Announcing: BahaiPrayers.net


More Books by Ali Nakhjavani

Shoghi Effendi The Range And Power Of His Pen
Towards World Order
Free Interfaith Software

Web - Windows - iPhone








Ali Nakhjavani : Towards World Order
TOWARDS WORLD ORDER
‘Alí Nakhjávání
F OREWORD

Sixty young Bahá’ís from 24 countries in Europe gathered in Acuto for

a week-long course on the study of various aspects of the World Order of

Bahá’u’lláh. This course was arranged by the National Spiritual Assembly

of Italy, in consultation with the Board of Counsellors in Europe.

The attached notes are transcripts of the six presentations made during the week. The reader will find some overlapping of issues in one or

more of the talks. Such repetitions have not been eliminated in order to

keep the text of the talks as presented to the class.

The questions asked and the answers given have been sorted according to the themes of the presentation each day and appear at the end of

the text of each of the six talks.

The points raised in these notes are for the most part based on the

Writings of our Faith, as I have understood them. Shoghi Effendi has

warned the friends that the future will witness attacks on the Administrative Order. It is hoped that the themes presented and the conclusions

drawn in these notes will assist the participants of this course to defend

the Cause against these attacks in the days to come.

‘Alí Nakh jávání
ND
F OREWORD TO THE 2 EDITION

In response to a suggestion made at Acuto that I make a presentation

on the significance of the Bahá’í Covenant, I gave a talk on this subject. It

was subsequently suggested that features of the talk be prepared by me,

followed by Questions and Answers discussed at that Session.

This is now ready for inclusion in the second edition of the book. It

has been added at the beginning as an introduction to the contents of the

earlier editions. A Chart has also been included as an Appendix which

attempts to portray the twin processes of integration and disintegration

at work ever since the inception of the Faith in 1844.

‘Alí Nakh jávání
Molsheim, France
July 2007
THE COVENANT

As the Administrative Order, which is the Harbinger of the World

Order of Bahá’u’lláh, has been described by Shoghi Effendi as the

“Child of the Covenant” ( God Passes By 243), it is important that in any

discussion of the various aspects of the World Order, and as an introduction to such a theme a study of the Bahá’í Covenant be made, however cursory this might be.

A Covenant is an agreement between two parties. When this term is

used in a religious context, it defines the bond between God and His

Messenger, and the Latter’s relationship with the human race in respect

of conveyance of authority to designated Successors, of responsibilities

to be discharged by individuals and society, and the stages to be reached

in fulfilment of the vision of the future.

In his God Passes By , Shoghi Effendi has identified two types of

Covenant: the Greater and the Lesser. The Greater is the Covenant

which, in the words of the Guardian “God had, from time immemorial,

entered through the Prophets of all ages, with the whole of mankind,

regarding the newborn Revelation” ( God Passes By 27). This Revelation, again in Shoghi Effendi’s words, signals “the end of the Prophetic

Era and the beginning of the Era of Fulfilment” ( God Passes By 100).

As a sub-set of this Covenant we could include the Covenant entered

by Bahá’u’lláh with His followers regarding the next Manifestation,

after the lapse of a minimum period of a thousand years. ( Kitáb-íAqdas ¶37)

The Lesser Covenant, on the other hand, is that Covenant that the

Manifestation of God makes with the body of His followers regarding

His immediate and subsequent Successors, assigning to them specific

powers and functions. To this category belongs Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant in respect of His appointment of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as His immediate

Successor, as well as the Covenant embedded in the Writings of both

Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá concerning the responsibilities of the

Chief Institutions of the Administrative Order, namely the Guardianship

and the Universal House of Justice. ( Lights of Guidance 181)

The Hand of the Cause George Townshend identifies yet another

type of Covenant, which he describes as the “Ethical Covenant” which

deals with the obligations and duties prescribed by God’s Messenger for

the believers to accept and obey, and to live the way of life laid down in

His teachings. (e.g. Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶1 & ¶149)

The comments made in this Introduction will be concerned with the

various aspects of the Lesser Covenant, often referred to as the Bahá’í

Covenant. We will discuss the background of the appointment of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Law of Succession as set forth in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas

and the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the anticipation of the Institution of the Guardianship as set out in the verses of the Most Holy

Book, and the provisions which establish the Institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. Finally we will consider the

references in the authentic Writings of our Faith regarding the Power of

the Covenant and its functions.
The Station of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Referring to the Most Great Branch, Bahá’u’lláh in His Suriy-iGhusn which was revealed in Adrianople, has written: “Verily the Limb

of the Law of God hath sprung forth from this Root which God hath

firmly implanted in the Ground of His Will... Magnified be He, therefore, for this sublime, this blessed, this mighty, this exalted Handiwork... Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance, for verily He is the most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon

you, and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away

from Him hath turned away from My Beauty, hath repudiated my Proof,

and transgressed against Me.” ( World Order 135)

In His Kitáb-i-Aqdas there are two verses, which Shoghi Effendi

has translated and which refer to the station of the Master: The first is as

follows: “When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of

My Revelation is ended turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath

purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root” ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas

¶121). And the second adds to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s prerogatives the right to

interpret the Holy Writ: “When the mystic Dove will have winged its

flight from its Sanctuary of Praise and sought its far-off goal, its hidden

2
THE COVENANT

habitation, refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him

Who hath branched from this mighty Stock” ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶174). In

order to dispel any doubt about His intention, Bahá’u’lláh in His Kitábi-‘Ahd, after quoting the first of the two verses cited above, declares:

“The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty

Branch [‘Abdu’l-Bahá].” ( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 221)

On two pages of the “Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh” Shoghi Effendi

has recorded passages from several Tablets of the Blessed Beauty where

He, in an awe-inspiring tone, affirms the exalted station of ‘Abdu’lBahá. Those who wish to enhance their understanding of the lofty station of the One Who was the Mystery of God, are encouraged to read

these passages and meditate on the inner meanings deposited in them

( World Order l35-136).
The Law and Line of Succession

One of the most important and vital paragraphs of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas

is, in my opinion, paragraph ¶42. In this paragraph, Bahá’u’lláh makes

mention of “endowments dedicated to charity”, and states that these revert

to the “Dawning-place of Revelation” as long as He is alive. He then goes

on to declare: “After Him, this authority shall pass to the Agh án, and

after them to the House of Justice – should it be established in the world

by then... Otherwise the endowments will revert to the people of Bahá

who speak not except by His leave...” In explaining the line of succession

stipulated in this passage, Note 66 ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas 196) of the Kitáb-iAqdas points out that the word “Agh án” means “Branches” or male descendants of Bahá’u’lláh. It then goes on to state the following: “Thisterm [Agh án] has particular implications not only for the disposition of

endowments but also for the succession of authority following the passing

of Bahá’u’lláh and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá”( Kitáb-i-Aqdas 196). Elaborating

further this theme, this same Note states: “This passage of the Aqdas,

therefore anticipates the succession of chosen Agh án and thus the institution of the Guardianship, and envisages the possibility of a break in their

line. The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very situation

provided for in this passage, in that the line of the Agh án ended before

the Universal House had been established” ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas 197). To

sum up, the line of succession after Bahá’u’lláh Himself, as stipulated in

the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, consists of the chosen Agh án (i.e. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and

3
TOWARDS WORLD ORDER

Shoghi Effendi), the Chief Stewards (i.e. the Hands of the Cause during

the interregnum), and finally the Universal House of Justice.

It is highly significant that Bahá’u’lláh makes a clear distinction between the Agh án in a general way and the specified, the “chosen”

Agh án who become Focal Points of the Covenant. For example in His

Kitáb-i-Aqdas He states: “God hath bidden you to show forth kindliness

towards My kindred, but He hath granted them no right to the property

of others” ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶61). As a further confirmation of this general

rule, He is even more emphatic in His Kitáb-i-‘Ahd where He declares:

“It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Agh án, but

God hath not granted them any right to the property of others” ( Tablets

of Bahá’u’lláh 222). However, in the same Book He ordains that the

Agh án who are designated as His Successors certainly do not fall in the

general category of Agh án, in the broad sense of the term.

As to the term “people of Bahá” mentioned in paragraph ¶42 of the

Kitáb-i-Aqdas quoted above, we find the following explanation in Note

67 of the Book ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas 197): “The term ‘people of Bahá is used

with a number of different meanings in the Bahá’í Writings. In this instance, they are described as those ‘who speak not except by His leave

and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet’. Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the Hands of the

Cause of God directed the affairs of the Cause until the election of the

Universal House of Justice in 1963”. We must remember in this connection that Shoghi Effendi in his last message to the Bahá’í World, dated

October 1957, had described the responsibilities of the Hands of the

Cause as “the Chief Stewards of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth, who have been invested by the unerring Pen of the Centre of

His Covenant with the dual function of guarding over the security, and of

insuring the propagation, of His Father’s Faith” ( Messages to the Bahá’í

World 127). The term “steward” according to the Oxford Dictionary is “a

person entrusted with management of another’s property.”

As Custodians of the Faith, the Hands of the Cause of God managed

the affairs of the Cause entrusted to them in a most exemplary manner.

In their message of November 1959 they announced that the election of

the Universal House of Justice will be held at Ridván 1963, coinciding

4
THE COVENANT

with the termination of Shoghi Effendi’s World Crusade ( The Ministry

of the Custodians 166). When it was formed, the Universal House of

Justice paid the following tribute to the Hands of the Cause: “The entire

history of religion shows no comparable record of such strict selfdiscipline, such absolute loyalty, and such complete self-abnegation by

the leaders of a religion finding themselves suddenly deprived of their

divinely inspired guide. The debt of gratitude which mankind for generations, nay, ages to come, owes to this handful of grief-stricken, steadfast, heroic souls is beyond estimation.” ( The Ministry of the Custodians

2)

The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice

While the institution of the Guardianship was unequivocally and

formally established in the provisions of the Will and Testament of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, its anticipation could be found in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. This

subject has been fully addressed by the Universal House of Justice in a

letter dated 27 May 1980. We read as follows: “Although there is no

explicit reference to the Guardianship in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Synopsis and Codification lists ‘Anticipation of the Institution of the Guardianship’. On page 214 of God Passes By, when summarizing the contents

of the Aqdas, Shoghi Effendi states that in it Bahá’u’lláh ‘anticipates by

implication the institution of Guardianship’, and again, on page 147

of The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh the Guardian refers to ‘the verses of

the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the implications of which clearly anticipate the institution of the Guardianship’. One such implication is in the matter of

uqúqu’lláh (The Right of God) which is ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas

without provision being made for who is to receive it; in His Will and

Testament ‘Abdu’l-Bahá fills this gap by stating ‘It is to be offered

through the Guardian of the Cause of God...’ Other implications of this

institution can be seen in the terms in which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is appointed

as the Successor of Bahá’u’lláh and the Interpreter of His Teachings.

The faithful are enjoined to turn their faces towards the one whom ‘God

hath purposed ‘ and who ‘hath branched from this Ancient Root’, and

are bidden to refer whatsoever they do not understand in the Bahá’í

Writings to him who ‘hath branched from this mighty Stock’. Yet another can be seen in the provision of the Aqdas concerning the disposition of international endowments – a passage which not only refers this matter to the Agh án (male descendants of Bahá’u’lláh) but also provides for what should happen should the line of Agh án end before the

coming into being of the Universal House of Justice.” ( Messages from

the Universal House of Justice 450-452)

As to the exalted station of the Guardian as ordained in the Will and

Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, it would suffice to quote the key thoughts

and terms incorporated in that Immortal Document. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers

to him as “the Light that after My passing shineth from the Dayspring of

Divine Guidance”, as “the primal branch”, “the blest and sacred bough”,

“the sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God,

he unto whom all... His loved must turn. He is the expounder of the

words of God”, who is “under the care and protection of the Abhá

Beauty [and] under the shadow of His Holiness the Exalted One [the

Báb]... Whoso obeyeth him not ...hath not obeyed God... whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God”. And finally: “Well is it with

him that seeketh the shelter of his shade that shadoweth all mankind.”

( Will and Testament 3 & 11)

Regarding the station of the Universal House as Head of the Faith,

the Kitáb-i-Aqdas refers to its members as “the trusted ones of the Merciful” ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶30) – also translated by the Guardian as “Trustees of the All-Merciful” in God Passes By p. 214. Likewise, the Supreme Elected Institution is established as the Focal Point of the Cause

after the Agh án ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶42), and, furthermore, its members are

referred to as “men” ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶52) and as “Deputies of God.”

( Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶147)

Furthermore in the Eighth Leaf of the Words of Paradise, Bahá’u’lláh

gives the community of the faithful the assurance that “God will verily

inspire them [members of the Universal House of Justice] with whatsoever He willeth ( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 68). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will

and Testament has also stated that the Universal House of Justice is “under the care and protection” and “the shelter and guidance” of Bahá’u’lláh

and the Báb. Referring to the Guardian as well as the Universal House of

Justice He has written: “Whatsoever they decide is of God.” He goes on

to state that whoso does not obey the Universal House of Justice “hath not

obeyed God” ( Will and Testament 11). The Supreme House of Justice has

also been described as “the source of all good and free from all error”

6

( Will and Testament 14) and in the same Document we read that the decisions of the Body, whether taken unanimously or by majority of votes are

“verily the purpose of God Himself... Whatsoever they [the elected members] decide has the same effect as the Text itself.” ( Will and Testament

19)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in other Tablets declares that the “Supreme House of

Justice will take decisions and establish laws through the inspiration and

confirmation of the Holy Spirit” ( Messages from the Universal House of

Justice 85). He describes the Institution, as a “blessed, sanctified and

all-subduing body, whose sovereignty is divinely ordained” ( Messages

from the Universal House of Justice 85). Shoghi Effendi has added his

voice to the foregoing by stating that the elected members have “been

made the recipients of the divine guidance which is at once the lifeblood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation.” ( World Order 153)

The Power of the Covenant and its Functions

The full text of the Will and Testament of Bahá’u’lláh, which is

known to the friends as “The Book of My Covenant” or “The Book of

the Covenant”, and quite often referred to, in its Persian form, as the

“Kitáb-i-‘Ahd”, is found on pages 219-223 of Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh

Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas . The second sentence of the first paragraph reads as follows: “We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent

and priceless Heritage.” The generality of the friends understood

that this “Heritage” was a reference to the Cause of God. However,

when Shoghi Effendi wrote his God Passes By , it was realized that the

“Heritage” was indeed Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant bequeathed by Him to

His heirs – namely, the Community of the Most Great Name. ( God

Passes By 314)

In a way, we could say that the entire Document is about the Covenant, in both its specific and general sense. Shoghi Effendi has given us a

summary of the contents of the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd in the following terms: “In

this weighty and incomparable Document its Author discloses the character of this ‘excellent and priceless heritage’ bequeathed by Him to His

‘heirs’; proclaims afresh the fundamental purpose of His Revelation; enjoins ‘the people of the world’ to hold fast to that which will ‘elevate’

their ‘station’; announces to them that ‘God hath forgiven what is past’;

7

stresses the sublimity of man’s station; discloses the primary aim of the

Faith of God; directs the faithful to pray for the welfare of the kings of the

earth, ‘the manifestations of the power, and the daysprings of the might

and riches, of God; invests them with the rulership of the earth; singles

out as His special domain the hearts of men, forbids categorically strife

and contention; commands His followers to aid those rulers who are

‘adorned with the ornament of equity and justice’; and directs, in particular, the Agh án (His sons) to ponder the ‘mighty force and the consummate power that lieth concealed in the world of being’. He bids them,

moreover, together with the Afnán (the Báb’s kindred) and His own relatives. to ‘turn, one and all, unto the Most Great Branch (‘Abdu’l-Bahá);

identifies Him with ‘the one Whom God hath purposed’, ‘Who hath

branched from this pre-existent Root’, referred to in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas;

ordains the station of the ‘Greater Branch’ (Mirza Muhammad-’Alí) to be

beneath that of the ‘Most Great Branch’ (‘Abdu’l-Bahá); exhorts the believers to treat the Agh án with consideration and affection; counsels

them to respect His family and relatives, as well as the kindred of the Báb;

denies His sons ‘any right to the property of others’; enjoins on them, on

His kindred and on that of the Báb to ‘fear God, to do that which is meet

and seemly’ and to follow the things that will ‘exalt’ their station; warns

all men not to allow ‘the means of order to be made the cause of confusion, and the instrument of union an occasion for discord’; and concludes

with an exhortation calling upon the faithful to ‘serve all nations’ and to

strive for the ‘betterment of the world.’” ( God Passes By 239-240)

The entire passage, which contains the reference to the Covenant as

possessing “force” and “power” is as follows: “A mighty force, a consummate power lieth concealed in the world of being. Fix your gaze

upon it and upon its unifying influence, and not upon the differences

which appear from it” ( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 221). In this passage

Bahá’u’lláh admits that God’s Covenant will provoke “differences”,

however, as Bahá’í history eloquently and repeatedly has demonstrated,

these “differences” never led to a rift or cleavage in the ranks of the

faithful. Shoghi Effendi has assured us that any temporary “setbacks and

reverses” caused by the external and internal enemies of the Faith, have

never, and could never “impair its unity” and will always fail “to arrest

its march” The “unifying influence” of the Covenant has always prevailed. ( God Passes By 61)

8

‘Abdu’l-Bahá has emphatically declared that God’s Covenant in this

Dispensation is “firm and mighty”, that “no religious Dispensation has

produced its like”, and that the “pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant”( God Passes By 238). Furthermore He has stated that the “lamp of the Covenant is the light of the

world”, that its power is “as the heat of the sun which quickeneth and

promoteth the development of all created things on earth”, and that it is

the “Magnet of God’s grace”. ( God Passes By 234-235)

Shoghi Effendi has further developed this vital theme by stating that

the Bahá’í Covenant has been “bequeathed to posterity” ( God Passes By

239), that it is endowed with an “invincible” and an “indomitable

strength”, that it has an “energizing power”, and has the “ability to safeguard the unity and integrity of the Faith” ( God Passes By 239). Viewed

in their proper perspective, the crises it engenders are but “inevitable

manifestations of the mysterious evolution” of the Faith, and an agency

“for the purification and revitalization of the life of the community”.

Therefore, each of these crises could “confidently be pronounced as a

blessing in disguise, affording a providential means for a fresh outpouring of celestial strength” ( God Passes By 61). Indeed, Shoghi Effendi

has clearly declared that the statement made by Bahá’u’lláh that His

Dispensation is “the Day which shall not be followed by night”, should

be regarded as His testimony that it is on account of His Lesser Covenant that His glorious “Day” shall not be followed by “night” ( God

Passes By 245).

It was undoubtedly by virtue of the potency and power of the Covenant vested in Him by Bahá’u’lláh that ’Abdu’l-Bahá wrote His fourteen

Tablets which constitute His Divine Plan for the spiritual conquest of

the planet, and that Shoghi Effendi was moved to devise the Teaching

Plans assigned by him to various National Spiritual Assemblies of the

world, thus paving the way for the launching of his World Crusade. It is

this self-same driving force, we must be confident, which today prompts

the Universal House of Justice to formulate the objectives of its series of

Teaching and Consolidation Plans for the Bahá’í World Community and

to take the necessary steps for their execution.
9
Questions related:

Q. Do you advise us to read books that oppose the Faith, such as

books of Covenant-breakers to prepare ourselves to better defend

the Faith ?

A. It is useful to know what claims or arguments the enemies of the

Faith are advancing, in order to disprove their misrepresentations. The

purpose of courses such as the one we are engaged in is precisely for

this purpose. However, those who oppose the Faith usually put forward

their provocative statements with such venom, that reading the full text

is like exposing our otherwise healthy souls to the breath of a consumptive person. Nevertheless, the reading of such books is not forbidden in

our teachings, but a clear warning is given. Furthermore, as the Faith

will be encountering wave after wave of opposition, and undoubtedly

more fierce and relentless than those of the past, if Bahá’ís would

choose to read intensively all articles and books written by enemies of

the Faith and by Covenant-breakers, they would be spending their time

doing almost nothing but reading this type of poisonous material.

By studying the deeper teachings of the Faith, and as Bahá’u’lláh has

advised us, by reading the Writings with the aim of knowing “what hath

been purposed in the Books of God” ( Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶36), we will immediately be able to discover what is being misrepresented by our enemies, whether internal or external, and refute their false arguments.

Q. The Báb appointed Mírzá Ya yá as the leader of the community

after His death. This was done upon Bahá’u’lláh’s suggestion. Do

we have copies of the correspondence between the Báb and

Bahá’u’lláh? Was Bahá’u’lláh aware of His Divine Mission prior to

His experience in the Síyáh-Ch ál ?

A. In the Bayan, the Báb states that He has not appointed any Successor

within His Dispensation. This is confirmed by Shoghi Effendi: “A successor or viceregent the Báb never named, an interpreter of His teachings He refrained from appointing” ( God Passes By 28). He, of course,

knew that His Dispensation would be a brief one.

Shoghi Effendi has further explained that all that the Báb did was “to

nominate, on the advice of Bahá’u’lláh and of another disciple, Mírzá

Ya yá, [he was a teenager at that time] who would act solely as a fig10

ure-head pending the manifestation of the Promised One, thus enabling

Bahá’u’lláh to promote in relative security, the Cause [of the Báb] so

dear to His heart” ( God Passes By 28-29).

Until now, as far as I know, the correspondence between Bahá’u’lláh

and the Báb has not been found.

As to whether Bahá’u’lláh was conscious of His Mission prior to His

experience in the Síyáh-Ch ál, we have the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about

this general subject concerning all Divine Messengers, as follows: “Verily, from the beginning that Holy Reality [God’s Manifestation ] is conscious of the secret of existence, and from the age of childhood signs of

greatness appear and are visible in Him. Therefore, how can it be that

with all these bounties and perfections He should have no consciousness?” ( Some Answered Questions 155).

Q. As President of the Universal House of Justice, why did Shoghi

Effendi comment in his “Dispensation” about his relationship to

that Institution, apparently assuming that he would co-exist with

the Universal House of Justice?

A. Shoghi Effendi was not appointed as the “President” of the Universal

House of Justice. This was a mistake made by Mason Remey and those

who followed him. The Guardian was appointed as the “sacred head”

( Will and Testament 14) of that Body. Indeed, when in 1952 Shoghi Effendi announced the members as well as the officers of the International

Bahá’í Council – the “embryonic” stage and “forerunner” ( Messages to

the Bahá’í World 7) of the Universal House of Justice – he made a clear

distinction between the position to be occupied by Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhíyyíh Khánum, as his “chosen liaison” with the Council, and the lower

position of “president” which was assumed by Mason Remey ( Messages

to the Bahá’í World 22).

As to whether a Guardian as a male descendent of Bahá’u’lláh is to coexist with the Universal House of Justice, this matter has been discussed

in the second chapter of this book. Briefly stated, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas

does not envisage such a co-existence. In ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will, however, while co-existence is envisaged only in the first part of the Document, its provisions unequivocally declare that the Universal House of

Justice’s divine guidance does not depend upon the membership or participation of a Guardian. This is one of the “mysteries” deposited in the

contents of the Master’s Will, which Shoghi Effendi kept referring to in

the course of his Ministry. Beyond any doubt this act on the part of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá must have its own wisdom, specially as Shoghi Effendi

emphatically wrote that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament

are not “incompatible and contradictory in spirit” ( World Order 4).

Q. In the former Pilgrim House by the Shrine of the Báb, there is a

room that has pictures of the Hands of the Cause, which include

that of Mason Remey. Why was this done? Shouldn’t we also have a

picture of Muhammad-Alí, for example, in the Mansion?

A. A list of the Hands of the Cause of God would normally include the

name of Mason Remey. Likewise a room which portrays all the Hands,

should include Mason Remey as well, as this is a historical fact. Of

course it would be out of place to put a picture of Muhammad-Alí in the

Mansion. However his calligraphic rendering of the Most Great Name

was placed by Shoghi Effendi on the southern wall of the main hall of

the Mansion. Likewise, we admit that the architect of the Kampala and

Sydney Houses of Worship, as well as of the Archives Building and the

future House of Worship on Mount Carmel was Mason Remey. We

cannot meddle with historic events.

Q. What answer can we give to the allegation that Shoghi Effendi

interpreted the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a manner

which would favour his own station ?

A. Your question would be relevant if Shoghi Effendi had been a political leader. But he was not a secular leader. He was formally appointed by the Centre of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant as Guardian of the

Cause of God, and authorized Interpreter of the Writings of the Faith.

The self-same Pen of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, referred

to Shoghi Effendi as the Sign of God, chosen to be the Inspired Authority in the Cause to which the faithful must turn, and “the Light that after

My passing shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance” ( Will and

Testament 3).
12
T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE

In order to place this subject in its proper context it would be useful

to have a general understanding of the twin processes, frequently expounded in the writings of Shoghi Effendi, of disintegration and integration as they unfold in the world today.

I feel it would be helpful to look at the parable of the Lord of the

vineyard, as given by Jesus Christ.

A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen,

and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he

sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the

fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him

away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat

him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away

empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and

cast him out. Then said the Lord of the vineyard, What shall I do?

I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him

when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill

him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the

vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the Lord of the

vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. (Luke 20:9-16)

Here are a few comments: (1) According to God Passes By, the Lord of

the vineyard is a reference to Bahá’u’lláh. (2) The Son is obviously a

reference to Jesus Christ, and the parable shows that Christ anticipated

His own martyrdom. (3) The servants sent by the Lord are God’s Prophets. We note that there is not only succession but progression in the degree of the authority they wield. (4) The Father dismisses the tenants,

who are obviously the religious and secular leaders, and He gives the

vineyard to “others”.

This final point leads us to our subject, namely, that the appearance

of Bahá’u’lláh carries with it the dismantling of the old order and the

establishment of a new system for the management of the vineyard. In

other words, we see here the two processes of integration and disintegra13

tion. These twin processes are also envisaged in the New Testament, as

we read in the Revelation of St John: “And I saw a new heaven and a

new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away”

(Revelation 21:1).

We find this theme embedded in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh Himself. For example, He says on the one hand, “The time for the destruction of the world and its people hath arrived” ( Promised Day Is Come

¶3), and, “From two ranks of men power hath been seized: kings and

ecclesiastics” (¶37). At the same time He says, “The whole earth is now

in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have

yielded its noblest fruits…” (¶8). He then joins the two processes together in one sentence, saying, “Soon will the present day Order be

rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead” ( World Order 161) .

We find ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also referring to these two processes in His

Writings: “The ills from which the world now suffers will multiply; the

gloom which envelops it will deepen” ( World Order 30). This is counterbalanced by, “Thus the world of humanity will be wholly transformed

and the merciful bounties become manifest” ( Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ¶224.1).

Shoghi Effendi gives us his description of the two processes in the

following words:

A two-fold process… can be distinguished, each tending, in its

own way and with an accelerated momentum, to bring to a climax

the forces that are transforming the face of our planet. The first is

essentially an integrating process, while the second is fundamentally disruptive. The former, as it steadily evolves, unfolds a System which may well serve as a pattern for that world polity towards which a strangely-disordered world is continually advancing; while the latter, as its disintegrating influence deepens, tends

to tear down, with increasing violence, the antiquated barriers that

seek to block humanity’s progress towards its destined goal. The

constructive process stands associated with the nascent Faith of

Bahá’u’lláh, and is the harbinger of the New World Order that

Faith must erelong establish. The destructive forces that characterize the other should be identified with a civilization that has refused to answer to the expectation of a new age, and is consequently falling into chaos and decline. ( World Order 170)

14
T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE

It may be useful to form a mental image in our minds of these two

processes which have their starting point in the year 1844. At the beginning, the two processes are seen to move along what appear to be parallel

lines, one above the other. The higher line, which is the Faith, exerts its

influence on the lower one, which in turn quite often reacts, consciously

or unconsciously, in opposition. As this movement proceeds and the interaction intensifies, we see the two lines diverging from each other: the

Faith in an upward flight and the world in a downward fall. In this connection the prophetic words of Shoghi Effendi are of utmost significance:

The champion builders of Bahá’u’lláh’s rising World Order must

scale nobler heights of heroism as humanity plunges into greater

depths of despair, degradation, dissension and distress. Let them

forge ahead into the future serenely confident that the hour of

their mightiest exertions and the supreme opportunity for their

greatest exploits must coincide with the apocalyptic upheaval

marking the lowest ebb in mankind’s fast-declining fortunes.

( Citadel of Faith 58)

The interaction has not stopped. We witness it under our very eyes at

this time in history.

The letters of Shoghi Effendi point to a new phenomenon. They

show that, almost imperceptibly, a third line between the two that I have

just described has been set in motion and is in steady progress. This new

line is a positive one and has come into existence as an indirect impact

of the Faith of God on the minds and hearts of men. This new line represents the forces which are in harmony with the spirit of the age, while its

protagonists are unconscious of the true source of this constructive

process.

This thought is clearly explained by Shoghi Effendi:

The principle of the Oneness of Mankind… finds its earliest manifestations in the efforts consciously exerted and the modest beginnings already achieved by the declared adherents of the Faith of

Bahá’u’lláh who… are forging ahead to establish His Kingdom on

this earth. It has its indirect manifestations in the gradual diffusion

of the spirit of world solidarity which is spontaneously arising out

of the welter of a disorganized society. (World Order 43-4)

15

Shoghi Effendi also saw in the creation of the League of Nations after

the First World War a welcome by-product of this positive development. He wrote,

And yet while the shadows are continually deepening, might we

not claim that gleams of hope, flashing intermittently on the international horizon, appear at times to relieve the darkness that

encircles humanity? Would it be untrue to maintain that in a

world of unsettled faith and disturbed thought, a world of steadily

mounting armaments, of unquenchable hatreds and rivalries, the

progress, however fitful, of the forces working in harmony with

the spirit of the age can already be discerned? Though the great

outcry raised by post-war nationalism is growing louder and more

insistent every day, the League of Nations is as yet in its embryonic state, and the storm clouds that are gathering may for a time

totally eclipse its powers and obliterate its machinery, yet the direction in which the institution itself is operating is most significant… A general Pact on security has been the central purpose

towards which these efforts have, ever since the League was born,

tended to converge… For the first time in the history of humanity

the system of collective security, foreshadowed by Bahá’u’lláh

and explained by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has been seriously envisaged,

discussed and tested. ( World Order 191-2)

Writing on the same theme, Shoghi Effendi describes the condition

of the world as having been “contracted and transformed into a single

highly complex organism by the marvellous progress achieved in the

realm of physical science [and] by the world-wide expansion of commerce and industry” ( World Order 47). He further points out that, by

virtue of the “celestial potency which the Spirit of Bahá’u’lláh has

breathed” into the world, “an increasing number of thoughtful men not

only consider world peace as an approaching possibility, but as the necessary outcome of the forces now operating in the world” (47).

The League of Nations was replaced after the Second World War by

the United Nations. Ever since its inception over half a century ago, it

has been evolving positively in its spirit, fair judgement, and efficiency.

There is no doubt that this middle process, brought into being with the

inception of the Faith, will eventually lead to the Lesser Peace.

16
T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE

Shoghi Effendi has given us this definition of the Lesser Peace:

“[This gradual process…] must, as Bahá’u’lláh has Himself anticipated,

lead at first to the establishment of that Lesser Peace which the nations

of the earth, as yet unconscious of His Revelation and yet unwittingly

enforcing the general principles which He has enunciated, will themselves establish” ( Promised Day Is Come ¶301). The Guardian further

amplifies his own statement when he anticipates gradual steps in this

process. These steps he identifies as “The political unification of the

Eastern and Western Hemispheres,… the emergence of a world government and the establishment of the Lesser Peace as foreshadowed by

the Prophet Isaiah” ( Citadel of Faith 33). He further adds that this step

involves “the reconstruction of mankind, as the result of the universal

recognition of its oneness and wholeness…” ( Promised Day Is Come

¶301).

The Words of Bahá’u’lláh on the subject of the Lesser Peace, as

quoted by Shoghi Effendi in his writings, addressing the kings and rulers of the earth, are as follows:

Now that ye have refused the Most Great Peace hold ye fast unto

this the Lesser Peace, that haply ye may in some degree better

your own condition and that of your dependants. Be reconciled

among yourselves, that ye may need no more armaments save in a

measure to safeguard your territories and dominions… ( World

Order 162).

Be united, O concourse of the sovereigns of the world, for

thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and

your peoples find rest. Should any one among you take up arms

against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but

manifest justice (192).
In another Tablet He writes,

The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend

it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways

and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace

17

among men… Should any king take up arms against another, all

should unitedly arise and prevent him. ( World Order 192)

It is now important to focus our attention on the Most Great Peace

and its features. Shoghi Effendi has given us the following definition:

The Most Great Peace… as conceived by Bahá’u’lláh – a peace

that must inevitably follow as the practical consequence of the

spiritualization of the world and the fusion of all its races, creeds,

classes and nations – can rest on no other basis, and can be preserved through no other agency, except the divinely appointed ordinances that are implicit in the World Order that stands associated with His Holy Name. ( World Order 162-3)

Shoghi Effendi further considers the following words, addressed to

Queen Victoria by Bahá’u’lláh, to refer to the Most Great Peace and not

to the Lesser Peace: “That which the Lord hath ordained as the sovereign remedy and mightiest instrument for the healing of all the world is

the union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith.

This can in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled,

an all-powerful and inspired Physician. This, verily, is the truth, and all

else naught but error…” ( World Order 163). In another Tablet

Bahá’u’lláh refers to the unity of all humankind. According to Shoghi

Effendi, Bahá’u’lláh had in mind the Most Great Peace: “It beseemeth

all men in this Day to take firm hold on the Most Great Name, and to

establish the unity of all mankind. There is no place to flee to, no refuge

that any one can seek, except Him” (163)

In the original texts, the term for the Lesser Peace is “ ul -i $ gh ar”, and the term for the Most Great Peace “ ul -i-A’ am”. In the

original texts we find a third term used quite frequently, namely, “ ul i-Akbar”. This is translated in various ways, at times as “the Lesser

Peace”, at others as “the Greater Peace”, “the Great Peace”, and even

sometimes as “the Most Great Peace”. It is most interesting that the beloved Guardian, in his capacity as interpreter of the Writings, has sometimes translated “ ul -i-Akbar” as the “Lesser Peace” and at others as

the “Most Great Peace”, depending on the context. When one reads

these carefully it becomes quite clear that whenever reference is made

merely to the reduction of armaments, the need for consultation among

18
T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE

nations, or the principle of collective security, Shoghi Effendi’s translation is always the “Lesser Peace”. However, when the context goes beyond political unification and deals with unity in all its aspects, including unity of race and of religion, the translation becomes the “Most

Great Peace.”

A careful reader will not find it difficult to conclude that “ ul -iAkbar” is a stage between the “Lesser” and the “Most Great Peace” –

that is, between the “A gh ar” and the “A’ am”. In my humble opinion

the three stages can be encapsulated with the following terms used by

him: “political unification” as the Lesser Peace, “spiritualization of the

masses” as the intermediate stage, and the “fusion of races, creeds,

classes and nations” as the Most Great Peace.

Suffice it to say at this point that it is clear to me that the superstate,

with all its attendant institutions, described by Shoghi Effendi in “The

Goal of the New World Order” ( World Order 40-1), is a reference to

this intermediate stage, namely, “ ul -i-Akbar”, while the features of

the Bahá’í World Commonwealth, minutely and movingly described by

Shoghi Effendi in “The Unfoldment of World Civilization” (203-4), are

clear references to the “ ul -i-A’ am”, that is, the Most Great Peace.

It is interesting to note in this connection that in his description of

the world’s superstate the first world body mentioned is the “International Executive”, while in his illuminating description of the Most

Great Peace the “World Executive” takes second place and the word

“Legislature” first place. We could assume that the reason is that during

the intermediary stage of “ ul -i-Akbar” the spirit of the peace is certainly Bahá’í in its essence, but the outward form has to continue for a

time to be the external structure of the old world.

In the world today the executive branch of government is usually,

and even invariably, the leading entity and represents the headship of

the state. In the Bahá’í concept of World Order, as I understand it, the

hierarchy is different. Headship is vested not in the executive but in the

legislative branch. That seems to be the reason why in Shoghi Effendi’s

description of the Bahá’í World Commonwealth of the future the first

and primary entity is the “world legislature”.

When we examine the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on this subject we

find a similar pattern. A typical example is His Tablet of “The Seven

Candles”. This Tablet was revealed in 1906. This date is important because ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers in the Tablet to “this century” in connection

19

to one of the candles, namely, the one on the “unity of nations”, and it is

clear that He was referring to the twentieth century.

The seven candles, as given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, are (1) unity in the

political realm, (2) unity of thought in world undertakings, (3) unity in

freedom, (4) unity in religion, (5) unity of nations, (6) unity of races,

and (7) unity of language. Five of the seven candles are, beyond any

doubt, preliminary steps towards the Lesser Peace, whereas the fourth

and sixth, namely, the unity of religions and of races, refer to forms of

unity that can be achieved only when the spiritualization of the masses

has taken place.

The first candle, for example, which is “unity in the political realm”,

has certainly been realized through the establishment of the United Nations. The third, being “unity in freedom”, is surely a clear hint at the

approaching end of colonization as it continued to exist during the first

half of the century. The fifth, namely, “unity of nations”, represents the

spirit of world consciousness – expressed in the recognition that we are

all, in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about this candle, “citizens of one

common fatherland” – a consciousness which was fully realized during

the twentieth century. The significance of the remaining two candles,

i.e. the second and the seventh, namely, “unity of thought in world undertakings” and “unity of language”, are obvious and need no elaboration in this discussion.

As Bahá’ís, we have yet many challenges ahead of us to systematize

our consolidation work through our institutes and study circles and to

extend our teaching work through greater proclamation, more intense

teaching activity, and closer adherence to living a Bahá’í way of life,

collectively and individually. We should likewise open the doors of our

homes and our community to seekers, sympathizers, and new friends of

the Faith. Such activities are bound to generate waves of spiritual influence which will accelerate the constructive processes of integration pursued by well-meaning leaders of thought and men of goodwill everywhere as they move forward towards finding solutions to their economic, social, and political problems – problems that impede from time

to time their advancement towards the goal set for them by the Blessed

Beauty when, in His Tablets, He established the minimum requirements

of the Lesser Peace.

To summarize what I have said and to project our thoughts into the

future, perhaps we could suggest the following scenario: the world, its

20
T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE

social fabric, its political configurations, its economic structure, and its

moral standards will continue to deteriorate and will bring the current

civilization to its lowest ebb. While on the one hand, we as Bahá’ís continue to expand the scope of our Faith, to consolidate its foundations,

diffuse its light throughout the planet, and proclaim its life-giving message to the masses, and while on the other hand, the harmonizing forces

which are activated and supported by the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh’s Message continue to develop, strike their roots into the soil of human consciousness, and eventually lead humanity to the universal prosperity

generated by the Lesser Peace, we can well imagine that, later rather

than sooner, the two integrative and parallel lines, namely, the Faith of

God and its constructive worldly counterpart, will merge into one single,

organically united, and divinely propelled process which will lead to the

Most Great Peace and prepare the way for the establishment of the

Kingdom of God on earth during the Golden Age of God’s Holy Faith.

In order to understand, perhaps with greater clarity, the different stages

in the attainment of universal peace, so well defined by the progression

implied in the adjectives qualifying the word “peace”, namely, the

Lesser, the Great or Greater, and the Most Great, corresponding to the

words A gh ar, Akbar, and A’ am in the original text, it may be useful

for us to look at Shoghi Effendi’s stages of the development of the Faith

on the national level as it unfolds in different countries of the world.

Shoghi Effendi outlined seven stages for the onward march of the

Faith in each country. I will mention the first four stages first. They are

obscurity, repression, emancipation, and recognition. Stage one, which

is obscurity, is clearly over throughout the world, as the House of Justice has also said. The Bahá’í community in Iran, as well as Bahá’í

communities in a number of countries in the Middle East, is at stage

two, which is repression. Stage three, namely, emancipation, is when the

religious authorities in a country officially announce, as happened in

Egypt, that since the Bahá’í Faith has laws and principles at variance

with the canonical law of Islám it can only be considered as an independent entity, not as a branch of the Mu ammadan Faith. Stage four,

namely, recognition, is when the government in authority recognizes the

Faith in accordance with its own legal system; this is when the Bahá’í

community is given status as a religious organization empowered to officially perform certain rites related to personal status, such as marriage.

So far, this has been the highest form of recognition given in any coun21

try, as it represents the possession of a status equal to that enjoyed by

other recognized religious communities. One or another of the first four

stages could well be bypassed, and has indeed been bypassed, depending on the prevailing circumstances of a given country.

As to the last three stages, the fifth is the official acceptance of the

Faith as the “State religion” of a nation ( Advent 15). The sixth stage is

when there is a merger between the civil system of government administration and the national institutions of the Bahá’í Administrative Order.

This sixth stage has been described by Shoghi Effendi as the emergence

of the “Bahá’í state” (15). The seventh stage is when the “Bahá’í state”

of a given country joins hands with other Bahá’í states to form together

the first Bahá’í Commonwealth – a Commonwealth which will represent the initial stages of the Most Great Peace and operate in accordance

with the laws and principles enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh. As you can well

realize, no Bahá’ís in any country have gone beyond stage four. This

means that all national Bahá’í communities are developing slowly and

sometimes painfully through the first four stages.

Moving from stage four to stage five will require, when circumstances permit, the input and guidance of the Universal House of Justice

at their own appointed time. This is why Bahá’u’lláh has written, “All

matters of State should be referred to the House of Justice…” ( Tablets

of Bahá’u’lláh 129). We can confidently conclude that, at the national

level, stage five, namely, when the Faith is recognized as a “State religion”, and stage six, namely, when the “Bahá’í State” emerges, correspond on the international level to the Great or Greater Peace, ul -iAkbar, followed by the next stage, namely, the Most Great Peace, ul i-A’ am. We firmly believe, as Bahá’ís, that the last two, and indeed the

last three, stages are all part of the all-embracing, all-encompassing Major Plan of God.

22
T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE
Questions related:

Q. Shoghi Effendi has written that the years ahead may well be

pregnant with events of unimaginable magnitude and ordeals more

severe than what has transpired in the past. Are we “in the years

ahead”? Should we be afraid?

A. The word “pregnant” implies a process. I have no doubt that we are in

the so-called period of “the years ahead”, but why should we be afraid? We

should place our trust in Him, live the Bahá’í life, and face the future with

full confidence. Faith is not enough; we should also have trust in Him. If we

have doubts, we should arise and prove to ourselves the reality of His assistance. In one of his letters to the American believers Shoghi Effendi said,

“There is no time to lose… The stage is set. The firm and irrevocable Promise is given. God’s own Plan has been set in motion… The powers of heaven and earth mysteriously assist in its execution… Let the doubter arise,

and himself verify the truth of such assertions.” ( This Decisive Hour ¶46.5)

Q. What is “the Most Great Justice”?

A. I think this is a reference to the institutions of the House of Justice on

its three levels: universal, national, and local.

Q. Is entry by troops important to the Lesser Peace?

A. I do not see it that way. Entry by troops is an internal process in the

development of the teaching work. The House of Justice wishes us to

prepare ourselves through the institutes, study circles, devotional meetings, and children’s classes to open our doors for the troops to come in

and be adequately and systematically deepened in the Cause. Shoghi

Effendi’s writings indicate that this stage of entry by troops will prove

to be a prelude to the conversion of the masses.

The Lesser Peace, however, is the result of the efforts of leaders in

the political world uniting at last to establish what we could call a secular political peace among the nations.

Q. Do we know when the Lesser Peace will come about? Why did

we think it would be by the year 2000?

A. When Shoghi Effendi was asked when exactly the Lesser Peace

would be established, he wrote back saying that we did not know the

23

exact time. The speculation about the year 2000 stems from the fifth

candle of unity, which is “unity of nations”, and, as you recall, ‘Abdu’lBahá states in that Tablet that it is “a unity which in this century will be

securely established” ( World Order 39). Since this Tablet was revealed

in 1906, it is obvious that “this century” means the twentieth century,

especially since the recipient was one of the friends in the British Isles.

The point that was missed was that the stage of the “unity of nations” is

clearly defined by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself in the same Tablet. It is when

“the peoples of the world [will] regard themselves as citizens of one

common fatherland” (39). This is a reference to an awareness in the

peoples of the world that the world is really one world and the planet the

home of the human race. This consciousness is, of course, an important

step towards the Lesser Peace but not the Lesser Peace itself.

Q. What is the relationship between the seven stages in the evolution

of the Faith and the seven candles of unity?

A. These are two processes. One is related to the internal development

of the Faith within the setting of the world surrounding it, and the other

is a description of the various aspects of the universal peace anticipated

in the Writings.

Q. When the Faith becomes the official established religion of a

country, will independent investigation of truth continue to be upheld?

A. The principle of independent investigation of truth is an overarching

principle which overshadows the entire Dispensation. The Báb tells us

that God’s method for the spread of His religion at any given time was

never meant to be through force or coercion ( Selections from the Writings of the Báb 77).

Q. What is the meaning of Shoghi Effendi’s statement, in his “Unfoldment”, that the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh should be viewed “as

marking the last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of

man’s collective life on this planet” ( World Order 163) ?

A. Shoghi Effendi has likened the process of world federalism to the

stages that led the American Republic to become a unified community

of federated states. He describes the latter process as an event which

24
T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE

proclaimed the coming of age of the American people. He goes on to

state:

Within the territorial limits of this nation, this consummation

may be viewed as the culmination of the process of human government. The diversified and loosely related elements of a divided community were brought together, unified and incorporated in one coherent system. Though this entity may continue

gaining in cohesive power, though the unity already achieved

may be further consolidated, though the civilization to which that

unity could alone have given birth may expand and flourish, yet

the machinery essential to such an unfoldment may be said to

have been, in its essential structure, erected, and the impulse required to guide and sustain it may be regarded as having been

fundamentally imparted. No stage above and beyond this consummation of national unity can, within the geographical limits

of that nation, be imagined, though the highest destiny of its

people, as a constituent element in a still larger entity that will

embrace the whole of mankind, may still remain unfulfilled.

Considered as an isolated unit, however, this process of integration may be said to have reached its highest and final consummation. ( World Order 165)

As with the geographical limits of one nation, so it will be within

the geographical limits of the planet. It is in this vein that the following

words of Shoghi Effendi, referring to the emergence of a world community, should be understood:

The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh… should be viewed… as marking

the last and highest stage in this stupendous evolution of man’s

collective life on this planet. The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world citizenship, the founding of a

world civilization and culture… should, by their very nature, be

regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits in the organization of human society, though man, as

an individual, will, nay must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress and develop. ( World

Order 163)
25

Q. Bahá’u’lláh says, “Should any one among you take up arms

against another, rise ye [i.e. sovereigns of the world] against him for

this is naught but manifest justice” ( World Order 40). Is there such

an option under the Most Great Peace?

A. If we read the antecedent to this sentence in the original, it becomes

clear that this guidance regarding the principle of collective security is

written in the context of the Lesser Peace. It appears highly unlikely that

such a situation would arise under the Most Great Peace. If it did, however, the instruction of Bahá’u’lláh would certainly be immediately enforced.

Q. Where does the line of disintegration lead to, and will it finally

disappear?

A. I spoke about the two opposite and diverging lines of integration and

disintegration, the former symbolizing the growth and consolidation of

the Faith and the latter representing the deterioration and decline of human society. What we should remember is that, according to

Bahá’u’lláh, we are approaching the stage of humanity’s maturity. This

maturity has been described by Shoghi Effendi in these words:

That mystic, all pervasive, yet indefinable change, which we associate with the stage of maturity inevitable in the life of the individual and the development of the fruit must… have its counterpart in the evolution of the organization of human society… Such

a stage of maturity in the process of human government must, for

all time, if we would faithfully recognize the tremendous claim

advanced by Bahá’u’lláh, remain identified with the Revelation

of which He was the Bearer. ( World Order 163-4)

To take but one instance. How confident were the assertions

made in the days preceding the unification of the states of the

North American continent regarding the insuperable barriers that

stood in the way of their ultimate federation! …Could anything

less than the fire of a civil war with all its violence and vicissitudes – a war that nearly rent the great American Republic – have

welded the states, not only into a Union of independent units, but

into a Nation, in spite of all the ethnic differences that characterized its component parts?… That nothing short of the fire of a se26

T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE

vere ordeal, unparalleled in its intensity, can fuse and weld the

discordant entities that constitute the elements of present-day

civilization, into the integral components of the world commonwealth of the future, is a truth which future events will increasingly demonstrate. ( World Order 45-6)

As we see in the quotations above, universal suffering is a prerequisite for universal spiritual awareness. To the observations quoted above

from the pen of Shoghi Effendi I feel I should add the following momentous pronouncement by him.

The process of disintegration must inexorably continue, and its

corrosive influence must penetrate deeper and deeper into the

very core of a crumbling age. Much suffering will still be required ere the contending nations, creeds, classes and races of

mankind are fused in the crucible of universal affliction… Adversities unimaginably appalling, undreamed of crises and upheavals, war, famine and pestilence, might well combine to engrave in

the soul of an unheeding generation those truths and principles

which it has disdained to recognize and follow. ( World Order

193)

According to a Tablet revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the line of disintegration propelling the world towards godlessness will sink to such a

point that it will lead to universal chaos and confusion – a chaotic condition that the world would be unwilling to bear. This stage will lead the

world to turn to religion and realize the importance of turning to God.

That will be the time when the Bahá’í youth of today will have the

unique opportunity to proclaim and teach the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh, as a

far greater receptivity to His message would prevail in the hearts of men

everywhere. It is quite possible, in my view, that at such a time, the

stage of mass conversion anticipated in the writings of Shoghi Effendi

would occur and would result in a sudden “thousandfold” increase in the

“numerical strength as well as the material power and the spiritual authority of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh” ( Citadel of Faith 117).

Q. When does the Bahá’í community move from the stage of “recognition” to the stage of “State Religion” in any given country?

27

A. Shoghi Effendi refers to the “majority” of a country’s population

( World Order 7). He does not define how large a majority this should

be. As it is a matter of “State” when such a situation arises, it should be

referred to the Universal House of Justice.

Q. When a “Bahá’í State” is established in a particular country, will

non-Bahá’ís have the right to vote and/or occupy positions in the

administration of the State?

A. All I can say is that this issue has not been dealt with in the Writings

of our Faith and, therefore, should be referred to the Universal House of

Justice in accordance with His statement, already mentioned above, “All

matters of State should be referred to the House of Justice” ( Tablets of

Bahá’u’lláh 27).

Q. In addition to the United Nations, which you have mentioned,

what do you think of such organizations as the European Union, the

World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund?

A. All these are manifestations of humanity’s awareness of its own universal solidarity, and, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has predicted in His second

“candle of unity”, humanity is moving steadily towards “unity of

thought in world undertakings” ( World Order 39). The examples you

cite are few among many examples of efforts to create projects that

promote the welfare of all classes, races, and nations that comprise the

world community. Other examples are WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF, the

Red Cross, and the various agencies which are operating today to protect the environment, research the oceans, explore the solar system,

promote the positive values of globalization, eradicate illiteracy, etc.

Such world undertakings did not exist in the past, but these ideals have

been earnestly and successfully pursued for the first time, on a global

scale, from the early beginnings of the twentieth century. This is why

‘Abdu’l-Bahá called it the “Century of Light”. Furthermore, we see

Bahá’u’lláh exhorting and, indeed, giving a special mission to the rulers

of the entire western hemisphere, addressing them as leaders of one

geographical unit. Does this not imply a process of solidarity of the

components parts of this unit? Many efforts have already been made

towards this objective, although they have met with setbacks and reverses. Shoghi Effendi, following Bahá’u’lláh’s lead, likewise refers to

28
T HE L ESSER P EACE AND THE M OST G REAT P EACE

the eastern hemisphere as a counterpart to the western hemisphere

( Citadel of Faith 33) and specifically mentions the prospect of the po-

litical unification of the two hemispheres as a stage towards the establishment of world peace. Shoghi Effendi has described for us the stages

of humanity’s social evolution towards its maturity in the following inspired words:

The long ages of infancy and childhood, through which the

human race had to pass, have receded into the background. Humanity is now experiencing the commotions invariably associated

with the most turbulent stage of its evolution, the stage of adolescence, when the impetuosity of youth and its vehemence reach

their climax, and must gradually be superseded by the calmness,

the wisdom, and the maturity that characterize the stage of manhood. Then will the human race reach that stature of ripeness

which will enable it to acquire all the powers and capacities upon

which its ultimate development must depend. Unification of the

whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state,

and nation have been successively attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy

inherent in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A

world, growing to maturity, must abandon this fetish, recognize

the oneness and wholeness of human relationships, and establish

once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental principle of its life. ( World Order 202)

29

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE UNDER

THE P ROVISIONS OF THE K ITÁB - I -A QDAS
AND ‘A BDU ’ L -B AHÁ ’ S W ILL AND T ESTAMENT

Shoghi Effendi has singled out Bahá’u’lláh’s Kitáb-i-Aqdas and ‘Abdu’lBahá’s Will and Testament as chief depositories “wherein are enshrined

those priceless elements of that Divine Civilization, the establishment of

which is the primary mission of the Bahá’í Faith” ( World Order 3-4) and

as the “twin repositories of the constituent elements” of the “Sovereignty

which the Bahá’í teachings foreshadow” (16). He furthermore describes

the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as the “Charter of the future world civilization” ( God

Passes By 214). He calls the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá by exactly the same title (328).

We should be aware that when the friends in Iran read the Kitáb-iAqdas for the first time, they regarded it, albeit with great reverence,

merely as Bahá’u’lláh’s Mother Book or the Book of His Laws, just as the

Qur’án was the Mother Book for the Muslim world. Some of the verses of

the Aqdas were not understood and were even, alas, misunderstood. For

example, the celebrated passage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas announcing the

emergence of the new World Order was understood to mean that the order

of the verses of the Aqdas followed a unique pattern different from that of

the Bayán or Sacred Books of former Dispensations.

There is also in the Persian Bayán a verse which refers to the Order

of Bahá’u’lláh. This corresponding verse in the Bayán foreshadowing

the Order of Bahá’u’lláh was also understood along the same lines,

namely, that Bahá’u’lláh’s Mother Book, unlike the Bayán, would not

be divided into chapters and verses but would have a unique format of

its own. It was only in 1934, some 13 years after the launching of the

institution of the Guardianship, that Shoghi Effendi produced his translation of this key verse in Bahá’u’lláh’s Mother Book. For the first time

it became clear to the Bahá’ís in the East and the West that the Order

mentioned had nothing to do with the style or format of the Kitáb-iAqdas but was instead an announcement that the Revelation of

Bahá’u’lláh was the begetter of a new world system for the conduct of

the affairs of the world and the establishment of the promised Kingdom

of God on earth.
31

As to the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Bahá’ís in both

the East and the West considered it a document in which the Covenant

of Bahá’u’lláh was being extended by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to cover the line of

succession after His passing. In Shoghi Effendi the Bahá’ís of the world

saw the successor of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. He would henceforth be the Interpreter of the Divine Word and the Centre of the Cause to whom all must

turn. All this was of course true, but it was only a simplistic and minimal appraisal of what Shoghi Effendi later described as the “Charter of

the future world civilization”.

Shoghi Effendi lifted the veil gradually. For example, in 1923,

barely two years after the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he described the

contents of His Will and Testament as “amazing in all its aspects” and

its provisions as having “challenged and perplexed the keenest minds”

( Bahá’í Administration 50). Writing in the same year to the friends in

Persia, he wrote,

God’s Supreme House of Justice shall be erected and firmly established in the days to come. When this most great Edifice shall

be reared… God’s purpose, wisdom, universal truths, mysteries

and realities of the Kingdom, which the mystic revelation of

Bahá’u’lláh has deposited within the Will and Testament of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, shall gradually be revealed and made manifest.

( Messages from the Universal House of Justice ¶23.22c)

A year later he wrote,

We are called upon by our beloved Master in His Will and Testament not only to adopt it [Bahá’u’lláh’s new World Order] unreservedly, but to unveil its merit to all the world. To attempt to

estimate its full value, and grasp its exact significance after so

short a time since its inception would be premature and presumptuous on our part. We must trust to time, and the guidance of

God’s Universal House of Justice, to obtain a clearer and fuller

understanding of its [‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament’s] provisions and implications. ( Bahá’í Administration 62)

And some five years later, in 1929, he called it the chief depository enshrining the priceless elements of God’s Divine Civilization and added

the following comment:
32

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

We stand indeed too close to so monumental a document to claim

for ourselves a complete understanding of all its implications, or

to presume to have grasped the manifold mysteries it undoubtedly

contains. Only future generations can comprehend the value and

the significance attached to this Divine Masterpiece, which the

hand of the Master-builder of the world has designed for the uni-

fication and the triumph of the world-wide Faith of Bahá’u’lláh.

( World Order 8)

Shoghi Effendi did not stop there; he continued in his assessment and

praise of the manifold mysteries contained in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and

Testament. About a year later, on 25 March 1930, his comments about

the hidden mysteries of the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá reached

their crescendo when, in a letter written on his behalf, he pointed out the

following: “The contents of the Will of the Master are far too much for

the present generation to comprehend. It needs at least a century of actual

working before the treasures of wisdom hidden in it can be revealed…”

( Messages from the Universal House of Justice ¶75.18).

The friends were wondering where the mysteries could be. Could

these relate to their own limited understanding of the station of the

Guardianship? Were the mysteries in relation to the functions of the Universal House of Justice? Why should it take so long for Bahá’ís to understand what appeared to them to be a straightforward document about the

future administration of the Faith? I will now deal with these questions.

Shoghi Effendi says that the provisions of the two charters, namely,

the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, are neither incompatible nor contradictory and indeed “mutually confirm one

another, and are inseparable parts of one complete unit” ( World Order

4). However, a basic outward contradiction between the two documents

did exist, because the Kitáb-i-Aqdas envisages a time when there will be

no Agh án, meaning thereby that there would be no future Guardians,

while the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá provided for a succession of Guardians.

The verse in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas that refers to the Agh án reads as

follows:

Endowments dedicated to charity revert to God… None hath the

right to dispose of them without leave from Him Who is the

33

Dawning-place of Revelation. After Him, this authority shall pass

to the Agh án, and after them to the House of Justice – should it

be established in the world by then… Otherwise, the endowments

shall revert to the people of Bahá who speak not except by His

leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet… (¶42)

In explanation of this verse, notes 66 and 67 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas read

as follows:

“Agh án” (plural of Gh X n) is the Arabic word for “Branches”.

This term is used by Bahá’u’lláh to designate His male descendants. It has particular implications not only for the disposition of

endowments but also for the succession of authority following the

passing of Bahá’u’lláh... and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Bahá’u’lláh, in the

Book of His Covenant, appointed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His eldest son,

as the Centre of His Covenant and the Head of the Faith. Abdu’lBahá, in His Will and Testament, appointed Shoghi Effendi, His

eldest grandson, as the Guardian and Head of the Faith. This passage of the Aqdas, therefore, anticipates the succession of chosen

Agh án and thus the institution of the Guardianship and envisages

the possibility of a break in their line. The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very situation provided for in this

passage, in that the line of Agh án ended before the Universal

House of Justice had been established... (Note 66)

Bahá’u’lláh provides for the possibility that the line of Agh án

would terminate prior to the establishment of the Universal House of

Justice. He designated that in such a situation “endowments shall revert to the people of Bahá”. The term “people of Bahá” is used with

a number of different meanings in the Bahá’í Writings. In this instance, they are described as those “who speak not except by His

leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed

in this Tablet”. Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the

Hands of the Cause of God directed the affairs of the Cause until the

election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963… (Note 67)

An important point about the Agh án needs some clarification. In

the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, there is a clear distinc34

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

tion made between Agh án who are appointed as Heads of the Faith and

Interpreters of its teachings and the rest of the Agh án who do not fall

into this category. Regarding the latter group of Agh án, we read the

following from the Pen of Bahá’u’lláh in His Kitáb-i-‘Ahd: “It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Agh án, but God

hath not granted them any right to the property of others” ( Tablets of

Bahá’u’lláh 222). The prohibition to claim certain rights relates to the

practice allowed in some sects of Islám of granting prerogatives to the

descendants of the Prophet Mu ammad to claim financial privileges for

themselves.

The Will and Testament clearly states, “It is incumbent upon the

guardian of the Cause of God to appoint within his own life-time him

that may be his successor that differences shall not arise after his passing” ( Bahá’í Administration 8). Furthermore, the Will states that the

Guardian of the Cause of God is the Universal House of Justice’s “sacred head” and the “distinguished member for life” of that body . The

Will further stipulates,

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… [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. ( Bahá’í Administration 10)

An amazing feature of the Will is its flexibility. On the one hand it

provides for a Universal House of Justice with a Guardian heading its

membership, and on the other, in the same document, the Author of the

Will envisages a Universal House of Justice that is equally divinely

guided but without the physical presence or membership of a Guardian.

From two passages in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, it becomes clear that the elected members of the Universal House of Justice

receive independent divine guidance – guidance which is not conditioned upon the presence of the Guardian as sacred Head of that institution. The first reference is as follows:

[The] Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal

House of Justice to be universally elected and established, are

35

both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the

shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness the Exalted One…

Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, has not obeyed God… ( Will and Testament

11)

The second reference is incorporated in the second part of ‘Abdu’lBahá’s Will, written most probably in 1907. Here are His own words: “I

am now in very great danger and the hope of even an hour’s life is lost

to me. I am thus constrained to write these lines for the protection of the

Cause of God, the preservation of His Law, the safeguarding of His

Word and the safety of His Teachings” ( Will and Testament 19).

In this portion of the Will, written when Shoghi Effendi was only

about 10 years old and during a period which Shoghi Effendi later described as “the darkest moments of [the Master’s] life, under ‘Abdu’l amíd’s regime, when He stood ready to be deported to the most inhospitable regions of Northern Africa” ( World Order 17), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

wrote the following:

Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn, and all that is not

expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal

House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or

by a majority doth carry, that is verily the truth and the purpose of

God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that

love discord, hath shown forth malice, and turned away from the

Lord of the Covenant. By this House is meant that Universal

House of Justice which is to be elected from all countries, that is

from those parts in the East and West where the loved ones are to

be found… It is incumbent upon these members (of the Universal

House of Justice) to gather in a certain place and deliberate upon

all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book.

Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself.

( Will and Testament 19)

As indicated by the Universal House of Justice in its letter of

9 March 1965 ( Messages from the Universal House of Justice ¶23.15), it

was also at this very time that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote to the cousin of the

36

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

Báb, the chief builder of the ‘Ish qábád Temple, ájí Mírzá Taqí Afnán,

a Tablet in which He describes the dangers to His life and adds that He

has written a Will and Testament in which He has given directions for

the election of the Universal House of Justice. He instructs him in that

Tablet to come therefore to the Holy Land should the threats against

Him materialize, open His Will and Testament, and carry out His

wishes.

These precautionary measures taken by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, however,

were never realized. The coup of the Young Turks overthrew the Ottoman monarchy, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was released from prison, and intense

activity on His part followed for over a decade. Could we not assume,

therefore, that in accordance with God’s inscrutable Purpose all this

happened so that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could, in a natural and matter-of-fact

way, leave for posterity His clear testimony that the Universal House of

Justice could certainly operate fully without the physical presence of the

Guardian as its Head?

The fact that the Universal House of Justice, with only its elected

members, will be the direct and independent recipient of Divine guidance throughout this Dispensation is further confirmed by the words of

Shoghi Effendi in “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh”:

In the conduct of the administrative affairs of the Faith, in the enactment of the legislation necessary to supplement the laws of the

Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the members of the Universal House of Justice…

are to follow in a prayerful attitude, the dictates and promptings

of their conscience… They, and not the body who either directly

or indirectly elect them, have thus been made the recipients of the

divine guidance which is at once the life-blood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation. ( World Order 153)

In the light of what occurred after the passing of Shoghi Effendi,

who neither left a will nor appointed in his own lifetime a Branch to be

his successor (an appointment that had to be confirmed by nine elected

Hands residing in the Holy Land), it became clear to the Hands of the

Cause of God and the entire Bahá’í world that the second possibility

provided by the provisions of the Will was indeed inevitable and fully

compatible not only with the Will itself but also with the provisions of

the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
37

It would be useful at this point for us to review briefly the contents of

the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the light of the provisions of

Bahá’u’lláh’s “Book of the Covenant”. The Book of the Covenant is

published in full in “Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh revealed after the Kitáb-iAqdas”, pages 217 to 223. In this document, known as the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd,

Bahá’u’lláh clearly appoints ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Most Great Branch, as

His successor. But then He goes on to say, “Verily God hath ordained the

station of the Greater Branch [Mu ammad-’Alí] to be beneath that of the

Most Great Branch [‘Abdu’l-Bahá]…We have chosen ‘the Greater’ after

‘the Most Great’…” ( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 222). This means that, after

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Mu ammad-’Alí, half-brother of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, would be

the Centre of the Cause, provided of course that he would be firm in the

Covenant and realize that his station was beneath the exalted position

reserved for the Master. However, even before the interment of the sacred remains of Bahá’u’lláh, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was washing His Father’s body with His own hands, Mu ammad-’Alí, his brothers, and his

brother-in-law, as well as members of their immediate family, leagued

together to oppose ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Their first act of disloyalty was to steal the two cases which contained documents and papers entrusted by Bahá’u’lláh to the care of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, including a number of His seals. Mu ammad-’Alí subsequently embarked on a series of attacks on the person of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

by sending letters, followed by emissaries, to establish his right as the

one mentioned in Bahá’u’lláh’s Will and to discredit ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,

Who, as alleged by him, had claimed the station of the Manifestation of

God. We should recall that Mu ammad-’Alí had, during the Ministry of

his Father, already advanced the claim of being God’s “finger”, “the

spokesman of the Agh án”, and “the upholder of the Holy Writ” ( God

Passes By 248-49). For making such claims as these, Bahá’u’lláh personally slapped Mu ammad-’Alí in the face with His own hand (249).

In one of His Tablets to the friends in Iran, Bahá’u’lláh explicitly

rules out the assignment of any spiritual station to Mu ammad-’Alí and

adds the categorical statement, “Should he for a moment pass out from

under the shadow of the Cause, he surely shall be brought to naught”

( Will and Testament 6). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament,

quotes this passage from Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablet, enumerates the acts of

disloyalty by His half-brother, including his plot to assassinate Him, and

irrefutably draws the conclusion that Mu ammad-’Alí had broken the

38

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

Covenant and had thus disqualified himself from being second in succession to Him.

Many of these violations came to be known during ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s

lifetime to the friends in Iran. A few had asked what would happen after

His passing. Sometimes He would say that the Universal House of Justice

would be formed. At other times He would state that this was a “secret” and

that “the time will come when its light will appear” ( World Order 150).

Amatu’l-Bahá Rú íyyih Kh ánum, in The Priceless Pearl , quotes the

recollections of a German woman physician, Dr J. Fallscheer, who lived

in Haifa and attended to the ladies of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s household. In

these recollections, which were first published in German, she says that

the Greatest Holy Leaf had informed her that Shoghi Effendi was destined to be the successor of the Master. One day, in August 1910, after

the young Shoghi Effendi left the room of the Master, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

turned to Dr Fallscheer and told her,

How do you like my future Elisha?… And do you know why?

…Bahá’u’lláh… the blessed Manifestation reminded me that I…

must observe among my sons and grandsons whom God would

indicate… My sons passed to eternity in their tenderest years, in

my line, among my relatives, only little Shoghi has the shadow of

a great calling in the depths of his eyes. ( Priceless Pearl 11-12)

I cannot refrain from sharing with you at this juncture the fact that

there was a private belief current among some of the early believers in

Iran that, since Mu ammad-’Alí had broken the Covenant, ‘Abdu’lBahá would have to choose one of His grandsons to be His successor.

This was not because of Dr Fallscheer’s reminiscences, which were obviously not available in Persian; they had arrived at this assumption on

the basis of the contents of the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. In this Tablet, three figures prominently emerge: (1) The Holy Mariner, namely,

Bahá’u’lláh Himself; (2) The Maid of Heaven, who flooded “with the

light of her countenance the heaven and the earth” ( Bahá’í Prayers 54),

namely, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; and (3) One of the handmaidens of the Maid of

Heaven, who is also described as the “favoured damsel” who “perfumed

all things in the lands of holiness and grandeur” ( Bahá’í Prayers 55),

namely, Shoghi Effendi. These speculations acquired added importance

when, in one of His last Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote, “Study the Tablet

39

of the Holy Mariner that ye may know the truth, and consider that the

Blessed Beauty hath fully foretold future events. Let them who perceive,

take warning!” ( Bahá’í Prayers 51).

We should now turn our attention to the Law of Succession as it was

applied not only to Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Faith but also to

the Administrative Order, which Shoghi Effendi quite often referred to

as “The Child of the Covenant” ( God Passes By 243). It should be recalled, however, that in one instance Shoghi Effendi also described the

Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the “Child of the Covenant” – a

Child which was born from the interaction of the creative energies of the

Law of Bahá’u’lláh on the mind of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. We should not be

perturbed by the fact that the term “Child of the Covenant” has been

used to describe the charter of the Administrative Order as well as the

Order itself. The one is the establishment of the entity in the Holy Writ,

and the other is the emergence of that reality for all to see.

In this connection, we should remember that the Bahá’í Covenant is

not something which began and ended with the Ministry of ‘Abdu’lBahá. While ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was the Centre of the Covenant and will

continue to be so for all time, the Bahá’í Covenant is an essential feature

inseparable from the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh until the end of this Dispensation. In fact, in one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to His Ministry

as “ The Morn” of the Bahá’í Covenant. This implies that the unfoldment of the Covenant in its fullness, throughout the Day of

Bahá’u’lláh’s Dispensation, was yet to come. This important point is

explained by Shoghi Effendi:

As regards the meaning of the Bahá’í Covenant: The Guardian

considers the existence of two forms of covenant both of which are

explicitly mentioned in the literature of the Cause. First is the

covenant that every Prophet makes with humanity or, more definitely, with His people that they will accept and follow the coming

Manifestation Who will be the reappearance of His reality. The

second form of covenant is such as the one Bahá’u’lláh made with

His people that they should accept the Master. This is merely to establish and strengthen the succession of the series of Lights that

appear after every Manifestation. Under the same category falls the

covenant the Master made with the Bahá’ís that they should accept

His administration after Him… ( Lights of Guidance no. 593)

40

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

From the above text it is clear that the successor to the Master under

the Bahá’í Covenant is the administration after Him. It is in this light

that we should understand the term used by Shoghi Effendi describing

the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice as the “chosen

Successors” of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá ( World Order 20). We

should recall that the term “Administrative Order” was used by Shoghi

Effendi for the first time in his “Dispensation”, which was written in

February 1934. During the first 13 years of his Guardianship, that is,

from 1921 to 1934, he referred to the System conceived by Bahá’u’lláh

for the administration of His Cause as the “Bahá’í Administration”. As

the letter that I have just quoted from Shoghi Effendi about the Bahá’í

Covenant is dated 1932, we should clearly understand therefore that

what he meant by the “administration after Him” was the Administrative

Order.

In “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh”, Shoghi Effendi points out

that the Administrative Order has two pillars: the Guardianship and the

Universal House of Justice. One way of understanding the word “pillars” is that there are two columns, and a structure is placed on them.

Thus, if one of them is removed, the structure will be lopsided and fall.

But when one reads with diligence and care the writings of Shoghi Effendi, we see that what he meant by “pillars” were institutions which

reinforced the stability of the structure.

For example, in “The Dispensation”, he refers to these twin institutions as means provided to “buttress” the structure of the Administrative

Order ( World Order 157). To “buttress” means to provide support and

strength to a structure. There are other metaphors that Shoghi Effendi

uses for these institutions. For example, in one of his messages, he describes the Guardianship as “the head cornerstone of the Administrative

Order” ( This Decisive Hour ¶27.1). The relation of the cornerstone to a

structure is different from that of a pillar or a buttress to the structure.

The cornerstone of a building is a foundation and indispensable stone –

the first block – used as a basis for the erection of the structure.

As regards the Universal House of Justice, the metaphors of “pillar”

and “buttress” equally apply to that institution; but, using the same concept of a building, he describes the Universal House of Justice as “the

apex of the Bahá’í Administrative Order” ( God Passes By 332). He also

refers to it as the “crowning glory” of the administrative institutions of

the Faith ( Advent 29), “the supreme organ of the Bahá’í Common41

wealth” ( World Order 7), as well as “the last refuge of a tottering civilization” (89). Although not all of us are architects, we can all easily understand that the first unit in the building of a structure is its cornerstone, and its last unit is the apex. It is interesting in this connection to

recall that in one of his Persian letters to the friends in the East he refers

to the Guardianship as the “first pillar” and the Universal House of Justice as the “second”. This could mean the first in rank or the first in

time. In terms of the timeline, this is exactly what happened. When one

Successor, namely, the Guardian, was providentially removed from the

scene, the other Successor, namely, the Universal House of Justice, was

naturally and inevitably expected to assume the Headship of the Cause.

When we discuss the two institutions of the Guardianship and the

Universal House of Justice, we tend to be perplexed by two paragraphs

in “The Dispensation” which underline the essential features of these

two Successors to the Founders of our Faith. One paragraph begins,

“Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of

Bahá’u’lláh would be mutilated”; the other paragraph begins, “Severed

from the no less essential institution of the Universal House of Justice

this same System… would be paralyzed” ( World Order 148). These two

paragraphs, in the light of the reality of what happened after the passing

of Shoghi Effendi, who neither wrote a Will nor appointed someone

after him to occupy the seat of the Guardianship, would obviously mean

that the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh without any Guardian would have

resulted in the mutilation of the World Order, just as that same World

Order would have been paralyzed if it did not have any Universal House

of Justice to supplement the Laws of Bahá’u’lláh. But since we have

had 36 years of the institution of the Guardianship operating in full and

intensive action, and we now have the Universal House of Justice, the

structure of the World Order is neither mutilated nor paralyzed.

There could well be a lingering thought remaining in some minds as

to why Shoghi Effendi left no will. Was it an accident or a conscious

action on his part? From Violette Nakh javání’s Tribute to Amatu’l-Bahá

Rú — íyyih Kh ánum , we gather that Shoghi Effendi, towards the end of his

life and contemplating his own death, gave advice to Amatu’l-Bahá regarding the travels she should undertake after his own passing. He is

also reported to have told her during the last remaining days of his life

in London that he did not want to go back to Haifa and that she should

go alone.
42

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

If someone is concerned about the condition of his own wife after

him and gives advice as to what she should do, would he not – as the

Guardian, as the Chief Protector and responsible Head of the Faith –

would he not also think about the welfare and future destiny of the Faith

he was called upon by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to protect and promote? The only

logical conclusion is that he knew he was passing away, that he was

fully conscious that he had not appointed another “gh X n” to succeed

him as Guardian, and that he preferred not to leave any Will and Testament. The Universal House of Justice, reflecting on this apparent dilemma, made the following pronouncement: “The fact that Shoghi Effendi did not leave a will cannot be adduced as evidence of his failure to

obey Bahá’u’lláh – rather should we acknowledge that in his very silence there is a wisdom and a sign of his infallible guidance” ( Messages

from the Universal House of Justice ¶35.3).

I recall the gist of my private conversations with many friends in

November 1957 when it was realized that Shoghi Effendi had unexpectedly passed away, had not appointed a successor as Guardian af-

ter him, and had left no will. We concluded that the best thing we

could do was to reread more carefully ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament as well as Shoghi Effendi’s writings in order to understand

more clearly the hidden implications and mysteries of these inspired

documents.

I will share with you my own personal insights on what some may

have regarded as a predicament in the fortunes of our beloved Faith.

Shoghi Effendi had often said to Hands of the Cause of God and visiting

pilgrims that his “Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh” was like his Will and

Testament. Amatu’l-Bahá, in The Priceless Pearl , quotes Shoghi Effendi as having indicated that “he had said all he had to say, in many

ways, in the ‘Dispensation’” (213). Apart from this observation, we

should note that Shoghi Effendi, referring to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will, had

written in his “Dispensation”, “His Will and Testament should thus be

regarded as the perpetual, the indissoluble link which the mind of Him

Who is the Mystery of God has conceived in order to insure the continuity of the three ages that constitute the component parts of the Bahá’í

Dispensation” ( World Order 143-4). In the same document, Shoghi Effendi categorically stated, “The axis round which [the] institutions [of

the Administrative Order] revolve are the authentic provisions of the

Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá” (156).
43

We should therefore consider not that we, as Bahá’ís, lived for only

36 years under the provisions of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament but

that the worldwide Bahá’í community does now and in the future will

continue to live under the provisions of that same Will for the rest of the

Dispensation, as it is this document which links the Formative and

Golden Ages together.

There is one other area that needs to be clarified, as, unfortunately, a

slight confusion has been created in the minds of some of the friends

regarding the respective areas of infallibility of the Guardianship and the

Universal House of Justice. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Shoghi Effendi’s

“Dispensation” define the specific areas of responsibility of these two

institutions, namely, that “interpretation” is exclusively confined to the

Guardianship and that “legislation” is exclusively assigned to the Universal House of Justice. There is nothing in either the Will or “The Dispensation”, however, which restricts the condition of infallibility to

these two areas of specific responsibility. Shoghi Effendi’s “Dispensation”, referring to the twin institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, assures us, “Neither can, nor will ever, infringe

upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other” ( World Order 150).

The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, referring to these two institutions, categorically states, “Whatsoever they decide is of God” ( Will and

Testament 11). This is not only broad-based but all-comprehensive.

According to the terms of this Will and Testament, the Universal

House of Justice, in addition to being the legislative body, is the “body

[to which] all things must be referred” ( Will and Testament 14). It is,

furthermore, the body to resolve “all the difficult problems” (14), “all

problems which have caused difference” (20), and “questions that are

obscure” (20). Shoghi Effendi, in his “Dispensation”, assigns it the additional responsibility to “apply” ( World Order 145) the Laws revealed by

Bahá’u’lláh, conduct the “administrative affairs of the Faith” (153), and

ensure the “integrity” of the teachings (148), the “flexibility” of the

Faith, and the “unity” of its followers (148).

In fact, as we have already seen from one of his early letters quoted

above, Shoghi Effendi gives us this impressive view of the work of the

House of Justice: “We must trust to time, and the guidance of God’s

Universal House of Justice, to obtain a clearer and fuller understanding

of [the] provisions and implications [of the Will and Testament of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá]” ( Bahá’í Administration 62).
44

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

The Declaration of Trust and By-Laws of the National Assembly

were drawn up by the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States

under the direct guidance of Shoghi Effendi. Moreover, he wanted the

clauses of this national constitution to be adopted by every National

Spiritual Assembly. As the document includes clauses which deal with

legal issues related to officially incorporated associations in every country, Shoghi Effendi stated that such secondary provisions could be

changed by each National Assembly to conform to the requirements of

the law current in its country. But, as the document contained basic

Bahá’í principles and concepts, such fundamental provisions were to be

universally adopted throughout the Bahá’í world. In this context, it is

highly significant that the provisions of Article IX of the National ByLaws are as follows:

Where the National Spiritual Assembly has been given in these

By-Laws exclusive and final jurisdiction, and paramount executive authority, in all matters pertaining to the activities and affairs

of the Bahá’í Cause in…[the given country] it is understood that

any decision made or action taken upon such matters shall be subject in every instance to ultimate review and approval by the

Guardian of the Cause or the Universal House of Justice. ( Bahá’í

World 13:554)

The reason why I am quoting this particular clause, so carefully

worded and approved by Shoghi Effendi, is to draw your attention to the

word “or” in the last two lines. If the word had been “and” instead of

“or” you can well imagine the laborious task which all incorporated National Assemblies would have faced with their respective governments

in order to amend the wording of this clause.

I once again repeat that the exclusivity attached to the areas of specific responsibility of each of the twin institutions of the Guardianship

and the Universal House of Justice is one thing, and the extent of infallibility attached to their respective activities on behalf of the promotion

and protection of the Faith ( World Order 20) is another thing. Unfortunately, these two separate concepts have not been kept separate in some

minds, and thus some confused thinking has arisen. A moment’s reflection on this point would dispel these misgivings.

45
Questions related:

Q. Could you comment on the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

as to when and under what circumstances it was written?

A. The Master’s Will and Testament is in three parts. No dates are

fixed on the document itself. From the context, however, we could assume that the first part must have been written during the period when

the first Commission of Investigation arrived in the Holy Land, or

soon after. The second section clearly must have been written in 1907,

when the second Commission of Investigation was sent, because it is

in this section that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says He is “in very great danger”. We

have no clues so far on the possible period when the third section was

written.

Q. Was the first conclave of the Hands of the Cause and the appointment of nine Hands to serve in the Holy Land a fulfilment of

the provision in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá?

A. It does not appear to me to be so, because the nine were selected in

the light of the availability of those Hands who could be in or move to

the Holy Land and not through a process of election. Furthermore, the

nine elected Hands of the Cause envisaged in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will were

meant to assist Shoghi Effendi during his lifetime in his work.

Q. How was the unity of the Faith protected during the six or so

years between the passing of the Guardian and the election of the

Universal House of Justice?

A. The Hands, in their messages to the Bahá’í world, made it quite clear

that since the entire Bahá’í world was engaged in prosecuting the objectives of the Ten Year Plan, all efforts were being exerted under the infallible guidance of Shoghi Effendi’s objectives for the Crusade. After the

Crusade was over, there was no choice but to establish the Universal

House of Justice, so that once again the Bahá’ís of the world would labour under Divine Guidance. It is clear, therefore, that the unity of the

Cause was preserved through nothing other than the power of the Covenant.

46

T HE G UARDIANSHIP AND THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

Q. If the two cases stolen by the Covenant-breakers are found, what

will be the situation regarding the possible falsification of the Holy

Texts by them?

A. This is of course a decision that will be taken by the Universal House

of Justice if the contents of the cases are recovered. Rú íyyih Kh ánum

often said that Shoghi Effendi had mentioned more than once that there

can be no assurance that the texts of the documents had not been tampered with by the Covenant-breakers.

Q. What happened to the International Bahá’í Council after the

passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957?

A. The International Bahá’í Council continued to exist under the Custodians of the Faith, namely, the Hands, in the Holy Land until 1961,

when there was an international election by mail by members of National Assemblies existing at the time. This election resulted in a new

membership.

Q. Is the institution of the Guardianship embodied in his writings?

A. Of course we cannot say that the Guardianship, as an ongoing institution, is found in his writings. Just as the office of the Centre of the

Covenant is not with us as an ongoing institution, yet we refer to

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s writings for guidance, in the same way, we turn to the

writings of Shoghi Effendi as interpreter of our Faith for the guidance he

has shed on the purport, intent, and implications of Those Who had the

reins of the Faith in Their Hands before him.

Q. I think ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave two alternatives of succession after

Him, namely, a House of Justice with the Guardian and a House of

Justice without him, in order to protect Shoghi Effendi after Him.

Do you think ‘Abdu’l-Bahá knew what would happen to Shoghi Effendi during the latter’s ministry?

A. Shoghi Effendi, in his “Dispensation”, states that “…in the person of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá the incompatible characteristics of a human nature and

superhuman knowledge and perfection have been blended and are completely harmonized” ( World Order 134). It is obviously impossible for

anyone in any discussion to take away from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s inner real47

ity His “superhuman knowledge and perfection”. In the light of this, it

would be entirely in order, I think, to be confident in the conclusion that

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His inner being, would have been aware of future

events.

As to the question of using two alternatives for the future House of

Justice, in light of what happened to the Agh án, all of whom broke the

Covenant during Shoghi Effendi’s lifetime, I tend to agree with you that

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s purpose was to protect Shoghi Effendi.

During Shoghi Effendi’s ministry, there were seven Agh án, all

grandsons of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: two of them were his own brothers, and

five of them were male first cousins. Shoghi Effendi’s first reference to

“future Guardians” is found in his Dispensation. At that time all the

seven contemporary Agh án were alive and still outwardly faithful under the Covenant. He also referred to future Guardians in a letter written

to an individual believer in November 1948 ( Lights of Guidance no.

1047). At that time some Agh án were still within the pale of the Faith.

Indeed, in a letter addressed to the friends in the East, dated Naw-Rúz

105 of the Bahá’í era, that is, some eight years before he passed away,

Shoghi Effendi wrote a prayer in which he supplicates Bahá’u’lláh that

those who have removed themselves from the Bahá’í Fold may have a

change of heart, may compensate for what has escaped them, and may

be reinstated in the Bahá’í community. As you see, he was still hoping

that some of the Agh án would sincerely repent for their past actions – a

possibility which never materialized. Of course, Shoghi Effendi had no

offspring and therefore found himself, by force of circumstance, unable

to appoint anyone to succeed him as Guardian in accordance with the

provisions of the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

48

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

On 18 October 1927, referring to the Declaration of Trust and By-Laws

of the National Spiritual Assembly, Shoghi Effendi wrote the following

to the National Assembly of the United States and Canada:

You can but faintly imagine how comforting a stimulant and how

helpful a guide its publication and circulation will be to those patient

and toiling workers in Eastern lands… You can hardly realize how

substantially it would contribute to pave the way for the elaboration

of the beginnings of the constitution of the worldwide Bahá’í Community that will form the permanent basis upon which the blest and

sanctified edifice of the first International House of Justice will securely rest and flourish. ( Bahá’í Administration 143)

In a letter referring to the same subject, addressed to the Bahá’ís in Iran,

Shoghi Effendi refers to the need for the Persian National Assembly to

have its own constitution and points out that the constitution of National

Assemblies is the Greater Law of God’s Holy Faith, while the constitution of the Universal House of Justice is its Most Great Law. In 1934,

when he wrote his “Dispensation”, Shoghi Effendi once again referred

to the future constitution of the Supreme Body of the Faith.

When the Universal House of Justice was formed in 1963, it was

able to launch in April of the following year its first teaching and consolidation Plan, which was the Nine Year Plan. One of the goals of that

Plan, set aside as an objective of the World Centre, was to draft the

Constitution governing the operation of the House of Justice as well as

the affairs of the worldwide Bahá’í community. In view of the mounting

cares and responsibilities of the Universal House of Justice and the meticulous concentration required to produce such a vitally important

document, it took most of the nine years under this first Plan to bring

this project to conclusion.

On 26 November 1972, the following message was sent to all National Spiritual Assemblies:

WITH GRATEFUL JOYOUS HEARTS ANNOUNCE ENTIRE
BAHÁ’Í WORLD ADOPTION PROFOUNDLY SIGNIFICANT
49
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER
STEP IN UNFOLDMENT MISSION SUPREME ORGAN

BAHÁ’Í WORLD COMMONWEALTH THROUGH FORMULATION CONSTITUTION UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE.

AFTER OFFERING HUMBLE PRAYERS GRATITUDE ON
DAY COVENANT AT THREE SACRED THRESHOLDS
BAHJÍ HAIFA MEMBERS GATHERED COUNCIL CHAMBER
PRECINCTS HOUSE BLESSED MASTER APPENDED THEIR
SIGNATURES FIXED SEAL ON INSTRUMENT ENVISAGED
WRITINGS BELOVED GUARDIAN HAILED BY HIM AS

MOST GREAT LAW FAITH BAHÁ’U’LLÁH. FULLY ASSURED MEASURE JUST TAKEN WILL FURTHER REINFORCE TIES BINDING WORLD CENTER TO NATIONAL

LOCAL COMMUNITIES THROUGHOUT WORLD RELEASE
FRESH ENERGIES INCREASE ENTHUSIASM CONFIDENCE
VALIANT WORKERS HIS DIVINE VINEYARD LABORING
ASSIDUOUSLY BRING MANKIND UNDER SHELTER HIS

ALL-GLORIOUS COVENANT. ( Messages from the Universal

House of Justice ¶123.3)

The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice was published as

a separate document, comprising 14 pages. It was also published in The

Bahá’í World , volume XV, pages 555 to 564. It has two sections: “The

Declaration of Trust”, which consists of five pages, and the “By-Laws”,

which consists of nine pages. The Declaration of Trust has a preamble,

which is a quotation from the opening paragraphs of Bahá’u’lláh’s Epistle to the Son of the Wolf , described by Shoghi Effendi as “the last outstanding Tablet revealed by the Pen of Bahá’u’lláh” ( God Passes By

219).

This preamble, consisting of Bahá’u’lláh’s own Words, I will quote

in full:

In the name of God, the One, the Incomparable, the All-Powerful,

the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. The light that is shed from the

heaven of bounty, and the benediction that shineth from the

dawning-place of the will of God, the Lord of the Kingdom of

Names, rest upon Him Who is the Supreme Mediator, the Most

Exalted Pen, Him Whom God hath made the dawning-place of

His most excellent names and the dayspring of His most exalted

50

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

attributes. Through Him the light of unity hath shone forth above

the horizon of the world, and the law of oneness hath been revealed amidst the nations, who, with radiant faces, have turned

towards the Supreme Horizon, and acknowledged that which the

Tongue of Utterance hath spoken in the Kingdom of His knowledge: “Earth and heaven, glory and dominion, are God’s, the

Omnipotent, the Almighty, the Lord of grace abounding!” ( Epistle 1-2)

It is significant that in this passage, Bahá’u’lláh refers to “the light

of unity [that] hath shone forth above the horizon of the world, and the

law of oneness [that] hath been revealed amidst the nations”. Likewise,

the reference in the last sentence to “earth and heaven” as belonging to

God is also significant when we recall the words in the Revelation of St

John, which I have already quoted, giving the promise that a new earth

and a new heaven will be manifested. The “earth”, beyond any doubt,

refers to the earthly civilization that the Cause of God is destined to establish, and the “heaven” mentioned by Bahá’u’lláh in this passage is

undoubtedly the heaven of His new Revelation.

After this potent introductory passage, revealed by Bahá’u’lláh and

so appropriate as an opening statement to His Most Great Law, the Universal House of Justice expresses its elation and gratitude with the following sentence: “With joyous and thankful hearts we testify to the

abundance of God’s Mercy, to the perfection of His Justice and to the

fulfilment of His Ancient Promise” ( Constitution 1).

The next paragraph is of 17 lines, in which the following points are

solemnly and explicitly made:

1. The Station of Bahá’u’lláh is clearly defined as described in titles given to Him by Shoghi Effendi in God Passes By , pages 93

to 94, such as “the Fountain of the Most Great Justice”, “the

Creator of a new World Order”, “the Inspirer and Founder of a

world civilization”, “the Judge”, “the Lawgiver”, and “the Unifier” and “Redeemer of all mankind”.

2. The next point is a reference to Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant and the

vital function it performed after His Ascension by canalizing the

forces revealed by the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh throughout the

Heroic and Formative Ages of the Faith.
51
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

3. The Universal House of Justice is then specifically mentioned

as one of the two successors of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

under that same Covenant, and the responsibility ordained for it

is to “safeguard the unity” of the followers of the Faith and to

“maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings”, as

clearly stipulated by Shoghi Effendi in his “Dispensation”

( World Order 148).

The next paragraph is a passage extracted from the Tablet known as

“Law -i-Maq úd”, revealed in ‘Akká and described by Shoghi Effendi as

one of the Tablets revealed by Him as His Mission drew to a close and

which contains “precepts and principles which lie at the very core of His

Faith” ( God Passes By 216). This passage is highly relevant, as it defines

the “fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion”

( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 168). In Bahá’u’lláh’s words, this purpose is “to

safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race” and “to

foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men”. In the same passage He describes His Faith as “the straight Path” and His new World

Order as “the fixed and immovable foundation” whose “strength” can

never be “impaired” nor its structure “undermined” by the “changes and

chances of the world” and the “revolution of countless centuries” (168).

The next paragraph is a quotation from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and

Testament, in which the sphere of responsibility of the House of Justice

is defined, namely, to decide on “all that is not expressly recorded” in

the Most Holy Book and to be the Body to which “every one must turn”.

The following paragraph clearly determines what constitutes “the

binding terms of reference of the Universal House of Justice”, “its bedrock foundation”. These have been identified as “the revealed Word of

Bahá’u’lláh” and “the interpretations and expositions” recorded by

‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi as Interpreters of the Revealed Word.

This sentence clearly specifies that Shoghi Effendi is, after ‘Abdu’lBahá, “the sole authority in the interpretation of Bahá’í Scripture”. This

sentence further confirms the refusal of the House of Justice to engage

in interpretation of the Writings.

The last sentence of this paragraph is extremely weighty, as it categorically states, “The authority of these Texts is absolute and immutable

until such time as Almighty God shall reveal His new Manifestation, to

Whom will belong all authority and power.”
52

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

The paragraph that follows calls to mind the passing of Shoghi Effendi without his having appointed a Guardian of the Cause to succeed

him. In view of this circumstance, the Universal House of Justice declares that it is now the “Head of the Faith and its supreme institution”.

Therefore, the coordination of the work of the Hands of the Cause,

the extension into the future of their functions of protection and propagation, and the receipt and disbursement of the uqúqu’lláh would, of

necessity, devolve upon the Universal House of Justice.

A word of explanation about the offering and receipt of the

uqúqu’lláh would, I feel, be appropriate. The Law of the uqúq was

revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in paragraph 97. In this

verse, Bahá’u’lláh stipulates that the uqúq belongs to God and has “to

be rendered unto Him”. Nowhere in the Aqdas, or in His other Writings,

does Bahá’u’lláh explicitly specify who should be the recipient of this

offering after His Ascension. It was clear, however, that whoever was

specified as Bahá’u’lláh’s Successor, namely, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Centre

of the Covenant to Whom all must turn, would be, beyond any doubt,

the recipient of such payments. In His Will and Testament, ‘Abdu’lBahá provides for this money offering to be paid “through the Guardian

of the Cause of God” ( Will and Testament 15). This was so because

Shoghi Effendi was the institution to whom all were to turn after the

passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

Following the same pattern, the Universal House of Justice, in its

capacity as Successor not only to Shoghi Effendi but also to ‘Abdu’lBahá and Bahá’u’lláh, found logically and correctly that it was the institution destined to receive and expend the uqúqu’lláh, in accordance

with the spirit and purpose of this Fund as clearly enunciated in

‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament, namely, “the diffusion of the Fragrances of God and the exaltation of His Word, for benevolent pursuits

and for the common weal” ( Will and Testament 15). In the light of these

circumstances, the following Words of Bahá’u’lláh acquire added significance: “There is a prescribed ruling for the uqúqu’lláh. After the

House of Justice hath come into being, the law thereof will be made

manifest, in conformity with the Will of God” ( Right of God no. 59).

So far, we have looked at the contents of the first six paragraphs of

the text of the Constitution. These six paragraphs are followed by five

sections which are described as “powers and duties with which the Universal House of Justice has been invested”. I must explain here that the

53
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

Universal House of Justice commissioned its Research Department to

compile and present to it each and every statement made in the original

texts of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi on the subject

of the Universal House of Justice, its powers, and its duties. Many of

these texts had already been translated into English or, as in the case of

the writings of Shoghi Effendi, were already available in English. However, a great deal had to be translated and supplied to the House of Justice for its consideration. The contents of these five sections are all,

without any exception, based on these texts. I hope that it will not be in

the too distant future when students and scholars of the Faith are able to

identify the powers and duties tabulated in these sections and to find

their roots in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and the interpretive expositions made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.

It is beyond the scope of my presentation to provide you with a list

of references showing the source of each of the functions of the Supreme Body as set forth in these five sections. However, I will refer to

each section separately and will give you my commentary on any aspect

which may need some clarification.

Section one: “To ensure the preservation of the Sacred Texts and to

safeguard their inviolability; to analyse, classify, and coordinate the

Writings; and to defend and protect the Cause of God and emancipate it

from the fetters of repression and persecution” ( Constitution 5). The

preservation of the Sacred Texts is clearly a primary responsibility of

the Head of the Faith. This is why Shoghi Effendi constructed the International Archives Building and the Universal House of Justice later

added an extension to that edifice, in order to provide the latest scientific facilities available to preserve papers, documents, and artefacts.

The word “inviolability”, used in this connection, refers to the need to

protect the Sacred Texts from any physical harm as well as uphold the

sacredness of the Holy Writings and preserve their integrity.

The duty to analyse, classify, and coordinate the Writings is currently being discharged by the Research Department for and on behalf

of the Universal House of Justice. These functions presently have their

home in the edifice around the Arc that is known to the friends as the

Centre for the Study of the Texts.

The duty of defending and protecting the Cause of God is clearly

implicit in the Words of Bahá’u’lláh calling on the men of the House of

Justice in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas: “O ye Men of Justice! Be ye, in the realm

54

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

of God, shepherds unto His sheep and guard them… even as ye would

guard your own sons” (Aqdas ¶52). This section ends with the statement

that the House of Justice is vested with the responsibility of emancipating the Faith “from the fetters of repression and persecution”. The third

stage in the evolution of the Faith is its emancipation from the fetters of

repression. This emancipation will take place when the religious authorities in a given country pronounce and regard the laws and principles of the Faith as separate from and alien to the official established

religion of that country. The steps taken by National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world and the Bahá’í International Community

(with its seat in New York) – all functioning under the direction of the

Universal House of Justice – have succeeded in protecting the Persian

Bahá’í community from the professed intention of the Iranian government to destroy the Cause of God, root and branch, in Bahá’u’lláh’s native land. It is hoped of course that these efforts will eventually lead to

the emancipation of the Persian Bahá’í community from the clutches of

a traditional enemy, which has sought to strangulate it ever since its in-

ception 16 decades ago.

Section two: This entire section deals with the obligations of the

Universal House of Justice in the three fields of proclamation, expansion, and consolidation. A partial and initial implementation of the provisions in this section can be seen through the release of the Synopsis

and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and, subsequently, the translation

into English of the entire Kitáb-i-Aqdas, supported by copious annotations; the dissemination of newly translated texts from the Writings of

Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; and, more particularly, the

publication of the book The Proclamation of Bahá’u’lláh as well as its

two open letters to the peoples of the world and to religious leaders, respectively.

The reference in this section to the promotion of the spiritual qualities that must characterize individual and collective Bahá’í life is best

exemplified by the importance attached to teaching institutes, study circles, devotional meetings, children’s classes, and the division of each

home front into clusters, as called for under the current Plan. As to the

last part of this section, regarding cordiality and peace among the nations and the advancement and betterment of the world, these objectives

are, for the time being, being spearheaded on the international level by

55
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

our Bahá’í International Community offices in New York, Geneva, and

selected capitals in Europe.

Section three: The next section deals with the vital responsibilities

of the House of Justice as the highest legislative body of the Faith and

the institution to which all must turn for the solution of problems that

have caused differences among the friends and for the elucidation of

questions that are obscure. As I have already noted, these functions are

embedded in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and in the provisions of the

Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

The latter part of the section begins with the duty incumbent upon

the House of Justice to safeguard the rights, freedom, and initiative of

individuals. This opens the way for individuals, if they feel that their

essential rights have been trampled upon by decisions of institutions on

the local or national level within a given country, to appeal to the Universal House of Justice for redress of grievances.

The last clause of this section deals with the development of countries and the stability of states. These functions can be discharged effectively by the Universal House of Justice when the World Order of

Bahá’u’lláh has been ushered in, the Faith universally acknowledged,

and the Universal House of Justice, as the Supreme Organ of that Order,

recognized among the nations.

Section four: The fourth section is a pronouncement on the duty of

the House of Justice to apply the Laws of the Faith as they progressively

become binding (as happened in the case of the Law of uqúqu’lláh and

the ordinances related to obligatory prayers and fasting) and to uphold

the ideal of rectitude of conduct which, as Shoghi Effendi has written,

has “implications of justice, equity, truthfulness, honesty, fairmindedness, reliability, and trustworthiness” – standards that must distinguish “every phase of the life of the Bahá’í community” ( Advent 23).

This section addresses the development of the Spiritual and Administrative Centre of the Bahá’í Faith in the Holy Land. The establishment

of the International Teaching Centre following the appointment of

Boards of Counsellors, as well as the addition of assistants to Auxiliary

Board members, the erection of new buildings round the Arc, the extension of the gardens in Bahjí, the construction of the Terraces surrounding the Shrine of the Báb, and the establishment of two new pilgrim

houses in Bahjí and Haifa are among some of the more obvious devel56

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

opments that have taken place at the World Centre during the past four

decades.

There is included in this section a very interesting function of the

House of Justice. It is to ensure that no institution within the Cause may

abuse its privileges nor decline in the exercise of its rights and prerogatives. This function of the House of Justice requires both vigilant alertness and appropriate intervention when the vital interests of the Faith

are disregarded. The final part of this section deals with the administration of the funds and properties of the Faith, a function which does not

need any amplification.

Section five: The last section deals with the judiciary powers of the

Universal House of Justice in adjudicating disputes, settling differences,

enforcing decisions, and applying sanctions. Finally, as a crowning obligation, the House’s judiciary responsibilities are summed up with these

challenging words: “to be the exponent and guardian of that Divine Justice which can alone ensure the security of, and establish the reign of

law and order in, the world” ( Constitution 6). This ends the five sections

outlining the duties and powers of the Universal House of Justice.

The legislative powers stipulated above will remain vested permanently in the Universal House of Justice. However, none of the provisions prevent the Universal House of Justice from making it possible for

separate institutions to be established on the international level to assume the executive and judicial responsibilities now discharged by the

House of Justice itself.

The paragraph which follows introduces a quotation from Shoghi

Effendi’s “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh”. In this paragraph three

titles for the members of the House of Justice are given, namely, “the

Men of Justice”, “the people of Bahá who have been mentioned in the

Book of Names”, and the “Trustees of God” who are “daysprings of

authority”. The title “Men of Justice” is taken from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas,

paragraph 52. The title “people of Bahá who have been mentioned in the

Book of Names” is taken from the Tablet of Carmel ( Gleanings 16).

The title “Trustees of God” who are “daysprings of authority” is taken

from the Tablet of Bahá’u’lláh known as “The Glad-Tidings”. The passage appears in the Thirteenth “Glad-Tidings”. It is under the same Thirteenth “Glad-Tidings” that Bahá’u’lláh says, “All matters of State

should be referred to the House of Justice…” It is likewise in this same

passage of “The Glad-Tidings” that Bahá’u’lláh states, “that which

57
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

traineth the world is justice, for it is upheld by two pillars, reward and

punishment”. Finally, it is in this same section that Bahá’u’lláh refers to

the members of the House of Justice as “the recipients of divine inspiration from the unseen kingdom” ( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 27).

Regarding the title of the specific designation of the people of Bahá, as

revealed in the Tablet of Carmel, many friends have asked what the

“Book of Names” is, in which mention is made of these Trustees ( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 5). There is a Tablet revealed by the Báb known as

“The Book of Names”, but no such reference is found in that document.

I will share with you my own understanding of this reference. The word

“Names” in the original is “Asmá”. This word has been translated by

Shoghi Effendi sometimes as “Names” and at other times as “Titles”,

depending on the context. The first sense would denote divine and heavenly qualities and attributes, as in such phrases as “God’s Most Excellent Names”. In the latter sense, i.e. “Titles”, it could apply to appella-

tions or accolades bestowed on an individual as a sign of praise or rank.

In the Bahá’í Writings we find such titles as “Centre of the Covenant”,

“Guardian of the Cause of God”, “Hands of the Cause of God”, “Houses

of Justice”, “Trustees of the Merciful”, “Knights of Bahá’u’lláh”, etc.

Thus, the “Book of Names” could be God’s Mystical Book in which are

recorded the titles and accolades bestowed on His ministers, as well as

on promoters, protectors, and/or defenders of His Cause, either individually or as a collective group.

As to the quotation from “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh” that begins with the words “In the conduct of the administrative affairs…”

( Constitution 6), three important points have been incorporated by

Shoghi Effendi in this passage. The first is that the members of the Universal House of Justice should be governed in the discharge of their

functions by the prayerful promptings of their conscience and not by the

feelings or convictions of those who directly or indirectly elect them;

which clearly implies, thereby, that they are responsible before God and

not to those whom they represent. This is a clear negation of one of the

essential features of a democratic system. All democracies make the

elected responsible to the electorate. This is why referendums are resorted to in democratic systems of government, in order to determine

what the popular vote will decide on a given issue.

The second point is that they must acquaint themselves with the

conditions prevailing in the community. This duty counterbalances

58

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

referendums and is a provision incorporated in the system of Bahá’í

Administration in order to offset the withdrawal of authority from the

mass of the electorate. Obviously the members of the House of Justice

have the obligation individually to be alert to the general sentiments

and opinions of the community and institutionally to depend on faithful and sympathetic agencies, such as the Counsellors, to share with

them the trends of thought and feeling among the rank and file of the

believers.

The third point is the quotation from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

giving the assurance that “God will verily inspire them with whatsoever

He willeth.” This is followed by Shoghi Effendi’s explanation that the

elected members – and I am stressing the word “elected” in this passage

– are “the recipients of the divine guidance which is at once the lifeblood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation”.

Shoghi Effendi was appointed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to be the Head and

a member of the Universal House of Justice. He was not an elected

member of the Supreme Body. Shoghi Effendi, as interpreter of the

Teachings, is assuring us here that the elected members are recipients of

the promised divine guidance.

The last paragraph of the Declaration of Trust states the date on

which the Universal House of Justice was first elected, in accordance

with the provisions of the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and in

response to the call of the Hands of the Cause of God, who were described by Shoghi Effendi as “the Chief Stewards of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth” ( Constitution 6).

This paragraph also quotes two titles given by Shoghi Effendi to the

Universal House of Justice, namely, the “crowning glory” of the administrative institutions of Bahá’u’lláh and the “nucleus and forerunner” of

His World Order.

Following this paragraph is a space where the nine members who

were in office on 26 November 1972, namely, the Day of the Covenant,

have signed their names in alphabetical order. The last paragraph gives

the date of the document and states that it was signed in the city of

Haifa. The last feature of the document is the impression of the seal of

the Universal House of Justice.

Annexed to the Declaration of Trust is the nine-page document containing the By-Laws of the Constitution. The preamble to the By-Laws

is followed by 11 main clauses, as follows:
59
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER
I. Membership in the Bahá’í Community
II. Local Spiritual Assemblies
III. National Spiritual Assemblies

IV. Obligations of Members of Spiritual Assemblies

V. The Universal House of Justice [consisting of six subclauses]

VI. Bahá’í Elections
VII. The Right of Review
VIII. Appeals
IX. The Boards of Counsellors
X. The Auxiliary Boards
XI. Amendment

Some of these clauses which deal with general issues, such as membership in the community, Local and National Assemblies and their obligations, and the methods of Bahá’í elections and appeals, I will not go

into, as they are matters of common knowledge and experience for

Bahá’ís in every land. I will confine my comments to those clauses

which deal directly with the work and sphere of authority of the Universal House of Justice.

We will first deal with the brief preamble, which gives a concise

and complete definition of the Administrative Order as it is operating in

the Bahá’í World at this time. The first paragraph refers to the House of

Justice as the “supreme institution of the Administrative Order” ( Constitution 8). This Order, the preamble states, consists of two parts: (1)

Elected Councils on local, national, and international levels that are invested with all three powers, namely, legislative, executive, and judicial,

and (2) Individual believers appointed for the specific tasks of protecting and propagating the Faith.

The second paragraph defines the relationship of the Administrative

Order to the World Order, the former being the nucleus and pattern of

the latter. This Administrative Order is described as both divinely propelled and organically expanding. This development will be realized

through the establishment of auxiliary and subordinate agencies, as well

as by the multiplication and diversification of Bahá’í functions – all designed to promote the progress of the human race.

We have to pass over the first four clauses, as indicated earlier, and

deal with clause V, which, as mentioned, has six sub-clauses. The intro60

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

duction to this clause states that the membership of the Body consists of

“nine men” elected from the worldwide Bahá’í community. These

members are elected by the members of all National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the world. Every male adult Bahá’í in good standing

throughout the world is eligible for election. It is well known to Bahá’ís

that in the future the number could exceed nine, as stated in the Kitáb-iAqdas, “should it exceed this number it doth not matter” (¶30).

The question is often asked, “Why it is that the membership of the

Supreme Body is confined to men?” In my experience the wisest way to

answer this query is to quote ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “The House of Justice,

…according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men;

this for a wisdom of the Lord God’s, which will erelong be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon” ( Selections from the Writings of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá 80). This statement by the Master closes the door to

speculation and argumentation. I think what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá means is that

neither humanity nor the Bahá’í community has reached its stage of maturity. At such a stage, the age of wise judgement and well-balanced

discretion would be reached by this fast-evolving world, and it would

then become crystal clear as to why Bahá’u’lláh included this provision

in His code of laws.

As I said earlier, this clause has six sub-clauses, and most of the

sub-clauses are divided into subsidiary sections. The first sub-clause has

nine subsections, from (a) to (i). The important points in these subsections are as follows:

1. The election of the Universal House of Justice is held every

five years unless otherwise decided by the Supreme Body.

At such a time, the elected members shall continue in their

office until their successors are elected and can have their

first meeting.

2. The principal business of the International Convention is

the election of the House of Justice members, the deliberation on the affairs of the Cause, and the submission of recommendations for consideration by the Universal House of

Justice.

3. If, at the time of the election, the House of Justice considers

it impractical or unwise to hold the Convention, it shall determine how the election should take place. Based on this,

61
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

the House of Justice decided not to hold an International

Convention in 2003 – the first time it has made such a decision since being formed – and instructed members of National Spiritual Assemblies to cast their ballots by mail,

since it was considered impractical and unwise to hold a

convention in view of the high insecurity prevailing in the

country and the grave dangers involved in international

travelling during the month of April 2003.

4. If a member of a National Assembly who has cast his ballot

by mail subsequently ceases to be a member of the Assembly, his ballot shall remain valid unless, in the meantime, a

successor has been elected and the ballot of the latter has

been received in Haifa.

5. In case of a tie vote or votes, additional balloting will be

held for the persons tied. As National Conventions are held

on a date soon after the Ri ván period in the years when the

International Convention is convened, the electors in such a

case would be the newly elected members of the National

Assembly.

The second sub-clause deals with vacancies in the membership of the

Universal House of Justice. Four possibilities are envisaged: (1) Death of

a member, (2) Dismissal of a member by the House of Justice if he has

committed a sin injurious to the common weal, (3) Removal of a member

from membership if the House of Justice considers him to be unable to

fulfil his functions, and (4) Relinquishment of membership by a member,

with the approval of the House of Justice. The first and fourth possibilities

have occurred in the past, but the second and third have not yet happened,

and let us hope that they will never need to be implemented.

The next sub-clause deals with by-elections. If a vacancy occurs between two International Conventions, the voters shall be the members of

the National Assemblies in office. If, in the judgement of the Universal

House of Justice, the date falls too close to the date of the regular International Convention, it would not proceed with the by-election. In such

cases, the Universal House of Justice would function with, say, only

eight members.

The next subsection lays down procedures for the first meeting of the

House of Justice after election and clearly stipulates that the House of Jus62

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

tice has no officers and that its meetings are therefore conducted in a manner decided by the House of Justice itself. It is common knowledge that at

this time in the evolution of the work of the House of Justice, the chairmanship rotates among the members in alphabetical order on a weekly basis.

This sub-clause provides for quorums of less than the full membership for specific classes of business. It enables members of the House to

take annual leave or at periods they may wish to determine without

hampering the day-to-day work of the Supreme Body. This does not

prevent the Universal House of Justice from contacting absent members

by phone or otherwise for their input on issues under consideration.

The last two sub-clauses deal with the signature on letters written by

the Universal House of Justice itself, in either English or Persian, and

the need in each case to affix the Seal of the Supreme Body. The Universal House of Justice also lays down specific methods for recording

its own decisions.

The next section, which is unique to the work of the House of Justice, is clause VII, entitled “The Right of Review”. This clause is in two

parts, the first part being an extension of a similar article found in all

national constitutions giving the right to the Head of the Faith to modify

or even reverse decisions or actions taken by subsidiary agencies of the

Administrative Order. The second part anticipates the possibility of a

Spiritual Assembly, either National or Local, failing to take action or

reach a decision on an issue which, in the judgement of the Universal

House of Justice, is vital to the interests of the Faith and calls for specific action to be taken. In such cases, the House of Justice gives itself

the right to take action directly on the matter.

We will now deal with the last three clauses of the By-Laws, namely,

section IX, The Boards of Counsellors; section X, The Auxiliary Boards;

and section XI, Amendment. Section IX provides for the appointment by

the House of Justice of individual Bahá’ís who can be entrusted with the

functions of protection and propagation of the Faith, as assigned to the

Hands of the Cause of God in accordance with the Will and Testament of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Each Counsellor is expected to carry out his duties within

the zone where he resides. Terms of office are determined by the House

of Justice. The current term is five years. This clause further stipulates

that the work of a Counsellor renders him ineligible for service on Local

or National administrative bodies. If he is elected to the Universal House

of Justice, he obviously has to relinquish his status as a Counsellor.

63
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

Section X defines the functions of Auxiliary Board members as deputies, assistants, and advisors to the Counsellors. Each Auxiliary Board

member is allotted a specific area in which to serve. An Auxiliary Board

member, unlike a Counsellor, is eligible for any elective office. If elected,

he must decide whether to remain on the Board or accept the elective post.

Similarly, if elected to the Universal House of Justice, he automatically relinquishes his status as an Auxiliary Board member. The current term for

Auxiliary Board members is also five years.

Furthermore, as indicated by Shoghi Effendi, there are two Boards,

one for the protection and one for the propagation of the Faith. The

number of Auxiliary Boards for each continent is decided by the Universal House of Justice. The Counsellors, in their turn, divide this number throughout their area of responsibility, as the need in each area demands.

The last clause stipulates that all amendments may be made only

when the full membership of the House of Justice is present. The Constitution of the House of Justice in its present form has not yet been

amended. However, two important decisions affecting the Boards of

Counsellors and Auxiliary Boards have already been taken by the House

of Justice which, with the passing of time, will undoubtedly be incorporated in the Constitution as amendments to its clauses. One is the establishment of the International Teaching Centre in the Holy Land, and the

other is the permission given to Auxiliary Board members to appoint

assistants. These provisions do not appear in the present Constitution,

since the decisions were adopted after the formulation of the Constitution in November 1972.

64

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

Questions related:

Q. Are the three functions of the House of Justice – legislative, executive, and judicial – set down in the Writings?

A. In “The Unfoldment of World Civilization” ( World Order 203),

Shoghi Effendi describes the principal institutions of the Bahá’í World

Commonwealth as the “world legislature”, the “world executive”, and

the “world tribunal”.

In a statement entitled “A Procedure for the Conduct of a Local Spiritual

Assembly”, which was published in every volume of The Bahá’í World

during the lifetime of Shoghi Effendi, we find reference to the three

separate powers of every Spiritual Assembly. For example, in Volume

12 (the last volume published in the lifetime of Shoghi Effendi), page

297, we find the statement in question.

Q. Will the Universal House of Justice recognize the future Manifestation of God?

A. I have not seen anything in the Writings on this subject. However,

when a pilgrim asked Shoghi Effendi this very question he said that the

Universal House of Justice will surely recognize the new Manifestation

of God and introduce Him to the community. Whether or not the rank

and file will accept Him is a matter of speculation, and I do not wish to

go into this area.

Q. According to what criteria does the Universal House of Justice

decide on the length of teaching plans?

A. Obviously the House of Justice takes into consideration a variety of

factors, such as the strengths and weaknesses of the Bahá’í community,

the trends in world developments, and the possibilities of the future as

the Faith moves towards its destiny.

Q. What is the precise difference, as stated in the Constitution, between elucidation and interpretation? How can we be sure that we

are not interpreting the Writings when we deepen?

A. Shoghi Effendi had two main objectives animating his ministry: the

establishment of the Universal House of Justice and the systematic

launching of the provisions of the Tablets of the Divine Plan. He was

65
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

endowed with a gift of knowing the mind of Bahá’u’lláh and of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Indeed, I think he gives us a definition of “interpretation”

in “The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh”, in which he clearly states that

“the Guardian has been specifically endowed with such power as he

may need to reveal the purport and disclose the implications of the utterances of Bahá’u’lláh and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá” ( World Order 151). This

is a gift bestowed upon the Guardian and on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá before him

because they both knew and were able to disclose the nature and scope

of the vision inherent in God’s holy Faith.

As to “elucidation”, we have already seen how Shoghi Effendi says

that the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá conceals mysteries which

would be unveiled gradually after the election of the Universal House of

Justice. The letters of the House of Justice published in the volume of its

messages on the question of the Guardianship and the Universal House

of Justice can well be regarded as elucidations. Another instance would

be the reference in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, as well as

in other utterances of His, to the World Tribunal. In one of his letters to

the American National Assembly, Shoghi Effendi stated,

Touching the point raised in the Secretary’s letter regarding the

nature and scope of the Universal Court of Arbitration, this and

other similar matters will have to be explained and elucidated by

the Universal House of Justice, to which, according to the Master’s explicit instructions, all important and fundamental questions must be referred. ( Bahá’í Administration 47)

There are a number of questions that would normally come to mind

about such a universal court or tribunal. Who will elect or appoint it?

Will it have a term of office? Will women as well as men be eligible for

membership? What will be its relationship to the Universal House of

Justice? These are unsettled and obscure matters, and the Will and Testament has clearly stated that “all the difficult problems” ( Will and Testament 14) as well as “all problems which have caused difference” (20)

and “questions that are obscure” (20) will be resolved through legislation on the part of the Universal House of Justice.

Regarding study circles or deepening courses and the interpretation

given by individual participants, this is a completely different situation.

In such discussions, we are not only permitted to offer our understanding of the texts but are encouraged to do so. What is prohibited in the

66

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

Cause is for an individual or group of individuals to offer interpretations, claim that they are authoritative, and engage in promoting such

opinions among the friends. The use of our mental faculties in trying to

understand a sacred text is a healthy exercise.

Q. Compared to other institutions of which you have been a member, did you feel a difference in the consultations of the Universal

House of Justice?

A. I do not recall anyone asking me this question before. I have already

quoted the verse in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in which He comments about the

attitude of the members of Local Spiritual Assemblies. As you recall,

Bahá’u’lláh says, “They should consider themselves as entering the Court

of the presence of God, the Exalted, the Most High, and as beholding Him

Who is the Unseen” (¶30). Being aware of the presence of the Blessed

Beauty in the Council Chamber of a Spiritual Assembly and of the Universal House of Justice is a spiritual obligation placed on the shoulders of

the elected members. It is true, however, that entering the Council Chamber of the Universal House of Justice and being privileged to participate

in its consultations enables the member to become more intensely aware

of the Presence of the Spirit of the Founder of our Faith. How wonderful

it will be when an ever-increasing number of Local and National Spiritual

Assemblies attain that degree of spiritual consciousness that enables its

members to follow the exhortation of Bahá’u’lláh in His Most Holy

Book. When consultations are held in such an atmosphere, Divine con-

firmations and guidance are sure to surround the deliberations of the

members and the actions taken by the Assembly. In one of His Tablets,

after enumerating the spiritual obligations of the members of consulting

councils, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “Should they endeavour to fulfil these conditions the Grace of the Holy Spirit shall be vouchsafed unto them, and

that Assembly shall become the center of the Divine blessings, the hosts

of Divine confirmation shall come to their aid, and they shall day by day

receive a new effusion of Spirit” ( Bahá’í Administration 22-3).

Q. Does the House of Justice refer to the Bayán as well as the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh?

A. One of the buildings around the Arc is the edifice for the Centre for the

Study of the Texts. The Research Department of the Universal House of

67
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

Justice has its offices in that building. This Department specializes in providing the Universal House of Justice with texts which bear directly or

indirectly on subjects that the House of Justice feels it needs in addressing

an issue of legislation or one bordering on legislation. The Research Department also provides the House of Justice with extracts from the Writings of past religions, including that of the Báb, as may be needed.

The work of the House of Justice can also relate to matters that are

secular or scientific in character, calling for knowledge of various fields.

Such data and information is usually beyond the scope of the Research

Department and is referred to another institution, which will, in the

years to come, be built around the Arc. It is because of this need that the

Universal House of Justice, in a letter to the Bahá’í world dated

31 August 1987, states the following in describing the immediate and

future responsibilities of the International Bahá’í Library:

This Library is the central depository of all literature published on

the Faith, and is an essential source of information for the institutions of the World Centre on all subjects relating to the Cause of

God and the conditions of mankind. In future decades its functions must grow, it will serve as an active center for knowledge in

all fields, and it will become the kernel of great institutions of

scientific investigation and discovery. ( Wider Horizon 52)

The International Library is currently housed in the Centre for the Study

of the Texts, but in the future it will have its own separate building, facing the International Archives.

With the above in mind we can visualize the Universal House of Justice

in the centre of the Arc buildings. On its left is the Centre for the Study

of the Texts, which provides it with information on religious scripture.

On the right it is flanked by an institution which provides it with information on scientific and secular fields of knowledge. Thus, on the

Mountain of God, we see the union of religion and science serving the

Supreme Body of the Faith.

Q. Are the Boards of Counsellors a different institution from the

Hands of the Cause?

A. According to the Master’s Will and Testament, the Hands of the

Cause are appointed by the Guardian. No term of office was stipulated

68

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and therefore those nominated continued in office for

the rest of their lives, as happened in the case of Hands of the Cause

appointed by Bahá’u’lláh. The Counsellors are appointed by the Universal House of Justice for a term of five years.

Furthermore, the Hands of the Cause were due to elect from among

their number nine who would give their assent to the choice of a successor to the Guardian. Such an authority has not been vested in the institution of the Counsellors.

A third distinction is that, according to the terms of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s

Will, the Hands of the Cause were empowered to expel anyone opposing the Guardian, even if that person had the rank of Hand of the Cause.

This provision in the Will and Testament was put into effect by the

Hands when it was necessary to expel Mason Remey because of his

claim to the Guardianship. Such authority of expulsion has not been

given to the institution of the Counsellors.

Q. How often does the House of Justice meet? Why are decisions of

the House of Justice recorded?

A. At this time, the House of Justice meets three days a week and, depending on its agenda, for the whole day. This pattern may change in

the future, as there is no text on this matter. Obviously all decisions of

the House of Justice have to have some documentation. The method of

recording such decisions can of course change from time to time.

Q. With regard to vacancies in the membership of the Universal House

of Justice, what might “a sin injurious to the common weal” be?

A. This phrase is taken from the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. It

is left to the Universal House of Justice to determine whether misbehaviour or misconduct of one of its members is of a magnitude that would

cause harm to the well-being of the Faith. Naturally, each case will be

considered separately, and, as far as I am aware, no specific definition

has been given by the House of Justice on this issue.

Q. The Universal House of Justice has no officers. What are “officers” in this context?

A. This term is with reference to the by-laws of National and Local

Spiritual Assemblies, and the intent is clearly the usual officers of

69
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

Bahá’í consultative bodies, namely, chairman, vice-chairman, secretary,

and treasurer. The Universal House of Justice has no chairman, and the

office of chairmanship rotates among the members on a weekly basis in

alphabetical order. The work of the secretary and treasurer is so vast and

complex that special departments have been established to carry out the

duties related to these functions. These departments operate under separate Policy Committees composed of House of Justice members who

direct and supervise the work of these departments. It should be pointed

out in this connection that all matters not specified in the Constitution of

the Universal House of Justice are usually matters of detail and can be

changed from time to time by the House of Justice itself, as needs arise.

Q. How shall we understand the concept of “infallibility”?

A. Bahá’u’lláh, in the Tablet of Ish ráqát, explains that infallibility has

“divers stations” ( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 108). In Some Answered Questions , chapter 45, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains that there are two kinds of infallibility, “essential” and “acquired”. The essential kind is one of the

distinctive powers of the Manifestation of God, and no one is given a

share in this distinction. Acquired infallibility is conferred upon those

who do not essentially possess the Divine Light but receive this light

indirectly from its Source. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says in this chapter that such

souls are “mediators of grace between God and men”. He goes on to

say, “If God did not protect them from error, their error would cause

believing souls to fall into error, and thus the foundation of the Religion

of God would be overturned, which would not be fitting nor worthy of

God.”

In the same chapter, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gives two examples of acquired

infallibility. For the Bahá’í Faith, He mentions the institution of the

Universal House of Justice, whose decisions are “under the protection

and the unerring guidance of God”. The other example given by

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from the Christian Dispensation, is Christ, who was the

source of God’s “command” and possessed the Most Great Infallibility,

and His disciples, who were under His shadow and on whom He conferred His special grace. It is interesting in this connection to note that

the disciples of Christ and the Imáms of the Mu ammadan Faith are

mentioned as belonging to one and the same category in their respective

Dispensations ( Some Answered Questions 45-61).
70

T HE C ONSTITUTION OF THE U NIVERSAL H OUSE OF J USTICE

It is worth noting that the authority bestowed on the disciples of

Christ, as recorded in the New Testament, is expressed in the following

words from Christ to His disciples: “Verily I say unto you. Whatsoever

ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall

loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. (Matthew 18:18)

I suppose there are many other ways to understand the concept of

infallibility in the Cause, but what I have shared with you is my own

simple and inadequate understanding of this subject. I suppose that in

the future this all-important theme will be explored more fully by the

scholars of the Faith and perhaps further elucidated by the Universal

House of Justice itself, if it feels it necessary to do so.

71
T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER IN C ONTRAST TO

R ELIGIOUS AND S ECULAR S YSTEMS

I should begin this section by recalling some of the words of

Bahá’u’lláh regarding the newness and freshness of His Revelation. A

few extracts will satisfy our purpose. We read, for example,

Through the movement of Our Pen of glory We have, at the bidding of the omnipotent Ordainer, breathed a new life into every

human frame, and instilled into every word a fresh potency. All

created things proclaim the evidences of this world-wide regen-

eration… He hath lent a fresh impulse, and set a new direction, to

the birds of men’s hearts… The whole earth is illuminated with

the resplendent glory of God’s Revelation… Behold how the

generality of mankind hath been endued with the capacity to

hearken unto God’s most exalted Word – the Word upon which

must depend the gathering together and spiritual resurrection of

all men… ( Gleanings 92-7).

‘Abdu’l-Bahá adds His voice to that of His Father: “In every Dispensation, the light of Divine Guidance has been focussed upon one

central theme… In this wondrous Revelation… the foundation of the

Faith of God and the distinguishing feature of His Law is the consciousness of the Oneness of Mankind” ( World Order 36).

In the original texts, a word which appears quite often to denote the

newness and uniqueness of the Faith and its wondrous message is

“Badí’”. For example, the title given to the new Bahá’í calendar is the

“Badí’” calendar. Also, Bahá’u’lláh bestowed the title “Badí’” on the

17-year-old youth who was the bearer of His Tablet to the Sh áh of Persia. And, referring to “Badí’”, He wrote in one of His Tablets, as if to

expound the meaning of this title, “the spirit of might and power was

breathed” in him ( God Passes By 199). This word has been translated

into English by Shoghi Effendi in various ways, depending on the context. The equivalents he has given are “new”, “wondrous”, “wonderful”,

“marvellous”, “incomparable”, and “peerless”. For example, the “new

World Order” in the original is God’s “Badí’” World Order.

73
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

It would be helpful to cast a quick glance at the titles found in former scriptures which define the station of Bahá’u’lláh and the uniqueness of His Day. For example, Isaiah refers to Him as “the Wonderful”

and “the Prince of Peace” ( God Passes By 94). Haggai refers to Him as

the “Desire for all nations” (95). Ezekiel extols Him as “the Lord Who

shall be king over all the earth”.

Zoroaster prophesies that the Promised One will “usher in an era of

blessedness and peace”.

Jesus Christ, in the Lord’s Prayer, prays for the Father’s “Kingdom”

to come and refers to His Day as a period of “regeneration” (96).

Christ’s chief Apostle, Peter, refers to His Day as “the times of refreshing” and “the times of restitution of all things”. St John the Divine refers

to His Revelation and His Law as “a new heaven and a new earth”.

Mu ammad describes His Day as a time “when the earth shall shine

with the light of her Lord”.

Bahá’u’lláh Himself, referring to His Day, calls it the “Springtime

which autumn will never overtake” (99), the “Day which shall never

be followed by night”, and “the eye to past ages and centuries”. He

bestows on the city of íhrán, where He was born, the surname of “the

Mother of the world” (102), as well as the “the Source of the joy of all

mankind”.

He further proclaims, “I testify before God to the greatness, the inconceivable greatness of this Revelation. Again and again have We in

most of Our Tablets borne witness to this truth, that mankind may be

roused from its heedlessness” ( World Order 103). “The Hand of Omnipotence hath established His Revelation upon an unassailable, an enduring foundation. Storms of human strife are powerless to undermine

its basis, nor will men’s fanciful theories succeed in damaging its structure” (109). “The day is approaching when God will have, by an act of

His Will, raised up a race of men the nature of which is inscrutable to all

save God, the All-Powerful, the Self-Subsisting” (109-10).

The Words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá are equally emphatic on this important

theme. He writes, “The effulgence of God’s splendorous mercy hath

enveloped the peoples and kindreds of the earth, and the whole world is

bathed in its shining glory…” ( World Order 111). “Centuries, nay ages,

must pass away ere the Day-Star of Truth shineth again in its midsummer splendour or appeareth once more in the radiance of its vernal

glory… How thankful must we be for having been made in this Day the

74
T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

recipients of so overwhelming a favour!” (111). “Whatsoever is latent in

the innermost of this holy cycle shall gradually appear and be made

manifest, for now is but the beginning of its growth and the dayspring of

the revelation of its signs” (146).

Shoghi Effendi extols Bahá’u’lláh in such titles as “the Fountain of

the Most Great Justice”, the “Proclaimer of the coming of age of the

entire human race”, and the “Organizer of the entire planet” ( God

Passes By 93).

Against this panoramic view of the vastness, greatness, and uniqueness of the Dispensation inaugurated by Bahá’u’lláh, we should look

with our finite minds at the wondrous Order which He has bequeathed

to mankind. We must recall that the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh is mentioned in the very first sentence of His Kitáb-i-‘Ahd. Shoghi Effendi has

identified the “excellent and priceless Heritage” in that sentence as being Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, bequeathed by Him to His “heirs” ( God

Passes By 314). It is important to realize that we are Bahá’u’lláh’s

“heirs” and that the “heritage” He hath bequeathed to us is His Covenant.

The Administrative Order is the child of that Covenant, the fruition

of God’s Covenant for this Day. The Bahá’í Covenant is unique, and

‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us that it is “one of the distinctive features of this

most mighty cycle”, a Covenant “the like of which the sacred Dispensations of the past have never witnessed” ( God Passes By 239).

Proclaiming the wondrous and unique character of this Order,

Bahá’u’lláh has written in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, “The world’s equilibrium

hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this

new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized

through the agency of this unique, this wondrous system – the like of

which mortal eyes have never witnessed” (¶181).

Of all the living religions in the world, Christianity and Islám are

the two whose followers cherish in their hearts the aspiration of conquering the hearts of all men and of promoting their Faith to make it the

dominant religion throughout the world. They have an elaborate system

of missionary work in most countries of the third world. This activity

involves, for example, construction of schools and hospitals open only

to those who are ready to convert, grants of free scholarships for advanced studies abroad, distribution of free literature, and the erection of

prayer houses, such as churches and mosques.
75
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

In recent decades, Buddhism has succeeded in winning converts,

particularly in the West; but far from being used to aggressively pursue

activities aimed at a world-unifying system of Buddhism, it remains

merely a gentle philosophy, primarily concerned with mental and moral

self-purification. It appears to me that it is because of the above observation that Shoghi Effendi confines himself to comparing the Bahá’í

system of world solidarity only to the religious organizations we find in

Christianity and Islám.

In comparing the Administrative Order of the Faith to systems of

administration established by Christianity and Islám, Shoghi Effendi, in

his letter of March 1930 to the friends throughout the West, invites them

to consider the following questions:

Where and how does this Order established by Bahá’u’lláh,

which to outward seeming is but a replica of the institutions established in Christianity and Islám, differ from them? Are not the

twin institutions of the House of Justice and of the Guardianship,

the institution of the Hands of the Cause of God, the institution of

the national and local Assemblies, the institution of the

Mash riqu’l-Adh kár, but different names for the institutions of the

Papacy and the Caliphate, with all their attending ecclesiastical

orders which the Christians and Moslems uphold and advocate?

What can possibly be the agency that can safeguard these Bahá’í

institutions, so strikingly resemblant, in some of their features, to

those which have been reared by the Fathers of the Church and

the Apostles of Mu ammad, from witnessing the deterioration in

character, the breach of unity, and the extinction of influence,

which have befallen all organized religious hierarchies? Why

should they not eventually suffer the self-same fate that has overtaken the institutions which the successors of Christ and

Mu ammad have reared? ( World Order 18-19)

Turning his incisive mind on the weaknesses of the Christian Dispensation, Shoghi Effendi wrote the following:

None, I feel, will question the fact that the fundamental reason

why the unity of the Church of Christ was irretrievably shattered,

and its influence was in the course of time undermined, was that

76
T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

the Edifice which the Fathers of the Church reared after the passing of His First Apostle was an Edifice that rested in nowise upon

the explicit directions of Christ Himself. The authority and features of their administration were wholly inferred, and indirectly

derived, with more or less justification, from certain vague and

fragmentary references which they found scattered amongst His

utterances as recorded in the Gospel. Not one of the sacraments of

the Church; not one of the rites and ceremonies which the Christian Fathers have elaborately devised and ostentatiously observed;

not one of the elements of the severe discipline they rigorously

imposed upon the primitive Christians; none of these reposed on

the direct authority of Christ, or emanated from His specific utterances. Not one of these did Christ conceive, none did He specifically invest with sufficient authority to either interpret His

Word, or to add to what He had not specifically enjoined. ( World

Order 20)

Commenting on the inherent faults in the administration of the

Mu ammadan Dispensation, Shoghi Effendi wrote the following:

In the Mu ammadan Revelation… although His Faith as compared with that of Christ was, so far as the administration of His

Dispensation is concerned, more complete and more specific in

its provisions, yet in the matter of succession, it gave no written,

no binding and conclusive instructions to those whose mission

was to propagate His Cause. For the text of the Qur’án, the ordinances of which regarding prayer, fasting, marriage, divorce, inheritance, pilgrimage, and the like, have after the revolution of

thirteen hundred years remained intact and operative, gives no

definite guidance regarding the Law of Succession, the source of

all the dissensions, the controversies, and schisms which have

dismembered and discredited Islám. ( World Order 21)

Summarizing his thoughts on the subject, the Guardian wrote the

following:

The Administrative Order… it should be noted, is, by virtue of its

origin and character, unique in the annals of the world’s religious

77
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

systems. No Prophet before Bahá’u’lláh, it can be confidently asserted… has established, authoritatively and in writing, anything

comparable to the Administrative Order which the authorized Interpreter of Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings has instituted, an Order

which, by virtue of the administrative principles which its Author

has formulated, the institutions He has established, and the right

of interpretation with which He has invested its Guardian, must

and will, in a manner unparalleled in any previous religion, safeguard from schism the Faith from which it has sprung. ( God

Passes By 326)

These words of Shoghi Effendi are weapons and tools with which

we can proclaim the Cause and defend its interests. He further states:

…unlike all the Dispensations of the past, the apostles of

Bahá’u’lláh in every land, wherever they labor and toil, have before them in clear, in unequivocal and emphatic language, all the

laws, the regulations, the principles, the institutions, the guidance,

they require for the prosecution and consummation of their task.

Both in the administrative provisions of the Bahá’í Dispensation,

and in the matter of succession, as embodied in the twin institutions of the House of Justice and of the Guardianship, the followers of Bahá’u’lláh can summon to their aid such irrefutable evidences of Divine Guidance that none can resist, that none can belittle or ignore. Therein lies the distinguishing feature of the

Bahá’í Revelation. Therein lies the strength of the unity of the

Faith, of the validity of a Revelation that claims not to destroy or

belittle previous Revelations, but to connect, unify, and fulfil

them. ( World Order 21-2)

The Báb expounded a fundamental truth in His Persian Bayán when He

wrote, “The path to guidance is one of love and compassion, not of

force and coercion. This hath been God’s method in the past, and shall

continue to be in the future!” ( Selections from the Writings of the Báb

77).

Unfortunately, in the history of past religions, we have seen all

forms of coercion used by religious leaders and by rulers who were influenced by them. The main reason is that no specific Covenant, no au78

T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

thoritative central authority existed to keep the faithful on the straight

path.

Another result of the absence of a documented Covenant in previous

Dispensations was that religious leaders resorted to producing and promoting individual interpretations. Quite often, such interpretations were

contradictory and led to sectarianism, religious conflict, and even warfare within the ranks of its own religion.

The distinctive feature of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation is His “heritage”

to us, “His heirs”, that is, His Covenant. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Mystery of

God, is its Centre, and from it have issued forth two subordinate agencies, the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. These two

entities, while orbiting and revolving around the Centre of the Covenant,

receive their inspiration directly from Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb, as

clearly stipulated in the Master’s Will and Testament.

We can conclude perhaps by saying that God’s “Revelation” (va y)

is like heaven and is represented by the appearance of the Twin Manifestations, or Suns, of this Dispensation, the central one being

Bahá’u’lláh. Every heaven has an earth. The earth of God’s Revelation

is His world of “creation”, or the community of its supporters and followers.

Between the two worlds of “Revelation” and “Creation” is the world

of “Inspiration” (Ilhám). In this Dispensation, “Inspiration” is represented first and foremost by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the “Moon” of God’s Holy

Dispensation and the Being “round Whom all names revolve” ( World

Order 134).

The satellites that revolve round the “Moon” are the Guardianship

and the Universal House of Justice. These two entities, while orbiting

the Moon, receive their inspiration, as I noted, directly from Bahá’u’lláh

and the Báb, as attested by the Master’s Will and Testament. We could,

in the end, give ourselves the courage to infer from the above that the

intermediate world of “inspiration”, which is between heaven and earth,

is the world of “what lieth between them”, repeatedly referred to in the

Writings of the Báb.

We should turn our thoughts now to secular forms of government

currently established in the world, showing the similarities and dissimilarities which exist between them and the Bahá’í Administrative Order.

Fortunately, Shoghi Effendi has written extensively on this subject. He

refers in his “Dispensation” to the three standard types of government

79
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

identified by Aristotle, namely, democracy, aristocracy, and autocracy.

He then goes on to show where wholesome elements of these forms of

government have been preserved and where their inherent defects have

been eliminated.
He writes,

This new-born Administrative Order incorporates within its structure certain elements which are to be found in each of the three

recognized forms of secular government, without being in any

sense a mere replica of any one of them, and without introducing

within its machinery any of the objectionable features which they

inherently possess. It blends and harmonizes, as no government

fashioned by mortal hands has as yet accomplished, the salutary

truths which each of these systems undoubtedly contains without

vitiating the integrity of those God-given verities on which it is

ultimately founded. ( World Order 152-3)

Shoghi Effendi, commenting on the unique character of the Administrative Order, has given us this further insight:

Neither in theory nor in practice can the Administrative Order of

the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh be said to conform to any type of democratic government, to any system of autocracy, [or] to any purely

aristocratic order… The hereditary authority which the Guardian

of the Administrative Order is called upon to exercise, and the

right of the interpretation of the Holy Writ solely conferred upon

him; the powers and prerogatives of the Universal House of Justice, possessing the exclusive right to legislate on matters not explicitly revealed in the Most Holy Book; the ordinance exempting

its members from any responsibility to those whom they represent, and from the obligation to conform to their views, convictions or sentiments; the specific provisions requiring the free and

democratic election by the mass of the faithful of the Body that

constitutes the sole legislative organ in the world-wide Bahá’í

community – these are among the features which combine to set

apart the Order identified with the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh from

any of the existing systems of human government. ( God Passes

By 326-7)
80
T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

It would be useful to consider the definitions of the terms to describe the three standard forms of secular government as identified by

Aristotle. “Democracy” is government by the people, of the people, and

for the people. “Aristocracy” is government by a select few, who, by

virtue of their exceptionally high privileges, act independently of the

views and opinions of the people. “Autocracy” is government by one

person or one agency, whose judgement is not subject to the authority or

control of others. Thus, the locus of authority of the three forms of government ranges from all people, to a select few, to one entity.

What remain to be identified are these features of the three forms of

secular government that are regarded as wholesome in character and

which are found in the Administrative Order and those aspects that are

considered deficient and therefore not incorporated in the Bahá’í system.

I recall discussions on this subject during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi and the manner in which students and scholars of the Faith identified these features. “Autocracy”, in its divinely ordained form, was seen

in the institution of the Guardianship. “Aristocracy” was identified with

the institution of the Hands of the Cause of God. “Democracy” was associated with the elected members of the Universal House of Justice.

However, after the passing of Shoghi Effendi and the realization

that the Guardianship was no longer with us as a continuing institution,

and furthermore, when the House of Justice decided that it could not

appoint or make it possible to appoint Hands of the Cause of God, it was

clear that these elements of the Administrative Order, as they existed

during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi, could not be replicated after his

passing.

In other words, just as the rudiments of the Administrative Order as

they existed during the ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá were temporary, likewise, the scheme of Bahá’í Administration as it was operative during the

ministry of Shoghi Effendi could not be duplicated.

This point appeared in even sharper relief when it was noted in

Shoghi Effendi’s “Dispensation” that before introducing his theme on

the differences between the Administrative Order and the three forms of

secular government, he clearly states that his intention is to clarify the

“theory” on which the Administrative Order is based ( World Order

152). Therefore, we all had to look at the basic principles governing the

existing chief institutions of the Administrative Order, in anticipation of

81
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

the time when they will become the nucleus and pattern of the World

Order of Bahá’u’lláh.

For example, Shoghi Effendi clearly points out in the “Dispensation” that the basis on which the Bahá’í Administrative Order has been

structured makes it inclined “to democratic methods in the administration of its affairs” ( World Order 154). However, when one reads the

Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the subject of the range of authority of the Guardian of the Faith, one can easily notice that he was

invested with unchallengeable powers in relation to the Hands of the

Cause, whom he could appoint and dismiss at his own discretion, as

well as the elected members of the House of Justice, who are required

“to show their obedience, submissiveness and subordination unto the

Guardian of the Cause of God, to turn unto him and be lowly before

him” ( Will and Testament 11). According to the Will and Testament, all

the friends are included in this act of obedience; and indeed, as the Will

stipulates, “all the Agh án, the Afnán [and] the Hands of the Cause of

God” should abide by the decisions and guidance of the Guardian of the

Cause (11). The Guardian was further empowered, according to the

terms of the Will, to expel any member of the House of Justice who, in

his estimation, had committed “a sin, injurious to the common weal”

(14). Surely such a scenario characterizes the Bahá’í Administrative

Order as a System heavily inclined not towards democratic practices but

towards autocratic methods in the administration of the Cause.

We should also recall that in his “Dispensation” Shoghi Effendi

states that while ‘Abdu’l-Bahá does not possess the station of

Prophethood, He was endowed with “superhuman knowledge and perfection” ( World Order 134). In the light of this statement, and faced as

we are with the physical absence of a Guardian in the Administrative

Order, could we not venture to assume that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had indeed

envisaged two stages in the development of the Administrative Order

after Him: one, a temporary stage, with the Guardian at its Head and

with the element of autocracy as its dominant characteristic, and the

other to be extended into the future, with the Universal House of Justice

as its Supreme Organ and with the element of democracy as its dominant characteristic?

Let us now contrast the Administrative Order with secular governments. For example, the election of the members of the Universal House

of Justice and of the members of Spiritual Assemblies, both national and

82
T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

local, (although free of nomination and campaigning) is purely democratic in character. Likewise, the method of Bahá’í consultation (although

far superior in dignity and harmony to what we see in parliamentary

debates in the legislative councils of the world) is yet another democratic feature incorporated in the Bahá’í administrative system. A third

democratic feature is the degree of autonomy provided to elected councils on the national and local levels. This is an element of decentralization in administrative affairs which is increasingly being applied and

appreciated in many democratic countries of the world. The obvious

dissimilarity is that under the Bahá’í system, the elected are not responsible to those who elect them. A moral and spiritual responsibility is

attached to the work of elected members, and, therefore, their conscientious responsibility is to God and to God alone, as ordained and stressed

in the teachings of our Faith.

As to aristocracy, a trace of similarity is the existence of the institution of the Counsellors on the international and continental levels as

well as the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants for circumscribed geographical areas. However, these appointed individuals do not

possess decision-making authority, and their function, in the final analysis, is purely advisory in nature, unlike an aristocratic system, which

invests small and select groups with special powers and privileges. A

clear similarity is in the fact that decision-making authority in the Administrative Order lies with the elected few – namely, members of Local

and National Assemblies and members of the Supreme Body – all of

whom are not responsible to their respective electorates. However, its

dissimilarity is that the elected members of these councils are not a class

of nobility, nor do they assume their positions on the basis of birth or

inheritance. In the Administrative Order, they are in their position of

authority because of the democratic procedure of Bahá’í elections.

Finally, as to autocracy, the similarity, as the Constitution of the

Universal House of Justice clearly stipulates, is that

The provenance, the authority, the duties, the sphere of action of

the Universal House of Justice all derive from the revealed Word

of Bahá’u’lláh which, together with the interpretations and expositions of the Centre of the Covenant and of the Guardian of the

Cause – who, after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, is the sole authority in the interpretation of Bahá’í Scripture – constitute the binding terms of

83
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

reference of the Universal House of Justice and are its bedrock

foundation. The authority of these Texts is absolute and immutable until such time as Almighty God shall reveal His new Manifestation to Whom will belong all authority and power. ( Constitution 4)

Thus, the autocratic character of the Administrative Order is the divine

authority vested in the Holy Writ of the Author of the Faith and the two

authorized interpreters of His revealed Word. The dissimilarity lies in

the fact that there is an unlimited field of legislation in subsidiary matters in which to supplement the laws revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, to apply

these laws and ordinances universally, and to legislate on matters not

explicitly covered by the Sacred Text and its authoritative interpretation.

These responsibilities are discharged by the Universal House of Justice,

which is the Supreme Legislature of the Bahá’í World Commonwealth.

I would like to end this section with the categorical assurance given

by the Guardian of our Faith, looking into the future, as the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh expands and develops to meet the challenges

of an ever-evolving, ever-advancing civilization. Shoghi Effendi writes,

The admitted evils inherent in each of these systems being rigidly

and permanently excluded, this unique Order, however long it

may endure and however extensive its ramifications, cannot ever

degenerate into any form of despotism, of oligarchy, or of demagogy which must sooner or later corrupt the machinery of all

man-made and essentially defective political institutions. ( World

Order 154)

The three words “despotism”, “oligarchy”, and “demagogy” need

some clarification. Despotism means dictatorship or aggressive governance by a tyrant ruler. Oligarchy means control of a government by a

small clique of selfish and corrupt rulers. Demagogy means government

by self-seeking elected political leaders who make false promises to the

electorate and feed on the prejudices and ignorance of the people.

Shoghi Effendi, the inspired interpreter of our teachings, is giving us

the assurance that none of the evils of these harmful forms of government will ever assail and corrupt the divinely ordained and divinely

propelled Administrative Order, arrest its maturation into the World Or84

T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

der, or impede its final fruition into the Bahá’í Commonwealth of the

future.

There is a wonderful letter from the beloved Guardian, written in

Persian in 1929, to the Bahá’ís of Iran. Some heartbreaking persecutions

had taken place in the Cradle of the Faith, and, in this letter, Shoghi Effendi calls on the Persian friends to be patient and to continue to cling to

the hem of the robe of God’s Holy Faith. God is watchful, and His invisible hand is at work. At the appointed time, fair-minded academics,

although they will not be Bahá’ís, will arise to defend the Cause and

claim for the believers their legitimate rights.

Shoghi Effendi has taught us how to present the Faith and the distinctive features of its World Order to the outside world. Bahá’í youth,

as serious students and scholars of the Faith, should be able to explain to

open-minded professors and earnestly seeking fellow students in a wise

way the excellence and perfection of the Bahá’í system of World Order,

without ever giving the impression that they are seeking to win over

such individuals to the Faith. For it will be from among such erudite,

impartial, and unbiased academics and intellectuals that courageous

leaders of thought will arise and be moved to objectively and fairly defend the Faith and vindicate its right to exist in Iran as well as in the

countries where its followers are persecuted.

The world is now passing through a period of godlessness. It will

not be long before it gradually turns its back to materialism and acknowledges its need for religion. Of course, as Bahá’ís, we have a major

role to play in bringing about this awareness – an awareness which will

surely and eventually lead to the spiritualization of the masses and, ultimately, to a wholehearted acceptance of the validity and reality of the

Faith of the Blessed Beauty. What I am outlining is based on my understanding of the teachings on this subject.

As Bahá’í youth, we should prepare ourselves for these exciting developments and beg Bahá’u’lláh to accept us and use us as instruments

for the realization of His purpose. If we feel unworthy, it does not matter. In fact, that is how it must be. Let us place our trust in Him and face

the future with confidence and optimism.
85
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER
Questions related:

Q. As Bahá’ís, we are asked to collaborate with associations and

governments that are in harmony with the Bahá’í vision. How can

we do this without being associated with political parties and being

corrupted by their policies?

A. Our teachings clearly indicate that we should associate with all

strata of society, and this includes religious leaders, political figures,

leaders of thought, and the rank and file of society. If we have any

doubt about political parties, we should consult our National Spiritual

Assembly.

The important thing is to have the courage and determination to mix

with people at all levels. God will show us those who are receptive. He

will either send them to us or guide us to them.

Q. What is the meaning of “a springtime which autumn will never

overtake” and “a day which will never be followed by night”?

A. As I understand it, these concepts refer to the Covenant.

Bahá’u’lláh is giving us the assurance that His Faith will not be subjected to sectarianism and divisions within the community, as has occurred in other systems. It will remain united throughout the Dispensation. Indeed, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has gone so far as to state that “the power

of the Covenant is the pivot of the oneness of mankind” ( God Passes

By 238).

Q. In the fifth Glad Tidings, Bahá’u’lláh refers to a republican form

of government which profits the people, but at the same time He

praises the majesty of kingship. He finally says that the two forms

should be combined into one. What does this mean?

A. In the Tablet of the World, Bahá’u’lláh says, “The system of government which the British people have adopted in London appeareth to

be good, for it is adorned with the light of both kingship and of the consultation of the people” ( Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh 93). I think Bahá’u’lláh

is referring to constitutional monarchy as being an acceptable national

system of government.
86
T HE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

Q. How can we explain to non-Bahá’ís the role and function of our

Supreme Body?

A. I suggest we avoid using the term “infallibility” too loosely when we

are introducing the Faith to enquirers. We should refer to the Universal

House of Justice as the supreme elected council of the Bahá’í community, it being also the Head of the Faith.

87
T HE R OLE OF THE A MERICAN B AHÁ ’ Í C OMMUNITY

T HE R OLE OF THE A MERICAN B AHÁ ’ Í C OMMUNITY IN THE E MERGENCE

OF THE W ORLD O RDER OF B AHÁ ’ U ’ LLÁH

When discussing the role of the West or of America in helping to shape

the fortunes of the Faith, it is important to make distinctions based on

exact geographical terms used in the Writings. For example, at times it

is simply “the West”. At other times it is “the Americas”, that is, the

continent of America or the western hemisphere. There is also reference

to “North America”, implying the United States and Canada. And finally, the word “America” is used on its own quite often to mean the

United States of America.

At the very outset of His mission, the Báb revealed His first book,

the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá; and in it He addresses “the peoples of the West”

and calls on them to “issue forth” from their “cities” to aid God and to

“become as brethren” in His “one and indivisible religion” ( God Passes

By 253).

As far as we can determine, the first reference from the Pen of

Bahá’u’lláh to the role that is to be played by the republics of the western hemisphere appears in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas when He addresses the

“Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein”. This

passage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas consists of one whole paragraph and has

seven sentences. The entire passage is as follows:

Hearken ye, O Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein, unto that which the Dove is warbling on the

Branch of Eternity: “There is none other God but Me, the EverAbiding, the Forgiving, the All-Bountiful.” Adorn ye the temple

of dominion with the ornament of justice and of the fear of God,

and its head with the crown of the remembrance of your Lord, the

Creator of the heavens. Thus counselleth you He Who is the Dayspring of Names, as bidden by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the

All-Wise. The Promised One hath appeared in this glorified Station, whereat all beings, both seen and unseen, have rejoiced.

Take ye advantage of the Day of God. Verily, to meet Him is better for you than all that whereon the sun shineth, could ye but

know it. O concourse of rulers! Give ear unto that which hath

been raised from the Dayspring of Grandeur: “Verily, there is

89
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

none other God but Me, the Lord of Utterance, the All-Knowing.”

Bind ye the broken with the hands of justice, and crush the oppressor who flourisheth with the rod of the commandments of

your Lord, the Ordainer, the All-Wise. (¶88)

The first five sentences, which end with the words “could ye but

know it”, deal with justice, the fear of God, the need to remember Him,

and the appearance of the Promised One . When I was in Persia and attended classes on the Aqdas conducted by scholars of the Faith, the explanation given to us of this passage was that the first five sentences

were addressed to the rulers of the American continent, but that the last

two sentences, introduced by the words “O concourse of rulers”, referred to all rulers throughout the planet.

It was in June 1947 that Shoghi Effendi, in a letter addressed to the

American Bahá’í community, gave for the first time his translation of

this section of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. It was then that we realized that

Shoghi Effendi’s understanding was different from that of our scholars,

as his translation made the “rulers of America” and the “concourse of

rulers” one and the same group of leaders.

I repeat that the importance of this translation of the Guardian is in

his interpretation that the instruction incorporated in the last two sentences is not an assignment to all rulers throughout the planet but is an

expression of God’s Will giving a mission specifically to the rulers

throughout the western hemisphere. I will repeat the last two sentences

to show how important they are, not only from a Bahá’í point of view

but also in terms of the political situation on the world scene:

O concourse of rulers! Give ear unto that which hath been raised

from the Dayspring of Grandeur: “Verily, there is none other God

but Me, the Lord of Utterance, the All-Knowing.” Bind ye the

broken with the hands of justice, and crush the oppressor who

flourisheth with the rod of the commandments of your Lord, the

Ordainer, the All-Wise. (¶88).

As you see, the rulers of the western hemisphere are commissioned

by Bahá’u’lláh to “bind the broken” and “crush the oppressor”. “The

broken”, in my view, is primarily a reference to the broken bones of

Bahá’í communities living under oppressive and tyrannical regimes in

90
T HE R OLE OF THE A MERICAN B AHÁ ’ Í C OMMUNITY

the East, and more particularly in Iran. This word, of course, also refers

in a general way to all downtrodden and persecuted minority groups

throughout the world.

The mission given by Bahá’u’lláh does not end there, as the rulers

of the Americas are further commissioned to “ crush the oppressor who

flourisheth”. This calls to mind a Hidden Word of Bahá’u’lláh: “O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH! Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I

have pledged Myself not to forgive any man’s injustice. This is My

covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and

sealed with My seal” (Hidden Words, Persian, no. 64). While in the first

instance, this is a specific obligation that Bahá’u’lláh has placed directly

on the shoulders of the rulers holding the reins of power and authority in

the western hemisphere, this does not mean that rulers in other parts of

the world can ignore acts of injustice. It merely indicates that the rulers

in the western hemisphere are expected by the Almighty to be at the

forefront of those who succour the oppressed, stay the hand of the oppressors, and inflict punishment on them.

It is interesting that the tone of Bahá’u’lláh’s address to the rulers of

the American continent, although one of authority and command, is different from the tone of His Tablets to the other rulers or kings of the

world. In these Tablets one notes expressions of rebuke and censure and

at times even of warnings of divine chastisement.

Another momentous utterance of Bahá’u’lláh is His Prophecy about

the sovereignty which His Revelation will achieve through those who

will champion His Faith in the West. He says, “In the East the light of

His Revelation hath broken; in the West have appeared the signs of His

dominion. Ponder this in your hearts, O people, and be not of those who

have turned a deaf ear to the admonitions of Him Who is the Almighty,

the All-Praised” ( World Order 78).

Bahá’u’lláh is also reported to have said, “Had this Cause been revealed in the West… it would have become evident how the people of

the Occident would have embraced our Cause” ( God Passes By 253).

Commenting on the same theme, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written,

From the beginning of time until the present day… the light of

Divine Revelation hath risen in the East and shed its radiance

upon the West. The illumination thus shed hath, however, acquired in the West an extraordinary brilliancy. Consider the Faith

91
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

proclaimed by Jesus. Though it first appeared in the East, yet not

until its light had been shed upon the West did the full measure of

its potentialities become manifest. The day is approaching…

when ye shall witness how, through the splendor of the Faith of

Bahá’u’lláh, the West will have replaced the East, radiating the

light of Divine guidance. ( God Passes By 253-4)

Elaborating on this same subject, Shoghi Effendi describes Europe

as “the scene of the greatest exploits of the followers of Jesus Christ”

and, likewise, where “some of the most resplendent victories which ushered in the Golden Age of Islám” were won ( Citadel of Faith 27).

It should be pointed out here that Christianity and Islám certainly

had covenants; but, as we saw in Shoghi Effendi’s comments, these

covenants were not as firm and unchallengeable as the one we find in

the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. It is worth noting, therefore, that St Paul, who

had strained and unpleasant relations with St Peter, the rightful Successor, was able to play a major role in the spread of the Faith of Christ on

European soil. Likewise, in Islám, it was the Sunní branch of that Faith

– not the Sh í’ih sect, which clung to the legitimate Law of Succession –

that was able to usher in the Golden Age of Islám on the European continent. Thus we see that, with covenants in former dispensations being

vague and fluid, God seems to have permitted those who had disavowed

their provisions and even flouted them – like St Paul in Christianity and

the Sunní leaders in Islám – to lead the way for a prescribed period to

exploits and victories under the banner of God’s Holy Cause.

We must recall that the West was not opened to the light of the

Faith during the Ministry of Bahá’u’lláh. One year after His Ascension in September 1893 we see a landmark in the history of the Faith

in the western hemisphere when, for the first time, the Faith was publicly mentioned at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago.

Soon after this event, the first wave of new believers came under the

shadow of the Cause of God; and in December 1898 the first group of

American pilgrims visited the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh and were received as guests in the Home of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. No doubt one of the

principal objectives of the Master’s ministry was to visit North America to encourage and deepen the followers of His Father’s Faith and to

lay the cornerstone of a House of Worship, which became the Mother

Temple of the West.
92
T HE R OLE OF THE A MERICAN B AHÁ ’ Í C OMMUNITY

During the course of the First World War, between 1916 and 1917,

and under the influence of and inspired by the address of Bahá’u’lláh to

the rulers of the Americas, as attested by Shoghi Effendi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

revealed the Tablets of the Divine Plan, addressed to the two Bahá’í

communities of the United States and Canada. Shoghi Effendi identified

these Tablets as the charter for the promulgation of the Faith throughout

the world (Messages to the Bahá’í World 84). These Tablets invest the

American Bahá’í community with what Shoghi Effendi referred to as a

unique spiritual primacy ( World Order 77).

The Words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about the American Bahá’í community

and its future achievements are indeed most impressive:

Behold the portals which Bahá’u’lláh hath opened before you!

Consider how exalted and lofty is the station you are destined to

attain; how unique the favors with which you have been endowed… The full measure of your success… is as yet unrevealed,

its significance still unapprehended… The range of your future

achievements… still remains undisclosed… The moment this Divine Message is carried forward by the American believers from

the shores of America and is propagated through the continents of

Europe, of Asia, of Africa and of Australasia, and as far as the islands of the Pacific, this community will find itself securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion. Then will

all the peoples of the world witness that this community is spiritually illumined and divinely guided. Then will the whole earth

resound with the praises of its majesty and greatness. ( World Order 77-8)

Such is its glorious destiny.

During the latter period of the ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, He could

see the first fruits of the exploits achieved by the American Bahá’í

community, such accomplishments as the establishment of Chicago’s

first House of Spirituality, the formation of the Bahá’í Publishing Society, the founding of the Green Acre Fellowship, the publication of The

Star of the West , the incorporation of the Bahá’í Temple Unity subsequent to the holding of the first National Bahá’í Convention, and the

formation of the Executive Committee of the Mash riqu’l-Adh kár. These

developments were all achievements in the administrative field of

93
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

Bahá’í service. On the teaching front, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was able to witness

members of the American Bahá’í community serve as pioneers or travelling teachers to Alaska, as well as to Europe, France, Great Britain,

and Germany, and in addition to the Baltic States, the Balkan Peninsula,

and Scandinavia. And He rejoiced as the teaching work extended beyond the European continent to the West Indies, Latin America, South

Africa, China, Japan, India, Tahiti, the Australian continent, and as far

as Tasmania and New Zealand. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá passed away, the

light of the Faith of His Father had already reached 35 countries of the

world. These countries were opened partly by friends from the East but

were opened for the most part by believers from the United States.

With the inception of the Formative Age of the Faith after the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi had to lay down the foundations of

the Administrative Order along the broad lines outlined in ‘Abdu’lBahá’s Will and Testament. He called on Bahá’í communities in the

East and West to establish their Local Spiritual Assemblies on a sound

basis and to establish National Spiritual Assemblies as soon as it was

propitious to do so.

Shoghi Effendi focused his special attention on the Bahá’í communities of the United States and Canada, which at that time constituted

one single home front, giving them specific and essential instructions on

administrative principles governing the work of the Faith. After calling

the American believers “the spiritual descendants of the DawnBreakers”, he praised their dedication to the Cause and encouraged them

to follow in the footsteps of the heroes of an earlier age by becoming

self-sacrificing living martyrs. It was not long after that he called the

American Bahá’í community “the Cradle of the Administrative Order”.

Soon after, Shoghi Effendi explained that God had chosen that

country to be thus distinguished by reason of the patent evils that were

rampant in the lives of its people. The evils he enumerated, and which

would stand in contrast to the virtues and perfections of the builders of

God’s Administrative Order, are as follows: (1) immersion “in a sea of

materialism”, (2) “a prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing

forms of racial prejudice”, and (3) a victim of “political corruption, lawlessness and laxity in moral standards” ( Advent 19).

Before the United States became the Cradle of the Administrative

Order, Persia had been designated the Cradle of the Faith itself. For the

same purpose of contrasting evil with virtue, Shoghi Effendi, looking at

94
T HE R OLE OF THE A MERICAN B AHÁ ’ Í C OMMUNITY

Persia of the nineteenth century, describes the Cradle of the Faith as

“the most backward, the most cowardly, and perverse of peoples” – a

nation that had “sunk to such ignominious depths, and manifested so

great a perversity, as to find no parallel among its contemporaries” ( Advent 10). From out of such a population, the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh

was able to raise up heroes, martyrs, and saints who will always be the

pride and glory of this Dispensation.

For over 16 years, Shoghi Effendi did not cease to give general and

detailed guidance to the American National Spiritual Assembly to enable it to erect a perfect structure, as called for in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will

and Testament. This document, as we saw in a previous section, was

named by Shoghi Effendi as the Charter of the future world civilization.

The document was already known by the more modest title of “Charter

for the Establishment of the Administrative Order”, since the Administrative Order would lead to the World Order, which in turn would ultimately give birth to the world Bahá’í civilization.

These 16 years were difficult years for Shoghi Effendi. Covenantbreakers in the West, like Ahmad Sohrab, attacked him for concentrating on administrative matters and accused him of ignoring the provisions of the Tablets of the Divine Plan. They could not see nor appreciate what Shoghi Effendi was doing. He was patiently building up the

Administrative Order and its institutions in order to use them as instruments for the systematic implementation of the Master’s vision. He had

to explain to the friends that the Administrative Order was not an innovation being imposed on the Bahá’ís of the world, but that, as soon as it

acquired a reasonable degree of efficiency, its agencies would be used to

advance the primary purpose for which they were intended and ordained

in the Writings.

After these 16 years, Shoghi Effendi told the American believers

that they were now ready to launch the first stage of the implementation

of the other charter created by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and described by Shoghi

Effendi as the charter for the promulgation of the Faith throughout the

world, namely, the Tablets of the Divine Plan. This first stage was the

first Seven Year Plan of the North American Bahá’í community. The

chief objectives of this Plan, which spanned from 1937 to 1944, were

(1) the completion of the exterior of the Temple in Wilmette, (2) the

formation of a Spiritual Assembly in each state and province of North

95
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

America and in Alaska, and (3) the establishment of a centre in each

republic of Latin America and the Caribbean.

This plan was the first organized campaign of any Bahá’í community for the expansion and consolidation of the Faith in a given geographical area. It was indeed, at the same time, as I have just said, the

first systematic teaching plan of the American believers, under the mandate of the Tablets of the Divine Plan.

A recent compilation entitled This Decisive Hour contains the messages of Shoghi Effendi to the North American Bahá’ís from 1932 to

1946. Half of the book, over 80 pages, contains messages that Shoghi

Effendi sent to the North American National Spiritual Assembly during

the period of its first Seven Year Plan. He guided their steps in the fulfilment of their goals, encouraging them to plod on despite their small

numerical strength and the difficulties and anxieties they were encountering, praising them for their devotion, and applauding them for their

dedication, loyalty, steadfastness, and the self-sacrifice they had accepted in the path of their love for the Blessed Beauty.

This first historic teaching plan of the Bahá’í world was concluded

th

in 1944 on the eve of the 100 Anniversary of the Declaration of the

Báb in Sh íraz, which coincided with the opening of the second century

of the Bahá’í Era. As Shoghi Effendi looked at the first 23 years of the

Formative Age of the Faith, he decided that the first epoch of that Age

had come to an end. The American Bahá’í community had led the

Bahá’í world in laying the foundation of the Administrative Order and

had used the agencies of that Order to initiate the first teaching and consolidation plan in the history of the Faith. Their victories were in the

administrative as well as the teaching fields of Bahá’í service. Shoghi

Effendi was pleased with them and proud of them and was offering their

institutions and teaching plans as models for the entire Bahá’í world to

emulate. The American believers had truly won the palm of victory.

The Bahá’í world was now ready to enter the second epoch of its

Formative Age. This second epoch witnessed the launching of the second Seven Year Plan of the American Bahá’ís, which covered the period

from 1946 to 1953. At the same time, Shoghi Effendi called on all other

National Assemblies to launch teaching plans, depending on their special national circumstances and benefiting from the experiences of the

American Bahá’í community.
96
T HE R OLE OF THE A MERICAN B AHÁ ’ Í C OMMUNITY

It would be useful to share with you some thoughts on the subject of

epochs as found in the writings of Shoghi Effendi. He visualized and

projected two series, or lines, of epochs: one related to the evolution of

the Formative Age, and the other to the prosecution of the provisions of

the Tablets of the Divine Plan.

As to the Formative Age, its first epoch began in 1921 and ended in

1944. Shoghi Effendi later wrote that the second epoch would end in

1963, with the end of the Ten Year Plan. Under the guidance of the

Universal House of Justice, two more epochs have elapsed, and we are

now passing through the fifth epoch of the Formative Age.

Regarding the second line, namely, the implementation of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, Shoghi Effendi pointed out that its first epoch

began in 1937, with the inception of America’s first Seven Year Plan,

and would end in 1963, with the termination of his Ten Year Plan. We

are now in the second epoch of the Tablets of the Divine Plan, and the

Universal House of Justice will determine when this second epoch will

end.

Thus, Shoghi Effendi gradually prepared the entire Bahá’í world for

the Great Jubilee of 1953, when he announced the 27 objectives of his

world-embracing, world-shaking Ten Year Crusade. In this Ten Year

Plan, Shoghi Effendi acknowledged that he had given the lion’s share of

its goals to the American Bahá’í community.

During his 36 years as Guardian of the Faith, he praised the American Baha’i community in innumerable messages in such terms as these:

x the envied custodians of a Divine Plan ( Citadel of Faith 120)

x the principal builders and defenders of a mighty Order (120)

x the recognized champions of an unspeakably glorious and precious Faith (120)

x a community invested with a spiritual primacy (34)

x a richly endowed and spiritually blessed community (42)

x the executors of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Mandate (109)

x the great-minded, stout-hearted, high-spirited American Bahá’í

community (66).
97
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

x the torchbearers of a world-girdling civilization (31)

x a dearly loved, richly endowed, unflinchingly resolute community (49)

x the privileged occupants and stout-hearted defenders of the

foremost citadel of the Faith (83).

x the valorous American Bahá’í Community ( Messages to the

Bahá’í World 35).

x this repeatedly blessed… community ( This Decisive Hour

¶127.1).

x the standard-bearers of the all-conquering army of the Lord of

Hosts ( Citadel of Faith 109)

There is in the prophecies about the future contributions of the West

and, more particularly, of the American believers a special emphasis on

the emancipation and triumph of the Cause of God in the land of its

birth. Shoghi Effendi wrote that the “promised redemption” of the Persian Bahá’í community, “as foretold by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, must first be

made manifest through the efforts of their brethren” in America ( Bahá’í

Administration 117). He also quoted the following statement by the

Master:

Erelong will your brethren from Europe and America journey to

Persia. There they will promote to an unprecedented degree the

interests of art and industry. There they will rear the institutions

of true civilization, promote the development of husbandry and

trade, and assist in the spread of education… Assuredly they will

come; assuredly they will contribute in making of the land of Irán

the envy and the admiration of the peoples and nations of the

world. (173)

Looking beyond Iran, Shoghi Effendi recalled the fond hope of ‘Abdu’lBahá that the United States would achieve universal recognition of the

Faith worldwide (88).

Referring to the western hemisphere, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written, “The

continent of America… is in the eyes of the one true God the land

98
T HE R OLE OF THE A MERICAN B AHÁ ’ Í C OMMUNITY

wherein the splendors of His light shall be revealed, where the mysteries

of His Faith shall be unveiled, where the righteous will abide and the free

assemble” (World Order 75). He also wrote, “The American continent

gives signs and evidences of very great advancement. Its future is even

more promising, for its influence and illumination are far-reaching. It will

lead all nations spiritually” (76). Note that this spiritual leadership refers

not only to the United States but to the people of the entire continent.

Regarding the American nation specifically, we read the following

from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “May this American democracy… be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the

first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the ‘Most Great Peace’” ( World Order 75). Shoghi

Effendi has drawn our attention more than once to the close resemblance of the events which led to the welding of the American states

into a single federation to what is transpiring on the world scene in accordance with God’s Major Plan in order to coalesce the scattered fragments into which this divided world has fallen into “one single unit,

solid and indivisible, able to execute His design for the children of men”

( Promised Day Is Come ¶203).

‘Abdu’l-Bahá went so far as to advise the following to a high official serving the federal government of the United States of America who

had questioned Him as to the best manner in which he could promote

the interests of his government and people: “You can best serve your

country… if you strive, in your capacity as a citizen of the world, to assist in the eventual application of the principle of federalism underlying

the government of your own country to the relationships now existing

between the peoples and nations of the world” ( World Order 37).

This statement by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá carries with it two fundamental

points: (1) that the structure of federalism as conceived and practiced in

the United States of America, with autonomy given to the federated States

of the country, is, in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s estimation, an acceptable system of

organization for the world, and (2) that the best way to promote the interests of the part is for the part to uphold the welfare of the whole.

We find this second point elaborated on more fully by Shoghi Effendi in the following statement:

…the followers of the Bahá’í Faith… viewing mankind as one

entity, and profoundly attached to its vital interests, will not hesi99

T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

tate to subordinate every particular interest, be it personal, regional or national, to the overriding interests of the generality of

mankind, knowing full well that in a world of interdependent

peoples and nations the advantage of the part is best to be reached

by the advantage of the whole, and that no lasting result can be

achieved by any of the component parts if the general interests of

the entity itself are neglected… ( Call to the Nations xvii-xviii).

It is undoubtedly in the light of this principle of the inevitable interdependence of states and nations that Shoghi Effendi wrote the following about the destiny of America:

The world is moving on. Its events are unfolding ominously and

with bewildering rapidity. The whirlwind of its passions is swift

and alarmingly violent. The New World is being insensibly drawn

into its vortex… The Great Republic of the West finds itself particularly and increasingly involved… The world is contracting

into a neighborhood. America, willingly or unwillingly, must face

and grapple with this new situation. For purposes of national security, let alone any humanitarian motive, she must assume the

obligations imposed by this newly created neighborhood. Paradoxical as it may seem, her only hope of extricating herself from

the perils gathering around her is to become entangled in that

very web of international association which the Hand of an inscrutable Providence is weaving. ( Advent 87-90).

Although these words of the beloved Guardian were written in December 1938, 66 years ago, they seem as if they could have been written last

week. There is no doubt that they are prophetic in their essence.

To summarize, we see that Bahá’u’lláh has destined the American

Bahá’í community not only to be the Cradle of the Administrative Order

but also to usher in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh and indeed the

Golden Age of the Faith ( Advent 20). In other words, it is to become the

principal instrument destined to establish an entity that will grow into

the Bahá’í Commonwealth of the future.

Looking into the immediate and distant future of this well-loved, divinely chosen, and highly promising community, I can do no better than

to quote these words of the beloved Guardian to conclude this section:

100
T HE R OLE OF THE A MERICAN B AHÁ ’ Í C OMMUNITY

Who knows but that [the years ahead] may not be pregnant with

events of unimaginable magnitude, with ordeals more severe than

any that humanity has as yet experienced, with conflicts more

devastating than any which have preceded them. Dangers, however sinister, must, at no time, dim the radiance of their new-born

faith. Strife and confusion, however bewildering, must never befog their vision. Tribulations, however afflictive, must never shat-

ter their resolve. Denunciations, however clamorous, must never

sap their loyalty. Upheavals, however cataclysmic, must never

deflect their course… Far from yielding in their resolve, far from

growing oblivious of their task, they should, at no time, however

much buffeted by circumstances, forget that the synchronization

of such world-shaking crises with the progressive unfoldment and

fruition of their divinely appointed task is itself the work of

Providence, the design of an inscrutable Wisdom, and the purpose

of an all-compelling Will, a Will that directs and controls, in its

own mysterious way, both the fortunes of the Faith and the destinies of men. Such simultaneous processes of rise and of fall, of

integration and of disintegration, of order and chaos, with their

continuous and reciprocal reactions on each other, are but aspects

of a greater Plan, one and indivisible, whose Source is God,

whose author is Bahá’u’lláh, the theater of whose operations is

the entire planet, and whose ultimate objectives are the unity of

the human race and the peace of all mankind. ( Advent 72-3)

Shoghi Effendi gives us his vision of the destiny of America by confidently stating that the nation will

raise its voice in the councils of the nations, itself lay the cornerstone of a universal and enduring peace, proclaim the solidarity,

the unity, and maturity of mankind, and assist in the establishment of the promised reign of righteousness on earth. Then, and

only then, will the American nation, while the community of the

American believers within its heart is consummating its divinely

appointed mission, be able to fulfil the unspeakably glorious destiny ordained for it by the Almighty. ( Advent 90-1)

101
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER
Questions related:

Q. Please clarify the Guardian’s description of the American community as an “envied community”. The word envy has negative

connotations that could be misleading.

A. The word “envy” has a double meaning in English, a negative or pejorative one and a positive one. In its negative sense it means jealousy;

but in its positive sense it means an aspiration to be like another person.

I believe that it is in the latter sense that we should understand the term

“envied community”. In Persian and Arabic we have two different

words for envy: in its positive sense and in its negative sense.

Q. America’s mission according to its own statement is to oust tyranny and free the oppressed. Could this not be done in a way that

would validate international cooperation?

A. I do not wish to go into a commentary on the current international

scene. However, in the future, Shoghi Effendi assures us that the American nation will “raise its voice in the councils of the nations” ( Advent

90-1). To me this implies international collaboration and support.

Q. How can we assure our non-Bahá’í friends that in the future no

country will maintain an army and possess armaments beyond what it

needs for the safeguarding of its own territory, as is happening today?

A. The world we see today is a world in disarray, which is the result of feelings of distrust, competition, and suspicion among nations. This is likened

to the stage of turbulence of the age of adolescence of the human race.

Bahá’u’lláh tells us that we are at the threshold of the maturity of the world,

but we have not yet entered that stage. We are looking at the world with the

glasses of today, but Bahá’u’lláh could see the future. He knew the world

would ripen, as a tree does. God planted this tree, and Bahá’u’lláh, the Supreme Manifestation of God for today, is looking after this tree. His view of

the distant future is optimistic, not pessimistic. The immediate future, He

could see, was dark, and He has said so in His Writings; but the distant future was bright, because He could see the process of an ever-evolving and

ever-advancing civilization – from tribe mentality to city-state values to

nationhood culture and, finally and inevitably, to a sense of world citizenship, leading to world government, world peace, and world civilization.

102

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER :

I TS S PIRIT AND F ORM ( THE R ULERS AND THE L EARNED )

The Formative Age of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh began in November

1921, with the passing of the beloved Master and the reading of His

Will and Testament. For 77 years, that is, from 1844 to 1921, the Faith

of Bahá’u’lláh not only was established in the land of its birth but succeeded in expanding its operation and extending the scope of its activities to 35 countries of the world.

Such a remarkable feat was realized notwithstanding the lack of an

organized and systematic system to coordinate and stimulate the activities of the friends. Despite the persecution, deportation, and martyrdom

of the Báb, followed by the imprisonment, repeated exiles, and close

surveillance of the Author of our Faith and the Centre of His Covenant,

the Cause of God survived these waves of repression thanks to the superhuman knowledge and administrative genius of the Heads of our

Faith.

Through detailed instructions given by the Heads of our Faith to

Letters of the Living, Apostles of Bahá’u’lláh, Disciples of ‘Abdu’lBahá, Hands of the Cause, and other eminent teachers and promoters of

the Faith, not only was the Bahá’í community protected from schism,

but its ramifications continued to expand and develop. Shoghi Effendi

has summarized for us in two of his letters what he describes as “the

faint glimmerings” ( World Order 147) and “the preliminary steps” ( God

Passes By 329) during the Heroic Age of our Faith in anticipation of the

future Administrative Order.
These are his exact words:

In the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh where the institutions of the International and Local Houses of Justice are specifically designated and

formally established; in the institution of the Hands of the Cause

of God which first Bahá’u’lláh and then ‘Abdu’l-Bahá brought

into being; in the institution of both local and national Assemblies

which in their embryonic stage were already functioning in the

days preceding ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s ascension; in the authority with

which the Author of our Faith and the Center of His Covenant

have in their Tablets chosen to confer upon them; in the institu103

T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

tion of the Local Fund which operated according to ‘Abdu’lBahá’s specific injunctions addressed to certain Assemblies in

Persia; in the verses of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the implications of

which clearly anticipate the institution of the Guardianship; in the

explanation which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in one of His Tablets, has given

to, and the emphasis He has placed upon, the hereditary principle

and the law of primogeniture as having been upheld by the

Prophets of the past – in these we can discern the faint glimmerings and discover the earliest intimation of the nature and working of the Administrative Order which the Will of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

was at a later time destined to proclaim and formally establish.

( World Order 147)
The second passage is as follows:

It should be borne in mind… that the preliminary steps aiming at

the disclosure of the scope and working of this Administrative

Order, which was now to be formally established after ‘Abdu’lBahá’s passing, had already been taken by Him, and even by

Bahá’u’lláh in the years preceding His ascension. The appointment by Him of certain outstanding believers in Persia as “Hands

of the Cause”; the initiation of local Assemblies and boards of

consultation by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in leading Bahá’í centers in both

the East and the West; the formation of the Bahá’í Temple Unity

in the United States of America; the establishment of local funds

for the promotion of Bahá’í activities; the purchase of property

dedicated to the Faith and its future institutions; the founding of

publishing societies for the dissemination of Bahá’í literature; the

erection of the first Mash riqu’l-Adh kár of the Bahá’í world; the

construction of the Báb’s mausoleum on Mt. Carmel; the institution of hostels for the accommodation of itinerant teachers and

pilgrims – these may be regarded as the precursors of the institutions which, immediately after the closing of the Heroic Age of

the Faith, were to be permanently and systematically established

throughout the Bahá’í world. ( God Passes By 329-30)

As you see, the second extract has a few repetitious items, but it also

has many additional elements. To illustrate the rudimentary manner in

104

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

which these boards of consultation operated when they were first

formed during the ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, I will give you one instance.

The Local Spiritual Assembly of ihrán, which was formed in 1897,

was the first in the whole country. As the members did not have any bylaws, they decided to have a seal, which was divided into nine slices.

When the Assembly met, and after a decision was taken, the Secretary

had to draft the letter at the meeting and read it to the members. Each

member kept one slice of the seal with him, and when the letter was approved he would part with his slice so that the nine slices could be combined in a special frame to make it possible for the seal to be affixed on

the approved letter. At the end of the meeting, obviously, each member

went home with his own slice in his pocket.

Likewise, the first Local Assembly of the United States was established in Chicago, and having assumed the title of the Chicago House of

Justice it was so addressed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself ( World Order 6).

However, later He advised that the temporary appellation of Local Spiritual Assembly was more appropriate.

Under the guidance of the Guardian, the phoenix of the system of

Bahá’í Administration rose from the ashes of these precursors and forerunners of the institutions of our Faith. Even after the dissemination of

the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, it took Shoghi Effendi many

months, and in some cases several years, to fully explain to the friends

in countries in the East and West where a sufficient number of Bahá’ís

resided the essential requirements for forming their Local Spiritual Assemblies on a sound constitutional basis, to direct them subsequently on

how to elect their delegates on a proportionate basis in order to hold

their National Conventions, and to guide them finally in forming their

National Spiritual Assemblies, which were to serve as pillars supporting

the dome – the dome being the long-anticipated Universal House of Justice.

As I have already indicated, Shoghi Effendi referred in his writings

to the administrative structure that he was guiding the Bahá’ís to erect as

the “Bahá’í Administration”. He used an equivalent term in his Persian

letters to the friends in the East. It was only after 13 years that he used

the rightful title, namely, the Bahá’í Administrative Order, to refer to the

administrative system that had just begun to operate in accordance with

the guidelines he had provided.
105
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

In the early years of Shoghi Effendi’s Guardianship, the administrative structure being erected and becoming visible was clearly modest in

character and scope, and, therefore, the simple descriptive title “Bahá’í

Administration” suited it very well. However, beyond this, it should be

borne in mind that Shoghi Effendi was essentially a modest person. For

example, when he was translating the text of the Will and Testament of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá immediately after the Master’s passing, he used the lower

case for both “guardian” and “branch” when they referred to him. However, 13 years later, when he was quoting from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Will in the

“Dispensation”, he capitalized both “Guardian” and “Branch”. He could

well have sensed that his station as Guardian would have been by then

more readily understood and accepted.

In view of its importance, I would like to quote again the celebrated

passage in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas which formally announces the emergence

of Bahá’u’lláh’s new World Order: “The world’s equilibrium hath been

upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World

Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the

agency of this unique, this wondrous system – the like of which mortal

eyes have never witnessed” (¶181).

Until that day in 1934 when Shoghi Effendi produced his translation

of this key verse in Bahá’u’lláh’s Mother Book, the generality of the

Bahá’ís understood it to mean that the order of the verses of the Aqdas

followed a unique arrangement, different from that of the Bayán or other

holy books of former dispensations. There is a verse in the Bayán which

also refers to the Order of Bahá’u’lláh. This corresponding verse was

also understood along the same lines; in other words, the Aqdas, unlike

the Bayán, would have a unique format of its own.

When I was on pilgrimage in 1957, Shoghi Effendi on one occasion

quoted this verse of the Aqdas. As there was a pause after his recital of

the verse, I took the liberty of mentioning to him how scholars of the

Faith in Iran had totally misunderstood the meaning of this verse and

that in the classes that I had attended this misconception was taught to

the students. And I added, “Where would the Bahá’í world be without

the beloved Guardian?” At this remark, Shoghi Effendi smiled and he

said, “Nicolas understood, but the friends did not”. Mr Nicolas was a

French Orientalist, and although he was not a Bábí nor a Bahá’í, he was

an admirer of the Báb and translated both the Persian and Arabic Bayáns

into French.
106

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

When one reads the letters of the Guardian in both English and Persian during his ministry, it is not difficult to see that he had two main

objectives in mind. As to the first objective, it was clear to him that the

Universal House of Justice, which was the last unit of the edifice of the

Administrative Order, was like the dome, the crown, the apex of the

structure, and he clearly stated this in his writings. This dome could not

hang in the air without the support of columns. These columns were

none other than the National Spiritual Assemblies. Even nine of them

would have been adequate, but indeed the more of them the better.

These National Assemblies, however, had to rest on the firm foundation

of Local Spiritual Assemblies, which themselves had to be formed on a

sound and solid basis. As early as March 1923 he wrote the following:

“With these Assemblies, local as well as national, harmoniously, vigorously, and efficiently functioning throughout the Bahá’í world, the only

means for the establishment of the Supreme House of Justice will have

been secured” ( Bahá’í Administration 41).

The second objective which he focused upon was to use these administrative institutions to promote the teaching work unitedly and systematically. There was no charter for this worldwide activity more appropriate than the Master’s Tablets of the Divine Plan. Therefore, not

only did he want to see each National Assembly engaged in carrying out

the objectives of a teaching and consolidation plan within its jurisdiction, but his ultimate goal was to build bridges among these National

Assemblies.

A slight diversion from the main theme of this discussion would be

helpful. When the British Bahá’ís completed their Six Year Plan in 1951

Shoghi Effendi advised the British National Assembly that he wanted it to

immediately launch a Two Year Plan, aimed primarily at the settlement of

pioneers and the promotion of the teaching work in both East and West

Africa. He also called on the National Spiritual Assemblies of the United

States, Persia, Egypt, and India to collaborate with the British National

Assembly on this project. In his messages inaugurating this two-year

phase of inter-National Spiritual Assembly collaboration, he anticipated a

subsequent stage of collaborative efforts among all National Spiritual Assemblies of the world. This was clearly an anticipation of the launching of

his Ten Year Crusade. He went on to state that such undertakings would

be a prelude to future teaching and pioneering enterprises embarked upon

and conducted by the Universal House of Justice.
107
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

Commenting on its election, the Universal House of Justice wrote

on 9 March 1965 in one of its early letters as follows:

The Guardian had given the Bahá’í world explicit and detailed

plans covering the period until Ri ván 1963, the end of the Ten

Year Crusade. From that point onward, unless the Faith were to

be endangered, further divine guidance was essential. This was

the second pressing reason for the calling of the election of the

Universal House of Justice. The rightness of the time was further

confirmed by references in Shoghi Effendi’s letters to the Ten

Year Crusade’s being followed by other plans under the direction

of the Universal House of Justice. One such reference is the following passage from a letter addressed to the National Spiritual

th

Assembly of the British Isles on 25 February 1951, concerning

its Two Year Plan which immediately preceded the Ten Year

Crusade: “On the success of this enterprise, 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 worldwide 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 co-ordinate and unify

the activities of these National Assemblies. ( Messages from the

Universal House of Justice ¶23.6)

The Guardian sent a similar message to the National Assembly of

the United States. I was in ihrán at the time and was on the National

Assembly of Iran. I remember the consternation this message produced.

It was not because the election of the Universal House of Justice was

drawing so near but because it was that body, which was essentially a

legislative body, and not the Guardian, who was always associated with

teaching plans, that was to launch and direct the future teaching work.

When the Hands of the Cause throughout the world, who had just been

in October 1957 invested by the Guardian with the title of “Chief Stewards

of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth”, convened in the Holy

Land in November of that year after his passing, they soon realized that

108

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

there was no choice for the Bahá’í world but to move on and continue to

operate under the guidance of the goals of the Ten Year Crusade until

1963, when the Universal House of Justice would be formed. Towards the

end of his life, Shoghi Effendi wrote on more than one occasion that on

such a day the prophecy of Daniel about the 1,335 days would be fulfilled,

as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had predicted: “on that day will the faithful rejoice with

exceeding gladness” ( Messages to the Bahá’í World 44).

As I have already indicated, the long-range objective of the Faith of

Bahá’u’lláh is the Most Great Peace, which will give birth to a Bahá’í

civilization the like of which mankind has never witnessed. The Administrative Order, preceded by the Bahá’í Administration, is but a preliminary stage in this process. This Administrative Order has been described

by Shoghi Effendi as the embryonic stage which will lead to the emergence of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. This in turn will develop into

the Bahá’í World Commonwealth, which will produce the Most Great

Peace and subsequently the Bahá’í World Civilization. To sum it up, the

stages through which this process will develop are the Bahá’í Administration, the Bahá’í Administrative Order, Bahá’u’lláh’s new World Order – signalizing the advent of the Golden Age of His Faith, the Bahá’í

World Commonwealth, the Most Great Peace, and, finally, the birth of

the promised new civilization.

On more than one occasion, Shoghi Effendi has explained that there

is a difference between the Administrative Order and the World Order.

The former, as I just stated, is the embryonic stage of the latter, the latter

being the new World Order yet to be born. The lack of pleasing proportions in the various parts of an embryo, in the eyes of an ignorant

viewer, would give the impression of ugliness, incongruity, and imperfection. However, in the eyes of a wise and intelligent observer, the lack

of apparent coherence is only a necessary stage in the development not

of a seemingly monstrous creature but of a highly sensitive, continuously evolving, and organically ripening embryo. When the decreed

moment arrives and it is duly born, it will be a delight to all eyes – a

charming baby with its bewitching smile.

The reason why I am drawing this parallel is to show the difference

between the two outlooks: one is studied, well-informed, and wisely

concluded, the other is unstudied, rash, and impulsive. I am sorry to say

that we hear many remarks of the second category from Bahá’ís around

us who are well meaning but unfortunately have failed to understand the

109
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

processes which are at work. When they see in the operation of our embryonic institutions some awkwardness and clumsiness, they impatiently

voice their criticism, which, though not viciously intended, can quite

often arouse discontent and even be destructive.

Because of the emphasis which ‘Abdu’l-Bahá placed on the spiritual

principles which should govern and distinguish our Bahá’í community

life, many Bahá’ís in the West had the false conception that organization

was foreign to the aims and purposes of the Bahá’í Religion.

Indeed, towards the end of the life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, a pilgrim’s note

attributed to Him was circulated among the friends in the United States

to the effect that the Bahá’í Faith had no organization. When ‘Abdu’lBahá was asked whether such a statement was true, He categorically

denied it. Unfortunately, this pilgrim’s note remained alive, and when

Shoghi Effendi began calling on the friends to lay the foundations of

their Local Assemblies and prepare for the establishment of their National Assemblies, he found that he once again had to explicitly state

that the pilgrim’s note attributed to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was baseless.

In February 1929 he had to write the following to the friends in the

United States and Canada:

I am at a loss to explain that strange mentality that inclines to uphold as the sole criterion of the truth of the Bahá’í Teachings

what is admittedly only an obscure and unauthenticated translation of an oral statement made by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in defiance and

total disregard of the available text of all of His universally recognized writings. I truly deplore the unfortunate distortions that

have resulted in days past from the incapacity of the interpreter to

grasp the meaning of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and from his incompetence

to render adequately such truths as have been revealed to him by

the Master’s statements. Much of the confusion that has obscured

the understanding of the believers should be attributed to this

double error involved in the inexact rendering of an only partially

understood statement. Not infrequently has the interpreter even

failed to convey the exact purport of the inquirer’s specific questions, and, by his deficiency of understanding and expression in

conveying the answer of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, has been responsible for

reports wholly at variance with the true spirit and purpose of the

Cause. ( World Order 4-5).
110

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

He wrote the following on the same date:

Who, I may ask, when viewing the international character of the

Cause, its far-flung ramifications, the increasing complexity of its

affairs, the diversity of its adherents, and the state of confusion

that assails on every side the infant Faith of God, can for a moment question the necessity of some sort of administrative machinery that will insure, amid the storm and stress of a struggling

civilization, the unity of the Faith, the preservation of its identity,

and the protection of its interests? To repudiate the validity of the

assemblies of the elected ministers of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh

would be to reject those countless Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh and

‘Abdu’l-Bahá wherein They have extolled the station of the “trustees of the Merciful,” enumerated their privileges and duties, emphasized the glory of their mission, revealed the immensity of

their task, and warned them of the attacks they must needs expect

from the unwisdom of their friends as well as from the malice of

their enemies. ( World Order 9-10)

Thanks to these explanations, the attacks levelled against the Guardian by such people as Ruth White and Ahmad Sohrab were overcome.

The clarity of Shoghi Effendi’s elucidations and the steadfast and loyal

adherence of the friends to the provisions of the Will and Testament of

‘Abdu’l-Bahá put an end to this controversy.

So much for the form of the Administrative Order and its necessity

and its indispensability. If the form, however, is not quickened with the

spirit, it remains a dead form. This is why Shoghi Effendi, from the very

outset of his clarifications of the principles underlying the Administration of the Faith, kept reminding the friends of the absolute necessity to

develop and nurture the spirit which should always be at its very core

and illumine the path which the institutions are called upon to follow.

From his pen flowed such exhortations as the following three excerpts. In March 1923 he wrote,

But let us be on our guard – so the Master continually reminds us

from His Station on high – lest too much concern in that which is

secondary in importance, and too long a preoccupation with the

details of our affairs and activities, make us neglectful of the most

111
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

essential, the most urgent of all our obligations, namely, to bury

our cares and teach the Cause, delivering far and wide this Message of Salvation to a sorely-stricken world. ( Bahá’í Administration 42)

In February 1929 he wrote,

And now, it behoves us to reflect on the animating purpose and

the primary functions of these divinely-established institutions,

the sacred character and the universal efficacy of which can be

demonstrated only by the spirit they diffuse and the work they actually achieve. I need not dwell upon what I have already reiterated and emphasized that the administration of the Cause is to be

conceived as an instrument and not a substitute for the Faith of

Bahá’u’lláh, that it should be regarded as a channel through

which His promised blessings may flow, that it should guard

against such rigidity as would clog and fetter the liberating forces

released by His Revelation… It is surely for those to whose hands

so priceless a heritage has been committed to prayerfully watch

lest the tool should supersede the Faith itself, lest undue concern

for the minute details arising from the administration of the Cause

obscure the vision of its promoters, lest partiality, ambition, and

worldliness tend in the course of time to becloud the radiance,

stain the purity, and impair the effectiveness of the Faith of

Bahá’u’lláh. ( World Order 9-10)

We should note the evils we are to avoid as servants of this Faith,

namely, partiality, ambition, and worldliness.

In December 1935, writing to an individual believer, he wrote the

following:

The Bahá’í Faith, like all other Divine religions, is thus fundamentally mystic in character. Its chief goal is the development of

the individual and society, through the acquisition of spiritual virtues and powers. It is the soul of man that has first to be fed. And

this spiritual nourishment prayer can best provide. Laws and institutions, as viewed by Bahá’u’lláh, can become really effective

only when our inner spiritual life has been perfected and trans112

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

formed. Otherwise religion will degenerate into a mere organization, and become a dead thing. ( Messages from the Universal

House of Justice ¶397.2c)

We should realize how through lack of effort on our part in transforming

our inner spiritual lives we could kill the spirit of the Faith and cause the

institutions of the Administrative Order to become mere lifeless things.

We should also remember that statements such as these made by the

beloved Guardian are in full harmony with what Bahá’u’lláh states in

the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, namely, that members of Houses of Justice, when

meeting, “should consider themselves as entering the Court of the presence of God, the Exalted, the Most High, and as beholding Him Who is

the Unseen”. Bahá’u’lláh further calls on them to “regard themselves as

the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth” and “to have

regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they

regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly.

Thus hath the Lord your God commanded you. Beware lest ye put away

that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive” (¶30). In these immortal verses of the Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh is urging members of Spiritual Assemblies not only to be deeply spiritual but

also to be selfless, altruistic, and universally minded.

Shoghi Effendi went on to explain, “Let us also bear in mind that

the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority but humble

fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation” ( Bahá’í Administration 63). The spiritual obligations of the

elected representatives of the Faith have been set forth by Shoghi Effendi in the following words:

Their function is not to dictate, but to consult, and consult not

only among themselves, but as much as possible with the friends

whom they represent. They must regard themselves in no other

light but that of chosen instruments for a more efficient and dignified presentation of the Cause of God. They should never be led

to suppose that they are the central ornaments of the body of the

Cause, intrinsically superior to others in capacity or merit, and

sole promoters of its teachings and principles. They should approach their task with extreme humility, and endeavor, by their

open-mindedness, their high sense of justice and duty, their can113

T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

dor, their modesty, their entire devotion to the welfare and interests of the friends, the Cause, and humanity, to win, not only the

confidence and the genuine support and respect of those whom

they serve, but also their esteem and real affection. They must, at

all times, avoid the spirit of exclusiveness, the atmosphere of secrecy, free themselves from a domineering attitude, and banish all

forms of prejudice and passion from their deliberations. They

should, within the limits of wise discretion, take the friends into

their confidence, acquaint them with their plans, share with them

their problems and anxieties, and seek their advice and counsel.

And, when they are called upon to arrive at a certain decision,

they should, after dispassionate, anxious and cordial consultation,

turn to God in prayer, and with earnestness and conviction and

courage record their vote and abide by the voice of the majority…

( Bahá’í Administration 64).

As you see from the above, both spirit and form are important, and

the more important is the spirit of love, humility, and dedication which

must inform the consultations and actions of all elected institutions of

the Faith.

There is no doubt that this spirit should also be the motivating force

that inspires those who are privileged to serve as appointed promoters

and protectors of the Cause, such as Counsellors, Auxiliary Board

members, and assistants.

When Shoghi Effendi was asked to give the qualifications of a true

believer, for the benefit of Spiritual Assemblies which were considering

membership of applicants to the Bahá’í community, one of the essential

qualifications he stipulated was “close association with the spirit as well

as the form of the present day Bahá’í administration” ( Bahá’í Administration 90). This is one of the vital administrative principles of our

Faith. The individual is an organic part of his community. He cannot,

and must not, dissociate himself from community activities. One of the

distinctions of our Faith is the essential contribution of the individual to

the life of the community, which in turn, as it develops, exerts its

healthy influence on the individual and promotes his spiritual advancement. In the Aqdas Bahá’u’lláh tells us that individuals are like constituent elements and members of the human body. This means that the

well-being of the part is the well-being of all. The injury of the part is

114

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

the injury of all. Furthermore, the community can serve as a laboratory

in which the individual translates the ideals and principles of the Faith

which he has imbibed into concrete and constructive action. Participation in the work of the community thus becomes a learning process for

better understanding how the theory taught by the Faith can be realized

in service in the field. All this means that, as devoted Bahá’ís, we should

avoid two extremes: (1) Adherence to the laws and ordinances of the

Faith as applicable to the individual, with the exception of association

with the community, and (2) Total involvement in community activities,

with the exception of following the Bahá’í way of life, which is binding

on the individual.

The final part of this section is about the rulers and the learned –

who they are, how they complement each other, and what the spiritual

ties are that bind them together and to the rest of the community. In a

letter dated 23 April 1972, the Universal House of Justice, addressing

this question, wrote,

In the Kitáb-i-‘Ahd (the Book of His Covenant) Bahá’u’lláh

wrote “Blessed are the rulers and the learned among the people

of Bahá,” and referring to this very passage the beloved Guardian wrote on 4 November 1931: “In this holy cycle the

‘learned‘ are, on the one hand, the Hands of the Cause of God,

and, on the other, the teachers and diffusers of His teachings

who do not rank as Hands, but who have attained an eminent

position in the teaching work. As to the ‘rulers‘ they refer to the

members of the Local, National and International Houses of

Justice. The duties of each of these souls will be determined in

the future.” ( Messages from the Universal House of Justice

¶111.3)

After quoting the Guardian, the Universal House of Justice has

commented as follows:

The Hands of the Cause of God, the Counsellors and the members

of the Auxiliary Boards fall within the definition of the “learned”

given by the beloved Guardian… When, following the passing of

Shoghi Effendi, the Universal House of Justice decided that it

could not legislate to make possible the appointment of further

115
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

Hands of the Cause, it became necessary for it to create a new institution, appointed by itself, to extend into the future the functions of protection and propagation vested in the Hands of the

Cause and, with that in view, so to develop the Institution of the

Hands that it could nurture the new institution and function in

close collaboration with it as long as possible. It was also vital so

to arrange matters as to make the most effective use of the unique

services of the Hands themselves…” ( Messages from the Universal House of Justice ¶111.4-6)

In the same letter, the Universal House of Justice quotes from a letter of Shoghi Effendi:

In a letter written on 14 March 1927 to the Spiritual Assembly of

the Bahá’ís of Istanbul, the Guardian’s Secretary explained, on

his behalf, the principle in the Cause of action by majority vote.

He pointed out how, in the past, it was certain individuals who

“accounted themselves as superior in knowledge and elevated in

position” who caused division, and that it was those “who pretended to be the most distinguished of all” who “always proved

themselves to be the source of contention.” “But praise be to

God,” he continued, “that the Pen of Glory has done away with

the unyielding and dictatorial views of the learned and the wise,

dismissed the assertions of individuals as an authoritative criterion, even though they were recognized as the most accomplished

and learned among men and ordained that all matters be referred

to authorized centres and specified Assemblies. Even so, no Assembly has been invested with the absolute authority to deal with

such general matters as affect the interests of nations. Nay rather,

He has brought all the assemblies together under the shadow of

one House of Justice, one divinely appointed Centre, so that there

would be only one Centre and all the rest integrated into a single

body, revolving around one expressly designated Pivot, thus making them all proof against schism and division. ( Messages from

the Universal House of Justice ¶111.12)

After quoting this passage from Shoghi Effendi’s letter, the Universal House of Justice draws the following conclusions:

116

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

Having permanently excluded the evils admittedly inherent in the

institutions of the “learned” in past dispensations, Bahá’u’lláh has

nevertheless embodied in His Administrative Order the beneficent elements which exist in such institutions, elements which are

of fundamental value for the progress of the Cause, as can be

gauged from even a cursory reading of the Guardian’s message of

4 June 1957.

The existence of institutions of such exalted rank, comprising individuals who play such a vital role, who yet have no legislative, administrative or judicial authority, and are entirely devoid

of priestly functions or the right to make authoritative interpretations, is a feature of Bahá’í administration unparalleled in the religions of the past. The newness and uniqueness of this concept

make it difficult to grasp; only as the Bahá’í Community grows

and the believers are increasingly able to contemplate its administrative structure uninfluenced by concepts from past ages, will the

vital interdependence of the “rulers” and “learned” in the Faith be

properly understood, and the inestimable value of their interaction

be fully recognized. ( Messages from the Universal House of Justice ¶111.13-14)

Some six years later, a question related to this theme was asked by

one of the believers, and this needed further clarification of the issues

involved. On 27 March 1978 the Department of the Secretariat, writing

on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, gave the following elucidation:

A Board of Counsellors has the particular responsibility of caring

for the protection and propagation of the Faith throughout a continental zone which contains a number of national Bahá’í communities. In performing these tasks it neither directs nor instructs

the Spiritual Assemblies or individual believers, but it has the

necessary rank to enable it to ensure that it is kept properly informed and that the Spiritual Assemblies give due consideration

to its advice and recommendations. However, the essence of the

relationships between Bahá’í institutions is loving consultation

and a common desire to serve the Cause of God rather than a matter of rank or station.

117
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER

It is clear from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, as well as from

those of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the interpretations of the Guardian,

that the proper functioning of human society requires the preservation of ranks and classes within its membership. The friends

should recognize this without envy or jealousy, and those who

occupy ranks should never exploit their position or regard themselves as being superior to others.

About this Bahá’u’lláh has written:

And amongst the realms of unity is the unity of rank and

station. It redoundeth to the exaltation of the Cause, glorifying it among all peoples. Ever since the seeking of preference and distinction came into play, the world hath been

laid waste. It hath become desolate. Those who have

quaffed from the ocean of divine utterance and fixed their

gaze upon the Realm of Glory should regard themselves as

being on the same level as the others and in the same station. Were this matter to be definitely established and conclusively demonstrated through the power and might of

God, the world would become as the Abhá Paradise.

Indeed, man is noble, inasmuch as each one is a repository of the sign of God. Nevertheless, to regard oneself as

superior in knowledge, learning or virtue, or to exalt oneself or seek preference, is a grievous transgression. Great is

the blessedness of those who are adorned with the ornament of this unity and have been graciously confirmed by

God. ( Messages from the Universal House of Justice

¶206.2-3b)
Thus ends the quotation from Bahá’u’lláh.

The letter of the House of Justice goes on to say,

Courtesy, reverence, dignity, respect for the rank and achievements

of others are virtues which contribute to the harmony and wellbeing of every community, but pride and self-aggrandizement are

among the most deadly of sins…

The House of Justice hopes that all the friends will remember

that the ultimate aim in life of every soul should be to attain spiri118

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

tual excellence – to win the good pleasure of God. The true spiritual station of any soul is known only to God. It is quite a different thing from the ranks and stations that men and women occupy

in the various sectors of society. Whoever has his eyes fixed on

the goal of attaining the good pleasure of God will accept with

joy and radiant acquiescence whatever work or station is assigned

to him in the Cause of God, and will rejoice to serve Him under

all conditions. ( Messages from the Universal House of Justice

¶206.4-5)

The House of Justice is giving us in this letter a clarification which

is unique in organizational philosophy. The first point is the House’s

acceptance of the policy generally practiced in any form of secular or

religious administration, namely, that without positions and ranks no

organization can efficiently function. After this assertion, and based on a

remarkable text by Bahá’u’lláh Himself, the House of Justice exhorts

the Bahá’í rulers and the Bahá’í learned by saying in effect the following: Be not concerned that your positions will not be preserved or respected by those who are beneath you in rank or achievement, but let

not this outward consideration give you pride, and let it not deceive you

into thinking that you are morally and essentially better than them. True

ranks are known solely to God and will be revealed to men’s eyes only

in the next world. Therefore do not act arrogantly towards others and do

not exalt yourself over them by virtue of a temporary privilege given to

you in this world. (These are of course only my own words summing up

the House of Justice’s exhortation.) In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh

says that the more we fear God in our lives with genuine humility the

nearer will we be to God in this world and the next.

No other organizational system I know of, whether religious or

secular, has such a fundamentally moral and spiritual concept incorporated in its structure. It is this attitude which gives spirit to our community and administrative activities. It is indeed one of the distinctive features of the Bahá’í Administrative Order, which is not an earthly manmade organization but is essentially a divinely conceived and providentially sustained system, destined to embrace, unify, and uplift humanity.

119
T OWARDS WORLD ORDER
Questions related:

Q. A non-Bahá’í friend of mine said he thought it was not fair that

only “famous” Bahá’ís would be elected and that their visibility in

the community was perhaps a hidden form of campaigning. What

do you think?

A. The use of the word “famous” in this context is both inaccurate and

inappropriate. In one of His Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to the elected

members as souls of good repute whose fair name has spread like the

fragrance of musk among the people. Some Bahá’ís may be famous but

not have a good reputation. In Bahá’í elections you should look for the

qualities that members of the community are known to possess. These

qualities are unquestioned loyalty, selfless devotion, a well-trained

mind, recognized ability, and mature experience ( Bahá’í Administration

88). We should also remember that, as electors, we should engage in the

act of election in a prayerful attitude and supplicate the Blessed Beauty

to grant us His guidance.

Q. Shoghi Effendi writes about “Divine Economy”. Could you explain what it means?

A. If you look up the word “economy” in reliable dictionaries you will

see that one of its meanings is a system of organization. I think in the

reference you have mentioned we should understand Shoghi Effendi’s

use of this term as applying to the Administrative Order.

Q. One of the prime requisites of the Assembly members, according

to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is, “purity of motive”, and He mentions this quality

before all other virtues. What is your understanding of “purity of

motive”?

A. In the Persian Hidden Words Bahá’u’lláh refers to “pure and goodly

deeds” and adds that “ere long the assayers of mankind shall, in the

Holy Presence of the Adored One, accept naught but absolute virtue and

deeds of stainless purity” (Hidden Words, Persian, no. 69). My understanding of purity of motive is deeds of service that are performed, either in the work of the administration or in the teaching field, solely for

the sake of winning the good pleasure of the Blessed Beauty. I think

purity of motive requires us to set aside all other considerations, whether

120

T HE E VOLUTION OF THE B AHÁ ’ Í A DMINISTRATIVE O RDER

they are earthly things outside the pale of the Faith or spiritual rewards

within the Cause, or as it is sometimes expressed, “within the precincts”

of God’s Holy Faith. I think this is what is meant by the following sentence in the Tablet of Visitation of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Help me to be selfless at the heavenly entrance of Thy gate, and aid me to be detached

from all things within Thy holy precincts”. If we want to have pure motives we should be satisfied in our confidence that He sees us and that

He knows us. Our one and only motivation in Bahá’í activities and in

obedience to His commands should be that our humble offering of unworthy services and deeds may be acceptable in His sight.

Q. Where in the text of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas does Bahá’u’lláh anticipate the institution of the Guardianship?

A. Shoghi Effendi wrote in February 1929, “By leaving certain matters

unspecified and unregulated in His Book of Laws, Bahá’u’lláh seems to

have deliberately left a gap in the general scheme of Bahá’í Dispensation, which the unequivocal provisions of the Master’s Will has filled”

( World Order 4). One of the “unspecified” matters is the question of

who will be the recipient of uqúqu’lláh after Bahá’u’lláh. The obvious

conclusion was, of course, drawn that whoever or whatever institution

was the Successor of Bahá’u’lláh and occupied the position of Headship

of the Faith would be the recipient. Thus, uqúq was paid first to

‘Abdu’l-Bahá and then subsequently, in accordance with His Will, to

the Guardian. This is one way the institution of the Guardianship was

anticipated, and I have mentioned this point already. Another place in

the Aqdas which could well be another intimation of the Guardianship is

the verse in which Bahá’u’lláh says that “whatsoever ye understand not

in the Book” should be referred to the Branch grown out “from this

mighty Stock” (¶174). It is in this verse that the function of authorized

interpretation has been given to the Branch, and it seems to be that this

is the second verse where the position of the Guardian, as authorized

interpreter, has been anticipated.
121
A PPENDIX
123
B IBLIOGRAPHY

‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá . Compiled

by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.

Translated by a Committee at the Bahá’í World Centre and

Marzieh Gail. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1997.

– Some Answered Questions . Collected and translated from the Persian

by Laura Clifford Barney. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust,

1984.

– Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing

Trust, 1944.

The Báb. Selections from the Writings of the Báb. Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice. Translated

by Habib Taherzadeh et al. Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1976.

Bahá’í Prayers . London: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1975.

The Bahá’í World: An International Record, 1954-1963 . Vol. XIII. Prepared under the supervision of the Universal House of Justice.

Haifa: The Universal House of Justice, 1970.

Bahá’u’lláh. Epistle to the Son of the Wolf . Translated by Shoghi Effendi. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988.

– Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh . Translated by Shoghi

Effendi. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1983.

– The Hidden Words . Translated by Shoghi Effendi. Wilmette: Bahá’í

Publishing Trust, 1985.

– The Kitáb-i-Aqdas: The Most Holy Book . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing

Trust, 1993.

– Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas . Compiled by

the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice.

Translated by Habib Taherzadeh et al. Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1988.

Lights of Guidance: A Bahá’í Reference File . Compiled by Helen Bassett Hornby. New Delhi: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1994.

The Right of God/ – uqúqu’lláh: Extracts from the Writings of

Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal

House of Justice, with Supplement . Compiled by the Research

Department of the Universal House of Justice. Thornhill: Bahá’í

Community of Canada, 1999.
125

Rabbani, Rú íyyih. The Priceless Pearl . London: Bahá’í Publishing

Trust, 1969.

– The Ministry of the Custodians 1957-1963 , Haifa, Bahá'í World Centre, 1992"

Shoghi Effendi. The Advent of Divine Justice . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1990.

– Bahá’í Administration . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1960.

– Call to the Nations . Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1977.

– Citadel of Faith: Messages to America, 1947-1957 . Wilmette: Bahá’í

Publishing Trust, 1965.

– This Decisive Hour: Messages from Shoghi Effendi to the North

American Bahá’ís, 1932-1946 . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing

Trust, 2002.

– God Passes By . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1970.

– Messages to the Bahá’í World, 1950-1957 . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1971.

– The Promised Day Is Come . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1996.

– The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh . Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust,

1955.

The Universal House of Justice. The Constitution of the Universal

House of Justice . Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1972.

– Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986: The Third

Epoch of the Formative Age . Compiled by Geoffry W. Marks.

Wilmette: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1996.

– A Wider Horizon: Selected Messages from the Universal House of

Justice, 1983-1992. Compiled by Paul Lample. Riviera Beach:

Palabra Publications, 1992.
126
Finito di stampare nel mese di ……. 2007
per conto della Casa Editrice Bahá’í
nella tipografia ……………
Via …………………….
……………….., Italia

Table of Contents: Albanian :Arabic :Belarusian :Bulgarian :Chinese_Simplified :Chinese_Traditional :Danish :Dutch :English :French :German :Hungarian :Italian :Japanese :Korean :Latvian :Norwegian :Persian :Polish :Portuguese :Romanian :Russian :Spanish :Swedish :Turkish :Ukrainian :