsmen and associates, and by enemies of the Faith. Today no trace of any of them remains in the areas surrounding the Shrine.