The Hands of the Cause during the Ministry of the Guardian
20-WT O friends! The Hands of the Cause of God must be
nominated and appointed by the guardian of the Cause of God.
All must be under his shadow and obey his command. Should
any, within or without the company of the Hands of the Cause
of God disobey and seek division, the wrath of God and His
vengeance will be upon him, for he will have caused a breach in
the true Faith of God.
At different times during his ministry Shoghi Effendi conferred the station of the Hands of the Cause posthumously upon certain outstanding servants of the Cause. Ten distinguished souls from different continents and backgrounds were thus honoured. Towards the end of his ministry he appointed living Hands of the Cause and directed them, step by step, to carry out various duties which he entrusted to them.
As we survey the life of Shoghi Effendi, it appears that although from the early days of his ministry he was in need of competent souls to assist him in his work, he could not find anyone with the necessary capacity and experience to undertake this important function. The only person who responded to his call for such service was the renowned Dr John Esslemont, who served the Guardian with the utmost devotion, zeal and enthusiasm. His untimely death in 1925 robbed Shoghi Effendi of one of his ablest assistants. Although the Guardian invited others to undertake a similar service, there were no suitable candidates available anywhere in the Bahá'í world.
There were few, if any, believers who had the vision and the experience needed to work with Shoghi Effendi in his efforts to build the foundations of the institutions of the Faith around the world. Although there were a number of outstanding scholars of the Faith in Persia who had studied all the holy writings available to them and were well versed in the history of the Faith as well as in the scriptures of older religions, it is highly unlikely that any of them had perceived the significance of the institutions of the Faith, the inevitability of their rise or the emergence of the Administrative Order of Bahá'u'lláh, the framework of His World Order for mankind. These learned Bahá'ís were fully conscious of the importance of the spiritual assemblies, which Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá had emphasized, but probably none of them realized that the local spiritual assembly was destined to become the primary institution of the Administrative Order, about which very little was known at the time. Nor did anyone realize that the institutions of the Faith would become channels for the flow of the spiritual forces latent within the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.
It becomes clear now, only after the lapse of many decades, how little the early Bahá'ís understood the basic principles of Bahá'u'lláh's Administrative Order, the foundations of which Shoghi Effendi had begun to build. This is perhaps the main reason why Shoghi Effendi could not find a single believer who sufficiently understood the nature of the work which he had set himself to carry out and who was free to come to the Holy Land to assist him. Gradually, through the guidance of the Guardian, Bahá'ís the world over learned about the workings of the Administrative Order and acquired the capacity to serve befittingly on the institutions of the Faith. Shoghi Effendi waited for 30 years until, in 1951, he was able to appoint a number of dedicated souls to the exalted position of Hand of the Cause of God. Thus he fulfilled the command of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in this regard, as revealed in His Will and Testament. Apart from those whom he appointed posthumously, the Guardian named, at different times, 32 Hands of the Cause.
In the Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that the Guardian must direct the activities of the Hands:
22-WT This body of the Hands of the Cause of God is under
the direction of the guardian of the Cause of God. He must
continually urge them to strive and endeavour to the utmost of
their ability to diffuse the sweet savours of God, and to guide all
the peoples of the world, for it is the light of Divine Guidance
that causeth all the universe to be illumined. To disregard,
though it be for a moment, this absolute command which is
binding upon everyone, is in no wise permitted, that the existent
world may become even as the Abha Paradise, that the surface
of the earth may become heavenly, that contention and conflict
amidst peoples, kindreds, nations and governments may disappear,
that all the dwellers on earth may become one people and
one race, that the world may become even as one home.
For six years the Guardian guided the Hands to carry out their sacred responsibilities. In his personal contact as well as in his communications, he laid down the principles on which the Hands were to act, described the details of their relationship with the national spiritual assemblies and the body of the believers and delineated the range and the scope of their functions. Shortly before he passed away he called on them to watch over and ensure the protection of the Cause and the Bahá'í community and introduced the body of the Hands as the 'Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth'. Concerning the appointment of the first contingent of the Hands of the Cause, in his cablegram of 24 December 1951 the Guardian wrote:
Hour now ripe to take long inevitably deferred step in conformity
with provisions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Testament ... through appointment
of first contingent of Hands of Cause of God, twelve in
number, equally allocated Holy Land, Asiatic, American, European,
continents. Initial step now taken regarded as preparatory
full development of institution provided in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will,
paralleled preliminary measure formation International Council
destined to culminate in emergence of Universal House of Justice.
Nascent institution forging fresh links binding rising World Centre
of Faith to consolidating World Community of followers of Most
Great Name, paving way to adoption supplementary measures
calculated reinforce foundations structure of the Bahá'í Administrative
Nominated Hands comprise, Holy Land, Sutherland Maxwell,
Mason Remey, Amelia Collins, President, Vice-President, International
Bahá'í Council; cradle Faith, Valiyu'llah Varqa, Tarazu'llah
Samandari, 'Ali-Akbar Furutan; American continent, Horace
Holley, Dorothy Baker, Leroy Ioas; European continent, George
Townshend, Herman [sic] Grossmann, Ugo Giachery. Nine elevated
to rank of Hand in three continents outside Holy Land
advised remain present posts and continue discharge vital administrative,
teaching duties pending assignment of specific functions
as need arises. Urge all nine attend as my representatives all four
forthcoming intercontinental conferences as well as discharge
whatever responsibilities incumbent upon them at that time as
elected representatives of national Bahá'í communities.
[274 Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 24 December 1951, in Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World. p. 20.]
In this message mention is made of the formation of the International Bahá'í Council. This appointed body was also created in 1951. Its membership included Ruhiyyih Khanum, Mason Remey, Amelia Collins, Leroy Ioas and Ugo Giachery, who was designated as 'member-at-large'. Later its membership was increased to nine. Concerning this institution the Guardian wrote:
Hail with thankful, joyous heart at long last the constitution of
International Council which history will acclaim as the greatest
event shedding lustre upon second Epoch of Formative Age of
Bahá'í Dispensation potentially unsurpassed by any enterprise
undertaken since inception of Administrative Order of Faith on
morrow of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Ascension, ranking second only to
glorious immortal events associated with Ministries of the Three
Central Figures of Faith...
[275 Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 9 January 1951, in ibid. p. 8. (Messages to the Bahá'í World.)]
And concerning the functions of the International Council he wrote:
Nascent Institution now created is invested with threefold function:
first, to forge link with authorities of newly emerged State; second,
to assist me to discharge responsibilities involved in erection of
mighty superstructure of the Bab's Holy Shrine; third, to conduct
negotiations related to matters of personal status with civil
[276 ibid. p. 7. (Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 9 January 19151, Messages to the Bahá'í World.)]
The International Bahá'í Council, working under the direction of Shoghi Effendi, rendered him valuable services by carrying out important tasks in the Holy Land, which resulted in the further strengthening of the World Centre of the Faith.
In his writings Shoghi Effendi attached great importance to the International Council, which was to evolve by stages into the Universal House of Justice. The first stage was the Council in its initial form as an appointed body. The second stage was its evolution into an elected body. This took place in 1961, during the Custodianship of the Hands of the Cause, when the national spiritual assemblies throughout the world elected a nine-member Council. The third stage was for the Council to be transformed into the International Bahá'í Court[*] in Israel, and the fourth stage was to be the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. The third stage did not materialize because after the passing of Shoghi Effendi, when the Hands of the Cause investigated the matter through legal channels, they found that the prerogatives and privileges that could legally be granted to a Bahá'í Court were inadequate and unbefitting the prestige of the Faith. The International Council ceased to exist with the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963.
[* In Islamic countries and in Israel there are religious courts legally recognized to administer matters in the context of religious law.]
The presence of the Hands of the Cause and members of the International Bahá'í Council in the Holy Land who were engaged in rendering various forms of service to Shoghi Effendi unfortunately did not reduce his workload. On the contrary, it was increased. In the latter part of Shoghi Effendi's ministry the Bahá'í world had grown enormously and the local and national institutions of the Faith had
multiplied. The World Centre had also grown. The construction of the Shrine of the Bab, the terraces and the Archives Building, the beautification of the gardens in Haifa and Bahji and the strengthening of ties with the government of Israel all brought in their wake heavier burdens to be borne by Shoghi Effendi in the last years of his ministry.
Ruhiyyih Khanum describes the manner in which the Guardian directed the work of the International Bahá'í Council:
In its functions the International Bahá'í Council acted as that
Secretariat the Guardian, so many years earlier, had desired to
establish; its members received their instructions from him individually,
in the informal atmosphere of the dinners at the Pilgrim
House table, and not formally as a body; its meetings were infrequent
as all its members were kept constantly busy with the many
tasks allotted to them by the Guardian himself. Skilfully Shoghi
Effendi used this new institution to create in the minds of government
and city officials the image of a body of an international
character handling the administrative affairs at the World Centre.
It was no concern of the public how much or how little that body
had authority; we who were on it knew Shoghi Effendi was everything;
the public, however, began to see an image which could
evolve later into the Universal House of Justice.
[277 Rabbani, Priceless Pearl, p. 253.]
It is important to realize that whoever was given the privilege to work with the Guardian was never in a position to make a decision for him. It was he and he alone who directed the affairs of the Cause. Unlike world leaders who often authorize their subordinates to make decisions, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi were the sole decision-makers because they alone were the recipients of divine guidance. Indeed, the writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi are all products of that infallible guidance conferred upon them by the Author of the Faith Himself.
In a cablegram sent on 29 February 1952 the Guardian announced the appointment of seven new Hands of the Cause:
Announce friends East and West, through National Assemblies,
following nominations raising the number of the present Hands
of the Cause of God to nineteen. Dominion Canada and United
States, Fred Schopflocher and Corinne True, respectively. Cradle
of Faith, Dhikru'llah Khadem, Shu'a'u'llah [sic] 'Ala'i. Germany,
Africa, Australia, Adelbert Muhlschlegel, Musa Banani Clara Dunn,
respectively. Members august body invested in conformity with
'Abdu'l-Bahá's Testament, twofold sacred function, the propagation
and preservation of the unity of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and
destined to assume individually in the course of time the direction
of institutions paralleling those revolving around the Universal
House of Justice, the supreme legislative body of the Bahá'í world,
are now recruited from all five continents of the globe and
representative of the three principal world religions of mankind.
[278 Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 29 February 1952, in Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World, pp. 20-1.]
Soon after this announcement William Sutherland Maxwell passed away. The Guardian appointed Mr Maxwell's illustrious daughter Ruhiyyih Khanum a Hand of the Cause in his place and sent the following message to the Bahá'í world on 26 March 1952:
With sorrowful heart announce through national assemblies that
Hand of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, highly esteemed, dearly beloved
Sutherland Maxwell, has been gathered into the glory of the Abha
Kingdom. His saintly life, extending well nigh four score years,
enriched during the course of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry by services
in the Dominion of Canada, ennobled during Formative Age of Faith
by decade of services in Holy Land, during darkest days of my life,
doubly honoured through association with the crown of martyrdom
won by May Maxwell and incomparable honour bestowed upon
his daughter, attained consummation through his appointment as
architect of the arcade and superstructure of the Bab's Sepulchre
as well as elevation to the front rank of the Hands of the Cause of
God. Advise all national assemblies to hold befitting memorial
gatherings particularly in the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in Wilmette and
in the Haziratu'l-Quds in Tihran.
Have instructed Hands of Cause in United States and Canada,
Horace Holley and Fred Schopflocher, to attend as my representatives
the funeral in Montreal. Moved to name after him the
southern door of the Bab's Tomb as tribute to his services to
second holiest Shrine of the Bahá'í world. The mantle of Hand of
Cause now falls upon the shoulders of his distinguished daughter,
Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih, who has already rendered and is still
rendering manifold no less meritorious self-sacrificing services at
World Centre of Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
[279 Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 26 March 1952 in ibid. pp. 132-3. (Messages to the Bahá'í World.)]
The next appointments were Jalal Khazeh, Paul Haney and 'Ali Muhammad Varqa in 1953, 1954 and 1955 respectively. The latter was appointed Trustee of Huququ'llah and Hand of the Cause to succeed his father, Hand of the Cause Valiyu'llah Varqa, who passed away in November 1955.
On the passing of George Townshend, Agnes Alexander was appointed a Hand of the Cause and the Guardian sent the following cablegram to the Bahá'í world on 27 March 1957:
Inform Hands and national assemblies of the Bahá'í world of the
passing into Abha Kingdom of Hand of Cause George Townshend,
indefatigable, highly talented, fearless defender of the Faith of
Agnes Alexander, distinguished pioneer of the Faith, elevated
to rank of Hand of Cause. Confident her appointment will spiritually
reinforce teaching campaign simultaneously conducted in
north, south and heart of Pacific Ocean.
[280 Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 27 March 1957, in ibid. p. 174. (Messages to the Bahá'í World.)]
A significant development in the unfoldment of the institution of the Hands of the Cause took place when the Guardian directed the Hands to appoint Auxiliary Boards in each continent of the globe to act as their deputies and advisers. He announced this decision in a cablegram on 6 April 1954. The following is the full text of that historic announcement:
To all the Hands of the Cause and all National Assemblies of the
Hail emergence of the unfoldment in the opening years of the
second epoch of the formative age of the Bahá'í Dispensation of
the august Institution foreshadowed by the Founder of the Faith
and formally established in the Testament of the Centre of His
Covenant, closely associated in provisions of the same Will with
Institution of the Guardianship, destined to assume in the fullness
of time, under the aegis of the Guardian, the dual sacred responsibility
for protection and propagation of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh.
Desire to pay warm tribute to the services rendered severally
and collectively by appointed hands at the World Centre of the
Faith and in territories beyond its confines.
Greatly value their support in the erection of the Bab's Sepulchre
on Mt. Carmel; in reinforcing ties with the newly emerged
State of Israel; in the extension of the International Endowments
in the Holy Land; in the initiation of the preliminary measures for
the establishment of the Bahá'í World Administrative Centre, as
well as in their participation in four successive intercontinental
Teaching Conferences; in their extensive travels in African territories,
in North, Central and South America, in the European,
Asiatic and Australian Continents.
This newly constituted body, embarked on its mission with such
auspicious circumstances, is now entering the second phase of its
evolution signalized by forging of its ties with the National Spiritual
Assemblies of the Bahá'í world for the purpose of lending
them assistance in attaining the objectives of the Ten Year Plan.
The hour is ripe for the fifteen Hands residing outside the Holy
Land to proceed during Ridvan with the appointment, in each
continent separately, from among the resident Bahá'ís of that
Continent, of Auxiliary Boards, whose members, acting as deputies,
assistants and advisers of the Hands, must increasingly lend their
assistance for the promotion of the interests of the Ten Year
Advise the Hands of the Asiatic, American and European
Continents to convene in Tihran, Wilmette and Frankfurt respectively
for the purposes of consultation and nomination.
The Hands of the Cause of the African and Australian Continents
must exercise their functions in Kampala and Sydney respectively.
The Auxiliary Boards of the American, European and African
Continents must consist of nine members each, of the Asiatic and
Australian continents of seven and two respectively.
The allocation of areas in each continent to the members of
the Auxiliary Boards, as well as subsidiary matters regarding the
development of the activities of the newly appointed bodies, and
the manner of collaboration with the National Spiritual Assemblies
in their respective Continents, is left to the discretion of the Hands.
All Boards must report and be responsible to the Hands
charged with their appointment.
The Hands of each Continent in their turn must keep in close
touch with, and report the result of the nominations and progress
of the activities of the Boards to the National Assemblies in
their respective continents, as well as to the four Hands residing
in the Holy Land destined to act as liaison between themselves and
the Guardian of the Faith.
Urge the initiation of five Continental Bahá'í Funds which, as
they develop, will increasingly facilitate the discharge of the
functions assigned to the Boards.
Transmitting five thousand pounds as my initial contribution
to be equally divided among the five Continents.
Appeal to the twelve National Assemblies and individuals to
insure a steady augmentation of these Funds through annual
assignment in National Budgets and by individual contributions.
Advise transmit contributions to Varqa, Holley, Giachery,
Banani and Dunn acting as Trustees of the Asiatic, American,
European, African and Australian Funds respectively.
Fervently supplicating at the Holy Threshold for an unprecedented
measure of blessings on this vital and indispensable organ
of the embryonic and steadily unfolding Bahá'í Administrative
Order, presaging the emergence of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh
which must pave the way for the establishment of the World
Civilization destined to attain maturity in the course of successive
Dispensations in the Five Thousand Century Bahá'í Cycle.
[281 Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 6 April 1954, in ibid. pp. 58-60. (Messages to the Bahá'í World.)]
In a passage of the Will and Testament previously quoted, 'Abdu'l-Bahá warns:
Should any, within or without the company of the Hands of the
Cause of God disobey and seek division, the wrath of God and His
vengeance will be upon him, for he will have caused a breach in
the true Faith of God.
We have already mentioned a number of individuals, including the close relatives of Shoghi Effendi, who rebelled against the Guardian and were cast out of the community as Covenant-breakers. However, during the lifetime of Shoghi Effendi none of the Hands showed the slightest sign of disobedience to him. On the contrary, they demonstrated the utmost faithfulness to the Guardian and left for posterity a supreme example of loyalty and utter obedience to his directives. After the passing of Shoghi Effendi, however, one of the Hands, Mason Remey,[*] rebelled against the Covenant and was cast out of the community by the decision of the Hands of the Cause.
[* For further information about Mason Remey's violation of the Covenant see chapter 37.]
One month before his passing, the Guardian sent a moving message to the followers of Bahá'u'lláh throughout the world and in it appointed eight additional Hands of the Cause. After enumerating the manifold victories achieved during the first five years of the World Crusade, the Guardian stated:
So marvellous a progress, embracing so vast a field, achieved in
so short a time, by so small a band of heroic souls, well deserves,
at this juncture in the evolution of a decade-long Crusade, to be
signallized by, and indeed necessitates, the announcement of yet
another step in the progressive unfoldment of one of the cardinal
and pivotal institutions ordained by Bahá'u'lláh, and confirmed
in the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá involving the designation
of yet another contingent of the Hands of the Cause of God,
raising thereby to thrice nine the total number of the Chief Stewards
of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth, who have
been invested by the unerring Pen of the Centre of His Covenant
with the dual function of guarding over the security, and of insuring
the propagation, of His Father's Faith.
The eight now elevated to this exalted rank are: Enoch Olinga,
William Sears, and John Robarts, in West and South Africa; Hasan
Balyuzi and John Ferraby in the British Isles; Collis Featherstone
and Rahmatu'llah Muhajir, in the Pacific area; and Abu'l-Qasim
Faizi in the Arabian Peninsula — a group chosen from four continents
of the globe, and representing the Afnan, as well as the black
and white races and whose members are derived from Christian,
Muslim, Jewish and Pagan backgrounds.
This latest addition to the band of the high-ranking officers of
a fast evolving World Administrative Order, involving a further
expansion of the august institution of the Hands of the Cause of
God, calls for, in view of the recent assumption by them of their
sacred responsibility as protectors of the Faith, the appointment
by these same Hands, in each continent separately, of an additional
Auxiliary Board, equal in membership to the existing one, and
charged with the specific duty of watching over the security of the
Faith, thereby complementing the function of the original Board,
whose duty will henceforth be exclusively concerned with assisting
the prosecution of the Ten-Year Plan.
[282 Letter of Shoghi Effendi, October 1957, in ibid. pp. 127-8. (Messages to the Bahá'í World.)]
During the last six years of his ministry the Guardian showered his unfailing encouragement, loving guidance and inspiration upon the company of the Hands of the Cause and spurred them on to scale loftier heights of sacrifice and service in the promotion of the Cause. He addressed this last moving appeal to them a month before he passed away:
I call upon each and every Hand of the Cause of God, previously
or now appointed, upon the entire body of the believers participating
in this Crusade, and, in particular, upon their elected
representatives, the numbers of the various Regional and National
Spiritual Assemblies in both the East and the West, and,
even more emphatically, upon those privileged to convene and
organize these history-making Conferences, to bestir themselves,
and, according to their rank, capacity, function and resources,
befittingly prepare themselves, during the short interval separating
them from the opening of the first of these five Conferences,
to meet the challenge, and seize the opportunities, of this auspicious
hour, and insure, through a dazzling display of the qualities
which must distinguish a worthy stewardship of the Faith of
Bahá'u'lláh, the total and resounding success of these Conferences,
dedicated to the glorification of His Name, and expressly
convened for the purpose of accelerating the march of the institutions
of His world-redeeming Order, and of hastening the
establishment of His Kingdom in the hearts of men.
[283 ibid. p. 130. (Letter of Shoghi Effendi, October 1957, (Messages to the Bahá'í World.)]