AN OPEN LETTER TO THE

HETERODOX BAHÁ’ÍS

 

During the 36-year ministry of the first Guardian of the Faith, Shoghi Effendi, the Bahá’ís proclaimed their undying fidelity to the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh and to the appointed Centre of that Covenant, `Abdu’l-Bahá. In `Abdu’l-Bahá they recognised, not only the Centre to whom all should turn following the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh as the sole Interpreter of the Holy Word but the true Exemplar of their Faith and the "perfect Architect" of a divinely-conceived Administrative Order – an Order, unique in religious history and the distinguishing feature of their Faith. As SEffendi has said "this Order constitutes the very pattern of that divine civilisation which the almighty Law of Bahá’u’lláh is designed to establish upon earth." Bahá’u’lláh, Himself, extolled this future Order as "this unique, this wondrous System the like of which mortel eyes have never witnessed."

As every Bahá’í knows, this unique Administrative Order was delineated by the unerring Pen of `Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will and Testament, a Document acclaimed by Shoghi Effendi as the very "Child of the Covenant", for he explained: "The creative energies released by the Law of Bahá’u’lláh, permeating and evolving within the mind of `Abdu’l-Bahá, have by their very impact and close interaction given birth to an Instrument which may be viewed as the Charter of the New World order which is at once the glory and promise of this most great Dispensation. The Will may thus be acclaimed as the inevitable offspring resulting from that mystic intercourse between Him Who communicated the generating influence of His divine Purpose and the One Who was its vehicle and chosen recipient. Being the Child of the Covenant – the Heir of both the Originator and the Interpreter of the Law of God – the Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Bahá can no more divorced from Him Who supplied the original and motivating impulse than from the One Who ultimately conceived it." Hence, as Shoghi Effendi has stated, this momentous Document should be considered as "Their Will." Moreover, in expatiating on the sacred character of this divine Charter, Shoghi Effendi conferred on this Document a rank co equal with The Most Holy Book revealed, by Bahá’u’lláh – the Kitáb-i-Aqdas – stating that "A study of these sacred documents will reveal the close relationship that exists between them" and "that they are not only complementary, but that they mutally confirm one another and are inseparable parts of one complete unit." And he has said further "For nothing short of the . . . provisions of their Will could possibly safeguard the Faith for which They have both so gloriously labored all Their lives."

As the Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Bahá – His "greatest legacy to posterity" – constitutes a part of the explicit Holy Text, it is clear that not one jot or tittle of this Document may be annulled, altered or amended for as long as the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh endures. Therefore, "This Divine Masterpiece which the hand of the Master-builder of the world has designed for the unification and the triumph of the world-wide Faith of Bahá’u’lláh," must, remain immutable and inviolable for no less than a full thousand years.

How then can any Bahá’í claiming to accept the divine origin and immutability of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Charter and its co-equal rank with The Most Holy Book reconcile this belief with the insidious doctrine promulgated by some that God has changed His Mind ("BADA") concerning the continuity of the guardianship of the Cause? And, consequently those provisions of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Charter pertaining to the supreme institutions of the Bahá’í Administrative Order have become null and void a mere thirty-six years following the inception of the Order due to the alleged inability or failure of Shoghi Effendi to appoint a successor under the terms of that Charter.

It should be clear, even to a non-Bahá’í observer that in the light of the foregoing, such a conclusion would constitute nothing less than a flagrant repudiation of the previously professed belief of the Bahá’ís in the immutability of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Charter. Indeed to believe that Shoghi Effendi was unable or failed to appoint his successor is to place him in the position of being a party to the destruction of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. For to put an end to the guardianship, the very heart and Centre of the Cause – is to also destroy the two remaining supreme institutions of the Administrative Order which depend on the presence of a living Guardian of the faith, namely, the Universal House of Justice of which the guardian is "the sacred head and distinguished member for life" and the Hands of the Cause who are appointed only by him.

Those familiar with the auspicious record of Shoghi Effendi’s untiring labors during the ministry to erect the machiney of the Bahá’í order throughout the world and his copious writngs pertaining to the distinguishing features of the Order will vouch that they bear eloquent testimony to the depths of his devotion, dedication, and undeviating fidelity to `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Testament and his unwavering resolve to faithfully discharge every mandate bequeathed to us in that Charter as well as His other Charter: "The Tablets of the Divine Plan." One may search his writings and not find a single phrase in them or in his historic messages to the Bahá’í world alluding to anything but the indispensability and the continuity of the guardianship down through the ages to come of the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh.

Indeed faithful to this sacred trust, Shoghi Effendi carefully provided for the continuity of the guardianship and publicly announced the appointment of his successor to the Bahá’í world at the time. This being the case why was it that this all-important appointment was not recognized by the Bahá’ís either then or following the passing of Shoghi Effendi? The answer is to be found in the erroneous beliefs and notions unfortunately held by most, if not all, of the Bahá’ís as to the manner in which Shoghi Effendi would appoint his successor coupled with equally fallacious views at to the qualifications that his successor was required to possess. As Shoghi Effendi had been appointed to his supreme Office in the Faith through the instrumentality of the Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Bahá they automatically assumed (without re-examining the phraseology of the Will) that Shoghi Effendi would employ a similar instrument to appoint his successor whereas if they had closely re-examined the language of `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Testament they would have noted that it is mandatory for the Guardian to appoint his successor "in his own lifetime. . . that differences may not arise after his passing." Thus, it may be seen that the guardians of the Faith are barred from using a testamentary-type document in the appointment of their successors. The Bahá’ís held an equally false notion as to the qualifications of the Guardian’s successor believing that only the Guardian’s son could inherit the guardianship (Shoghi Effendi had no offspring) whereas `Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will permits the Guardian to choose another male believer ("branch" – not Branch) whose fidelity and service to the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh – the "Tree of the Covenant"– has qualified him to be a spiritual "branch" of that glorious Tree.

Spiritually blinded, as they were (and still are), by these preconceived ideas and notions (so reminiscent of religious history) it is little wonder that the Bahá’ís, as a whole are ill-prepared to perceive the significance of the act taken by Shoghi Effendi to assure the continuity of the guardianship and to recognise the unique and ingenious manner in which he accomplished the appointment of his succesor (a public yet veiled appointment).

Some five years prior to his passing, Shoghi Effendi issued the only Proclamation of his ministry on 9 January 1951, using the form of a cablegram significantly addressed to the "National Assemblies of the East and West." In this historic Proclamation he proclaimed the "weighty epoch-making decision of the formation of the first International Bahá’í Council" hailing this decision to form the "first embryonic International Institution" as the "most signifcant milestone in the evolution of the Administrative Order of the Faith" since the Ascension of `Abdu’l-Bahá (30 years earlier). Further extolling this event, he stated that history would acclaim the constitution, at long last, of the International Council "the greatest event shedding light upon the second epoch of the Formative Age of the Bahá’í Dispensation potentially unsurpassed by any enterprise undertakren smce the inception of the Administrative Order . . ." The sigficance of this "milestone" lay, of course in the fact that Shoghi Effendi had established the embryonic Universal House of Justice. As we know from the Writings, the growth and development of all beings is gradual and "the embryo possesses from the first all perfections." (pp. 312-313, BWF). This divine and universal principle applies equally to the organisms of the embryonic World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. Therefore, the Universal House of Justice established in its embryonic form by Shoghi Effendi was a complete and whole organism "from the first." Consider, therefore the significance of Shoghi Effendi’s appointment of a head (or President) of this body – an organism which he stated would evolve through four successive stages in its development towards maturity. All Bahá’ís know that according to the Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Bahá only the Guardian of the Faith serves as the "sacred head and the distinguished member for life of that body." In this undeniable fact lay the hidden key to recognising Shoghi Effendi’s appointed successor. For he named a Bahá’í of recognised unsurpassed service, devotion and fidelity to the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh since the earliest days of `Abdu’l-Bahá to be the head or Presidont of this embryonic body – one whom he had summoned to take up permanent residence in Haifa but a short time earlier to assist him in the work at the World Administrative Centre of the Faith. Significantly Shoghi Effendi had chosen not to assume the Presidency of this body, himself, and at the same time he did not permit its appointed head to activate this embryonic Institution during the remaining few years of his life, for to have done so would have caused this organism to emerge from its embryonic state into full and active life – a state that necessarily had to await his passing. Coincident with his passing the successor-Guardian-President of the Universal House of Justice (Guardian and President of the UHJ being synonymous titles) would automatically assume active leadership of the Faith (with no break, even for a moment, in the continuity of the guardianship). To choose this method to appoint his successor was, indeed, ingenious for, while Shoghi Effendi made this appointment, as required, "in his own life-time" he, at the same time, veiled the appointment in such a way it did not become obvious to the believers. Had they perceived the significance of the appointment of a man much older than Shoghi Effendi as his successor they could not have then escaped the realisation that this appointment portentended the death of Shoghi Effendi in the near future (his passing was some 6 years later). Certainly such a realisation unquestionably would have produced consternation amongst the belevers and given rise to chaotic conditions within the Faith. Tragically, as it turned out, the veil with which Shoghi Effendi had purposely enshrouded the appointment of his successor became even more impenetrable following his passing for the reasons outlined earlier with dire consequences for the future of the Faith.

Not finding a Will and Testament following the passing of Shoghi Effendi and blinded by their preconceived ideas as cited above, the Bahá’ís hastily concluded that Shoghi Effendi had no successor, thereby renouncing their faith in the divinely-conceived Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Bahá. In place of the "divinely ordained" institution delineated in that Holy Charter they erected an organisation of their own making that was but a poor substitute for the divine System bequeathed to us by `Abdu’l-Bahá.

In their organisation:

There is no longer a Guardian – "Centre of the Cause."

The interpretive authority of Holy Writ vested solely in the Guardian and vitally essential to safeguarding the Faith from future schism is forever lost.

The institution of the Hands of the Cause cease to exist, as only the Guardian can appoint Hands.

The Universal House of Justice brought into existence by Shoghi Effendi in 1951 with its appointed "sacred head" has been supplanted by a headless body which lacks the essential presence of the Guardian to provide it with the guidance and protection to assure that no legislation is enacted tha would run counter to the Laws revealed by Bahá’u’lláh.

Such, then, are the frightful implications of a Guardianless Faith. The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh – that "Wondrous System" extolled br Bahá’u’lláh and delineated by the infallible Pen of `Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will and Testament can never become a reality when the supreme organs of that divinely-conceived Order have all been destroyed or replaced by man-made institutions.

The Orthodox Bahá’ís adhere to a Faith that has remained unchanged since the days of the first Guardian of the Faith. They hope and pray that those Bahá’ís who have permitted themselves to be led astray and persuaded to abandon the divine Order bequeathed to us by `Abdu’l-Bahá will return to the Fold of the Covenant with the realisation that the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh and its glorious offspring, the "Child of the Covenant" – the Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Bahá – are indestructible and inviolable.

 

 

Joel Bray Marangella
Third Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith