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 34 start page single page chapter 36 next chapter

Chapter 35

Successor to Shoghi Effendi

16-WT He [the Guardian] is the expounder of the words of God
and after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendents

Shoghi Effendi passed away without issue and the intention of 'Abdu'l-Bahá that the first-born of Shoghi Effendi's lineal descendants would succeed him did not materialize. This event caused a crisis of faith for some believers who did not fully understand the workings of the Covenant.

These believers expected that whatever the Master wrote in His Will and Testament would come to pass. How could 'Abdu'l-Bahá, upon whom Bahá'u'lláh had conferred infallibility and endowed superhuman knowledge, make, in so important a document, a statement that could not be implemented, they asked. 'Abdu'l-Bahá further instructed the Guardian to appoint his successor during his lifetime, which the Guardian could not do. In the Will and Testament 'Abdu'l-Bahá states:

18-WT O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon the
guardian of the Cause of God to appoint in his own life-time him
that shall become his successor, that differences may not arise
after his passing.

How is it that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's conditions were not fulfilled? To resolve this perplexing question, we would do well, in the first instance, to recall that Bahá'u'lláh had invested ,'Abdu'l-Bahá with divine knowledge and that although 'Abdu'l-Bahá was not a Manifestation of God, the powers of the Manifestation were conferred upon Him by Bahá'u'lláh. This was proved during the 29 years of His ministry and the believers were witness that the utterances of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, like those of Bahá'u'lláh, were creative.

A great many believers who attained 'Abdu'l-Bahá's presence or maintained communication with Him realized that He was aware of what was hidden in the hearts of men. But since He had clothed Himself in the mantle of servitude, He seldom spoke about the spiritual powers vested in Him by Bahá'u'lláh. Occasionally, however, He opened the window of His heart to a few staunch believers and intimated to them the workings of the divine Spirit that animated the Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.

In an unpublished Tablet addressed to Bashir-i-Ilahi, a devoted believer and a trusted confidant residing in Shiraz, the Master revealed a glimpse of the heavenly powers conferred upon Him by Bahá'u'lláh.

In this Tablet 'Abdu'l-Bahá acknowledges the receipt of Bashir-i-Ilahi's letter and states that on the very day the letter was written in Shiraz 'Abdu'l-Bahá dictated to His secretary in 'Akka a response answering all his questions. He gives details. The letter written in Shiraz was dated the 9th of the month of Sha'ban; on that date the answer was issued by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and it took 12 days for the Tablet to be prepared and signed by Him. He explains that it usually took about 10 days between the time that He dictated the first draft to His secretary and the time He signed the Tablet. Thus the answer to the letter was sent from the Holy Land on the 21st of Sha'ban. However, the letter of the 9th of Sha'ban arrived in 'Akka on the 15th of the month of Ramadan, i.e. 24 days after 'Abdu'l-Bahá had dispatched His answer to Bashir-i-Ilahi.

'Abdu'l-Bahá says that this is enough proof of the power of the Covenant.

Another episode showing the Master's awareness of what is hidden in the innermost heart of people is the account of the conversion to the Faith of Mirza Muhammad-Sadiq, a talented graphic artist who lived in Tihran and was extremely antagonistic to the Faith. He married his cousin, Gulsurkh Bagum, who some years later became a devoted believer. Whereas in earlier years the couple lived in great harmony, after Gulsurkh Bagum's conversion to the Faith three was nothing but turmoil in the household, which lasted for years.

Gulsurkh Bagum, who was later surnamed Fa'izih (she who has attained) by 'Abdu'l-Bahá was aflame with the fire of the love of Bahá'u'lláh. So deep was her attachment to the Faith that in spite of opposition from her husband she emerged as a great teacher among the women and a tower of strength for the believers. Soon her activities became a legend in the land and the enemies of the Cause were intent upon taking her life. On one occasion, although she was wearing a veil over her face, the enemies recognized and attacked her in the street. Inflicting numerous blows on her body using sticks and other blunt implements, they were about to kill her on the spot when someone managed to rescue her. It took several months for her wounds and broken bones to heal and she lost sight in one eye. But instead of dampening her enthusiasm, her sufferings increased her ardour for teaching the Cause.

At home, Fa'izih encountered great opposition from her husband but she showed the utmost love and respect towards him. Many a time he would become so enraged as to raise his hand to beat her, but instead of resisting, Fa'izih would go forward with the aim of kissing the hand that was about to strike her because of her allegiance to the Faith. For many years Fa'izih tried to open the eyes of her husband to see the glory of the station of Bahá'u'lláh. She invited many outstanding Bahá'í teachers to her home in order to converse with him but he would reject every argument they put forward and deny every proof they adduced to establish the authenticity of the claims of Bahá'u'lláh.

The great Bahá'í teacher Haji Mirza Haydar-'Ali describes his encounter with Mirza Muhammad-Sadiq. The following is a summary translation of this interview:

The husband of Fa'izih Khanum was an obstinate and stubborn
person who used to deny the truth which was presented to him...
I spoke to him about the Faith for two hours. I found him to be
angry and during this period the signs of malice and opposition
were apparent from every limb of his body. He offered me tea in
a special cup because he considered me to be an infidel and,
therefore, a defiled person. In the course of my conversation with
him, I quoted a verse of the Qur'an, and a tradition of Islam in
support of my arguments. He angrily retorted that such a verse was
not in the Qur'an and that I was uttering slander to the Prophet
of Islam by attributing such a verse to the Holy Book. Of course
I could have asked for a copy of the Book and shown him the verse
in question but I knew in so doing he would feel defeated in
argument and this would increase his animosity towards the Faith.
Therefore in a loving spirit I said, 'I hope that God through His
bounty may guide you to the truth.' I further suggested to him that
he should try to find the verse in question in the Qur'an, as well
as the tradition that I had quoted for him... I then requested
permission to leave but he said that I could stay the night in his
home because all he would have to do would be to wash and purify
the dishes I ate from and wash the bedding after I left. I thanked
him for the hospitality and left...

The following day, Mirza Sadiq searched the Qur'an, found the
verse in question and became very ashamed and sorry for the way
he had treated me. He then decided to seriously investigate the
Cause but he continued to reject the proofs which the teachers of
the Faith presented to him until he wrote to 'Abdu'l-Bahá.[287]

[287 Haydar-'Ali, Bihjatu's-Sudur, pp. 441-3.]

In his letter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Mirza Sadiq asked certain questions, but instead of sending the letter to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, he kept it in a safe and locked it. He then placed a blank piece of paper in an envelope and asked his wife to send it to 'Abdu'l-Bahá. He assured his wife that if he received answers to his questions, he would acknowledge the truth of the Cause.

Upon receiving the envelope 'Abdu'l-Bahá immediately revealed a Tablet addressed to Mirza Sadiq in which He answered all his questions. When he received the Tablet, Mirza Sadiq was exhilarated beyond words that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had responded to his questions; he went to his wife, prostrated himself at her feet and begged forgiveness for all the opposition that he had shown towards her.

In a later Tablet 'Abdu'l-Bahá reminded Mirza Sadiq that until this point no one had attempted to test a servant (i.e. 'Abdu'l-Bahá) by asking questions and receiving an answer. He reminded him that the same is true of a similar situation in the Qur'an. Having conveyed to him that it is not for man to test God, 'Abdu'l-Bahá mentioned that He has responded to his questions merely because of the wonderful services that his wife had rendered to the Cause. She suffered great persecution, remained steadfast in the face of severe opposition and demonstrated the staunchness of her faith. It was clear, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said, that her endeavours in the promotion of the Cause of God had not been in vain; rather, they would be rewarded in the Kingdom, were deeply appreciated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá and were praised by all. In this Tablet 'Abdu'l-Bahá invited the couple to undertake a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh.

After visiting the Holy Shrines and the Master, both husband and wife returned home ablaze with the fire of love for the Master and played an especially important part in the promotion of the Covenant at a time when a few Covenant-breakers such as Jamal-i-Burujirdi were actively engaged in their efforts to mislead the believers in Persia.

The stories of Bashir-i-Ilahi and Mirza Muhammad-Sadiq demonstrate the fact that the Centre of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh had been endowed with powers beyond mortal ken. On countless other occasions the Master, seeing future events, guided the believers both in their personal lives as well as on matters dealing with the Bahá'í community. Indeed, the perusal of His voluminous writings reveals the penetrating influence of His creative words, which inspired the hearts, revealed the innermost mysteries of God's creation and foreshadowed events stretching far into the future, many of which have already taken place.

No Second Guardian to Succeed Shoghi Effendi

'Abdu'l-Bahá states in His Will and Testament:

18-WT O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon the
guardian of the Cause of God to appoint in his own life-time him

[page 351]

that shall become his successor, that differences may not arise
after his passing. He that is appointed must manifest in himself
detachment from all worldly things, must be the essence of
purity, must show in himself the fear of God, knowledge, wisdom
and learning. Thus, should the first-born of the guardian of the
Cause of God not manifest in himself the truth of the words: —
'The child is the secret essence of its sire', that is, should he not
inherit of the spiritual within him (the guardian of the Cause of
God) and his glorious lineage not be matched with a goodly
character, then must he, (the guardian of the Cause of God)
choose another branch to succeed him.

The second part of the passage shows that 'Abdu'l-Bahá had anticipated the possibility that, even if the Guardian had a son, this son might not have the spiritual qualities to become his successor, and had authorized the Guardian in such a circumstance to 'choose another branch to succeed him'.

However, not only did Shoghi Effendi not have any children but all the Aghsan[*] (Branches) mentioned in the above passage had violated the Covenant and had been cast out of the community. That the detailed conditions set out by 'Abdu'l-Bahá for the Guardian's appointment of his successor become inoperative remains a matter which each believer has to ponder in his own heart.

[* Plural of Ghusn (Branch), an Arabic term used by Bahá'u'lláh to refer exclusively to His male descendants. Thus 'Abdu'l-Bahá was designated Ghusn-i-A'zam (the Most Great Branch). Shoghi Effendi is referred to by 'Abdu'l-Bahá as Ghusn-i-Mumtaz (the Chosen Branch).]

There is a profound wisdom hidden in this episode of successorship, namely, that God tests the believers in order to differentiate between the faithful and the unfaithful. After Shoghi Effendi passed away and the passages in the Will and Testament regarding a successor were not fulfilled, a number of believers were severely tested.

As stated in chapter 2, tests are an integral part of the Revelation of God. In every Dispensation He has tested His servants in various ways. Bahá'u'lláh speaks of this in many of His Tablets. For example, explaining the significance of symbolic terms recorded in heavenly Books of the past, Bahá'u'lláh states in the Kitab-i-Iqan:

Know verily that the purpose underlying all these symbolic terms
and abstruse allusions, which emanate horn the Revealers of God's
holy Cause, bath been to test and prove the Peoples of the world;
that thereby the earth of the pure and illuminated hearts may be
known from the perishable and barren soil. From time immemorial
such hath been the way of God amidst His creatures, and to this
testify the records of the sacred books.[288]

[288 Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 49.]

[page 352]

In other passages in the same book Bahá'u'lláh elaborates further on the tests created by certain events in the lives of the Manifestations of old:

But inasmuch as the divine Purpose hath decreed that the true
should be known from the false, and the sun from the shadow, He
hath, therefore, in every season sent down upon mankind the
showers of tests from His realm of glory.

...For instance, consider Moses, son of 'Imran, one of the
exalted Prophets and Author of a divinely-revealed Book. Whilst
passing, one day, through the market, in His early days, ere His
ministry was proclaimed, He saw two men engaged in fighting. One
of them asked the help of Moses against his opponent. Whereupon,
Moses intervened and slew him. To this testifieth the record of
the sacred Book [the Qur'an]... While returning [from Midian,]
Moses entered the holy vale, situate in the wilderness of Sinai, and
there beheld the vision of the Ring of glory from the Tree that
belongeth neither to the East nor to the West'. There He heard the
soul-stirring Voice of the Spirit speaking from out of the kindled
Fire, bidding Him to shed upon Pharaonic souls the light of divine

And now ponder in thy heart the commotion which God stirreth
up. Reflect upon the strange and manifold trials with which He
doth test His servants. Consider how He hath suddenly chosen
from among His servants, and entrusted with the exalted mission
of divine guidance Him Who was known as guilty of homicide,
Who, Himself, had acknowledged His cruelty, and Who for well-nigh
thirty years had, in the eyes of the world, been reared in the
home of Pharaoh and been nourished at his table. Was not God,
the omnipotent Ring, able to withhold the hand of Moses from
murder, so that manslaughter should not be attributed unto Him,
causing bewilderment and aversion among the people?[289]

[289 ibid. pp. 53-6. (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan.)]

Concerning the tests associated with the person of Jesus Christ, Bahá'u'lláh states:

And now, meditate upon this most great convulsion, this grievous
test. Notwithstanding all. these things, God conferred upon that
essence of the Spirit, Who was known amongst the people as
fatherless, the glory of Prophethood, and made Him His testimony
unto all that are in heaven and on earth.

Behold how contrary are the ways of the Manifestations of God,
as ordained by the King of creation, to the ways and desires of

[290 ibid. p. 57. (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan.)]

There were many tests in the Islamic Dispensation. Bahá'u'lláh refers to one of them in the Kitab-i-Iqan:

[page 353]

And likewise, reflect upon the revealed verse concerning the
'Qiblih'.[*] When Muhammad [sic], the Sun of Prophethood, had
fled from the day-spring of Batha [Mecca] unto Yathrib [Medina],
He continued to turn His face, while praying, unto Jerusalem, the
holy city, until the time when the Jews began to utter unseemly
words against Him — words which if mentioned would ill befit these
pages and would weary the reader. Muhammad strongly resented
these words. Whilst, wrapt in meditation and wonder, He was gazing
toward heaven, He heard the kindly Voice of Gabriel, saying: 'We
behold Thee from above, turning Thy face to heaven; but We will
have Thee turn to a Qiblih which shall please Thee.'[**] On a
subsequent day, when the Prophet, together with His companions,
was offering the noontide prayer, an had already performed two
of the prescribed Rik'ats [prostrations], the Voice of Gabriel was
heard again: Turn Thou Thy face towards the sacred Mosque [at
Mecca].'[***] In the midst of that same prayer, Muhammad suddenly
turned His face away from Jerusalem and faced the Ka'bih.
Whereupon, a profound dismay seized suddenly the companions
of the Prophet. Their faith was shaken severely. So great was their
alarm, that many of them, discontinuing their prayer, apostatized
their faith. Verily, God caused not this turmoil but to test and prove
His servants. Otherwise, He, the ideal King, could easily have left
the Qiblih unchanged, and could have caused Jerusalem to remain
the Point of Adoration unto His Dispensation, thereby withholding
not from that holy city the distinction of acceptance which had been
conferred upon it.[291]

[* The direction towards which the face must be turned when praying.]

[** Qur'an 2:144.]

[*** Qur'an 2:149.]

[291 ibid. pp. 49-5 1. (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Iqan.)]

In this Dispensation, too, there have been many causes for people to be tested. For example, the fact that Bahá'u'lláh had three wives at the same time has become a barrier for those who do not understand the circumstances and traditions of the time.[****] The faith of a number of the believers has also been tested by the laws of Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. And above all, the terms of the Covenant as revealed in the Kitab-i-'Ahd and the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá have provided severe tests for the believers. Such tests become barriers for those people whose vision does not extend beyond their own way of thinking. Only through an unbiased and earnest search for truth, conducted in a prayerful attitude, can these matters be clarified and many barriers preventing the individual from recognizing the truth be removed.

[**** For further details see chapter 2.]

[page 354]

previous chapter chapter 34 start page single page chapter 36 next chapter
Back to:   Books
Home Site Map Forum Links Copyright About Contact
. .