The Covenant of Baha'u'llah
The Faithless Relatives of Shoghi EffendiThe pain and suffering which were inflicted upon Shoghi Effendi by the members of Abdu'l-Bahá's family who broke the Covenant and bitterly opposed him were far more distressing than all the attacks which the enemies of the Faith and the Covenant-breakers outside the Holy Land had mounted against the Cause and its Guardian.
The rebellion of most members of Abdu'l-Bahá's family against Shoghi Effendi is reminiscent of the rebellion of Bahá'u'lláh's family after His ascension. We have given some reasons for this in previous chapters, and explained that 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, and are the embodiments of humility and utter nothingness, can survive spiritually and remain faithful in that holy and rarified atmosphere of the presence of Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghi Effendi. Any trace of ambition or self-glorification which a believer may have in his personality can be fatal if he comes in 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'. [32-1]
[1 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 above, pp. 168-9.]
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 if they were not serving 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 on the ground may hurt himself, whereas if a person is flying high above the ground, his fall will be fatal.
Most members of the family of Abdu'l-Bahá were devoid of those spiritual qualities which distinguish a man 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, instead of making them humble and lowly as it would true believers, made them haughty and vain. Abdu'l-Bahá was not pleased with the spiritual development of His family, and He used to make remarks about it. For instance, Ruhiyyih Khanum tells this story:
"The Guardian told me once the Master came to him in the drawing room, where he was working, and stood and looked out of the window into the garden, His back to Shoghi Effendi; the laughing and chattering voices of the family could be heard in another room. Abdu'l-Bahá turned to Shoghi Effendi and said, 'I do not want you to be like them — worldly.'" [32-2]
When Shoghi Effendi became the Guardian of the Faith, it was expected of the family of the Master 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 and 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. We notice the contrast in the case of 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 one who 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. This is because she believed in the words of Abdu'l-Bahá that Shoghi Effendi was the Guardian of the Cause and the 'Sign of God' on earth.
In the first few years of the ministry of Shoghi Effendi the family remained outwardly loyal, but the seed of rebellion and Covenant-breaking was planted in their hearts from the very beginning. It only needed time to germinate and bring forth the fruit of sedition and opposition later. 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'. Whereas the followers of Bahá'u'lláh turned devotedly to Shoghi Effendi in the spirit of the Master's exhortation, Shoghi Effendi's attitude toward them was that of absolute love and humility. Unlike some of the world leaders who show an air of superiority and project themselves as authoritarian in relation 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, Shoghi'. A few months after the ascension of Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi wrote this postscript to a letter to the American friends:
"May I also express my heartfelt desire that the friends of God in every land regard me in no other light but that of a true brother, united with them in our common servitude to the Master's Sacred Threshold, and refer to me in their letters and verbal addresses always as Shoghi Effendi, for I desire to be known by no other name save the one our Beloved Master was wont to utter, a name which of all other designations is the most conducive to my spiritual growth and advancement." [32-3]
Yet in spite of his meekness and magnanimity, Shoghi Effendi's relatives did not respond with sincerity and faithfulness. Knowing very well that most members of Abdu'l-Bahá's family were not able to turn to him as befitted the station of the Guardian, Shoghi Effendi turned a blind eye to their aloofness, and instead showed extra warmth and encouragement to them. For instance, we are told that when he returned to the Holy Land after the passing of Abdu'l-Bahá, he stayed with one of his aunts instead of his mother. This was to show his attachment and unity with his close relatives. He wanted them to feel his love and affection for them so that they could feel at ease in his presence and cooperate with him in the arduous task which the Master had placed upon his shoulders. But alas, he could see their insincerity from the very start, and although he looked upon them with a sin-covering eye, as a result, 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 their deceitful and faithless actions, their disobedience to him as Guardian, while they were working with him, enduring in silence the unfaithfulness of these relatives who were serving him in various capacities.
In the earlier 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 only people who were publicly opposing the Cause and the person of the Guardian were the old Covenant-breakers — from Mirza Muhammad-'Ali down to some old enemies of the Faith. 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. Every member of the family of the Master 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 it, the disease of Covenant-breaking spread and eventually infected every surviving member of that noble family, sparing no one. This grievous downfall happened because of 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:
"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:
"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."
The most obvious reason that the members of His family failed to obey the Master was their lack of faith in Him and in His words. Abdu'l-Bahá wanted them to turn to Shoghi Effendi in a spirit of devotion and servitude, but they did otherwise. These are the words of the Master and in His Will and Testament:
"O my loving friends! After the passing away of this wronged one, it is incumbent upon the Aghsan (Branches), the Afnan (Twigs) of the Sacred Lote-Tree, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause of God and the loved ones of the Abha Beauty to turn unto Shoghi Effendi — the youthful branch branched from the two hallowed and sacred Lote-Trees and the fruit grown from the union of the two offshoots of the Tree of Holiness, — as he is the sign of God, the chosen branch, the guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of God and His loved ones must turn. He is the expounder of the words of God and after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendents.
"The sacred and youthful branch, the guardian of the Cause of God as well as the Universal House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness, the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God. May the wrath, the fierce indignation, the vengeance of God rest upon him! The mighty stronghold shall remain impregnable and safe through obedience to him who is the guardian of the Cause of God. It is incumbent upon the members of the House of Justice, upon all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of God to show their obedience, submissiveness and subordination unto the guardian of the Cause of God, to turn unto him and be lowly before him. He that opposeth him hath opposed the True One, will make a breach in the Cause of God, will subvert His Word and will become a manifestation of the Centre of Sedition."
The tragic spiritual extinction of the family of Abdu'l-Bahá, as one by one of its members fell a 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 and other relatives were cut off from the tree of the Cause. As each one rebelled against the Guardian, he 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 in silence their despicable conduct until, at the end, he was left with no choice but to announce them as Covenant-breakers.
We will not review every detail of the activities of the Covenant-breakers in the Holy Land during Shoghi Effendi's ministry. Enough has been said in this book about the evil doings of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali, the Arch-breaker of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. He outlived the Master by sixteen years, during which he did everything in his power to extinguish the light of the Faith, but he failed miserably. In 1937, Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable to Bahá'í world after his death;
"The Hand of Omnipotence has removed the archbreaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, his hopes shattered, his plottings frustrated, the society of his fellow-conspirators extinguished. God's triumphant Faith forges on, its unity unimpaired, its purpose unsullied, its stability unshaken. Such a death calls for neither exultation nor recrimination, but evokes overwhelming pity at so tragic a downfall unparalleled in religious history." [32-4]
The next in command, Mirza Badi'u'llah, the youngest son of Bahá'u'lláh, the account of whose despicable deeds has been given in previous chapters, died in 1950. He left behind bitter memories of acts of treachery, deceit and arrogance which he perpetrated for almost six decades, staining thereby the annals of the glorious Faith which 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 and his accomplice, Badi'u'llah, caused a great deal of trouble. The following cable sent by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'í world after his death in 1955 is clearly indicative of Majdu'd-Din's diabolical misdeeds against the Centre of the Covenant and the Guardian of the Faith.
"Announce to National Assemblies that Majdu'd-Din, the most redoubtable adversary of Abdu'l-Bahá, denounced by Him as the incarnation of Satan and who played a predominant part in kindling the hostility of Abdu'l-Hamid and Jamal Pasha, and who was the chief instigator of Covenant-breaking and archbreaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, and who above sixty years labored with fiendish ingenuity and guile to undermine its foundations, miserably perished struck with paralysis affecting his limbs and tongue. Dispensation of Providence prolonged the span of his infamous life to a hundred years, enabling him to witness the extinction of his cherished hopes and the disintegration with dramatic rapidity of the infernal crew he unceasingly incited and zealously directed, and the triumphant progress and glorious termination of Abdu'l-Bahá's thirty-year ministry as well as evidences of the rise and establishment in all continents of the globe of the administrative order, child of the divinely-appointed Covenant and harbinger of the world-encircling order." [32-5]
Another veteran Covenant-breaker was Haji Siyyid Ali Afnan. He was a son of the venerable Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan, entitled Afnan-i-Kabir (Great Afnan), brother of the wife of the Bab. Siyyid Ali joined hands with the Arch-breaker of the Covenant and became one of Abdu'l-Bahá's great enemies. He had risen to eminence through the efforts of the wife of the Bab, who sent a special message to Bahá'u'lláh through Munirih Khanum, the wife of Abdu'l-Bahá, when she visited her in Shiraz. Munirih Khanum has written the following account:
[1 For an account of his illustrious life see The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4.]
"...The wife of the Bab said: 'Please supplicate the Blessed Perfection to grant two wishes of mine. One, that one of the exalted Leaves of the blessed Family may be permitted to join in wedlock with a member of the family of the Bab, so that the two holy Trees may be outwardly knit together. The other, to grant me permission to attend His presence.' I conveyed this message when I attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh, He readily assented to both her requests." [32-6]
[1 Bahá'u'lláh has referred to His male descendants as Aghsan (Branches) and the female descendants as Varaqat (Leaves).]
The person whom the wife of the Bab had in mind was Haji Siyyid Ali. Bahá'u'lláh granted her wish, and he was joined in wedlock with Furughiyyih, a daughter of Bahá'u'lláh. As a token of his appreciation, Siyyid Ali promised his aunt, the wife of the Bab, that he would accompany her to the Holy Land if Bahá'u'lláh accepted the proposal for his marriage. However, when the time arrived he left for Akka alone. Thus he broke his promise and with it the heart of that noble lady. Being unable to travel on her own, she was sorrowful and disconsolate. It is reported that as a result of this cruel treatment, which came to her as a serious blow, she was grief-stricken. Soon her health was impaired and a few months later she passed away.
After the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, Siyyid Ali and his wife Furughiyyih sided with Mirza Muhammad-'Ali and rose up in opposition to Abdu'l-Bahá. After inflicting much pain upon the Centre of the Covenant for several years, Siyyid Ali repented of his iniquitous deeds and the Master forgave him. But his repentance was short-lived; he returned to his den again and resumed his odious activities against the Master. During Shoghi Effendi's ministry, as we shall see, it was the members of his family who were chiefly responsible for delivering the most painful blows upon the person of Shoghi Effendi. They caused havoc in the family of the Master and tore it apart altogether.
Abdu'l-Bahá was survived by His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf; His wife Munirih Khanum; His four daughters and their families.
The Greatest Holy Leaf, the most distinguished member of the Holy Family and the most outstanding woman in the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh, passed away in 1932. In previous chapters reference has been made to her glorious life of exemplary service to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, and as we have already stated, her passing brought 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.
Munirih Khanum, the consort of Abdu'l-Bahá, came from a noble family in Persia. Their marriage took place in 1872 in Akka at the command of Bahá'u'lláh. Munirih Khanum served the Master with great devotion, and has paid the following tribute to His memory:
[1 For more information see The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol 2, pp. 206-9, 384, 386.]
"If I were to write the details of the fifty years of my association with the beloved of the world, of His love, His mercy and bounty, I would need fifty years more of time and opportunity in order to write it; yet, if the seas of the world were turned into ink and the leaves of the forest into paper, I would not render adequate justice to the subject." [32-7]
Munirih Khanum passed away in 1938. Her resting place is in close proximity to that of the Greatest Holy Leaf. Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable to the Bahá'í world following her death:
"Holy Mother Munirih Khanum ascended Abha Kingdom. With sorrowful hearts Bahá'ís world over recall divers phases her rich eventful life marked by unique services darkest days Abdu'l-Bahá's life. All Ridvan festivities suspended. Advise Convention delegates devote special session her memory hold befitting gathering Auditorium Mashriqu'l-Adhkar."
Abdu'l-Bahá had four surviving daughters; they were all married and between them had fourteen children. Shoghi Effendi was the eldest grandchild of the Master. The remaining thirteen, one by one, rebelled against Shoghi Effendi and were expelled from the Faith. The other members of the family were likewise disobedient to Shoghi Effendi; in some cases, he announced them as Covenant-breakers, in others he remained silent about their status.
The eldest daughter of Abdu'l-Bahá was Diya'i'yyih Khanum who married Mirza Hadi, an Afnan and a grandson of Haji Mirza Abu'l-Qasim, the other 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.
[1 See Shoghi Effendi, 'Genealogy of the Bab showing Connection with Bahá'u'lláh's Descendants', a chart in his own hand published in The Dawn-Breakers, p. lviii.]
Tuba Khanum married Mirza Muhsin, an Afnan, a son of Haji Mirza Siyyid Hasan (the Great Afnan); the 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 the Martyrs'. They had two sons: Munib and Hasan; and three daughters: Maryam, Duha and Zahra. Their family name was Shahid (Martyr).
[1 For a detailed account of his sacrificial life, see The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4, ch. 5.]
Munavvar Khanum married Ahmad Yazdi, the youngest son of Haji Abdu'r-Rahim-i-Qannad. They were without issue.
[1 For an account of his life see The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 4, p. 23.]
It is beyond the scope of this book to go into all the details of the activities of Shoghi Effendi's brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, or to describe some of their reprehensible conduct. We cannot estimate the measure of the agony Shoghi Effendi must have undergone when he had to expel his brothers, sisters and aunts from the Faith.
Among those instrumental in instilling 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 whom we have mentioned earlier (see p. 356). He had been 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.
Although Bahá'ís do not associate with Covenant-breakers, Ruhangiz, the eldest sister of Shoghi Effendi, married one. He was Nayyir Afnan, the second son of Siyyid Ali. Nayyir 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.
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. Shoghi Effendi usually delayed announcing to the Bahá'í world the misdeeds committed by his relatives. He patiently endured their despicable behaviour and tried to rescue them from their tragic downfall, but eventually he had no choice but to expel them from the community and cut his relationship from them. To describe their fate we can do no better than to review some of Shoghi Effendi's messages.
On 2 November 1941 Shoghi Effendi sent the following two cables to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada:
"Ruhi's sister married Covenant-breaker Faydi whose mother joined and supported arch-enemy Muhammad-'Ali and whose father Abdu'l-Bahá denounced openly and repeatedly as His deadly enemy. Ruhi's family concurred. Inform all believers all manner communication excommunicated family forbidden."
"Flagrant disloyalty Ruhi's family compels me disclose information so long patiently withheld American believers concerning his failure obtain my approval his second visit America. His subsequent conduct regarding his marriage which I refrained from revealing anyone except your Assembly, as well as Fu'ad's departure England without my knowledge, should now be made known believers. Confident unshakable steadfastness exemplary American Bahá'í community." [32-9]
These cables concern the family of Mirza Muhsin Afnan and Tuba Khanum, daughter of Abdu'l-Bahá. Several years before this episode, Mirza Muhsin had passed away in 1927, and Shoghi Effendi described him as the 'beloved son-in-law' of the Master and 'distinguished servant of His Cause'. [32-10] The rest of the family, who were now expelled from the Cause, included Tuba Khanum, her sons, Ruhi, Suhayl and Fu'ad and daughter Thurayya. It was the latter who married Covenant-breaker Faydi Afnan, a brother of Nayyir mentioned above.
Ruhi Afnan, Shoghi Effendi's cousin, had served him as secretary for some years, and so his name was known to the North American believers who received these cables and were now asked to cut off all association with him and his family. We recall that Faydi's mother, referred to in the first cable, was Furughiyyih, a daughter of Bahá'u'lláh and the wife of Haji Siyyid Ali Afnan, the enemy of the Master. Ruhi Afnan himself married his cousin Zahra Shahid (see above, p. 358). Fu'ad was Ruhi's youngest brother.
In another cable dated October 1941, to the Bahá'ís of Iraq, Shoghi Effendi confirmed the status of Nayyir's brothers:
"Nayyir's brothers Faydi and Hasan have been still are Covenant-breakers warn all believers association with them forbidden under all circumstances."
In the same year, the following cable was sent by Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the British Isles:
"Sister Mehrangis [Mehrangiz] followed example Ruhi's [Ruhi] sister Justice demands announce believers her expulsion." [32-11]
Mehrangiz was the youngest sister of Shoghi Effendi, and had married the Covenant-breaker Hasan Afnan. We have already stated that Ruhi's sister, Thurayya, married Faydi. No one can ever imagine the enormity of Shoghi Effendi's pain and anguish as he observed his two sisters and a cousin renounce their faith and join in wedlock with three Covenant-breakers, sons of Siyyid Ali, whom Abdu'l-Bahá had condemned as His 'deadly enemy'. Not content with this, Ruhangiz, Shoghi Effendi's eldest sister, did not rest until she arranged another marriage between her cousin, Hasan Shahid and the granddaughter of the notorious Siyyid Ali. But in order not to degrade the family of the Master in public by announcing them all as Covenant-breakers, Shoghi Effendi acted with great patience and concealed their acts of infamy and unfaithfulness as long as he could. We see therefore long gaps between his announcements expelling certain members of the family from the Faith. For example, although the family of Mirza Jalal Shahid (the son-in-law of the Master), including his wife, had been in close association with the Covenant-breakers, and had shown defiance to Shoghi Effendi, he did not disclose their defection until years later. Only when Munib, the son of Mirza Jalal, with the approval of his parents, married the daughter of one of the enemies of the Faith, did Shoghi Effendi send the following cable to the Bahá'í world in November 1944. It must be noted that Mirza Jalal was the son of the most illustrious of Bahá'u'lláh's apostles, the King of Martyrs.
[1 For an account of his life and martyrdom, see The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol 5.]
"Monib Shahid, grandson of both Abdu'l-Bahá and the King of Martyrs, married according to the Moslem rites the daughter of a political exile who is nephew of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. This treacherous act of alliance with enemies of the Faith merits condemnation of entire Bahá'í world." [32-12]
In response to a cable by the American National Spiritual Assembly expressing their loyalty to him, Shoghi Effendi sent the following message:
"Comforted, strengthened, by assurance of sympathy and loyalty of American believers in the deplorable, delicate situation created by dishonorable alliances made by members of my family, first with Covenant-breakers and now with external enemies of the Faith.
"The marvellous, rapid, sound evolution of the institutions of the Faith in five continents, particularly in the Western Hemisphere, constitutes best monition, most effective counteraction to the detrimental influence of those whose acts proclaim their severance from the Holy Tree and their forfeiture of their sacred birthright.
"The occasion demands that you direct special attention to passages in God Passes By indicating the gravity of the past crises precipitated since the inception of the Faith by kinsmen both of the Manifestation and Centre of His Covenant, demonstrating the pitiful futility of their nefarious activities and the sad fate overtaking defectors and betrayers.
[1 See God Passes By, chs. X and XV.]
"The present hour calls for unrelaxing vigilance, continued heroism, redoubled efforts, renewed dedication by rank and file of the community enjoying preponderating share alike in the erection, the defence, and the consolidation of the worldwide Administrative Order of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh since the passing of the Centre of His Covenant." [32-13]
Next to Shoghi Effendi in age, his brother Husayn acted as his secretary for some years, but he too was affected by the spirit of Covenant-breaking The following account by Ruhiyyih Khanum is indicative of Shoghi Effendi's patience and long-suffering in dealing with his brother.
"The patience of Shoghi Effendi in handling these terrible situations that arose in his own family is shown by the fact that on one occasion he held for eight months a cable excommunicating his brother while he tried — vainly — to remedy the situation and obviate the necessity of sending a message that was so heart-breaking to him." [32-14]
In April 1945 he sent this cable for the Bahá'í world:
"My faithless brother Husayn, after long period of dishonourable conduct, has abandoned the Master's home to consort with his sister and other Covenant-breakers." [32-15]
The 'sister' mentioned above is Ruhangiz, who had married the Covenant-breaker Nayyir. Husayn's association with her was sufficient ground for him to be denounced as a Covenant-breaker. Now, of Shoghi Effendi's brothers and sisters, only Riaz was left.
In December 1949, Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable to the Bahá'í world.
"Faithless brother Hussein [Husayn], already abased through dishonourable conduct over period of years followed by association with Covenant-breakers in Holy Land and efforts to undermine Guardian's position, recently further demeaned himself through marriage under obscure circumstances with low-born Christian girl in Europe. This disgraceful alliance, following four successive marriages by sisters and cousins with three sons of Covenant-breaker denounced repeatedly by Abdu'l-Bahá as His enemy, and daughter of notorious political agitator, brands them with infamy greater than any associated with marriages contracted by old Covenant-breakers whether belonging to family of Muhammad-'Ali or Badi'u'llah." [32-16]
We have already mentioned the marriages by Ruhangiz and Mehrangiz, the two sisters of Shoghi Effendi and by his cousin Thurayya. The fourth one was that of Hasan Shahid. The 'three sons of Covenant-breaker' are Nayyir, Hasan and Faydi, sons of Siyyid Ali Afnan. 'Daughter of notorious political agitator' is a reference to the marriage of Munib Shahid with the daughter of Jamal Husseini, nephew of the Mufti of Jerusalem.
The term 'low-born Christian girl' prompted the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the British Isles to seek further clarification from Shoghi Effendi. In answer to them he wrote through his secretary:
"Regarding his cable concerning Hussein: he has been very surprised to note that the terms 'low-born Christian girl' and 'disgraceful alliance' should arouse any question: it seems to him that the friends should realise it is not befitting for the Guardian's own brother, the grandchild of the Master, an Afnan and Aghsan mentioned in the Will and Testament of the Master, and of whom so much was expected because of his relation to the Family of the Prophet, to marry an unknown girl, according to goodness knows what rite, who is not a believer at all. Surely, every Bahá'í must realise that the terms low-born and Christian are definitions of a situation and in no way imply any condemnation of a person's birth or the religion they belong to as such. We have no snobbery and no religious prejudice in our Faith. But the members of the Master's family have contracted marriages which cannot be considered in any other light than disgraceful, in view of what Abdu'l-Bahá wished for them." [32-17]
In the year 1948 a fierce political upheaval erupted in the Holy Land. The State of Israel was founded, which resulted in the ending of 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 and her son Ruhi, his wife Zahra and his brother; three cousins of Dr Farid; Nayyir Afnan, his wife Ruhangiz (sister of Shoghi Effendi) and their children. Others who fled to the 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 the Islamic society.
In 1950 Shoghi Effendi sent yet another cable to the Bahá'í world denouncing the activities of Ruhi Afnan.
"Inform friends that Ruhi, his mother, with Ruha, his aunt, and their families, not content with years of disobedience and unworthy conduct, are now showing open defiance. Confident that exemplary loyalty of American believers will sustain me in carrying overwhelming burden of cares afflicting me." [32-18]
Thus the families of the second and third daughters of Abdu'l-Bahá were now openly defiant to the Guardian. The fourth daughter, Munavvar, and her husband Ahmad Yazdi, were also among the Covenant-breakers. The two families mentioned in the above cable included nine cousins of Shoghi Effendi.
Another announcement about Ruhi Afnan was made in 1953 on the morrow of the launching of the Ten Year Crusade.
"Treacherous Ruhi Afnan, not content with previous disobedience, correspondence with Ahmad Sohrab, contact with old Covenant-breakers, sale, in conjunction with other members of family, of sacred property purchased by Founder of Faith, and allowing his sister to marry son of Abdu'l-Bahá's enemy, is now openly lecturing on Bahá'í movement, claiming to be its exponent and is misrepresenting the teachings and deliberately causing confusion in minds of authorities and the local population. Informal National Assemblies." [32-19]
In December 1951 Shoghi Effendi sent the following cable in which he discloses, among other things, the unfaithfulness and treachery of his youngest brother Riaz.
"With feeling profound concern, grief, indignation, am compelled disclose Bahá'í world recent developments Holy land furnishing further incontestable proof relationship established old and new Covenant-breakers demonstrating increasing boldness, marked, tragic decline in character and spiritual condition grandchildren Abdu'l-Bahá. Their shameful attitude and conduct receiving approbation their elders. Evidences multiplying attesting Ruhi's increasing rebelliousness, efforts exerted my eldest sister pave way fourth alliance members family Siyyid Ali involving marriage his granddaughter with Ruha's son and personal contact recently established my own treacherous, despicable brother Riaz with Majdi'd-Din, redoubtable enemy Faith, former henchman Muhammad-'Ali, Archbreaker Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant. Convey information all National Assemblies." [32-20]
Nayyir, the son of Abdu'l-Bahá's great enemy, and the man who had married Shoghi Effendi's eldest sister, died in 1952. Shoghi Effendi's cable announcing his death summed up the heart-breaking events of the previous years. The cable was addressed to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States for the Bahá'ís of the world:
"Inform National Assemblies that God's avenging wrath having afflicted in rapid succession during recent years two sons brother and sister-in-law of Archbreaker of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant, has now struck down second son of Siyyid Ali, Nayer [Nayyir] Afnan, pivot of machinations, connecting link between old and new Covenant-breakers. Time alone will reveal extent of havoc wreaked by this virus of violation injected, fostered over two decades in Abdu'l-Bahá's family. History will brand him [Nayyir] one whose grandmother, wife of Bahá'u'lláh, joined breakers of His Covenant on morrow of His passing, whose parents lent her undivided support, whose father openly accused Abdu'l-Bahá as one deserving capital punishment, who broke his promise to the Bab's wife to escort her to Holy Land, precipitating thereby her death, who was repeatedly denounced by Centre of the Covenant as His chief enemy, whose eldest brother through deliberate misrepresentation of facts inflicted humiliation upon defenders of the House of Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, whose sister-in-law is championing the cause of declared enemies of Faith, whose brothers supported him attributing to Abdu'l-Bahá responsibility for fatal disease which afflicted their mother, who himself [Nayyir] in retaliation first succeeded in winning over through marriage my eldest sister, subsequently paved way for marriage of his brothers to two other grandchildren of the Master, who was planning a fourth marriage between his daughter and grandson of Abdu'l-Bahá, thereby involving in shameful marriages three branches of His family, who over twenty years schemed to undermine the position of the Centre of the Faith through association with representatives of traditional enemies of Faith in Persia, Muslim Arab communities, notables and civil authorities in Holy Land, who lately was scheduled to appear as star witness on behalf of daughter of Badi'u'llah in recent lawsuit challenging the authority conferred upon Guardian of Faith in Abdu'l-Bahá's Testament." [32-21]
The following notes may be helpful in identifying the various individuals and events referred to in this cable:
'two sons' Shu'a'u'llah and Musa, the two sons of Mirza Muhammad-'Ali. See pp. 277, 340 above.
'brother' a reference to Badi'u'llah.
'Archbreaker' Mirza Muhammad-'Ali.
'Siyyid 'Ali' Haji Siyyid Ali Afnan, who married Furughiyyih, daughter of Bahá'u'lláh. See pp. 356 above.
'grandmother' Gawhar Khanum, the third wife of Bahá'u'lláh and the mother of Furughiyyih. See above pp. 117-18.
'father' Haji Siyyid Afnan.
'promise' see above p. 357.
'eldest brother' Husayn Afnan.
'brothers' Hasan Afnan and Faydi Afnan, sons of Siyyid Ali. Hasan married Mehrangiz, the second sister of Shoghi Effendi, and Faydi married Thurayya, grand-daughter of Abdu'l-Bahá. See below.
'mother' Furughiyyih, a daughter of Bahá'u'lláh.
'my eldest sister' Ruhangiz, who married Nayyir.
'two other grandchildren' Mehrangiz and Thurayya, as above.
'his daughter' Bahiyyih.
'grandson of Abdu'l-Bahá' Hasan Shahid. See above, p. 358.
'daughter of Badi'u'llah' Sadhijih, a notorious woman with a criminal record. She was a political agitator, in prison because of her complicity in unlawful plots against the authorities.
'lawsuit' refers to a case brought against Shoghi Effendi in 1952 in connection with the demolition of a house in the vicinity of the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. The case resulted in victory for Shoghi Effendi. See above, pp. 329-331.
Thus ended the life of Nayyir, who with the help of his relatives was instrumental in corrupting and destroying the Master's family and in inflicting the most unbearable suffering upon Shoghi Effendi.
Every one of these messages sent by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'í world at different times during his ministry was the result of many agonizing episodes of Covenant-breaking, of acts of opposition, betrayal and open defiance by the members of the family of the Master. But their defection and that of some of the outstanding Bahá'ís who broke the Covenant, far from weakening the fabric of the Bahá'í community, strengthened and invigorated it. This is a cleansing process by which the impurities are thrown out of the body of the Cause. Concerning the effect of rebellion by the Covenant-breakers, 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 influence." [32-22]
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 them...
"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." [32-23]
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. This suffering is deepened, in the case of Shoghi Effendi, by the fact that he was duty bound, by virtue of his position as Guardian of the Faith, to expel his closest loved ones. Concerning this Ruhiyyih Khanum writes:
"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 dead." [32-24]
The Covenant-breakers struggled continually to hurt Shoghi Effendi in whatever way they could. They attacked him from every direction and inflicted on him unbearable pain; while he resisted their onslaught until they were vanquished one by one in different ways. 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. This he did when he attempted to develop the gardens around the Mansion of Bahji, while there were still a few houses of Covenant-breakers around the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. Shoghi Effendi continued in his efforts until he secured from the government orders for demolition of these houses. The following is part of the cable Shoghi Effendi sent in June 1957 to the Bahá'í world on this occasion:
"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 its bosom." [32-25]
Ruhiyyih Khanum recounts the following:
"Finally, in 1957, again through the cooperation of the State authorities, Shoghi Effendi was able to secure an expropriation order, on the grounds of their nearness to a sacred place of pilgrimage, for the houses occupied by what he termed the 'wretched remnants' of the Covenant-breakers and thus at long last bring about what he described as the cleansing of the Haram-i-Aqdas of this spiritual defilement. So hotly was this expropriation order, which involved their eviction from Bahji, contested by the Covenant-breakers that they took it before the Supreme Court of Israel, lost their case and were obliged to leave once and for all.
"It had been the expressed desire of the Guardian himself to supervise the demolition of these houses that abutted on the Mansion and were right next to the Shrine, but he never returned to the Holy Land. When, in fulfilment of his own plan, they were pulled down, a few months after his passing, it was found that the large formal garden he had made in front of them was so accurately measured out and planned that it could be continued — I am tempted to say rolled out like a carpet — with complete accuracy right over the place where they stood and up to the very wall of the Mansion." [32-26]
The obtaining of this expropriation order was the last act in uprooting the nests of corruption and hatred which 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.