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Salutation and praise, blessing and glory rest upon that primal branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree, grown out, blest, tender, verdant and flourishing from the Twin Holy Trees; the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin Surging Seas.
Like a cloud-break in a stormy sky these words, even as a mighty shaft of sunlight, broke through the gloom and tempest of dangerous years and shone from on high upon a small boy, the grandson of a prisoner of the Sultan of Turkey, living in the prison-city of Akka in the Turkish province of Syria. The words were written by `Abdu'l-Bahá in the first part of His Will and Testament and referred to His eldest grandchild, Shoghi Effendi.
Although already appointed the hereditary successor of his grandfather, neither the child, nor the ever-swelling host of followers of Bahá'u'lláh throughout the world, were made aware of this fact. In the Orient, where the principle of lineal descent is well understood and accepted as the normal course of events, there was hope no doubt, that even as Bahá'u'lláh Himself had demonstrated the validity of this mysterious and great principle of primogeniture, so would `Abdu'l-Bahá, His son and successor, do likewise. Many years before His passing, in answer to a question from some Persian believers as to whether there would be one person to whom all should turn after His death, `Abdu'l-Bahá had written: "...Know verily that this is a well-guarded secret. It is even as a gem concealed within its shell. That it will be revealed is predestined. The time will come when its light will appear, when its evidences will be made manifest, and its secrets unravelled."
More light is thrown on this subject by the diary of Dr YunisPage 2
Khan, who spent three months in Akka with `Abdu'l-Bahá during 1897, and returned in 1900 for a stay of many years. From his words we infer that, perhaps due to news having reached the West that a grandson had been born to the Master, a believer in America had written to Him that in The Bible is mentioned that after `Abdu'l-Bahá "a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6) and does this mean a real, live child who exists? Dr Yunis Khan was not aware, in 1897, that this question had been put and that `Abdu'l-Bahá had revealed the following Tablet in answer to it: O Maidservant of God! Verily, that child is born and is alive and from him will appear wondrous things that thou wilt hear of in the future. Thou shalt behold him endowed with the most perfect appearance, supreme capacity, absolute perfection, consummate power and unsurpassed might. His face will shine with a radiance that illumines all the horizons of the world; therefore forget this not as long as thou dost live inasmuch as ages and centuries will bear traces of him.
Upon thee be greetings and praise `Abdu'l-Bahá Abbas
It may seem surprising that such an important Tablet was not known in the East but we must remember that there was practically no contact between the Bahá'ís of the West and East in those days and Tablets were circulated among the American friends by copy or word of mouth. When Yunis Khan received a letter from America, at a time when the dark clouds of Covenant-breaking were gathering ever thicker about the Master, he was therefore wholly unaware of the background which might have brought about the question this friend now asked him to put to `Abdu'l-Bahá; indeed he states in his diary that it was not until many years later he heard of this Tablet's existence. Yunis Khan writes: "`Abdu'l-Bahá was walking in front of the khan [the building where many believers used to stay in Akka]; I approached and told Him 'someone has written to me from America that we have heard the Master has said that the one whose appearance will follow me has recently been born and is in this world. If this is so we are answered, but if this is not so then -?" After waiting a moment, with a look full of meaning and secret exaltation, He said: 'Yes, this is true.' Hearing this glad tidings my soul rejoiced; I felt assured that the Covenant-breaking will come to naught and the Cause of God triumph throughout the world and this world become the mirror of the heavenly world. However, to understandPage 3
what He meant by 'appearance', as we Bahá'ís conceive its meaning, was very difficult for me, and remained in my mind a mystery; seeking further information I thereupon asked Him: 'Does this mean a revelation?' If He had replied with 'yes' or 'no' this would have created more complications and aroused more questions, but fortunately His answer was conclusive and such as to silence any questioner, and in even clearer words He said: "The triumph of the Cause of God is in his hands!'" Yunis Khan then goes on to state that he wrote this answer to the believer in America but did not share it for many years with anyone and even in his own mind refused to contemplate its implications or ask himself if that child was in Akka or somewhere else. He explains this reserved attitude on his part as due to the words of Bahá'u'lláh in the book of His Covenant in which He says that all eyes must be focused on the Centre of the Covenant (`Abdu'l-Bahá), and to the defections, machinations and mischief which for two generations disrupted the family of the Manifestation of God.
In another part of his diary Yunis Khan describes his first glimpse of the Master's eldest grandson: "For many days the occupants of the Pilgrim House had begged the Afnan [Shoghi Effendi's father] to see Shoghi Effendi. One day, unexpectedly, this child of four months was brought to the biruni [reception room of the Master]. The believers approached him with joy and I too had this privilege, but I said to myself 'only look upon him as a Bahá'í child'. However I could not control my feelings because an inner force obliged me to bow low before him and for a moment I was bewitched by the beauty of this suckling child. I kissed the soft hair of his head and sensed such a power in him that I can find no words to express it, but only say he looked like The Bábe one sees in the arms of the Blessed Virgin. For several days the face of this child was before me, then gradually I forgot it. Two other times I had these same feelings, once when he was nine years old and once when he was eleven years old."
Yunis Khan also records that after he had observed in Shoghi Effendi's Bábyhood and early childhood inner and outer evidences of his great spirituality and unique character he could contain himself no longer and confided to an old and trustworthy believer those memorable words he had heard from `Abdu'l-Bahá regarding a child in whose hands would be the triumph of the Cause of God.
Be this at it may, the fact remains that until the Master passed away in November 1921, and His Will and Testament was foundPage 4
in His safe and opened and read, no one in the Bahá'í world knew that Shoghi Effendi was the "unique pearl", and just how unique and glorious a pearl it was that `Abdu'l-Bahá left behind Him no one really understood until November 1957 it was recalled to the Seas from which it had been born.
On the 27th day of Ramadan, 1314 of the Muslim calendar, Shoghi Effendi was born. This was Sunday, 1 March 1897 of the Gregorian calendar. These dates have been found in one of Shoghi Effendi's notebooks which he kept during his boyhood, written in his own hand. He was the eldest grandchild and first grandson of `Abdu'l-Bahá, born of His eldest daughter, Diya'iyyih "Khanum, and her husband Mirza Hadi "Shirazi, one the Afnans and a relative of The Báb. He was invariably addressed by his grandfather as "Shoghi Effendi"; indeed, He gave instructions that he should at all times have the "Effendi" added and even told Shoghi Effendi's own father he must address him thus and not merely as "Shoghi". The word "Effendi" signifies "sir" or "mister" and is added as a term of respect; for the same reason ""Khanum", which means "lady" or "madame", is added to a woman's name.
At the time of Shoghi Effendi's birth `Abdu'l-Bahá and His family were still prisoners of the Sultan of Turkey, Abdu'l Hamid; it was not until the revolution of the Young Turks, in 1908, and the consequent release of political prisoners, that they were freed from an exile and bondage that, for Him and His sister at least, had lasted for over forty years. In 1897 they were all living in a house known as that of Abdullah Pasha, a stone's throw from the great Turkish military barracks where Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá, and the company of believers who were with Them, had been incarcerated when they first landed in Akka in 1868. It was in this home that the first group of pilgrims from the Western World visited the Master in the winter of 1898-9, and many more of the early believers of the West; travelling along the beach in an omnibus drawn by three horses they would proceed from Haifa to Akka, enter the fortified walls of the prison-city, and be welcomed as His guests for a few days in that house. It was from this home that `Abdu'l-Bahá left to reside in freedom in Haifa, twelve miles away on the other side of the Bay of Akka. Entering through a passage across which the upper story of the building ran, one came upon a small enclosed garden where grew flowers, fruit trees and a few tall palms, and in one corner of which a long stairway ran up to the upper floor and opened on an inner, unroofed court from which doors led to variousPage 5
rooms and to a long corridor giving access to other chambers.
To catch even a glimpse of what must have transpired in `Abdu'l-Bahá'í heart when this first grandson was born to Him at the age of fifty-three, one must remember that He had already lost more than one son, the dearest and most perfect of them, Husayn, a beautiful and very dignified little boy, having passed away when only a few years old. Of the four surviving daughters of `Abdu'l-Bahá three were to bear Him thirteen grandchildren, but it was this oldest one who bore witness to the saying "the child is the secret essence of its sire", not to be taken to mean in this case the heritage of his own father, but rather that he was sired by the Prophets of God and inherited the nobility of this grandfather `Abdu'l-Bahá. The depths of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í feelings at this time are reflected in His own words in which he clearly states that the name Shoghi - literally "the one who longs" - was conferred by God upon this grandson:
...O God! This is a branch sprung from the tree of Thy mercy. Through Thy grace and bounty enable him to grown and through the showers of Thy generosity cause him to become a verdant, flourishing, blossoming and fruitful branch. Gladden the eyes of his parents, Thou Who giveth to whomsoever Thou willest, and bestow upon him the name Shoghi so that he may yearn for Thy Kingdom and soar into the realms of the unseen!
By the signs Shoghi Effendi showed from earliest childhood and by his unique nature, he twined himself ever more deeply into the roots of the Master's heart. We are fortunate, indeed, to possess, from one the earliest western believers, Ella Goodall Cooper, her own account of a meeting she witnessed between `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi at the time of her pilgrimage in March 1899, in the house of Abdullah Pasha: One day...I had joined the ladies of the Family in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf for early morning tea, the beloved Master was sitting in His favorite corner of the divan where, through the window on His right, He could look over the ramparts and see the blue Mediterranean beyond. He was busy writing Tablets, and the quiet peace of the room was broken only by The Bábble of the samovar, where one of the young maidservants, sitting on the floor before it, was brewing the tea.
Presently the Master looked up from His writing with a smile, and requested Ziyyih Khanum to chant a prayer. As she finished, a small figure appeared in the open doorway, directly opposite `Abdu'l-Bahá. Having dropped off his shoes he stepped into the room, with his eyes focused on the Master's face. `Abdu'l-Bahá returned his gaze withPage 6
such a look of loving welcome it seemed to beckon the small one to approach Him. Shoghi, that beautiful little boy, with his cameo face and his soulful appealing, dark eyes, walked slowly toward the divan, the Master drawing him as by an invisible thread, until he stood quite close in front of Him. As he paused there a moment `Abdu'l-Bahá did not offer to embrace him but sat perfectly still, only nodding His head two or three times, slowly and impressively, as it to say - "You see? This tie connecting us is not just that of a physical grandfather but something far deeper and more significant." While we breathlessly watched to see what he would do, the little boy reached down and picking up the hem of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í robe he touched it reverently to his forehead, and kissed it, then gently replaced it, while never taking his eyes from the adored Master's face. The next moment he turned away, and scampered off to play, like any normal child...At that time he was `Abdu'l-Bahá'í only grandchild... and, naturally, he was of immense interest to the pilgrims.
How great must have been the struggle of the grandfather to keep within bounds His love for this child lest the very blaze of that love endanger his life through the hatred and envy of His many enemies, ever seeking an Achilles heel to bring about His downfall. Many times when Shoghi Effendi spoke of the past and of `Abdu'l-Bahá I felt not only how boundless and consuming had been his own love for the Master, but that he had been aware of the fact that `Abdu'l-Bahá leashed and veiled the passion of His love for him in order to protect him and to safeguard the Cause of God from its enemies.
Shoghi Effendi was a small, sensitive, intensely active and mischievous child. He was not very strong in his early years and his mother often had cause to worry over his health. However, he grew up to have an iron constitution, which, coupled with the phenomenal force of his nature and will-power, enabled him in later years to overcome every obstacle in his path. The first photographs we have of him show a peaky little face, immense eyes and a firm, beautifully shaped chin which in his childhood gave a slightly elongated and heart-shaped appearance to his face. Already in these earliest pictures one sees a sadness, a wistfulness, a haunting predilection for suffering that is like a shadow on the wall - the shadow of a child magnified to the stature of a man. Fine-boned, even as a mature man, shorter than his grandfather had been, Shoghi Effendi was more akin physically to his great-grandfather, Bahá'u'lláh. He told me himself that `Abdu'l-Bahá'í sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf, would sometimes take his hand in hers andPage 7
say "These are like the hands of my father". They were what I call intellectual hands, more square than tapering, strong, nervous, the veins standing out, very expressive in their gestures, very assured in their motions. Amelia Collins, who lived in Haifa many years, always said that to her all the suffering of the Guardian's life was reflected in those hands. His eyes were of that deceptive hazel colour that sometimes led people who did not have the opportunity to look into them as often as I did to think they were brown or blue. The truth is they were a clear hazel which sometimes changed to a warm and luminous grey. I have never seen such an expressive face and eyes as those of the Guardian; every shade of feeling and thought was mirrored in his visage as light and shadow are reflected on water. When he was happy and enthusiastic over something he had a peculiar habit of opening his eyes wide enough to let the upper rim of the iris show and this always made me think of two beautiful suns rising above the horizon, so brilliant and sparkling was their expression. Indignation, anger and sorrow could be equally clearly reflected in them, and alas, he had cause to show these too in his life, so beset with problems and sorrows. His feet were as beautiful as his hands, small like them, high arched, and giving that same impression of strength.
It may sound disrespectful to say the Guardian was a mischievous child, but he himself told me he was the acknowledged ringleader of all the other children. Bubbling with high spirits, enthusiasm and daring, full of laughter and wit, the small boy lead the way in many pranks; whenever something was afoot, behind it would be found Shoghi Effendi! This boundless energy was often a source of anxiety as he would rush madly up and down the long flight of high steps to the upper story of the house, to the consternation of the pilgrims below, waiting to meet the Master. His exuberance was irrepressible and was in the child the same force that was to make the man such an untiring and unflinching commander-in-chief of the forces of Bahá'u'lláh, leading them to victory after victory, indeed, to the spiritual conquest of the entire globe. We have a very reliable witness to this characteristic of the Guardian, `Abdu'l-Bahá Himself, Who wrote on a used envelope a short sentence to please His little grandson: "Shoghi Effendi is a wise man - but he runs about very much!"
It must not be inferred, however, that Shoghi Effendi was mannerless. Children in the East - how much more the children of `Abdu'l-Bahá - were taught courtesy and manners from thePage 8
cradle. Bahá'u'lláh's family was descended from kings and the family tradition, entirely apart from His divine teachings which enjoin courtesy as obligatory, ensured that a noble conduct and politeness would distinguish Shoghi Effendi from his Bábyhood.
In those days of Shoghi Effendi's childhood it was the custom to rise about dawn and spend the first hour of the day in the Master's room, where prayers were said and the family all had breakfast with Him. The children sat on the floor, their legs folded under them, they would chant for `Abdu'l-Bahá; there was no shouting or unseemly conduct. Breakfast consisted of tea, brewed on The Bábbling Russian brass samovar and served in little crystal glasses, very hot and very sweet, pure wheat bread and goat's milk cheese. Dr Zia Baghdadi, an intimate of the family, in his recollections of these days records that Shoghi Effendi was always the first to get up and be on time - after receiving one good chastisement from no other hand than that of his grandfather!
He also tells us the story of Shoghi Effendi's first Tablet from `Abdu'l-Bahá. Dr Baghdadi states that when Shoghi Effendi was only five years old he was pestering the Master to write something for him, whereupon `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote this touching and revealing letter in His own hand: He is God! O My Shoghi, I have no time to talk, leave me alone! You said "write" - I have written. What else should be done? Now is not the time for you to read and write, it is the time for jumping about and chanting "O My God!", therefore memorize the prayers of the Blessed Beauty and chant them that I may hear them, because there is no time for anything else.
It seems that when this wonderful gift reached the child he set himself to memorize a number of Bahá'u'lláh's prayers and would chant them so loudly that the entire neighbourhood could hear his voice; when his parents and other members of the Master's family remonstrated with him, Shoghi Effendi replied, according to Dr Baghdadi, "The Master wrote to me to chant that He may hear me! I am doing my best!" and he kept on chanting at the top of his voice for many hours every day. Finally his parents begged the Master to stop him, but He told them to let Shoghi Effendi alone. This was one aspect of the small boy's chanting. We are told there was another: he had memorized some touching passages written by `Abdu'l-Bahá after the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh and when hePage 9
chanted these the tears would roll down the earnest little face. From another source we are told that when the Master was requested by a western friend, at that time living in His home, to reveal a prayer for children He did so, and the first to memorize it and chant it was Shoghi Effendi who would also chant it in the meetings of the friends.
The childhood nurse of Shoghi Effendi used to recount that when he was still a Báby the Master was wont to call one of the Muslims who chanted in the mosque to come at least once a week and chant to the child, in his melodious voice, the sublime verses of the Quran. The Master Himself, the Guardian's mother and many others in the household had fine voices. All of this must have deeply affected Shoghi Effendi, who continued to chant to the end of his life. He had an indescribable, full voice, neither very high nor very low, clear, with a beautiful cadence in speaking, whether in English or Persian. To me it always had that lamenting quality of a dove that coos to itself alone on the branches of a tree. It used to wring my heart - that something sad and plaintive under the assured, swelling tones of the chanting, and the strange thing was the marked difference in the quality of his voice when, after chanting in The Báb's Shrine, he would go into the Master's Shrine and recite there the prayer of `Abdu'l-Bahá "Lowly and tearful I raise my suppliant hands..." Into the Guardian's voice would come a tenderness and longing that one did not hear anywhere else; this distinction never failed, never changed, was always there.
In his recollections of those early years one of the Bahá'ís has written that one day Shoghi Effendi entered the Master's room, took up His pen and tried to write. `Abdu'l-Bahá drew him to His side, tapped him gently on the shoulder and said "Now is not the time to write, now is the time to play, you will write a lot in the future." Nevertheless the desire of the child to learn led to the formation of classes in the Master's household for the children, taught by an old Persian believer. I know that at one time in his childhood, most likely while he was still living in Akka, Shoghi Effendi and other grandchildren were taught by an Italian, who acted as governess or teacher; a grey-haired elderly lady, she came to call shortly after I was married.
Although these early years of Shoghi Effendi's life were spent in the prison-city of Akka, enclosed within its moats and walls, its two gates guarded by sentries, this does not mean he had no occasionPage 10
to move about. He must have often gone to the homes of the Bahá'ís living inside the city, to the khan where the pilgrims stayed, to the Garden of Ridvan and to Bahji. Many times he was the delighted companion of his grandfather on these excursions. We are told that sometimes he spent the night in Bahji in the house now used as a pilgrim house; `Abdu'l-Bahá would Himself come and tuck him in bed, remarking "I need him." He also was taken to Beirut, the only large city in the entire area and one often visited by members of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í family. Dr Baghdadi recounts how, on one of these visits when Shoghi Effendi, a child of five or six years of age, accompanied his parents, the Greatest Holy Leaf and other members of the family there, he spent most of his time in Dr Baghdadi's room, looking at the pictures in his medical books and asking questions. It seems Shoghi Effendi wanted to see something actually dissected; he was not satisfied with just pictures. This zeal for knowledge (and no doubt those large eyes, so insistent and intelligent) quite won over the young medical student who had a victim provided - a large wildcat - and proceeded to cut it up in front of Shoghi Effendi, one of his aunts and the servant who had shot it. They watched in absorbed silence. When it was over, and Dr Baghdadi was asking himself how such a small child could have understood what it was all about, he was astonished to hear Shoghi Effendi recapitulating word for word the salient points of what he had described during his dissection. "I said to myself," Dr Baghdadi then writes, "this is not an ordinary child, verily this is a precious and darling angel!" As one of Shoghi Effendi's subjects in 1916 was zoology, he must have recalled his first early lesson in anatomy. Dr Baghdadi goes on to recount that, in addition to this great capacity to learn, Shoghi Effendi had a heart so tender and a nature so sweet that if he had offended any playmate - even though he would never do so unless the child had cheated or schemed - he would not go to sleep before he had embraced him and left him happy; he always urged his little companions to make up their differences before they went to bed.
Shoghi Effendi was sometimes subject to vivid and significant dreams, both pleasant and unpleasant. It is reported that in his Bábyhood he woke one night crying and the Master told his nurse to bring Shoghi Effendi to Him so that He could comfort him; the Master said to His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf, "See, already he has dreams!"
There are very few records of what any non-Bahá'í may havePage 11
thought of this grandson of `Abdu'l-Bahá. One of them, however, deserves to be quoted at some length. It is the reminiscences of a German woman physician, Dr J. Fallscheer, who lived in Haifa and attended the ladies of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í household. It should be borne in mind that her highly interesting account was not set down until at least eleven years after the event she relates, but nevertheless it has great significance:
When I returned to my house, on August 6, 1910, from a professional visit on Mt. Carmel our old servant Hadtschile said to me: "Just now a servant of Abbas Effendi was here and said that the doctor should come at 'asser' (3 o'clock) to the ladies quarters of the Master as one of the maids has a very bad finger." I did not very much like to start my visits so early on Saturday afternoon. But as I knew the Master would never call me out of hours without some urgent reason I decided to go on time...When it was all over, finger, hand and arm bandaged and put in a sling, Behia Khanum sent the little sufferer to bed and invited me to take refreshment with her and the ladies of the household. As we were sipping coffee and talking Turkish, which was easier for me than Arabic, a servant came and said: "Abbas Effendi wants the doctor to come to Him in the selamlik (drawing room) before she leaves"...The Master asked me to report to Him how the finger of the young girl was and if the danger of blood poisoning has passed. I could give Him a reassuring report. At this moment the son-in-law (the husband of the eldest daughter of Abbas Effendi), entered the room, evidently for the purpose of taking leave of the Master. At first I did not notice that behind the tall, dignified man his eldest son Shoghi Effendi, had entered the room and greeted his venerable grandfather with the oriental kiss on the hand. I had already seen the child fleetingly on a few other occasions. Behia Khanum had recently informed me that this young boy of perhaps twelve years of age was the oldest direct male descendant of the family of the Prophet and destined to be the only successor and representative (vazir) of the Master. As Abbas Effendi spoke in Persian regarding some matter to Abu Shoghi (the father of Shoghi Effendi), who was standing in front of Him, the grandson, after greeting us politely and also kissing the hand of his great aunt, remained near the door in a most respectful attitude. At this moment a number of Persian gentlemen entered the room and greetings and leave-takings, comings and goings, took place for a quarter of an hour. Behia Khanum and I withdrew to the right near the window and in lowered voices continued our conversation in Turkish. However, I never removed my eyes from the still very youthful grandson of Abbas Effendi. He was dressed in European summer clothes, with short pants but long stockingsPage 12
that came up above his knees and a short jacket. From his height and build one would have taken him to be thirteen or fourteen...In the still childish face the dark, already mature, melancholy eyes struck me at once. The boy remained motionless in his place and submissive in his attitude. After his father and the man with him had taken their leave of the Master, his father whispered something to him as he went out, whereupon the youth, in a slow and measured manner, like a grown up person, approached his beloved grandfather, waited to be addressed, answered distinctly in Persian and was laughingly dismissed, not however, without being first permitted the respectful kiss on the hand. I was impressed by the way the youth walked backwards as he left the room, and how his dark, true-hearted eyes never for a moment wavered from the blue, magical glance of his grandfather. Abbas Effendi rose and came over to us and we immediately stood up, but the Master urged us to take our seats again and Himself sat down informally on a stool near us, or rather racing us. As usual in silence we waited for Him to speak to us, which He did shortly: "Now my daughter," He began, "How do you like my future Elisha?" "Master, if I may speak openly, I must say that in his boy's face are the dark eyes of a sufferer, one who will suffer a great deal!" Thoughtfully the Master looked beyond us into space and after a long time turned His gaze back to us and said: "My grandson does not have the eyes of a trailblazer, a fighter or a victor, but in his eyes one sees deep loyalty, perseverance and conscientiousness. And do you know why, my daughter, he will fall heir to the heavy inheritance of being my Vazir (Minister, occupant of a high post)?" Without waiting for my reply, looking more at His dear sister than at me, as if He had forgotten my presence, He went on: "Bahá'u'lláh, the Great Perfection - blessed be His words - in the past, the present and forever - chose this insignificant one to be His successor, not because I was the first born, but because His inner eye had already discerned on my brow the seal of God. "Before His ascension into eternal Light the blessed Manifestation reminded me that I too - irrespective of primogeniture or age - must observe among my sons and grandsons whom God would indicate for His office. 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." There followed another long pause, then the Master turned again to me and said: "At the present time the British Empire is the greatest and is still expanding and its language is a world language. My future Vazir shall receive the preparation for his weighty office in England itself, after he has obtained here in Palestine a fundamental knowledge of the oriental languages and the wisdom of the East." Whereupon I ventured to interject:Page 13
"Will not the western education, the English training, remould his nature, confine his versatile mind in the rigid bonds of intellectualism, stifle through dogma and convention his oriental irrationality and intuition so that he will no longer be a servant of the Almighty but rather a slave to the rationality of western opportunism and the shallowness of every day life?" Long pause! Then Abbas Effendi `Abdu'l-Bahá rose and in a strong and solemn voice said: "I am not giving my Elisha to the British to educate. I dedicate and give him to the Almighty. God's eyes watch over my child in Oxford as well - Inshallah!" Without farewell, without another word the Master left the room. I took leave of Behia Khanum and as I went saw the Master standing in the garden, where, apparently sunk in deepest thought, he was looking at a fig tree laden with fruit. In November 1921, while staying in Lugano, I learned of the passing of Abbas Effendi `Abdu'l-Bahá in Haifa and my thoughts and memories turned back to that long-ago hour in August 1910, and I wish Elisha - Shoghi well, and everything that is good - Inshallah.
As many years later `Abdu'l-Bahá requested His friend, Lord Lamington, a distinguished Scottish peer and a man who deeply respected and admired Him, to use his good offices in getting Shoghi Effendi admitted to a college in Oxford University it is not impossible that He mentioned such a plan to Dr Fallscheer, but, of course, we have no corroborative evidence to support her words.
When `Abdu'l-Bahá first moved into the new home in Haifa (which was in use by members of His family in February 1907, if not earlier) the rooms were occupied by all the members of His family; eventually the families of two of His daughters moved to homes of their own near His, but the house was always crowed with relatives, children, servants, pilgrims and guests. In later years, when Shoghi Effendi was home from school, his room was a small one next to `Abdu'l-Bahá's. As electricity was not installed until just before `Abdu'l-Bahá passed away and not connected until after His ascension the family used lamps. Many times the Master would see Shoghi Effendi's light still shining late at night and get up and go to his door, saying "Enough! Enough! Go to sleep!" But this serious-mindedness of Shoghi Effendi pleased Him greatly. The Guardian told me once the Master came to him in the drawing room, where he was working, and stood and looked out of the window into the garden, His back to Shoghi Effendi; the laughing and chattering voices of the family could be heard in another room. `Abdu'l-Bahá turned to Shoghi Effendi and said "IPage 14
do not want you to be like them - worldly." Another time, Shoghi Effendi told me, he remembered the Master turning to His wife and saying "Look at his eyes, they are like clear water." Shoghi Effendi also recalled how the Master, Who had evidently been standing in a window facing the main gate, had observed Shoghi Effendi enter briskly and come up the steps. He sent for him and told him: "Don't walk like that, walk with dignity!" This was at the time when Shoghi Effendi was already grown up and serving the Master in many capacities. In those days before he left for England, he wore long robes, a sash or cummerbund and a red fez on his head. Photographs often show this pushed well back on his head, a wave of his soft dark brown, almost black hair showing, his forehead wide and unfurrowed, his face filled out and always the beautiful, firm chin and large eyes that gave the impression of being dark. He had a mouth which had the peculiar characteristic of the lower lip appearing to be almost like an imprint of the upper one, both distinctly red in hue. After his boyhood he always were a small, trim dark moustache.
Before the Master undertook His journeys to the West the household was much more oriental in its habits. Gradually some western habits were introduced when He returned. I have recorded the following in my diary: "Shoghi Effendi has just been giving me a very vivid sketch of lunch time in the Master's days. He says that about 11 A.M. the Master would come into the big hall and ask AM Quli 'Saat chaneh? [What time is it?] The function of Am Quli was to give the time. The maids would place a cloth on the floor of the old tea room and bowl in from the corridor, where it was kept, a huge round table with low legs; this they placed on the cloth and on this they put some of the old type plates of metal [probably enamel] and some spoons - never enough to go round, just at random - they also would scatter bread over the table and at the top place a few napkins...The Master would enter and seat Himself and call 'biya benshnid' [come and sit down] to whoever was there - His sons-in-law, His uncle, His cousin, etc., etc...and He would eat, sometimes with a spoon, sometimes with His hand. He would also sometimes serve the others, rice etc., with His own hand. When He was about half through "Khanum [the Greatest Holy Leaf] would come in from the kitchen and change her slippers at the entrance of the corridor...and with a plate of tit-bits go and sit by the Master; her place was always kept for her. Gradually some of the others would come, women guests, children, thePage 15
daughters of the Master, etc. [The Master and the men having eaten first would leave the room.] Shoghi Effendi says then bedlam would break out, the children crying, shouting, everyone talking, general confusion. He says what the grandchildren used to watch for [himself included] was the mouthful of "Khanum's food that she would give to this or that one as it always tasted best. They called it 'the mouthful of "Khanum'; the Guardian usually got it as he was a favorite of hers! After the ladies of the household had eaten the women servants would all sit at the same table and eat... After the Master returned from the West gradually more western ways of eating were introduced, china, chairs, cutlery and so on."
But let us return to Akka and the earlier years of Shoghi Effendi. Although there is no doubt that `Abdu'l-Bahá did everything to ensure Shoghi Effendi had as happy and carefree a childhood as possible, it must have been out of the question to hide from so sensitive and intelligent a child the fact that great dangers threatened his beloved grandfather in those years immediately preceding the overthrow of the Sultan of Turkey. The visits of Turkish authorities, sent to investigate the poisonous accusations against `Abdu'l-Bahá made by the Covenant-breakers, their constant machinations against His very life, the threat of separation and a new exile to Libya, must have created an atmosphere of anxiety and great tension in the Master's family and cannot have left Shoghi Effendi untouched. It was a time of violent Covenant-breaking; the community of believers who had come into exile with Bahá'u'lláh, with the exception of a handful of faithful souls, were, for the most part, infected with the germ of this deadly disease, some openly joining `Abdu'l-Bahá'í rebellious half-brother, Muhammad 'Ali, some overtly sympathizing with him. It was during these years that `Abdu'l-Bahá told Shoghi Effendi never to drink coffee in the homes of any of the Bahá'ís. He was afraid this precious grandchild might be poisoned! Shoghi Effendi told me this himself, and when one remembers that he was only a young boy at the time one realizes how great were the dangers surrounding them all in those days.
Perhaps because of this situation, constantly worsening, `Abdu'l-Bahá sent Shoghi Effendi to live in Haifa with his nurse, where already some of the believers resided;l at what date this occurred I am unaware, but it was while he was still a young child. French was his first foreign language and although in later years he was reluctant to speak it officially, as he felt his fluency in it was rusty throughPage 16
disuse, he retained, at least to my ears, a perfect command of it and invariably did all his addition, like lightning, in French. By 1907 he was living with this same nurse, Hajar "Khatun, who had always been with him from his infancy, in the newly construction house of `Abdu'l-Bahá, which became his last home and later the home of the Guardian. It was here that Shoghi Effendi had a very significant dream which he recounted to me and which I wrote down. He said that when he was nine or yen years old, living with his nurse in this house and attending school in Haifa, he dreamed that he and another child, an Arab schoolmate, were in the room in which `Abdu'l-Bahá used to receive His guests in the house in Akka, where the Master was living and where Shoghi Effendi had been born. The Báb entered the room and then a man with a revolver appeared and shot at The Báb; then he told Shoghi Effendi "Now it is your turn" and began to chase him around the room to shot him. At this Shoghi Effendi woke up. He repeated this dream to his nurse, who told him to tell it to Mirza Asadullah and ask him to tell the Master Who replied by revealing for Shoghi Effendi this Tablet. The strange thing, Shoghi Effendi said, is that it was just about this time that `Abdu'l-Bahá was in great danger and wrote one of His Wills in which He appointed Shoghi Effendi as Guardian.He is God
Shoghi Mine This dream is a very good one. Rest assured that to have attained the presence of His Holiness the Exalted One, may my soul be a sacrifice to Him, is a proof of receiving the grace of God and obtaining His most great bounty and supreme favour. The same is true of the rest of the dream. It is my hope that you may manifest the outpourings of the Abha Beauty and wax day by day in faith and knowledge. At night pray and supplicate and in the day do what is required of you.`Abdu'l-Bahá
Shoghi Effendi was particularly attached to this nurse, who is mentioned in a letter `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote to His sister, in which He says: "Kiss the flower of the garden of sweetness, Shoghi Effendi, and convey greetings to Hajar "Khatun". In my diary I recorded: "Shoghi Effendi was telling me tonight how sad he was when his nurse, who had brought him up, died in Alexandretta. He said his mother was determined to get rid of her when she got older and he felt it and resented it bitterly although he was only nine or ten.Page 17
When the news came that she had died he was in Carm, his father's garden. He said he went away in the dark and cried for her - he was about twelve then. His devotion to his nurse was a byword in the family."
Shoghi Effendi entered the best school in Haifa, the College des Freres, conducted by the Jesuits. He told me he had been very unhappy there. Indeed, I gathered from him that he never was really happy in either school or university. In spite of his innately joyous nature, his sensitivity and his background - so different from that of others in every way - could not but set him apart and give rise to many a heart-ache; indeed, he was one of those people whose open and innocent hearts, keen minds and affectionate nature seem to combine to bring upon them more shocks and suffering in life than is the lot of most men. Because of his unhappiness in this school `Abdu'l-Bahá decided to send him to Beirut where he attended another Catholic school as a boarder, and where he was equally unhappy. Learning of this in Haifa the family sent a trusted Bahá'í woman to rent a home fore Shoghi Effendi in Beirut and take car of and wait on him. It was not long before she wrote to his father that he was very unhappy at school, would refuse to go to it sometimes for days, and was getting thin and run down. His father showed this letter to `Abdu'l-Bahá Who then had arrangements made for Shoghi Effendi to enter the Syrian Protestant College, which had a school as well as a university, later known as the American College in Beirut, and which the Guardian entered when he finished what was then equivalent to the high school. Shoghi Effendi spent his vacations at home in Haifa, in the presence as often as possible of the grandfather he idolized and Whom it was the object of his life to serve. The entire course of Shoghi Effendi's studies was aimed by him at fitting himself to serve the Master, interpret for Him and translate His letters into English.
Shoghi Effendi told me that is was during these early years of study in Haifa that he asked `Abdu'l-Bahá to give him a name of his own so he would no longer be confused with his cousins, as they were all called Afnan. The Master then gave him the surname of Rabbani, which means "divine", and this was also used by his brothers and sisters. In those days there were no surnames, people were called after their city, their eldest son or a prominent person in their family.
It is very difficult to trace the exact course of events in these years. All eyes were fixed on the grandfather and much as peoplePage 18
loved and respected the eldest grandson, when the sun shines the lamp is ignore! Some pilgrims' accounts, like that of Thornton Chase, the first American believer, who visited the Master in 1907, mention meeting "Shoghi Afnan". Indeed Chase published a photograph of Shoghi Effendi in what must have been his usual costume in those days, short pants, long dark stockings, a fez on his head, a jacket and a huge sailor's collar covering his shoulders. But there is not enough material available at present to fill in all the gaps. Even those who accompanied `Abdu'l-Bahá on His journeys to the West, and kept careful diaries, did not think to record very much about the comings and goings of a child who was only thirteen when `Abdu'l-Bahá set forth on His historic visits to Europe and America.
No sooner had `Abdu'l-Bahá been freed from His long imprisonment and taken up His permanent residence in Haifa, than He began to contemplate this journey. A report published in America in Bahá'í News , 1910, states: "You have asked for an account of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í departure for the land of Egypt. `Abdu'l-Bahá did not inform anyone that He was going to leave Haifa...within two days He summoned to His presence M.N., Shoghi Effendi and K. and this servant." One of the Bahá'ís recalls that a little before sunset, on that September afternoon when `Abdu'l-Bahá'í ship set sail for Port Said in Egypt, Shoghi Effendi was seated on the steps of the Master's house, disconsolate and forlorn, and remarked: "The Master is now on board the ship. He has left me behind, but surely there is a wisdom in this!" or words to this effect. Well knowing, no doubt, what was passing in the heart of His grandson, the loving Master lost no time in sending for the child to soften the blow of this first, serious separation from Him; but more reference than this to that event has not been found. We know the Master stayed about a month in Port Said, later proceeding to Alexandria rather than to Europe, which was His original intention. How long Shoghi Effendi stayed with Him on that occasion in Egypt we do not know but as school opened in early October one presumes he returned to Syria. What we do know is that in April 1911 Shoghi Effendi was again with the Master, in Ramleh, a suburb of Alexandria, for a visiting Bahá'í from America, Louis Gregory, the first negro Hand of the Cause, mentions meeting, on 16 April, "Shogi", a beautiful boy, a grandson of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and says he showed great affection for the pilgrims. In August of that same year the Master left on His first visit to Europe, returning inPage 19
December 1911. How long it was before He again sent for His eldest grandson to join Him we do not know, but we do know that He now had a plan - perhaps influenced by His own impressions of Europe, perhaps because of the degree to which He had missed Shoghi Effendi - which was none other than to take Shoghi Effendi with Him to America.
The Guardian himself told me how the Master had ordered for him long robes, and two turbans, one green and one white like His own, for Shoghi Effendi to wear in the West; when these were delivered and Shoghi Effendi dressed himself in them to show `Abdu'l-Bahá, he said the Master's eyes shown with pride and pleasure. What this journey to the West in the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá would have meant to Shoghi Effendi is incalculable, but it was prevented by the machinations of one who later became a perfidious and despicable Covenant-breaker, Dr Amin Fareed, the nephew of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í wife, who caused Him such constant distress that Shoghi Effendi said when the Master returned at length to His home in Haifa on 5 December 1913, He proceeded at once to the room of His wife, sat down and said with a feeble voice, accompanied by a gesture of His hand, "Doctor Fareed has ground me down!" There was never any doubt in Shoghi Effendi's mind that it was due to Fareed that he was prevented from making this historic journey.
On 25 March 1912 `Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and various secretaries and servants sailed for Europe from Alexandria on the S. S. Cedric of the White Star Line. When the boat docked at Naples the Italian health inspectors declared that the eyes of one of the secretaries, one of the servants and Shoghi Effendi were diseased and they were ordered to return to the Middle East. In his diary, Mirza Mahmud records these facts and says that in spite of every effort exerted by `Abdu'l-Bahá, by those who accompanied Him and by American friends, these three were denied landing privileges and that the authorities stated that even if they permitted them to go on, in America the health authorities would send them back. `Abdu'l-Bahá spent an entire day during which He did everything possible to change this decision, but in the evening, after a sorrowful leave-taking, He was forced to embark on His ship and sail for America. The words which He addressed that night to those who accompanied Him make it quite clear He did not believe Shoghi Effendi was sent back on any other than aPage 20
trumped-up pretext: "These Italians thought we were Turks and they reported us as such. They have stopped three of us. One was the secretary and one was the cook; this was not important. But this child, Shoghi Effendi, was helpless, why were they so strict with him? They have ill-treated us in this way, but I have always given support and assistance to their community whether in Alexandria or in Haifa..."
Shoghi Effendi told me that there was nothing the matter with his eyes (he always had very strong eyes) but Dr Fareed had insisted to `Abdu'l-Bahá that he must be sent back, raising all kinds of arguments in support of what the Italian doctor said. He attributed the whole thing to Fareed's own intervention in the situation, so typical of his boundless ambition and the endless intrigues within oriental families. ONe can well imagine what heart-break this brought to a boy of fifteen, setting out on the first great adventure of his life, how much more to Shoghi Effendi, so attached to his grandfather, so excited over the trip on a big boat, the great journey to the West in a day when such long voyages were relatively rate and eventful! He always remembered this episode with sadness, but in a touching spirit of submissiveness to the constant blows he received all his life. It is easy to say it was the Will of God - but who knows how often the next step, planned by God, is diverted into another, less perfect path, by the evil plotting of men? There is no doubt the Master was greatly grieved by this event, but had to keep His own counsel, lest the secret of Shoghi Effendi's future be prematurely revealed and worse befall him through the malice and envy of others.
We have a letter written by Shoghi Effendi about six months later to one of the secretaries of `Abdu'l-Bahá in America telling him that although he has subscribed to the Star of the West some copies have not been received and will he please make sure that he gets all the copies giving reports of the Master's travels in America. he gives his address from October as that of the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut, Syria, which, he writes, he will be shortly entering. He signs his name "Choki Rabbani". he seems, in his early years, to have spelt his name this way, also sometimes "Shawki" or "Shogi". It eventually became "Shoghi", which conveyed more clearly its correct pronunciation in English. In a notebook of these Beirut days he has written his name out with its complete transliteration, "Shawqi Rabbani, showing he was aware of this rendering - but he never used if for his own name.Page 21
`Abdu'l-Bahá'í thoughts, in spite of the arduous nature of His daily preoccupations during those exhausting months in America and later in Europe, must have often gone to His beloved grandson. We find mention of Shoghi Effendi in three of the letters the Master wrote to His sister, the Greatest Holy Leaf, Bahiyyih "Khanum, during His travels, showing His anxiety over Shoghi Effendi and revealing His great love for him: "Write to me at once about Shoghi Effendi's condition, informing me fully and hiding nothing; this is the best way." "Kiss the light of the eyes of the company of spiritual souls, Shoghi Effendi." "Kiss the fresh flower of the garden of sweetness, Shoghi Effendi." Such references clearly indicate His anxiety over a child who had not always been well and who, He well knew, missed Him terribly and suffered. We also have a Tablet of `Abdu'l-Bahá addressed to Shoghi Effendi, expressing His concern about his health, but at what period it was written I do not know:He is God!
Shoghi Effendi, upon him be the glory of the All-Glorious! Oh thou who art young in years and radiant of countenance, I understand you have been ill and obliged to rest; never mind, from time to time rest is essential, otherwise, like unto `Abdu'l-Bahá from excessive toil you will become weak and powerless and unable to work. Therefore rest a few days, it does not matter. I hope that you will be under the care and protection of the Blessed Beauty.
At last the long journey was over and the Master, sixty-nine years old and exhausted from His herculean labours, returned to Egypt on 16 June 1913. His family hastened to His presence there, among them Shoghi Effendi, who joined Him about six weeks after His arrival. If one wonders why he did not get there sooner one must remember that school was not out until after the first week of July and then Shoghi Effendi most probably had to take ship for Haifa from Beirut (the alternative being to come overland with a caravan, which was a cheaper but longer and more arduous method of getting there), where he joined some of his family and then sailed from Haifa to Egypt, arriving in the company of the Greatest Holy Leaf and others on 1 August in Ramleh, where `Abdu'l-Bahá had once again rented a villa. So many times Shoghi Effendi would say "the Master was like an ocean", meaning He could receive everything and give forth no sign of disturbance. This immense self-control is nowhere better shown than in the diarist's report that `Abdu'l-Bahá, after hearing of the arrival of the two people HePage 22
loved best in the world, sat for an hour with Bahá'ís and friends before returning home to greet them! On 2 August the diary notes: "Today the beloved did not come to see us in the morning because He was entertaining the 'Greatest Holy Leaf' and the rest of the friends who had come with her." When one imagines the joy of the reunion and reads this trite indication of it one realizes something of the dignity and reserve which always surrounded the family of `Abdu'l-Bahá. Nevertheless we have some indication of Shoghi Effendi's life there: the old custom of prayers in the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá was resumed and Shoghi Effendi would chant too, with his lovely young voice, and `Abdu'l-Bahá would sometimes correct and instruct him. There was nothing unusual in this; I myself often heard older members of the family correct the tune or the pronunciation of someone who was reciting verses or poems out loud; no doubt the Master must have done this many times over the years to Shoghi Effendi. Intensely active and always capable, Shoghi Effendi, during the months he was with `Abdu'l-Bahá, before he returned to his studies in Beirut, made himself constantly useful to the Master, taking down His letters to the Persian believers, which He would dictate to him as he sat in the garden of His villa, where He was wont to drink His tea and receive His guests, waiting on Him, doing errands for Him, being sent by Him with others to receive visitors or meet them at the railway station. We are told how `Abdu'l-Bahá sent Shoghi Effendi to show some of the friends the famous park and zoo of Alexandria, how he visited Cairo - where one imagines he lost no time in visiting the pyramids, for Shoghi Effendi had an adventurous spirit and longed to visit distant places, as witnessed by the keen interest it is recorded he showed in some "Travel" magazines sent from America.
There was tremendous movement about `Abdu'l-Bahá; pilgrims arriving from East and West, amongst them such famous old Bahá'ís as Lua Getsinger and Mirza Abul Fazl, who were to eventually rest, in Egypt, under the same tombstone, many, many years later; believers departing for India to spread the Message of Bahá'u'lláh; delegations of young Bahá'í students from Beirut and persia; interviews accorded by the Master to press representatives and people of distinction and standing. One of His secretaries who had been with Him in America wrote at this time of what infinite joy and bounty these precious days in the Master's presence were. And if this registered itself so vividly on his mind and heart thenPage 23
what must have been the effect on Shoghi Effendi, so disappointed when he had been denied the bounty of accompanying `Abdu'l-Bahá to the West, so starved for His presence and news of Him during almost fifteen months of separation? The heart at sixteen is capable of a kind of joy that seldom repeats itself later in life; in spite of the war years so soon to come, I believe that this period, up until the Master's passing in 1921, was the happiest of Shoghi Effendi's entire life.
I remember two stories associated with the days Shoghi Effendi spent in Egypt with the Master, which he himself recounted to me. He said that one day, after partaking of a particularly rich repast, the Master had recalled the days in Baghdad when His Father had returned from His self-imposed exile in the mountains of Sulaimaniya, when they had all been so poor - the days, however, when from Bahá'u'lláh's pen had streamed such a torrent of exalted writings which night after night until down the believers gathered to hear chanted, in ecstasy at this wonderful Revelation - and the Master said that the taste of the dry bread and dates of those days had been sweeter than all the other food in the world. The other story surprised me - and enlightened me - very much; I heard it more than once: Shoghi Effendi said that one day he was driving back from Alexandria to Ramleh with the Master in a rented carriage, accompanied by a Pasha who was going to the Master's house as His guest; when they arrived and got out the Master asked the strapping big coachman how much He owed him the man asked an exorbitant price; `Abdu'l-Bahá refused to pay it, the man insisted and became abusive to such an extent that he grasped the Master by the sash around His waist and pulled Him roughly back and forth, insisting on this price. Shoghi Effendi said this scene in front of the distinguished guest embarrassed him terribly. he was too small to do anything himself to help the Master and felt horrified and humiliated. No so `Abdu'l-Bahá, Who remained perfectly calm and refused to give in. When the man finally released his hold the Master paid him exactly what He owed him, told him his conduct had forfeited the good tip He had planned to give him, and walked off followed by Shoghi Effendi and the Pasha! There is no doubt that such things left a lifelong imprint on the Guardian's character, who never allowed himself to be browbeaten or cheated, no matter whether or not this embarrassed or inconvenienced him, and those who were working for him.
The character we saw in Shoghi Effendi as Guardian was alreadyPage 24
there in his youth and adolescence. In a letter written by him from Beirut on 8 March 1914 to one of the Master's secretaries in Haifa, whom he knew well, he rebukes him for neglecting to write to him: "A long time elapsed during which I have had neither any news from Haifa nor a word from you. Indeed I never expected this. I hope that the rarity of correspondence will be changed to numerous letters full of glad-tidings of the Holy Land." The seventeen-year-old boy is firm and princely. He goes on to hope that "Our Lord and Master is in perfect health" and asks that any and all talks and references made by the Master, and information His correspondent may have, regarding the question of a Supreme Tribunal be sent to him before 20 March. The keenness with which he was following the talks and thoughts of the Master is reflected in this letter as well as the one requesting all copies of Star of the West covering `Abdu'l-Bahá'í visit to America. But there is a still more illuminating sidelight on Shoghi Effendi's interests and nature in this same letter: "I have pretty near finished the map of the United States of America. It is a very picturesque and beautiful map. Please send me the list of the cities of the United States visited by our Lord in order one after the other. I will be then able to locate them in the map." The great map-maker of the Bahá'í world was already busy!
In notebooks of Shoghi Effendi from the year 1917, we find he has checked off the days ice was delivered to the house he lived in, in Beirut - so typical of the methodical nature of all his work. To the end of his life he was wont to keep track by date of the receipt of his paper, The Times of London, which he no doubt formed the habit of subscribing to when he lived in England - probably the best English-language daily paper in the whole world and the only newspaper addressed by Bahá'u'lláh, by name, in one of His Tablets. These notebooks also contain a detailed enumeration of the Bahá'í calendar, the basic principles of the Faith, notes on the period of the Hebrew Prophets in French, solar and lunar calculations, measurements, weights, copies of Tablets and data showing he had mastered the Abjad system of numerology, as well as sundry other things. the essential characteristics of the Guardian were all there in the boy.
Shoghi Effendi was always active in corresponding with Bahá'í friends through personal letters. We learn from one of these, addressed to "Syed Mustafa Roumie" in Burma, and dated "Caiffa, Syria, July 28, 1914", in which he says he is much pleasedPage 25
with the "glad-tidings of the rapid progress of the Cause in the Far East", that he shared this letter with the Master and "a Holy tender smile ran over his radiant Face and his heart overflowed with joy. I then came to know that the Master is in good health for I recollected his sayings which I quote now. 'Whenever and wherever I hear the glad tidings of the Cause my physical health is bettered and ameliorated.' I therefore tell you that the Master is feeling very well and is happy. Convey this happy news to the Indian believers. I do hope that this will double their courage, their firmness, and their zeal in spreading the Cause."
Shoghi Effendi also played a dominant role in the activities of the Bahá'í students studying in Beirut, through which passed so many of the pilgrims from Persia and the Far East on their way to and from Haifa. He writes, in another letter to that same correspondent, headed "Syrian Protestant College, Beirut, Syria, May 3rd 1914": "Going back to our college activities our Bahá'í meetings, which I have spoken to you about, are reorganized and only today we are sending letters, enclosing glad tidings of the Holy Land, to the Bahá'í Assemblies of various countries."
In February 1915 Shoghi Effendi won first prize in the Freshman - Sophomore Prize Contest - what for is not stated - awarded by the Student's Union. He was a good student, but he himself never claimed he had been considered a brilliant or outstanding scholar. There is a very great difference between a deep, wide, farseeing and logical mind and the quality of brain, spurred on more often than not by ambition and conceit, which wins acclaim from faculty and fellow-students. There was never any conceit in Shoghi Effendi's nature and no ambition. He was fired by a supreme motive - to serve `Abdu'l-Bahá and lift some of the load of work and cares from His shoulders. In a letter dated 15 January 1918, addressed to Him from Beirut by Shoghi Effendi, he puts this in his own words: "I have resumed my studies, directing and concentrating all my efforts on them and doing my utmost to acquire that which will benefit and prepare me to serve the Cause in the days to come." Shoghi Effendi had just returned to Beirut from Haifa, evidently after the Christmas vacation period, and "arrived", he wrote, "happily and safely in the university" after weathering cold and rain on the way. Shoghi Effendi pours out, in every revealing phrase of this letter, "my love and longing for you" and ends: "I have sent you by post a piece of cheese, hoping it will be acceptable to Thee." He signed it "Thy lowly and humblePage 26
servant Shoghi". When one remembers that during the war tens of thousands were estimated to have died of starvation in the Lebanon, this gift of a piece of cheese assumes different proportions.
That the war years, during which Shoghi Effendi was studying in Beirut to obtain his Bachelor of Arts degree at the American University, cast a deep shadow of anxiety upon him, in spite of his naturally buoyant and joyous nature, is evinced in a passage of one of his letters written in April 1919, in which he refers to the "long and dismal years of war, bloodshed, famine, and pestilence, when the Holy Land was isolated from the different regions of the world and was undergoing the utmost and severest degree of repression, tyranny and devastation..." They were years of ever-increasing danger for his beloved grandfather, years of dire starvation for much of the population,of privations shared by all, including his own family. As the world struggle approached its end the threat of a bombardment of Haifa by the Allies reached such proportions that `Abdu'l-Bahá removed His family to a village at the foot of the hills on the other side of the Bay of Akka where they lived for some months and where He, too, spent some of His time. But the greatest threat to the Master's life and to His family came at the moment when the Turkish Commander-in-Chief, "the brutal, the all-powerful and unscrupulous Jamal Pasha, an inveterate enemy of the Faith," as Shoghi Effendi described him, contemplated crucifying the Master and His whole family, according to Major Tudor which entered Haifa in August 1918, and who states this hideous act was due to take place two days before their entry, but was frustrated by the rapidity of the British advance and the consequent hasty retreat of the Turkish forces. We assume Shoghi Effendi had completed his studies in Beirut, and was with `Abdu'l-Bahá at this time and shared the agonizing uncertainty of those days. It seems strange to me, as I write this, to realize how little Shoghi Effendi ever mentioned personal events in life; he hated anecdotes and had no time for reminiscences when they referred to himself. His tired mind and spirit were, during the period I was privileged to be with him, wholly preoccupied with the work of the Cause, the immediate task to be accomplished then, right before him, waiting, weighing on him each day.
It was in 1918 that Shoghi Effendi received his Bachelor of Arts degree. In a letter to a friend in England dated 19 November ofPage 27
that year, he wrote: "I am so glad and privileged to be able to attend to my Beloved's services after completing my course of Arts and Sciences in the American University in Beirut. I am so anxious and expectant to hear from you and of your services to the Cause for by transmitting them to the Beloved I shall make him happy, glad and strong. The past four years have been years of misery, of sever famine and distress, of unparalleled bloodshed and strife, but not that the dove of peace has returned to its nest and abode a golden opportunity has arisen for the promulgation of the Word of God. This will be now promoted and the Message delivered in this liberated region without the least amount of restriction. This is indeed the Era of Service." Nothing could be more revealing of the character of the future Guardian than these lines, in which his devotion to the work of the Master, his consuming longing to make Him happy and well, his concise summary of where his own life now stands in relation to this service, his analysis of what the war's end signifies for the immediate future of Bahá'í work are all clearly shown. His nascent rhetorical style, still hampered by an imperfect command of the English language, but already showing the bare bones of its future greatness is reflected in passages such as this: "the friends...are all...large and small, old and young, healthy and sick, at home and abroad glad of the events that have recently transpired; they are all one soul in different bodies, united agreed, serving and aiming to serve the oneness of humanity."
Shoghi Effendi was now twenty-one years old. His personal relationship to `Abdu'l-Bahá was made clear in some of these early letters, for the most part written in 1919, in which he refers to "my grandfather, `Abdu'l-Bahá" and signs himself "Shoghi Rabbani (grandson of `Abdu'l-Bahá)". One must remember that in the immediate months after the war ended, when contact was being re-established between the Master and the believers in so many countries which had been cut off from Him during the long years of hostilities, it was highly desirable that Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike should know who this "Shoghi Rabbani" was who was not acting as the Master's secretary and right-hand man. The Star of the West , in its issue of 27 September 1919, publishes a full-length photograph of Shoghi Effendi, entitled, "Shoghi Rabbani, Grandson of `Abdu'l-Bahá", and states he is the translator of recent Tablets and his Diary Letters begin in this issue. Personally I believe,Page 28
knowing from experience how completely Shoghi Effendi directed even minutiae at the World Centre, that it is probable the Master Himself directed him to make clear their family relationship.
The work of `Abdu'l-Bahá increased from day to day as floods of letters, reports and eventually pilgrims poured into Haifa. This is reflected in Shoghi Effendi's personal letters to various Bahá'í friends: "...this interruption of correspondence with you on my part has been solely due to a great pressure of work in connection with the dictation and translation of Tablets...The whole afternoon has been spent in translating for him only the contents of a part of the supplications from London." He ends up by saying "I enclose, out of my Bahá'í and particular affection for you, two photographs..." "My head is in a whirl, so busy and so eventful was the day. No less than a score of callers from prince and pasha to a simple private soldier have sought interview with `Abdu'l-Bahá." "The Beloved from morn till eve, even at midnight is engaged in revealing Tablets, in sending forth his constructive, dynamic thoughts of love and principles to a sad and disillusioned world." "As I am writing these lines, I am again moved to present myself in his presence and take down his words in response to the recently arrived supplications." Every word reflects the boundless energy, devotion and enthusiasm of this princeling at the side of the old king, serving and supporting Him with all the vitality of his youth and the singular eagerness of his nature.
Shoghi Effendi frequently accompanied the Master to the steadily increasing number of official functions to which He was invited. This included visits to the British Military Governor of Haifa and interviews with the Commander-in-Chief, Sire Edmund Allenby, the General who had led the Allied forces in Palestine and who later became Lord Allenby and was largely responsible for `Abdu'l-Bahá'í receiving a knighthood from the British Government. Shoghi Effendi wrote: "This was the second time `Abdu'l-Bahá had called on the General and this time the conversation centered around the Cause and its progress...He is a very gentle, modest and striking figure, warm in affection, yet imposing in his manners." In these circles the grandson of `Abdu'l-Bahá was not becoming known. An official letter, from the Military Governor to `Abdu'l-Bahá, says: "Your Eminence: I have today received from your grandson the sum of ___". This was in response to Shoghi Effendi's having called upon him with a further contribution from the Master to the "Haifa Relief Fund". Shoghi Effendi also spentPage 29
much time with the pilgrims, not only in the presence of `Abdu'l-Bahá, during which he eagerly obtained information from them about the progress of Bahá'í activities in various countries.
Although the Master's work had now increased to such an extent that many people were engaged in constantly serving and assisting Him, there can be no doubt that no one compared with Shoghi Effendi. I remember the Guardian telling me of how (I believe it must have been in early 1920) one of the old American Bahá'ís had sent a gift to the Master of a Cunningham automobile; notice of its arrival at the quayside in port came just as the weekend commenced and the Master gave Shoghi Effendi instructions to see that it was cleared and delivered to the house. Shoghi Effendi told me that although the next day there were no high officials in the port and it was not a business day, he succeeded in getting the car delivered and when it arrived he went to the Master and informed Him it was outside the door. He said the Master was very surprised and immensely pleased and asked him how he had succeeded in doing this. Shoghi Effendi told Him he had taken the papers and gone to the homes of various officials, asking them to sign the documents and give the necessary orders for the car of Sir `Abdu'l-Bahá 'Abbas to be delivered to Him at once. This was typical of the way Shoghi Effendi did his work throughout his entire life. He always wanted everything done at once, if not sooner, and everything he had any personal control over progressed at that speed.
Wherever `Abdu'l-Bahá went, as often as possible the beloved grandson went with Him. This constant companionship, which lasted for about two years, must have been a deep satisfaction to them both and have exerted a profound and decisive influence on Shoghi Effendi. During these years, when the star of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í fame was rising locally, as well as internationally, Shoghi Effendi had the opportunity of observing how the Master dealt with high officials and the numerous men of distinction drawn to one Whom many regarded as little less than an oriental prophet and the greatest religious figure in Asia, as well as how the Master conducted Himself in the face of the ever-present envy and intrigue of His enemies and ill-wishers. The lessons learned were to be reflected in the thirty-six years of Shoghi Effendi's own ministry to the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.
In a letter to a friend dated 18 February 1919 Shoghi Effendi writes he is in Bahji with the Master and begins: "Greetings withPage 30
sweetest remembrances to you, my far-off friend, from this hallowed spot!" He goes on to describe the peacefulness of Bahji, after the increasing activity in the city of Haifa and says "The air over there was filled with gases and vapors which steam and motor engines continuously discharge, while the atmosphere here is as pure, as clear and as fragrant as it can be." When we remember that as late as 1923 I went to Bahji in the horse-drawn carriage of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and that in 1918 automobile traffic was practically non-existent in post-war Palestine, we must assume that Shoghi Effendi was inordinately fond of nature - which, indeed, he was! His description of the Master, visiting the Holy Shrine twice a day, and walking in the flowering wilderness, reflects his joy in these precious days, close to his best-beloved. But the end of this blessedness for Shoghi Effendi was rapidly approaching. It had been decided he should now go to England and enter Oxford University, his avowed purpose being to perfect his English in order to better translate the Tablets of `Abdu'l-Bahá, as well as the other sacred writings, into this language.
The decision of Shoghi Effendi to leave `Abdu'l-Bahá, after less than two years spent constantly in His service, and at a time when the Master's vast post-war correspondence was steadily increasing, was based on a number of factors: if he intended to pursue his studies the sooner he did so the better; `Abdu'l-Bahá now had a number of people acting as His secretaries; Shoghi Effendi's eldest cousin had finished his studies in Beirut and was now at home; the Master's own condition and plans were propitious and, above all, His health had been steadily improving. In 1918 Tudor Pole, who was the Allenby's conquering army in Palestine, wrote: "...the Master is vigorous and more healthy than when He was in London." Shoghi Effendi, in letters of his own, written respectively during April and August 1919, bears this out: "The Beloved is in perfect health, strong and vigorous, happy and joyous..." "The Beloved Master, is indeed in the best of health, physically strong, ever active, revealing hundreds of Tablets a week, perusing innumerable supplications, receiving many visitors and pilgrims and often waking up at mid-night for meditation and prayer." During this same period Shoghi Effendi, in letters to friends in England and in burma, conveys the startling news that `Abdu'l-Bahá was seriously considering another very long journey: "What is significant and alluring is the intimation of the Beloved himself that he is planning and thinking of such a journeyPage 31
across the Indian Ocean. He even declared that, God willing, he wishes to undertake a voyage to India, and thence to Indo-China, Japan and the Hawaiian Islands, from there across the American Continent to your beloved city of London, to France, Germany and Egypt. Oh! how fervent, how deep and how sincere is our hope that such a great journey which he himself has fixed its duration to be four or five years, will be undertaken. Let us hope and prepare for it." "The Beloved, has intimated of late his intention to travel to India and we hope this will be soon realized, and India, through the unity and energy of the friends, will acquire the capacity to receive him."
Very few of us, least of all when we are twenty-three years old, imagine our loved ones dying, how much less when they are in the best of health and planning such a journey as this! So it is not surprising that Shoghi Effendi should have left `Abdu'l-Bahá, some time in the spring of 1920, with a tranquil conscience, fully believing he would return to His side better equipped to serve Him, and, I have no doubt, confident in his own heart that this time he would certainly accompany his grandfather on such a marvellous voyage, and be privileged to serve Him day and night for many years to come. In anticipation of such years as these that seemed to stretch ahead of `Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi ignored His age (the Master was now seventy-six) and ignored that factor that so often dashes our hearts and hopes forever - the obscure intervention of Providence in our plans and lives. How terrible the blow was for the young Guardian when it suddenly fell upon him is reflected in his own anguished words in a letter he wrote in February 1922, a few months after his grandfather's death, to a distant cousin: "Ah bitter remorse of having missed Him - in His Last Days - on this earth, I shall take with me to the grave no matter what I may do for Him in future, no matter to what extent my studies in England will repay his wondrous love for me."
In is a significant sidelight on his life as Guardian, and on his early death at the age of sixty, that although Shoghi Effendi was still little more than a boy in 1920 when `Abdu'l-Bahá sent him abroad for his studies, in the company of Lotfullah Hakim who was returning to England after his first pilgrimage to Haifa, the Master insisted that on his way to England he should go first to a sanatorium and take a good rest. It shows how depleted Shoghi Effendi's nervous strength must have been, after the long years of war and attendant strain, and the heavy post-war work and intensePage 32
activity in the Master's service, and how solicitous for his health his grandfather was at this time. Shoghi Effendi took the rest that had been enjoined upon him in a sanatorium in Neuilly, a suburb of Paris. he was not ill, but run down; he associated with the believers there, played some tennis, went sight-seeing, becoming familiar with a city that is in itself so beautiful and houses one of the world's greatest museums, visited some Bahá'ís in the town of Barbizon, stayed about two months and then proceeded to England in July.
He was received there by the many devoted friends of `Abdu'l-Bahá with genuine warmth and affection. Some of them he already knew personally, such as Dr J. E. Esslemont, who had recently been in Haifa and collaborated with him and other friends in the translation of an important Tablet of the Master; Major W. Tudor Pole, who had met `Abdu'l-Bahá during His stay in London and had been in Palestine with the British Army of Occupation, rendering the believers every assistance within his power; and Lord Lamington.
Shoghi Effendi was the bearer of letters from this grandfather to some of His English friends, as is attested in a letter he wrote shortly after his arrival to the wife of Ali Kuli Khan in France:July 28, 1920
I have been fearfully busy since I stepped on British soil and so far the progress of my work has been admirable. Equipped with the Tablets of the Master for Lady Blomfield, Lord Lamington and Major Tudor Pole, I have through them come in close touch with eminent professors and Orientalists whether at Oxford or London University. Having secured introductions and recommendations from Sir Denison Ross, and Professor Ker, to Sir Walter Raleigh - professor of and lecturer on English literature at Oxford - and Prof. Margoliouth - the remarkable Arabic scholar and Orientalist of the same University, I hastened to Oxford after a busy week stay in London. In fact before leaving for Oxford, I had a letter from Margoliouth saying that he would do all in his power to be of help to a relative of `Abdu'l-Bahá. With this man and the Master of Balliol College - a College from which great men such as Lord Grey, Earl Curzon, Lord Milner, Mr. Asquith, Swinburne and Sir Herbert Samuel have graduated - I had the opportunity of speaking about the Cause and clearing up some points that to these busy scholars had hitherto been uncertain and confused. Do pray for me, as I have requested you on the eve of my departure,Page 33
that in this great intellectual center I may attain my object and achieve my end...
Of particular interest is a letter written a few days later by Lord Lamington to the Master:8th August 1920
I was glad to get your letter at the hands of Shoghi Rabbani and to know from him that you are well. He himself seemed in good health, and I was again impressed by his intelligence and open honest manner. I hope he will manage to get the training he seeks at Oxford. he came to the House of Lords two or three days, but none of the occasions were I fear of any great interest...
The above correspondence gives us an indication of when Shoghi Effendi was in London; as he was the bearer of a letter from `Abdu'l-Bahá to Lord Lamington we may surmise he lost no time in presenting it to him and can also imagine that the eagerness of the young man to see the workings of the Mother of Parliaments could not be hidden from the kindly and experienced peer, who would see to it that Shoghi Effendi was admitted to some of the sessions of the House of Lords and the House of Commons present. I remember that after our marriage, when we first went to London together, he took me to the House of Commons and we sat in the visitor's gallery during one of the sessions. If this was a big experience for me - still so dazed and overcome by the recent honour of being permitted to be so near to the Sign of God on earth - one can imagine how much it thrilled and impressed Shoghi Effendi as a young man. He became very familiar with London during this period in England and visited its famous sites. On more than one occasion, when we went to such places together as Westminster Abbey, St Paul's, the Tower of London, the British Museum, the National Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the City, Kew Gardens and so on, I realized how many associations this famous city had left him from his student days. He also no doubt saw as much of England as he could on his very modest student's allowance which he received from `Abdu'l-Bahá. That he practised many economies I know from things he told me, such as that he had bought an electric iron with which to press his clothes!Page 34
Shoghi Effendi visited Dr Esslemont more than once at his private sanatorium in Bournemouth. A photograph shows the two of them, heads close, in front of the building, and a letter of Shoghi Effendi to a Dr Hall, written after Esslemont died, eloquently expresses what these visits meant to him: "I shall ever recall the happy and restful days I spent at Bournemouth in the company of our departed friend John Esslemont and I will not forget the pleasant hours we spent together while taking our meals in the sanatorium." While he was in that part of England Shoghi Effendi also visited the seaside resort of Torquay. Many years later we were to go there together, and I was shown the famous Bábbacombe downs by the Guardian and we walked in the park he had visited so long before - a park with deep red-coloured paths which I believe were the very ones that impressed upon his mind the beauty of red paths and green lawns and ornamental vases in conjunction and inspired him years later to duplicate them in his own beautiful gardens at Bahji and on Mt Carmel.
The remembrance of those student days never really died out in Shoghi Effendi. I can remember his once telling an English pilgrim, during the last years of his life how good the thick slices of brown bread, raspberry jam and Devonshire cream had tasted to him.
During his stay in England he was particularly close to one of the old and trusted Persian believers who lived in London, Ziaollah Asgarzadeh, as well as to Dr Esslemont, Lady Blomfield and others, and some of the Manchester Bahá'ís. In spite of the fact that he spent most of his time at Oxford, and concentrated on his studies, he was closely associated with the British Bahá'í Community and share in its activities. In a letter dated 5 May 1921, written by an Indian believer who was in England, we find that "On Wednesday evening I went to attend the usual Bahá'í meeting at Lindsay hall. Mr. Shoghi Rabbani read a paper dealing with the economic problems and their solution. His paper was beautifully worded and was very good...." It seems his reading of papers was not confined to Bahá'í meetings for in a letter from Balliol College to one of the believers he states: "I shall also later send you a paper on the Movement which I read some time ago at one of the leading societies in Oxford."
Oxford and Cambridge are still words to conjure with; in 1920 they shone in even more splendid academic isolation than they do in these days when universities and university education havePage 35
become more prevalent. Balliol, to which Shoghi Effendi was admitted, had a very high standing, being one of Oxford's oldest colleges. Here too I was conducted, years later, by the Guardian, to see the streets he had passed through,the Bodleian Library, the placid river in its greensward surroundings beyond the wroughtiron gates, to thousand-year-old Christ Church with its vast kitchen and fairy web of Gothic arches, to Magdalen and its beauties and to the peaceful quad inside the walls of Balliol, which Shoghi Effendi crossed to his studies, to the dining hall where he ate, and to gaze on the narrow entrance that led to the room he had once lived in as a student. It all, obviously, held many memories for him, but I think few of them were really happy ones.
Many years ago one of the Bahá'ís wrote to the Guardian of a conversation with A. D. Lindsay, who had at that time become Master of Balliol, and who in Shoghi Effendi's days had been his tutor. I kept a copy of his words; one must remember they were voiced in a short informal conversation, not in a special interview. "Shoghi Effendi's idea of education was to discover somebody whose opinions he valued and then question him. When Shoghi Effendi got his answers he wrote them all in a small black book. I had posted my schedule (as we say in England, skedule, as you say in America); Shoghi Effendi came to me asking, 'What do you do between seven and half past eight?' 'Why man,' I cried, 'I dine!' 'Oh', said Shoghi Effendi with obvious disappointment, 'but must you have all that time?" I had not found so much eagerness for knowledge at Oxford. So I gave him another quarter-hour and went with less dinner. so it was - I suffered for him." This incident had arisen out of the fact that Shoghi Effendi wanted his tutor to give him more than the time already allotted to him." In spite of the above remarks, which are kindly in intent, there is no evidence that this learned man had the faintest inkling of the fact that his only real distinction in the eyes of posterity will be that he tutored Shoghi Effendi. Though everyone at college, how much more this tutor, knew why Shoghi Effendi had broken off his studies and returned to Palestine, there is no letter to be found expressing the slightest personal feeling for his pupil.
There was, however, an exchange of letters between them for in 1927 Shoghi Effendi wrote to Dr Lindsay C.B.E. saying he was sending him the Bahá'í Year Book "showing the character of the work I have been engaged in ever since my sudden and deeply-regretted recall from Balliol." He goes on to say "The invaluablePage 36
assistance I have received under your tutorship has proved of great benefit in my arduous and responsible task and I welcome this opportunity to express my grateful appreciation of all that you have done for me." Over two years later Lindsay, in an appeal to all old members for funds for something to do with the College, thanks him for the book. Shoghi Effendi replied the next day, enclosed a 20 [pound] contribution, and thanked him for his letter with "served to remind me of the happy and valuable days I spent under your tutorship at Balliol." Great as was the station of the Guardian his modesty and sense of justice, as well as his courtesy, always impelled him to give credit wherever he felt credit was due. In 1923 in a letter to Professor Dodge at the American University in Beirut he referred to "this great educational institution in the Near East, to which I feel so deeply indebted..."
The attitude of Professor D. S. Margoliouth and his wife was quite different, for in 1930 she, in thanking Shoghi Effendi for a book he has sent them writes: "We like to be reminded of the pleasure that we had in welcoming you in this house during your all too short sojourn in Oxford." This was not the only home that we know received him for we have a letter of his to a Mrs Whyte, five years after he left England, in which he says: "I shall always remember, with the liveliest and most pleasant recollection your most valuable help to me as well as your generous hospitality during my stay in Oxford...Always your grateful and affectionate friend Shoghi".
From the college register of 1920 we discover that the Guardian has designated himself, in his own handwriting, as Shawqi Hadi Rabbani 1st son of Mirza Hadi Shirazi, aged 23. From a notebook he kept we find the following list, which he had carefully made out, and which shows the dates he began his studies in 1920:Oct. 14, 1920 Political Science: - Rev. Carlyle
Oct. 15, 1920 Social and Political Problems: - Mr. Smith (Master of Balliol)
Oct. 13, 1920 Social and Industrial Questions: - Rev. Carlyle
Oct. 12, 1920 Political Economy: - Sir T. H. Penson M.A.
Oct. 16, 1920 English Economic History since 1688: - Sir PensonOct. 11, 1920 Logic: - Mr. Ross M.A.
Oct. 12, 1920 Eastern Question: - F.F Urquhart M.A.
Oct. 19, 1920 Relations of Capital and Labour: - Clay, New CollegePage 37
He kept notes of some of these classes, at least those for his first attendances. The Guardian's own idea of why was at Oxford was quote clear; fortunately we have an expression of this in a letter he wrote to an oriental believer on 18 October 1920: "My dear spiritual friend...God be praised, I am in good health and full of hope and trying to the best of my ability to equip myself for those things I shall require in my future service to the Cause. My hope is that I may speedily acquire the best that this country and this society have to offer and then return to my home and recast the truths of the Faith in a new form, and thus serve the Holy Threshold." There is no doubt he was referring to his future translation of the teachings into the perfect English for which he laid the foundation during his sojourn in England.
On 22 November 1921, in a letter to one of the English believers, the advances made by Shoghi Effendi in his work as Oxford are clearly reflected; one senses a new mastery and self-assurance: "...I have been of late immersed in my work, revising many translations and have sent to Mr. Hall my version of Queen Victoria's Tablet which is replete with most vital and significant world counsels, so urgently needed by this sad and disillusioned world! If you have not yet perused it be sure to obtain it from Mr. Hall as it is in my opinion one of the most outstanding and emphatic pronouncements of Bahá'u'lláh on world affairs." He goes onto say he is enclosing extracts "some new and some old" which he has made "in the course of my readings at the Bodleian on the Movement". In a Persian letter of this same period, written to a friend in London, he refers to the fact that "I am engaged in this land, day and night, in perfecting myself in the art of translation...I do not have a moment's rest. Thank God that to some extent at least the results are good." He states that his preoccupations and studies, as well as college regulations, are such that he is only free on Sundays and can his friend come and see him on Sunday at 45 Broad Street.
From his Beirut days until practically the end of his life Shoghi Effendi had the habit of writing vocabularies and typical English phrases in notebooks. Hundreds of words and sentences have been recorded and these clearly indicate the years of careful study and he put into mastering a language he loved and revelled in. For him there was no second to English. He was a great reader of King James version of The Bible, and of the historians Carlyle and Gibbon, whose style he greatly admired, particularly that of Gibbon whosePage 38
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Shoghi Effendi was so fond of that I never remember his not having a volume of it near him in his small room and usually with him when he travelled. There was a small Everyman's copy of part of it next to his bed when he died. It was his own pet bible of the English language and often he would read to me excerpts from it, interrupting himself with exclamations such as "Oh what style; what a command of English; what rolling sentences; listen to this." With his beautiful voice and pronunciation - in the direction of what we call an "Oxford accent", but no exaggeratedly so - the words fairly glowed with colour and their value and meaning came out like shining jewels. I particularly remember one peaceful hour (so rare, alas) when we sat on a bench facing the lake on a summer afternoon in St James' Park in London and he read me Gibbon out loud. He revelled in him and throughout Shoghi Effendi's writings the influence of his style may clearly be seen, just as The Báblical English is reflected in his translations of Bahá'u'lláh's Prayers, The Hidden Words and Tablets.
I know Shoghi Effendi was at Oxford at the same time as Anthony Eden; they were acquainted but not friends, indeed I never heard him mention any person as having been a friend; his ties remained with some of his professors but he seems to have kept himself aloof from others, perhaps because of a shyness that was not easily detectable in the majesty of the Guardian, but was a strong characteristic of the human nature of the man. he belonged to a debating society and liked to play tennis; but details of his days in Oxford are singularly lacking. This whole episode in his life was so overshadowed by the Master's passing, so utterly devastating in the effect it produced on his life, that the only real record we have of it is in the influence it produced on his writings and his character. Even so short a stay in a university with the atmosphere and quality of Oxford shaped and sharpened his already clear and logical mind, heightened his critical faculties, reinforced his strong sense of justice and reasoning powers, and added to the oriental nobility which characterized Bahá'u'lláh's family those touches of the culture we associate with the finest type of English gentleman.Page 39
THE PASSING OF `Abdu'l-Bahá AND ITS IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCES
The address of Major Tudor Pole, in London, was often used as the distributing point for cables and letters to the Bahá'ís. Shoghi Effendi himself, whenever he went up to London, usually called there. On 29 November 1921 at 9.30 in the morning the following cable reached that office:Cyclometry London
His Holiness `Abdu'l-Bahá ascended Abhá Kingdom. Inform friends.Greatest Holy Leaf
In notes he made of this terrible event and its immediate repercussions Tudor Pole records that he immediately notified the friends by wire, telephone and letter. I believe he must have telephoned Shoghi Effendi, asking him to come at once to his office, but not conveying to him at that distance a piece of news which he well knew might prove too much of a shock. However this may be, at about noon Shoghi Effendi reached London, went to 61 St James' Street (off Piccadilly and not far from Buckingham Palace) and was shown into the private office. Tudor Pole was not in the room at the moment but as Shoghi Effendi stood there his eye was caught by the name of `Abdu'l-Bahá on the open cablegram lying on the desk and he read it. When Tudor Pole entered the room a moment later he found Shoghi Effendi in a state of collapse, dazed and bewildered by this catastrophic news. He was taken to the home of Miss Grand, one of the London believers, and put to bed there for a few days. Shoghi Effendi's sister Rouhangeze was studying in London and she, Lady Blomfield and others did all they could to comfort the heart-stricken youth.
Dr Esslemont immediately responded to his need; his firstPage 40
thought, on hearing the news, was evidently of Shoghi Effendi. In a letter written on 29 November he says:The Home Sanatorium Bouremouth
It was indeed a "bolt from the blue" when I got Tudor Pole's wire this morning: "Master passed on peacefully Haifa yesterday morning"... It must be very hard for you, away from your family and even away from all Bahá'í friends. What will you do now? I suppose you will go back to Haifa as soon as possible. Meantime you are most welcome to come here for a few days...Just send me a wire...and I shall have a room ready for you...if I can be of any help to you in any way I shall be so glad. I can well imagine how heart-broken you must feel and how you must long to be at home and what a terrible blank you must feel in you life...Christ was closer to His loved ones after His ascension than before, and so I pray it may be with the beloved and ourselves. We must do our part to shoulder the responsibility of the Cause and His Spirit and Power will be with us and in us.
After a few days in Miss Grand's home Shoghi Effendi roused himself to wind up his affairs and return immediately to the Holy Land. Tudor Pole, in a letter to the American Bahá'ís dated 2 December, wrote: "Shoghi Rabbani and his sister will be returning to Haifa towards the end of the present month and they will be accompanied by Lady Blomfield..." We presume that Shoghi Effendi was in Oxford on 3 December, as Professor Margoliouth expressed his condolences to him on that date and invited him to "look in". We also know, from a letter he wrote to a Bahá'í student in London, alas, undated, that he accepted Dr Esslemont's invitation for he writes:
The terrible news has for some days so overwhelmed my body, my mind and my soul that I was laid for a couple of days in bed almost senseless, absent-minded and greatly agitated. Gradually His power revived my and breathed in me a confidence that I hope will henceforth guide me and inspire me in my humble work of service. The day had to come, but how sudden and unexpected. The fact however that His Cause has created so many and such beautiful souls all over the world is a sure guarantee that it will live and prosper and ere long will compass the world! I am immediately starting for Haifa to receive the instructions He has left and have now made a supreme determination to dedicate my life to His service and by His aid to carry out His instructions all the days of my life.Page 41
The friends have insisted on my spending a day or two of rest in this place with Dr. Esslemont after the shock I have sustained and tomorrow I shall start back to London and thence to the Holy Land.
The stir which is now aroused in the Bahá'í world is an impetus to this Cause and will awaken every faithful should to shoulder the responsibilities which the Master has now placed upon every one of us.
The Holy Land will remain the focal centre of the Bahá'í world; a new era will now come upon it. The Master in His great vision has consolidated His work and His spirit assures me that its results will soon be made manifest.
I am starting with Lady Blomfield for Haifa, and if we are delayed in London for our passage I shall then come and see you and tell you how marvellously the Master has designed His work after Him and what remarkable utterances He has pronounced with regard to the future of the Cause....
With prayer and faith in His Cause, I am your well-wisher in His service,Shoghi
This is little short of an astonishing letter to have been written before the provisions of the Master's Will were known or circulated, although it seems clear Shoghi Effendi had been informed there was awaiting his arrival in Haifa an envelope addressed to him by the Master. Truly it seems as if the spirit of the Master as it winged its way on its eternal flight had passed by England and dropped His mantle on the scion of His house in passing! One of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í daughters wrote, on 22 December 1921: "He has written His last instructions enclosed in an envelope addressed to Shoghi Effendi - therefore we cannot open it until he arrives, which will be, we hope, about the end of this month, as he is now on his way here."
The high office so soon to be made known to him, the long years of training by his beloved grandfather, all seem to have poured spiritual strength into Shoghi Effendi at the most tragic hour of his life. He found time, in the midst of his agony, to comfort others as witnessed by this moving letter written to him on 5 December by E. T. Hall, one of the old believers on Manchester:
Your loving, tender and noble letter, full of encouragement and fortitude came when we were very sad but resolute, very shocked but thoroughly understanding; and it turned the tide of our feelings into a flood-tide of peace and patience in the Will of God....Your noblePage 42
letter uplifted us all and renewed our strength and determination; for if you could gather yourself together and rise above such grievous sorrow and shock, and comfort us, we, too, must do no less; but arise and serve the Cause which is our Mother...I know you have a thousand things to see to ere you start for the Holy Land. "But we all love you dearly and we are all united and stronger than ever. Go with our love and sympathy and all our hearts to that Hallowed Spot, for we are one with you always.
Owing to passport difficulties Shoghi Effendi cabled Haifa he could not arrive until the end of the month. He sailed from England on 16 December, accompanied by Lady Blomfield and Rouhangeze, and arrived in Haifa by train at 5.20 P.M. on 29 December from Egypt where his boat from England had docked. Many friends went to the station to bring him home; it is reported he was so overcome on his arrival that he had to be assisted up the steps. Awaiting him in the house was the only person who could in any measure assuage his suffering - his beloved great-aunt, the sister of `Abdu'l-Bahá. She had already - so frail, so quiet, so modest at all times - shown herself in these past weeks to be a strong rock to which the believers clung in the midst of the tempest that had so suddenly burst upon them. The calibre of her soul, her breeding, her station, fitted her for the role she played in the Cause and in Shoghi Effendi's life during this extremely difficult and dangerous period.
When `Abdu'l-Bahá so unexpectedly and quietly passed away, after no serious illness, the distracted members of His family searched His papers to see if by chance he had left any instructions as to where He should be buried. Finding none, they entombed Him in the centre of the three rooms adjacent to the inner Shrine of The Báb. The discovered his Will - which consists of three Wills written at different times and forming one document - addressed to Shoghi Effendi. It now became the painful duty of Shoghi Effendi to hear what was in it; a few days after his arrival they read it to him. In order to understand even a little of the effect this had on him we must remember that he himself stated on more than one occasion, not only to me, but to others who were present at the table of the Western Pilgrim House, that he had had no foreknowledge of the existence of the Institution of Guardianship, least of all that he was appointed as Guardian; that the most he had expected was that perhaps, because he was the eldest grandson, `Abdu'l-Bahá might have left instructions as to how thePage 43
Universal House of Justice was to be elected and he might have been designated the one to see these were carried out and act as Convenor of the gathering which would elect it.
In that house, so empty now, so terribly empty, where every step reminded him of the Master's presence now gone forever, he did indeed sink under the water's of darkest grief and despair. "Moments of gloom", he writes to Mrs Whyte, "of intense sadness, of agitation I often experience for wherever I go I remember my beloved grandfather and whatever I do I feel the terrible responsibility He has so suddenly placed upon my feeble shoulders." In this letter, written on 6 February 1922, a little over one month after his return, he pours out his heart to his friend: "How intensely I feel the urgent need of a thorough regeneration to be effected within me, of a powerful effusion of strength, of confidence, of the Divine Spirit in my yearning soul, before I rise to take my destined place in the forefront of a Movement that advocates such glorious principles. I know that He will not leave me to myself, I trust in His guidance and believe in His wisdom, but what I crave is the abiding conviction and assurance that He will not fail me. The task is so overwhelmingly great, the realization of the inadequacy of my efforts and myself so deep that I cannot but give way and droop whenever I face my work..." This noble woman had evidently written to Shoghi Effendi such inspiring letters that he informs her that as he read them he was "moved to tears" and goes on to cry out "Oh how much in my youth and frailty, I need every now and then a vigorous appeal, a powerful reminder, a word of cheer and comfort!" He ends his letter with a very significant phrase, telling her that many times he has told the ladies of the household of her wise counsel "make not of the Movement a sect", and signs himself "I am yours very affectionately".
That same month, in another letter, he writes: "...the pain, nay the anguish of His bereavement is overwhelming..." Yet in the midst of this torture the young man of twenty-four found that he was not only designated "the blest and sacred bough that hath branched out from the Twin Holy Trees ", whose shade "shadoweth all mankind ", but that he was "the Sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsan,  the Afnan,  the Hands of the Cause of God and His loved ones must turn". We can only hope that the revelation of the fact that he had been designated for this role when he was still a small child was ofPage 44
some comfort to him. `Abdu'l-Bahá'í Will consists of three parts; years later Shoghi Effendi was to write that "its first section" had been "composed during one of the darkest periods of His incarceration in the prison-fortress of Akka". It was in that first section that the Guardian's stupendous station had been conferred upon him, but then kept a closely guarded secret by his grandfather, who had written on the Will in His own hand that "this written paper hath for a long time been preserved under ground...the Holy Land being sorely agitated it was left untouched."[1 Male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh]
Shoghi Effendi likewise discovered that he was "the expounder of the words of God ", and that anyone who opposed, contended or disputed with, or disbelieved in him had done this to God; that anyone who deviated, separated himself or turned aside from him had done this to God, and that the Master had evoked the wrath, the fierce indignation and the vengeance of God upon such a one! He also learned that he was the irremovable head for life of the Universal House of Justice and that he and that Body would unerringly be guided by The Báb and Bahá'u'lláh and that what they decided would be from God; anyone disobeying and rebelling against god. He found he was to choose during his lifetime his eldest son, or failing the manifestation of the necessary qualities in him, demonstrating that "The child is the secret essence of its sire ", another branch to succeed him. He found the Master had remembered him tenderly: "O ye faithful loved ones of `Abdu'l-Bahá! It is incumbent upon you to take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi...that no dust of despondency may stain his radiant nature, that day by day he may wax greater in happiness, in joy and spirituality, and may grow to become even as a fruitful tree. " It is relatively easy to accept that someone is going to lift the world on his shoulders - but it is very difficult to accept the fact that you are the one who is going to do it. The believers accepted Shoghi Effendi, but his crucifixion was to try to accept himself.
There is no doubt that the Greatest Holy Leaf, and probably a selected few of the Master's family, knew, before Shoghi Effendi reached Haifa, the gist at least of what was in the will because it had been examined to see if He had made any provisions for His own burial. That this is so is borne out by cables sent to the Persian and to the American believers, by the Greatest Holy Leaf, on 21 December 1921. The to America read as follows: "Memorial meeting world over January seven. Procure prayers forPage 45
unity and steadfastness. Master left full instructions in His Will and Testament. Translation will be sent. Inform friends." But the provisions of the Will were not made known until it was first read to Shoghi Effendi and, indeed, until it was officially read on 3 January 1922.
That Shoghi Effendi and all the Master's family passed through a period of unbearable suffering during these days, and indeed during the immediate years that followed, I have no doubt. Many times, when he was intensely distressed I saw him, in later years, go to bed, refusing to eat or drink, refusing to talk, rolled under his covers, unable to do anything but agonize, like someone beaten to the ground by heavy rain; this condition sometimes lasted for days, until forces within himself would adjust the balance and set him on his feet again. He would be lost in a world of his own where no one could follow. Once he said to me: "I know it is a road of suffering; I have to tread this road till the end; everything has to be done with suffering."
The sense of abandonment, of unworthiness, of passionate longing for his grandfather that assailed Shoghi Effendi so strongly during the early years of his Guardianship is made even more heartbreaking when we remember a fact that was recounted to me and some Persian ladies by his mother, and is referred to by one of the American Bahá'ís who was present at the time the Master passed away, in a letter written a dew days later. It seems that a few weeks before `Abdu'l-Bahá died, suddenly He came into the room where Shoghi Effendi's father was and said "Cable Shoghi Effendi to return at once." His mother told us that on hearing this she consulted with her mother and it was decided that to cable risked shocking Shoghi Effendi unnecessarily and so they would write to him the Master's instruction; the letter arrived after He had ascended. She said as the Master had been perfectly well they had never dreamed He was going to pass away. No doubt the motive was a good one, but so typical of the interference of a family in what they considered a family matter, too short-sighted to realize that `Abdu'l-Bahá was always right and should always be obeyed. There is no doubt that this tragically human element caused untold harm in the days of Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. In any case, it effectively prevented Shoghi Effendi from seeing his grandfather again and many times he said that he felt if he had done so the Master might have given him some special words of advice or instruction, not to mention the infinite comfortPage 46
it would have afforded him just to see His face once again in this world.
After his arrival in Haifa Shoghi Effendi occupied his old room, next to that of `Abdu'l-Bahá; however, a few days later he moved to a room in the home of one of his aunts, next door, and while he was Haifa continued to stay there until the Greatest Holy Leaf, in the summer of 1923, had two rooms and a small bath built for him on the roof of the Master's home. There were no doubt many reasons for his decision to stay for the time being in another home: the terrible agony of memory the old room brought to him, the crowds of people constantly coming and going in the Master's house and another factor, typical of Shoghi Effendi, which was his deep feeling of justice, that as his own family had received so much honour through having one of its sons raised to so high a position he must now shower honour and kindness on his aunts, uncles and cousins to redress, in some measure, the balance.
In the midst of such a home-coming Shoghi Effendi had no opportunity to recover from the blows he had received ever since he stood in Tudor Pole's office and read the fateful cable informing him of the Master's passing. In spite of his condition, the rank now conferred on him by the Master's Will and Testament had saddled him with a responsibility which, until the last moment of his life, could no more be shared with any individual or body than could have been the responsibility placed on the Master when, at the time of Bahá'u'lláh's ascension, His Will made it clear that `Abdu'l-Bahá was His successor. Decisions had to be made. the first of these was the manner in which the Will should be made public knowledge.
From different sources we gather that on the morning of 3 January 1922 Shoghi Effendi visited the Shrine of The Báb and the Tomb of his grandfather; later that same day, in the home of his aunt, but not in his presence, the Master's Will and Testament was real aloud to nine men, most of them members of the family of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and its seals, signatures and His writing throughout, in His own hand, shown to them. The Guardian gave instructions that a true copy should then be made by one of those present - a believer from Persia. In a letter written by Shoghi Effendi himself to an old Bahá'í a few weeks later, he states: "`Abdu'l-Bahá'í Will was read on the 7th of January, 1922, at his house in the presence of Bahá'ís from Persia, India, Egypt, England, Italy, Germany, America and Japan..." This gathering was not attended by thePage 47
Guardian either, no doubt for reasons of ill health as much as delicacy on his part. In conformity with the local customs to hold a memorial gathering on the fortieth day after the death of a person, some Bahá'ís and many notables, including the Governor of Haifa, gathered in the hall of the Master's home, were first served lunch and then held a large meeting in that same hall, at which speeches were made in honour of the departed Master and the provisions of His Will were announced. The guests were most anxious to have Shoghi Effendi address them a few words and one of the friends carried this message to him; Shoghi Effendi, who was with the Greatest Holy Leaf in her room, said he was too distressed and overcome to comply with their request and instead hastily wrote a few words to be read on his behalf in which he expressed the heartfelt gratitude of himself and `Abdu'l-Bahá'í family for the presence of the Governor and the speakers who by their sincere words "have revived his sacred memory in our hearts...I venture to hope that we his kindred and his family may by our deeds and words, prove worthy of the glorious example he has set before us and thereby earn your esteem and your affection. May His everlasting spirit be with us all and knit us together for evermore!" He begins this message: "The shock has been too sudden and grievous for my youthful age to enable me to be present at this gathering of the loved ones of beloved `Abdu'l-Bahá."
It was befitting that the Greatest Holy Leaf, and not Shoghi Effendi himself, should announce to the Bahá'í world the provisions of the Master's Will. On 7 January she sent two cables to Persia as follows: "Memorial meetings all over the world have been held. The Lord of all the worlds in His Will and Testament has revealed His instructions. Copy will be sent. Inform believers." and "Will and Testament forwarded Shoghi Effendi Centre Cause." It is significant to recall that `Abdu'l-Bahá - no doubt in anticipation of events He clearly foresaw - had, in answer to a query from the Tehran Assembly written to them: "You have asked in whose name the real estate and buildings donated should be registered with the Government and the legal deeds issued: they should be registered in the name of Mirza Shoghi Rabbani, who is the son of Mirza Hadi Shirazi and is in London." However great the grief and shock the Master's ascension produced in Persia it is unlikely that the news of Shoghi Effendi's appointment came as much of a surprise to the more informed amongst the friends there, especially after having so recently received such an illuminatingPage 48
instruction from `Abdu'l-Bahá. To the United States the Greatest Holy Leaf cabled on 16 January: "In Will Shoghi Effendi appointed Guardian of Cause and Head of House of Justice. Inform American friends." In spite of the fact that from the very beginning Shoghi Effendi exhibited both a tactful and masterful hand in dealing with the problems that continually faced him, he leaned very heavily on the Greatest Holy Leaf, whose character, station and love for him made her at once his support and his refuge.
Immediately after these events Shoghi Effendi selected eight passages from the Will and circulated them among the Bahá'ís; only one of these referred to himself, was very brief and was quoted as follows: "O ye the faithful loved ones of `Abdu'l-Bahá! It is incumbent upon you to take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi... For he is, after `Abdu'l-Bahá, the guardian of the Cause of God, the Afnan, the Hands (pillars) of the Cause and the beloved of the Lord must obey him and turn unto him." Of all the thundering and tremendous passages in the will referring to himself, Shoghi Effendi chose the least astounding and provocative to first circulate among the Bahá'ís. Guided and guiding he was from the very beginning.
These early years of his Guardianship must be seen as a continual process of being floored and rising to his feet again, often staggering from the terrible blows he had received, but game to the core. It was his love for `Abdu'l-Bahá that always carried him through: "yet I believe", he cries out, "and firmly believe in His power, His guidance, His ever-living presence..." In a letter written in February 1922, to Nayir Afnan, a nephew of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the agony of his soul is clearly reflected: "Your...letter reached me in the very midst of my sorrows, my cares and afflictions... the pain, nay the anguish of His bereavement is so overwhelming, the burden of responsibility He has placed on my feeble and my youthful shoulders is so overwhelming..." He goes on to say: "I am enclosing for you personally the copy of the dear Master's Testament, you will read it and see what He has undergone at the hands of His kindred...you will also see what a great responsibility He has placed on me which nothing short of the creative power of His word can help me to face..." This letter is not only indicative of his feelings but in view of the fact that the one he wrote it to belonged to those who had been the enemies of the Master in the days after Bahá'u'lláh's ascension and were of that breed of kindred He had so strongly denounced in His Will,Page 49
shows how courageously Shoghi Effendi holds up the mirror of the past and at the same time appeals for his support and loyalty in the new situation which exists.
His earliest letters reveal Shoghi Effendi's characteristic strength, wisdom and dignity. To one of the professors of the American University in Beirut he wrote, on 19 March 1922, clearly and unequivocally stating his own position: "Replying to your question as to whether I have been officially designated to represent the Bahá'í Community: `Abdu'l-Bahá in his testament has appointed me to be the head of the universal council which is to be duly elected by national councils representative of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in different countries..."
It must not be thought, however, that the act of promulgating the Master's Will solved all problems and ushered in a new era in the Cause with the greatest ease. Far from it. Before Shoghi Effendi reached Haifa the Greatest Holy Leaf had been obliged to cable America on 14 December: "Now is period of great tests. The friends should be firm and united in defending the Cause. Nakeseens [Covenant-breakers] starting activities through press other channels all over world. Select committee of wise cool heads to handle press propaganda in America." Grave as the events indicated in this cable were, they cannot be considered apart from the serious situation which existed in America when `Abdu'l-Bahá died. He had been deeply concerned over Covenant-breaking in that country for some time, even having predicted in a letter written some years before that a storm would arise after His passing and praying for the protection of the believers. On 8 November 1921 He cabled Roy Wilhelm, His trusted correspondent, "How is situation and health friends?" to which Mr Wilhelm, the next day, was obliged to reply: "Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia agitating violation centering Fernald, Dyer, Watson. New York, Boston refused join, standing solidly constructive policy." An immediate reply was cabled back by `Abdu'l-Bahá on 12 November, in the strongest language, and clearly indicating His distress: "He who sits with leper catches leprosy. He who is with Christ shuns Pharisees and abhors Judas Iscariot. Certainly shun violators. Inform Goodall, True and Parsons telegraphically." That same day the Master in a second cable to Roy Wilhelm said: "I implore health from divine bounty ". These were the last messages America ever received from Him.
`Abdu'l-Bahá'í sudden passing did nothing to remedy thisPage 50
situation. It was the awareness of its gravity that undoubtedly inspired the cable sent by the Greatest Holy Leaf informing the American friends the Master had left full instructions in His Will. The perpetual agitation of Muhammad 'Ali, ever since the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, had not abated and his henchmen in the United States were vigilant and active. At that time the magazine Reality was a Bahá'í organ and in its columns was published news of the Covenant-breakers and their activities; this greatly distressed the wiser and more experienced believers, particularly those who had had the privilege of knowing `Abdu'l-Bahá personally, but left the young, inexperienced and "liberal" minded unperturbed and unaware of their danger. It was because of this sickly and equivocal attitude that `Abdu'l-Bahá had written less than two months before His passing a Tablet, published in the Star of the West , in which He sought to make clear to the friends that they ran grave risks in such matters as these by taking them lightly, that Bahá'u'lláh had warned His followers that a foul odour was none other than the violators. This situation Shoghi Effendi now inherited.
One of the oldest and most staunch of the American believers wrote to Shoghi Effendi on 18 January 1922, less than two weeks after the public announcement of the provisions of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í Will: "As you know we are having great troubles and sorrows with violators in the Cause in America. This poison has penetrated deeply among the friends..." In many reports, in great detail, accusations and facts poured in upon the newly-made Guardian. There was, of course, another aspect. With touching pureheartedness and trust the Bahá'ís of East and West rallied round their young leader and poured out avowals of their love and loyalty: "We long to assist the Guardian in every way and our hearts are responsive to the burdens upon his young shoulders..." "Word has reached us here in Washington that our beloved Master has placed the guidance and protection of the Holy Cause in your hands and the He named you as the head of the House of Justice. I write you these few lines responding with all my heart to the sacred instructions of our Beloved Lord and assuring all the support and fidelity of which I am capable..." "Beloved of our beloved," he was addressed by two pillars of the Faith in America, "How our hearts sang with joy at the news that the Master had not left us comfortless but made you, His beloved, the centre of the unity of His Cause, so that the hearts of all the friends may findPage 51
peace and certainty." "Our lives have been in utter darkness until the blessed cablegram of the Greatest Holy Leaf arrived with the first ray of light, and that is your appointment by the Merciful Lord as our Guardian and our Head as well as the Guardian of the Cause of God and the Head of the House of Justice." "Whatever the Guardian of the Cause wishes or advises these servants to do, that is likewise our desire and intention." In a letter to the Greatest Holy Leaf one of the old believers, recently returned from Haifa, writes in August 1922: "The friends are greatly attached to Shoghi Effendi, and they desire naught but to follow our Lord's injunctions that we should all support the Guardian of this Holy Cause..." Another old believer wrote about the same time to Shoghi Effendi and assured him that although "we still have many difficulties and some sore spots but I sense the healing power and believe that in general the Cause never was more healthy or deep in America than at present..." Such messages were no doubt a great consolation, but in comparison to the number of believers in the West and to the heart-break of the Guardian they seem to have been pitifully few in number. It is a sad fact that many of those who rallied most firmly to his support, themselves later left the Cause and even turned against it. The tornado uproots the big trees but leaves the humble grass unaffected.
There is no doubt that the Bahá'ís everywhere were swept by a great wave of love and loyalty on hearing of the provisions of the Master's Will. Its effect on the Covenant-breakers, however, was to stir them to violent action. Like a hydra-headed monster, each head hissing more venomously than the other, they reared up and struck at the young successor of the Master. `Abdu'l-Bahá'í half-brother Muhammad 'Ali, his brother, his sons and his henchmen; the perennial enemies of the Faith in Persia; the disaffected, the lukewarm, the ambitious - wherever they were and whoever they were - began to stir up trouble. On 16 January two veteran American Bahá'ís serving in Tehran wrote to the Master's family giving a picture of what was going on there; not the least significant fact which emerges from their letters is that `Abdu'l-Bahá had sent to Persia a letter in which He enclosed, for the edification of the friends, a letter of Shoghi Effendi to Him, giving news of the Cause in England. This letter arrived after His passing, but it shows the Master's pride in His grandson and taken in conjunction with the news of His ascension and the appointment of the Guardian, so soon to follow, seems to be more than mere coincidence.Page 52
These letter go on to say: "...a hue and cry is raised against the Cause...but the sheep were not scattered and forgotten and are firm and constant, and rallying to the support of the brave young leader with whom the Beloved has blessed us. Shoghi Effendi has always been a household word with us and the whole Bahá'í nation extends welcome and greeting to him today. 'Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord'..." "...I wish you might hear the grateful expressions of the believers: 'Now we are comforted. Now we are content. The Cause has become young.'"
On 16 January the Guardian wrote his first letter to the Persian Bahá'ís encouraging them to remain steadfast and protect the Faith and sharing with them in moving terms his grief at the passing of the beloved Master. On 22 January Shoghi Effendi cabled the American Bahá'ís: "Holy Leaves comforted by Americans' unswerving loyalty and noble resolve. Day of steadfastness. Accept my loving cooperation." The day before he had written his first letter to them, beginning: "At this early hour when the morning light is just breaking upon the Holy Land, whilst the gloom of the dear Master's bereavement is still hanging think upon the hearts,I feel as if my should turns in yearning love and full of hope to that great company of His loved ones across the seas..." Already he had placed his hand on the tiller and sees the channels he must navigate clearly before him: "the broad and straight path of teaching", as he phrased it, unity, selflessness, detachment, prudence,caution, earnest endeavour to carry out the Master's wishes, awareness of His presence, shunning of the enemies of the Cause - these must be the goal and animation of the believers. Four days later he is writing his first letter to the Japanese Bahá'ís: "Despondent and sorrowful though I be in these darksome days, yet whenever I call to mind the hopes our departed Master so confidently reposed in the friends in that Far-Eastern land, hope revives within me and drives away the gloom of His bereavement. As His attendant and secretary for well nigh two years after the termination of the Great War, I recall so vividly the radiant joy that transfigured His face whenever I opened before Him your supplications..."
During these days Shoghi Effendi was also busy translating his grandfather's Will into English. Emogene Hoagg, who had been living in Haifa for some time prior to `Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing, wrote on 24 January: "Before long the Will of the dear Master will be ready for America and elsewhere. Shoghi Effendi is translating it now."Page 53
While Shoghi Effendi was thus occupied and was gathering his powers and beginning to write letters such as these to the Bahá'ís in different countries, he received the following letter from the High Commissioner for Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, dated 24 January 1922:Dear Mr. Rabbani,
I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of Jan. 16., and to thank you for the kind expression it contains. It would be unfortunate if the ever to be lamented death of Sir `Abdu'l-Bahá were to interfere with the completion of your Oxford career, and I hope that may not be the case. I am much interested to learn of the measures that have been taken to provide for the stable organization of the Bahá'í Movement. Should you be at any time in Jerusalem in would be a pleasure to me to see you here.Yours sincerely,
However friendly its tone, it demanded on the part of His Majesty's Government to be informed of what was going on. And this is not in the least surprising in view of the activities of Muhammad 'Ali. Shortly after `Abdu'l-Bahá'í ascension, this disgruntled and perfidious half-brother had filed a claim, based on Islamic law (he who pretended he had still a right to be the successor of Bahá'u'lláh!), for a portion of the estate of `Abdu'l-Bahá which he now claimed a right to as His brother. He had sent for his son, who had been living in America and agitating his father's claims there, to join him in this new and direct attack on the Master and His family. Not content with this exhibition of his true nature he applied to the civil authorities to turn over the custodianship of Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine to him on the grounds that he was `Abdu'l-Bahá'í lawful successor. The British authorities refused on the grounds that it appeared to be a religious issue; he then appealed to the Muslim religious head and asked the Mufti of Akka to take formal charge of Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine; this dignitary, however, said he did not see how he could do this as the Bahá'í teachings were not in conformity with Shariah law. All other avenues having failed he sent his younger brother, Badiullah, with some of their supporters, to visit the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh where, on Tuesday, 30 January, they forcibly seized the keys of the Holy Tomb from the Bahá'í caretaker, thus asserting Muhammad 'Ali's right to be the lawful custodian of this Father's resting-place. ThisPage 54
unprincipled act created such a commotion in the Bahá'í Community that the Governor of Akka ordered the keys to be handed over to the authorities, posted guards at the Shrine, but went no further, refusing to return the keys to either party.
It does not require much imagination to conceive this was another terrible shock to Shoghi Effendi, the news arriving after dark, by a panting and excited messenger, all the believers aroused and distressed beyond words at the thought that for the first time in decades the Most Sacred Remains had fallen into the hands of the inveterate enemy of the Centre of His Covenant. One of the American believers, who visited the Shrine with Shoghi Effendi himself during March 1922, describes this situation in his diary: "Upon each of my three very recent visits to Behje we were able to penetrate only as far as the court of the tomb - inner sanctuary being sealed...And as yet no one can foresee how the affair will come out. Shoghi Effendi is much troubled over the matter." In spite of his personal feelings Shoghi Effendi followed faithfully the example of the Master in other days of attack and storm, giving instructions calmly as to where the lights should be placed inside and outside the Shrine, as it was in process of being illuminated.
This same informant went on to record that while he was in Haifa telegrams were sent out by the Guardian to King Feisal of Iraq appealing against the action of his government in seizing the blessed House of Bahá'u'lláh (the prescribed site of pilgrimage for the Bahá'ís of all lands), and arrangements were made by him for similar messages to be sent from other Bahá'í communities. This was another terrible blow to Shoghi Effendi; in the space of a few months he had received four, any one of which was calculated to place an unbearable strain on his entire being.
The situation in which Shoghi Effendi now found himself was truly crushing. Although the body of the believers was loyal, the Cause was being attached from all sides by enemies emboldened by and rejoicing over the death of `Abdu'l-Bahá. We are informed by one of the old Bahá'ís, who was himself a secretary to the Governor of Haifa at that time, that the guardian was commonly referred to by the local authorities as "the Boy". Aside from his extreme youth, the beardless Oxford student, however dignified in his manner, refuse to even pretend he was like the bearded patriarch everyone knew so well as one of the features of Haifa - much loved or much hated as the case might be - but always respected as its most outstanding notable. Shoghi Effendi refused to wear aPage 55
turban and the long oriental robes the Master had always worn; he refused to go to the mosque on Friday, a usual practice of `Abdu'l-Bahá; he refused to spend hours with visiting Muslim priests, who were wont to pass the time of day with the Master, and who no doubt now were eager to assess the stripling He had placed in His seat as Head of the Faith. The Guardian, when members of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í family remonstrated with him for not following in the ways of the Master, would reply he must devote himself undividedly to the work of the Cause. All this must have added to his suffering and caused much alarm within the family and local community. Some of them secretly suspected that Shoghi Effendi did not really know what he should do, that he needed older and wiser heads about him, and that the sooner the Universal House of Justice was formed the better for the Cause and all concerned.
There is no doubt that in his deep distress, alternately worshipped, adored, advised, questioned, admonished and challenged, he felt the need for support and consultation. During March 1922 he gathered in Haifa a group of representative and well-known Bahá'ís: Lady Blomfield had returned with him from England, Emogene Hoagg had been living in Haifa; to these were added Miss Rosenberg from England, Roy Wilhelm, Mountfort Mills and Mason Remey from America, Laura and Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney of France, Consul and Alice Schwarz from Germany, and Major Tudor Pole. Two well-known Bahá'í teachers from Persia, Avarih and Fazel, had likewise been summoned to Haifa, but owing to complications their arrival was long delayed; at a later date the Guardian sent them on long teaching missions to Europe and North America, respectively. Siyyid Mustafa Roumie of Burma, and Corinne True and her daughter, Katherine, from the United States arrived later on. Other pilgrims came and went during those early months. But the significant fact is that not only many of the older Bahá'ís believed that the next step to be taken was the formation of the Universal House of Justice, but that the Governor of Haifa, in a conversation with one of the Bahá'ís Shoghi Effendi had sent for, broached this subject himself, saying that he felt that when the House of Justice was established, and the Bahá'í Holy Places registered in its name, the whole issue would be removed from the status of a family quarrel and placed on the firm legal basis of a permanent religious organization. This opinion held by not only a British official but some believers and members of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í family as well, reflects very clearly the attitudePage 56
of some of them towards the guardian. His youth, his own condition at the beginning of his ministry, inclined them to the belief that he needed the other members of the Body of which he was permanent Head to help and advise him, as well as to secure a firmer legal foundation on which to fight the claims being made by the enemies in Palestine and in Iraq according to Muslim Shariah law, to the Bahá'í Holy Places in these countries.
The reaction of Shoghi Effendi to the trend of these opinions and the consultations he was holding with the Bahá'ís he had summoned, however crushed he may have often felt personally, was always that of a brilliant general, seeing all battles in the round, never becoming blinded by details or emergencies. The above-mentioned diary records: "During the early days of my visit Shoghi Effendi was occupied much of the time in consultation with Mountfort Mills, Roy Wilhelm, the Dreyfus-Barneys, Lady Blomfield, and Major Tudor Pole, and then later when they came the Schwarzes, about the foundation of the Universal House of Justice. I heard in a general way of the matters they discussed. It seems that before the Universal House can be established the Local and National Houses must be functioning in those countries where there are Bahá'ís. I understand that Shoghi Effendi has called certain friends from Persia and from India for this conference, but they did not arrive in time to meet with these friends from the West whom I have mentioned."
The upshot of these discussions seems to have been that the Guardian instructed the Schwarzes to return to Germany and work towards the formation of local bodies and a national body; Roy Wilhelm and Mountfort Mills were to convey to America, at its forthcoming Convention, that the Executive Board - the national body of the North American Bahá'ís - was to become a legislative one in function, guiding all national affairs rather than merely implementing decisions and recommendations arrived at in the Annual Convention by delegates in consultation. No doubt the British Bahá'ís present were to convey the same over-all concept to their own Community. What this really amounts to is that Shoghi Effendi, a little over two months after he became Guardian, began to lay his foundations for the erection of the Administrative Order of the Faith as set forth in the Will of `Abdu'l-Bahá.
But the strain of this was more than he could bear. He appointedPage 57
a body of nine people to act tentatively as an Assembly and we find that on 7 April 1922 this body enters in its records that a letter has been received from the Greatest Holy Leaf in which she states that "the Guardian of the Cause of God, the chosen Branch, the Leader of the people of Baha, Shoghi Effendi, under the weight of sorrows and boundless grief, has been forced to leave here for a while in order to rest and recuperate, and then return to the Holy Land to render his services and discharge his responsibilities." She goes on to say that in accordance with his letter, which she encloses, he has appointed her to administer, in consultation with the family of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and a chosen Assembly, all Bahá'í affairs during his absence. Shoghi Effendi had already left Haifa for Europe, on 5 April, accompanied by his eldest cousin. This decision, and the Guardian's letter, were communicated by the Greatest Holy Leaf to the editors of the Star of the West and published by them in translation and with facsimiles of her own and Shoghi Effendi's original Persian letters. No doubt a similar communication was sent to other key Bahá'í centres. In her letter to the Star of the West the Greatest Holy Leaf explains that she has organized an Assembly of those whom Shoghi Effendi has appointed. The Guardian's letter reads as follows:He is God!
This servant, after that grievous event and great calamity - the ascension of His Holiness `Abdu'l-Bahá to the Abhá Kingdom - has been so stricken with grief and pain and so entangled in the troubles (created) by the enemies of the Cause of God, that I consider my presence here, at such a time and in such an atmosphere, is not in accordance with the fulfillment of my important and sacred duties. For this reason, unable to do otherwise, I have left for a time the affairs of the Cause, both at home and abroad, under the supervision of the Holy Family and the headship of the Greatest Holy Leaf - may my soul be a sacrifice to her - until, by the Grace of God, having gained health, strength, self-confidence and spiritual energy, and having taken into my hands, in accordance with my aim and desire, entirely and regularly the work of service, I shall attain to my utmost spiritual hope and aspiration.The servant of His Threshold,
On 8 April the Greatest Holy Leaf wrote a general letter to the friends. She first acknowledges the letters of allegiance they have sent and says Shoghi Effendi is counting upon their co-operation in spreading the Message; the Bahá'í world must from now on bePage 58
linked through the Spiritual Assemblies and local questions must be referred to them. She then goes on to say: "Since the ascension of our Beloved `Abdu'l-Bahá Shoghi Effendi has been moved so deeply...that he has sought the necessary quiet in which to meditate upon the vast task ahead of him, and it is to accomplish this that he has temporarily left these regions. During his absence he has appointed me as his representative, and while he is occupied in this great endeavor, the family of `Abdu'l-Bahá is assured that you will all strive to advance triumphantly the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh..." The typewritten letter in English is signed in Persian "Baha'iyyih" and sealed with her seal.
It all looked very calm on paper but behind it was a raging storm in the heart and mind of Shoghi Effendi. "He has gone", the Greatest Holy Leaf wrote, "on a trip to various countries". He left with his cousin and went to Germany to consult doctors. I remember he told me they found he had almost no reflexes, which they considered very serious. In the wilderness, however, he found for himself a partial healing, as so many others had found before him. Some years later, in 1926, to Hippolyte Dreyfus, who had known him from childhood and whom he evidently felt he could be open with as an intimate friend, he wrote that his letter had reached him "on my way to the Bernese Oberland which has become my second home. In the fastnesses and recesses of its alluring mountains I shall try to forget the atrocious vexations which have afflicted me for so long...It is a matter which I greatly deplore, that in my present state of health, I feel the least inclined to, and even incapable of, any serious discussion on these vital problems with which I am confronted and with which you are already familiar. The atmosphere in Haifa is intolerable and a radical change is impractical. The transference of my work to any other centre is unthinkable, undesirable and in the opinion of many justly scandalous...I cannot express myself more adequately than I have for my memory has greatly suffered."
In the early years after `Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing, although Shoghi Effendi often travelled about Europe with the restless interest of not only a young man but a man haunted by the ever-present, towering giants of his work and his responsibility, he returned again and again to those wild, high mountains and their lofty solitude.
Copies of correspondence in French with a German Swiss in whose home Shoghi Effendi lodged for many summers are mostPage 59
revealing of his nature, his love of what he called "good, simple people", and the tender feelings that so often characterized his friendships:Dec. 22, 1923
I have received your kind card and the mere view of the Jungfrau, with the admirably depicted town of Interlaken awoke in me the unforgettable memory of your friendliness, kindness and hospitality during my delightful
sojourn with you. All this I shall never forget and I shall treasure always
this memory with a feeling of tenderness and gratitude.
I am sending you a few postage stamps which I hope will interest you.
I wish you from all my heart, dear Mr. Hauser, a happy New Year and a long, prosperous and happy life.
Hoping to see you again, and never forgetting you,Your very devoted
The next year, on 26 September, he again writes to him:My dear Mr. Hauser,
I am back and on my return to my home the first letter I want to write is to my unforgettable and dear Hauser under whose roof I tasted the pleasures of picturesque Switzerland and the charms of a hospitality which will never be effaced from my memory. Recalling my experiences and my exhausting adventures followed by the repose offered me by the comfortable and modest Chalet Hoheweg, the charm of which I shall never forget, I often feel in myself the strong desire to see you one day in the bosom of my family, in our home, showing you the evidences of my gratitude and friendship! And if that is impossible I hope you will always remember my gratitude and affection. I have just received by mail some new Persian stamps with the portrait of the new Shah, which I hope will interest you. I wish you with all my heart a long, joyous and prosperous life, and hope to see you one day again in Interlaken, in the heart of that beloved country.I remain your faithful friend
On 18 December he is thanking this friend for his postcards, sending him "a modest souvenir of the city of Haifa, so different and inferior to the beautiful sites in your picturesque Switzerland", and wishes his "dear and unforgettable friend" a prosperous New Year.Page 60
This man was on old Swiss guide in whose house on the main street Shoghi Effendi had rented a tiny room, the attic under the eaves, for which he paid about one franc a night. The ceiling was so low that when his uncle-in-law, a big man, came to see him, he could not stand upright. There was a small bed, a basin and a pitcher of cold water to wash with. Interlaken is in the heart of the Bernese Oberland and the starting point for innumerable excursions into the surrounding mountains and valleys. Often long before sunrise Shoghi Effendi would start out, dressed in knee breeches, a Norfolk jacket and black wool puttees on his legs, sturdy mountain boots, and a small cheap canvas rucksack on his back and carrying a cant. He would take a train to the foot of some mountain or pass and begin his excursion, walking often ten to sixteen hours, usually alone, but sometimes accompanied by whichever young relative was with him; they could seldom stand the pace and after a few days would start making their excuses. From here he also climbed some of the higher mountains, roped to a guide. These expeditions lasted practically up to the time of his marriage. I remember when we first went to Interlaken, in the summer of 1937, Shoghi Effendi took my to Hauser's house, wanting to introduce his wife to the old man to whom he had been so attached and who had listened with so much interest to the enthusiastic account of his day's walk or climb, marvelling at the indefatigable energy and determination of the young man, but we found he had died. The Guardian went to the peaceful little mountain cemetery to visit his grave, taking me with him. Shoghi Effendi often told me these stories of his early years in the mountains and showed this or that peak he had climbed, this or that pass he had been over on foot. His longest walk, he said, was forty-two kilometres over two passes. Often he would be caught by the rain and walk on until his clothes dried on him. He had a deep love of scenery and I believe these restless, exhausting hour after hour marches healed to some extent the wounds left so deep in his heart by the passing of the Master.
Shoghi Effendi would tell me of how he practically never ate anything until he got back at night, how he would go to a small hotel (he sometimes took me there to the same simple restaurant) and order pommes sautees, fried eggs and salad as these were cheap and filling, go home to his little room under the eaves and fall into bad exhausted and sleep, waking to drink a carafe of the cold mountain water, and sleep again, until, driven by this terrible soul-restlessness, he arose and set out again before daybreak. There wasPage 61
something strange and deeply touching about the way that last summer of his life he went back to all the places he loved most to see them once again, as if one of the long mountain shadows was reaching out towards him. Those early years were the years when he was not only most distressed but hardest on himself. He had a rigid discipline he applied to himself and those who were with him. A sum, less than modest in amount, was set aside for the summer and whether he was alone with one of his relatives acting as companion and secretary, or, as sometimes happened, joined by other members of his family, this sum had to suffice and was added to. The economy would be greater if there were more people. He never travelled other than third class, even when he was a middle-aged man. I can remember very few occasions when we went anywhere in a train first or second class and that only when the train was too filthy or too full to make third class possible. If he travelled by night he would sleep on the hard wooden benches, his head on his rucksack, more than those who travelled with him could stand. He had two standards, one for himself as Head of the Faith identified before the public gaze with the honour of the Cause which was synonymous with his honour; one as an individual person, incognito, and thus not demanding a personal appearance in any other form than that of a naturally modest, conscientious man, who was reluctant to spend on luxury the funds his high office placed at his disposal. He was not accountable to anyone in the world, no Bahá'í on earth would question anything he chose to do, but he questioned himself and he was a difficult taskmaster.
As his age increased and the burden he carried wore him down more and more I brought as much pressure to bear as I dared to get him to be a little less harsh to himself, a little less exacting, to at least accept the modest comforts of a decent hotel, to sometimes take a cure for his health, to have a room with a bath, to eat food, as he only ate once a day, more nourishing and of better quality. This slight change he only accepted because Milly Collins, in her great love for him, formed the habit of offering him a sum of money before his "rest" began and begging him to use it for himself, for whatever he wanted. It was only through vehement appeals on my part, that he should accept what Milly gave with such tender love and concern for him personally, that he would use a small portion of it for his own use - the rest was spent on purchases for the gardens, Holy Places and Archives; but this gave him real pleasure, so Milly's intention was fulfilled in one way or another.Page 62
During one or two of those summers early in Shoghi Effendi's ministry he told me he had bought a bicycle and cycled over many passes. I have often wondered how, with his verve, audacity and lack of mechanical sense, he arrived home safely, which he invariably did! He had very little feeling for machines, being a typical intellectual, though he could do with this hands, when he desired to, very dainty things.
In spite of his withdrawal - for that is really what this first absence from the Holy Land amounted to - the forces Shoghi Effendi had set in motion were bearing fruit. One of the returning pilgrims informed the American Bahá'í Convention, held in April 1922, that: "our visit was at the summons of Shoghi Effendi. At Haifa we met Bahá'ís from persian, India, Burma, Egypt, Italy, England and France...On arrival the impression that came strongly over me was that God is in His Heaven and all is well with the world...We met Shoghi Effendi, dressed entirely in black, a touching figure. Think of what he stand for today! All the complex problems of the great statesmen of the world are as child's play in comparison with the great problems of this youth, before whom are the problems of the entire world...No one can form any conception of his difficulties, which are overwhelming...the Master is not gone. His Spirit is present with greater intensity and power...In the center of this radiation stands this youth, Shoghi Effendi. The Spirit streams forth from this young man. He is indeed young in face, form and manner, yet his heart is the center of the world today. The character and spirit divine scintillate from him today. He alone can...save the world and make true civilization. So humble, meek, selfless is he that it is touching to see him. His letters are a marvel. It is the great wisdom of God in grating us the countenance of this great central point of guidance to meet difficult problems. These problems, much like ours, come to him from all parts of the world. They are met and solved by him in the most informal way...The great principles laid down by Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá now have their foundation in the external world of God's Kingdom on earth. This foundation is being laid, sure and certain, by Shoghi Effendi in Haifa today." Another of those who had been called to Haifa for consultation said: "When one reaches Haifa and meets Shoghi Effendi and sees the workings of his mind and heart, his wonderful spirit and grasp of things, it is truly marvelous." They reported how in Haifa they heard Shoghi Effendi had retired at 3 a.m. and arisen at 6 a.m. and once workedPage 63
forty-eight hours without food or drink. To the friends gathered at the Convention Shoghi Effendi had sent a bunch of violets by one of the returning pilgrims and his love to all the believers. The Convention report stated: "It became apparent to all that the time of the organization of the Divine Kingdom on earth has come..." It was as a result of the instructions given to the American Bahá'ís who had visited Haifa in the early months of 1922 that this Convention elected a National Spiritual Assembly, replacing the older Executive Board of Bahá'í Temple Unity and setting the work of the Faith in North America on an entirely new basis.
In the autumn of 1922 the Greatest Holy Leaf, deeply distressed by Shoghi Effendi's long absence, sent members of his family to find him and plead with him to come back to the Holy Land. In the street of a small village in the mountains, as he returned in the evening from one of his all-day walks, Shoghi Effendi, to his great surprise, found his mother looking for him; she had come all the way from Palestine for this purpose, accompanied by another member of the Master's family; with tears she informed him of the distress of Bahiyyih "Khanum, the family and friends and persuaded him to return and assume his rightful place.
A notice in the Bahá'í News of America, the Star of the West , stated: "Shoghi Effendi...returned to Haifa on Friday afternoon, December 15, in radiant health and happiness and resumed 'the reins of the office' of Guardian of the Bahá'í Cause, committed to him in the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá." The Guardian's own letters and cables reflect the change in his condition. Two days after his return he wrote to the believers in Germany: "To have been unable, owing to sad circumstances over which I had no control, to keep in close and constant touch with you...is to me a cause of sad surprise and deep and bitter regret..." but, he goes on to say, he has now "returned to the Holy Land with renewed vigour and refreshed spirit". The same day he wrote to the French Bahá'ís: "Now that refreshed and reassured I resume my arduous duties" and also to the Japanese Bahá'ís: "Having brought to an end my long hours of retirement and meditation",; he says he never doubted "that my sudden withdrawal from the field of active service...would never damp your tender hopes". He also made it quite clear that for him this "sudden disappearance" had been necessary: "Prolonged though this period has been," he wrote to America on 16 December 1922, "yet I have strongly felt ever since this New Day has dawned upon me that such a needed retirement,Page 64
despite the temporary dislocations it might entail, would far outweigh in its results any immediate service I could have humbly tendered at the Threshold of Bahá'u'lláh". In his seclusion Shoghi Effendi had commemorated the first anniversary of the passing of the Master; to face such an occasion in Haifa, in the tomb of `Abdu'l-Bahá, was probably more than he could have borne in the first year of his Guardianship.
"With feelings of joyful confidence", as he expressed it, Shoghi Effendi now threw himself into his work. Something of his original nature, which had led one of the Bahá'ís to write to him, as a student in Beirut, "Your smiling face is ever before me" had returned to him. This is clearly reflected in the sheaf of cables he dispatched on 16 December 1922, the day after his arrival, to practically the entire Bahá'í world, the exact copy of which I quote from his own files:PERSIA
"That the Lord of Hosts may, upon my re-entry to the field of Service, bestow a fresh blessing upon His valiant warriors of that favoured Land is indeed my earnest prayer."AMERICA
"The onward march of the Cause hath not been nor can it ever be stayed. I pray the Almighty that my efforts, now refreshed and renewed, may with your undiminished support lead it to glorious victory."GREAT BRITAIN
"Solaced and strengthened, I now join my humble strivings to your untiring exertions for the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh."GERMANY
"United thus far with you in my thoughts and meditations I now gladly and hopefully add the further bond of active participation in a life-long service at the Threshold of Bahá'u'lláh."INDIA
"May our reunion in the glorious arena of service prove in the spiritual field of that land the herald of triumphal victories."JAPAN
"Refreshed and reassured I now stretch to you across the distant seas my hand of brotherly cooperation in the Cause of Baha."Page 65
"With zeal unabated and with strength renewed I now await your joyful tidings in the Holy Land."TURKEY
"Back to these hallowed surroundings I extend towards you my hand of fellowship and service in the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh."FRANCE
"Pray convey my Swiss friends assurance of my unfailing cooperation on my happy return to the Holy Land."ITALY
"Convey Italian friends my best wishes on my return Holy Land."to DUNN
"Awaiting lovingly glad-tidings of Australian friends in Holy Land."
Shoghi Effendi also sent telegrams to some of his relatives, which clearly reflect his determination, his eagerness and a touch of youthful exuberance that pierces one's heart with sympathy for him. On 18 December he wired one of his aunts, who was visiting Egypt, "Holding fast and definitely reins of office. Missing you terribly. Assure me your health". To his cousin he wired, the same day, "Have reentered field of service. Trusting your unfailing cooperation", and to another distant cousin, the next day "...confidently trusting your brotherly cooperation."
Being by nature very methodical Shoghi Effendi in these early years kept fairly complete records and copies of letters sent; later, pressure of work and problems prevented him from doing this, with the exception of this cables which, until the end of his life, he kept copies of, by number and year. He lists 67 centres that he wrote to, East and West, during the months he was in the Holy Land in 1922. From 16 December 1922 to 23 February 1923 he records 132 places he wrote to, some more than once. In a letter dated 16 December 1922 he wrote" "...I shall now eagerly awaitPage 66
the joyful tidings of the progress of the Cause and the extension of your activities and will spare no effort in sharing with the faithful, here and in other lands, the welcome news of the progressive march of the Cause." The correspondence of this period covers 21 countries and 67 cities, but he does not seem to have written to more than a score of individuals, many of whom were not Bahá'ís. the countries he corresponded with at the very outset of his ministry included Persia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Canada, Australia, Pacific Islands, Japan, India, Burma, Caucasus, Turkistan, Turkey, Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt.
With the enthusiasm and conscientiousness to typical of his nature, Shoghi Effendi sat down the day after his arrival in that December of 1922 and wrote to his friends in Britain:
My dearest brethren and sisters in the Faith of God!
May I at the very outset of this, my very first letter to you, convey to your hearts in words, however inadequate but assuredly deeply felt and sincere, a measure of my burning impatience during my days of retirement to return speedily and join hands with you in the great work of consolidation that awaits every earnest believer in the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. Now that happily I feel myself restored to a position where I can take up with continuity and vigour the threads of my manifold duties, the bitterness of every disappointment felt time and again in the course of the past weary months at my feeling of unpreparedness, have been merged in the sweetness of the present hour when I realize that spiritually and bodily I am better equipped to shoulder the responsibilities of the Cause...I need hardly tell you how grateful and gratified I felt when I heard of the news of the formation of a National Council whose main object is to guide, coordinate and harmonize the various activities of the friends...
He ends this letter by assuring them that with "abiding affection and renewed vigour" he eagerly awaits their news, signing himself very simply "Your brother Shoghi". In a further letter, dated the 23rd of that same month, he tells them: "I have during the last few days been waiting eagerly fore the first written messages of my Western friends, sent to me since they have learned of my return to the Holy Land." He states that the first letter to come from the West was from an English believer and goes on to say: "I very sincerely hope that now I have fully reentered upon my task I may be enabled to offer my humble share of assistance and advise in the all-important work which is now before you." In a personal letterPage 67
to a relative, written on 20 December, he voices his inmost feelings: "True, my task is immense, my responsibilities grave and manifold, but the assurance which the words of the all-wise Master give me in my work is my shield and support in the career which is now unfolding itself to my eyes."
In his first letter to the newly elected National Assembly of America he writes, on 23 December, that: "To have been unable, owing to unforeseen and unavoidable circumstances, to correspond with you ever since you entered upon your manifold and arduous duties is to me a cause of deep regret and sad surprise." These are the words of a man coming up from the depths of nightmare and reflect how deep had been the abyss of affliction into which he had fallen during the past year of his life. "I am however", he goes on to say, "assured and sustained by the conviction, never dimmed in my mind, that whatever comes to pass in the Cause of god, however disquieting in its immediate effects, is fraught with infinite Wisdom and tends ultimately to promote its interests in the world."
In these early letters he invites the Assemblies to write to him, and he asks them to inform him on their "needs wants and desires, their plans and their activities", so that he may "through my prayers and brotherly assistance contribute, however meagerly to the success of their glorious mission in this world." He is deeply grateful for the manner in which "my humble suggestions" have been carried out, and assures the friends of his "never-failing brotherly assistance."
The Bahá'ís having learned from his cables that the Guardian had returned to Haifa, a flood of correspondence poured in upon him from all parts of the world. Reassuring as this was it placed Shoghi Effendi in a serious quandary which he set forth clearly in a letter to a distant cousin, written during the first years of his ministry: "One of my most pressing problems is that of individual correspondence. To copy the Master, is presumptuous on my part, and in view of the rapid extension of the Movement, impracticable. To correspond in person with some and not write to others, I am sure you realize will lead gradually to friction, discouragement and even animosity, as you know fully well the considerable number of friends who expect much and do little. To do away utterly with individual correspondence, and rely on indirect written messages, penned by my helpers and associates, whilst I would devote my time to direct correspondence with the AssembliesPage 68
throughout the world, is also a difficult problem. I would indeed value your views on this thorny problem. The latter course has the obvious objection of severing all personal relationships with the individual friends." In January 1923 the Guardian wrote to the German believers that in view of the "marvellously rapid expansion of the Movement all over the world" he could not correspond individually with all the believers in the East and the West as it would "entail so much time and energy on my part as to prevent me from paying adequate attention to my other duties that are so urgent and vital in these days. I shall therefore very reluctantly have to content myself with direct correspondence with every Bahá'í group in each locality, be it a city or hamlet...and coordinating their...activities through the National Assembly..." In November 1923 the problem is still worrying him. He writes to the British National Assembly that he is giving it "his careful and undivided attention" and assures them that "No written message however unimportant, will first be opened and read by anyone save myself"; in 1926 he writes: "I am so perplexed and preoccupied that I find hardly any time for direct correspondence".
For many years, indeed for thirty-six, this question of how to find time to cope with his mail worried the Guardian; finally he decided not to give up answering individual letters, particularly in the west, and in countries where there were new believers, as he discovered through painful experience that the Assemblies were not wise enough to always to deal with human beings in a way that healed their wounds and kept them active in the Faith. This correspondence with individuals was not invariably well received on the part on a national body who, when it found an individual was the recipient of an important fact, felt it should be the official filter of such information. In a letter written on the Guardian's behalf by his secretary in 1941 to a National Assembly we find his own explanation of his policy in such matters: "Shoghi Effendi has repeatedly stated, to believers in every part of the world, that the Bahá'ís are entirely free to write to him on any manner he pleases. At the present time, when the Institutions of the Cause are just beginning to function, he considers it essential to keep up this large correspondence, much as it adds to him many other burdens. It is sometimes the case that the very first intimation he receives of some important step influencing the interest of the Faith, one way or another, comes from an individual's letter instead of from anPage 69
Assembly; it would naturally be preferable for the information to come from an Administrative body, but whatever the source, the Guardian is solely concerned with the welfare of the Faith, and when he deems a certain step detrimental he states his views in his reply. This he is at entire liberty to do."
"I am now", Shoghi Effendi wrote to Tudor Pole in 1923, "fully restored to health and am intensely occupied with my work at present." Correspondence, however, was far from being his only activity; he was also "engaged in the service of the various pilgrims that visit in these days this sacred Spot." It was customary for him, in these early days of his ministry, to hold regular meetings in the home of `Abdu'l-Bahá. In December 1922, five days after his return, he writes: "I have shared fully your news with those loving pilgrims and resident friends in the Holy Land whom I meet regularly in what was the audience chamber of the Master." In addition to attending to the welfare of his guests, having a meal with the western pilgrims in their Pilgrim House opposite `Abdu'l-Bahá'í home, and visiting the Shrines of The Báb and the Master with the oriental friends and often having a cup of tea with them in the adjacent Oriental Pilgrim House, Shoghi Effendi was already devoting considerable time and attention to improving and enlarging the World Centre of the Faith. On 9 April 1922 work was commenced on the new Western Pilgrim House, plans for which had been made in `Abdu'l-Bahá'í lifetime but which Shoghi Effendi now vigorously implemented. On the first of Ridvan, although Shoghi Effendi himself had left Haifa, the Shrines of both Bahá'u'lláh and The Báb were electrically illuminated for the first time, pursuant to arrangements made before the Master's ascension, but, again, supervised by Shoghi Effendi himself. Already, during the visit in March 1922 of Mr Remey, Shoghi Effendi had discussed with him at length various possibilities for the ultimate construction of a tomb for `Abdu'l-Bahá, the site of the future Bahá'í Temple on Mt Carmel and a general landscaping plan for the Bahá'í properties there.
These might be described as the more pleasant phases of his work in the discharge of his high office, though they exacted from him a great deal of time and energy. But what really burdened him beyond all endurance were the activities of the Covenant-breakers. The day after his return to Haifa he had written: "Already...the awful promises of `Abdu'l-Bahá regarding the Covenant-breakers have been strikingly fulfilled!" The situation was becoming morePage 70
grave all the time; in February 1923 he felt it necessary to cable America: "Register all mail. Inform friends", showing a definite concern about his post reaching him safely. In January he wrote to Hussein Afnan: "I presume you have gathered from past experience that I stand for absolute sincerity, scrupulous justice in all matters pertaining to the Cause, and an uncompromising attitude with regard to the enemies of the Movement, the Nakezeens, whose vile and unceasing efforts God alone shall frustrate." The man to whom this was written, a grandson of Bahá'u'lláh and a nephew of `Abdu'l-Bahá, became himself a notorious Covenant-breaker not long afterwards; it was his three brothers who married three grand-daughters of the Master - two of them the two sisters of the Guardian himself - and thus wove such an inextricable web of family feeling, disloyalty and hatred that in the end the entire family of `Abdu'l-Bahá was involved and Shoghi Effendi lost all his relatives. We see here, shining through the innocent-minded young Guardian, the steel of the statesman, the great overshadowing Protector of the Faith and Defender of the Faithful whom `Abdu'l-Bahá had left to His followers as His greatest gift, HIs most cherished possession. Towards the end of that same letter Shoghi Effendi assures him: "With a pure heart, I eagerly look forward to those signs that will unmistakably reveal your desire and resolve to stand by the Will of the Master and avoid in every way the breakers of the Covenant." It was, in Shoghi Effendi's own words, "amidst the heat and dust which the attacks launched by a sleepless enemy precipitated" that he had to carry on his work.
The position of the Faith necessitated the cultivation of careful relations with the Mandatory authorities. `Abdu'l-Bahá had been well known and highly esteemed, through it is unlikely that anyone in Palestine had the faintest inkling of the vast implications of the "Movement", as it was so often referred to in the early days, of which they accepted Him as Head. On 19 December 1922 Shoghi Effendi had wired to the High Commissioner for Palestine in Jerusalem: "Pray accept my best wishes and kind regards on my return to Holy Land and resumption of my official duties." As there must have been a considerable buzz of gossip, ardently fed no doubt by the Covenant-breakers, about his eight months' withdrawal, this was a carefully calculated move on Shoghi Effendi's part as well as an act of courtesy.
The matter which concerned Shoghi Effendi most, however,Page 71
was the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji. The keys of the inner Tomb were still held be the authorities; the right of access to other parts of the Shrine was accorded Bahá'ís and Covenant-breakers alike; the Bahá'í custodian looked after it as before, and any decision seemed in a state of abeyance. Shoghi Effendi never rested until, through representations he made to the authorities, backed by insistent pressure from Bahá'ís all over the world, he succeeded in getting the custody of the Holy Tomb back into his own hands. On 7 February 1923 he wrote to Tudor Pole: "I have had a long talk with Col. Symes and have fully explained to him the exact state of affairs, the unmistakable and overwhelming voice of all the Bahá'í Community and their unshakable determination to stand by the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá. Recently he sent a message to Muhammad 'Ali requiring from him the sum of 108 [pounds]. for the expenses of the policeman, contending that he being the aggressor is liable to this expense. So far he has not complied with this request and I await future developments with deep anxiety."
The following day Shoghi Effendi received this telegram from his cousin, who was in Jerusalem:
His Eminence Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, Haifa. Letter received immediate steps taken the final decision by the High Commissioner is in our favour the key is yours.
The letter referred to was one the Akka governor, Sir Gilbert Clayton, had written to the High Commissioner. Shoghi Effendi, in another letter to Tudor Pole, informed him that he was on very warm terms with the Governor of Haifa, Colonel G. Stewart Symes, and had met Sir Gilbert; it was no doubt due to these contacts that the authorities decided in favour of the Guardian and the key was officially returned to the legitimate Bahá'í keeper of the Shrine, from whom it had been wrested by force over a year before.
Though the safety of the Qiblih of the Bahá'í world was now assured once and for all time, the house Bahá'u'lláh had occupied in Baghdad was still in the hands of the "Shi'ah enemies of the Faith, and continues to be so until the present day; the battle to get it back into Bahá'í custody was to worry and to exercise Shoghi Effendi for many years.
Every time one goes into the details of any particular period in the Guardian's life one is tempted to say "this was the worst period", so fraught with strain, problems, unbearable pressures was his entire ministry. But there is a pattern, there are themes,Page 72
higher and lower points were reached. The pattern of 1922, 1923 and 1924 reveals itself, insofar as his personal life is concerned, as an heroic attempt to come to grips with this leviathan - the Cause of God - he had been commanded to bestride. Again and again he was thrown. Torn by agonies of doubt as to his own worthiness to be the successor of `Abdu'l-Bahá, struggling with himself as had so many Prophets and Chosen Ones before him, he argued in the depths of his soul with his destiny, remonstrated with his fate, appealed to his God for relief - but it availed him naught. He was firmly caught in the meshes of the Master's mighty Will and Testament. He hints at this many times in his letters: "the storm and stress that have agitated my life since `Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing..." "I, for my part, as I look back...to the unfortunate circumstances of ill-health and physical exhaustion that have attended the opening years of my career of service to the Cause, feel hardly gratified, and would be truly despondent but for the sustaining memory and inspiring example of the diligent and ceaseless efforts which my fellow-workers the world over have displayed during these two trying years in the service of the Cause." In another letter he wrote: "...looking back upon those sullen days of my retirement, bitter with feelings of anxiety and gloom...I can well imagine the degree of uneasiness, nay of affliction, that must have agitate the mind and soul of every loving and loyal servant of the Beloved during these long months of suspense and distressing silence..."
That his own condition, and what he considered his failure to rise to the situation the Master's passing had placed him in, distressed him more than anything else for a number of years is reflected in excerpts from this letters. As late as September 9124 he wrote: "I deplore the disturbing effect of my forced and repeated withdrawals from the field of service...my prolonged absence, my utter inaction, should not, however, be solely attributed to certain external manifestations of in harmony, of discontent and disloyalty - however paralyzing their effect has been upon the continuance of my work - but also to my own unworthiness and to my imperfections and frailties." His hardest task, form the very beginning, was to accept himself.
In the early summer of 1923 Shoghi Effendi again left Haifa and sought some restoration of health and solace in the solitude of the high mountains of Switzerland. But, unlike later years, when he continued to keep in constant touch with the work of the Cause by cable and letter, this was once more a complete break, a fleeing intoPage 73
the wilderness, a soul-searching, a communion with himself and his destiny in order to find the strength to go back and assume the duties of his high office. He returned in November 1923, and the letter he wrote to the American believers on the 14th of that month, in which he says he has returned from a "forced" absence, contains a sentence that gives a clue to what must have been passing in his mind during that period. He says the "remarkable revelations of the Beloved's Will and Testament, so amazing in all its aspects, so emphatic in its injunctions, have challenged and perplexed the keenest minds..." Can one doubt that they perplexed his mind too? With the greatest humbleness of nature on one hand and the great faith and confidence in the Master on the other that so strongly characterized Shoghi Effendi he must indeed have devoted much thought to the implications of that Will and at what his own course must be now that he was returning "after a long and unbroken silence" to take up once again "my work of service to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh".
This time he made it a point to arrive before the commemoration of the second anniversary of the Master's ascension. That it moved him very deeply is reflected in the cables he sent to different countries at that time, referring to the "poignant memories", the "grief and agony" that this anniversary evoked. To Persia he cabled: "May tonight's darkest hour of anguish usher in the dawn of a new day for well beloved Persia." For many years, in many messages, he stresses this anniversary and its associations; it always evoked deep and tragic memories for him. I remember after the thirty-fifth anniversary of the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá, many times Shoghi Effendi said "Do you realize I have been carrying this load thirty-six years? I am tired, tired!"
With the passing of 1923 one could almost say the winged Guardian emerged from the chrysalis of youth, a new being; the wings may not yet be fully stretched, but their beat gains steadily in sweep and assurance as the years go by until, in the end, they truly cast a shadow over all mankind. In his early writings one sees this mastery unfolding, in style, in thought, in power. Let us pick certain facts and quotations at random and see how clearly they substantiate this evolution that was taking place. From the very beginning he turned to the believers, with that inimitable trusting and confiding touch that won all hearts, and asked them to pray for him, that he might, in collaboration with them, achieve the "speedy triumph of the Cause of God" in every land. HisPage 74
questions are challenging, his thoughts incisive: "Are we to be carried away by the flood of hollow and conflicting ideas, or are we to stand, unsubdued and unblemished, upon the everlasting rock of God's Divine Instructions?" "...are we to believe that whatever befalls us is divinely ordained, and in no wise the result of our faint-heartedness and negligence?" Already in 1923 he sees the world and the Cause as two distinct things, not to be mixed up in our minds into one sentimental and haphazard lump. The Will of God he asserts is "at variance with the shadowy views, the impotent doctrines, the crude theories, the idle imaginings, the fashionable conceptions of a transient and troublous age."
Over and over in the letters of these early years Shoghi Effendi mentions the need to "arise to offer your share of service to this heedless and suffering world." In a letter to one of the friends he makes a highly revealing distinction: "The time has come for the friends...to think not as to how they should serve the Cause, but how the Cause should be served." We might well continue to this day to ponder these words. What are its needs, what its direction, what its goals?
Shoghi Effendi's interest in the Pacific and his awareness of the future development of the Cause in that area is manifested in the first years of his Guardianship. he wrote to the Pacific Islands, in delightfully romantic terms, in January 1923, that "their very names evoke within us so high a sense of hope and admiration that the passing of time and the vicissitudes of life can never weaken or remove", and addressed a letter in January 1924 "To the dearly-beloved ones of `Abdu'l-Bahá throughout Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and the adjoining islands of the Pacific. Friends and heralds of the Kingdom of Bahá'u'lláh! A fresh breeze laden with the perfume of your love and devotion to our beloved Cause was wafted again from your distant Southern shores to the Holy Land and has served to remind us one and all of that unquenchable spirit of service and self-sacrifice which the passing of our Beloved has in these days kindled in almost every corner of the world."
The words he wrote to one of the American Assemblies in December 1923 sound almost like a soliloquy: "The inscrutable wisdom of God has so decreed that we, who are the chosen bearers of the world's greatest Message to suffering humanity, should toil and promote our work under the most trying conditions of life, amidst unhelpful surroundings, and in the face of unprecedentedPage 75
trials, and without means, influence or support, achieve, steadily and surely, the conquest and regeneration of human hearts." Many of these early letters to various Spiritual Assemblies have this quality, not of disquisition, but of voicing his own innermost considerations. That same month he wrote: "...True, the progress of our work, when compared to the sensational rise and development of an earthly cause, has been painful and slow, yet we firmly believe and shall never doubt that the great spiritual Revolution which the Almighty is causing to be accomplished, through us, in the hearts of men is destined to achieve, steadily and surely, the complete regeneration of all mankind." "However great our tribulation may be, however unexpected the miseries of life, let us bear in mind the life He [the Master] has led before us, and, inspired and grateful, let us bear our burden with steadfastness and fortitude, that in the world to come, in the divine Presence of our loving Comforter, we may receive His true consolation and reward of our labours." "Whatever may befall us, and however dark the prospect of the future may appear, if we but play our part we may rest confident that the Hand of the Unseen is at work, shaping and moulding the events and circumstances of the world and paving the way for the ultimate realization of our aims and hopes for mankind." "Our primary duty is to create by our words and deeds, our conduct and example, the atmosphere in which the seeds of the words of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá, cast so profusely during well-nigh eighty years, may germinate and give forth those fruits that alone can assure peace and prosperity to this distracted world." "... let us arise to teach His Cause with righteousness, conviction, understanding and vigour...let us make it the dominating passion of our life. Let us scatter to the uttermost corners of the earth, sacrifice our personal interests, comforts, tastes and pleasures, mingle with the divers kindreds and peoples of the world; familiarize ourselves with their manners, traditions, thoughts and customs." The tome of some of these sounds like his great messages during the prosecution of the Divine Plan, but they were written in the winter of 1923-4. He had set himself the task of seeing that the Faith emerged into "the broad daylight of universal recognition", a term he used that same year.
Steeped in the Teachings from his infancy, privileged to hear, read and write so many of the Master's words during his youth, Shoghi Effendi firmly guided the friends in East and West along their destined course. Already in March 1922, in one of his firstPage 76
letters to the American believers, he had stated: "the friends of God the world over are strictly forbidden to meddle with political affairs". He is using the term "pioneer" in his earliest letters, and in 1925 is keeping a list of Bahá'í centres throughout the world!
In spite of what he described as the "thorny path of my arduous duties", in spite of the "oppressive burden of responsibility and care which it is my lot and privilege to shoulder", he was clear in expressing and brilliant in understanding the needs of the Cause and the tasks facing the believers. He was equally clear in defining what relationship he with the Bahá'ís to have with him and in what manner they should regard him. On 6 February 1922 he wrote to one of the Persian Bahá'ís: "I wish to be known, to realize myself however far I may proceed in future, as one and only one of the many workers in His Vineyards...whatever may betide I trust in His [`Abdu'l-Bahá's] wondrous love for me. May I in no wise by my deeds, thoughts or words, impede the stream of His sustaining Spirit which I sorely need in facing the responsibilities He has placed on my youthful shoulders..." and on 5 March he added the following postscript to a letter to the American friends: "May I also express my heartfelt desire that the friends of God in every land regard me in no other light but that of a true brother, united with them in our common servitude to the Master's Sacred Threshold, and refer to me in their letters and verbal addresses always as Shoghi Effendi, for I desire to be known by no other name save the one our Beloved Master was wont to utter, a name which of all other designations is the most conducive to my spiritual growth and advancement." In 1924 he cabled India clearly and succinctly: "My birthday should not be commemorated". In 1930 his secretary wrote on his behalf: "Concerning Shoghi Effendi's station: he surely has none except what the Master confers upon him in His Will and that Will also states what Shoghi Effendi's station is. If anyone misinterprets one part of the Will he misinterprets all the Will." When Shoghi Effendi wrote the general letter known as The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh he made clear, once for all, his own position, disassociating himself categorically for the prerogatives and station Bahá'u'lláh conferred upon `Abdu'l-Bahá: "In the light of this truth to pray to the Guardian of the Faith, to address him as lord and master, to designate him as his holiness, to seek his benediction, to celebrate his birthday, or to commemorate any event associated with his life would bePage 77
tantamount to a departure from the those established truths that are enshrined within our beloved Faith." In 1945 his secretary wrote on his behalf: "...he has never gone so far as to forbid the friends to have pictures of himself in their possession; he merely would rather they placed the emphasis on the beloved Master."Page 78
It is time to ask ourselves what manner of man this was who wrote such things about himself, what impressions did he create, how did he appear to others?
From the diary of one of the American believers whom Shoghi Effendi called Haifa, in March 1922, we have the following description: "...Shoghi Effendi appeared and greeted me most kindly and affectionately. I had not seen him for eight years, and of course I was surprised at the change and development in him, for instead of the boy I had known then was now a man very young in years but premature in poise and depth of spirit and thought..." Shoghi Effendi gave him a typed copy of the Master's Will to read and he records his reaction to its provisions as follows: "never have I read anything which gave me the joy and inspiration that this Holy document produced in my heart. It...gave me a fixed direction toward which to turn and a continuous center about which we are all to revolve so long as we are in this land...a King of Kings ruling the world giving protection alike to Kings, aristocracies and people." He goes on to describe his impressions of Shoghi Effendi: "As I used to sit at table looking at Shoghi Effendi, I was struck by his resemblance to the Master. In the shape and poise of his head, his shoulders, his walk and his general bearing. Then I felt the terrible weight and responsibility which had been placed upon that young boy. It seemed overwhelming that he, whose life was just starting, so to speak from the human worldly standpoint, should have had this great responsibility thrust upon him, a weight which would so consume him and place him aside by himself as to eliminate from his life the freedom and joy of the human side of life, which, though not eternal, has a certain call for each of us human beings."
In 1929 an Indian Bahá'í pilgrim wrote of Shoghi Effendi: "WePage 79
must understand Shoghi Effendi in order to be able to help him accomplish the stupendous task he has entrusted to us. He is so calm and yet so vibrant, so static and yet so dynamic." This is little short of a brilliant characterization of one aspect of the Guardian. The impression he created on the first American Bahá'í to be called to Haifa after the second World War, in 1947, reveals other aspects of his nature: "My first impression was of his warm, loving smile and handclasp, making me fell instantly at ease...In the course of these interviews, I was to become increasingly conscious of his many great qualities, - his nobility, dignity, fire and enthusiasm, - his ability to run the scale from sparkling humour to deep outrage, but always, always putting the Bahá'í Faith ahead of everything...In his practical, logical manner, Shoghi Effendi made me feel both a welcome guest and a needed helper, he outlined some of my duties which started the very next day! His advice, given me on that initial visit, was to overshadow all my efforts on his behalf; he said he wanted me to follow his instructions explicitly, if I was unsuccessful, or ran into difficulties, to report to him precisely and he would give me a new plan of action...For the Bahá'ís working at the International Center, during this period at least, there was no special day of rest. It was then that one learned that each moment belonged to the Faith..." She then tells of those evenings when Shoghi Effendi shared with us at the dinner table special plans, cables and messages he was sending out and occasionally precious documents in his possession: "...Sparkling with excitement and new plans, he would produce messages and letters from his pockets, oftentimes pushing his dinner plate away untouched, calling for paper and pencil and thrill us all with his new ideas and hopes for the Bahá'ís to carry out...The beloved Guardian disliked very much to have his picture taken, therefore any photographs extant do not reflect his true 'image'. In the first place, the emotions flowed so rapidly over his features that one would need a series to catch his many moods. It was a delight to see and hear him laugh...he seemed to twinkle like a star when some plan had been successfully brought to a conclusion. His sense of humour was a joy! He was like a high mountain, strong, always there, but never conquered, filled with unexpected heights and depths...he was extremely thorough and taught us all a new sense of perfection and attention to detail...he was in close touch with the expenditure of all funds...He was enthusiastically concernedPage 80
with Bahá'í statistics...We could never appreciate his grasp of all affairs connected with activities at the 'grass roots' right up to the World Center..."
Her husband, who likewise had the privilege of serving at the World Centre, expressed in a letter to one of the American Bahá'ís, written in 1948, his own impression of the Guardian as a man: "From what little I have seen I would say there are not a great many Easterners that could stand the pace Shoghi Effendi sets. One can only marvel at the scope of his mind and the strength of him. Yet, tho' he is fire and steel, he is the most loveable, understanding, compassionate and considerate person I have ever known. He is without peer. There is no one like him. How I wish other Bahá'ís could know him as Gladys and I have been privileged to know him. In writing as I have, I am not writing of his station as Guardian, that is quite beyond my pen. How all Bahá'ís should work for this great figure! His burden is great."
In 1956 a pilgrim recorded, accurately and shrewdly, her impressions of the Guardian: "His face is beautiful, as it is so pure in expression and so impersonal, yet at the same time tender and majestic...I saw large grey-blue eyes...His nose is a combination of what it was in the pictures of him as a little boy - he still looks much like that! - and the sort of ridged nose of the Master. His years seem no more than forty-eight instead of sixty. He had a small, greying moustached, tightly clipped. His mouth is firm and pure, his teeth white and beautiful. His smile is a precious bounty... He is completely simple and direct. He himself does not demand all this deference, but just to be in his presence makes one fell absolutely 'weak and lowly'. The Guardian is ever courteous and does not lose patience with questions of the immature. However, he is not reticent about letting people know which questions are important, and which are not, and which will be answered later by the International House of Justice..." She said Shoghi Effendi presided over the table "so simply and yet with kingly mien - as only a great king can be simple!...I felt as if he were like a great powerful locomotive, pulling behind him a long, long string of cars, laden - not with dead-weight exactly - but sometimes pretty dead! This weight is the believers who have to be pushed, or pulled, or cajoled, or praised at every moment to get them into action. The beloved Guardian sees far in advance the needs, the lack of time, the obstacles and problems. He is actually hauling us all along behind his guiding and powerful light. Like a locomotive too - he can goPage 81
straight ahead, fast or slow down, but he CANNOT deviate his course, he MUST follow the track which is his divine Guidance. He gives one the sense of being a perfect instrument - very impersonal, but hypersensitive to every thought, or atmosphere. He cannot be swayed in his thought. He is not influenced in the least by friendship, preference, money, hurting or not hurting feelings. He is absolutely above all that...The Guardian also made it very clear that now is not the time to dwell on the esoteric part of the teachings - on the contrary, "we must be ACTIVE and positive, and get the "Ten Year Crusade completed.... He talks and comments, and then arrives at the end and suddenly folds his napkin neatly, rises from his chair...impossible to describe or convey in the least the luminosity and beauty of the Guardian. If he smiles at you - or looks with that swift penetrating gaze - it is a thrilling and soul-stirring feeling...always his discourse is about the Cause, and it stays with the theme of getting the Ten Year Crusade accomplished. He shows elation when there is good news, and goes into a deep depression when there is bad or evil news...Although he loves appreciation expressed in regard to the beauty of the Gardens and the Shrines and their planning, the Guardian seemed to shun personal praise or being thanked for anything...we were trying desperately to fix his beloved countenance for all time in our memories, and not to lose one single shading of his expression, always impersonal, sudden and varied and surprising...Alas, Shoghi Effendi's 'radiant nature' has all too often been clouded over and saddened by the unwisdom of the friends, or their flagrant disobedience, or disregard of his instructions. Frantically one wonders who has not failed him in one way or another!"
I have quoted these passages because they seem to me to so graphically described the Guardian as I too saw him. Not remembering `Abdu'l-Bahá myself I cannot vouch for the likeness, but many of the old Bahá'ís said they saw it in him clearly. I will now quote from my own diaries various impressions of the Guardian of the Cause of God.
"Temperamentally Shoghi Effendi is a doer, a builder, an organizer, and loathes abstractions!...No one, observing Shoghi Effendi, could doubt for a moment that he was not perfectly equipped for this phase of the Cause and I believe he was created for it to do just what he is doing. He is the most extraordinarily uni-directional person I have ever seen. His whole nature and tastes and likes and dislikes are intense. He is like something travellingPage 82
at high speed in one direction, which gives him almost infinite driving power. His persistence is irresistible; there is no dissipation of his forces. He only wants one thing, he wants it passionately, immediately, completely, perfectly. The Temple built - or a flight of steps here in the garden. He descends on it like a hurricane and never lets up until it is done. He drives ahead. It is extraordinary. He likes green lawns, red paths and white paths, red geraniums, cypress trees, and of course, a few other things - but I mean he does not like or want every tree and every flower. No, only just those few and in just such a place. The same is true of foods, the same of colours, of clothes - just a few things, he likes them passionately, he does not want anything else, he never tires of them! It is this almost narrow insistence on one or two themes that has enabled him to build in twenty years such a foundation in the Cause. A man of more catholic tastes and temperament could "never have done it!"
"The Guardian is more sensitive than a seismograph, something in him, far deeper than intelligence or any outward information he may have, registers the "state of the individual, registers things even the individual may not yet be aware of. I believe we should use him as our index and if he finds fault with some subtle attitude in us we should search ourselves til we find out what it is." We might well ask ourselves if this should not always be our guide and whether, if we read his writings carefully we cannot find there the indications of our individual, our national and our racial shortcomings and be warned and guided accordingly. Shoghi Effendi, I wrote, "rings true like the every tuning fork of the teachings..." "He is the Guardian and the nature of his relation to God is naturally a mystery. He can grasp any mystery, he can interpret the most mystical passages of the Faith, he can write things that are of a profoundly mystical nature - he is "motivated to do so."
"Bahá'u'lláh was the Prophet. He did everything and said everything that was necessary for the world at present. The Master was the embodiment of His powers and teachings. He put an ingredient into the world of service in the true sense, of goodness, and a religious life in its highest form which is imperishable. Then something else was needed; this is where...a lot of people, including members of the Master's family and some of the Bahá'ís, have fallen down in their perspective of things. They wanted a second `Abdu'l-Bahá - a series of patriarchal repeats in the form of the Guardians. But god seems to have had another idea. The strongestPage 83
impression I always get of 4 is of an object travelling uni-directionally with terrific force and speed. If Bahá'u'lláh shone like the sun, and the Master gently went on radiating His light, like the moon, Shoghi Effendi is an entirely different phenomenon, as different as an object hurtling towards its goal is from something stationary and radiating. Or one could liken him to a chemical. Bahá'u'lláh assembled everything that we needed, the Master mixed everything together and prepared it; then God adds to it "one "element , a sort of universal precipitant, needed to make the whole clarify and go on to fulfil its nature - this is the Guardian ...he is made "exactly to fulfil the needs of the Cause - and consequently of the planet itself - at this time."
Although Shoghi Effendi must forever be a mystery in his essence to every being in this world - until the day comes when a new Manifestation of God, being superior, may choose to interpret him to us who are so far inferior - nevertheless we know much of him and have the right to preserve the memory tenderly, if inadequately.
In those first years of his ministry, in spite of his sorrow and agony, the exuberant, boyish side of what was still, after all is said, a very young man, could not be entirely hidden. He was always eager by nature - a characteristic he never lost till the end of his life - but in those days it overflowed transparently into his letters and telegrams, as well as into one's personal contacts with him.
His one single personal hobby was photography; he took superlatively artistic pictures of the scenery in Switzerland and other places during those early years, and we find a copy of a letter to a photographer in a small Swiss town written in 1924 telling him (in French) that "I am waiting impatiently for the photographs which I sent you...I hope you received them. They are very dear to me. Please instantly reassure me by post card on this subject. I hope they all came out well...Thanking you in advance, I am yours devotedly". Even the copy is signed with a flourishing "Shoghi" though it was in the handwriting of someone else!
His desire to get things done expeditiously is no less manifest in the field of horticulture; he was determined to have lawns in front of the Shrine of The Báb, and in other places on Bahá'í property. In May 1923 he cabled an old Bahá'í friend in Paris "What of our lawn project?" and, receiving no reply, again cabled ten days later: "Letter still unanswered. What of lawn seeds?" They eventually arrived but the results seems to have been unsatisfactory, for whenPage 84
Shoghi Effendi return to Haifa in the autumn he appears to have inaugurated a regular campaign in this direction - despite the bigoted assurances of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í gardener that lawns would not grow in Palestine! On 29 September Shoghi Effendi informed a cousin in Egypt: "Our grass seeds apparently unsatisfactory. Can you send me thirty kilos of best quality seeds available Egypt and suitable to our climate with particulars." A week later he had apparently received a reply he did not understand and wired back "Surprised. Explain please by mail." The explanation seems to have been as unsatisfactory this time as before and Shoghi Effendi gave up dealing with relatives and friends and wrote directly himself, on 18 December, to four different firms of nurserymen and seed merchants - one in France and three in England - ordering grass seeds, flower seeds, bulbs and cuttings. He writes he is "awaiting eagerly" the reply! During that summer, or the preceding one, he must have already arranged for some shrubs to reach Haifa because he cabled the Dreyfus-Barneys in Paris, in December, "Carmel awaits you both with roses of Orleans".
One gathers that Shoghi Effendi got on friendly terms with some of his dealers, for in a letter written in French, in January 1925, he stated: " I am sending you herewith the sum of " asking you to kindly send me immediately rye grass seeds for lawn. I am very satisfied with the results of the lawn which you send me before and I hope to receive the seeds as soon as possible. Thanking you in advance for sending these I assure you, dear Sir, of my most affectionate sentiments. Shoghi Rabbani". I understand these lawns were the first to be grown in Palestine on a large scale. Shoghi Effendi wrote to an English firm of horticulturists near Norwich, that "...I am a lover of flowers and gardens. I am enclosing another one pound for any pictorial plant you may think suitable to my purpose."
I doubt if Shoghi Effendi ever planted anything during his entire life, or ever had the desire to do so. He was not interested in gardening but in gardens, and never missed an opportunity to visit a beautiful or famous one; I cannot say how many gardens we visited together in twenty years. It seemed as if wherever there was one, we went, and often we returned year after year to the same one, as to an old friend. In the first ten years or so of his ministry Shoghi Effendi did everything in his power to ensure that the effects produced by those plants he admired in other countries should be reproduced in his own gardens in the Holy Land; he orderedPage 85
thousands of bulbs from Holland one year, hundreds of rose bushes from France another; he even had tree ferns sent him from the Antipodes, but the calibre of his gardeners (combined in some cases with a natural unsuitability of the plant, such as the tree ferns, daffodils, hyacinths, crocuses, rhododendrons and so on) foiled every effort he made and in the end he gave up importing anything but grass seeds.
In the days of `Abdu'l-Bahá, when water was a major problem, He had created, both in Bahji and on Mt Carmel, small gardens next to the Holy Tombs, consisting most of citrus trees and flowers. Shoghi Effendi altered, extended and formalized these gardens. I remember in 1923 when I came with my mother on my first pilgrimage she remarked on the already formal layout of the small area of garden adjoining The Báb's Shrine and said it was a symbol of the Administrative Order the Guardian was building up all over the world. I am sure this idea had not occurred to Shoghi Effendi; but pattern and order were innate in him, there was no other way he could work.
Professor Alaine Locke of Howard University in Washington, who was one of the Bahá'í pilgrims to visit Haifa during the first years of Shoghi Effendi's Guardianship, describes the impressions he received as he walked with Shoghi Effendi in the gardens of The Báb's Shrine: "Shoghi Effendi is a master of detail as well as of principle, of executive foresight as well as of projective vision. But I have never heard details so redeemed of their natural triviality as when talking to him of the plans for the beautifying and laying out of the terraces and gardens. They were important because they all were meant to dramatize the emotion of the place and quicken the soul even through the senses."
Shoghi Effendi continually added to these gardens and their fame increased steadily. By the end of his life as many as 90,000 people a year were visiting them and the Shrine of The Báb. What one visitor wrote to him in 1935 expressed in the simplest terms the impression such a visit creates on many people; she had been "deeply impressed by the reticent beauty of the Shrines and by the happiness of the gardens."
It was his practice each year to enlarge the cultivated area around the Shrines of The Báb and `Abdu'l-Bahá. No doubt the very first impulse in this direction came from his ever-conscious desire to follow in every field the wishes of his departed Master. He knew `Abdu'l-Bahá had planned a series of terraces from the old GermanPage 86
Colony up to The Báb's Sepulchre; indeed the Master had begun developing the first terrace. Shoghi Effendi set himself, over the years, to finish these and in the course of studying this plan he no doubt evolved a concept of his gardens around the Shrine - for gardens they are, not one garden. To understand and appreciate the extraordinarily beautiful effect Shoghi Effendi has created on Mt Carmel and in Bahji one must know his method.
Almost every day he was in Haifa he went up to the Shrine area, often visiting the Shrine of The Báb and that of the Master alternately, but on Feast Days always successively. As he looked at what was before him his creative mind suggested developments and improvements. He knew `Abdu'l-Bahá had planned the Shrine to have nine rooms and he undertook the erection of the last three of these, on the south side of the Tomb. He had the two walls of the eastern and western sides of the inner Shrine of The Báb, where there had been previously two ordinary wooden doors, broken into and sweeping arches made, thus creating a vista through the Holy of Holies and greatly beautifying the interior. Over the years he changed about the ornaments of the Shrine, adding to them without ever losing a certain feeling of simplicity and informality that greatly enhances the charm of the Sacred Spot. While he was making these improvements - which reached their culmination in the erection of the great superstructure of the Shrine - Shoghi Effendi studied the surrounding barren mountain side and began to develop, piece by piece, year after year, separate sections. With the exception of the terraces it must be borne in mind that he never had an over-all plan. This is what gives the gardens on Mt Carmel their unique character. As he walked about Shoghi Effendi would get an idea for a piece of garden that fitted the topography of the land. With no fuss, no advice and no help except the unskilled farmers who did duty as gardeners, he would make his plan for this "piece". If necessary he would have the spot surveyed and curves or long lines laid out, but very often he dispensed with this and did it all himself.
From Shoghi Effendi's animated description of what he had found and planned to do, which he would tell me about when he came home, I gathered that his method was to look, as he walked about the property, at the land he planned to develop; a pattern would suggest itself to his mind and he would study this, not only on the spot through observation of his area, but through drawings he made himself. Though many ideas in all fields of his work camePage 87
to Shoghi Effendi in a flash, and although he may sometimes have seen at a glance the over-all design he planned to use for a garden, he worked out the dimensions and details painstakingly in his drawings which were not made to scale - as this would have taken a great deal of extra time - but on which all dimensions were calculated and indicated. For example: his main path was going to be, let us say, 25 metres long and 2 metres wide; beside this he allowed 25 centimetres for a border, a strip 1.20 metres wide for cypress trees, which were to be planted 1.50 metres about, and so on. When he had it all planned he would go and stand and instruct the gardeners how top lay it out. Through string tied to pegs, giving long lines, a peg and string acting as a compass for circles, using the span (the space between thumb and little finger when fully stretched apart) as measurement of distance between trees,having light-coloured soil pouted out to indicate a line, and other such simple methods he would, often in a single afternoon, have an entire section of garden laid out in full detail. Usually, knowing exactly what he intended to do, Shoghi Effendi would call other gardeners to follow along behind those that were laying out the design, so that as the plan was measured out on the ground, hopes for cypress trees were dug, trees planted and flower beds set out and borders planted, all while Shoghi Effendi advanced with his measuring process in front of them! There is a proverb among the Arabs that whoever wears King Solomon's ring, when he turns it everything in the twinkling of an eye will be changed. Some of the Arab workers used to say Shoghi Effendi had found King Solomon's ring!
It is hard to understand why most people do things so slowly when Shoghi Effendi did them so fast. Just to twitter faithfully that he was "guided by God" does not seem to me a sufficient explanation. I believe great people see things in great dimensions, little people get tripped up by little details. Shoghi Effendi, being truly great, having clearly in mind what he wanted to do, saw no reason why a lot of puny details - such as that one usually gave instructions to subordinates and let them go their own pace in carrying them out - should prevent him from getting the whole thing done, under his own eyes, in one operation. He organized it perfectly and it was accomplished immediately and perfectly; anything he could do himself was always done this way. The delays and frustrations usually occurred with he had to refer his work to others.
Shoghi Effendi had a faultless sense of proportion. He alwaysPage 88
himself said he could not visualize; in other words the artist's capacity to close his eyes and see it all before him as it would look when finished was not one of his gifts. But when he was a drawing, or had worked out himself his dimensions, studying his terrain, his proportions were absolutely perfect. It is the combination of this sense of proportion, and an originality unhampered by tradition or too much information, that made his gardens so unique, so fascinating and beautiful. If he (so he claimed) lacked the power of visualizing a thing completed, he possessed to a strong degree the other creative faculty of the true artist, the capacity to let a thing shape up under his hands, to receive an inspiration rather than be tied to the preconceived idea.
Nowhere was this more manifest than in his development of the grounds surrounding the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh and Bahji. His original plan was to have the Holy Tomb, and the adjacent Mansion, the hub of a great wheel. He started, after the final transaction were completed with the State of Israel and over 145,000 square metres of land was secured around the Holy Tomb in 1952, to level the section of wilderness, constituting about one-quarter of a vast circle, that faced the Shrine. A bulldozer was hired and for many days Shoghi Effendi took up his residence in Bahji, in order to personally direct the work.
There was a ruined one-room building on the perimeter of operations and Shoghi Effendi, anxious to get some perspective on the land, climbed up on to it. He found this added height made such a difference that he had the walls and roof repaired, a wooden stair placed outside, leading to the roof, and furnished the interior which he used as an office and place to answer his mail. Observing and directing the work from this new vantage point he obtained an entirely different perspective of the Shrine property which is located in the middle of a flat plain. This gave him a new idea; as a great deal of earth was being scraped up in the levelling process he instructed that this should all be pushed to the east, and a high embankment was raised there, enabling anyone standing on it to see the whole area stretched before him like a beautiful patterned carpet. The success of this plan pleased the Guardian so much that he built not one but two stepped-back terraces, amounting in height to a small hill.
It was typical of the entire attitude of the Guardian towards the Cause of God, of which he had been made the Protector, that whenPage 89
at last this new area was completed, the lawns and flower beds planted and the lamp posts lining the beautiful red path erected, he should have immediately moved his meeting out to the perimeter of the new development, seating the guests along the semicircular path facing the Shrine, at a distance of almost 100 metres from where he had been wont to sit in the past. I did not know this arrangement had been contemplated and that evening, when I returned after the meeting to Haifa, asked Shoghi Effendi about it. He said the "out of respect for the Shrine" he had moved the meeting further away from it. From then on all meetings held in Bahji, including the one commemorating the Ascension of Bahá'u'lláh which takes place after midnight, were held in this new position.
After his passing, in fulfilment of his own expressed intention, a third terrace was raised on the other two, placing the final touch on his magnificent arrangement of the Shrine gardens. This new concept meant that his original cart-wheel design of gardens was entirely abandoned, for the system of converging paths on a common centre was no longer feasible. Many times Shoghi Effendi would alter his plan because his eye, on the spot, revealed to him something he felt was more beautiful and worthy.
Shoghi Effendi - like the Master before him - was a great lover of light. He hated gloomy interiors. This love of bright light was so pronounced that I used to remonstrate with him for working with a powerful desk lamp practically shining in his eyes as I was afraid it was too much for them. His own room was always brilliantly lit, the Shrines were all full of lights, large and small, and one of his first acts as Guardian was to have placed over the door of The Báb's Shrine that faces the terraces and the straight avenue at the foot of the mountain that leads to the sea, a bright light. I can remember how, in 1923, the townspeople made fun of this and asked why it should be there at all. No doubt it was this that provoked a fanatical Christian named Dumit to erect, some years later, on the roof of his building, which stood not far from the Tomb of The Báb, a large illuminated cross, an object which, far from irritating Shoghi Effendi, he described as a flower in the button-hole of the Shrine!
Gradually the gardens in both Haifa and Bahji were all illumined with beautiful four-branched wrought-iron lamp posts, ninety-nine of them being erected in Bahji alone. When the night came that these were lighted for the first time, on the occasion of the Ridvan Feast in 1953, and we approached Bahji by car the skyPage 90
glowed as if we were approaching a small city! The Guardian told the Persian pilgrims that it had always been light, but now it was "light upon light". (In the original there is a beautiful play upon words alluding to Bahá'u'lláh as light.) In addition to this the Shrine in Haifa was illumined at night by flood-lights, as were the resting-places of the Greatest Holy Leaf, and those of the mother and brother of `Abdu'l-Bahá, and high-powered reflectors were ordered to illumine the International Archives Building.
In everything he did the Guardian was painstakingly exact, leaving nothing to chance and very little to the judgement of his coworkers. Just one of innumerable examples of this is the thoroughness with which he always ascertained the exact day a Bahá'í commemoration would occur in Haifa. As there is a difference in lunar dates - which depend on the hour of the rising of the new moon in some cases - Shoghi Effendi was very careful to ascertain this as well as the exact time of the spring equinox, which, if it occurs before a certain hour, means that the Bahá'í New Year falls on 20 March instead of 21 March. We find telegrams such as this, sent in 1923, to his cousin in Beirut: "Ascertain and wire exact time vernal equinox". He no doubt considered more scientific information would be forthcoming from the American University than locally. In 1932 he cabled his brother, then studying in the same university: "Ascertain approximate population Roman Empire during two first centuries after Christ..." He was not only accurate and exact, but he realized, with the acumen of a really great writer, that facts quoted in the right place can have the effect that precious stones produce on a piece of jewelry - they set off the entire creation. Take for instance the use of the prosaic information that McMurdo Sound is 77 [degrees] latitude south on the Ross Sea; but when Shoghi Effendi informed the believers that Bahá'í books had been sent to the American Antarctic Expedition whose base was at McMurdo sound, and added its exact latitude, it suddenly all came alive and became romantic and thrilling!
In 1924 Shoghi Effendi made a determined effort to solve one of the problems facing him. He had already made it clear to his ill-wishers that he was neither weak nor, in spite of the condition he had been plunged into after the Master's passing, lacking in direction and judgement. In one of his letters he had written: "It is difficult to break with some of the customs and traditions of the past, and familiarize the vast number of Bahá'ís, so diverse in their outlook and conception, with the necessary changes and requirementsPage 91
of this new phase in the history of the Cause." Nevertheless he was doing it and doing it very successfully. What he urgently needed in Haifa was more helpers. His own father knew very little English; of his three uncles-in-law, two were in business in Haifa and the third lived in Egypt. The older of his cousins as well as his own brother were either working or studying. Although he received assistance from various members of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í family, the work of the Cause was steadily expanding and Shoghi Effendi had already begun to translate many of the writings into English and send them to the West. Moreover, his correspondence was growing in volume and posing a real problem. In January 1923 he wrote to the London Bahá'ís: "The presence of a competent assistant in my translation work at present in Haifa would be most welcome, and highly desirable and I submit this matter to the members of the Council that they may consider the matter of sending for a time one of the English friends who would attend with me to this all-important work."
The person who seems to have responded to this appeal was none other than Shoghi Effendi's beloved Dr Esslemont. He lived in Haifa, working with and serving Shoghi Effendi, until his untimely death on 22 November 1925. His health had not been good for some time, and already, after the Master's passing, we find him cabling Shoghi Effendi in February 1922 "Convalescing satisfactorily testament received yours devotedly". The bond between the two was very close and when Esslemont died, very unexpectedly, Shoghi Effendi cabled his relatives: "Overwhelmed with sorrow at passing dearly-beloved Esslemont. All devoted efforts unavailing. Be assured of heartfelt sympathy condolences myself and Bahá'ís world over. Letter follows". Four days later he wrote to them: "It is no exaggeration to say that I find no words to express adequately the sense of personal loss I feel at the passing of my dear collaborator and friend John Esslemont." Esslemont was not only a distinguished international figure in the Bahá'í world, the author of a book which Shoghi Effendi said "would inspire generations yet unborn" (Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era , now translated into about a hundred languages), but had been to him personally "the warmest of friends, a trusted counsellor, an indefatigable collaborator, a lovable companion" whose close association with him, in which he had "placed the fondest hopes" was now so suddenly ended. The Guardian wept for this friend of his student days, but as usual, was forced by his position, and in spitePage 92
of his personal grief, to carry on his functions as Guardian. He immediately cabled England, America, Germany, Persia and India to cable their sympathy to Esslemont's relatives - none of whom were Bahá'ís - and to hold special remembrance meetings. He also raised him posthumously to the rank of Hand of the Cause.
This coming of Dr Esslemont to Haifa, far from solving Shoghi Effendi's own problem, had only served to add fresh grief to a heart already sorely afflicted. In January 1926 Shoghi Effendi complains of the "oppressive burden of responsibility and care which it is my lot and privilege to shoulder" and goes on to speak of "my unceasing toil, my afflictions, and perplexities" and the "thorny path" of "my arduous duties". Four months later he wrote to Horace Holley: "I have often felt the extreme desirability of having a collaborator like you working by my side here in Haifa. The loss of Dr. Esslemont is keenly felt by me and my hope is that the conditions here and abroad will enable me to establish the work in Haifa upon a more systematic basis. I am waiting for a favourable time." This was written in May. In September he again writes to Horace, praising his services and reiterating "How much I feel the need for a similar worker by my side in Haifa, as competent, as thorough, as methodical, as alert as yourself. You cannot and should not leave your post for the present. Haifa will have to take care of itself for some time." It was during the interval between these two letters, when
Shoghi Effendi was in Switzerland, that he wrote to Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney on 30 June 1926: "I stand in need of a capable, trustworthy, hard-working, methodical, experienced secretary who will combine the gift of literary expression with a recognized standing in the Bahá'í world. Dr. Esslemont was a most suitable companion, unhampered, painstaking, devoted, lowly and capable. I mourn his loss...A capable, painstaking secretary, wholeheartedly devoted to his work, and two chief advisers who would represent the Movement on specific occasions, with dignity and devotion, together with two Eastern associates, mentally awake and expert in knowledge, would I feel set me on my feet and release the forces that will carry the Cause to its destined liberation and triumph...I cannot express myself more adequately than I have for my memory has greatly suffered."
Although these letters were written to individuals he made no secret of his needs; in October 1926 he wrote to America that the "growing significance and complexity of the work that has to bePage 93
necessarily conducted from the Holy Land, have all served to strengthen the feeling of absolute necessity for the formation in Haifa of some sort of an International Bahá'í Secretariat, which both in an advisory and executive capacity will have to aid and assist me in my vast and exacting labours." He goes on to say that he has "anxiously considered this important matter" and has requested three representatives from America, Europe and Persia to come to the Holy Land and take counsel with him upon the measures needed to meet the demands of the present hour; he states that it would not only assist him and strengthen the ties binding the International Centre to the world at large, but would provide the preliminary steps that would lead to the establishment of the "First International House of Justice". Already in May he had written to one of those whom he had in mind: "I wonder whether you could join me next fall with H" in my work here in Haifa. There are most complex and delicate problems before me and I feel the need for competent, fearless and trusted collaborators...I must stop for I can hardly collect my thoughts."
The collaboration envisaged by Shoghi Effendi in this letter never materialized, in spite of all his efforts; ill health, events in the Cause, family and business complications involving those he had in mind, all conspired to leave him as destitute of competent helpers as he had been since 1922 when he began to function in his office of Guardian. to one of those he had chosen, in February 1927, he wrote: "...hope you will be able to join me in my arduous labors as soon as it is possible and convenient." In September he is again writing to this friend, whom illness has kept at home, "I look forward to the work this winter with concern as I realize the magnitude of the work and my single-handedness in the face of my stupendous task. As I have already observed, conferences won't do, what I need is close, continuous collaboration, in order to initiate and execute the measures that are necessary for the spread and consolidation of the Cause. Meanwhile I will have to pursue my present line of work which I feel is secondary in importance and could easily be undertaken by a secretariat..." Again he writes to this same Baha'i, in October, that "I am alone at present and am doing the very best I can." And in January 1928: "All other matters are at a standstill and I await the attention and aid of competent, devoted and experienced assistants."
The picture this gives us of the Guardian is heart-breaking. He is no longer a very young man and no longer as completely crushedPage 94
with grief as in the early years of his ministry; he sees the needs of the Cause, the possibilities if he has more help and is thus himself freer to devote his time to essentials - but it is useless, the kind of helpers he needs are simply not able or willing to give up everything and come to settle in Haifa. In a letter written by a pilgrim from India the situation is made crystal clear, and there is no doubt the person that made it so clear was Shoghi Effendi himself, for he was in the habit of speaking very freely with the Bahá'ís who visited the Holy Land. This believer wrote on 15 June 1929: "Shoghi Effendi wants to have an international secretariat in Haifa before we can have any other International Organization but the idea has not been realized due to lack of sufficient number of capable and trustworthy Bahá'ís..."
This subject fell into abeyance until the International Bahá'í Council was formed in 1951. Shoghi Effendi came to grips with the harsh fact that he was to all intents and purposes alone and he placed increased reliance on himself. he set himself to do all the work and did it, using as secretaries various members of the Master's family, facing an ever-increasing spirit of disaffection on their part, resigning himself to the unending drudgery of petty tasks as well as major ones, accepting his fate with resignation, often with despair, always with loyalty and fortitude. It can truly be said of him that single-handed he effected the world-wide establishment of the Faith of his Divine Forefathers and proved that he belonged to that same sovereign caste.
It was during these years, when Shoghi Effendi was trying so hard to gather about him a group of competent co-workers, that a crisis of unprecedented dimensions burst upon him. The sea of the Cause of God, whipped by the winds of both destiny and chance which blow upon it from the outside world, was now lashed into a storm whose waves beat remorselessly upon Shoghi Effendi's mind, his strength, his nerves and his resources. The blessed House occupied by Bahá'u'lláh in Baghdad, and ordained by Him, in Shoghi Effendi's words, as a "sacred, sanctified and cherished object of Bahá'í pilgrimage and veneration" had already in the days of `Abdu'l-Bahá been seized by the "Shi'ahs, after a series of nefarious manoeuvres, but had been returned by the British authorities to its legitimate custodians. When news of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing reached the inveterate enemies of the Faith, they once again renewed their attack and laid claim to the House. In 1922 the government took over the keys of the House in spite of thePage 95
assurance King Feisal had given that he would respect the claims of the Bahá'ís to a building that had been occupied by their representatives ever since Bahá'u'lláh's departure from Baghdad; His Majesty, for political reasons, now went back on his word and in 1923 the keys were most unjustly delivered once again to the "Shi'ahs. From shortly after the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá until November 1925 there was a continuous struggle on the part of the Bahá'ís to protect the Most Holy House. The "Shi'ahs had first taken the case to their own religious court from which it was speedily lifted out to the Peace court and then brought before the local Court of First Instance, which decided in favour of the rights of the Bahá'ís. This decision was then taken to the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court of Iraq, which gave its verdict in favour of the "Shi'ahs.
When the Guardian was informed of this flagrant miscarriage of justice he immediately mustered the Bahá'í world to take action: he sent nineteen cables to various individuals and national bodies comprising the believers in Persia, the Caucasus, Turkistan, Iraq, Japan, Burma, China, Turkey, Moscow, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, Germany, Austria, France, Great Britain and the Pacific Islands. His instructions were that the Bahá'ís should cable and write their protest at this decision to the British High Commissioner in Iraq. Persia and North America - where the Bahá'í communities were numerically strong - were informed that in addition to every local Assembly voicing its protest directly, the National Assembly should not only contact the High Commissioner, but protest directly to both King Feisal of Iraq and the British authorities in London. The Assembly of India and Burma was likewise to protest to the King himself, but not to London. In places where the Bahá'ís were few in number, such as France and China, Shoghi Effendi advised that the protest should go over the signature of individuals. All these instructions markedly display the strategist in Shoghi Effendi. In his cables to the Bahá'í world he stated the situation was "perilous" and the "consequences of the utmost gravity"; and must request "prompt action to safeguard spiritual claims of Bahá'ís to this dearly-beloved Spot", "this sanctified abode", "Bahá'u'lláh's Sacred House". He put the proper phrases into the mouths of those he advised, the eastern friends being told to "fervently and courteously", "in firm considerate language", earnestly appeal "for consideration of their spiritual claims to its possession" and to the "British sense ofPage 96
justice", while the western believers were informed that "effective prompt action urgently required...protesting vigorously against Court's glaring injustice, appealing for redress to British sense fairness, asserting spiritual claims of Bahá'ís...declaring their unfailing resolve to do their utmost to vindicate their legitimate and sacred rights." With his usual thoroughness Shoghi Effendi advised America that the messages sent by the local Assemblies "should not be identical in wording."
The exchange, during a six-month period, of well-nigh a hundred cables, in addition to a continual correspondence with various agents working to safeguard the Most Holy House, testify in bulk and substance to Shoghi Effendi's preoccupation with this problem. One of his first acts, on receiving the news of the decision of the Supreme Court, was to cable`the High Commissioner in Baghdad that: "The Bahá'ís the world over view with surprise and consternation the Court's unexpected verdict regarding the ownership of Bahá'u'lláh's Sacred House. Mindful of their longstanding and continuous occupation of this property they refuse to believe that Your Excellency will ever countenance such manifest injustice. They solemnly pledge themselves to stand resolutely for the protection of their rights. They appeal to the high sense of honour and justice which they firmly believe animates your Administration. In the name of the family of Sir `Abdu'l-Bahá 'Abbas and the whole Bahá'í Community Shoghi Rabbani". On the same day he cabled the heart-broken Keeper of Bahá'u'lláh's House: "Grieve not. Case in God's hand. Rest assured."
During the ensuing months many cables from Shoghi Effendi included such phrases as "House case should be strenuously pursued." He cabled a number of prominent non-Bahá'ís, and constantly co-ordinated the efforts of his lieutenants in different parts of the world. When over a month had passed Shoghi Effendi cabled various National Assemblies, instructing them to inquire in "courteous terms" from the High Commissioner "results of investigation" which the British Authorities had promised to undertake. It was a losing battle, for the political and religious elements in Iraq had common cause and refused to bow to the pressure brought upon them, including that of the British Government.
Shoghi Effendi, however, did not accept defeat so lightly and never rested until the case of the Holy House was brought before the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission, in November 1928; the Mandatory Power had upheld the right of thePage 97
Bahá'ís to the possession of the House, and the Mandates Commission recommended to the Council of the League of Nations that it request the British Government to make representations to the Iraqi Government to redress the denial of justice to the Bahá'ís in this case. The Bahá'ís continued to press the matter, from 1928 until 1933, but to no avail because the instruments for enforcing the decision were lacking and the power of the "Shi'ahs inside Iraq was such as to cause the entire question to be dropped by the Iraqi Government, whenever that decision was pressed upon it.
A brief resume of events such as these conveys none of the day-to-day suspense that attends them, the fluctuations between hope and despair, the good news and bad news that alternate with each other and wear away the heart and strength. The first impact of the Supreme Court's decision had scarcely been received when Dr Esslemont suddenly died. Coming at such a time of crisis the loss of his friend was a doubly grievous blow to the Guardian.
A bare week before this event Shoghi Effendi had sent messages to the Bahá'í world which reflected another keen point of anxiety occupying his mind at this time. Rumours had been bruited about that the remains of a certain prominent leader of Zionism might be brought to the Holy Land to be buried befittingly on Mt Carmel. In view of this Shoghi Effendi appealed to the believers to contribute funds for the immediate purchase of land in the vicinity of The Báb's Tomb, particularly overlooking it, in order to safeguard this Holy Spot. so overwhelming was their response that a little over a month later he could inform them that their generous and splendid support had achieved its purpose, but there can be no doubt that for a time at least this had also greatly added to the back-breaking burden of his cares.
So heavy was this burden that in February 1926 he wrote to one of the believers: "I am submerged in a sea of activities, anxieties and preoccupations. My mind is extremely tired and I feel I am becoming inefficient and slow due to this mental fatigue." This condition became so acute that he was forced to go away for a brief rest. "The overwhelming burden of pressing cares and responsibilities", he wrote towards the end of March, "necessitated my departure at a time when...I was most anxious to receive my friends and co-workers from various parts of the world." He must have been ill, indeed, to have absented himself from Haifa and his guests, but whatever his condition in February and March it was mild compared to that into which he was plunged by a wirePage 98
from Persia, sent on 11 April, from Shiraz, which baldly stated: "Twelve friends in Jahrom martyred agitation may extend elsewhere" to which he replied the same day "Horrified sudden calamity. Suspend activities. Appeal central authorities. Convey relatives tenderest sympathy". He also wired that same day to Tehran a message so significant of the spirit of the Faith that its conjunction with the events in Jahrum cannot be ignored: "I earnestly request all believers Persia Turkistan Caucasus participate whole-heartedly in renewal Spiritual Assemblies election. No true Bahá'í can stand aside. Results should be promptly forwarded Holy Land through central assemblies communicate immediately with every centre. Proceed cautiously. Imploring Divine assistance." The following day, having received a more detailed wire from Shiraz advising that the chief instigator of the agitation there had been arrested and giving certain suggestions, Shoghi Effendi telegraphed Tehran: "Griefstricken Jahrom martyrdom. Convey His Majesty on behalf all Bahá'ís and myself our profound appreciation his prompt intervention and our earnest entreaty to inflict immediate punishment on perpetrators of such atrocious crime. Urge all Persian Assemblies send similar message." It is a slight, but significant, indication of his mental state that in the first cables he spells "Jahrom" phonetically, but later switches to the transliterated "Jahrum".
What all this meant to Shoghi Effendi is expressed by him in a letter to one of his co-workers, written on 24 April. After acknowledging receipt of his many letters, he explains that his delay in answering them has been due to "my unfortunate illness, amounting almost to a break-down, combined with the receipt of the most distressing news from Persia reporting the martyrdom of twelve of our friends in the town of Jahrum, south of Shiraz. I have wired for full particulars and will communicate them to the various Bahá'í centres immediately I receive detailed information. Political considerations and personal rivalries appear to have played no small part...I have transmitted a message to the Shah through the Persian National Spiritual Assembly..I have also requested foreign Assemblies to give in an unoffensive language full publicity to these reports in their respective newspapers, but have thought it premature for them to get into direct relation with the Shah... It is sad and annoying to reflect that the Bahá'ís, pressed as they are by so many afflicting and humiliating circumstances, seem at the present time quite impotent and helpless in their efforts toPage 99
secure the needed assistance from recognized authorities. There must surely be some wisdom underlying this apparent futility of their strenuous efforts." In a cable to this same individual, sent two weeks later, Shoghi Effendi says he is "deeply afflicted".
On 21 May, again writing to this same Baha'i, he opens his heart and says: "I myself am too tired to do any effective work at present. I have become slow, impatient, inefficient...I am trying to get away if no sudden crises again takes place. I have had so many of them during the last few months..." Yet in this state Shoghi Effendi managed to do what he thought could be done: "I feel that with patience, tact, courage and resource we can utilize this development to further the interests and extend the influence of the Cause." he had mustered the forces of the Bahá'í world in defence of the oppressed Persian Community, ensured that wide publicity in the foreign press be given to these martyrdoms and constantly directed various National Assemblies in the action they should take in this respect as well as in the case of the Most Holy House.
Such is the tale of one period of the Guardian's life; how many blows rained on him in a little over six months, at a time when he was still struggling to get the load that had been placed on his shoulders at the time of the Master's passing properly balanced so that he could carry it!Page 100
Shoghi Effendi used to remark that out of his sufferings something always seemed to be born. He would go through these ordeals by fire - for indeed he seemed to fairly burn with suffering - and then some rain from heaven, in the form of good news, would shower upon him and help to revive him. I am afraid the mystery of sacrifice still remains a mystery to me, but certainly the Holy Ones of this world buy their victories dearly.
In was at this time, when affliction was literally engulfing the Guardian, that, on 4 May, the Toronto Daily Star published a highly appreciative statement made by Queen Marie of Rumania on the Bahá'í Faith, a statement, followed by others during the course of her visit to the United States and Canada, which was printed in about two hundred newspapers and constituted some of the widest and most spectacular publicity the Faith has ever received. In a confidential letter written on 29 May the Guardian refers to this as "this most astonishing and highly significant event in the progress of the Cause".
The acceptance of Bahá'u'lláh's station by the Rumanian Queen - the first crowned head to embrace the Faith - is a chapter in itself in the life of Shoghi Effendi and is inextricably bound up with the services of Martha Root, that "star-servant of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh" as Shoghi Effendi called her, and the part she played in his life - indeed no account of his life could ever be complete without mention of the relationship of this noble soul to him. Miss Martha Root was a journalist by profession and came of a distinguished American family. She met the Master during His visit to the United States, and, fired by His Tablets of the Divine Plan , arose in 1919 and commenced her historic travels in the service of the Cause, not only travelling longer and farther than any singlePage 101
Bahá'í has ever done since its inception, but often, as the Guardian said, "in extremely perilous circumstances". At the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í ascension she was already forty-nine years old, a plain, not to say homely, woman, but with singularly beautiful, frank blue eyes and a unique degree of faith which convinced her that Bahá'u'lláh could do anything, and would do everything if, as she used to put it, one just stood aside and let Him. It was her great teaching journeys - four of which took her entirely round the world - combined with her truly outstanding qualities, that so endeared her to Shoghi Effendi and led him to call her the "archetype of Bahá'í itinerant teachers". The services of no other believer ever afforded him the satisfaction that her singular victories brought him. Of her Shoghi Effendi wrote in October 1926: "In her case we have verily witnessed in an unmistakable manner what the power of dauntless faith, when coupled with sublimity of character, can achieve, what forces it can release, to what heights it can rise."
From the inception of Shoghi Effendi's ministry she not only turned her great loving heart to him but constantly sought his advice as to her plans. It would not be exaggerating to say they had a partnership in all her undertakings, marked by a mutual love and confidence all too rare in the harassed life of the Guardian. They kept in close touch, a flow of letters and cables apprising him of her plans, her needs, her victories, her requests for guidance and his unfailing answers giving encouragement and advice. We find in his letters to her, whom he characterized, in 1932, as that "indomitable and zealous disciple of `Abdu'l-Bahá", over and over again phrases such as these, in which he expresses the warmth of his feelings, that he has read her letters with "pride and gratitude", that they "have as usual gladdened my heart", that "It is always a joy to hear from you, beloved Martha." He wrote to her in July 1926, when she was making so many contacts with the royalty of Europe: "...write me fully and frequently for I yearn to hear of your activities and of every detail of your achievements. Assuring you of my boundless love for you...", and in August he says "I hunger for every minute detail of your triumphal advance in the field of service...I am enclosing a copy of my letter to the Queen. Do not share its contents with anyone." But he had hastened to share it himself with her who had taught that Queen. In September he wrote, "I am glad to share with you the contents of the Queen of Rumania's answer to my letter. I think it is a remarkable letter,Page 102
beyond our highest expectations. The change that has been effected in her, her outspoken manner, her penetrating testimony and courageous stand are indeed eloquent and convincing proof of the all-conquering Spirit of God's living Faith and the magnificent services you are rendering to His Cause."
The bond of confidence between Shoghi Effendi and Martha is clearly illustrated by this exchange of cables in October 1926: "Love do you approve that I continue original plan starting Portugal late November please wire" she cabled him. Nothing could be more tender and revealing of Martha's nature than that intense term of endearment "love" at the beginning, which frequently slipped out so naturally and unselfconsciously to the Guardian she adored. He replied: "Do as Divine guidance inspires you. Tenderest love". Shortly after this he sends her 50 [pounds] "as my modest contribution towards the splendid work you are doing for our beloved Cause." This was not an isolated act; every now and then we find he has sent her a sum for "your exemplary work in the Divine Vineyard", to help with "your extensive travels, your increasing expenditures and your stupendous work", as he put it, and once, at least when the news reached him that she was ill. He also sent her money to help in the translation and publication of various foreign editions of Dr Esslemont's book - which Shoghi Effendi referred to as the textbook of the Faith - a work in which she was actively engaged and one he was constantly urging her to promote, and more occasionally for some other purpose. The gifts were not onesided by any means. We find Shoghi Effendi writing: "I have received the gold ring which you sent me...and have offered it, after wearing it myself, to the Greatest Holy Leaf...you cannot realize what a moral assistance, what comfort and inspiration you are bestowing upon our harassed and sorely-stricken brethren in Persia. Great indeed will be your reward in the world to come! More power to your elbow!" In the postscript to this letter of February 1929 he adds: "I have received the beautiful handkerchief you have sent me and I am making full use of it as a cherished remembrance of your dear self." So typical of Shoghi Effendi, that he should suddenly think, as he had given the ring away, that Martha might be hurt and hasten to assure her about the handkerchief! They seem to have sent many things back and forth; he used to send her books for distribution, and in one letter he writes to her in 1931 that he is sending two packages of stationary stamped with the Greatest Name "for your correspondence with distinguishedPage 103
people". We find her on one occasion remitting to him $19 to cover the cost of cables he sent her in reply to questions she had asked him.
One of Martha's cables to Shoghi Effendi says: "Tenderest love longing hear from you"; one of Shoghi Effendi's letters to her says: "...Generations yet unborn will exult in the memory of one who has so energetically, so swiftly and beautifully paved the way for the universal recognition of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh." He calls her the "peerless herald of the Cause". What her services and her letters meant to Shoghi Effendi during the first ten years of his ministry, at a time when he himself wrote to her that the response of the believers to the needs in the teaching field was "so inadequate and scanty!", is indescribable. "Your letters...", he wrote to her on 10 July 1926, "have given me strength, joy and encouragement at a time when I felt depressed, tired and disheartened." In 1927, in June, he assures her that correspondence with her is not a burden to him, "...on the contrary it refreshes my weary soul and revives in me the spirit of hope and confidence which oppressive cares and manifold anxieties at times tend to darken." In December of that same year, when a copy of Princess Ileana's letter to her was forwarded to Haifa, Shoghi Effendi assures Martha it had "brought tears of joy to the eyes of the Greatest Holy Leaf... I am sure you do not realize what you are doing for the Cause of God!" In another letter, written in September 1928, beginning: "My dearest and most precious Martha", Shoghi Effendi, after mentioning how sad he is over the situation of the Faith in Russia, goes on to say: "I assure you that but for your letters I would feel unable to write more as my nerves are shaken and tired. Your sad but grateful brother." In November he acknowledges five letters from her - which gives us some idea of how often she wrote to him - and says: "It is such a comfort and encouragement tome in my work to be constantly reminded by your beautiful letters of the all-conquering power of Bahá'u'lláh shining forth through you in all your vast and sacred endeavours...", and he sends her nine ring stones "to give to those whom you feel should possess them" and 30 [pounds] "so unworthy and inadequate when compared to your stupendous efforts..."
She turned to him at all times, unhesitatingly making requests of him which she felt were in the interests of the Faith. The Guardian was well aware of both the purity of her motives and herPage 104
good judgment and almost invariably acceded to these requests, which ranged from letters of encouragement to individuals to cabled messages to figures of great prominence. "I am enclosing, according to your request, the letters you have asked me to write" he informs her. He in turn made many requests of her, using her as an ever-willing instrument to promote the interests of the Faith, and to defend it from the enemies, encouraging her to attend, indeed sending her, sometimes, as his own representative to various international congresses and conferences whose interests and animating purposes were similar to those of the Bahá'ís. An example of this is his letter of 12 June 1929 addressed "To the Third Biennial Conference on the world Federation of Educational Associations" held in Geneva: "My dear co-workers for humanity: I am sending Miss Martha L. Root, American journalist and international Bahá'í speaker and teacher, as an international Bahá'í representative to your Congress in July. She will present to you my letter of greetings to your great Congress. With all best wishes for you in your noble undertaking, I am, your brother and co-worker, Shoghi." Many of these were Esperanto congresses, Martha Root being an accomplished speaker in that language. Cables such as this one, sent in April 1938, were not infrequent: "Martha Root, Bombay, Convey All Faiths League expression my best wishes for success deliberations. May Divine Guidance enable assembled representatives achieve their high purpose and extend range their meritorious activities."
In March 1936 she cabled him that the sister of Queen Marie had died; on the following day the Guardian cabled her: "...Assure beloved Queen deepest sympathy..." Both he and she were always keenly aware of the proper, the kind, the wise way of doing things. Martha was a natural, unaffected, warm and charming woman. No doubt it was this genuineness, this simplicity and nobility of nature that endeared her alike to Bahá'u'lláh's king, the Guardian, and to the first Queen to accept the Faith. In one of her cables to Shoghi Effendi, in 1934, she says "Our Marie sends you love thanks wonderful interviews."
On one occasion she cabled the Guardian: "...perhaps you will think wise send me immediately greetings President Hoover", to which Shoghi Effendi replied by cable the following day: "Kindly convey President Hoover on behalf followers Bahá'u'lláh world over expression their fervent prayers for success his unsparing efforts in promoting cause of international brotherhood and peacePage 105
- a cause for which they have steadfastly laboured well nigh a century". Exactly one year before, during a visit to Japan in November 1930, we find a similar exchange of cables taking place; Martha's said: "Love beautiful you cable me greetings Emperor" to which Shoghi Effendi replied, the same day: "Kindly transmit him Imperial Majesty Emperor of Japan on behalf myself and Bahá'ís world over expression of our deepest love as well as assurance our heartfelt prayers for his well-being and prosperity his ancient realm." Love begets love. Martha's great love for Shoghi Effendi called forth his love and his responses the way the capacity of a diamond to reflect light captures its rays and casts them back brilliantly.
In March of 1927 Shoghi Effendi wrote to Martha: "...I assure you, dearest Martha that wherever you be, in Scandinavia, Central Europe, Russia, Turkey or Persia, my fervent and continued prayers will accompany you and I trust that you may be protected, strengthened and guided to fulfil your unique and unprecedented mission as the exemplary advocate of the Bahá'í Faith."
Although it was never possible for Martha to go to Russia she did go to Persia for the visit the Guardian so much desired./ On 22 January 1930 Shoghi Effendi cabled her: "May Beloved sustain you throughout triumphal progress Persia." In the beginning of April, when she had reached India, we find Shoghi Effendi writing to her, in acknowledgement of no less than twelve letters: "You fully deserved all the honour, the love and the hospitality which the Persian friends have so remarkably shown towards you. I have been so busy after my long and sever illness, that I have felt unable to answer promptly your letters, you have, however, been always in my thoughts, particularly during those hours when I visit the Holy Shrines and place my head on the sacred threshold." The years rolled by and Martha Root continued, white-haired, frail and indomitable, her ceaseless journeys, until she was stricken by "a deadly and painful disease", as Shoghi Effendi wrote, and in Honolulu on 28 September 1939 she passes away. She had been on fire with pain during the last weeks of a tour of the Antipodes and, on her way back to America, to assist in the prosecution of the first Seven Year Plan, she literally dropped in her tracks, yielding up a life the Guardian said might well be regarded as the fairest fruit the Formative Age of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh had yet produced.
I well remember the day the cable conveying the news of herPage 106
death reached Shoghi Effendi. He himself was very ill with sand fly fever, had a high temperature (104 [degrees] Fahrenheit) and, alas, should never have had to receive such news in such a condition! But there was no way we could withhold it from him. He was the Guardian, it was Martha Root who had died. Against the strong remonstrances of his mother, his brother and myself, he pulled himself up to a sitting position in his bed, white, terribly weak, and very shaken by this sudden news, and dictated a cable to America announcing her death. He said what else could he do - the whole Bahá'í world was waiting to hear what he would say. In that long message he said, amongst other things: "Martha's unnumbered admirers throughout Bahá'í world lament with me earthly extinction her heroic life...Posterity will establish her as foremost Hand ...first Bahá'í Century...first finest fruit Formative Age Faith..." He said he was impelled to share the expenses of building her grave with the American National Assembly, the grave of one whose "acts shed imperishable lustre American Bahá'í Community." It was the last money spent in that unique partnership that had lasted eighteen years. to the friend in whose home she had passed away he cabled: "...rejoice her assumption seat Supreme Concourse..."
But in reality Shoghi Effendi had long since paid his finest tribute to the "incomparable" Martha Root, the "leading ambassadress of Bahá'u'lláh's Faith", as he had called her, in a general letter to the Bahá'ís of the West, written in 1929: "And in conclusion, I wish, in a few words, to pay a tribute, however inadequate, to the magnificent services rendered by the exemplary and indefatigable teacher of the Cause, our dearly-beloved sister, Miss Martha Root. Her international travels on behalf of the Bahá'í Faith, so wide in their range, so extensive in their duration, so inspiring in their results, will adorn and enrich the annals of God's immortal Faith. Her earliest journeys to the southernmost limits of the American continent, to India and to South Africa, to the eastern confines of Asia, to the islands of the Southern Seas and the Scandinavian countries of the North; her more recent contact with the rulers and crowned heads of Europe and the impression which her undaunted spirit created in royal circles in the Balkan Countries; her close affiliation with international organizations, peace societies, humanitarian movements and Esperanto circles; and her latest victories in the university circles in Germany - all constitute a compelling evidence of what the power of Bahá'u'lláhPage 107
can achieve. These historic labours, pursued single-handed and in circumstances of financial stringency and ill-health, have been characterized throughout by a spirit of fidelity, of self-effacement, of thoroughness and vigour that none has excelled." She had been the "nearest approach to the example set by `Abdu'l-Bahá Himself to His disciples in the course of His journeys throughout the West".
Martha Root was firmly convinced that in her possession was the most priceless gem the world had ever seen - the Message of Bahá'u'lláh. she believed that in showing this gem and offering it to anyone, king or peasant, she was conferring the greatest bounty upon him he could ever receive. It was this proud conviction that enabled her, a woman of no wealth or social prestige, plain, dowdily dressed and neither a great scholar nor an outstanding intellectual, to meet more kings, queens, princes and princesses, presidents and men of distinction, fame and prominence and tell them about the Bahá'í Faith than any other Bahá'í in the history of this Cause has ever done. As this story is concerned with the Guardian of the Faith and his life and not with others, it is impossible to go into the details, amply provided elsewhere in Bahá'í writings, of Martha Root's many interviews and the reactions of these prominent people to the Message she brought them. Our primary concern must be with the relationship of Queen Marie to Shoghi Effendi.
Martha Root reported to Shoghi Effendi the account of the first of her eight interviews with Queen Marie of Rumania, which took place on 30 January 1926 in Controceni Palace in Bucharest, at the request of the Queen herself, after she had received Dr Esslemont's book, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era , sent to her by Martha. The Queen had evidently been attracted to the Teachings and when it was bruited about that she might visit North America Shoghi Effendi wrote to the American National Spiritual Assembly the following instructions, conveyed in the writing of his secretary, on 21 August 1=926: "We read in The Times that Queen Marie of Rumania is coming to America. She seems to have obtained a great interest in the Cause. So we must be on our guard lest we do an act which may prejudice her and set her back. Shoghi Effendi desires, that in case she takes this trip, the friends will behave with great reserve and wisdom, and that no initiative be taken on the part of the friends except after consulting the National Assembly."
It was during this visit that Her Majesty, her heart deeplyPage 108
stirred by the teachings of the Faith which she had been studying, testified, "in a language of exquisite beauty", as Shoghi Effendi put it, "to the power and sublimity of the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, in open letters widely circulated in newspapers of both the United States and Canada". As a result of the first of these letters Shoghi Effendi was "moved by an irresistible impulse" to write to the Queen of the "joyous admiration and gratitude" of himself and the Bahá'ís of both the East and the West for her noble tribute to the Faith. On 27 August 1926 the Queen responded to this first communication from the Guardian and wrote to him what he described as a "deeply touching letter":Bran August 27th 1926
I was deeply moved on reception of your letter. Indeed a great light came to me with the message of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá. It came as all great messages come at an hour of dire grief and inner conflict and distress, so the seed sank deeply. My youngest daughter finds also great strength and comfort in the teachings of the beloved masters. We pass on the message from mouth to mouth and all those we give it to see light suddenly lighting before them and much that was obscure and perplexing becomes simple, luminous and full of hope as never before. That my open letter was balm to those suffering for the cause, is indeed a great happiness to me, and I take it as a sign that God accepted by humble tribute. The occasion given me to be able to express myself publically, was also His Work, for indeed it was a chain of circumstances of which each link led me unwittingly one step further, till suddenly all was clear before my eyes and I understood why it had been. Thus does He lead us finally to our ultimate destiny. Some of those of my caste wonder at and disapprove my courage to step forward pronouncing words not habitual for Crowned Heads to pronounce, but I advance by an inner urge I cannot resist. With bowed head I recognize that I too am but an instrument in greater hands and rejoice in the knowledge. Little by little the veil is lifting, grief tore it in two. And grief was also a step leading me ever nearer truth, therefore do I not cry out against grief! May you and those beneath your guidance be blessed and upheld by the sacred strength of those gone before you.Marie
Among the things Queen Marie, who was not only a famous beauty, but an authoress and a woman of character and independence wrote in her "open letters" published during 1926, on 4 May and 28 September in the Toronto Daily Star and 27 September in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin , were words such as these: "A woman brought me the other day a Book. I spell it with a capital letter because it is a glorious Book of love and goodness, strength and beauty...I commend it to you all. If ever the name of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá comes to your attention, do not put their writings from you. Search out their Books, and let their glorious, peace-bringing, love-creating words and lessons sink into your hearts as they have into mine. One's busy day may seem too full for religion. Or one may have a religion that satisfies. But the teachings of these gentle, wise and kindly men are compatible with all religion, and with no religion. Seek them, and be the happier." "At first we all conceive of God as something or somebody apart from ourselves...This is not so. We cannot, with our earthly faculties entirely grasp His meaning - no more than we can really understand the meaning of Eternity...God is all, Everything. He is the power behind all beginnings. he is the inexhaustible source of supply, of love, of good, of progress, of achievement. God is therefore Happiness. His is the voice within us that shows us good and evil. But mostly we ignore or misunderstand this voice. Therefore did He choose His Elect to come down amongst us upon earth to make clear His Word, His real meaning. Therefore the Prophets; therefore Christ, Muhammad, Bahá'u'lláh, for man needs from time to time a voice upon earth to bring God to him, to sharpen the realization of the existence of the true God. Those voices sent to us had to become flesh, so that with our earthly ears we should be able to hear and understand."
Shoghi Effendi wrote to Martha root on 29 May, after he had just received from Canada a copy of the first of the Queen's "open letters", that this was "a well deserved and memorable testimony of your remarkable and exemplary endeavours for the spread of our beloved Cause. It has thrilled me and greatly reinforced my spirit and strength, yours is a memorable triumph, hardly surpassed in its significance in the annals of the Cause." In that same letter he asks her to ponder the advisability of approaching Her Majesty with the news of the Jahrum martyrdoms and possibly enlisting her sympathy in the cause of the Persian persecutions. That this consideration influenced the Queen in making her furtherPage 110
courageous statements on the Faith there can be no doubt, as her letter to Shoghi Effendi indicates that this was the case. The news of this victory had reached Shoghi Effendi on the eve of the commemoration of the passing of Bahá'u'lláh in Bahji, at a time when, as he described it in one of his general letters, "...His sorrowing servants, had gathered round His beloved Shrine supplicating relief and deliverance for the down-trodden in Persia" and Shoghi Effendi goes on to say: "With bowed heads and grateful hearts we recognize in this glowing tribute which Royalty has thus paid to the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh an epoch-making pronouncement destined to herald those stirring events which, as `Abdu'l-Bahá has prophesied, shall in the fullness of time signalize the triumph of God's Holy Faith."
This marked the inception of a relationship not only with the Queen, but with other crowned heads and royalty in Europe on the part of Martha Root, and in a few instances of Shoghi Effendi himself. He not only greatly encouraged and guided her in these relationships but, always sincere in the human relationship, he nevertheless used these contacts to service the interests of the Cause through heightening its prestige in the eyes of the public and through seeing that they were pointedly brought to the attention of the enemies of the Faith.
Until the time of the Queen's death, in 1938, Martha Root kept in close touch with her, keeping her informed of Bahá'í activities and receiving from her letters, written in her own hand, that were both friendly and reflected her attachment to the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. There was also an exchange of letter and cables between Shoghi Effendi and the Queen; but more often he sent her messages through Martha, which was a more intimate way of contacting her and less demanding of the high position both he and the Queen occupied in their respective spheres. There was another factor that could not be lightly put aside and this was the constant pressure on the Queen, who occupied such an exalted rank in her nation - a nation so storm-tossed politically during her own reign and during her period as Dowager Queen, from both ecclesiastical and political factions - to keep silent about a religion which was not then widely known as it is today, which was viewed by the ignorant as Islamic in nature, and her open sponsorship of which they not only heartily disapproved but considered impolitic in the highest degree.Page 111
The Queen herself mentions, in her very first letter to the Guardian, that "Some of those of my caste wonder at and disapprove my courage to step forward pronouncing words not habitual to Crowned Head to pronounce..." It required outstanding courage and deep sincerity for her to repeatedly write testimonials of her personal feelings on the subject of the Bahá'í Faith and grant permission for these to made public - indeed Her Majesty wrote some of these deliberately for publication in The Bahá'í World. On 1 January 1934 she wrote to Martha, enclosing one of her precious tributes and giving personal news of herself and her family: "Will this do for Vol. V? The difficulty is to not repeat myself..."
In 1927, on 25 October, Shoghi Effendi wrote to Martha: "I am in receipt of your most welcome letters...and I am thrilled by the news they contained, particularly your remarkable and historic interview with the Queen and princess. I am sending you a number of Bahá'í stones...to be presented by you on my behalf tot he Queen, the princess and any other members of the Royal Family whom you think would appreciate and prize them...Please assure the Queen and princess of our great love for them, of our prayers for their happiness and success and of our warm and cordial invitation to visit the Holy Land and be received in the Beloved's home."
Behind this interview with the Queen, which Shoghi Effendi refers to in the above letter, undoubtedly lay his own influence and the confirmations which flowed from his instruction to Martha in a letter written on 29 June of that same year in which he said: "I hope you will succeed in meeting not only the Rumanian Queen but her daughter the Queen of Serbia and King Boris of Bulgaria as well and I trust you will not hesitate to send me all particulars and details regarding your work in such an important field." That the Queen of Rumania received the gift of the ringstones and the invitation of the Guardian to visit Haifa is evidenced in her cable to him, sent from Sinaia Palace on 27 July 1927:
Shoghi Effendi Haifa Grateful thanks you and all yours with whom I feel spiritually so closely in touch.Marie
Martha Root succeeded also in following the other instruction of Shoghi Effendi, for in May 1928 he writes to her: "...YourPage 112
marvellous and historic interviews with members of the Rumanian and Serbian Royal Families have inspired and thrilled us all..."
Earlier, in April, Queen Marie and her daughter Ileana were on a visit to Cyprus and the Guardian says, in his letter to Martha Root, that the papers have published the news that the Queen intended to visit Haifa and he wonders "whether they had in mind such a visit and whether these premature disclosures deterred them from accomplishing their intended pilgrimage..." During the Queen's visit to Cyprus the Guardian cabled Sir Ronald Storrs, the Governor of Cyprus, with whom the royal party was staying, the following message: "Kindly convey to Her Majesty Queen of Rumania and her royal Highness Princess Ileana on behalf `Abdu'l-Bahá'í family and friends our heartfelt appreciation of the noble tribute paid by them both to the ideals that animate the Bahá'í Faith. Pray assure them of our best wishes and profound gratitude." Sir Ronald transmitted the appreciative reply of the Queen and Princess to Shoghi Effendi.
The following draft, in the Guardian's own hand, of a long letter he wrote to the Queen is of historic interest:Haifa, Palestine,
I have just received through the intermediary of my dear Bahá'í sister Miss Martha Root, the autograph portrait of Your Majesty, bearing in simple and moving terms, the message which Your Majesty has graciously been pleased to write in person. I shall treasure this most excellent portrait, and I assure you, that the Greatest Holy Leaf and the Family of `Abdu'l-Bahá share to the full my feelings of lively satisfaction at receiving so strikingly beautiful a photograph of a Queen whom we have learned to love and admire. I have followed during the past few years with profound sympathy the disturbed course of various happenings in your beloved country, which I feel must have caused you much pain and concern. But whatever the vicissitudes and perplexities which beset Your Majesty's earthly path, I am certain that even in your saddest hours, you have derived abundant sustenance and joy from the thought of having, through your glowing and historic utterances on the Bahá'í Faith as well as by your subsequent evidences of gracious solicitude for its welfare, brought abiding solace and strength to the multitude of itsPage 113
faithful and long suffering adherents throughout the East. Yours surely, dearly beloved Queen, is the station ordained by Bahá'u'lláh in the realms beyond to which the strivings of no earthly power can ever hope to attain. I have immediately upon the publication of the second volume of the Bahá'í World, by the American Bahá'í Publishing Committee, forwarded directly to Bucarest, to the address of Your Majesty and that of Her Royal Highness Princess Ileana, copies of this most recent and comprehensive of Bahá'í publications. I will take the liberty of presenting in the course of the coming year the III Volume of this same publication which I trust will prove of interest to Your Majesty. May I, in closing, reiterate the expression of profound appreciation and joy which the Family of `Abdu'l-Bahá and Bahá'ís in every land universally feel for the powerful impetus which Your Majesty's outspoken and noble words have lent to the onward march of their beloved Faith. The Family also join me in extending to Your Majesty, as well as to Her Royal Highness Princess Ileana, a most cordial welcome should Your Majesty ever purpose to visit the Holy Land to `Abdu'l-Bahá'í home in Haifa as well as to those scenes rendered so hallowed and memorable by the heroic lives and deeds of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá.Shoghi
In 1930 her Majesty visited Egypt with her daughter Ileana. Shoghi Effendi, having had the unfortunate experience of indiscreet publicity during her visit to Cyprus, wired Alexandria on 19 February: "Advise Assembly in case Queen visits Egypt convey only written expression of welcome and appreciation on behalf Bahá'ís. Letter should be briefly carefully worded. No objection sending flowers. Individual communications should be strictly avoided. Inform Cairo."
In the hope that at last the Queen would be able to visit the Bahá'í Holy Places in Palestine the Guardian had had Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet to her grandmother, Queen Victoria, copied in fine Persian calligraphy, and illuminated in Tehran. On 21 February he cabled Tehran: "Illuminated Tablet Queen Victoria should reach Haifa not later than March tenth on one or several pages." This was to be his gift to Her Majesty. Hearing no news of the Queen's plans once she had reached Egypt he wired to her direct on 8 March: "Her Majesty, the Dowager Queen Marie of Rumania, abroad Mayflower, Aswan. Family of `Abdu'l-Bahá joinPage 114
me in renewing the expression of our loving and heartfelt invitation to your gracious Majesty and Her Royal Highness Princess Ileana to visit His home in Haifa. Your Majesty's acceptance to visit Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine and prison-city of 'Akka will apart from its historic significance be a source of immeasurable strength joy and hope to the silent sufferers of the Faith throughout the East. Our fondest love, prayers and best wishes for Your Majesty's happiness and welfare."
Receiving no reply to this communication Shoghi Effendi sent another wire on 26 March to the Queen at the Hotel Semiramis in Cairo: "Fearing my former letter and telegram in which Family of `Abdu'l-Bahá joined me in extending invitation to Your Majesty and Her Royal Highness Princess Ileana may have miscarried, we are pleased to express anew the pleasure it would give us all should Your Majesty find it feasible to visit Bahá'u'lláh's and `Abdu'l-Bahá'í Shrines and the prison-city of 'Akka. Deeply regret unauthorized publicity given by the Press." Two days later the Rumanian Minister in Cairo wired Shoghi Effendi: "Her Majesty regrets that not passing through Palestine she will not be able to visit you."
The reaction this situation produced on the Guardian is recorded by him in a letter he wrote to Martha Root on 2 April 1930 in which he says: "I am now writing to you quite confidentially regarding the projected visit of the Queen to Haifa. Unfortunately it did not materialize. The reason, I absolutely ignore." He goes on to say that in spite of his written invitation to her, and his two telegrams sent to her in Egypt (which he quotes in full) all he received was the wire from the Rumanian Minister (which he also quotes). It seems that the unauthorized publicity mentioned by Shoghi Effendi in his telegram to the Queen had been wide-spread, appearing in Palestine, England and America. He informs Martha that: "Reporters who called on me representing the United Press of America telegraphed to their newspapers just the opposite I told them. They perverted the truth. I wish we could make sure that she would at least know the real situation! but how can we ensure that our letters to her Majesty will henceforth reach her. I feel that you should write to her, explain the whole situation, assure her of my great disappointment." He requests her to regard all this as strictly confidential and says: "I cherish the hope that these unfortunate developments will serve only to intensify the faith and love of the Queen and will reinforce her determination to arise andPage 115
spread the Cause." Obviously the Guardian was very distressed over this unhappy event, but he comforts Martha: "Be not sad or distressed, dearest Martha. The seeds you have so lovingly, so devotedly and so assiduously sown will germinate..."
The cancellation of the visit of the Queen and her daughter to the Bahá'í Holy Places, which she had definitely set her heart upon, was a source of deep disappointment not only to the Guardian but also to the Queen herself,. Behind the scenes there must have taken place a real struggle between the courageous and independent Queen and her advisers for, after a long silence, she wrote to Martha Root, in her own hand, describing at least a little of what had taken place. In a letter dated 28 June 1931 she stated: "Both Ileana and I were cruelly disappointed at having been prevented going to the holy shrines and of meeting Shoghi Effendi, but at that time were going through a cruel crisis and every movement I made was being turned against me and being politically exploited in an unkind way. It caused me a good deal of suffering and curtailed my liberty most unkindly. There are periods however when one must submit to persecution, nevertheless, however high-hearted one may be, it ever again fills one with pained astonishment when people are mean and spiteful. I had my child to defend at that time; she was going through a bitter experience and so I could not stand up and defie the world. But he beauty of truth remains adn I cling to it through all the vicissitudes of a life become rather say...I am glad to hear that your traveling has been so fruitful and I wish you continual success knowing what a beautiful message you are carrying from land to land." This letters ends with a sentence, after Her Majesty's signature, that was perhaps more significant of her attitude and character than anything else: "I enclose a few words which may be used in your Year Book." On receipt of this letter Martha immediately cabled Shoghi Effendi the gist of its contents and he cabled back he was delighted and to send him the letter.
I remember Shoghi Effendi a number of times describing to me how the Greatest Holy Leaf had waited, hour after hour, in the Master's home to receive the Queen and her daughter - for Her Majesty had actually sailed for Haifa, and this news encouraged Shoghi Effendi to believe she was going to carry out the pilgrimage she had planned; time passed and no news came, even after the boat had docked. Later the Guardian learned that the Queen and her party had been met at the boat, informed her visit was impolitic and not permissible, been put in a car and whisked out of PalestinePage 116
to another Middle Eastern country. It is no wonder she wrote to Martha that people had been "mean and spiteful".
The loyalty of this "royal convert", as Shoghi Effendi styled her, in the face of her increasing isolation, advanced age and the political trends in Europe which were gradually to engulf so many of her royal kin, deeply touched Shoghi Effendi. In 1934, on 23 January, he wrote to her again:Your Majesty,
I am deeply touched by the splendid appreciation Your Majesty has graciously penned for the Bahá'í World, and wish to offer my heartfelt and abiding gratitude for this striking evidence of Your Majesty's sustained interest in the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. I was moved to undertake its translation in person, and feel certain that the unnumbered followers of the Faith in both the East and the West will feel greatly stimulated in their unceasing labours for the eventual establishment of the Most Great Peace foretold by Bahá'u'lláh. I am presenting to Your Majesty, through the care of Miss Martha Root, a precious manuscript in the handwriting of Bahá'u'lláh, illumined by a devoted follower of His Faith in Tihran. May it serve as a token of my admiration for the spirit that has prompted Your Majesty to voice such noble sentiments for a struggling and persecuted Faith. With the assurance of my prayers at the threshold of Bahá'u'lláh for Your Majesty's welfare and happiness,I am yours very sincerely,
After sending the Queen a copy of his recently translated Gleanings for the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh , and receiving from her a letter conveying her "most grateful thanks", which she ends by saying "May the Great Father, be with us in spirit, helping us to live and act as we should", Shoghi Effendi wrote to her as follows:Haifa, Feb. 18, 1936
Miss Root has transmitted to me the original copy of the appreciation penned by Your Majesty for the forthcoming issue of Bahá'í World. I am deeply touched, and feel truly grateful for this further evidence of Your Majesty's sustained interest in and admiration for the Bahá'í Teachings. Bahá'í Communities the world over will ever recall, with feelings of pride and gratitude, these beautiful, impressive and historic testimonies from the pen of Your Majesty - testimonies that will noPage 117
doubt greatly inspire and hearten them in their continued labours for the spread of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. I am so please and encouraged to learn that Your Majesty has derived much benefit from the reading of the Gleanings and I feel that my efforts in translating these extracts are fully rewarded. I am presenting to Your Majesty through the kindness of Mrs. McNeill the latest photograph recently received from America showing the progress in the construction of the Bahá'í House of Worship in Wilmette. May the Spirit of Bahá'u'lláh ever bless and sustain Your Majesty in the noble support you are extending to His Cause.With deepest affection and gratitude,
The Mrs. McNeill mentioned in this letter lived near Akka in the Mansion at Mazra'ih once occupied by Bahá'u'lláh. She had known the Queen as a child in Malta and when she learned through the Guardian of the Queen's interest in the Faith she informed her of own interest and the associations of the house she lived in. The Queen had written to her: "It was indeed nice to hear from you, and to think that you are of all things living near Haifa and are, as I am, a follower of the Bahá'í teachings...the house you live in... made precious by its associations with the Man we all venerate..."
Her Majesty's last published tribute to the Faith, in 1936, two years before she died, seemed to aptly describe what Bahá'u'lláh's Message had meant to her: "To those searching for light, the Bahá'í teachings offer a star which will lead them to deeper understanding, to assurance, peace and good will with all men." She had won for herself, Shoghi Effendi, wrote, "imperishable renown...in the Kingdom of Bahá'u'lláh" through her "bold and epochal confession of faith in the Fatherhood of Bahá'u'lláh" "this illustrious Queen may well deserve to rank as the first of those royal supporters of the Cause of God who are to arise in the future, and each of whom, in the words of Bahá'u'lláh Himself, is to be acclaimed as 'the very eye of mankind, the luminous ornament on the brow of creation, the fountainhead of blessings unto the whole world.'"
One sees from all this, which began early in 1926, that the severe crises which followed upon the inception of Shoghi Effendi's Guardianship, released, as ever, the spiritual forces inherent in the Faith and brought about such victories as the conversion of the first Bahá'í Queen.Page 118
No proper picture of Shoghi Effendi's life can be obtained without reference to the subject of Covenant-breaking. The principle of light and shadow, setting each other off, the one intensifying the other, is seen in nature and in history; the sun casts shadows; at the base of the lamp lies shadow; the brighter the light the darker the shadow; the evil in men calls to mind the good, and the greatness of the good underlines the evil. The entire life of the Guardian was plagued and blighted by the ambition, the folly, the jealousy and hatred of individuals who rose up against the Cause and against him as Head of the Cause and who thought they could either subvert the Faith entirely or discredit its Guardian and set themselves up as leaders of a rival faction and win the body of believers over to their own interpretation of the Teachings and the way in which they believed the Cause of God should be run. No one ever succeeded in doing these things, but a series of disaffected individuals never ceased to try. The ringleaders misled the fools, the excommunicated tried to pervert the faithful.
To the seizure of the keys of Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine by those who broke the Covenant during the ministry of `Abdu'l-Bahá, there followed in the course of the earliest years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry the defection in Egypt of Faeg, the founder of a "Scientific Society" which he now sought to bring forward as a rival to the Administration of which Shoghi Effendi was the head. Shoghi Effendi, particularly after reading the denunciation of the old Covenant-breakers in the Will of `Abdu'l-Bahá, was prepared for their attacks, but the sudden stirring up of so much mischief and opposition in so unexpected a quarter left him shocked and greatly disturbed. I shall never forget how he looked when he called my mother and me to his bedroom, in 1923; we stood at the foot of hisPage 119
bed, were he lay, obviously prostrated and heart-broken, with great black shadows under his eyes, and he told us he could not stand it, he was going away. It must have been terribly difficult for such young a man to find himself the centre of so many attacks and to realize it devolved upon him to exercise his right and perform his duty of excommunication in order to protect the Faith and keep the flock safe from the wolves prowling around it.
Covenant-breaking always made Shoghi Effendi ill, it was as if he were the Cause, in some mysterious way, and any attack on its body affected him who was its heart. In 1930, the attacks of a thoroughly foolish American believer, who claimed the Will of `Abdu'l-Bahá was a forgery, were at their height. Shoghi Effendi wrote to Tudor Pole that: "the most powerful and determined opponents of the Faith in the East, who have challenged the very basis of Bahá'u'lláh's Message,...have not even hinted at the possibility of the Will being a forged document. They have vehemently attacked its provisions, but never questioned its authenticity. I feel that the greater the publicity given this vital issue, even if it should involve any government, the better for the Cause..." He went on to say that: "I feel pity rather than alarm at the efforts Mrs. White is exerting...so great and weighty an issue which she raises, involving as it does the honour of the Cause, is bound sooner or later to be verified...I am convinced that the stir she may create will be not detrimental but advantageous to the Faith." He also stated "that the Will is authentic is beyond the faintest shadow of doubt." Mrs White's prolonged and strenuous efforts which covered a field sufficiently wide to include the United States Postmaster General, to whom she wrote asking him to prohibit the American National Assembly from using the United States mails "to spread the falsehood that Shoghi Effendi is the successor of `Abdu'l-Bahá and Guardian of the Bahá'í Cause", and the civil authorities in Palestine, whom she requested to take legal action to declare the Will a forgery - and who curtly refused her request - produced yet another period of needless anxiety for Shoghi Effendi and necessitated increased vigilance and increased effort on his part at a time when he was already overburdened and "immersed in my endless work". All Mrs White ever achieved was to stir up a temporary and insignificant cloud of dust. At the time when her agitation was at its height the British National Assembly wrote to the German Bahá'í communities, through their National Assembly, assuring them that the British Bahá'ís were loyallyPage 120
behind the administration of the Guardian. However, Herrigel, one of the founders of the German Community, turned against the Faith as administered by the Guardian and left it.
An interesting aftermath of this whole affair was the Mrs White's husband, in 1941, cabled Shoghi Effendi he was "profoundly sorrowing and repentant pleading forgiveness..." It seemed he had never really agreed with her. Shoghi Effendi wrote to him, opening the door for his return, but even at this late date it proved impossible for him to disentangle himself from his redoubtable and unrepentant wife, so that his change of heart could not produce a change of status.
Already Avarih, the well-known Persian teacher, whom Shoghi Effendi had sent to Europe after the Master's passing to strengthen the faith of the believers, and whom he was later forced to call a "shameless apostate", had left the Cause and begun writing books (and continued for years to write books) against it, attacking not only the Guardian but in the end the Master and Bahá'u'lláh himself in the foulest terms. It is significant that his wife, unlike Mr white, entirely severed herself from him and remained a devoted and much-praised Bahá'í because of her courageous act of faith.
Ahmad Sohrab, who had been closely associated with the Master, had acted as His secretary, and had had the privilege of being with Him during His visit to centres in the United States and Canada, puffed up with self-importance and ambition, founded the "New History Society" and progressively became alienated from his fellow Bahá'ís through his own acts, not the least of which was his habit of quoting in public lectures from the words of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá as if they were his own. A book could easily be written on the course of this one man's defection, quoting the innumerable cables and letters of the Guardian in his efforts at first to save him from his own acts and later to expose him and protect the American Bahá'ís from his distortions of the truth, his open lies and his efforts to undermine the Administrative Order established by the Master in His Will. Again, it is of interest to note that his Bahá'í wife and daughter completely severed all relations with him, indeed so humiliated and disgusted were they by his conduct that they changed their surname.
Of such crises as these which arose in the course of time Shoghi Effendi wrote: "We should also view as a blessing in disguise every storm of mischief with which they who apostatize their faith or claim to be its faithful exponents assail it from time to time. InsteadPage 121
of undermining the Faith, such assaults, both from within and from without, reinforce its foundations, and excite the intensity of its flame. Designed to becloud its radiance, they proclaim to all the world the exalted character of its precepts, the completeness of its unity, the uniqueness of its position, and the pervasiveness of its influence."
But the tale of defections such as these does not convey the true picture of what Covenant-breaking signified in the ministry of Shoghi Effendi. To understand that one must understand the old story of Cain and Abel, the story of family jealousies which, like a sombre tread in the fabric of history, runs through all its epochs and can be traced in all its events. Ever since the opposition of the younger brother of Bahá'u'lláh, Mirza Yahya, the poison of Covenant-breaking, which is opposition to the Centre of the Covenant, entered the Faith and remained. It is difficult for those who have neither experienced what this disease is, nor devoted any consideration to the subject, to grasp the reality of the power for destruction it possesses. All the members of the family of Bahá'u'lláh grew up in the shadow of Covenant-breaking. The storms, separations, reconciliations, final sundering of ties, which are involved when a close, distinguished and often dear relative is dying spiritually of a spiritual disease, are inconceivable to one who has not experienced them. The weakness of the human heart, which so often attaches itself to an unworthy object, the weakness of the human mind, prone to conceit and self-assurance in personal opinions, involve people in a welter of emotions that blind their judgment and lead them far astray. In the East, where the sense of family to this day is still strongly clannish, its members cling to each other much more intensely than in the West. No matter what Yahya had done there was a lingering feeling in the family that, after all, some reason must be on his side, not all justification in a "family matter was necessarily on Bahá'u'lláh's side. One can readily see that if even the faintest trace of such an attitude existed amongst members of Bahá'u'lláh's own family the children would not grow up to see Covenant-breaking in its true proportions. The flaw would be there, the most dangerous of all human doubts, that after all the Perfect One might not under all circumstances be perfect, but sometimes just a little prone to error in judging others. When this doubt enters the germs are present in one's own system, perhaps to lie dormant forever, perhaps to flare up into disease. It has always seemed to me that the division which took place inPage 122
Bahá'u'lláh's family after His ascension, and the successive disaffections two generations later of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í entire family from Shoghi Effendi, had begun in an attitude of mind that developed in the Baghdad days before Bahá'u'lláh had even declared His Mission. The root was back there, the poisonous fruit garnered eighty years later.
Faith and obedience are the most important factors in one's relation to God, to His Manifestation, to the Head of the Faith. One must believe even if one does not see, and even if one does not believe one must obey. The Covenant-breaking inside the family of Bahá'u'lláh was like a vine, it entwined the tree and strangled it; wherever its tendrils reached out it plucked up what it would itself about and destroyed that too. This is why so many of the minor relatives, the secretaries, the members of the community surrounding the Centre of the Cause, became involved in the periodic disaffections of various members of the family and every time one of these diseased members was lopped off, some blinded sympathizers went too.
It looks simple on paper. But when year after year a house is torn by heart-breaking emotions, shaken by scenes that leave one's brain numb, one's nerves decimated and one's feelings in a turmoil, it is not simple, it is just plain hell. Before a patient lies on the operating table and the offending part is removed there is a long process of delay, of therapeutic effort to remedy the disease, of hope for recovery. So it is with Covenant-breaking; the taint is detected; warning, remonstrance, advice follow; it seems better; it breaks out again, worse than before; convulsive situations arise - repentance, forgiveness follow - and then all over again, the same thing, worse than before, recommences. With infinite variations this is what took place in the lifetimes of Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.
It is all history now and there is no use recapitulating it case by case. But I believe one thing should be made clear. Whereas we ordinary human beings react in one way, these extraordinary human beings react in an entirely different way. They are, in such matters - however great the difference in their own stations - entirely different from us. I used to wonder, in the early years of my life with the Guardian, why he go so terribly upset by these happenings, why he reacted so violently to them, why he would be prostrated from evidences of Covenant-breaking. Gradually I came to understand that such beings, so different from us, havePage 123
some sort of mysterious built-in scales in their very souls; automatically they register the spiritual state of others, just as one side of a scale goes down instantly if you put something in it because of the imbalance this creates. We individual Bahá'ís are like the fish in the sea of the Cause, but these beings are like the sea itself, any alien element in the sea of the Cause, so to speak, with which, because of their nature, they are wholly identified, produces an automatic reaction on their part; the sea casts out its dead.
Shoghi Effendi, forced often to announce publicly the spiritual downfall of not only well-known Bahá'ís but the members of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í own family, refers to the latter as "those whose acts proclaim their severance from the Holy Tree and their forfeiture of their sacred birthright." His heart, he said, was oppressed by the "repeated defections" of the "unworthy kindred" of the beloved Master, defections which, he made clear, were a "process of purification whereby an inscrutable Wisdom chose from time to time to purge the body of His chosen followers of the defilement of the undesirable and the unworthy..." Shoghi Effendi pointed out that those who are inimical to the Faith always seize upon evidences of this purification process as a symptom of oncoming schism which they hopefully anticipate will bring about its downfall. But which never has.
Even though this phenomenon of Covenant-breaking seems to be an inherent aspect of religion this does not mean it produces no damaging effect on the Cause. On the contrary, as Shoghi Effendi cabled the Bahá'ís after the death of a relative: "time alone will reveal extent havoc wreaked this virus violation injected fostered over two decades `Abdu'l-Bahá'í family". It does not mean that much of it could not be avoided through greater individual effort and loyalty. Above all it does not mean that a devastating effect is not produced on the Centre of the Covenant himself. Shoghi Effendi's whole life was darkened by the vicious personal attacks made upon him. I personally am convinced that the main reason the heart of the Guardian was sufficiently undermined physically for it to stop in 1957 was because of the unbearable strain thirty-six years of interminable struggle with a series of Covenant-breakers had placed upon it. It is only necessary to add that it was the death of his own brother-in-law that provided the occasion for sending the above-quoted cable, for us to catch a glimpse of what Shoghi Effendi repeatedly passed through during his ministry.
On one occasion he cable a believer who was very close to him,Page 124
and who, he had recently learned, had been very badly treated by a near relative: "Heart overflowing sympathy your sufferings so courageously endured. Would have instantly communicated had I known. Both you I tasted cup disillusionment treatment nearest relatives. Feel close to you realization your sorrows memory your superb continued imperishable services. Praying fervently Holy Shrines Deepest love."
Perhaps these words from my diary, written between 1940 and 1945, under the influence of what I saw Shoghi Effendi going through in the long shattering crisis that deprived him of his relatives, can better convey the effect of Covenant-breaking:
"He goes on, but it is like a man in blizzard who cannot sometimes even open his eyes for the blinding snow." "He is like a man whose skin has been burned off...it is a miracle he can keep going." "I feel sure the tide will turn. but oh, never, never to find Shoghi Effendi as he was! I don't think anything in this world will ever be able to efface what these last years have done to him! Time is a great healer but it cannot remove scars." "It seems it is all irretrievably broken."
That these repeated crises greatly interfered with his work for the Cause there can be no doubt. As early as 1926 he had written to a lukewarm believer, who later became a most despicable Covenant-breaker: "You know I am not and never was a sentimental person. I thirst for work and my thoughts are intent upon accomplishing important tasks if circumstances permit and I am free from attacks from within and from without."
The patience of Shoghi Effendi in handling these terrible situations that arose in his own family is shown by the fact that on one occasion he held for eight months a cable excommunicating his brother while he tried - vainly - to remedy the situation and obviate the necessity of sending a message that was so heart-breaking to him.
So disastrous is the effect of Covenant-breaking on the Cause that one of the last acts of Shoghi Effendi's ministry was to inform the Hands of the Cause that they should appoint a second group of Auxiliary Board members for the purpose of protecting the Faith.Page 125
That Shoghi Effendi was stern in all matters affecting the protection of the Faith does not mean he could not be gentle and kind also. He was fundamentally a very tender-hearted person and when left sufficiently at peace within himself expressed this innate kindness and tenderness not only to those who surrounded him but to the believers personally in many ways. There are numerous examples of this in his cable files. Over and over, when disaster struck in some country where there were Bahá'ís, he would send an inquiry such as this one to Persia: "Wire safety friends. Anxious earthquake reports Persia Turkistan". Very often this would be followed by financial help for those who were in desperate need. When an American Baha'i, stricken in Persia by infantile paralysis, was returning with his wife to the United States, Shoghi Effendi cabled the friends in Beirut, Alexandria and New York, requesting that they meet his boat and assist in every way they could. The Guardian sent seven wires, in a short space of time, in connection with a single Bahá'í who had various difficulties in getting to Haifa and leaving after her pilgrimage was over. His thoroughness in such matters, as well as his consideration, are delightfully reflected in this telegram to Egypt: "Dewing New Zealand Bahá'í arriving tonight Cairo for one day. Urge meet him station. He wears helmet. If missed meet him next morning Cooks office nine o'clock. Extend utmost kindness." On another occasion we find Shoghi Effendi cabling, in connection with a Bahá'í who for some reason had not been able to land in Haifa, to "comfort him my behalf". On learning through a cable from a husband that his wife was "completely unbalanced believes lost your love message would calm her" Shoghi Effendi cabled immediately: "Assure...undiminished love confidence." To a believer in the Near East whose relativesPage 126
lived in Palestine he wired: "Most welcome advise bring children with you relieve longing their grandmother." A cable sending a message to a prominent new Bahá'í says: "Cable princess my loving best wishes. May Bahá'u'lláh's almighty arms ever encircle her."
Dagmar Dole, one of the devoted pioneers, died and was buried in Switzerland. Once, when I was confined to bed for some days, I remember how deeply moved and surprised I was when Shoghi Effendi came to me and told me he had been to visit her grave, a short train journey away from where we were staying.
He was moved sometimes, above and beyond the usual encouragement and general instructions he gave the Bahá'ís, to intervene in a direct way with their plans; a boy of seventeen wanted to go to Latin America, in the first Seven Year Plan, but was advised he was too young and should wait until he was older and had finished more of his studies; Shoghi Effendi cabled the American National Assembly to reconsider letting him go and Shoghi Effendi would mention with pride this young man's response to the need for pioneers. An old woman, a cripple, longed to go to North Africa and pioneer; Shoghi Effendi encouraged her to do so and the place where Ella Bailey died is marked with a gold star on one of his maps! I remember a pilgrim at the table telling Shoghi Effendi she had her husband's permission to offer themselves as pioneers and did he have any suggestions as to where they should go? Shoghi Effendi immediately said "Africa"; "Any particular place in Africa?" she asked; "South Africa" he replied. A little taken aback at these rapid-fire monosyllables she said "Any particular city?" to which he replied "Johannesburg" and thus her destiny and that of her family were settled in four words.
Sometimes the spirit animating a Bahá'í was such as to persuade Shoghi Effendi to change his own instructions. An instance of this is the case of Marion Jack, whom `Abdu'l-Bahá called "General Jack" and the Guardian called an "immortal heroine", saying she was a shining example to pioneers of present and future generations in both the East and the West, and that no one had surpassed her in "Constancy, dedication, self-abnegation, fearlessness" except the "incomparable Martha Root". Jackie - as she was usually called - lived in Sofia, Bulgaria, and when war broke out Shoghi Effendi, concerned over her dangerous position, wired her "Advise return Canada wire whether financially able". She replied "...how about Switzerland" but assured him of her implicitPage 127
obedience. Shoghi Effendi then wired "Approve Switzerland" but she still did not want to leave her pioneer post and begged to be allowed to remain in Bulgaria, to which the Guardian replied: "Advise remain Sofia love."
There is a great mystery involved in the levels of service. Shoghi Effendi always advised the friends to pursue a moderate and wise course, but if they did not, and chose to rise to heights of heroism and self-sacrifice, he was immensely proud of them. After all, there is nothing either wise or moderate in being martyred - yet our crowning glory as a religion is that our first Prophet was martyred and twenty thousand people followed in His footsteps. I have tried to understand this mystery, moderation on one side and Bahá'u'lláh's words on the other: "...then write with that crimson ink that hath been shed in My path. Sweeter indeed is this than all else,... " and it seems to me that the best example is an aeroplane: when it trundles along the ground on its wheels it is in the dimension of the ground, going along steadily on an earthly plane, but when it soars into the air and folds its wheels away and leaps forward at dazzling speeds, it is in a celestial realm and the values are different. When we are on the ground we get good sound earthly advice, but if we choose to spurn the soil and leap into the realms of higher service and sacrifice we do not get that kind of advise any more, we win immortal fame and become heroes and heroines of God's Cause.
Shoghi Effendi worked through everything; everything that he encountered, individual, object or piece of land, that could be turned to an advantageous use for the Faith he seized upon and used. Although in general he worked through Assemblies and Committees, he also worked directly through individuals. An example of this is Victoria Bedekian, known as "Auntie Victoria". For years she wrote letters, widely circulated in the West and the East, and the Guardian encouraged her in the activity and even told her what she should emphasize in her communications.
He was not fussy about sources of information; by this I mean he did not always wait until official channels corroborated the arrival of a pioneer at his post or some other piece of good news which had been conveyed to him through a personal letter or by a pilgrim, but would incorporate this encouraging information in his messages. This latitude which Shoghi Effendi allowed himself meant that the whole work of the Faith was bowled forward to a far faster pace than if he had done otherwise. Like all great leaders hePage 128
possessed something of the quality of a good press man who realizes that the time factor in conveying news is of great importance and that speed itself has an impact and stimulates the imagination. This practice of his should not, however, mislead us into thinking that he was not extraordinarily thorough. The exactitude with which he complied statistics, sought out historic facts, worked on every minute detail of his maps and plans was astonishing.
The Guardian had a few personal relationships, above and beyond his usual affection and good will towards all the believers who were really worthy of the name Baha'i. On one occasion when he had been ill Philip Sprague cabled him expressing his concern over this and ending with the words: "heart full of love." Shoghi Effendi cabled back: "Have recovered. Fully reciprocate your great love." He very frequently had occasion to cable his agent Dr Giachery in Italy for various things required at the World Centre and many of those cables were similar to this: "Kindly order twentyfour additional lamp posts identical those ordered love." Such cables were far from being the usual practice of the Guardian.
But there was another aspect to his cables. If some were very loving, and most of a routine nature, others could be extremely sharp. There are many cables to National Assemblies like this one to America sent in 1923: "Expecting frequent comprehensive reports..." and many others to various people, with much stronger phrases such as these: "Beware disobedience my wishes"; "Warn you again"; "beware neglect", and so on. It is impossible to find verbose and unexplicit cables. "Send with sister ten Corona ribbons colour black" he wired his brother in Beirut. To the first Bahá'í to ask permission to come to Haifa after the end of the war when the pilgrimage was at last reopened Shoghi Effendi cabled quite simple what he meant in one word "Welcome".
The whole of Shoghi Effendi's life activity as Guardian, his mind and his feelings, his reactions and instructions, can be found reflected in miniature in his cables and telegrams; often they were more intimated, more powerful and revealing than the thousands of letters he wrote to individuals because in his letters his secretary usually dealt with details and thus the words are not the Guardian's which most of the time conveyed the assurance of his prayers, his encouragement and his statement of general principles.Page 129
Shoghi Effendi, like his grandfather and great-grandfather before him, had a delightful sense of humour which was ready to manifest itself if he were given any chance to be happy or enjoy a little peace of mind. His eyes would fairly dance with amusement, he would chuckle delightedly and sometimes break out into open laughter. To a young pilgrim, who had expressed his interest in getting married, Shoghi Effendi remarked: "Don't wait too long and don't wait for someone to fall from the sky!" In a telegram to some young relatives in Beirut we find him saying, in 1923, "When will my two unruly secretaries terminate their period of medical treatment. Wire." Inside his family, with those he was familiar with, he liked to tease. I was often the victim and knowing that anything he said I was likely to believe he took advantage of this and enjoyed fooling me. For instance, I remember during the war coming into his room and finding him looking very solemn, his eyes round with concern. This alone attracted my attention and I became anxious. He then said something terrible had happened. I, of course, became even more anxious and asked what had happened. With a deeply concerned expression he solemnly informed me Churchill had died. As this was the most dangerous period of the war I became very excited and upset over this news and asked him what would happen to the Allies now, with their great leader dead, etc. etc. Shoghi Effendi stood my distress as long as he could and then burst out laughing! He played such tricks on me very often, as he found me an ideal subject - but gradually my gullibility wore off and after twenty years he said it was getting very difficult to fool me. Sometimes, feebly, I would try to play this game with him, but I could never act it out as well as he could and almost never succeeded in catching him.
On one side so majestic, on the other so engagingly confiding, innocent-hearted and youthful, such was our Guardian! One of my tasks, once Shoghi Effendi knew I could paint a little, was to colour various things for him and one of these was a map showing the plots owned by the Bahá'í Community on Mt Carmel. One day when I was adding colour to some newly acquired areas Shoghi Effendi told me to paint them lighter. I asked why. Why, he said, to show they are a "recent acquisition". It was such a clear reflection of joy these newly purchased plots afforded him. I can remember on another occasion spending hours and hours colouring for him photographs of different sizes showing an architect's elevation drawing depicting the monument of the Greatest HolyPage 130
Leaf with the two monuments to mark the graves of her mother and brother on either side.
This recalls another aspect of Shoghi Effendi's richly endowed personality. He was very tenacious of his purposes, very determined, but never unreasonable. Although he never changed his objectives he sometimes changed the course he had planned to take to reach them. The drawing of the monuments which I coloured is a good example of this. When he conceived the idea of moving the remains of Bahiyyih "Khanum's mother and brother from Akka to Mt Carmel he immediately ordered two beautiful marble monuments in Italy, similar to that marking the grave of the Greatest Holy Leaf. As this happened during his absence from Haifa he had the idea of putting these two flanking her resting-place and ordered a drawing made showing him how this would look; but when he returned to Haifa and studied his plan on the spot he decided it would not be as beautiful as to put the two, as a pair, off by themselves and on the same axis, which he eventually did.
All through the Guardian's ministry we see the light of Divine Guidance shining on his path, confirming his decisions, inspiring his choice. But there are always unforeseeable factors in every lan. Acts of God, and the sum of human endeavour, constantly change plans, little or big. This has always happened to the greatest as well as the smallest human beings, and the words of the Prophets themselves attest it. Shoghi Effendi was subject to such forces, but he also frequently modified his own plans. Examples of this are many and interesting: at one time he conceived the idea of placing the Mausoleum of Bahá'u'lláh on Mt Carmel, but later gave this up entirely and fixed its permanent place in Bahji; what became known as the World Crusade or Ten Year Plan was at first announced as a Seven Year Plan; one Temple to be built during this Plan became three Temples; the original eight European goal countries became ten; and so on. If outside forces over which the Guardian had no control frustrated some plan of his - as opposed to his modifying or expanding some plan of his own in the light of circumstances - he immediately compensated, so that the Cause, if a temporary defeat or humiliation was inflicted upon it, came out in the end with an augmented victory, a richer endowment.
Shoghi Effendi might be deflected from his course but he was never defeated in his purpose and his ingenuity was remarkable. A good example of this is the way he arranged for two of the three great new Continental Bahá'í Temples of the Ten Year Plan to bePage 131
built. He extracted from the architect he had at hand the designs he felt were suitable for the sydney and Kampala Houses of Worship. These were dignified, pleasing in proportion, conservation in style and relatively modest in cost. Since the architect was not in a position to carry out the detailed drawings or supervise the actual construction, Shoghi Effendi, not making a great circumstance of what to a fussy and small-minded man would have imposed an insuperable obstacle, proceeded to instruct the two National Assemblies involved to get local architectural firms to carry out the details and erect the buildings. Shoghi Effendi himself modified the expensive suggestions these firms at first made and got both Temples built within what he considered a reasonable price for the Cause to pay. Over and over his shrewdness and sound judgment saved the money of the Faith so that it could be spent on the many all-important tasks and not create temporary bankruptcy through the unwise prosecution of a single project.
Economy was a very rigid principle with Shoghi Effendi and he had very stern ideas on money matters. He more than once refused to permit an individual to make the pilgrimage who he knew was in debt, saying he must first pay his debts. I never saw the Guardian settle a bill he had not first carefully added up, whether it was for a meal or a payment of thousands of dollars! If there was an overcharge he pointed it out - and also if there was an undercharge. Many times I went to astonished people and called to their attention that their addition was wrong and they should do it again or they would be the losers. He also was a determined bargainer, never paying what he felt was too much for a thing. More than once, when a beautiful ornament for the Shrines, Archives, or gardens was too expensive, and the seller could not or would not meet the Guardian's price, he would not buy it even though he wanted it and had the money. He just considered it wrong and would not do it. Although Shoghi Effendi for many years had had a private automobile and chauffeur (like `Abdu'l-Bahá before him), because spare parts were not procurable for it during the worst years of the war he had it sold and used taxis. I have no doubt that as with sufficient money one can usually buy anything he could have procured another car, but it never entered his mind. He was against extravagance, ostentation and luxury as such, denying himself and others many things because he felt they were either not justified or not appropriate.
Another of the strongly marked characteristics of the GuardianPage 132
was his openness. The believers were his confidants. Freely, majestically, aloof but with a most endearing and heart-captivating confidence, he would share with the pilgrims who were his guests not only his ideas and his interpretations of the Teachings but his projects and plans. There were no privileged communicants who received his thought as of right. In spite of the fact that the National Assemblies were his channels through which he passed on his great Plans and the bodies by which they were prosecuted, he was wont to share these Plans in almost full detail with those he met, to such an extent that many a returning pilgrim was in possession of nearly all the details that were soon to be communicated to the Bahá'í world officially. The same was true of his work at the World Centre. So complete was his frankness that he sometimes drew little sketches at the table to illustrate what he was doing in the gardens on Mt Carmel, how the "arc" would be, what buildings might be erected on it, and so on.
Each new thing he was setting in motion, nationally or internationally, one might almost say followed the same pattern as the dawn of a day: the first light, feelers of vision, would be discerned in his words to visiting pilgrims, or lie half-hidden in his communications to the Bahá'í world; then would come the glimmering of goals beginning to take shape as the sun of his concept rose higher and he focused the brilliant energy of his mind upon it; finally, in a clear burst of illumination, would come the whole idea in all its splendour - a Seven Year Plan, a Ten Year Plan, the warnings and promises in some new and wonderful general letter, the complete instructions regarding such major projects as the completion of the Shrine of The Báb, the International Archives, one of the great new Houses of Worship, of the exposition of certain fundamental themes contained in such books as The Advent of Divine Justice and The Promised Day Is Come.
The relationship of Shoghi Effendi to the pilgrims, his courtesy as a host, his kindness shown to them in so many little ways, the things he so openly discussed with them, had a tremendous effect on the work the Bahá'ís were accomplishing in so many countries, for when these fortunate believers returned to their own communities they acted as a leaven, stimulating their fellow Bahá'ís to greater efforts, making the Guardian a more real person to those who had not been privileged to meet him face to face, creating a sense of nearness both to him and to the World Centre that by any other method would have been hard to achieve. In his conversationsPage 133
with the pilgrims he was able to convey, often in a more fluent and forceful language than he would have sued in writing, his strong feelings on certain subjects. During our pilgrimage in 1937 I had been privileged to make notes of what he said to my mother and me at the table, but later I very seldom did this. However, on a few occasions I did write down what he said as he said it and one of these was in 1954 when he was speaking very forcibly to the pilgrims present on the subject of the urgent needs of the World Crusade and the attitude of the Bahá'ís towards pioneering: "I can warn them, I can urge them, but I cannot create the spirit - it is unhappiness for me and danger for the believers, that really results..." "The Cause triumphs in spite of the inaction of a large number of its supporters, in a mysterious way it works." And as he touched upon some places where the friends were acting as teachers in schools he said: "They bring into the schools the American mode of life instead of driving it out and establishing the Bahá'í mode of life." But in spite of all he showered upon the pilgrims - from providing for their physical comfort as his guests to tearing the veils from their eyes and educating them in their Faith - whenever one of them would seek to express his or her deep gratitude for the honour of meeting him, he would instantly turn this aside, saying the purpose of the pilgrimage was to visit the Holy Shrines.
So many memories come back to me when I think of the pilgrims, myself included, such as that dawn in 1923, when I was a child and was driving back in the automobile of the Guardian from Bahji where we had all gone to commemorate the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh. I insisted on sitting up on the edge of the folded-back top of the touring car instead of on the seat. Shoghi Effendi remonstrated with me and warned me not to fall out, and I assured him I would not do so. I was too intoxicated with the morning and all the bounties showered upon me to be afraid. In those days there was no proper road and we drove over the beach between Akka and Haifa on the wet strip of sand between the sea and the dunes. Hundreds of little white crabs fled before the car for the safety of their holes in a never-ending ripple before us. The sun had just risen the whole world was fresh and rosy and clean. Shoghi Effendi began to tell me about how much he longed to see the Rocky Mountains in Canada, and of his love for mountains and mountaineering. He always followed with the keenest interest, tillPage 134
the end of his life, any account of the assaults made on Mr Everest. His love of scenic beauty was very great and if he had been a free individual I am sure much of his time would have been spent in visiting the natural wonder spots of the world.
The last year of the Guardian's life two Swiss pilgrims came to Haifa. Their presence stirred up all his memories of Switzerland and his love for their country poured out in a manner wholly unlike his usual reserve about his personal life and feelings. I had been ill in bed and not present at dinner in the Pilgrim House but when Shoghi Effendi came hone he told me he had "said everything" - about the mountain he had climbed, the walks he had taken, the scenes he loved so much. It was very atypical of him, very rare and a clear index of something deep in his own heart.
I remember another occurrence which happened in Switzerland itself as we were leaving Zermatt one evening. In all the years we travelled together Shoghi Effendi did not form any personal relationships and very rarely spoke to strangers. This was not my own nature and sometimes I would slip out of our compartment in the train, or on some occasion, and get into animated conversation with a fellow passenger. He always knew (and never minded) when this happened. I think he could tell from a flushed and tentative expression on my face when I rejoined him what I had been doing and with twinkling eyes would ask me what I had been up to. On this particular occasion, however, it was he who held a long conversation as we sat on the hard wooden seats of our third-class train compartment. A young man, a truly lovely and gentlemanly boy, the child of White Russians living in America, was seated opposite us. He was travelling for the first time in Switzerland and the Guardian, with that same kindliness and animation that so often characterized his conversation, proceeded to advise him in great detail about what places he should not miss seeing in the limited time at his disposal. He even got out the Swiss railway guide and showed him what trains to take, where to go and when. I sat back and listened, watching the fine face of the youth, so courteous, so pleased at the attention he was receiving from this stranger, and of course prayed in my heart that this bounty he was receiving - which I could in no way indicate to him - would somehow, some day, lead him to the Faith of which this stranger was the Head!
But to return to Shoghi Effendi's remarks to the Swiss pilgrims in Haifa. He was moved to inform them that he wishedPage 135
Switzerland to have its own Temple site, which was to be situated near the capital city of Bern and have a clear view of the Bernese Alps, where he had spent so many months of his life walking and climbing. On 12 August 1957 he communicated to what was then the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Italy and Switzerland his wishes in this matter. His secretary wrote: "As he explained to " , he is very anxious for Switzerland to purchase a plot, however shall in size, and modest a beginning it may be, for the future Mashriqu'l-Adhkar of that country. He feels this should be in the outskirts of Bern, overlooking the Bernese Oberland; and he is very happy to be able to present this land himself to the Swiss Community. No publicity whatsoever should be given to this matter lest an opposition resembling that which has arisen in Germany should be provoked amongst the orthodox element in Bern. Whenever the committee responsible for finding this land has located a suitable plot, he would like your Assembly to inform him of the details." This was a gift of a unique nature, no other community in the Bahá'í world having been thus honoured. The plot of land, almost 2,000 square metres in area, on the outskirts of Bern, overlooks the Gurbetal and from it can be seen the famous Finsteraarhorn, Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau mountains, the scene of many of the Guardian's mountaineering exploits, the scene also of many of the most agonizing hours he passed after the ascension of his grandfather.
On one occasion a pilgrim from Canada had informed the Guardian that in teaching the Faith to the Eskimo people it was very difficult for them to understand the meaning in such similes as the nightingale and the rose because these things were entirely unknown to them. The reaction of Shoghi Effendi to this was typical. When he said good-bye to this friend he gave her a small vial of the Persian attar of rose, the quintessence of what a rose is, and told her to anoint the Eskimos with it, saying that perhaps in this way they would get an inkling of what Bahá'u'lláh meant when he wrote of the rose.
Another incident comes to my mind. Among the last pilgrims to leave Haifa before Shoghi Effendi himself left in June 1957, never to return, were two American negro believers. As long as I live I will never forget the look on the face of one of them as she sat opposite the Guardian at the Pilgrim House table. One could see that in meeting him - who met all men as the creation of god, with no other feeling than pleasure that they were as God had made them -Page 136
the hurts and sorrows of a lifetime were melted away. She looked at him with a combination of the great loving heart of a mother and the reverence due him in his glorious station that I think must be the look on the faces of the angels in Paradise as they gaze upon their Lord.
Those who had the privilege to being near the Guardian, no matter how much experience they had had or how long they had been Bahá'ís - some, like myself from birth - were constantly having their concept of the greatness of this Cause expanded by Shoghi Effendi's words, his reactions and his example. I remember my surprise when, in his long Ridvan Message to the Bahá'í world in 1957, he mentioned (obviously with pride or he would not have included it) the "recently converted Bahá'í inmates" in Kitalya Prison in Uganda. It had never occurred to me that one would mention a Bahá'í being in prison without shame! But here he was proclaiming that we had a group of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh in a prison. He often referred to this in his talks to the pilgrims and as I pondered over this and the things he said about it I realized that as this Faith is for all men, the saints and the sinners, there were two principles involved. One was the fact that society must be governed by laws, protected by laws and men punished through laws; and the other was that belief in the Manifestation of God should be universal and include everyone, because the act of faith is the spark that sets the soul alight and gives it eternal awareness of its God, and this was something each soul had a right to, no matter what his sins might be. In more than one letter, at different times to different people, Shoghi Effendi encouraged the Bahá'ís to teach in prisons.
The sympathy which all the Prophets of God have shown towards the down-trodden, the meek, and poor and the outcast, singling them out for particular succour, protection and loving encouragement, was always manifested in the Guardian's acts and words. but we must not confuse this attitude with the fundamental truth that many groups of people who at present fall into these categories not only deserve to receive special attention but have within themselves reserves of power and spiritual greatness needed by the entire world. Take, for example, the Indians of the Western Hemisphere. `Abdu'l-Bahá had written: "You must attach great importance to the Indians, the original inhabitants of America. For these souls may be likened unto the ancient inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula, who prior to the Revelation of Muhammad, were likePage 137
savages. When the Muhammadan Light shone forth in their midst, they became so enkindled that they shed illumination upon the world. Likewise, should these Indians be educated and properly guided, there can be no doubt that through the Divine teachings they will become so enlightened that the whole earth will be illumined. " Throughout his ministry Shoghi Effendi never forgot these words and repeatedly urged the believers throughout Canada and the Americas to enlist these souls under the banner of Bahá'u'lláh. Some of the last letters he wrote, in July 1957, to various National Assemblies in the Western Hemisphere, again forcibly stressed this subject and referred to the "long overdue conversion of the American Indians". I quote excerpts from this instructions written by his secretary on his behalf:
"The paramount task is, of course, the teaching work; at every session your Assembly should give it close attention, considering everything else of secondary importance. Not only must many new Assemblies be developed, as well as groups and isolated centers, but special attention must be focused on the work of converting the Indians to the Faith. The goal should be all-Indian Assemblies, so that these much exploited and suppressed original inhabitants of the land may realize that they are equals and partners in the affairs of the Cause of God, and that Bahá'u'lláh is the Manifestation of God for "them."
"He was particularly happy to see that some of the Indian believers were present at the Convention. He attaches the greatest importance to teaching the original inhabitants of the Americas the Faith. `Abdu'l-Bahá Himself has stated how great are their potentialities, and it is their right, and the duty of the non-Indian Bahá'ís, to see that they receive the Message of God for this day. One of the most worthy objectives of your Assembly must be the establishment of all-Indian Spiritual Assemblies. Other minorities should likewise be especially sought out and taught. The friends should bear in mind that in our Faith, unlike every other society, the minority, to compensate for what might be treated as an inferior status, receives special attention, love and consideration...
"As you formulate the goals which must receive your undivided attention during the coming years he urges you to bear in mind the most important one of all, namely the multiplication of the Spiritual Assemblies, the groups and the isolated centres; this will ensure both breadth and depth in the foundations you are laying for the future independent national bodies. The believersPage 138
should be urged to consider individually the needs in their immediate region, and to go forth to pioneer in near and distant cities and towns. They must be encouraged by your Assembly to remember that small people, often poor and obscure people, have changed the course of human destiny more than people who started out with wealth, fame and security. It was the Sifter of Wheat who, in the early days of our Faith, arose and because a hero and martyr, not the learned priests of his city!"
He expressed similar sentiments as regards another people of another race. In a letter dated 27 June 1957 he wrote to the newly formed New Zealand National Assembly: "As you formulate your plans and carry them out for the work entrusted to you during the next six years, he wishes you to particularly bear in mind the need of teaching the Maoris. These original discoverers of New Zealand are of a very fine race, and they are a people long admired for their noble qualities; and special effort should be made, not only to contact the Maoris in the cities, and draw them into the Faith, but to go to their towns and live amongst them and establish Assemblies in which at least the majority of the believers will be Maoris, if not all. This would be indeed a worthy achievement."
To a pilgrim belonging to the Mongolian race the Guardian stated that as the majority of the people in the world were not white there was no reason why the majority of Bahá'ís inside the Faith should be white; on the contrary, the Cause should reflect the situation existing in the world. To Shoghi Effendi differences were not something to be eliminated but rather the legitimate, necessary, indeed fascinating, ingredients that made the whole so much more beautiful and perfect.
Not only did Shoghi Effendi constantly inculcate in the Bahá'ís the respect due to people of different ethnic backgrounds, he also taught them what respect, and above all what reverence, as qualities needed to round out a noble human character, really are. Reverence for holy things is sadly lacking in the Western World today. In an age when the mistaken idea of equality seems to imply that every blade of grass must be exactly the same height, the Guardian's own profound respect for those above himself in rank was the best example one could find. The extreme reverence he showed to the twin Manifestations of God and to `Abdu'l-Bahá, whether in his writings, his speech or the manner in which he approached Their resting-places, provides a permanent pattern for all Bahá'ís to follow. Whenever Shoghi Effendi was near one of thePage 139
Shrines one could sense his awareness of this in his whole being. The way he walked as he neared it, the way he quietly and with great dignity and reverence approached the threshold, knelt and placed his forehead upon it, the way he never turned his back when inside the Shrine on that spot where one of these infinitely holy and precious beings was interred, the tone of his voice, his dignified lack of any levity on such occasions, all bore witness to the manner in which man should approach a holy of holies, going softly on sacred ground. It is really with the soul that man has to do in this life for it is all he will take with him when he leaves it. It is this fundamental concept - so obscured and forgotten in present-day philosophies - that endows even the dust of noble beings with a mystic potency. So strong is the perfume of some roses that even years after they have withered and dried out one can still smell the rose in them. This is a feeble example of the power which remains in the very dust that has been associated with the towering spirits of divine souls when they were in this world.
This wonderful emotion of reverence - which seems when it sweeps over us to blow away so much of the dross in our immature natures - was a deed characteristic of the Guardian, who learned it in his childhood as he sat on his heels, arms crossed on breast, before his exalted grandfather. I remember an incident that occurred after my parents returned to Canada in 1937 and sent me my books and bookcase and other things from my home. I had carefully arranged my books in the same relation to my bed as they had been in my room before, and placed the same photograph of `Abdu'l-Bahá on them, which meant that it was parallel with the end of my bed. When Shoghi Effendi noticed this he exclaimed "You put the Master at your feet!" I was startled, to say the least, by the intensity of this remark and said I had always I had always put Him there so I could see His face when I awakened in the morning. Shoghi Effendi said this was not proper. I must put the Master at my head, out of respect, not at my feet. Before this it had never occurred to me that a room has a top and a bottom, and that so sacred are the associations with such things as the photograph of the Centre of the Supreme Manifestation of God's Covenant and the reproduction of the Greatest Name, that their place, even in a room, must be a high one. An example of this attitude of the Guardian is contained in the words his secretary wrote on his behalf to the American National Assembly in 1933: "As regards the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh to the Greatest Holy Leaf, Shoghi Effendi feels it would be ratherPage 140
disrespectful to reproduce the facsimile of the Tablet in the handwriting of Bahá'u'lláh in the proposed pamphlet. He had these reproduced to have them illuminated and sent as gifts to the different National Assemblies to be cherished and kept in their National archives."
There are other examples of this same thing. As early as 1923 Shoghi Effendi cabled that same Assembly: "Dignity of Cause requires restraint in use and circulation of Master's voice record". This referred to a recording of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í chanting which had been made during his visit to the United States. On another occasion Shoghi Effendi instructed that Assembly: "In the conduct of any social activity at the National Office, however, great care should be taken to maintain strictly the dignity of the place, particularly in view of its proximity to the House of Worship, which makes it doubly essential for all the believers to conform to those standards of conduct, and of social intercourse set up in the Bahá'í Teachings."
It is not a ritualistic thing that is at stake here. There are no rituals in the Bahá'í Faith. It is an attitude. Although the Guardian was wont to prostrate himself before the thresholds of the Holy Tombs, he was at pains to explain to the pilgrims that they were free to do so or not. He did it because it was a custom in the part of the East from which his ancestors came. But the reverence was another matter; one thing was a form of expression the individual could choose for himself, the other was the proper spirit that should dwell in the heart of a devotee as he approaches those things that are most sacred in this world.
It was the custom of the Guardian, following in the footsteps of the Master Who had claimed for Himself the station of the Servant of the servants of God, to stand beside the door of the Shrine and anoint, with rose water or attar of rose, the believers as they passed him to enter the Shrine. He would then enter last. Yet, in the midst of this sincere servitude and humility, the proper proportions, the inherent difference in ranks that is part of human society, were not lost sight of. It was he who led the faithful in prayer; it was those who ranked highest in Haifa who led the way into the Shrine, who followed after the Guardian as he walked before, or were privileged to drive with him in his car when he went to a Bahá'í commemoration in Bahji. Courtesy, respect, reverence, each had its proper place in the scheme of things.
Shoghi Effendi, in keeping with this deep sense of reverence hePage 141
had for the Central Figures of our Faith, was very vigilant in defending Them from any slight or insult. An example of this occurred in January 1941. The Municipality named a short street opposite `Abdu'l-Bahá'í home and the Western Pilgrim House "Bahá Street". Shoghi Effendi was very indignant and sent his secretary immediately to see the Mayor and protest that as this was the name of the Founder of our Faith we considered it not only inappropriate but insulting. The municipal authorities met and changed the name to "Iran Street". I remember the Guardian was so exercised over this at the time that he said if they did not remove it at once he would go and tear it down with his own hands if necessary, even if it led to his being put in jail! I was very upset by this prospect, as I did not want him to go to jail without me and did not see what I could do to get in jail with him.
No picture of Shoghi Effendi's personality would ever be complete that did not depict the truly extraordinary artistic sense he possessed. This does not mean he could have been a painter; he was a writer par excellence. But he certainly had a painter's and an architect's eye. this was coupled with that fundamental quality without which I cannot see how anyone can achieve greatness in any of the arts or the sciences - a perfect sense of proportion, a sense of proportion measured in millimetres rather than centimetres. It was he who fixed the style of the Shrine of The Báb through his instructions - mostly not in detail but in principle - to my father. It was he who set the design for the International Archives Building, to such an extent that its architect would invariably state it was Shoghi Effendi's design, not his. the Guardian, with no help and no advice, laid out his superb gardens in Bahji and Haifa, every measurement being his own. But what people do not perhaps realize is that the appearance of the Shrine interiors, the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh, the House of 'Abbud, the Mansion at Mazra'ih, was not created by anyone, however slight the detail, except the Guardian himself. He not only steadily added to the ornaments, photographs, lamps and furnishings that make these places so beautiful, but everything was placed where it was under his supervision. Not a picture hung on the walls that was not placed exactly where it was, to within a centimetre, by him. He not only created the effect of beauty that meets the eye as one enters those places, but he produced it all at a minimum cost, buying things not so much because of their style and period but because they were inexpensive and could achieve an effect regardless ofPage 142
their intrinsic worth. His visits to the Shrines and gardens were my only opportunities to have his room cleaned. How often I remember how, in spite of my efforts and the maid's to get the many objects on his desk back into their exact positions, he would enter his bedroom, in which he did all his work, go to his desk, cast an eye over it automatically, reach out his hand and give an almost infinitesimal twist to the different objects which he detected were slightly out of the position he liked them to be in, though I am sure the difference was practically invisible to any eye but his. Needless to add that all this went with a neatness and tidiness that was phenomenal.
Shoghi Effendi loved ornate things, ornate things that were beautifully proportioned, not just because they were ornate. In the course of the years I learned what some of his favourite buildings and styles of architecture were" he was very fond of the Greek style, particularly as exemplified in the unsurpassed proportions of the Parthenon; his second favourite was Gothic architecture, the finest examples of which, though so entirely different from the Greek expression, moved him to great admiration of their soaring arches and lacy traceries in stone; many times we visited in England Gothic cathedrals and in his own rooms he placed a large framed photograph of the cathedral of Milan. He also had photographs, some in his own home, some which he placed in the Mansion at Bahji, of the Alhambra in Seville, which he considered very beautiful. There was another edifice, very different in felling and proportion to these, that Shoghi Effendi loved and that was the Signoria in Florence. Nothing could be a clearer indication of the depth of his artistic feeling and the soundness of his instinct in such matters than that this massive Italian building, so different from other favourites, should have been so deeply enjoyed and appreciated by him.
Unhampered by tradition in matters of taste Shoghi Effendi was extremely original and ingenious in the way he achieved his effects. He did things no over-instructed authority on a series of do's and don't's would ever have attempted. Take for instance the interior decoration of the Greek style Archives Building. In order to acquire more space as a single giant hall in which to exhibit the many objects, sacred or otherwise, with which he intended to furnish it, Shoghi Effendi had two narrow balconies built, running its full length on either side, which were protected by a purely renaissance, excellent in style, wooden balustrade. Most of the cabinetsPage 143
he chose to line the walls of the hall downstairs were Japanese lacquer or Chinese carved teak wood. The six great chandeliers suspended from the ceiling were of cut crystal and purely European in design. When I asked the Guardian what furniture he would place on ;the balconies he said he would use some of the cabinets from the previous Archives, which were really of no style at all but just modern veneer furniture such as people have in their homes these days. Yet this strange assortment of things representing different periods and different countries, including innumerable objects d'art , have combined to create an impression of beauty, of dignity, of richness and splendour it would be hard to equal anywhere.
Another example of the extreme ingenuity of the Guardian was the little garden he built, two floors above the ground, in a small open courtyard of the House of "Abbud in Akka. Not asking any advice - and consequently not being advised not to - he proceeded, with extra tiles, a little cast cement work, an old wooden pedestal, a metal peacock and a few plants, to create a tiny square of garden that was not only charming but drew the wandering inhabitants of Akka - who visited the house on the days it was open to the public - to stare at it open-mouthed, a new and unheard of thing, and yet another purveyor of the fame of the Bahá'í community.
The Guardian was truly an extraordinary man. There is no end to the examples that come to mind when one thinks of his nature and his achievements. He had a heart so faithful to those who were faithful to him that its counterpart could scarcely be found. In the gardens, on the terrace in front of the Shrine of The Báb, there stands a small cement room, little larger than a big box. This was the room of Abu'l Kasim, a keeper of the Shrine dearly loved by Shoghi Effendi for his devotion and his character. The night before this man died, Shoghi Effendi told me he had had a strange, twice-repeated dream in which the green covering of verdure on the Shrine had withered away as if it had been burned off. He was much puzzled by this, for he felt it had a significance. When news was brought to him some hours later that the keeper of the Shrine was dead he at once understood the dream's meaning. At different times, over a period of many years, when the Guardian was building the Shrine and extending the terrace in front of it, he destroyed this room, but each time, rebuilt it, a little farther to the west, because of the association it had with this devoted soul.Page 144
However faithful and tender Shoghi Effendi's relationships were throughout his life with those closest to him, his supreme relationship was with the Greatest Holy Leaf. When she passed away in 1932 the news reached him in Interlaken, Switzerland. Although he was well aware of her condition, which he described in 1929 when he wrote that the Greatest Holy Leaf was "Now in the evening of her life, with deepening shadows caused by failing eyesight and declining strength swiftly gathering about her"; although he had had a premonition of her swiftly approaching death, when he wrote in March 1932 to the American believers urging them to press on with the completion of the dome of "our beloved Temple" and said that "my voice is once more reinforced by the passionate, and perhaps, the last, entreaty, of the Greatest Holy Leaf, whose spirit, now hovering on the edge of the Great Beyond, longs to carry on its flight to the Abhá Kingdom...an assurance of the joyous consummation of an enterprise, the progress of which has so greatly brighten the closing days of her earthly life"; although she was now eighty-two years old - none of this softened the blow or mellowed the grief that overwhelmed the Guardian. On 15 July he cabled America announcing that her spirit had taken its flight to that Great Beyond, bewailing the "sudden removal of my sole earthly sustainer, the joy and solace of my life" and informing the friends that "So grievous a bereavement necessitates suspension for nine months throughout the Bahá'í world every manner religious festivity"; memorial meetings were to be held everywhere, locally and nationally, for her, the "last remnant of Bahá'u'lláh".
But it was on 17 July the he wrote to the American and Canadian believers a letter that provides a glimpse of what was passing in the surging sea of his heart and in which he eulogizes the life, station and deeds of `Abdu'l-Bahá sister, pouring forth his love in an unforgettable torrent of words.Page 145
Dearly-beloved Greatest Holy Leaf! Through the mist of tears that fill my eyes I can clearly see, as I pen these lines, thy noble figure before me, and can recognize the serenity of thy kindly face. I can still gaze, though the shadow of the grave separate us, into thy blue, love-deep eyes, and can feel, in its calm intensity, the immense love thou didst bear for the Cause of thine Almighty Father, the attachment that bound thee to the most lowly and insignificant among its followers, the warm affection thou didst cherish for me in thine heart. The memory of the ineffable beauty of thy smile shall ever continue to cheer and hearten me in the thorny path I am destined to pursue. The remembrance of the touch of thine hand shall spur me on to follow steadfastly in thy way. The sweet magic of thy voice shall remind me, when the hour of adversity is at its darkest, to hold fast to the rope thou didst seize so firmly all the days of thy life. Bear thou this my message to `Abdu'l-Bahá, thine exalted and divinely-appointed Brother: If the Cause for which Bahá'u'lláh toiled and laboured, for which Thou didst suffer years of agonizing sorrow, for the sake of which streams of sacred blood have flowed, should, in the days to come, encounter storms more sever than those it has already weathered, do Thou continue to overshadow, with Thine all-encompassing care and wisdom, Thy frail, Thy unworthy appointed child.
What the Greatest Holy Leaf had done for Shoghi Effendi at the time of the Master's passing and in the years that followed is beyond calculation. She had played, as he said, a unique part throughout the tumultuous stages of Bahá'í history, not the least of which had been the establishment of Shoghi Effendi's own ministry after the death of `Abdu'l-Bahá. "Which of the blessings am I to recount," wrote Shoghi Effendi, "which in her unfailing solicitude she showered upon me, in the most critical and agitated hours of my life?" He said that to him she had been an incarnation of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í all-encompassing tenderness and love. As her life had waned his had waxed. With what deep satisfaction she must have seen, as the tide of her own life receded from the shores of this world, that Shoghi Effendi was become strong in his Guardianship, able to face the incessant blows he received with the fortitude of a man now fully grown into his stupendous task.
After the passing of the Master Shoghi Effendi had become Bahiyyih "Khanum's all in all, the very centre of her life - for him she had always been, next to his grandfather, the most beloved person in the world. I recall how, on one occasion during my 1923 pilgrimage with my mother, there was a large meeting attended by thePage 146
Bahá'í men in the central hall of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í home; my mother and Edith Sanderson were seated there beside the Guardian but I had joined the women in a room opening on to it. We sat in the dark so that we could leave the door open (in those days the eastern men and women, following the custom of the country, were entirely sequestered) and hear a little of what was going on. It seems that some oriental believer, suddenly overcome by emotion, had got up and flung himself at the feel of Shoghi Effendi; we in our room could not see what had happened but only hear a great hubbub going on outside. The Greatest Holy Leaf, so slender and frail, jumped to feet with a loud cry, fearing that something had happened to the young Guardian. She was quieted when someone brought the news nothing serious had occurred, but her anguish had been so evident the scene imprinted itself on my mind forever.
Until the time of her death it was Shoghi Effendi's custom to have his one meal a day alone with her, served on a small table in her bedroom. he told me that often, when she saw how upset he was, she used to tell him he should not eat when he was in this condition as it was very bad for his health. Another story he told me of her was how, when he had insisted she receive as an inheritance from `Abdu'l-Bahá a small sum of money, she had offered a large part of it to defray the expense of building the next terrace in front of the Shrine of The Báb in fulfilment of her Brother's cherished plan.
So close was the communion between Shoghi Effendi and his great-aunt that over and over, in cables and other communications, particularly during the early years of his Guardianship, he included her with himself in such phrases as "assure us", "the Greatest Holy Leaf and I", "we", and so on. In a cable sent in 1931 he even signs it "Bahiyyih Shoghi". Nothing could be more revealing of this intense love he had for her than the fact that on the day we were married it was to her room, where everything was preserved as it was in her days, standing beside her bed, that the Guardian went to have the simple Bahá'í marriage ceremony of hand in hand performed and we each repeated the words in Arabic: "We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God."
This love the Guardian had for the Greatest Holy Leaf, who had watched over him for thirty-five years as far more than a mother, continued to be demonstrated for the remainder of his life. When the news of her death reached him in Switzerland his first act was to plan for her grave a suitable memorial which he hastened to Italy to order. No one could possibly call this exquisitely proportionedPage 147
monument, built of shining white Carrara marble, anything but what it appears - a love temple, the embodiment of Shoghi Effendi's love. he had undoubtedly conceived its design from buildings of a similar style and, under his supervision, an artist now incorporated his concept in the monument he planned to erect on her resting-place. Shoghi Effendi used to compare the stages in the Administrative Order of the Faith to this monument, saying the platform of three steps was like the local Assemblies, the pillars like the National Assemblies, and the dome that crowned them and held them together like the Universal House of Justice, which could not be placed in position until the foundations and pillars were first firmly erected. After the Greatest Holy Leaf's monument had been completed in all its beauty he had a photograph of it sent to many different Assemblies, as well as to a special list of individuals to whom he wished to present so tender a memento.
The armchair he had always sat in in her room he moved to the place where he often sat for a respite in his work and continued to use it until the end of his life; his bedroom was filled with photographs of her, at different stages of her life, and more than one picture showing her monument. In a strongly moving cable, sent to America seven months after her passing, in which he praises the loyalty and self-sacrifice of the champion builders of the World Order, he adds "Founder of our Faith well pleased tokens their wise stewardship `Abdu'l-Bahá proud of their valour Greatest Holy Leaf radiant with joy their fidelity". He wrote that her memory would remain an "ennobling influence...amid the wreckage of a sadly shaken world." He adorned the Archives with the illuminated Tablets of `Abdu'l-Bahá addressed to her, placed photographs of her and her monument in them, and some of her personal belongs and mementos. The day he told me that he had chosen me to be his wife he placed on my finger the simple gold ring engraved with the symbol of the Greatest Name which the Greatest Holy Leaf had given him years before as his Bahá'í ring; he told me this should not be seen by anyone for the time being and I wore it around my neck on a chain until the day of our marriage.
In every act of his life he associated the Greatest Holy Leaf with his services to the Faith. When he entombed the remains of the mother and brother of Bahiyyih "Khanum on Mt Carmel he cabled: "...cherished wish Greatest Holy Leaf fulfilled", referring to her often expressed desire to be buried near them. On that momentousPage 148
occasion he said he rejoiced at the privilege of pledging one thousand pounds as his contribution to the Bahiyyih "Khanum Fund designed to inaugurate the final drive connected with the completion of the American Temple. He wrote that this transfer and reburial were events of "capital institutional significance". He said "the conjunction of the resting-place of the Greatest Holy Leaf with those of her brother and mother incalculably reinforces the spiritual potencies of that consecrated Spot" which was "destined to evolved into the focal centre of those world-shaking, world-embracing, world-directing Administrative institutions, ordained by Bahá'u'lláh..."
When `Abdu'l-Bahá'í mantle, as Head of the Faith, fell on Shoghi Effendi's shoulders a great change came over him. What the nature of that change was spiritually is not possible for us - so infinitely remote in both station and stature - to grasp or to define. Many times he used to tell me "when they read the Master's Will to me, I ceased to be a normal human being." The always personable and noble young man, now, and ever increasingly as the years went by, had the stamp of kingship in his face, his manner, his walk and gestures. It was not assumed, it was never an imitation of his grandfather, it was almost one might say an endowed changed. Shoghi Effendi was never really intimate with anyone except the closest members of his family and, in the early days, those who acted as his help-mates and secretaries. As years went by and his burdens increased, even this intimacy grew less, so that by the time the members of the International Bahá'í Council cam to Haifa it was very rarely that he ever saw one of its western members alone, usually to say good-bye when they were going away, or to give the Hands some instructions when they were going to represent him at a conference. The one who was most favoured in this respect was Milly Collins, whose unique love for and devotion to the Guardian had greatly endeared her to him; after my father passed away during a visit to his home in Canada, the Guardian invited Milly to come and live in the Master's house, in the room my father had occupied, because her own room in the Western Pilgrim House was damp and she suffered greatly from arthritis; with the exception of Lotfullah Hakim, the members of the International Bahá'í Council were all lodged in this building and Shoghi Effendi did all his business with the Council members at the dinner table in that Pilgrim House or through messages conveyed to it by his liaison.Page 149
This does not mean that his kindness was not frequently showered on the council members, particularly Milly. She was the only one, except the single person in charge of his mail, who ever had his address when we were away from Haifa (except, of course, my father) and who therefore had constant access to him. So great and tender was her love for Shoghi Effendi - whom she had first met shortly after the Master's passing - that she almost never wrote to him directly but addressed her letters to me in order to spare him the necessity of writing to her direct. Well she knew that some believers had, in their innocent egotism, amassed as many as fifty, sixty or more letters from the over-burdened pen! She was determined never to add her share to such a weight and her every thought was directed to sparing him, in any way she could, the slightest extra effort and to serving him in any way that could bring some happiness to his heart. So great was her concern in these matters that, although she lived in his house, when the time came for him to go out or come in she would return to her room so as not to oblige him to expend a moment of his overtaxed time to talk to her for a few minutes. Sometimes her age and ailments would confine her to her room and then the Guardian would pay her a visit for a few moments, often bring her a gift. I remember he came one evening when she was ill and took from his own neck the soft warm cashmere shawl a Bahá'í had given him and placed it himself about hers. It became her most treasured possession and she could never forget the touch of the warmth of his neck on hers.
But such relationships were very rare in the Guardian's life. One such, however, was with my father. It has often seemed to me that of the many undeserved blessings in my life this was one of the greatest that God in His infinite mercy showered upon me - the great love between Shoghi Effendi and my father. The background of this bond goes back to the days of the beloved Guardian's marriage. Until the last decade of my father's life it had always been my mother who was the famous Baha'i; she had come with the first group of pilgrims from the West to visit `Abdu'l-Bahá in Akka in the winter of 1898-9; she had been the first Bahá'í on European soil, the mother of the Bahá'í communities of both France and Canada, one of the Master's earliest and most distinguished disciples and greatly loved by Him. I mention this because Shoghi Effendi once said to her, one night when he came to dinner in the Western Pilgrim House after our union, that had I not been MayPage 150
Maxwell's daughter he would not have married me. This does not mean it was the only reason, but it was evidently a very powerful one, for in the cable he sent on 3 March 1940 officially announcing her death, which had taken place two days before, he said "To sacred tie her signal services had forged priceless honour martyr's death now added. Double crown deservedly won." These words clearly indicate her relationship to his marriage. In a Tablet of `Abdu'l-Bahá to one of her spiritual children He had written "her company uplifts and develops the soul". Until I came under the direct influence of the Guardian, through being privileged to be with him for over twenty years, I can truly say that my character, my faith in Bahá'u'lláh and whatever small services I had so far been able to render Him, were entirely due to her influence. From These facts it will be seen that when I arrived with my mother, on my third pilgrimage to Haifa, in January 1937, the status of my father inside the Faith can best be described as being "Mrs. Maxwell's husband".
My mother was the one who had first known Shoghi Effendi as a child, when she came to the Holy Land at the end of the last century; she had come again, in 1909, with my father but I do not know how much contact, if any, they had at that time with Shoghi Effendi. following the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá she suffered a complete break-down in health caused by the shock of his death, the news of which was broken to her very suddenly over the telephone, and for a year we did not know if she would live or die or lose her mind. My father felt that the only hope of dispelling the grief and dark thoughts that obsessed her - that she would never, because of her unworthiness, see the beloved Master in the next world - was for her to make a pilgrimage to Haifa again, this time to see the young successor of `Abdu'l-Bahá. In April 1923 we arrived in Haifa and it was Shoghi Effendi who literally resurrected a woman who was so ill she could still not walk a step and could move about only in a wheel chair. From that time the love of my mother's heart became entirely centred in the Guardian and when she was able to return to American, after we had spent two long periods in Haifa (with a break in between in Egypt while Shoghi Effendi was away in Europe), she once more served the Cause very actively. I myself again made the pilgrimage three years later with two of my mother's Bahá'í friends and so, when we arrived in 1937, it was not as strangers but as two people reaching the zenith of their love.Page 151
Surely the simplicity of the marriage of Shoghi Effendi - reminiscent of the simplicity of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í own marriage in the prison-city of Akka - should provide a thought-provoking example to the Bahá'ís everywhere. No one, with the exception of his parents, my parents and a brother and two sisters of his living in Haifa, knew it was to take place. He felt strongly urged to keep it a secret, knowing from past experience how much trouble any major event in the Cause invariably stirred up. It was therefore a stunning surprise to both the servants and the local Bahá'ís when his chauffeur drove him off, with me beside him, to visit the Holy Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh on the afternoon of 25 March 1937. His heart drew him to that Most Sacred Spot on earth at such a moment in his life. I remember I was dressed, except for a white lace blouse, entirely in black for this unique occasion, and was a typical example of the way oriental women dressed to go out into the streets in those days, the custom being to wear black. Although I was from the West Shoghi Effendi desired me to fit into the pattern of the life in his house - which was a very oriental one - as naturally and inconspicuously as possible and I was only too happy to comply with his wishes in every way. When we arrived at Bahji and entered the Shrine he requested me to give him his ring, which I was still wearing concealed about my neck, and this he placed on the ring-finger of my right hand, the same finger that corresponded to the one of his own on which he himself had always worn it. This was the only gesture he made. He entered the inner Shrine, beneath the floor of which Bahá'u'lláh is interred, and gathered up in a handkerchief all the dried petals and flowers that the keeper of the Shrine used to take from the threshold and place in a silver receptacle at the feet of Bahá'u'lláh. After he had chanted the Tablet of Visitation we came back to Haifa and in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf our actual marriage took place, as already mentioned. Except for this visit, the day he told me he had chosen to confer this great honour on me, and one or two brief moments in the Western Pilgrim House when he came over for dinner, I had never been alone with the Guardian. There was no celebration, no flowers, no elaborate ceremony, no wedding dress, no reception. His mother and father, in compliance with the laws of Bahá'u'lláh, signified their consent by signing our marriage certificate and then I went back to the Western Pilgrim House across the street and joined by parents (who had not been present at any of these events), and Shoghi Effendi went to attend to his own affairs. AtPage 152
dinner-time, quite as usual, the Guardian appeared, showering his love and congratulations on my mother and father. He took the handkerchief, full of such precious flowers, and with his inimitable smile gave them to my mother, saying he had brought them for her from the inner Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. My parents also signed the marriage certificate and after dinner and these events were over I walked home with Shoghi Effendi, my suitcases having been taken across the street by Fujita while we were at dinner. We sat for a while with the Guardian's family and then went up to his two rooms which the Greatest Holy Leaf had had built for him so long ago.
The quietness, the simplicity, the reserve and dignity with which this marriage took place did not signify that the Guardian considered it an unimportant event - on the contrary. Over his mother's signature, but drafted by the Guardian, the following cable was sent to America: "Announce Assemblies celebration marriage beloved Guardian. Inestimable honour conferred upon handmaid of Bahá'u'lláh Ruhiyyih Khanum Miss Mary Maxwell. Union of East and West proclaimed by Bahá'í Faith cemented. Ziaiyyih mother of Guardian." A telegram similar to this was sent to Persia. This news, so long awaited, naturally produced great rejoicing amongst the Bahá'ís and messages flooded in to Shoghi Effendi from all parts of the world. To that received from the National Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada Shoghi Effendi replied: "Deeply moved your message. Institution Guardianship, head cornerstone Administrative Order Cause Bahá'u'lláh, already ennobled through its organic connection with Persons of Twin Founders Bahá'í Faith, is now further reinforced through direct association with West and particularly with American believers, whose spiritual destiny is to usher in World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. for my part desire congratulate community American believers on acquisition tie vitally binding them to so weighty an organ of their Faith." To innumerable other messages his practically universal answer was merely an expression of loving appreciation for their felicitations. But even in these cables we find his reactions were always attuned to the quality and sincerity of the sender. When an individual whom he neither particularly liked nor trusted cabled his congratulations (in what appeared a wholly blameless manner), the Guardian expressed no appreciation but stated "praying for you Holy Shrines" as much as to say "I do not need your congratulations but you certainly arePage 153
in need of my prayers"! One of the most touching exchanges of cables at that time took place between the Ishqabad Bahá'ís and the Guardian. Through an intermediary Shoghi Effendi cabled: "Kindly wire Ishqabad Bahá'ís greatly value message praying continually protection". When John and Louise Bosch cabled him: "Illustrious nuptial thrilled the universe" the Guardian in his reply revealed a little of how deeply the loving messages that poured in stirred him: "Inexpressibly appreciate thrilling message deepest love". Another particularly warm reply was sent to the Antipodes: "Assure loved ones Australia New Zealand profound abiding appreciation".
The most significant point, however, associated with the Guardian's marriage is the stress he laid on the fact that it had drawn the Occident and the Orient closer to each other. It had not only done this but other ties had also been reinforced and established. In reply to an inquiry from the American Assembly: "Request advice policy concerning announcement marriage" Shoghi Effendi stated: "Approve public announcement. Emphasize significance institution Guardianship union East West and linking destinies Persia America. Allude honour conferred British peoples" - a direct allusion to my Scots-Canadian father.
All this had such an effect on the American Community that its national body informed the Guardian it was sending $19 from each of its seventy-one American Assemblies "for immediate strengthening new tie binding American Bahá'ís to institution Guardianship" - truly a most unusual, purehearted wedding gift to the Cause itself!
The work of Shoghi Effendi, after our marriage, went on exactly as before. For over two months my parents stayed in Palestine, mostly at the Western Pilgrim House; although the Guardian went over almost every night for dinner with them, there was no opportunity for any deep personal intimacy to develop. At last the time came for them to leave and one day my mother said to me "Mary, do you think the Guardian will kiss me good-bye?" (although everyone referred to me by the new Persian name Ruhiyyih Khanum which the Guardian had given me, my own family were naturally allowed to call me Mary, the name they had used all my life). I had never thought of this and I repeated her remark to Shoghi Effendi, but of course did not ask him to do anything about it! My parents were leaving in the afternoon and after lunch the Guardian went alone to my mother's room in the Pilgrim House toPage 154
see her. When he had left I went to her room and she said, with her eyes shining life two stars, "he kissed me."
The years passed and in 1940 my mother, animated by a passionate desire to render the Cause some service in thanks for the infinite blessings bestowed upon her by the Master, the last of which had been this totally unexpected union of her daughter with her beloved Guardian, decided to go to South America and help in teaching the Faith in Argentina, which was just beginning to form a Bahá'í community. The deep bond which developed between my father and Shoghi Effendi really began at this time. Although the Guardian had liked my father and had been drawn to his sterling qualities when he was in Haifa, there had been neither time nor opportunity to form an intimate relationship. Now, when my mother, who was seventy years old and had been in frail health most of her life, set out for the end of the world the Guardian sensed what this meant to her husband. He cabled him on 22 January 1940: "Profoundly appreciate noble sacrifice dearest love". He cabled my mother that same day, when she was sailing, that he was "proud noble resolve". The Guardian, my father and I had consented to this long journey, but at such an age, and with a heart very far from sound, it was a risk, to say the least.
The reason I record all these personal things is because behind them, in them, pervading them was the spirit of the Guardianship and his tender hear, his own dedication to the service of the Cause, his impartial tributes as head of the faith, which were all reflected in the events that followed. My mother reached Buenos Aires and died almost immediately of a heart attack. The three cables that came, one from her asking for his prayers, one from my father saying she was very ill and to prepare me, and one from my cousin Jeanne Bolles, who had accompanied her, saying she had died, were all handed by me to Shoghi Effendi. As he read them I saw his face change and he looked at me with an expression of intense anxiety and concern. Then of course, gradually, he had to tell me she was dead. I cannot conceive that any human being ever received such pure kindness as I did from the Guardian during that period of shock and grief. His praises of her sacrifice, his descriptions of her state of joy in the next world, where, as he said in his cable to the Iraq National Assembly informing the friends of her death, "the heavenly souls seek blessings from her in the midmost paradise", his vivid depiction of her as she wandered about the Abhá Kingdom making a thorough nuisance of herself because allPage 155
she wanted to talk about was her beloved daughter on earth! - all combined to lift me into a state of such happiness that many times I would find myself laughing with him over the things he seemed to be actually divining.
It was her death that really brought about the relationship between the Guardian and Sutherland Maxwell that raised him to the heights of service he was able to attain before he, too, passed away. On 2 March Shoghi Effendi cabled Daddy: "Grieve profoundly yet comforted abiding realization befitting end so noble career valiant exemplary service Cause Bahá'u'lláh. Ruhiyyih though acutely conscious irreparable loss rejoices reverently grateful immortal crown deservedly won her illustrious mother. Advise interment Buenos Aires. Her tomb designed by yourself erected by me spot she fought fell gloriously will become historic centre pioneer Bahá'í activity. Most welcome arrange affairs reside Haifa. Be assured deepest loving sympathy."
It was this message that brought my father to Haifa and enabled him, through his deep professional knowledge and experience, to become the instrument of fulfilling the plans of `Abdu'l-Bahá by designing a suitable superstructure around the Holy Tomb of The Báb which the Master Himself had commenced. During the war years, Shoghi Effendi, increasingly afflicted by the crisis in his relationship to the members of his family, developed an affection for and intimacy with Sutherland which compensated to some extent for all the sufferings we were going through. It is not easy to be the intimate of one infinitely above you in station and not lose, through familiarity, the respect and esteem due that exalted person. But my father never failed in this. Sometimes, when he had brought a new sketch to show Shoghi Effendi, and the Guardian was sitting in bed, propped up on his pillows looking at it, he would invite Daddy to come sit beside him so they could better go over the details together. One can imagine what it meant to me to see those two beloved heads so close, one white, the other going grey at the temples! Such fleeting moments of peace and family pleasure in the stormy atmosphere of our lives sweetened what was often a very bitter cup of woe.
When my father fell desperately ill in the winter of 1949-50 his condition was despaired of by his doctors. He reached a point where he seemed to have no conscious mind left, could not recognize me, his only and idolized child, at all, and had no more control over himself than if he were six months old. If I had needed anyPage 156
convincing on the subject of whether man has a soul or not I received conclusive proof of its existence at that time. When Shoghi Effendi would come in to see my father, although he could not speak, and gave no conscious sign whatever of the Guardian's nearness, a flutter, a tremor, some reaction wholly ephemeral but nevertheless visible, would pass over him because of the very presence of Shoghi Effendi. It was so extraordinary and so evident that his nurse (the best in Haifa) also noticed it was greatly puzzled by it. It went against all laws of the mind, which, as it fades, remembers the distant past more vividly than the immediate past. Shoghi Effendi determined my father should not die. At his insistence, when no one, including me, had the slightest hope, we took him with his nurse to Switzerland, where he rapidly recovered under the care of our own doctor, a recovery so complete that a few weeks later, when his new Swiss nurse and I took him for his first drive and he caught sight of a cafe in the midst of a garden, he promptly invited us to go in and have tea with him - an offer I accepted with feelings of wonder and gratitude that are indescribable. It was after this healing had taken place that the Guardian, in a message to America sent in July 1950, reporting progress in the construction of the Shrine of The Báb, was moved to allude to these events: "My gratitude is deepened by the miraculous recovery of its gifted architect, Sutherland Maxwell, whose illness was pronounced hopeless by physicians."
I often marvelled, during the years my father survived this illness which left him very frail and which manifested itself in recurring gall bladder attacks, one of which brought about his death, at the marvellous gentleness and patience Shoghi Effendi showed this old man. It was a revelation of another side of the Guardian's nature, for by temperament he was impatient, always pressed by his never-ending work. There is no adjective to describe the degree to which my father adored him. His feelings were not only based on his deep faith as a Baha'i, the respect and obedience he owed him as Guardian of his Faith, but also on his love for him as a man he profoundly admired in every way, and of course because of the personal human relationship which he felt very deeply. I remember when my father's only living sister died in 1942, Shoghi Effendi told him that he must not consider Montreal his first home now, and this his second home, but vice versa. He also told him that now that he was increasingly helping him, he could not spare him. The attitude of Shoghi Effendi to my father's non-Bahá'í relativesPage 157
(only one sister, who died many years before, had been a believer) was very indicative of his whole nature. I remember at the time of my marriage, when these relatives wrote their warm congratulations to me, they sent their love to "Shoghi". I was a little embarrassed and undecided about how to convey this message to the Sign of God on earth, but finally decided I should do so and read him the passage from my aunt's letter. He listened carefully and after a moment said in the sweetest way "convey my love to them too". Throughout the years such messages were exchanged. How gracious, noble and unaffected he was in all his acts!
One of the ways Shoghi Effendi would show kindness to my father was by sometimes enthusiastically rubbing some attar of rose perfume on him. In the East there is no foolish prohibition against men using perfume and the Guardian was very fond of this wonderful fragrance. It was really worth seeing to watch the expression on my Scottish father's face! He came of a background and a part of the world where the use of scent for men is anathema. He never even used a scented lotion. Alarm at the thought he was now going to smell very strongly, combined with the pure joy at this loving attention being paid to him by his beloved Guardian, produced a most extraordinary expression on his face!
In 1951 the Guardian again decided to take my father to Switzerland with us; when the time came for our return to the Holy Land we were informed that the food situation was so difficult there that it would be practically impossible to give him the diet of strictly fresh things so essential to prevent a relapse in his health; he himself was anxious to visit his home and see his family after over eleven years of absence. The Guardian therefore decided to send him to Canada with his same devoted Swiss nurse who had cared for him the previous year and was now again with us. It was there, in his old home and the city of his birth, that the news of his elevation by the Guardian to the rank of Hand of the Cause reached him, at a time when his life was rapidly ebbing away.
There had truly been no room at all in the life of Shoghi Effendi for the ordeal which my father's long illness, his recovery, the recurring attacks of his ailment and his final death imposed upon him. When news came in March 1952 that he was so ill I must hasten at once to Montreal if I hoped to see him alive, it was another terrible shock. As I prepared hastily to leave, my one prayer was that if he were going to die he would pass away before I left, so that I would not leave Shoghi Effendi in the midst of all his workPage 158
only to be present at a time when my father would not even know I was there. This prayer was answered and the news came that he had been released from this world. The grief of Shoghi Effendi was so intense that I had no time to stop and think that, after all, it was my own father who had died. I mention all this because it shows the factors involved in the life of the Guardian and the waves of feeling, of trial and misfortune that beat upon the very fabric of his heart and wore it away.
After Mrs Collins and I had attended the Intercontinental Conference held in Chicago in 1953, with the Guardian's approval we went to Montreal so that I could visit my father's grave, arrange my affairs and, in compliance with his and my mother's wish, present the Canadian National Assembly with our house - the only home in Canada `Abdu'l-Bahá had visited during His travels in North America. Shoghi Effendi did not forget those he loved; his faithfulness in all his relationships was very strong. After himself cabling to the Bahá'í Assembly of Montreal, he cabled to me the following on 9 May 1953: "Instructed Montreal Assembly gather friends grave Sutherland pay tribute memory. Advise place blossoms Shrine also purchase hundred dollars choicest flowers mostly blue cover grave my behalf. Attach following inscription grateful memory Sutherland Maxwell Hand Cause talented dearly loved architect superstructure Báb's sepulchre Shoghi. Bring copies large size photograph friends assembled grave. Cable date time gathering for remembrance Shrine". The thing that was most touching is that he should have not only given me in Haifa a vial of attar of rose to sprinkle on the grave, and flowers from the threshold of the Shrine of The Báb to place there, but should specify that he wanted me to buy for mostly blue flowers, remembering that blue was the colour Sutherland always wore. When I returned to Haifa Shoghi Effendi took many photographs I had brought, looked at them a long time, and kept them for himself.Page 159
In seeking to convey even a glimpse of what the beloved Guardian's life was like - the side of his life so little known to anyone but his immediate family - I have decided to quote some excerpts from my own diaries. It must be borne in mind that these were not regularly kept throughout the years, were, like most diaries, only a sketchy picture of events that would have taken hours to record in detail and in later years were practically given up entirely by me owning to lack of strength and time. The references to people in them are not cited for any individual reason but just because they happen to be woven into the background, at that moment, of something going on in Shoghi Effendi's daily life. There is something about the words written down in moments of deep feeling or keen observation that is never quite recovered when one goes over them later on; it is to recapture this feeling of urgency, of poignancy, that I have ventured to publish these few quotations, making no attempt at elaboration or explanation, just lifting a veil a little on an ocean of daily work and sorrow.
 "I sometimes feel that this intense objectiveness of Shoghi Effendi is one of the factors God has endowed him with. He is an absolutely unselfconscious instrument. His impulses are violent and no one (I mean no disinterested observer) could doubt the tremendous achievements of his for the Cause, all carried out on the these unhesitating impulses. That is all his decisions - but of course he revolves things for weeks, sometimes years in his mind before acting. All the thought in the world is there but when he feels the urge he never waits five seconds!"
 "The Master gave us a Trust. That Trust is the Guardian. He said 'that no dust of despondency may stain his radiant nature.' Dust of despondency! he has been so abused and tortured by those who should have sustained and encouraged him that his radiant nature is as rare as rare can be now. Sometimes I see it likePage 160
a sun in his dear face shining through - he suffers so much that many times he has to go to bed because of it, literally prostrated!"
 He suffered: "so often and so inordinately in connection with send the community away from Haifa."
[8-8-39] "Got up at six today and went to get us the necessary visas (always providing we can get "out of Switzerland) and have been on the road just 18 hours! And this is not the first day of rushing... and this is typical of my life. No time for anything..."
[6-9-39] "Back in the Middle East...an utterly exhausting trip, most of the time without sleepers. One night we slept an hour and a half! it does not seem real at all that was has come to the world. Passing through blackened towns - seeing troop trains moving up - waiting to hear the radio news...Shoghi Effendi's way has been opened as it always will be - the scene seemed to crash behind us, but we were safely through."
[5-10-39] "He says he feels like a broken reed. No doubt partly due to his having been very ill for ten days with an awful fever - a few times reaching 104 degrees! Z" and I have nursed him day and night and to say we have been through a kind of hell is no exaggeration. To be alone with the Guardian so ill and a strange doctor was such a strain and responsibility! I think we slept at most 4 hours a night for a week!"
[22-1-40] "The Guardian and the Cause are invulnerable. I often long to say to the Bahá'ís 'follow his through hell or heaven dark or light, life or death, blindly or seeing, cleave to him, he is your "only salvation.' Tonight a man came here. He entered the house a Baha'i. He left it a Covenant-Breaker. (He refused to obey the Guardian flatly.) He stood a long time at the gate. I wanted to cry out to him 'Do you leave your soul behind so easily?' After all these years, reared in the Faith, he throws it away so lightly! And what else has life to offer man except his soul? And the most precious gift of God he drops by the wayside because it is inconvenient and difficult to obey at the moment...If the friends only knew how the Master and the Guardian both suffered through the calibre of the local Bahá'ís. Some of them were good. But some were rotten. It's as if, when someone was unsound in the Covenant, they attacked the very body of the Manifestation, or the Exemplar, or the Guardian. I have seen this. It is like poison. He recovers from it, but it causes him untold suffering and it was from such things that the Master described Himself in His Will as 'this broken winged bird.' It is profoundly organic. It has nothing to do with sentiment at all."Page 161
[Remark of Shoghi Effendi] "You cannot be a hero without action. This is the touchstone. Not movement, coming and going, but in the evidences of your character. Jacky [Marion Jack] is a heroine because of her conduct, the heroic spirit reveals itself in her. Martha [Martha Root] had the heroic action. She went 'til she dropped."
[Remarks of Shoghi Effendi] "The object of life to a Bahá'í is to promote the oneness of mankind"; "Our aim is to produce a world civilization which in turn will react on the character of the individual."
[Remark of Shoghi Effendi] "I know it is a road of suffering. I have to tread this road 'til the very end. Everything has to be done through suffering."
[2-1-42] "He says maybe this is not the last war before the Lessor Peace, perhaps there will be a stalemate, or a truce, and then it will burst out again, or continue, worse than ever before. Of course he is not dogmatic in this belief, he just says 'Maybe, it is quite possible.'"
[5-1-42] "They [the family] have all gotten out of tune with the all-pervading melody of this house - the Guardian - and consequently cannot possibly adjust themselves as Bahá'ís when the main thing is dislocated."
[7-1-42] "All this causes the Guardian agony. I am really concerned about his heart. Last night it was beating so fast, far, far too fast! And sometimes, for hours almost, he breathes heavily and quickly from being too upset...there is something in the Guardian like a barometer. It registers your spiritual pressure, so to speak; nothing outward would explain how it is he gets so upset sometimes over a thing he does not yet know! I have seen this happen loads of times. He reacts instinctively and immediately. Often, later, the cause comes to light and one sees a glimpse of the workings of it all. In the end it will kill him. How and when no doubt will be according to the wisdom of God. He will always be triumphant - as he always has been. But gradually, little by little, the incessant problems, the eternal struggle, first with one and then another member of the family, are wearing him down. He is bent. His heart is nervous. His nerves are exhausted..."
[16-3-42] "They [the Master's family] have gone a lone way to crushing every ounce of spirit out of the Guardian. By nature he is cheerful and energetic and has a unique and marvellous brightness of nature that is capable of making him fairly scintillate when he is happy or enthused over something. But the perpetual strife of life with the Master's family, the blows he has sustained in the course of being Guardian, (from various crises in the Cause)...have all clouded over...him. Whenever, (during the last 5 years I havePage 162
been able to observe him), he has begun to brighten, someone would come along and plump down some weight of care or misery on him and that would be that! It is criminal! How many times I have heard him say: 'If I were only happy, if they would only make me happy, you would see what I would do for this Cause!' He is like a spring. Every time it begins to bubble and flow, something comes along and plugs it up again! When one realizes that "all the work he has done for the Cause has been "in spite of his sufferings and persecutions, and never because he was free and happy and at rest within himself, one realizes how great the accomplishment is and also one wonders what it "might have been if he had been "happy. Shoghi Effendi has been abused. That is the only word for it, abused, abused, abused. By now he has reached the point of a man fighting with his back to the wall. He says he will fight it out to the last round..."
[20-3-42] As Shoghi Effendi sat working on God Passes By two army fighter planes in practice flight touched wings, lost control and crashed, one coming down over the roof of our house so low I thought it would sheer through the ceiling of Shoghi Effendi's room. It landed and burst into flames not 100 yards away at the foot of the street.
[26-4-42] "Shoghi Effendi has been talking tome about his own miseries. He says those around Him killed `Abdu'l-Bahá as they killed Bahá'u'lláh - he even says 'They will kill me too.' He told me that Haji Ali told him that a few days before His ascension Bahá'u'lláh called him to His room (to speak to him about something or other). He kept pacing back and forth, He was too upset to speak and finally dismissed Haji Ali with a gesture. Haji Ali could see how angry He was though He did not tell Haji Ali why. Then the Guardian said Bahá'u'lláh must have suffered terribly as He could of course foresee how Muhammad 'Ali would turn against the Master in the future. But He kept it all within Him."
[18-5-42] "Shoghi Effendi says so often the Master would tell them (His family) that after Him they 'would all be abased.'"
[4-7-42] "Then there is the invasion of Egypt. He is wondering which is worse - to stay or to go, that is if things get very bad here. This indecision is very trying. But the truth is we are so used to trouble that it almost ceases to trouble us!"
[3-1-43] "Anyone who knew the true story of Shoghi Effendi's life would weep - weep for his goodness, weep for his pure, simple heart, weep for his labours and his cares, weep for the long, long years inPage 163
which he has toiled ever more alone, ever more persecuted by those around him!
"Just the other day he came into my room, all upset over his work. I asked him why he did not read books by other authors of a similar nature to the one he is writing [it was God Passes By ] so as to be stimulated...He said: 'I have no time, no time. For twenty years I have had no time!'"
[30-1-43] "I am really worried over Shoghi Effendi. When he used to get so very distressed and upset in the past it affected him, but not as it does now. Sometimes I think it will lead to his premature death... he breathes so hard, almost like one who has been running, and he has such huge shadows under his eyes. He forces himself to go on and finish the letters he has had piled for days on his desk - but he reads a thing sometimes ten minutes over and over because he can't concentrate! I think no suffering is worse than seeing someone you love suffer. And I can't remedy it. All I wonder is how god can stand to see him suffer so."
[29-11-43] "Although the summer was peaceful in the sense there were no horrible crises...I don't think the Guardian ever worked so hard during his 'vacation' before, and I am sure I didn't! He often says 'this book is killing me' to which I invariably answer 'me too'. In other words the way he has worked on this Centennial Review [God Passes By] is really cruel; for two years he has literally slaved over it - along with all his other work and cares..." [Shoghi Effendi had received a particularly dry and feelingless letter from a National Assembly and I was angry over this] "...the driest, coldest letters I have ever seen. Why doesn't he learn from the Guardian who writes people that even are mentally deficient with loving kindness? The Bahá'ís don't deserve a Guardian and all I hope is God will not change them for another people."
One of the family had died and the widow came to the house and wanted Shoghi Effendi to accept the terms of his Will and receive money for the Cause, also to receive from her the extremely precious seals of Bahá'u'lláh entrusted to her care by `Abdu'l-Bahá when He went on His travels to the West. As she was in contact with the excommunicated members of the family Shoghi Effendi would accept neither...I reported to him her conversation (he would not see her, but had sent me in his place):
[26-12-43] "All of this I repeated to Shoghi Effendi at great length and brought him the seals and the Will of " . He said to tell her he did not want a million seals of the whole of Mt. Carmel, he wantedPage 164
sincerity and loyalty and that unless she cut herself entirely from " 's family...in her heart, he could do nothing for her, and to keep the seals and the Will...the Guardian would have liked very much to have had the seals - so precious - for the Archives, but, as he told me, he could net very well take the seals and put her out of the house! The thing that puzzles me is that it is now 23 years since the Master died, couldn't she once during those 23 years, many of which she was very close to the Guardian, give him those precious relics which she says were never given her but only "entrusted to her! She wanted me to take them when she saw the Guardian would not accept them but I said I would not do that as at would not be Shoghi Effendi's wish that I should do so...."
"All day Shoghi Effendi types his manuscript [God Passes By ] and I read the copy before mailing it to Horace [Horace Holley, Secretary of the American National Assembly] to be sure the last mistakes are ironed out, and he and I spend hours reading the original and correcting the pages and putting in the interminable accents!
"I have not even recorded that Daddy, at the Guardian's request, has made a design for the Shrine of The Báb. Today the minarets or spires (suggested by the Guardian) met with his approval and Dad is to go ahead and work out the details and a final drawing can be unveiled or shown on the Centenary and also provide for a model. The model will be the crucial test - if the Guardian likes it he will announce to the Bahá'í world the plan.
"It seems too utterly marvelous that Daddy should be given this inestimable blessing of designing The Báb's Shrine. If he succeeds it will be the purest bounty of God and if it is not to be we cannot be surprised for we have already been blessed far beyond our desserts in every possibly was as a family!"
[5-7-44] "Shoghi Effendi is by nature an administrator and builder, par excellence. The "two things we need most just now. How petty man's vision of things compared to God's Plan! I think if we praised God a million years, morning, noon and night, we would not get beyond the first "T" of thanks! - and yet we are so blind to our blessings!"
[24-7-44] "Shoghi Effendi cannot stand much more. I am very worried over him...they are wearing him away. He was in a terrible condition today and "wept. I cannot write about it. I can't stand it! I wonder how God can endure to see him so."Page 165
[18-12-44] "These are certainly "the years. I don't think Shoghi Effendi will ever face a second crisis like this in his lifetime [the disaffection of family, local community and servants]. I hope not! I am wondering how his health and nerves can be expected to survive this one!"
[30-1-45] "I can't go into details now but I must say the degree on incompetent fools - if not rascals - Shoghi Effendi has around him is appalling. He suffers so much! He only sleeps 5 or 6 hours a night. If I could worry any more I would..."
[27-2-45] "I feel sure the tide will turn. But oh never, never to find Shoghi Effendi as he was! I don't think anything in this world will ever be able to efface what these last years have done to him! Time is a great healer of wounds but it cannot remove scars."
[13-4-45] "...Whenever I want to be sure how loyal a Bahá'í is to him [Shoghi Effendi] I look around and see who hates him - if he is "well hated by the family I can be quite sure he is the essence of loyalty to the Guardian!"
[6-7-45] "Ali Askar went to the hospital...he had declined terribly the last 3 or 4 days...all this is so wearing. But I don't mind anything except to see the great blow this is to the Guardian...they don't die, nor do so many other wretched useless enemies - only Ali Askar. As Shoghi Effendi said the 'most precious' person he has! But God will help him. He will, He will, I know He will. He will raise him up in glory - and I was thinking last night that after all one drop of God's love can compensate for a thousand years of pain...Shoghi Effendi went to see him while I was there today. He is now planning a bang-up funeral for him because he (Shoghi Effendi) desires it and because the enemies require it. But all this is so hard, so hard for him...Shoghi Effendi said 'All I had left was you and your father and Ali Askar and now God takes Ali Askar!'"
[8-7-45] "I went up to the hospital at 4 p.m. and stayed 'til 8. Shoghi Effendi told me to tell Ali Askar he had revealed a telegram about him for the Persian friends in which he described him as the 'lion of the jungle of the love of God' and mentioned all his long services, etc. When I told this to Ali Askar - who was fully conscious only very weak - the cutest little tickle of a smile of happiness went over his face...I told him he had gone to heaven before leaving this world - the heaven of the Guardian's love, good-pleasure and praise. He kept silent for some time (except for some signs of muttered appreciation) and then, evidently perfectly grasping the fact that such a telegram meant that he is going to die, collected himselfPage 166
and said the book he had ordered...he wanted...given from him to Shoghi Effendi...When I came and reported all about Ali Askar to Shoghi Effendi and said how wanted the book bound for the Guardian, his eyes filled with tears! Poor beloved Shoghi Effendi he is the most abused man on earth! Everyone should rejoice over Ali Askar - he died like a king....Today he told the women - he called them to the drawing room - that Ali Askar had served in such a manner that in the end the pilgrims wrote him and signed themselves 'the servant of the servant of the house'! He said he was like the words in the Tablet of Ahmad - a river of life to the loved ones and a flame of fire to the enemies. Then as he left he said 'He is in the Supreme Concourse, conversing with its inmates'! Well, what more does any man want of this life? Then he went to the Shrine this afternoon and after visiting told " to bring all the flowers from both thresholds. He went in alone to Ali Askar, anointed him with two bottles of attar of rose, laid the flowers on his body - wept for him - what does any man want of this world more than that!...Shoghi Effendi told me something so touching when he came back last night, that when he was alone with the body he remembered 'How that man had served me!", that... he went and pulled down the sheet and looked at him and said he wanted to say 'Ali Askar wake up, get up!' because it seemed he could not be dead, he looked so natural..."
[11-7-45] "The funeral was perfect. Shoghi Effendi spoke of him; then he called for the coffin to be brought up to the upper room of the Pilgrim House, where he sits; then he and all stood for the Prayer for the Dead; then he sprinkled attar of rose on it; then raised it; then followed it to the door, gave instructions and seated the first two taxis...a twenty-five car funeral...then they all left and Shoghi Effendi visited the Shrine and had " gather all the flowers and take them from the threshold to the grave...Well Ali Askar must be in Seventh Heaven - everyone is sighing and wishing they were he!-including me."
[14-7-45] "Now Shoghi Effendi is ill. He has had an attack of indigestion from, I should say, utterly exhausted over-strained nerves. It is not the first time he has it either. The wonder is he is alive...and he has a fever now - I hope to God he has not got something serious ...I just took his temperature - it's 103-3/5!"
[15-7-45] "I am so tired of the frights Dr. " gives me! Now he says this may be appendicitis and dysentery, visions of rushing madly to Jerusalem in an ambulance [there was then no surgeon we couldPage 167
trust so precious a patient to in Haifa] with Shoghi Effendi and Dad - but I can't believe it will come to that...just rush, rush, and as to the worry my brain feels just transfixed!...every hour I take his temperature. He is so sweet - what a crime he has been so treated by those around him...thank God I don't think he has or will get appendicitis..."
[17-7-45] "Better, but ah so nervous and tired!..."
[20-7-45] "I wouldn't wish on the devil the sufferings Shoghi Effendi and I pass through. I could never describe them - mental and nervous "anguish ...alone...work, work, work, all day long. Buying land, problems, letters, questions, mischief, ill-wish, suspicion, ad infinitum."
[11-4-46] "Shoghi Effendi told Dad to set plans in motion for building the first unit of the Shrine - Hallelujah!"
[20-4-46] "...It is all too much for the Guardian...and yet he has written a marvelous Convention cable with a new Seven Year Plan and is starting on the Shrine. But he suffers too much, too much!"
[25-5-46] "Shoghi Effendi and I have no one left now but Daddy [and two loyal Bahá'ís, one almost 80], he is everything and does everything: he attends to all the banking, mails all the letters, sends all the telegrams, does all the errands that are confidential - for visas, Government matters, City Hall, etc. - and consults and designs, etc., all at the age of 71. He is doing the work of Ali Askar, Riaz and Hussein. He never complains...Shoghi Effendi and I have been talking about our plans; he says we must go...it seemed so terribly hard to leave Daddy, old and tired once again, with all the world of the Cause and no rest or respite. But when I talked to him about it today he was marvelous, said he can manage everything, not to worry over him, that everything will be all right. I can't put it into words, being so very tired (I've had 3 good cries today) how wonderful his spirit is, so unassuming, yet so noble and heroic."
[18-7-47] [From a letter of Ruhiyyih] "She [Gladys Anderson] arrived on the 30th of March...She does all Daddy's work now, thank Heaven!...she does banking affairs, sends mail and cables, runs errands, sees people...The end of April Daddy went to Cyprus - first vacation in 7 years - and spent 6 weeks. It did him a lot of good and now he is starting on the working drawings of the Shrine of The Báb."
[12-2-48] [Rabbani] "I used to be able to get a Jewish stenographer to help me but now no Jew will come to this street if he can help it as it is in the Arab part of town. That is, it is in the old German colony and in ourPage 168
neighborhood are mostly Arabs and English people. It may seem unbelievable to you to think that we live in a street where a man could be murdered in cold blood just for walking down it, but that is Palestine today. Of course there are a few brave fatalists who take a chance and come down ninety miles an hour, but they are considered foolhardy to say the least.
"It is all so tragic. And saddest of all is the way the human mind adapts itself to such an atmosphere. Where once a gun shot would have made your blood run cold and filled you with indignation, you soon, from endless repetition, just get used to it, curse whoever is doing it and the other side too, for good measure, and go on about your business. Later you hear who and how was shot by those bullets. It's really disgusting, unspeakably disgusting, that such a condition in the Holy Land should have been allowed to develop through intrigue and negligence...
[1-3-48] "Rage is my primary emotion these days. The senseless wanton murder infuriates me. Most people want nothing more than to be left alone. The bloodthirsty are the exception, not the rule. But they do exist, alas. Why doesn't someone shoot them? They always shoot the wrong people, in all fighting, as far as I can see!"
"Arms are sold openly in Arab quarters. The Bahá'ís here, in Akka, from Tiberius, etc., all testify to this.... Hassan said he and his cousin Muhammad were sitting in a cafe in Tiberius; they heard a boy hawking, he was crying 'Grenade, grenade!' Hassan could not believe his ears so he called him over and asked him what he was selling? He said bombs. He had a sack on his back. This he obligingly dumped on the ground and unloaded a pile of hand grenades! (Mills bombs) 'How mush are they each?' asked Hassan. 'Seventy-five piastres' said the peddler! Needless to say he did not buy...I saw a man from my own bedroom window a few days ago with a revolver in his hand and a crowd of Arabs around him. He wanted to make sure it was working so he came over to our garden wall, fired two shots at it, and headed off for the town, probably to do his bit of murder."
[11-4-48] "Dad and Ben [Ben Weeden, Gladys Anderson's husband] left in an armoured taxi for Tel Aviv! They are supposed to go by plane on the 13th from Lydda on to Rome to place contracts for the Shrine columns and ornamentation if possible."
"Gladys will now sleep over at this house...so we can have her near us as the shooting is too much for her to be all alone in the Pilgrim House at night...Besides it is dangerous for anyone to comePage 169
and go across the street after dark...we told Ben we would bring her over here, so he won't worry."
[21-4-48] "We could not visit Bahji owning to circumstances and visited the Shrine here. Afterwards the car could not get up to the Gardens or leave them, rather, because of the shooting on the road and its being closed off. So Shoghi Effendi walked home down the steps near the Gardens and so did Gladys and I."
[23-4-48] "As I am tired unto death this will be short...The battle of Haifa is something well reported, I guess, everywhere, so I will only report my days and nights. The battle itself was constant and real war. That night for me it was like sleeping at the bottom of a stagnant pool which someone constantly was stirring. I was so tired I did sleep sometimes, but then dream and firing and bombs became all one torpid mixture which was almost worse than sleeping or waking. All these days Shoghi Effendi has been frightfully upset with the A" , with M" and about other problems."
[25-4-48] "I am still trying to get to the main point of this memorandum: On the 23rd, the day after the battle for Haifa, Dr. Weinshall [the Guardian's lawyer] phoned me and asked how we were? I said we were all well and keeping at home. He said 'I hope you are not leaving?' I said of course not, we have no intention of leaving, why should we leave? He said no reason on earth, he was glad to hear it. Then I said, we know the Jews and the Jews know us, we have nothing to fear from them. He said that was certainly true and that all had the greatest respect for us. He also asked if any of our servants were leaving and I said no, of course not. Then after a little mutual exchange of thought on how foolish the mass exodus of the Arabs was he asked me to give his very kindest regards to Shoghi Effendi. When the Guardian heard this he told me to go and thank him and tell him he felt he wanted him to know something for his own information and then I told him all about Monib's marriage to Jamal Husseini's daughter, etc. He was very surprised and wrote down his and Hassan's name. I also told him about Ruhi being out and that as he might have wondered at the dissension in our own family the real reason was not only religious but on grounds of political affiliations and so on. I told him we would send him (this was yesterday in another conversation) the cable, the Guardian sent, for him to see it...
"Today I again phoned Weinshall and told him that we wanted to give him the names of those people who had no claim on us ifPage 170
they pretended to be Bahá'ís. I said Shoghi Effendi naturally resents very much that people who for ten or fifteen years have been put out of our community...should now seek to make good their relation to the Jews by claiming to be Bahá'ís, when we ourselves don't know what they have been doing all these years."
[27-4-48] "Yesterday we had a moment of mad excitement as suddenly the maid rushed up and knocked and said the Haganah wanted to get in. Fortunately I was dressed...and went down as quickly as I could for it seemed first our dumb bunny...went to the door, when she saw a gang of Jews with tommy guns and revolvers she nearly had a fit and went to call Banu, Banu came and the Jews said 'Open the door', she said she had to call the lady of the house and meantime was rushing looking for B" who was not there and then to call me and they said 'If you don't open it we'll break it in!' At this juncture I arrived and immediately let them in. They were five, all young men. I asked if they spoke English and one said he spoke a little. I asked him if he knew whose house this was, the Head of the Bahá'í Community, and he said yes, but somehow I think they did not know and were attracted there for one or two reasons, either because shortly before a truck load of Arabs stopped for a while in front of our door and they thought we had Arabs here or because of our car for one of their first questions was 'Whose car is that in the garage?' When I told them they were satisfied. It turned out one of them spoke Persian as he said his mother was a Persian though he was from 'Yerushalim' so I talked to him in Persian all the time. the did not seem keen on searching the house, were very decent and polity and told, at first, not to be afraid to which I replied I certainly was not! After a very brief look about, and refusing to go downstairs or into the kitchen etc., they left....
"Gladys and I go and come, as we have been doing uninterruptedly for months, in good times and in bad, to the Jewish quarter. I think this has been very wise, though when all the Arabs were sniping the Jews and we had our own Arab guards here in this very street, it was a risky thing to do and we went less often, but we went. This has shown the many Jews who know us that we are not fair weather friends who stay away the moment it gets ticklish. Our car was always searched each time by Jewish guards and often, to those who did not know us, we had to show our American passports. Indeed one day last week, as we came back from the Jewish quarter and slowed down at the barrier a Jewish car shot in front of us and began to talk to the guards. We could not get by and he didPage 171
not move so I asked the guard if he could not pull forward. He was a little embarrassed and said that they say they have seen this car with an Arab driving it. I said 'That is quite true, do you know whose car it is? It belongs to Shoghi Effendi the Head of the Bahá'í Faith and we have an Arab taxi driver who comes every afternoon and drives him up to the Bahá'í Gardens and back home, otherwise we always drive ourselves. If you watch, in a quarter of an hour you will see this same car come by on Mountain Road going to get him with the Arab driving it.' As this was the truth he seemed to recognize it as such and we had no more trouble....
"B" told me something amusing: I asked if our Arab neighbours were going....He said every day they ask me 'Is Shoghi Effendi leaving? They say when he does they will. He said the Palestine policeman now living in K" 's house asked him when he should go and K" told him: 'When you see Shoghi Effendi leave, grab your coat, lock the door and follow him!' The man also said...'If you don't tell me Shoghi Effendi is planning to go, if he does, you are responsible for my life.' The sudden esteem in which our neighbours hold us is rather funny after 25 years ignoring the Cause and the Guardian!"
[4-5-48] "Today the car was stolen! [A gift to Shoghi Effendi from Roy Wilhelm. The Guardian had had no car for years as the old one was sold during the war owing to no spare parts.] My God what a day! At 2:30, as Gladys and I sat over our coffee at lunch, the girl came and said a Jew was at the door. Gladys went to see what he wanted. To make a long story short he was our local Haganah chief, Mr. Friedman, with about 20 armed men, who said they had been called by the Haganah Guard (2 are on duty in our street) as 5 armed men were hovering about our garage door and when he pointed his revolver at them and said to get going they turned their guns on him and told him to move fast so 5 to 1 he went for help. They had had a jeep and when the reinforcement got back they were gone. But although the padlock on our door was sawn through the door was closed from the inside so they thought it was still there. I looked through the keyhole and what a ghastly emptiness - no Buick! Poor Gladys rushed around to the little door at the back and, indeed, no Buick! The Haganah Guard implied Jews had taken it (or English) but would not say outright. Well Friedman notified the Haganah. Gladys and Mansoor notified the army and Stanton St. Police. I phoned Dr. Weinshall who advised us to go to the Hadar Hacarmel Police Station. Shoghi Effendi wasPage 172
calmer than anyone else, only said 'How it will rejoice my enemies!' I guess none of us hoped to really see the car again - but how sad it was to have our big lovely Buick, just received after so long a time, gone! With some difficulty I got a Jewish taxi for the Guardian. The driver said 'If Jews have taken your car you'll get it back again!' I went with Gladys to the Police station and waited outside while she made a report, then we left for Weinshall a description of the car as he had said to give him one so he could help. Then our nice taxi driver took us to another Haganah place and we again reported. Then a strange thing happened! We were walking home tired and dispirited, and in the window of a cosmetic shop on Herzl Street she saw a hand lotion I had tried several times to get. I thought I would not bother, but then I decided to get it and went in. The proprietor has known Dad and me for years so he asked about Daddy and I enquired about his old father, etc. I was not going to say anything about the car as I felt humiliated about it but after paying for my things I started out without them. That looked so foolish that I apologized and said 'I am very upset because our car has just been stolen!' The man said 'But I saw your car today at about 2:15 in the new Business Center! And I was surprised because I wondered how you could sell such a beautiful new car!' It seems he had seen Gladys and me driving by the day before and remembered the car vividly and the U.S. license plates! He said Jews had been in it and a Jew driving it and it was just around the corner from the Savoy Hotel. He also said please not to give his name as a witness, but I said then it won't help us, so he weakened and said we could. Of course we rushed back to the police station and reported what he had said and when I got home I found Mr. Friedman had left his number for me so I called him and told him and he said 'That's all I need to know. Now I know they brought it into our part of town I can get them!' Some time later the Hadar Police Station called and said 'Your car has been located and you will get it back tomorrow so don't worry.' Mr. Friedman also phoned and said the same thing, and sure enough, about 11 a.m. the 4th he phoned and said he could come and get Gladys to get the car and she drove up to Hadar Police Station and got it! My Goodness, we were all happy! The funny thing is, on our way home, before going to that store I had been saying only a miracle could get it back!
"But it now seems that the 5 young armed Jews (written of separately) who came here just after the Jews took Haifa, and whoPage 173
claimed to be Haganah men, and the young fellows in a jeep (the jeep appears all along the line so I think it forms a connecting link) who B" one night found trying to break into the garage and he told them he would open it, they need not break the door in, and they went in and circled the car and he finally said 'If you want to know all about whose car this is come and phone your superiors, come phone Dr. Weinshall' and then they hastily departed - anyway we all now believe they were always the same men and probably Irgun Zvi Leumi men, certainly not Haganah!"
[14-5-48] "Tonight the Mandate ends at midnight! War starts, is raging already, what does the future hold?...Daddy and Ben are supposed get back tomorrow! I am tired!"
[15-5-48] "Dad comes home! I could hear heavy fire in the hills between here and Nakura, the Lebanese frontier. yesterday too, when the Jews took Akka, we heard heavy firing, but now all the time the rattle of machine guns is clearly audible. It reminds me of the days when the British took the Lebanon during the war - only then we were sure the battle would go away from us. Now, who knows? And the distances in Palestine are so tiny - ten miles can change the whole course of a battle, success or defeat...
"Dad and Ben, met by Gladys, got up to the house by 1:30 p.m. They came on the S.S. Argentina, got here last night, two days ahead of schedule as they skipped both Alexandria and Tel Aviv. their trip has been marvelously successful in every way. How can one ever thank God for His miracles and mercies?"
[3-7-48] "Today, as Shoghi Effendi said to Daddy who had come over this evening to see him after dinner, 'Well, the historic decision to commence work on the Shrine has been taken at 10:15 (p.m.) today!' and he shook hands with him!... P.S. 11:30 p.m. I can hear explosions in the distance. God help this poor country!"
[6-7-48] "Shoghi Effendi is greatly concerned that maybe on Friday war will start again. What a terrible prospect. As he told Ben and Gladys and me the worst threat is to the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh. Now that Majdi-d-din and Shoah Bahá'í are living in the Mansion - if the Arabs come, the consequences are only too clear - oh dear, so many burdens, so many problems...if it were not for faith where would we be?
"He praised Dad very highly to Ben and Gladys, said everyone loves him, he has a very pure heart and that aside from all that he chose him for his qualifications as an architect."Page 174
[12-28-48] "I feel so exhausted. I don't seem this year to have any "resistance left to life...it feels serious, but maybe it is not. I hope not, for poor as I am, I am still needed, still better than nothing...
"Tonight Solel Boneh's bid came in for building the Arcade 18,000 [pounds]. Terrible! Shoghi Effendi is very distressed and discouraged; now the stones are here and coming; he has torn up the tiling, put in the foundation, torn down the curve of the mountain behind the Shrine! He says he will not pay anywhere near this price - oh dear! So many problems, problems. God give me strength to serve and keep my poor nerves going-"
[20-1-49] "This will be a sort of short-hand noting of news. The weather has been foul - just when we have 80 odd cases still in the port to take up to the Shrine. I just can't sleep for listening to the rain. It wakes me up because I know it is delaying the work...just one thing after another all the time. We all seem to run faster and faster this year, owing to the Shrine work."
[21-1-49] "What a day, what a day. Days like this should be against the law. Last night an invitation to meet the Prime Minister at the Municipal Reception was received by the Guardian. He decided to send Daddy and Ben. Today the loading at the port, after four days rain, was to begin again. It has all been bedlam...
"Just now, at four fifteen, the Mayor phones me in person and says he has 'done his duty' and arranged for the Guardian to call on Ben Gurion at 7:15 tonight at Mr. D" 's house on the top of the mountain...It may all seem like nothing on paper - but it just about kills those who live through it all. Everything here is done the hard way. But I am very glad the Guardian is going to meet the Prime Minister. Last night, when he decided it would be very inappropriate to go himself to the reception, he told me he would be willing to make a concession and call on the Prime Minister himself, but not be lost in a crowd or not to be treated as befits his position. So I begged him to let me phone the Mayor and he did and this is the result.
"It is now 7 o'clock and the Guardian Daddy, driven by Ben have just left...As Shoghi Effendi has been trying for twenty-five years to get the Cause here to be recognized as not a local community but a world centre, and he not a local or national head, but a world head, this opportunity to meet the Prime Minister is very important. No doubt Ben Gurion feels he is being very condescending - if only he knew what an honour is being conferred on him and how condescending God is being to him tonight!Page 175
Such is the smallness of men's lives and the vanity of the world. "Well, the interview is over. Lasted about 15 minutes. When they got there the Guardian found the front door ajar, he went in, saw no one, knocked on the door, went further and found Ben Gurion and wife and host finishing their dessert in one of these small houses where alcoves divide the rooms...Ben Gurion got up and took the Guardian into the neighbouring...room and courteously offered him the best seat, and so on. Then he asked some questions about the Cause, said he knew about it, that it is a 'social movement', whereupon the Guardian said it was much more than that, divinely inspired from God, etc. He put it not too strongly. Ben Gurion also asked his exact relation to the Faith and was told.
"The Guardian did not want to keep him from his dinner and after a short interview rose to go. Ben Gurion took him to the other door and a servant to the car and opened the door....
"Ben Gurion asked the Guardian if there was a history of the Cause he could read and Shoghi Effendi said he would be pleased to send him a book. [He sent him God Passes By.] He also said he would be happy to show him the Shrines if ever he had the opportunity, but the Prime Minister said he was terribly busy, which can be taken as a refusal, I guess...It was obviously very courteous of a man as rushed as Ben Gurion two days before the general election, to fit an interview in and I think it was a really friendly act on Mayor Levy's part to arrange it. The first thing the Guardian said was that he wished to reaffirm in person the sentiments he had expressed in his letter which the Prime Minister remembered receiving. Ben Gurion said yes, of course,...The Guardian was very warm to him, he told me, and I am sure his wonderfully clear, sincere and frank personality must have impressed a man who must be a shrewd judge of human nature..."
[8-2-48] "At 3 in the morning the lighter sank with all our stones on it! Just one more nice happening. When I told Shoghi Effendi he said 'I don't care anymore!' This was all that remained - as far as we can see! The weather, the eternal complications, and now this! They can salvage it - so I hear."
[11-2-48] "Shoghi Effendi is almost all day, every day, up in the Gardens due to the excavations behind the Shrine, etc., which he is directing personally to economize."
[5-4-49] "Shoghi Effendi saw Gladys and Ben (and me) in the drawing room, as he does sometimes when he has time. I saw he had mud onPage 176
his coat and asked what he had been doing? He said 'I had a fight with General Mud, only he won!' Then he explained he had fallen down again, it was so slippery from the rain - but we all had a good laugh."
[3-4-52] "I doubt if I have time or strength to keep a diary anymore - which is a pity as I see and know so much of the inner workings here..."
[15-9-55] "I suppose there are as many hells as there are people. But not many, I hope, live in the particular hell Shoghi Effendi and I do. If someone should ask me to define it I would say that though there are so many kinds, in principle there are two divisions: hell without responsibility and hell with responsibility..." [For those who may not understand the English usage of the word "hell" as employed here, I mean agony, intense, burning suffering.]
[14-11-55] "Word reached the Guardian Varqa has died. Shoghi Effendi said 'He was the finest man we had.' Of course it was expected for a long time, but he feels the loss as there are so few outstanding, capable Bahá'ís."Page 177
In reading over my diaries - so very little of which I have quoted out of hundred of pages written off and on throughout the years - it seems strange to me there is practically no reference to the World War raging everywhere during almost six years and constituting such a dire threat to the safety of the World Centre of the Faith and particularly to the Guardian himself as Head of that Faith. Nothing could more eloquently testify to the internal upheavals he was going through during all those years than this blank. The day-to-day pressures and the work, worry and mental exhaustion were so great that it crowded mention of this constant threat and anxiety into the background. Shoghi Effendi was the keenest observer of political events and kept abreast of all happenings. His intelligence and analytical faculties did not permit him to lull himself into any false complacency, induced by the rather childish idea people sometimes have of what "faith" means. He well knew that to have faith in God does not mean one should not use one's mind, appraise dangers, anticipate moves, make the right decisions during a crisis.
It is with great reluctance that I refer to the Guardian's private life, so blameless, so full of trials. Two considerations prompt me to do so at all; the first is that unless one catches at least a glimpse of what he went through as an individual human being one cannot truly appreciate the grandeur of his achievements; and the second is that any famous person is the subject, throughout the centuries, of intense historical research into details; many things will come to light in records gathered here and there and if there is no witness to explain them they are likely to be grossly misinterpreted and all sorts of foolish tales spun out of pure imagination.
At the time when my father was invited by the Guardian, after my mother's unexpected death in Argentina in March 1940, to come and live with us, Shoghi Effendi had decided, for reasons ofPage 178
his own, to go to England. For those who were not in the Middle East-European theatre of war it is almost impossible to convey any picture of the infinite difficulties involved in such a move at such a moment in history. In spite of the prestige and influence of the Guardian, the fact remained that no visa for England could be granted by the authorities in Palestine and our application was therefore forwarded to London. Shoghi Effendi also appealed to his old friend Lord Lamington and requested him to use his good offices in ensuring a visa was granted, but by the time it became imperative for us to leave at once for England if we were ever to reach there, no answer had yet been received by the Palestine authorities and Lord Lamington's reply was long delayed in reaching us. Impelled by the forces which so mysteriously animated all his decisions the Guardian decided to proceed to Italy, for which country we had obtained a visa, and we therefore left Haifa on 15 May in a small and smelly Italian aquaplane, with the water sloshing around under the boards our feet rested on as if we were in an old row-boat. A few days later we arrived in Rome and I went to Genoa to meet my father who arrived on the last sailing the S.S. Rex ever made as a passenger ship. As soon as we returned the Guardian sent my father and me to the British Consul to inquire if our visa had by any chance been transferred from Palestine, but there was no news and the Consul said he was absolutely powerless to give us a visa as all authorizations had to come from London and he was no longer in a position to contact his government! We returned with this heart-breaking news to the Guardian. He sent us back again. Of course we obeyed him implicitly because he "was the Guardian but neither my father nor I could see what more there was we could possibly do than we had already done. Nevertheless we found ourselves again seated opposite the Consul and saying very much the same things all over again, with the exception that I said he was the Head of the Bahá'í Faith and so on. The Consul looked at me and said "I remember `Abdu'l-Bahá..." and went on to recount some contact he had had with the Master; he was obviously deeply touched by this memory. He took our passport, stamped a visa for England in it and said he had not right whatsoever to do so and that it was not worth the paper it was stamped on, but it was all he could do; if we wished to try to enter England with it, that must be our own decision and we risked being refused. WithPage 179
this we immediately left Italy for France, passing through Menton on 25 May and proceeding to Marseilles. Within a few days Italy entered the war against the Allies.
It is hard to describe the period that followed. The whole episode was like a brilliantly lit nightmare - a personal nightmare for us and a giant nightmare in which the whole of Europe was involved. As our train made its way to Paris every station was crowded with thousands of refugees fleeing before the rapidly crumbling Allied front in the North. There was no way of getting any accurate information, chaos was descending. In Paris we discovered to our dismay that all ports to England were closed and the last hope of reaching that country - a hope diminishing hourly - was to go down to the little port of St Malo and see if we could still get a boat from there. We, and hundreds of other people trying to get home to England, had to wait a week before at last two boats succeeded in calling at St Malo. I never saw the Guardian in the condition the was during those days. From morning tonight he would mostly sit quite still, immobile as a stone image, and I had the impression he was being consumed with suffering, like a candle burning itself away. Twice a day he would send my father and me to the boat company in the port to inquire if there was any news of a ship and twice a day we had to come back and say "no news". It may seem strange to others that he should have been terribly concerned, but a mind like his was so infinitely better equipped to understand the danger to the Cause of our situation than we were - and God knows I was ill with worry too. Both my father and I were still feeling the great shock of my mother's sudden death from a heart attack and this, combined with everything else, made him, at least, almost numb. Not so the Guardian, who realized that if he fell into the hands of the Nazis, who had already banned the Cause in their own country and were closely associated with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem - who was actively engaged in Arab politics and the avowed enemy of the Guardian - he would very likely be imprisoned, if not worse, and the Cause itself be left with no leader and no one to encourage and guide the Bahá'í world at such a time of world chaos. It seems to me the situation was very similar to those days in Akka when the Master had been in danger of being taken off to a new place of exile and when He too had waited for news of ship. At last we embarked on the first of the two boats that came during the night of 2 June to evacuate the people stranded in St Malo and we sailed in total darkness for Southampton,Page 180
where we arrived on the following morning. It was the day after we left, as I remember, that the Germans marched into St Malo.
We had almost as much difficulty getting out of England as we had had in getting into it. It was the time of the great "evacuate the children" drive which had top priority and it was only due to the position of Shoghi Effendi, and my father's friendship with the man who was Canadian High Commissioner in London, that we succeeded in getting passage for South Africa, sailing for Cape Town on the S.S. Cape Town Castle on 28 July. It was fast ship and once we had left the shores of England in a large convey we were on our own; I remember how I used to watch the strange zigzag wake of the ship on the sea as she pursued an erratic course in order to make her a less vulnerable target for submarines. As Italy's entry into the war had closed the Mediterranean to Allied ships the route through Africa was the only way open to us to get back to Palestine. Although Shoghi Effendi had crossed Africa once before, early in his Guardianship - sailing from England in September 1929 and proceeding, mostly overland, from Cape Town to Cairo - he had not been able to that time to obtain a visa for the Belgian Congo which for some reason always fascinated him. His venturesome spirit, his love of scenic beauty, attracted him to the high mountains and deep jungles of the world and had led him to make his previous trip. Now, by some strange miracle, in the very middle of the war, we were able to get a visa for the Congo. When we reached Stanleyville and made an excursion into the deep virgin jungle, I realized that it was Shoghi Effendi's love of natural beauty that had been one of the reasons which had led him there; he wanted to see the flowering jungle. Alas, it was neither the place nor the season for this and we went on our way disappointed.
Shoghi Effendi was too concerned over my father's health (he was sixty-six and frail) to let him accompany us overland and so we had deposited him safely in a hotel in Durban pending his ability to secure air passage. The waiting list was long and non-government and non-military people were constantly off-loaded in favour of those with top priority. It was during these weeks of waiting that he designed my mother's tombstone which incorporated not only his and my ideas but a valuable suggestion for its beautification made by Shoghi Effendi himself.
After a three-day drive from Stanleyville to Juba, in the Sudan, followed by a trip down the Nile by boat, the Guardian and I arrived in Khartoum - as far as I am concerned the hottest placePage 181
on earth - and as we sat on the porch of our hotel after dinner, up out of the dark came a group of air passengers to spend the night, and with them Mr W. S. Maxwell! It was a strange fluke indeed that brought us together in the heart of Africa and it was also very reassuring as neither of us had the faintest idea where the other was and no way whatsoever of getting in touch. In Durban Shoghi Effendi had simply instructed my father to go to Palestine, to a hotel in Nazareth and wait for us there, when we could all three return to Haifa together.
To our surprise, the Governor-General, Sir Stewart Symes, invited
us to lunch with him at the Palace on 1 October and after this renewal of such an old acquaintanceship we proceeded on our way to Cairo and Palestine, meeting my father as planned and returning to Haifa about six months after our departure. It may well be imagined that a journey such as this, fraught from beginning to end with uncertainty, suspense and danger, was in itself a tremendous and completely exhausting experience. Although Shoghi Effendi never visited the Western Hemisphere and never went farther east than Damascus it is interesting to note he twice traversed Africa from south to north.
How astonished the hard-pressed British Bahá'ís would have been, if, in conjunction with his cable to their National Assembly of 27 December 1940 "wire safety London Manchester friends constantly praying loving admiration" they had been informed that he himself had escaped the great blitz on London be a narrow margin and had only recently succeeded in getting back to the Holy Land!
The years that followed our return to Palestine witnessed grave dangers for the Holy Land - dangers which also threatened the World Centre of the Faith and its Guardian, as well as Bahá'ís in many countries.
Steeped in the Teachings from his childhood, the alert and observant companion of his beloved grandfather, Shoghi Effendi seems to have always been aware of what he called "the initial perturbations of the world-shaking catastrophe in store for an unbelieving humanity". Though he saw another war coming, he did not live in a constant state of false emergency. He reassured Martha Root, who in 1927 wrote to him from Europe about her fears: "As to the matter of an eventual war that may break out in Europe, do not fell in the least concerned or worried. The prospect is very remote, the danger for the near future is non-existent" - evenPage 182
though that same year he had stated that the inevitability of another deadly conflict was becoming increasingly manifest. Over and over he prepared the minds of the Bahá'ís to face the fact that a world conflagration was coming. In 1938 he wrote: "The twin processes of internal disintegration and external chaos are being accelerated and every day are inexorably moving towards a climax. The rumblings that must precede the eruption of those forces that must cause 'the limbs of humanity to quake ' can already be heard. The time of the end ', 'the latter years ', as foretold in the Scriptures, are at long last upon us." And in Advent of Divine Justice , which he wrote at the end of December 1938, he clearly anticipated the war: "Who knows", he asked, "but that these few remaining, fast-fleeting years, may not be pregnant with...conflicts more devastating than any which have preceded them." And in April 1939 he had written: "the sands of a moribund civilization are inexorably running out".
As the long shadow of war descended on Europe I remember well the almost tangible feeling of catastrophe that enveloped me when Shoghi Effendi wrote, from the very heart of that continent, the poetic and powerful words that opened his cable of 30 August 1939: "shades night descending imperilled humanity inexorably deepening..." A week before Shoghi Effendi sailed from England in July 1940, he had cabled via Haifa (through which all his cables and letters were invariably relayed during his absence from home) that the fires of war "...now threaten devastation both Near East Far West respectively enshrining World Centre chief remaining citadel Faith Bahá'u'lláh..." It seems unbelievable that in the midst of so many anxieties and after half-a-year's absence during which we seemed to be racing all the time on the tip of a tidal wave (first to get away from Haifa in time and then to get back to Haifa in time) the Guardian should have had the mental power and physical strength upon his return to the Holy Land to sit down and write such a book as The Promised Day Is Come - a book in which he made it quite clear that the "retributory calamity" which had overtaken mankind, whatever its political and economic causes might be, was primarily due to its having ignored for a hundred years the Message of God for this day.
The dangers and problems which the war brought to us in Haifa and to the Bahá'í world in general were face by Shoghi Effendi with remarkable calm. This does not mean he did not suffer from them. The burden of responsibility was always there; he couldPage 183
never lay it down for a single moment. I remember on one occasion, when I was frantic because he always had to have everything referred to him for decision, even when he was ill, he said that other leaders, even Prime Ministers, could delegate their powers for at least a short time if they were forced to, but that he could not delegate his for a single moment as long as he was alive. No one else was divinely guided to fulfil his function and he could not delegate his guidance to someone else.
Although World War II did not actually reach the Holy Land, for years we lived in the imminent danger that it might do so at any time. We, like so many other countries of the world, had a complete blackout. As the buildings that comprise the Master's house have almost one hundred windows this alone created quite a problem; of course it was not necessary or possible to black them all out, but it meant a great deal of wandering around in the dark and frequent calls from irate air-raid wardens. Haifa, being a major port with a large oil refinery, was an important point strategically. The city had various anti-aircraft guns protecting it, two of them about a mile from the Guardian's home. There were a few bombs dropped but the damage was negligible - indeed the protection miraculous - but we often had air raids, and shrapnel from the big anti-aircraft guns would be sprinkled about. This was an added worry to Shoghi Effendi because a piece of shrapnel the size of a grape could easily have irreparably damaged one of the beautiful marble monuments marking the resting-places of the Master's family; large pieces were often found near them, but never actually fell on them. We had to build an air-raid shelter but the Guardian and I never went into it. Sometimes when the alert came at night Shoghi Effendi would get up and look out of the window, but usually he did not even do that. The greatest activity was when the British invaded the Lebanon and then for a week we could hear heavy fire, and the port, half a mile from our house, was frequently dive-bombed by the Vichy forces.
But all these things were never very grave or very dangerous. In November 1941 Shoghi Effendi in a cabled message had forecast the future and characterized the years immediately before us: "...as fury destructiveness tremendous world ordeal attains most intensive pitch..." In spite of what lay ahead of the world we in Palestine had already, during 1941, passed through what for us were the most agonizing months of the entire war, months which had caused the Guardian intense anxiety. It was during that yearPage 184
that the abortive revolution of the anti-ally Rashid Ali took place in Iraq; the British forces were persistently driven back by General Rommel in Libya and the Germans eventually (in 1942) reached the gates of Alexandria; the Nazi forces occupied Crete - a second springboard for their contemplated conquest of the Middle East; and British and French forces invaded the Lebanon and ousted the regime controlled by the Vichy Government in that country. In addition to these all-too-palpable dangers the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the enemy of both the Faith and the Guardian, was the firm ally of the Nazi Government. It does not require much imagination to picture what would have happened to Shoghi Effendi and the Shrine, the World Centre records and archives material, if a victorious German army, accompanied by the scheming and vituperative Mufti, had taken Palestine. Many times Shoghi Effendi said that it was not so much a question of what the Germans would do as the fact that there were so many local enemies who, combining with the Mufti, could completely poison the minds of the Germans against him and thus aggravate a situation already dangerous enough since our Bahá'í ideas were in many respects so inimical to the Nazi ideology.
For months Shoghi Effendi watched the ever-approaching tide of war with the deepest anxiety, weighing in his mind what course to take if an invasion took place, how best to protect in every way the Faith of which he himself was the living emblem.
Throughout the years of the war Shoghi Effendi was in a position to maintain his contact with the mass of the believers in those countries where some of the oldest and most populous Bahá'í communities existed, such as Persia, America, India and Great Britain, as well as the new and rapidly growing centres in Latin America. The relatively small communities in Japan, the European countries, Burma, and for a time Iraq, were the only ones cut off from him - a severance that grieved him and caused him much concern for their fate. Because of this little-short-of miraculous manner in which contact was maintained with the body of believers throughout the Bahá'í world Shoghi Effendi was able not only to send his directives to the various National Assemblies but to indicate what this great war signified to us as Bahá'ís. In his epistle known as The Promised Day Is Come he stated that "God's purpose is none other than to usher in, in ways He alone can bring about, and the full significance of which He alone can fathom, the Great, the Golden Age of a long-divided, a long afflicted humanity. Its presentPage 185
state, indeed even its immediate future, is dark, distressingly dark. Its distant future, however, is radiant, gloriously radiant - so radiant that no eye can visualize it...The ages of its infancy and childhood are past, never again to return, while the Great Age, the consummation of all ages, which must signalize the coming of age of the entire human race, is yet to come. The convulsions of this transitional and most turbulent period in the annals of humanity are the essential prerequisites, and herald the inevitable approach, of that Age of Ages, 'the time of the end ', in which the folly and tumult of strife that has, since the dawn of history, blackened the annals of mankind, will have been finally transmuted into the wisdom and the tranquility of an undisturbed, a universal, and lasting peace, in which the discord and separation of the children of men will have given way to the world-wide reconciliation, and the complete unification of the divers elements that constitute human society...It is this stage which humanity, willingly or unwillingly, is resistlessly approaching. It is for this stage that this vast, this fiery ordeal which humanity is experiencing is mysteriously paving the way."
So great was the relief and joy of the Guardian when the European phase of the war ended in May 1945 that he cabled America: "Followers Bahá'u'lláh throughout five continents unanimously rejoice partial emergence war torn humanity titanic upheaval" and expressed what lay so deeply in his heart: "gratefully acclaim signal evidence interposition divine Providence which during such perilous years enabled World Centre our Faith escape..." and went on to express an equal thanksgiving for the manner in which other communities had been miraculously preserved, recapitulating the truly extraordinary victories won of the Faith during and in spite of the war. On 20 August 1945 he again cabled: "Hearts uplifted thanksgiving complete cessation prolonged unprecedented world conflict" and urged the American believers to arise and carry on their work, hailing the removal of restrictions which would now enable them to launch the second stage of the Divine Plan. Nothing could provide a better example of the determination, the enthusiasm and the brilliant leadership of the Guardian than these messages sent on the morrow of the emergence of the world from the worst war in its entire history.
Whatever the state of the rest of the world, the internal situation in Palestine continued to worsen in every respect. The holocaust that had engulfed European Jewry; the bitterness induced amongstPage 186
the Palestine Jews by British policy in regard to Jewish immigration, which was strictly limited and controlled; the burning resentment of the Arabs against that same policy - all served to increase local tensions and hatred. Many of the hardships from which other countries were beginning to slowly emerge, such as sever food rationing, we were now entering. Everything was difficult. We were no longer in danger of being invaded or bombed, but the outlook for this small but sacred country grew steadily blacker as we entered that period which was characterized by Shoghi Effendi as "the gravest turmoil rocking the Holy Land in modern times."
Shoghi Effendi was exhausted from the strain of the war years, years during which he had not only written The Promised Day Is Come and God Passes By , but during which he had prosecuted - for who can deny that his was the ceaseless output of enthusiasm, encouragement and energy that galvanized the Bahá'ís into action? - five years of the first Seven Year Plan, during which he had comforted, inspired and held the Bahá'í world together, during which he had steadily enlarged the periphery of the Cause and deepened and expanded the life of its national communities, during which the unique project of building the superstructure of The Báb's Shrine had been initiated, and during which the family of `Abdu'l-Bahá, including his own family, had been hopelessly lost to him. He was now approaching fifty, his hair whitening at the temples, his shoulders bent from so much stooping over his desk, his heart not only saddened by all he had gone through but, I firmly believe, wearing out because of it.
As the British Mandate approached its end on 14 May 1948 the situation in Palestine grew steadily worse. the entire country boiled with apprehension and hatred and acts of terrorism increased steadily. The Arabs, the Jews and the British were all involved; all three of them were well aware of the complete aloofness of the Guardian from the political issues at stake and it is no exaggeration to say he was universally respected - and let alone. This is a fact of major importance for during the years, and particularly the months, preceding the end of the Mandate there was practically no neutral ground left; Jews paid for the defence of the Jewish community and Arabs paid for the defence of the Arab community. That the Guardian should have been able to steer the small Bahá'í community safely through the dangerous rapids of those days and that he himself should not have been approached for funds to support the cause of his fellow Orientals (who all knew hePage 187
had been born and bred in the country) testify to the high reputation he had establish as a man of unbending principle and iron determination.
Because, however, the Guardian was let alone does not mean he was not exposed to danger or that the Cause itself was not in a grave situation. The large unbuilt-on properties surrounding the Shrine of The Báb were the greatest source of worry because they were flanked by areas occupied by Arabs. Any open space, any place of vantage was a source of fear to both elements of the population who were such frequent victims of sniping, bomb attacks and the throwing of hand grenades. It was therefore a shock to Shoghi Effendi to discover one day, in looking through his binoculars at the Shrine area, that British soldiers had erected a machine gun on our property, overlooking a road, from which point they evidently felt they would be in a good position to fire on anyone attacking in the vicinity. They removed it, but the alarm it caused was there, the terrible danger that we might in some way become inadvertently involved in the side-taking and killing going on all around us.
I remember another occasion when a Jew who often did some special work for us had just left the Shrine property and some Arabs came and inquired where he was - he might have been killed if he had been found - and the repercussions would have been terrible for a community so passionately against the bloodshed that was taking place all the time, so completely neutral in the political struggle going on. There was often shooting all around the home of the Master, amounting sometimes to minor battles; no one ever shot at us or attacked us, but the danger of being hit was not to be underestimated. As the terrorism increased, certain areas, including our own, were voluntarily blacked out at night with no street lights at all; there were often day-time curfews imposed, when pitched battles or major acts of terrorism took place and only the British forces moved about, their great tanks howling down the abandoned streets, often firing random bursts from their machine guns as they rolled by. The wailing noise of their sirens was a most eerie, unpleasant sound, but at night it was really terrifying to an already nerve-racked population living on the edge of a volcano which might explode any time.
During all this Shoghi Effendi went up Mt Carmel every day as usual, attending to his own business, supervising the work in the gardens, visiting the Shrines and coming home before dark. During this entire period I remember only one or two occasions when,Page 188
because of the situation, a curfew had been imposed and he was not able to do so. One day, as he was being driven by Mrs Weeden up to the Shrines (our Arab chauffeur had left the country), a car was firing at the car ahead of it, which suddenly passed that of the Guardian and he was thus between the two. The other car soon overtook his and went on with its private war, but one can imagine our feelings when we heard of this incident later on! Yet there was nothing we could do. Everyone who has lived through such experiences knows that there are only two things in such circumstances one can do - go away, or carry on as usual. We just carried on. The following excerpt from one of my diaries, dated 22 February 1948, best illustrates the atmosphere we lived in at that time: "We know Bahá'u'lláh will watch over us. But being human we have our moments of anxiety, such as when shooting flares up all over town and the beloved Guardian has not yet come down from the Shrines, and the road is closed, and he has to come home on foot - then we just know it's up to Bahá'u'lláh...it is no exaggeration to say a night without shooting just isn't any more. Sometimes it goes on, off and on, all night. But you soon sleep through it except for a bomb..."
It was not, however, such dangers as these that caused Shoghi Effendi sleepless nights. His great concern was for the protection of the Twin Holy Shrines. As the Mandate ended and the Arab-Jewish war broke out, a very real danger threatened them and caused him acute anxiety. Bahji was only about fifteen miles from the frontier, over which an invading army might pour at any moment. This was one worry; the other worry, in a way even more intense, was caused by the mooted plan, at one time seriously considered, of placing the frontiers of the new Jewish State in such a way that its northern one would divide Haifa and Akka and thus the World Centre would be split in two, its Administrative Centre situated in one country and the Holiest Spot on earth, the Qiblih of the Faith, situated in another, hostile to it and hostile to the Faith itself.
Should anyone wonder why the divinely guided Guardian worried so much over such things, I would like to give an explanation, out of my own understanding. It seems to me there are three factors involved in most situations: the Will of God in which His Beneficence, Omnipotence and the destiny He has ordained for man are all involved - and which ultimately rights all wrongs; the element of accident, which `Abdu'l-Bahá says is inherent inPage 189
nature; and the element of individual free will and responsibility. Bearing in mind these factors it is not surprising the Guardian should be deeply concerned over any situation that affected the interests and protection of the Faith, and should anxiously ponder the problems facing him, seeking to ensure that the right solution was found, the best opportunity seized, the greatest benefit for the Cause obtained.
Many times Shoghi Effendi referred to the miraculous protection the World Centre received during the disturbed and dangerous period of the end of the British Mandate and the firm establishment of the Jewish State. The very list of the dangers avoided and the achievements witnessed during this period - which he enumerated in a cable sent to the American Bahá'í Convention on 25 April 1949 - is sufficient to enable us to glimpse the keenness of the anxiety he had experienced and the gravity of the problems with which he had been faced. The published version of this cable pointed out how great had been the "evidences divine protection vouchsafed World Centre Faith course third year second Seven Year Plan" and went on to say "Prolonged hostilities ravaging Holy Land providentially terminated. Bahá'í Holy Places unlike those belonging other faiths miraculously safeguarded. Perils no less grave than those threatened World Centre Faith under Abdu'l-Hamid Jamal Pasha and through Hitler's intended capture Near East averted. Independent sovereign State within confines Holy Land established recognized marking termination twenty-century-long provincial status. Formal assurance protection Bahá'í holy sites continuation Bahá'í pilgrimage given by Prime Minister newly emerged State. Official invitation extended by its government historic occasion opening State's first parliaments exempted responsible authorities same State. Best wishes future welfare Faith Bahá'u'lláh conveyed writing by newly elected Head State in reply congratulatory message addressed him assumption his office."
In the post-war years, as the victories the Bahá'ís were winning multiplied and the United Nations - the mightiest instrument for creating peace that men had ever devised - emerged, many of us no doubt hoped, and wishfully believed, that we had left the worst phase of humanity's long history of war behind us and that we could now discern the first light of that dawn we Bahá'ís are so firmly convinced lies ahead for the world. But the sober, guidedPage 190
mind of the Guardian did not see events in this light. Until the end of his life he continued to make the same remark, based on Bahá'u'lláh's own words, that he had so often made before the war: "The distant future is very bright, but the immediate future is very dark."
Among the encouraging messages he so frequently sent to the Bahá'ís all over the world, his praises of the wonderful services they were rendering, his plans which he devised in such detail for them to prosecute, ever and anon the note of foreboding and warning would recur. In 1947 he stated that the Bahá'ís had thus far been graciously aided to follow their course "undeflected by the cross-currents and the tempestuous winds which must of necessity increasingly agitate human society ere the hour of its ultimate redemption approaches..." In that communication, urging the American Community to press forward with the supremely important work of its second Seven Year Plan, he spoke of the future: "As the international situation worsens, as the fortunes of mankind sink to a still lower ebb...As the fabric of present-day society heaves and cracks under the strain and stress of portentous events and calamities, as the fissures, accentuating the cleavage separating nation from nation, class from class, race from race, and creed from creed, multiply..." Far from having rounded the corner and turned our backs forever on our unhappy past, there was "a steadily deepening crisis". In March 1948 he went still further in a conversation I recorded in my diary: "Tonight Shoghi Effendi told me some very interesting things: roughly, he said that to say there was not going to be another war, in the light of present conditions, was foolish, and to say that if there was another war the Atom Bomb would not be used was also foolish. So we much believe there probably will be a war and it will be sued and there will be terrific destruction. But the Bahá'ís will, he felt, emerge to form the nucleus of the future world civilization. He said it was not right to say the good would perish and the bad because in a sense all are bad, all humanity is to blame, for ignoring and repudiating Bahá'u'lláh after He has repeatedly trumpeted to everyone His Message. He said the saints in the monasteries and the sinners in the worst flesh pots of Europe are all wicked because they have rejected the Truth. He said it was wrong to think, as some of the Bahá'ís do, that the good would perish with the evil, all men are evil because they have repudiated God in this day and turned from Him. He said we can only believe that in some mysterious way, inPage 191
spite of the terrible destruction, enough will be left over to build the future."
In November of that same year, again encouraging the American believers to persevere with their Plan, he wrote: "as the threat of still more violent convulsions assailing a travailing age increases, and the wings of yet another conflict, destined to contribute a distinct, and perhaps a decisive, share to the birth of the new Order which must signalize the advent of the Lesser Peace, darken the international horizon...Rumblings of catastrophes yet more dreadful agitate with increasing frequency a sorely stressed and chaotic world...so must every aggravation in the state of a world still harassed by the ravages of a devastating conflict, and now hovering on the brink of yet more crucial struggle, be accompanied by a still more ennobling manifestation of the spirit of this second crusade..." In that same month he referred to "The deepening crisis ominously threatening further to derange the equilibrium of a politically convulsed, economically disrupted, socially subverted, morally decadent and spiritually moribund society". He went on to speak of the "premonitory rumblings of a third ordeal threatening to engulf the Eastern and Western Hemispheres" and said "the world outlook is steadily darkening." He urged the Bahá'ís to "forge ahead into the future serenely confident that the hour of their mightiest exertions, and the supreme opportunity for the their greatest exploits, must coincide with the apocalyptic upheaval marking the lowest ebb in mankind's fast-declining fortunes."
It went on and on. The victories we won, the praise, encouragement, joy of the Guardian - and the warnings. In 1950 he told the Bahá'ís they should be "undaunted" by the perils of a "progressively deteriorating international situation" and in 1951 informed the European Teaching Conference that the "perils" confronting that "sorely tried continent" were "steadily mounting". But it was really in a most grave and thought-provoking letter, written in 1954, that Shoghi Effendi expatiated on this subject of a future conflict, its causes, its course, its outcome and its effect on America, in more detail and in a more forceful language than he had ever before used. He associates the "crass" and "cancerous materialism" prevalent in the world today with the warnings of Bahá'u'lláh and states He had compared it "to a devouring flame" and regarded it "as the chief factor in precipitating the dire ordeals and world-shaking crises that must necessarily involve thePage 192
burning of cities and the spread of terror and consternation in the hearts of men." Shoghi Effendi goes on to say: "Indeed a foretaste of the devastation which this consuming fire will wreak upon the world, and with which it will lay waste the cities of the nations participating in this tragic world-engulfing contest, has been afforded by the last World War, marking the second stage in the global havoc which humanity, forgetful of its God and heedless of the clear warnings uttered by His appointed Messenger for this day, must, alas, inevitably experience."
The letter in which these appalling predictions are expressed was addressed to the American Bahá'ís and in it the Guardian points out that the general deterioration in the situation of a "distracted world" and the multiplication of increasingly destructive armaments, to which the two sides engaged in a world contest were contributing - "caught in a whirlpool of fear, suspicion and hatred" as they were - were ever-increasingly affecting their own country and were bound, if not remedied, "to involve the American nation in a catastrophe of undreamed-of dimensions and of untold consequences to the social structure, the standard and conception of the American people and government...The American nation...stands, indeed, from whichever angle one observes its immediate fortunes, in grave peril. the woes and tribulations which threaten it are partly avoidable, but mostly inevitable and God-sent..." He went on to point out the changes which these unavoidable sovereignty" to which its government and people still clung and which was so "manifestly at variance with the needs of a world already contracted into a neighbourhood and crying out for unity" and through which this nation will find itself purged of its anachronistic conceptions and prepared to play the great role `Abdu'l-Bahá foretold for it in the establishment of the Lessor Peace. The "fiery tribulations" to come would not only "weld the American Nation to its sister nations in both hemispheres" but would cleanse it of "the accumulated dross which ingrained racial prejudice, rampant materialism widespread ungodliness and moral laxity have combined, in the course of successive generations, to produce, and which have prevented her thus far from assuming the role of world spiritual leadership forecast by `Abdu'l-Bahá'í unerring pen - a role which she is bound to fulfill through travail and sorrow."
During the last winter of his life, as if already weary of his longPage 193
struggle with our weaknesses, his years of unremitting toil and complete dedication, the Guardian spoke more strongly on this subject than I had ever heard him before. His theme was not only a warning of what the future held in store but a stern appraisal of the failure of the Bahá'ís - all of them, East and West - to go forth in numbers adequate to their great task and teach the Cause of God, far and wide, in the newly opened territories and islands of the globe, while there was yet time and opportunity to do so and thus, through a vast increase in the followers of the Faith, create those spiritual nuclei which could offset the forces of destruction at work in human society today and constitute the seed beds of the future World Order which we so firmly believe can and must emerge out of the present chaos.
Alarmed we should be, but not paralysed. In one of his last letters to a European National Assembly, in August 1957, his secretary wrote on his behalf: "He does not want the friends to be fearful, or to dwell upon the unpleasant possibilities of the future. They must have the attitude that, if they do their part, which is to accomplish the goals of the Ten Year Plan, they can be sure that God will do His part and watch over them." The policy of the Bahá'ís, in this time of world crisis, was expressed in another of his letters, written a month earlier to one of the African National Assemblies, and expressed on his behalf by his secretary: "As the situation in the world, and in your part of it is steadily worsening, no time can be lost by the friends in rising to higher levels of devotion and service, and particularly of spiritual awareness. It is our duty to redeem as many of our fellow-men as we possibly can, whose hearts are enlightened, and ready to serve. The more believers there are to stand forth as beacons in the darkness whenever that time does come, the better; hence the supreme importance of the teaching work at this time."
Shoghi Effendi had already pointed out, at an earlier period, that "However severe the challenge, however multiple the tasks, however short the time, however sombre the world outlook, however limited the material resources of a hard-pressed adolescent community, the untapped sources of celestial strength from which it can draw are measureless, in their potencies, and will unhesitatingly pour forth their energizing influences if the necessary daily effort be made and the required sacrifices by willingly accepted."Page 194
So much depended on us; what depended on God we could confidently leave to Him, once we had made our own supreme effort.
If we, the generation of the twilight before the sun of this new day rises, ask ourselves why such catastrophes should be facing us in these times, the answers all are there, made crystal clear by the Guardian in his great expositions of the meaning and implications of our teachings. Two factors, he taught us, are involved. The first is contained in those words of Bahá'u'lláh "Soon will the present-day order by rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead." To tear off the time-honoured protective covering of innumerable societies, each embedded in its own customs, superstitions and prejudices, and apply to them a universal new frame of existence is an operation only Almighty God can perform and of necessity a very painful one. This is made even more painful by the state of men's souls and minds; some societies are the victims of "a flagrant secularism - the direct offspring of irreligion", some are in the grip of "a blatant materialism and racialism" which have, Shoghi Effendi stated, "usurped the rights of God Himself", but all - all the peoples of the earth - are guilty of having, for over a century, "refused to recognize the One Whose advent had been promised to all religions, and in Whose Faith alone, all nations can and must eventually, seek their true salvation." Fundamentally it was because of this new Faith, this "priceless gem of Divine Revelation enshrining the Spirit of God and incarnating His Purpose for all mankind in this age" as Shoghi Effendi described it, that the world was "undergoing such agonies". Bahá'u'lláh Himself had said: "The world's equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order ". "The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing Order appeareth to be lamentably defective." "The world is in travail and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned towards waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard by unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody." "After a time, all the governments on earth will change. Oppression will envelope the world. And following a universal convulsion, the sun of justice will rise from the horizon of the unseen realm."
So thrilling, however, is the vision of the future which ShoghiPage 195
Effendi painted for us in his brilliant words, that it wipes away all fear and fills the heart of every Bahá'í with such confidence and joy that the prospect of any amount of suffering and deprivation cannot weaken his faith or crush his hopes. "The world is, in truth," Shoghi Effendi wrote, "moving on towards its destiny. The interdependence of the peoples and nations of the earth, whatever the leaders of the divisive forces of the world may say or do, is already an accomplished fact." The world commonwealth, "destined to emerge, sooner or later, out of the carnage, agony, and havoc of this great world convulsion" was the assured consummation of the working of these forces. First would come the Lesser Peace, which the nations of the earth, as yet conscious of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, would themselves establish; "This momentous and historic step, involving the reconstruction of mankind, as the result of the universal recognition of its oneness and wholeness, will bring in its wake the spiritualization of the masses, consequent to the recognition of the character, and the acknowledgement of the claims, of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh - the essential condition to the ultimate fusion of all races, creeds classes, and nations which must signalize the emergence of His New World Order." He goes on to state: "then will the coming of age of the entire human race be proclaimed and celebrated by all the peoples and nations of the earth. Then will the banner of the Most Great Peace be hoisted. Then will the world-wide sovereignty of Bahá'u'lláh...be recognized, acclaimed, and firmly established. Then will a world civilization be born, flourish, and perpetuate itself, a civilization with a fullness of life such as the world has never seen nor can as yet conceive... Then will the planet, galvanized through the universal belief of its dwellers in one God, and their allegiance to one common Revelation,...be...acclaimed as the earthly heaven, capable of fulfilling that ineffable destiny fixed for it, from time immemorial, by the love and wisdom of its Creator."Page 196
In an age when people play football with words, kicking them right and left indiscriminately with no respect for either their meaning or correct usage, the style of Shoghi Effendi stands out in dazzling beauty. His joy in words was one of his strongest personal characteristics, whether he wrote in English - the language he had given his heart to - or in the mixture of Persian and Arabic he used in his general letters to the East. Although he was so simple in his personal tastes he had an innate love of richness which is manifest in the way he arranged and decorated various Bahá'í Holy Places, in the style of the Shrine of The Báb, in his preferences in architecture, and in his choice and combination of words. Of him it could be said, in the words of another great writer, Macaulay, that "he wrote in language...precise and luminous." Unlike so many people Shoghi Effendi wrote what he meant and meant exactly what he wrote. It is impossible to eliminate any word from one of his sentences without sacrificing part of the meaning, so concise, so pithy in his style. A book like God Passes By is a veritable essence of essences; from this single hundred-year history, fifty books could easily be written and none of them would superficial or lacking in material, so rich is the source provided by the Guardian, so condensed his treatment of it.
The language in which Shoghi Effendi wrote, whether for the Bahá'ís of the West or of the East, has set a standard which should effectively prevent them from descending to the level of illiterate literates which often so sadly characterizes the present generation as far as the use and appreciation of words are concerned. He never compromised with the ignorance of his readers but expected them, in their thirst for knowledge, to overcome their ignorance. Shoghi Effendi chose, to the best of his great ability, the right vehicle for his thought and it made no difference to him whether the average person was going to know the word he used orPage 197
not. After all, what one does not know one can find out. Although he had such a brilliant command of language he frequently reinforced his knowledge by certainty through looking up the word he planned to use in Webster's big dictionary. Often one of my functions was to hand it to him and it was a weighty tome indeed! Not infrequently his choice would be the third or forth usage of the word, sometimes bordering on the archaic, but it was the exact word that conveyed his meaning and so he used it. I remember my mother once saying that to become a Bahá'í was like entering a university, only one never finished learning, never graduated. In his translations of the Bahá'í writings, and above all in his own compositions, Shoghi Effendi set a standard that educates and raises the cultural level of the reader at the same time that it feeds his mind and soul with thoughts and truth.
From the beginning of my life with the Guardian until the end, I was almost always present when he translated or wrote his books, long letters and cables in English. There was nothing unusual in this; he liked to have someone in the room on these occasions to listen to what he was writing. His method of composition was new and fascinating to me. He wrote out loud, speaking the words as he put them down. I think this habit in English was carried over from Persian; good Persian and Arabic composition not only can be but should be chanted. One remembers The Báb revealing the Qayyumu'l-Asma' out loud, and Bahá'u'lláh revealing His Tablets in the same way. This was the Guardian's custom in English as well as in Persian and I believe it is because of this that even his long and involved sentences sound even more flowing and intelligible when read aloud. The length of some of these sentences was at times a cause of comment on my part; Shoghi Effendi would raise his head and look at me, with those wonderful eyes whose colour and expression changed so frequently, with a hint of defiance and rebelliousness in them - but did not shorten his sentence! I can recall only one occasion when he admitted, ruefully, that it "was a long sentence; but he still did not change it. It said what he wanted it to as he wanted it to; it was too bad it was so long. On the other hand he like to use a structure sometimes of very short sentences that followed each other once after the other like the cracks of a whip. He would call my attention to this variation in style, pointing out how each method was effective, how the combination of the two enriched the whole and achieved different ends. He was very fond of the device of alliteration, much used in oriental languages butPage 198
now no longer so common in English. An excellent example of his use of this is provided by this sentence reiterating words beginning with "p" from one of his cables: "Time pressing opportunity priceless potent aid providentially promised unfailing."
Shoghi Effendi's method of composition was like that of a mosaic artist at work, who creates his picture with clearly defined and separate pieces; each word had its own place and if he struck a difficult sentence he would not change it around so as to accommodate a thought that grammatically could not fit into the sentence structure but would stick to it, sometimes literally for hours, until I at least was worn out by his verbal repetition of the phrase as he battled to subjugate it and fit it in the way he wished to, typing one piece of his mosaic after another, until he had solved his problem. I seldom remember his ever abandoning a sentence and starting over in a new form. Another characteristic in his choice of words was that because of popular misuse or abuse of a thought which a word conveyed he saw no reason to abandon or shun it, but used it in its proper and exact meaning. He was not afraid to speak of "conversion" of people to the Faith, or to call them "converts"; he lauded the "missionary zeal" of pioneers in "foreign mission fields", at the same time making it plain we have no priests, no missionaries and do not proselytize.
I remember once Shoghi Effendi giving me an article to read from a British newspaper which called attention to the bureaucratic language which is developing, particularly in the United States, in which more and more words are used to convey less and less and merely produce confusion confounded. Shoghi Effendi heartily supported the article! Words were very precise instruments to him. I also recall a particularly beautiful distinction he made in speaking to some pilgrims in the Western Pilgrim House. He said: "we are orthodox, but not fanatical."
Many times the language of the Guardian soared to great poetic heights. Witness such passages as these that shine with the brilliance of cathedral glass: "We behold, as we survey the episodes of this first act of a sublime drama, the figure of its Master hero, The Báb, arise meteor-like above the horizon of Shiraz, traverse the sombre sky of Persia from south to north, decline with tragic swiftness, and perish in a blaze of glory. We see His satellites, a galaxy of God-intoxicated heroes, mount above that same horizon, irradiate that same incandescent light, burn themselves out with thatPage 199
self-same swiftness, and impart in their turn an added impetus to the steadily gathering momentum of God's nascent Faith." He called The Báb "that youthful Prince of Glory" and describes the scene of His entombment on Mt Carmel: "when all was finished, and the earthly remains of the Martyr-Prophet of Shiraz were, at long last, safely deposited for their everlasting rest in the bosom of God's holy mountain, `Abdu'l-Bahá, Who had cast aside His turban, removed His shoes and thrown off His cloak, bent low over the still open sarcophagus, His silver hair waving about His head and His face transfigured and luminous, rested His forehead on the border of the wooden casket, and, sobbing aloud, wept with such a weeping that all those who were present wept with Him." "The second period...derives is inspiration from the august figure of Bahá'u'lláh, preeminent in holiness, awesome in the majesty of His strength and power, unapproachable in the transcendent brightness of His glory." "Amidst the shadows that are increasingly gathering about us we can discern the glimmerings of Bahá'u'lláh unearthly sovereignty appearing fitfully on the horizon of history." Or these words addressed to the Greatest Holy Leaf: "In the innermost recesses of our hearts, O Thou exalted Leaf of the Abha Paradise, we have reared for thee a shining mansion that the hand of time can never undermine, a shrine which shall frame eternally the matchless beauty of thy countenance, an altar whereon the fire of thy consuming love shall burn for ever." Or these words painting a picture of the punishment of God in this day: "On the high seas, in the air, on land, in the forefront of battle, in the palaces of kings and the cottages of peasants, in the most hallowed sanctuaries, whether secular or religious, the evidences of God's retributive act and mysterious discipline are manifest. Its heavy toll is steadily mounting - a holocaust sparing neither prince nor peasant, neither man nor woman, neither young nor old." Or these words concerning the attitude of the true servants of the Cause: "Of such men and women it may be truly said that to them 'every foreign land is a fatherland, and every fatherland a foreign land'. For their citizenship...is in the Kingdom of Bahá'u'lláh. Though willing to share to the utmost the temporal benefits and the fleeting joys which this earthly life can confer, though eager to participate in whatever activity that conduces to the richness, the happiness and peace of that life, they can at no time forget that it constitutes no more than a transient, a very brief stage of their existence, that they who live it are but pilgrims and wayfarersPage 200
whose goal is the Celestial city, and whose home the country of never-failing joy and brightness."
The descriptive power of Shoghi Effendi's pen is nowhere better seen than in the gem-like phrases he chose in English to depict the station of Bahá'u'lláh. All the following words are quoted from the Guardian's writings, chosen from different sources, but put together here to convey their extraordinary range and power: "the Everlasting Father, the Lord of Hosts, the Most Great Name, and Preserved Treasure, the Most Great Light, the Most Great Ocean, the Supreme Heaven, the Pre-existent Root, the Day Star of the Universe, the Judge, the Law-giver, the Redeemer of all mankind, the organizer of the entire planet, the Unifier of the children of men, the Inaugurator of the long-awaited millennium, the Creator of a new World Order, the Establisher of the Most Great Peace, the fountain of the Most Great Justice, the Proclaimer of the coming of age of the entire human race, the Inspirer and Founder of a world civilization." Or take the masterly translation Shoghi Effendi made of titles such as these referring to `Abdu'l-Bahá: "the Mainspring of the Oneness of Humanity", "the Ensign of the Most Great Peace", "the Limb of the Law of God".
As `Abdu'l-Bahá'í American followers arose to carry out His Plan Shoghi Effendi said they were "compassing thereby the whole earth with a girdle of glory" and going forth to "emblazon on their shields the emblems of new victories". In the last Ridvan Message to the Bahá'í world he exhorts Bahá'u'lláh's followers in words of unique splendour: "Putting on the armour of His love, firmly buckling on the shield of His mighty Covenant, mounted on the steed of steadfastness, holding aloft the land of the Word of the Lord of Hosts, and with unquestioning reliance on His promises as the best provision for their journey, let them set their faces towards those fields that still remain unexplored and direct their steps to those goals that are as yet unattained, assured that He Who has led them to achieve such triumphs, and to store up such prizes in His Kingdom, will continue to assist them in enriching their spiritual birthright to a degree that no finite mind can imagine or human heart perceive."
There are so many aspects to Shoghi Effendi's literary life. I can name on one hand the books (other than his beloved Gibbon) he read for recreation during the twenty years I was with him, thoughPage 201
he had read during his youth very extensively on many subjects. This is no doubt because of the fact that by 1937, when I took up my new life in Haifa, he was already overwhelmed by the ever-increasing amount of material he had to read in connection with his work, such as news-letters, National Assembly minutes, circulars and mail. By the end of his life if he did not read at least two or three hours a day he could no longer keep up with his work at all; he read on planes, trains, in gardens, at table when we were away from Haifa and in Haifa hour after hour at his desk, until he would get so tired he would go to bed and sit up reading there. He assiduously kept abreast of the political news and trends of the world, through his Times , The Jerusalem Post and sometimes the well-known European dailies Journal de Geneve and the Paris edition of the New York Herald Tribune. Before the war he subscribed to an English magazine, The Nineteenth Century , which had many articles on current affairs, and was the only one I ever knew him to read, but found its standard had declined after the was and gave it up. The word "eliminate" was often on his lips; he would eliminate non-essentials, get rid quickly of secondary matters, push away the trivial debris of life. He used carry this process of elimination into his newspaper. He knew exactly which pages of The Times had the news he wanted to look at - the leaders, the world news, and above all, the editorials - and he would scan these quickly and then proceed to rip out with his fingers the articles he wanted to look at or read carefully and throw the rest away - he had eliminated it! It does not require much acumen to understand that this, aside from being efficient, was the reflection of a very deeply tired-out mind, trying to push away so many burdens. Even an extra piece of paper had become a burden. It was with great difficulty I ever got a chance to see an entire newspaper or read anything but the long streamers of clippings that the Guardian would had me, saying "read this, it's interesting", and I would find myself with a debate in the House of Commons or some astute article on the political situation, the economic or social trends of the times, religious issues, and so on, all in a large untidy handful which I stuffed into my purse or pocket, awaiting a distant moment when I could find time to read them.
The Guardian's method of writing was interesting: he did not like large pieces of paper and usually wrote all his books and long communications on small lined pads. He did all his composition by hand; if the first draft was too written-over he sat down patientlyPage 202
and copied it all over. He typed, on a very small portable machine, by the two-finger method, all his own manuscripts, making any further changes as he went along. It is not surprising therefore that by this method he should have produced such highly polished works as we have from his pen. In Persian he would give a clean original, written by him, to his secretary to copy in fine penmanship and this Shoghi Effendi then sent to Tehran. It has always interested me to note how after he became Guardian his writing in English developed into a slight back-hand; it was always strong, well rounded and legible. His Persian hand was exquisite. There are a number of styles of calligraphy in Persian and Arabic but his is a variation of "Shikastih Nasta'liq"' it has a charm and originality, a grace and strength all its own. One should remember that calligraphy was the highest of the graphic arts in Islamic countries and beautiful writing was the distinction par excellence for the cultivated man to possess. The Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, `Abdu'l-Bahá all had wonderful handwriting and Shoghi Effendi in this too proved himself worthy of his heritage.
Withal, however, he was not fussy; when he went over the many pages of my sometimes long letters to National Assemblies, he would put in a series of "X's" and "XX's" and even "XXX's" in the margins for me to add a word or thought left out. Then at the end of the secretary's part he would start his postscript in his own writing and usually go around and around his margins, in truly oriental style, from page to page. What I am trying to say is that if there were corrected mistakes all through the text of an important English letter it did not disturb him in the least as long as the thought was there, crystal clear.
The supreme importance of Shoghi Effendi's English translations and communications can never be sufficiently stressed because of his function as sole and authoritative interpreter of the Sacred Writings, appointed as such by `Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will. there are many instances when, owing to the looseness of construction in Persian sentences, there could be an ambiguity in the mind of the reader regarding the meaning. Careful and correct English, not lending itself to ambiguity in the first place, became, when coupled with Shoghi Effendi's brilliant mind and his power as interpreter of the Holy Word, what we might well call the crystallizing vehicle of the teachings. Often by referring to Shoghi Effendi's translation into English the original meaning of The Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, or `Abdu'l-Bahá becomes clear and is thus safeguardedPage 203
against misinterpretation in the future. He was meticulous in translating and made absolutely sure that the words he was using in English conveyed and did not depart from the original thought or the original words. One would have to have a mastery of Persian and Arabic to correctly understand what he did. For instance in reading the original one finds that one word in Arabic was susceptible of being translated into two or more words in English; thus Shoghi Effendi, in the construction of his English sentences, might use "power", "strength" and "might" alternatively to replace this one word, choosing the exact nuance of meaning that would fit best, do away with reiteration and lend most colour to his translation without sacrificing the true meaning, indeed, thereby enhancing the true meaning. He used to say that Arabic synonyms usually meant the same thing but that English ones always had a slight shade of difference which made it possible to be more exact in rendering the thought. He also said he believed a few of the highly mystical and poetical writings of Bahá'u'lláh could never be translated as they would become so exotic and flowery that the original beauty and meaning would be completely lost and convey a wrong impression. Once - only once, alas, in our busy, harassed life - Shoghi Effendi said to me that I now knew enough Persian to understand the original and he read a paragraph of one of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablets and said, "How can one translate that into English?" For about two hours we tried, that is he tried and I feebly followed him. When I would suggest a sentence, which did convey the meaning, Shoghi Effendi said "Ah, but that is not translation! You cannot change and leave out words in the original and just put what you think it means in English." He pointed out that a translator must be absolutely faithful to his original text and that in some cases this meant that what came out in another language was ugly and even meaningless. As Bahá'u'lláh is always sublimely beautiful in His words this could not be done. In the end he gave it up and said he did not think it could ever be properly translated into English, and this passage was far from being one of the more abstruse and mystical works of Bahá'u'lláh.
I only know of one instance in which Shoghi Effendi said he had slightly modified something that existed in the original and that was when he translated, immediately after the passing of the Master, His Will. The sentence in question reads, referring to the Universal House of Justice, "the guardian of the Cause of God is its sacred head and the distinguished member for life of thatPage 204
body." Shoghi Effendi said the actual word, for which he substituted the milder "member for life", was "irremovable". Nothing could be more revealing of his profound humility than this toning down of his own relationship to the Universal House of Justice.
The Guardian was exceedingly cautious in everything that concerned the original Word and would never explain or comment on a text submitted to him in English (when it was not his own translation) until he had verified it with the original. He was very careful of the words he used in commenting on various events in the Faith, refusing, for instance, to designate a person a martyr - which is a station - just because they were slain, and sometimes designating as martyrs people who were not killed but the nature of whose death he associated with martyrdom.
Another highly important aspect of the divinely conferred position Shoghi Effendi held of interpreter of the Teachings was that he not only protected the Sacred Word from being misconstrued but that he also carefully preserved the relationship and importance of different aspects of the Teachings to each other and safeguarded the rightful station of each of the three Central Figures of the Faith. An interesting example of this is reflected in a letter of A. L. M. Nicolas, the French scholar who translated the Bayan of The Báb into French and who might correctly be described as a Bábi. For many years he was under the impression that the Bahá'ís had ignored the greatness and belittled the station of The Báb. When he discovered that Shoghi Effendi in his writings exalted The Báb, perpetuated His memory through a book such as Nabil's Narrative , and repeatedly translated His words into English, his attitude completely changed. In a letter to one of the old believers in France he wrote: "Now I can die quietly...Glory to Shoghi Effendi who has calmed my torment and my anxiety, glory to him who recognizes the worth of Siyyid 'Ali Muhammad called The Báb. I am so content that I kiss your hands which traced my address on the envelope which brought me the message of Shoghi. Thank you Mademoiselle, thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Shoghi Effendi was tolerant and practical in his approach to his own work. For years he sent his translations and manuscripts to George Townshend, whose command and knowledge of English he greatly admired. In one of his letters to him Shoghi Effendi wrote: "I am deeply grateful to you for the very valuable, detailed and careful suggestions you have given me..." Horace Holley titled many of Shoghi Effendi's general letters to the West and alsoPage 205
inserted sub-titles throughout the text, picking up phrases in the writing of the Guardian which were most descriptive of the general subject. If this facilitated the reading of his works, and made them more intelligible to the average American believer, Shoghi Effendi saw no objection. Horace was a writer himself and the titles he gave to the Guardian's communications not only served to identify them but dramatized their message and capture the imagination.
One of the earliest acts of Shoghi Effendi's ministry was to begin circulating his translations of the holy Writings: one year and ten days after the reading of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í Will we find him writing to the American National Assembly: "It is a great pleasure for me to share with you the translation of some of the prayers and Tablets of our beloved Master..." and he goes on to add that he trusts "that in the course of time I will be enabled to send you regularly correct and reliable translations...which will unfold to your eyes a new vision of His Glorious Mission...and give you an insight into the character and meaning of His Divine Teachings." Over and over in his earliest letters to different countries he mentions the enclosed translation of something he is sending for the Bahá'ís. A month later, in another letter to America, he says: "I am also enclosing my revised translation of The Hidden Words of Bahá'u'lláh, both Arabic and Persian, and hope to send you more of His Words and Teachings in future." On 27 April of that same year Shoghi Effendi again writes to the American National Assembly: I am also enclosing my rendering of various passages of the Kitábu'l-Aqdas which you may feel at liberty to circulate among the friends." In November of that same year he wrote to that same Assembly that he was forwarding "Transliterated Oriental Terms ...confident that the friends will not feel their energy and patience taxed by scrupulous adherence to what is an authoritative, though arbitrary code for the spelling of Oriental terms." There is no doubt that transliteration is irksome and often confusing, but what the average person does not realize is that through transliteration the exact word is nailed down and those who are familiar with the system know immediately what the original words was because they can reconstruct it in Arabic or Persian. For scholars and critics of the Faith this accuracy is very important. It also serves the purpose of doing away with multiple and confusing spellings of the same word.
It is interesting to note that Shoghi Effendi himself, in the above quotation, spells Kitáb-i-Aqdas more or less phonetically as he hadPage 206
not yet introduced the system of transliteration he later adopted. A word should be said about this Most Holy Book, for, although it is the source of the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh, it is a small volume and mostly contains other subjects. By the time he passed away Shoghi Effendi had already given to the Bahá'ís of the West, in excellent English, most of the passages it contains as well as all the laws he felt were applicable at this time to Bahá'ís living in non-Bahá'í societies. He not only translated and circulated passages from the teachings; he also ensured that the believers, through excess of zeal and lack of foresight, should not go too far in the manner in which they edited and printed Bahá'í compilations. In replying to certain proposals one of the friends had made regarding the printing of a comprehensive book of prayers, he wrote to the man who had conveyed this suggestions to him: "I agree with him provided the classification in not carried beyond what Bahá'u'lláh prescribes, otherwise we shall plunge into a hard and fast creed."
The writing, translation and promulgation of Bahá'í books were one of the Guardian's major interests, one he never tired of and one he actively supported. The ideal situation is for local and national communities to pay for their own activities, but in this Formative Age of our Faith and Guardian fully realized this was not always possible and from the funds at his disposal he assisted substantially throughout the years in financing the translation and publication of Bahá'í literature. In periods of emergency, when the attainment of cherished goals was at stake, Shoghi Effendi would fill the breach; thus we find that in one year alone he assisted the Indian National Assembly in its translation and publication programme with contributions of over two thousand pounds. The moment the American Intercontinental Conference, which opened the Ten Year Crusade, was over, we find Shoghi Effendi cabling the American National Assembly: "Urge immediate steps publication pamphlets languages allocated America." Two days later he is cabling the European Teaching Committee the same thing, only mentioning "European languages". Similar messages went to India and Britain and he assures the latter he will send one thousand pounds to assist them. He was constantly concerned with the wide diffusion of Bahá'í literature in different languages from the first days of his ministry, and alone was responsible for the majority of translations undertaken during the thirty-six years of his Guardianship. He seized every opportunity. A letter to a Pole, who was studying the teachings in Poland, is typical: ShoghiPage 207
Effendi tells him he is sending him the words of Queen Marie of Rumania about the Faith and asks him if he will translate these into Polish and send them back to him! This was in 1926, but the same enthusiasm and perseverance characterized his labours in this field up to the end of his life.
In addition to this he devoted much attention, during the early years of his Guardianship, when Esperanto was rapidly spreading, particularly in Europe, to encouraging the publication of a Bahá'í Esperanto Gazette, explaining to its editor that his interest was due to "my great desire to promote in such parts of the Bahá'í world as present circumstances permit the study of an international language".
Literature in all languages the Guardian collected in Haifa, placing books in his own library, in the two Pilgrim House libraries, in the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh in Bahji and in the International Archives. In this connection it is interesting to note how he placed them, for I never saw it done before: he would have, say, a lot of rather dull bindings, of some inexpensive edition, in grey and a lot more in blue of some other colour. With these he would fill his bookshelves in patterns, five red, two blue, five red and so on, using the variation in colour and number to add charm to the general effect of a bookcase that otherwise would have presented a monotonous and uninteresting appearance.
In a letter to Martha Root in 1931 he tells her "I have now in my room copies of seven printed translations" (these were Dr Esslemont's textbook) and urges her to press on with further translations, saying "I shall be only too glad to help in their eventual publication." A year later, writing to Siyyid Mustafa Roumie in Burma, the Guardian shows clearly what a satisfaction to him these new publications were. He says he is "...enclosing the sum of 9 pounds in order to assist and hasten the completion of the translation of the book into Burmese. 16 Sixteen printed translations have been already gathered together and placed in the Mansion of Bahá'u'lláh at Bahji close to His sacred shrine and the book is now being translated into sixteen 16 additional languages including the Burmese." By 1935 he is in a position to inform this same friend that "there are thirty-one printed versions of it in circulation already throughout the Bahá'í world."
There are innumerable cables in Shoghi Effendi's records such as these to Asgarzadeh in London: "Kindly wire minimum cost printing Esslemont's book in Russian"; having evidently receivedPage 208
a reply he cables again "Mailing forty pounds. Feel five hundred sufficient. First part of Russian manuscript mailed today. Rest mailing soon. Deeply appreciate your collaboration continued services." to Ouskouli in Shanghai he cabled: "Wire date publication Esslemont's book. Mail fifty copies. Love". Every now and then, in his busy preoccupied life, Shoghi Effendi would take stock and decide some aspect of the work needed an immediate and energetic shove. An example of this is four cables written down one after the other on the same day in 1932, to Martha Root in Europe, and to America, New Zealand and Burma: "Feel strongly necessity prompt translation Esslemont's into Czech, Hungarian, Rumanian, Greek as preliminary intensive teaching campaign Europe. Eager assist financially awaiting estimates. Love." "Feel strongly desirability undertaking promptly translation Esslemont's into Braille. Kindly cable if feasible. Love." "Inform B" ensure prompt translation Esslemont's book Maori." "Urge undertake promptly translation Esslemont's book into Burmese. Love". Getting impatient with the lack of results in various projects he had set afoot we find these cables later on that year: "Is French Esslemont published cable." "Eagerly awaiting Kurdish version Esslemont's book".
Shoghi Effendi encouraged various Bahá'ís to write about the Faith. To an English believer, Miss Pinchon, he cabled in 1927: "Your book admirable in presentation, exquisite in style. Urge speedy publication sending nineteen pounds"; to Horace Holley he cabled in 1926: "Kindly mail hundred copies your book. Affectionately". Shoghi Effendi not only paid to publish Bahá'í books, he often ordered them as well. He cabled America: "Kindly mail immediately for fifty dollars cheapest edition Esslemont's book. Mailing check."
Facts and events are more or less useless unless seen in the proper perspective, unless vision is applied to their interpretation. One of the marked aspects of Shoghi Effendi's genius was the way he plucked the significance of an occurrence, an isolated phenomenon, from the welter of irrelevancies associated with the international development of the Cause and set it in its historical frame, focusing on it the light of his appraising mind and making us understand what was taking place and what it signified now and forever. This was not a static thing, a picture of shapes and forms, but rather a description of where a leviathan was moving in an ocean - the leviathan of the co-ordinated movements inside thePage 209
Community of Bahá'u'lláh's followers moving in the ocean of His Dispensation. An Assembly was formed, someone died, a certificate was grated by some obscure governmental body - in themselves isolated facts and events - but to Shoghi Effendi's eyes they were part of a pattern and he made us see this pattern being woven before our eyes too. In the volumes of The Bahá'í World the Guardian did this not only for the believers but the public at large. He dramatized the progress of the Faith and a mass of scattered facts and unrelated photographs was made to testify to the reality of the claim of that Faith to be world-wide and all-inclusive.
It is interesting to not that the actual suggestion for a volume along the lines of The Bahá'í World came to Shoghi Effendi from Horace Holley in a letter he wrote in February 1924 - though I have no doubt that it was the breadth of vision of the young Guardian and the shape he was already giving to the work of the Cause in his messages to the West that, working on Horace's own creative mind, stimulated him to this concept. Shoghi Effendi seized on this idea and from then on Horace became Shoghi Effendi's primary instrument, as a gifted writer, and in his capacity as Secretary of the American National Spiritual Assembly, in making of The Bahá'í World the remarkable and unique book it became. Volume One, published in 1925 and called Bahá'í Year Book - which covered the period from April 1925 to April 1926 and comprised 174 pages - received its permanent title, in Volume Two, of The Bahá'í World, A Biennial International Record , suggested by that National Assembly and approved by Shoghi Effendi. At the time of the Guardian's passing twelve volumes had appeared, the largest running to over 1,000 pages. Although these were prepared under the supervision of the American National Assembly, published by its Publishing Committee, compiled by a staff of editors and dedicated to Shoghi Effendi, it would be more in conformity with the facts to call them Shoghi Effendi's Book. He himself acted as Editor-in-Chief; the tremendous amount of material comprised in each volume was sent to him by the American Assembly, with all photographs, before it appeared and his was the final decision as to what should go in and what be omitted. As six of these books were published during the period I was privileged to be with him I was able to observe how he edited them. With his infinite capacity for work Shoghi Effendi would go over the vast bundles of papers and photographs forwarded to him, eliminating the poorer and more irrelevant material; the various sections, following the TablePage 210
of Contents which he himself had arranged, would then be prepared and set aside until the entire manuscript was ready to be mailed back to America for publication. He always deplored the fact that the material was not for a higher standard. It is due solely to his determination and perseverance that the Bahá'í World volumes are as brilliant and impressive as they are. The editors (some of whom he had nominated himself), struggling against the forces of inertia that beset any body trying to achieve its ends through correspondence with sources thousands of miles away, and seeking to work through often inexperienced and inefficient administrative organs, would never have been successful in assembling the material required without the drive and authority of the Guardian behind their efforts. An interesting sidelight on this work is that Shoghi Effendi, after the book was published, had all the original manuscripts returned to Haifa and stored at the World Centre.
As soon as one volume was published he began himself to collect material for the next one. In addition to the repeated reminders he sent to the American National Assembly to do likewise, he sent innumerable letters and cables to different Assemblies and individuals. In one day, for instance, he cabled three National Assemblies: "National Assembly photograph for Bahá'í World essential"; he cabled such an isolated and out-of-the-way outpost as Shanghai for material he wanted. "Bahá'í World manuscript mailed. Advise speedy careful publication" was not an unusual type of message for the American Assembly to receive. It was Shoghi Effendi who arranged the order of the volume, had typed in Haifa the entire Table of Contents, had all the photographs titled, chose all the frontispieces, decided on the colour of the binding of the volume to appear, and above all gave exact instructions, in long detailed letters, to Horace Holley, whom he himself had chosen as the most gifted and informed person to write the International Survey of Current Bahá'í Activities, to which he attached great importance. "Detailed letter mailed for International Survey confident your masterly treatment collected data" he cabled him. An example of how comprehensive and painstaking Shoghi Effendi's letters on this subject were is provided by the following excerpts from a letter to Horace, written by Shoghi Effendi's secretary, but I have little doubt dictated by the Guardian himself: "This material Shoghi Effendi has carefully examined, altered, arranged, enriched by adding fresh material that he has collected, put them in their final form and will mail the entire manuscript to yourPage 211
address before the end of this month...He has devoted considerable time to its minute examination and arrangement and has found the work very exacting and arduous...He wishes to stress the importance of adhering strictly to the order he has adopted. He hopes that, unlike the previous volume, nothing will be misplaced."
What Shoghi Effendi himself thought of The Bahá'í World he put down in writing. As early as 1927, when only one volume had been published, he wrote to a non-Baha'i: "I would strongly advise you to procure a copy of the Bahá'í Year Book...which will give you a clear and authoritative statement of the purpose, the claim and the influence of the Faith." In a general letter addressed, in 1928, "To the beloved of the Lord and the hand-maids of the Merciful throughout the East and West", and entirely devoted to the subject of The Bahá'í World , Shoghi Effendi informs them: "I have ever since its inception taken a keen and sustained interest in its development, have personally participated in the collection of its material, the arrangement of its contents, and the close scrutiny of whatever data it contains. I confidently and emphatically recommend it to every thoughtful and eager follower of the Faith, whether in the East or in the West..." He wrote that its material is readable, attractive, comprehensive and authoritative; its treatment of the fundamentals of the Cause concise and persuasive, and its illustrations thoroughly representative; it is unexcelled and unapproached by any other Bahá'í publication of its kind. this book Shoghi Effendi always visualized as being - indeed he designed it to be - eminently suitable for the public, for scholars, to place in libraries and as a means, as he put it, of "removing the malicious misrepresentations and unfortunate misunderstandings that have so long and so grievously clouded the luminous Faith of Bahá'u'lláh."
It was a book that he himself often gave as a gift to royalty, to statesmen, to professors, universities, newspaper editors and non-Bahá'ís in general, mailing it to them with his simple personal card "Shoghi Rabbani" enclosed. The reaction of one of these - an American professor - conveys very clearly the impression the gift Shoghi Effendi had sent him produced: "Two copies of Bahá'í World have reached us...I cannot tell you how much I appreciate being able to study the book, which is exceedingly interesting and inspiring in every way...I congratulate you especially for developing the literature, and keeping alive such a wholesome spirit amongst the persons of many different groups who look to you forPage 212
leadership." But perhaps the greatest tribute to the calibre of this publication, into which Shoghi Effendi poured throughout the years so much time and care, was that a proud Queen should write for it special tributes to the Faith and consent that these and her own photograph should appear as frontispieces in its various volumes. "No words", Shoghi Effendi wrote to Martha Root in 1931, upon receiving from her one of Queen Marie's specially written tributes, "can adequately express my pleasure at the receipt of your letter enclosing the precious appreciation which will constitute a valuable and outstanding contribution to the forthcoming issue of the Bahá'í World."
It is difficult to realize, looking back upon Shoghi Effendi's achievements, that he actually wrote only one book of his own, as such, and this was God Passes By published in 1944. Even The Promised Day Is Come , written in 1941, is a 136-page-long general letter to the Bahá'ís of the West. This fact alone is a profound indication of the deeply modest character of the man. He communicated with the Bahá'ís because he was appointed to guide them, because he was the Custodian of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh; he was impelled by forces stronger than himself over which he had no control. Aside from the stream of letters of moderate length that constantly flowed from him to the Bahá'ís of the West and their National Assemblies, there are certain general letters of a different nature, some addressed to the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada, some to the Bahá'ís of the West, which have been gathered together in one volume under the title of The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh Further Considerations were written in 1929 and 1930 respectively; they were designed to clarify for the believers the true meaning and purpose of their Faith, its tenets, its implications, its destiny and future and to guide the unfolding and slowly maturing Community in North America and in the West to a better understanding of its duties, its privileges and its destiny. This was followed in 1931 by a letter known as The Goal of a New World Order , which with a new mastery and assurance in its tone, rises above the level of a letter to co-workers in a common field and begins to reflect the extraordinary power of exposition of thought that must characterize a great leader and a great writer. In a letter of the Guardian written in January 1932 his secretary, obviously referring to The Goal of a New World Order , states: "Shoghi Effendi wrote his lastPage 213
general letter to the Western friends because he felt that the public should be made to understand the attitude the Bahá'í Faith maintains towards prevailing economic and political problems. We should let the world know what the real aim of Bahá'u'lláh was." Shoghi Effendi associated this letter with the tenth anniversary of `Abdu'l-Bahá'í passing and in it dwells at length on the condition of the world and the change which must be brought about between its component parts in the light of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá.
The Golden Age of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh followed in 1932 and was a masterly exposition of the Divinity of His Faith which, Shoghi Effendi wrote, feeds itself upon "hidden springs of celestial strength". Once again he clarified the relationship of this Dispensation to those of the past and to the solution of the present problems facing the world. In 1933 he gave the North American Bahá'ís America and the Most Great Peace , which dealt largely with the role this part of the world has been destined by God to play during this period in history, recalled the self-sacrificing journeys and services of the Master in the West and recapitulated the victories already won for the Faith by this favoured Community. The weighty treatise known as The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh , written in 1934, burst upon the Bahá'ís like a blinding white light. I remember when I first read it I had the most extraordinary feeling as if the whole universe had suddenly expanded around me and I was looking out into its dazzling star-filled immensity; all the frontiers of our understanding flew outwards; the glory of this Cause and the true station of its Central Figures were revealed to us and we were never the same again. One would have through that the stunning impact of this one communication from the Guardian would kill puniness of soul forever! However Shoghi Effendi felt in his inmost heart about his other writings, I know from his remarks that he considered he had said all he had to say, in many ways, in the Dispensation.
In 1936 he wrote The Unfoldment of World Civilization ; once again, as he so often did, Shoghi Effendi links this to the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá. It was a further exposition of the state of the world, the rapid political, moral and spiritual decline evident in it, the weakening of both Christianity and Islam, the dangers humanity in its heedlessness was running, and the strong, divine, hopeful remedy the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh had to offer. Important and educative as these wonderful letters of the Guardian werePage 214
they provided, in their wealth of apposite quotations from Bahá'u'lláh's own words which the Guardian had translated and lavishly cited, spiritual sustenance for the believers, for we know that the World of the Manifestation of God is the food of the soul. They also contained innumerable beautifully translated passages from the beloved Master's Tablets. All this bounty the Guardian spread for the believers in feast after feast, nourished them and raised up a new strong generation of servants in the Faith. His words fired their imagination, challenged them to rise to new heights, drove their roots deeper in the fertile soil of the Cause.
It is really during the 1930's that one sees a change manifest in Shoghi Effendi's writings. With the rapier of his pen in hand he now stands forth revealed as a giant. Where before one could trace a certain diffidence, an echo of the affliction of soul he had passed through after the ascension of the Master and his assumption of his high office, the crying out of his heart in its longing for the departed beloved of his life, now the tone changes and a man speaks forth his assurance with great confidence and strength. The warrior now knows what war is. He has been surprised, beset, wounded by vicious and spiritually perverse enemies. Something of the tender and trusting youth has gone forever. This change is manifest not only in the nature and power of his directives to the Bahá'í world, the fashion in which he is shaping the administration East and West and welding into a whole the disparate and diversified communities of which it is composed, but in a beauty and assurance in his style that steadily gathers glory as the years go by.
Concurrent with the period when these first illuminating letters on such major subjects were streaming from the pen of Shoghi Effendi, he undertook the translation of two books. In a letter written on 4 July 1930 Shoghi Effendi says "I feel exceedingly tired after a strenuous year of work, particularly as I have managed to add to my labours the translation of the Iqan, which I have already sent to America." This was the first of his major translations, Bahá'u'lláh's great exposition on the station and role of the Manifestations of God, more particularly in the light of Islamic teachings and prophecies, known as the Kitáb-i-Iqan of Book of Certitude. It was an invaluable adjunct to the western Bahá'ís in their study of the Faith they had embraced and infinitely enriched their understanding of Divine Revelation.