Bahá'í Library Online
. . . .
.
>>   Books
TAGS: Abdul-Baha, Life of (documents); Abdul-Baha, Will and Testament of; Adib Taherzadeh; Bahaullah, Family of; Bahaullah, Life of (documents); Covenant (general); Covenant-breakers; Custodians; Guardianship; Hands of the Cause; Hands of the Cause; Huququllah; Interregnum; Mirza Muhammad Ali; Mirza Yahya (Subh-i-Azal); Shoghi Effendi, Family of; Shoghi Effendi, Life of (documents); Steadfastness; Supreme tribunal; Universal House of Justice (general)
> add tags

The Child of the Covenant:
A Study Guide to the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha

by Adib Taherzadeh

previous chapter chapter 33 start page single page chapter 35 next chapter

Chapter 34

The Hands in the Service of the Guardian

17-WT My object is to show that the Hands of the Cause of God
must be ever watchful and so soon as they find anyone beginning
to oppose and protest against the guardian of the Cause of God,
cast him out from the congregation of the people of Baha and
in no wise accept any excuse from him. How often hath grievous
error been disguised in the garb of truth, that it might sow the
seeds of doubt in the hearts of men!

For 30 years of the Guardian's ministry there were no Hands of the Cause to carry out the directives of the Master or to take action against those who opposed him. Shoghi Effendi himself dealt with the Covenant-breakers and expelled them from the community of the Most Great Name. In so doing he went through a great deal of pain and anguish, especially since many of those he had to declare as Covenant-breakers were his closest relatives — aunts, cousins, brothers and sisters.

The appointment of the Hands of the Cause in 1951 created a shield between the Covenant-breakers and the Guardian. But the authority to expel the Covenant-breakers from the Faith was vested in the Guardian alone and he exercised this authority throughout his entire ministry. The investigation of the activities of those who appeared to oppose the Guardian and the assessment of their motives and pursuits were conducted by the Hands of the Cause but the decision to proclaim them as Covenant-breakers rested with the Guardian.

Today, in the absence of the Guardian, the expulsion of Covenant-breakers from the Faith takes place by the decision of the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, subject to the approval of the Universal House of Justice.

During the ministry of the Guardian, the Hands of the Cause serving on various continents of the world performed their duties as protectors of the Faith with great diligence and steadfastness. The four Hands who served as members of the International Bahá'í Council at the World Centre of the Faith made great efforts to counter the activities of the old Covenant-breakers but their actions were all closely guided by the Guardian. This is clearly seen in the following account from a biography of Hand of the Cause Leroy Ioas, who was the Secretary-General of the Council:

As the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land visited with officials
of the Government in the interests of the World Centre, as they
met the press, as they greeted dignitaries from abroad, they were
by their very presence a living demonstration of Bahá'í standards,
practices, and attitudes. This was surely an important part of their
teaching function.

Those Hands who were members of the International Bahá'í
Council were immediately drawn into the protective aspect of their
work, specifically as it related to the Covenant-breakers. They lived
at the very centre of violation, where the enemies of the Faith could
make common cause with the Covenant-breakers against the head
of the Faith himself.

When Leroy arrived in Haifa, the Guardian was deeply preoccupied
with such a matter, and it was causing him great concern. It
involved a case brought against the Guardian by remnants of the
Covenant-breakers in 'Akka. Starting with an insignificant incident
it took on such dimensions that a deeper intent became evident
on the part of those bringing suit, namely, to gain co-custodianship
with the Guardian of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh, or to secure rooms
for themselves in the Mansion of Bahji, from which they, had
removed themselves so that the Guardian might repair the appalling
deterioration that had occurred under their care. After its
restoration the British High Commissioner had declared Bahji a
place of pilgrimage and not a personal residence, and the Guardian
became its custodian. The court case is an example of the type
of scheming with which Shoghi Effendi was forced to contend
throughout his Guardianship.

The Guardian, ever intent on beautifying the surroundings of
Bahá'u'lláh's Tomb, one day told the guard to tear down a dilapidated
house of several rooms near the Tomb; the roof was falling
in and the walls unstable. The Covenant-breakers living on the
property of Bahji, in a house leaning up against the Mansion,
rushed to obtain an Order from the Haifa Court to halt the demolition
because the had not been consulted and still held one-sixth
of the deed to the Mansion. In fact the structure in question had
been in Bahá'í hands since 1892 and in Shoghi Effendi's hands
for more than twenty years.

Two of the Covenant-breakers and their lawyer met with Leroy,
Mason Remey and the Guardian's lawyer with the intention of
settling the question out of court. It was a fruitless meeting as
sixty-year-old attacks on 'Abdu'l-Bahá were brought forward. So the case
went to a hearing, scheduled to be held informally before a judge.
After two ineffectual meetings with the judge, during which intense
hostility was displayed on the part of the plaintiffs, the case was
sent for a first hearing in Court.

Indicating the unchanging desire of the Covenant-breakers to
humiliate the head of the Faith, they summoned Shoghi Effendi
as a witness, an insulting act which caused the Guardian immense
distress. 'His great suffering', Ugo Giachery recalled, 'was for the
sacrilege being committed against this Institution of the Faith. It
was so abhorrent to him that he felt physically ill, as if "a thousand
scorpions had bitten him".'

The Guardian made the decision to appeal directly to the
Government to lift the case out of the Civil Court and called Ugo
Giachery from Rome to assist with the work that followed. The
three Hands of the Cause called on the Attorney General, the Vice-Minister
of Religions, and officials of the Foreign Office and the
prime Minister's Office. The result was that the Attorney-General
on instructions of the Vice-Minister informed the president of the
Haifa Court that in accordance with a 1924 law, the case in question
was a religious matter and not to be tried by a Civil Court. It
would appear that the Guardian's initiatives had concluded the
case.

But the clever and hostile lawyer of the Covenant-breakers
challenged the finding on a technicality and made an appeal to
the Supreme Court of Israel, in effect putting themselves in an
adversarial position to the State. The Hands of the Cause again
went forth to a series of interviews, and Shoghi Effendi made a
personal appeal to the Prime Minister. There was an immediate
reaction. The Prime Minister's legal adviser called to his office
the Vice-Minister of Religions, the two lawyers and those they
represented. The Bahá'ís refused to meet further with the Covenant-breakers
and waited in another room of the building. The
opposing lawyer made repeated claims, conveyed by the Guardian's
lawyers to the Hands of the Cause, all of them rejected
categorically. Finally the Prime Minister's adviser told the plaintiffs
that they could continue their appeal if they wished but they
should understand that their fight was now with the Government
of Israel and what it had the authority to do. At this point they
dropped the appeal and the case, and the authorities issued authorization
to demolish the ruins. The Guardian cabled the
Bahá'í world of the successful conclusion to the painful case inspired
by what he termed the 'blind, uncontrollable animosity' of the
Covenant-breakers.

Within forty-eight hours the Guardian had levelled the house
and sent over eight truckloads of plants and ornamental pieces to
begin the beautification of the area. Leroy stayed in the Mansion
to oversee the work. Within a week the Guardian had laid out a
wide expanse of garden which appeared miraculously spread out
before the eyes of the Bahá'ís in time for the commemoration of
Bahá'u'lláh's Ascension. The case had frustrated the Guardian's
intentions from December through mid-May...

Through this court case, occurring as it did shortly after the
birth of the International Council, the Faith gained stature in
the eyes of the most important government Ministries, as officials
learned more of its history an purposes, dealt with its dignified
emissaries, and noted its unified stand behind the head of the

Faith, even as the plaintiffs revealed themselves as vengeful and
vindictive.[284]

[284 Chapman, Leroy Ioas, pp. 187-90.]

The following account from the same biography describes the activities of the Hands of the Cause, under the guidance of the Guardian, to totally eradicate the influence of the Covenant-breakers at Bahji. It also provides further details of an interesting episode briefly mentioned in chapter 30:

For more than sixty years, disaffected members of the family of
'Abdu'l-Bahá had lived on the property of Bahji, step by step being
pushed back and restricted in their freedom of movement. But
never in his lifetime was the Guardian able to visit the Shrine of
his great-grandfather without their presence and their viewing
of his acts of devotion. Whatever he did there was done under their
unfriendly gaze.

Five years earlier, as we have seen, the Covenant-breakers had
brought legal suit against the Guardian. A major result of those
efforts had been recognition by the State of Israel of the Guardian
as sole Custodian of the Bahá'í Holy Places, and the 'irretrievable
curtailment', in the words of Shoghi Effendi, 'of long-standing
privileges extended to the Covenant-breakers during the course
of six decades'.

'It was a very dramatic story', Leroy said some years later of the
sequence of events which led to the final departure of the
Covenant-breakers from Bahji, 'and I remember when we started the
process the Guardian said, "Do you think it can be done?" I said,
Shoghi Effendi, if the Guardian wants it done, it can be done. I did
not know what I was getting into! The Covenant-breakers had been
there for sixty-five years desecrating that sacred place and the
Guardian said, it will be a miracle to get them out.'

When Leroy was given this assignment, the Guardian said to
him: 'Everything you have done up to now, including your work
on the Shrine of the Bab, is as silver, whereas removing the
Covenant-breakers from Bahji, and securing the buildings and lands
for the Faith, will be as gold.' It was to be the monumental victory
which 'crowned the beloved Guardian's life and filled his heart
with profound joy, exultation and thankfulness...'

The first step was taken on May 11,1956 when lawyers representing
the International Bahá'í Council applied for expropriation
of the property owned by the Covenant-breakers within the
Haram-i-Aqdas, the outer Sanctuary of Bahá'u'lláh's Sepulchre,
i.e. the consecrated grounds contiguous to the Shrine. This initiative
was taken as a result of information Leroy gleaned from
government officials responsible for questions of property ownership.
The legal instrument was the Land Acquisition for Public
Purposes Ordinance of 1943, permitting the Government to
acquire land for purposes which it deemed public purposes, and
to transfer that land to responsible authorities.

The Shrine and Mansion had been recognized as a Holy Place
long years before by the Mandate authorities, a recognition confirmed
by the Israeli Government in 1952. Its acquisition therefore
on behalf of the Bahá'ís, so that it could be developed and maintained
by them, was deemed by the Government to be a public
purpose. (One of the arguments used by the Bahá'ís in urging
expropriation was their intention to embellish and build on the
Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh.) The Government issued an expropriation
order which was published in the Official Gazette on December 20,
1956.

The expropriation order was immediately challenged by the
Covenant-breakers, who appealed to the Supreme Court. They
claimed that the expropriation (of their minimal shares of the
property) constituted an interference in an internal dispute, an
infringement of their spiritual and temporal rights, and discrimination
against a minority group. The Bahá'ís appeared before the
Court to answer what Leroy called 'many of their nasty attacks
against the Guardian and the Faith'.

The case was heard by the Supreme Court in April of 1957 and
judgement was given on May 31. The Court found against the
Covenant-breakers, and in so doing found that the Government's
purpose in acquiring the land was indeed a public purpose. The
Court furthermore drew attention to the fact that the appellants
had not contended the public purpose of the action and that the
contentions which they had brought forward had no substance.

Following the judgement of the Supreme Court, the Bahá'ís
proceeded with eviction orders against the Covenant-breakers. The
Attorney General applied to the Haifa District Court for a dispossession
order against them, but again they intervened, attempting
to delay the court hearing. They were unsuccessful in this and
judgement was given against them, resulting in orders that they
quit the premises of Bahji and relinquish whatever small holdings
remained in their hands. The Supreme Court had set the amount
of their recompense.

On June 3, Shoghi Effendi cabled the triumphant news that the
expropriation order had been upheld, 'enabling the civil authorities
to enforce the original decision and proceed with the eviction
of the wretched remnants of the once redoubtable adversaries...'

Within three months, they were gone. The Haram-i-Aqdas had
been cleansed. The spiritual suffering inflicted on 'Abdu'l-Bahá
and the Guardian by these enemies of the Faith had come to its
end. Before leaving Haifa that summer, Shoghi Effendi had told
Leroy that 'just as soon as we acquire this house of the Covenant-breakers
we will tear it down', so the moment they were gone — in
late August — he cabled the Guardian asking if this should be done.
The Guardian replied: 'Postpone demolition until my return.' He
wished to supervise the work himself.

Two months before his passing, Shoghi Effendi again cabled
the Bahá'í world (September 6, 1957):

ANNOUNCE TO HANDS AND ALL NATIONAL ASSEMBLIES THAT FOLLOWING
LOSS OF THE APPEAL TO THE SUPREME COURT, THE GOVERNMENT
EXPROPRIATION ORDER HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED, RESULTING IN THE
COMPLETE EVACUATION OF THE REMNANT OF COVENANT-BREAKERS
AND THE TRANSFER OF ALL THEIR BELONGINGS FROM THE PRECINCTS
OF THE MOST HOLY SHRINE, AND THE PURIFICATION, AFTER SIX LONG
DECADES, OF THE HARAM-I-AQDAS FROM EVERY TRACE OF THEIR
CONTAMINATION. MEASURES UNDER WAY TO EFFECT TRANSFER OF
TITLE DEEDS OF THE EVACUATED PROPERTY TO THE TRIUMPHANT
BAHAI COMMUNITY.

The legalities of the transfer took place in two stages. In October
1957 Leroy was able to cable the Guardian that the Bahá'ís had
now acquired the properties, that 'they are ours'.

He left a memorandum of the second occasion, when the
transfer was completed, here briefly noted:

This morning I joined our lawyer at the Land Registry in connection
with the transfer of the properties at Bahji to the Israel branch
of the United States National Spiritual Assembly. We had a conference
to review the details of my signing on behalf of the National
Assembly, Israel Branch, in view of the fact that His Eminence
Shoghi Rabbani had passed away.

'It was demonstrated that the Power of Attorney which he had
given me was not a Power of Attorney to act in his behalf, it was a
Power of Attorney to act in behalf of the Israel Branch, and therefore
his passing had no effect on the validity of my authority to
sign. We likewise discussed the question of the local transfer tax
of two per cent, inasmuch as I had brought from Jerusalem a letter
waiving the government tax of four per cent. When it was learned
that the property was definitely not within the city limits of 'Akka,
it was stated that the two per cent would be waived.

'We then proceeded with the transfer of the property. The
Official Deeds of Sale were signed before the transfer agent. Thus
there is concluded the complete purification of the Shrine area and
the Haram-i-Aqdas.'

The historic day of the final transfer of properties was two days
short of one month after the Guardian's passing, Monday, December
2, 1957. The Deeds for Bahji — the Shrine, the Mansion, the
house of the Covenant-breakers, and all small pieces of land which
they held in 'Akka, were signed over to the Faith at 10:25 a.m. (It
should be noted that until this date the Shrine itself was held by
Covenant-breakers as part of their small percentage of property.)
Leroy was signatory for the Bahá'ís with Ugo Giachery and Sylvia
as witnesses. The property was put in the name of the Israel Branch
of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United
States. After Leroy's death, Sylvia found the pen with which he had
signed the documents, left in the page of his diary at the date of
December 2, 1957. On leaving Haifa, she gave it to the International
Archives.

On Sunday, December 15, demolition of the house of the
Covenant-breakers was begun. The Hands of the Cause in Haifa and
the members of the International Bahá'í Council went over to Bahji
and took pictures of the event; the demolition was completed one
week later.[285]

[285 ibid. pp. 193-7. (Chapman, Leroy Ioas.)]

A few months before the Guardian passed away he addressed a momentous message to the Hands of the Cause and the National Spiritual Assemblies. Sent in the form of a cablegram on 4 June 1957, this communication may be viewed as a mandate bequeathed by the Guardian to these two institutions of the Faith. In it he foreshadows 'dire contests destined to range the Army of Light against the forces of darkness', anticipates attacks on the Faith from within and without the community and offers guidance to both divinely ordained institutions about the means to counteract the forces of opposition and protect the Cause of God. The entire message reads as follows:

Divinely appointed Institution of the Hands of the Cause, invested
by virtue of the authority conferred by the Testament of the Centre
of the Covenant with the twin functions of protecting and propagating
the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, now entering new phase in the
process of the unfoldment of its sacred mission. To its newly
assured responsibility to assist National Spiritual Assemblies of the
Bahá'í world in the specific purpose of effectively prosecuting the
World Spiritual Crusade, the primary obligation to watch over and
insure protection to the Bahá'í world community, in close collaboration
with these same National Assemblies, is now added.

Recent events, the triumphant consummation of a series of historic
enterprises, such as the construction of the superstructure of the
Bab's Sepulchre, the dedication of the Mother Temple of the West,
the world-wide celebrations of the Holy Year, the convocation of
four Intercontinental Teaching Conferences launching the Ten
Year Crusade, the unprecedented dispersal of its valiant prosecutors
over the face of the globe, the extraordinary progress of the African
and Pacific campaigns, the rise of the administrative order in the
Arabian Peninsula in the heart of the Islamic world, the discomfiture
of the powerful antagonists in the Cradle of the Faith, the erection
of the International Archives, heralding the establishment of
the seat of the World Administrative Order in the Holy Land,
served to inflame the unquenchable animosity of its Muslim
opponents and raised up a new set of adversaries in the Christian
fold and roused internal enemies, old and new Covenant-breakers,
to fresh attempts to arrest the march of the Cause of God,
misrepresent its purpose, disrupt its administrative institutions,
dampen the zeal and sap the loyalty of its supporters.

Evidences of increasing hostility without, persistent machinations
within, foreshadowing dire contests destined to range the
Army of Light against the forces of darkness, both secular and
religious, predicted in unequivocal language by 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
necessitate in this crucial hour closer association of the Hands of
the five continents and the bodies of the elected representatives
of the national Bahá'í communities the world over for joint investigation
of the nefarious activities of internal enemies and the
adoption of wise, effective measures to counteract their treacherous
schemes, protect the mass of the believers, and arrest the spread
of their evil influence.

Call upon Hands and National Assemblies, each continent
separately, to establish henceforth direct contact and deliberate,
whenever feasible, as frequently as possible, to exchange reports
to be submitted by their respective Auxiliary Boards and national
committees, to exercise unrelaxing vigilance and carry out unflinchingly
their sacred, inescapable duties. The security of our
precious Faith, the preservation of the spiritual health of the Bahá'í
communities, the vitality of the faith of its individual members,
the proper functioning of its laboriously erected institutions, the
fruition of its worldwide enterprises, the fufilment of its ultimate
destiny, all are directly dependent upon the befitting discharge of
the weighty responsibilities now resting upon the members of the
two institutions, occupying, with the Universal House of Justice,
next to the Institution of the Guardianship, foremost rank in the
divinely ordained administrative hierarchy of the World Order of
Bahá'u'lláh.
Shoghi[286]

[286 Cablegram from Shoghi Effendi, 4 June 1957, in Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World, pp. 122-3.]


[page 347]

previous chapter chapter 33 start page single page chapter 35 next chapter
Back to:   Books
Home Site Map Forum Links Copyright About Contact
.
. .