Shoghi Effendi - The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith
Updated: Jan 12, 2019
The Era of the Guardian : The Work of Shoghi Effendi
On 28 November 1921, `Abdu'l-Bahá passed away peacefully in His sleep. Like His father, `Abdu'l-Bahá was concerned with the potential for religious schism after His passing. So He, too, left a clear and explicit will and testament--an extension of the Covenant established by Bahá'u'lláh.
In that document, `Abdu'l-Bahá appointed His oldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, to succeed Him as Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. The Guardianship was an institution anticipated by Bahá'u'lláh.
In this office, Shoghi Effendi was the authoritative interpreter of the Bahá'í teachings.
Born in Acre on 1 March 1897, Shoghi Effendi spent much of his early childhood at `Abdu'l-Bahá's knee. He attended the American University in Beirut, and then Oxford University in England-which gave him a superb knowledge of the English language and of Western culture.
During Shoghi Effendi's ministry, the Bahá'í Faith became a truly global religion. At the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá's passing;in 1921, there were 100,000 Bahá'ís. Most were Iranian, and most lived in Iran or other countries in the Middle East. A handful of followers lived in India, Europe, and North America--about 35 countries in all. Some 36 years later, by the time of Shoghi Effendi's passing in 1957, there were about 400,000 Bahá'ís, and they resided in more than 250 countries, territories and colonies.
The letters of Shoghi Effendi also developed guidelines for the system of elections and group decision-making that has become one of the Bahá'í Faith's distinguishing features. He wrote letters to fledgling Bahá'í institutions that explained the implications of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings on issues ranging from family life to world government. He elaborated on the relationship of the Bahá'í Faith to other religions and doctrines. His lucid and incisive writings further helped to clarify the distinctive Bahá'í views on matters of ethics, theology and history.
Perhaps most important, insofar as the growth of the Bahá'í Faith is concerned, Shoghi Effendi's letters to the Bahá'í world provided a continuing source of encouragement and support. Although the Bahá'í Faith today enjoys wide respect, to become a Bahá'í in the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s was to expose oneself to suspicion and ridicule.
Shoghi Effendi's clear vision of the Bahá'í Faith as God's revelation to our age, and his certainty of its ultimate triumph, helped to invigorate a generation of believers who, though few in number, were responsible for having spread Bahá'u'lláh's message to every corner of the globe.
"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." - Shoghi Effendi
Hand of the Cause, Ugo Giachery, described Shoghi Effendi wonderfully in the following recollection:
Humility of a kind not yet known elsewhere was one of Shoghi Effendi's many unique virtues, a humility which came from the conviction that man's faculties are not self-created but are a precious trust from God, not to be displayed or used overbearingly or with vanity. And yet he emanated true pride and dignity, such a regal dignity that raised him far above any man I have yet met or known.
When conversing with him, one could strongly sense this feeling of humility, while his ample brow and penetrating eyes reflected an inner light born of faith, courage and determination. One could feel an awareness that was amazing and rendered one speechless.
Shoghi Effendi's selflessness was not only outstanding but exemplary. He never placed his personal interests or desires ahead of his functions as Guardian. Those who were near to him inevitably felt that his life was something to be fully expended in the service of God and humanity, in a dedication unlike that of any other human being. When close to him I always felt the powerful process of his sublimation to the reality of the unseen world, while his body was there, near to me, like a visible, finely-tuned musical instrument whose melodies, imperceptible to the human ear, vibrated unseen through the ether.
He was always ready to give comfort, verbally or in writing, to encourage, to praise and to stimulate to such a degree that one felt the urge to place at his disposal life, time and possessions within the range of one's capacity and emotional exaltation. This was the essence of his detachment from worldly things. The less he thought of himself, the higher he soared in the sphere of spiritual authority and prestige. This was perhaps the secret of his tremendous attraction and influence upon those who came close to him.