Shoghi Effendi's Statements about Future Guardians
Among the tests referred to in the previous chapter are three specific factors which puzzled some of the believers:
- Why Shoghi Effendi left no will
- What the significance was of the provision in 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament requiring the nine Hands of the Cause to assent to the Guardian's appointment of his successor
- The statement in The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh about the inseparability of the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice
A thorough study of these items will make it clear how each one, while creating further tests for the believers, was divinely ordained and contributed significantly both to the unfoldment of the Administrative Order and to a better comprehension of the mysterious forces of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.
It is important to bear in mind that a true understanding of these issues depends upon each believer deeply studying the holy writings in a prayerful attitude and examining the nature of the Covenant to discover the mysteries hidden in its innermost reality. To assist in this process, some explanation of these important issues is set down in the following pages.
In numerous letters Shoghi Effendi expounded in great detail the function of the Guardianship and the weighty responsibilities which the Master had placed upon that institution. In many instances he referred to future Guardians. Yet, at least towards the end of his life, Shoghi Effendi was fully aware that there was no one qualified to fill the position of Guardian after him and no one knew better than he that he had no offspring. Nevertheless, in 1954, three years before he passed away, Shoghi Effendi wrote about the administrative Seat of the Guardianship to be built on Mount Carmel.
If one takes these statements at their face value, one can be mystified about Shoghi Effendi's intentions. However, as we examine his relationship to the Master, the reason for such statements and the wisdom behind them become clear.
Throughout his ministry, the Guardian spoke and wrote in the context of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and acted in harmony with the Master's words. He never uttered a word to contradict or appear to contradict the statements of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in that important document. In His Will and Testament 'Abdu'l-Bahá categorically confirmed the position of the successors to Shoghi Effendi. In compliance with the Will and Testament, knowing that the Hand of God was involved, Shoghi Effendi remained, throughout his life, silent on the question of his own successor as Guardian.
The Question of Shoghi Effendi's Will
Soon after the passing of Shoghi Effendi the body of the Hands of the Cause of God, designated by him as the 'Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth',[*] informed the Bahá'í world that a thorough investigation revealed that Shoghi Effendi had not left a will.
[* See chapter 33.]
As we look at the history of the unfoldment of the Covenant, we note that in the Kitab-i-'Ahd Bahá'u'lláh appointed 'Abdu'l-Bahá as the Centre of His Covenant; in the Will and Testament 'Abdu'l-Bahá in turn, appointed Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Faith. In both cases, the faithful knew where to turn. But Shoghi Effendi did not leave a will and this caused some to become perplexed. Indeed, Bahá'ís all over the world had taken it for granted that the Guardian would follow the same practice as Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá and would appoint his successor.
That Shoghi Effendi did not write a will was due to the circumstances of his ministry and his life. He was a most meticulous person who never left anything to chance, especially in such a vital issue as writing a will and testament in which he was to appoint a successor.
One of Bahá'u'lláh's injunctions in the Kitab-i-Aqdas is that every Bahá'í should write a will and testament and that foremost in it he should bear witness to the oneness of God in the Dayspring of His Revelation, Bahá'u'lláh. This confession of faith is to be a testimony for him in both this world and the next. A will also directs the distribution of wealth among one's heirs.
Regarding the first requirement, Shoghi Effendi's letter entitled The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh is one of the finest declarations of faith ever written. Indeed, we may say that through writing this remarkable document, Shoghi Effendi fulfilled the requirement of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. As to the second requirement for a will, which is the bequest of a person's wealth to his heirs, Shoghi Effendi did not have any worldly possessions and therefore had no need to distribute them. Thus from this perspective it can be said that Shoghi Effendi followed Bahá'u'lláh's injunction with regard to the writing of a will.
As to the appointment of a successor, the Master had stated in His Will and Testament that should the 'first-born' of the Guardian not inherit his spiritual qualities, he should appoint another Ghusn (Branch). As already noted, the word Ghusn was used by Bahá'u'lláh to signify His male descendants exclusively. Shoghi Effendi was not in a position to appoint a successor because he had no son and there was not a single Ghusn who was faithful to the Cause of God. Every one of the descendants of 'Abdu'l-Bahá had been declared a Covenant-breaker.
Not only was Shoghi Effendi unable to appoint a successor but he made no written statement of this situation. In this connection we must remember that Shoghi Effendi was the Interpreter of the Word of God. This allowed him to explain everything in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá and apply their teachings and commandments within the framework of the exigencies of the time. What Shoghi Effendi could not do, however, was to pronounce on subjects not recorded in the holy writings. These fell within the purview of the Universal House of Justice, which alone has the authority to legislate on matters not revealed by the pen of Bahá'u'lláh or 'Abdu'l-Bahá.
Since 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament did not indicate the course to be taken should there be no Ghusn to succeed the Guardian, the resolution of this question did not fall within the domain of the Guardianship; it was the prerogative of the Universal House of Justice to find a solution. The authority of the House of Justice to legislate on matters which are not in the Book was primarily given by Bahá'u'lláh, as seen in the following passage:
It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take
counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly
been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable
to them. God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth,
and He, verily, is the Provider, the Omniscient.
[292 Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 68.]
After the passing of Shoghi Effendi, the tests facing the believers were, in some respects, far greater than those that had descended upon the
earlier believers as a result of the passing of Bahá'u'lláh or 'Abdu'l-Bahá. This time there was no will and testament; Shoghi Effendi was gone and the believers were left on their own. In spite of this, the institutions of the Administrative Order that were born of the Covenant and had been raised by Shoghi Effendi had been strengthened to such a point that practically the whole Bahá'í world community remained loyal to the Cause and its institutions. The believers of every land remained united as one soul in many bodies and for over two years after the passing of Shoghi Effendi there was no voice of dissent anywhere. All the believers turned to the Hands of the Cause of God and national and local spiritual assemblies declared their loyalty to them. There was never in the history of the Faith a time when the believers demonstrated such unity and solidarity and this in spite of the uncertainty created by the circumstances resulting from the passing of Shoghi Effendi. Indeed, this is the best proof of the indestructibility of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh.
As we shall see later, in April 1960 Charles Mason Remey, a Hand of the Cause of God, made a preposterous claim to be the second Guardian. He was eventually declared a Covenant-breaker and died in ignominy some years later.
The Authority of the Hands of the Cause to Assent to the Guardian's Choice of Successor
In the Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Bahá places the special responsibility of approving the choice of the Guardian upon the Hands of the Cause of God:
19-WT The Hands of the Cause of God must elect from their
own number nine persons that shall at all times be occupied in
the important services in the work of the guardian of the Cause
of God. The election of these nine must be carried either unanimously
or by majority from the company of the Hands of the
Cause of God and these, whether unanimously or by a majority
vote, must give their assent to the choice of the one whom the
guardian of the Cause of God hath chosen as his successor. This
assent must be given in such wise as the assenting and dissenting
voices may not be distinguished (i.e., secret ballot).
As previously noted, Shoghi Effendi did not appoint Hands of the Cause until 1951. After that date it was impossible for him to appoint someone to succeed him as the next Guardian. Therefore there was no occasion for him to implement 'Abdu'l-Bahá's instructions in this regard.
Indeed, the Hands, like the rest of the believers, did not know what would happen after Shoghi Effendi's passing. The general expectation was that the Guardian would live a long life and many thought that the question of successor-ship would be clarified by him later. But the Guardian unexpectedly passed away in 1957 at the age of 60 and from the time of his death until the Universal House of Justice made the following pronouncement, the question of a successor to Shoghi Effendi remained unresolved.
In October 1963, the Universal House of Justice wrote:
After prayerful and careful study of the Holy Texts bearing upon
the question of the appointment of the successor to Shoghi Effendi
as Guardian of the Cause of God, and after prolonged consultation
which included consideration of the views of the Hands of the
Cause of God residing in the Holy Land, the Universal House of
Justice finds that there is no way to appoint or legislate to make
it possible to appoint a second Guardian to succeed Shoghi Effendi.
[293 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p. 11.]
The importance of this provision of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will was shown when Mason Remey made a claim to be the second Guardian. The Hands not only did not assent to his claim, they rejected it outright.
We now return to the final issue that seriously tested the faith of the believers:
The Inseparability of the Two Institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice
When it became clear that there would be no Guardian to succeed Shoghi Effendi, a number of believers were troubled by the following statement by Shoghi Effendi in The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh:
An attempt, I feel, should at the present juncture be made to
explain the character and functions of the twin pillars that support
this almighty Administrative Structure — the institutions of the
Guardianship and of the Universal House of Justice...
It should be stated, at the very outset, in clear and unambiguous
language, that these twin institutions of the Administrative Order
of Bahá'u'lláh should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in
their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose.
Their common, their fundamental object is to insure the continuity
of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source
of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain
the integrity and flexibility of its teachings. Acting in conjunction
with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its
affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute
its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each
operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is
equipped with its own attendant institutions — instruments designed
for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities
and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon
it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives. These are
neither contradictory, nor detract in the slightest degree from the
position which each of these institutions occupies. Far from being
incompatible or mutually destructive, they supplement each other's
authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally
united in their aims.
Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World
Order of Bahá'u'lláh would be mutilated and permanently deprived
of that hereditary principle which, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has written, has
been invariably upheld by the Law of God. 'In all the Divine
Dispensations', He states, in a Tablet addressed to a follower of
the Faith in Persia, 'the eldest son hath been given extraordinary
distinctions. Even the station of prophethood hath been his
birthright.' Without such an institution the integrity of the Faith
would be imperilled, and the stability of the entire fabric would
be gravely endangered. Its prestige would suffer, the means
required to enable it to take a long, an uninterrupted view over
a series of generations would be completely lacking, and the
necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action
of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn.
Severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal
House of Justice this same System of the Will of 'Abdu'l-Bahá
would be paralyzed in its action and would be powerless to fill in
those gaps which the Author of the Kitab-i-Aqdas has deliberately
left in the body of His legislative and administrative ordinances.
[294 Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 147-8.]
Shoghi Effendi's statement that 'divorced' from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh would be 'mutilated' does not mean that without the Guardian the House of Justice would be ineffective. He is rather emphasizing the inseparability of the institutions; in other words, the two institutions are 'complementary' in their functions. In explaining this principle of inseparability, the Universal House of Justice wrote to an individual:
As you point out with many quotations, Shoghi Effendi repeatedly
stressed the inseparability of these two institutions. Whereas he
obviously envisaged their functioning together, it cannot logically
be deduced Born this that one is unable to function in the absence
of the other. During the whole thirty-six years of his Guardianship
Shoghi Effendi functioned without the Universal House of Justice.
Now the Universal House of Justice must function without the
Guardian, but the principle of inseparability remains. The Guardianship
does not lose its significance nor position in the Order of
Bahá'u'lláh merely because there is no living Guardian. We must
guard against two extremes: one is to argue that because there is
no Guardian all that was written about the Guardianship and its
position in the Bahá'í World Order is a dead letter and was unimportant;
the other is to be so overwhelmed by the significance of
the Guardianship as to underestimate the strength of the Covenant,
or to be tempted to compromise with the clear Texts in
order to find somehow, in some way, a 'Guardian'.
[295 The Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 86-7.]
Indeed, if 'divorced from the institution of the Guardianship' means that the House of Justice without a Guardian is incapacitated, then we might ask, what about Shoghi Effendi functioning without the House of Justice? For he says that 'severed from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice this same System ... would be paralyzed'. But obviously that was not the case. Functioning without the institution of the House of Justice, Shoghi Effendi brought unprecedented victories to the Cause, as evidenced by the vitality of the institutions of the Cause, the phenomenal achievements of the Bahá'í community, and the spirit of joy, enthusiasm and self-sacrifice which animated its members during his ministry.
Thus, we observe that the words 'divorced from' and 'mutilated are used in the above celebrated passage to indicate that the twin pillars of the Administrative Order, namely, the institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, are 'inseparable even when one of them is absent.
That 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament made provision for a successor to Shoghi Effendi did not necessarily mean that there would be one. In this connection, the Universal House of Justice states:
Future Guardians are clearly envisaged and referred to in the
Writings, but there is nowhere an promise or guarantee that
the line of Guardians would endure forever; on the contrary there
are clear indications that the line could be broken. Yet, in spite of
this, there is a repeated insistence in the Writings on the
indestructibility of the Covenant and the immutability of God's Purpose for
One of the most striking passages which envisage the possibility
of such a break in the line of Guardians is in the Kitab-i-Aqdas
The endowments dedicated to charity revert to God, the
Revealer of Signs. No one has the right to lay hold on them
without leave from the Dawning-Place of Revelation. After
Him the decision rests with the Aghsan (Branches), and after
them with the House of Justice — should it be established in
the world by then — so that they may use these endowments
for the benefit of the Sites exalted in this Cause, and for that
which they have been commanded by God, the Almighty,
the All-Powerful. Otherwise the endowments should be
referred to the people of Baha, who speak not without His
leave and who pass no judgement but in accordance with
that which God has ordained in this Tablet, they who are the
champions of victory betwixt heaven and earth, so that they
may spend them on that which has been decreed in the Holy
Book by God, the Mighty, the Bountiful.
The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very
situation provided for in this passage, in that the line of Aghsan
ended before the House of Justice had been elected. Although, as
is seen, the ending of the line of Aghsan at some stage was provided
for, we must never underestimate the grievous loss that the Faith
has suffered. God's purpose for mankind remains unchanged,
however, and the mighty Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh remains
[296 The Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, pp. 40-1.]
This is one passage in the Kitab-i-Aqdas to which Shoghi Effendi refers in his Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh when he writes 'the verses of the Kitab-i-Aqdas the implications of which clearly anticipate the institution of the Guardianship'.
[297 Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 147.]
In the verse cited above Bahá'u'lláh states: 'After Him [Bahá'u'lláh] the decision rests with the Aghsan (Branches).' The word Aghsan, being plural, indicates that them will be more than one Branch; in this case, two: 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Most Great Branch, and Shoghi Effendi, the Chosen Branch. This foreshadows a break in the line of the Aghsan as Bahá'u'lláh states, 'and after them with the House of Justice — should it be established in the world by then'. By 'the House of Justice' is meant the Universal House of Justice, for Bahá'u'lláh refers to it as a world institution.
When Shoghi Effendi passed away there was no House of Justice. So it can be seen that the above passage in the Kitab-i-Aqdas was prophetic, in that a period of more than five years separated the passing of Shoghi Effendi from the establishment of the Universal House of Justice, and the Hands of the Cause during this period — 'the people of Baha who speak not without His leave' — fulfilled the last provision stated in the above text.
We can see, therefore, that the break in the line of Guardians, the custodianship of the Faith by the Hands of the Cause, and the subsequent establishment of the Universal House of Justice were vital developments that were known to Bahá'u'lláh and revealed by Him. The statement, 'The people of Baha who speak not without His leave' is precisely applicable to the Hands of the Cause, because during the period of the custodianship the Hands of the Cause faithfully carried out the instructions of the Guardian. They did not introduce any innovations in the Faith, nor did they express their own opinions or exert undue influence on the future development of the Bahá'í community throughout the world.
As we meditate on the above passage from the Kitab-i-Aqdas it becomes clear that the break in the line of the Guardians after Shoghi Effendi was not an unforeseen event. Having foreknowledge of this act, Bahá'u'lláh revealed the sequence of events leading to the establishment of the House of Justice.
Shoghi Effendi also, by implication, referred to the time when there would be no Guardian to direct the affairs of the Cause and the House of Justice would be the Head of the Faith. This reference is found in a letter he wrote to the British National Assembly in 1951, in which he paid the National Assembly a glowing tribute for its launching of the 'Africa Campaign'. This was a historic project in which, for the first time in the history of the Formative Age, four National Spiritual Assemblies in both hemispheres worked together under the direction of the British National Assembly with the aim of establishing the institutions of the Faith on the continent of Africa. Shoghi Effendi hailed this international cooperation as a befitting prelude to the formation of a future world-embracing Crusade in which all National Assemblies would take part. Two years later he launched the Ten Year Crusade.
In the 1951 letter Shoghi Effendi stated that after this Crusade, other international teaching plans would be launched by the Universal House of Justice. These are his words:
On the success of this enterprise [Ten Year World Crusade], unprecedented
in its scope, unique in its character and immense in
its spiritual potentialities, must depend the initiation, at a later
period in the Formative Age of the Faith, of undertakings embracing
within their range all National Assemblies functioning throughout
the Bahá'í World, undertakings constituting in themselves a prelude
to the launching of world-wide enterprises destined to be embarked
upon, in future epochs of that same age, by the Universal House
of Justice, that will symbolize the unity and coordinate and unify
the activities of these National Assemblies.
[298 Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 261.]
Bearing in mind our discussions in this and previous chapters, it is clear that Shoghi Effendi, confident of the indestructibility of the Covenant and assured of divine guidance from the Author of the Faith and the Centre of the Covenant, remained silent on the question of his successor He knew that the institutions of the Faith which he had reared with such hard work and sacrifice would be able to deal effectively with the situation after his passing, bringing into being the Universal House of Justice, one of the twin successors of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá and a divinely guided institution forever inseparable from the Guardianship.