THE FOURTH AND FINAL LETTER TO RÚHÍYYIH KHÁNUM FROM THE THIRD GUARDIAN – NAW-RÚZ 1999



PREFACE



Four letters have been addressed to Rúhíyyih Khánum, the last of which was sent to her on Naw-Rúz, 1999. They remain unanswered to date. As a decade has passed since my third letter, it is believed that the time has come to reveal their contents to the Bahá'ís at large and accordingly place them together in a single volume for open publication. This preface should be particularly informative to recently declared believers who have embraced the Faith many years since the passing of Shoghi Effendi, the first beloved Guardian of the Faith, and who, therefore, may be unacquainted with the background of Rúhíyyih Khánum, his widow, and the role that she played, following his sudden and unexpected passing in November 1957, that supported the tragic abandonment of the institution of the Guardianship by the vast majority of believers in the Bahá'í world and the consequent mutilation of the institutions of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh – "this unique, this wondrous System – the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed."

Rúhíyyih Khánum, born Mary Maxwell, was the daughter of William Sutherland Maxwell and May Maxwell, distinguished Canadian Bahá'ís whose meritorious and exemplary services to the Faith over the years were duly recognized by Shoghi Effendi when he elevated them to the rank of Hands of the Cause. Sutherland Maxwell, as he was better known, was the distinguished architect of the magnificent superstructure of the Báb's Sepulcher situated on the slopes of Mount Carmel in Haifa. His illustrious wife, one of the earliest believers and "'Abdu'l-Bahá's beloved handmaid and distinguished disciple," established the Faith in Paris during the early years of this century and became known as "the mother of Paris." She further embellished her long and glowing record of devoted and exemplary service to the Faith by winning a martyr's crown as a result of her final heroic and dedicated act of pioneering service for the Faith when she courageously set out, alone and in the late evening of her life, for Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she, soon afterwards, laid down her precious life.

Having been blessed with parents so completely devoted to the Faith, Mary Maxwell had inevitably been inspired by them to follow in their footsteps and had become imbued at an early age with the same devotion to the Faith. She was well qualified to promote the Faith as she possessed not only a sound knowledge of the teachings but was endowed with such additional helpful attributes as beauty, charm, a high level of intelligence and the ability to express herself extremely well, both verbally and in writing.

It was while she was on a pilgrimage in 1937 to the sacred Bahá'í Shrines in the Holy Land that she met and was asked by Shoghi Effendi to become his wife. They were married the same year. During the twenty years of Rúhíyyih Khánum's marriage to Shoghi Effendi she distinguished herself by her devoted and selfless service to the Guardianship not only because of the duties she performed so well as a gracious hostess to the pilgrims that visited the World Center but more particularly because of her valuable assistance to Shoghi Effendi in a secretarial capacity for much of this period as she answered, on his behalf, so beautifully and efficiently, the many personal letters he received, written in English, for which he had only the time, himself, to add a brief hand-written postscript.

She had enjoyed an unique position during these years to observe, at first hand, Shoghi Effendi's long and arduous labors to erect the machinery of the Bahá'í Administrative Order throughout the world in faithful and complete compliance with the provisions of the divinely-conceived Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá – "the Charter of the New World Order" – and to witness, as his ministry drew to a close, the culminating and crowning achievement of these labors which he had so joyfully announced in a message to the Bahá'í world on 30 June 1952 with the following words:

"At the World Center of the Faith where, at long last, the machinery of its highest institutions has been erected, and around whose most holy shrines the supreme organs of its unfolding Order, are in their embryonic form, unfolding..."

As evident had been her devotion and loyalty to Shoghi Effendi, as the Guardian of the Faith, and "Center of the Cause" during his ministry, her strongly held conviction in the continuing essentiality of the Guardianship, as an Institution, to the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, down through the future years to come of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh had been emphatically expressed in two of the works written by her. For example, in her work titled: "Teaching Problems" she stated:

"Belief in the Center of the Covenant (at present Shoghi Effendi, the Center of the Master's Covenant) and love for him are the shield and the sword of a Bahá'í. He can conquer with them, without them he is defenseless."

In her paper titled: "Twenty Five Years of the Guardianship" she wrote:

"For the first time in history, a religion has been given to men which cannot be split up into sects, for the two Wills – those of Bahá'u'lláh and the Master are so strongly constructed and so authentic beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is impossible to divorce the body of the teachings from their provisions. The principle of successorship, [as found in the Guardianship] endowed with the right of Divine interpretation, is the very hub of the Cause into which its Doctrines and Laws fit like the spokes of a wheel – tear out the hub and you have to throw away the whole thing."

Some 30 years had passed since the death of Shoghi Effendi when my first letter was addressed to Rúhíyyih Khánum at Ridván 1988 and more than 35 years had elapsed since my wife and I had made our pilgrimage to the Holy Land (28 November-7 December 1952) and experienced the great joy and privilege of meeting and talking with Shoghi Effendi every evening as we, together with those members of the International Bahá'í Council permanently residing in Haifa, (of whom there were seven, including its President) joined him at the dinner table in the Western Pilgrim House for the evening meal (the day of our departure being an exception when he honored us with his presence at lunch as we were departing in the afternoon). It was at the very outset of our second memorable evening together that Shoghi Effendi, made a startling, completely unexpected and highly disturbing observation about himself that precipitated such an immediate physical and highly emotional reaction on the part of Rúhíyyih Khánum that she jumped up from the table and in tears rushed out of the room. As shocking and unforgettable as his remarks had been to me, it was only after I had read her book published in 1988 titled: "The Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith" (having read it subsequent to my first letter to her) that I noted, to my great surprise and incredulity, the following statement: "I could never have survived the slightest foreknowledge of the Guardian's death" which clearly indicated, to my great surprise, that she had completely forgotten the statement he had made to us that evening in 1952 that had caused such a marked reaction on her part. Although I had reminded her of this event in my first letter, I felt compelled, upon reading the lines from her book quoted above, to write my second letter reminding her again of the fateful words that Shoghi Effendi had spoken on that memorable evening so long ago and the nature of her reaction to them. She was also reminded of another equally significant statement that he had made on the same evening when in the process of discussing the future development of the International Bahá'í Council he had actually identified the one who would become his successor, but in such an indirect and wholly unanticipated manner that he certainly realized that all of us seated around the table would fail to perceive this fact. For, it had been in the way that he had phrased a question, he had directed to the President of the Council that we would have gleaned this surprising information, had we been truly perceptive. However, Shoghi Effendi had undoubtedly been aware of the preconceived ideas and misconceptions on the matter of succession that were held, not only by us, but by all of the believers (as confirmed, indeed, by future events) which would serve to completely veil from us the significance and impact of his words. And more than that, we would fail to perceive from his discussion of the second stage in the evolution of the Council within a specific timeframe that he had set that he had further confirmed, in an indirect way, if we had been able to perceive it, his earlier remarks on the same evening that had been so disconcerting and particularly so to Rúhíyyih Khánum. The reader should not be led to believe from the foregoing that because Shoghi Effendi had spoken to us personally of these significant matters that we who were gathered around the table that evening had been made privy to information that had not been made available to the Bahá'ís at large. It would have been possible for someone who was truly perceptive to derive the same information from such sources as Shoghi Effendi's Proclamation of 9 January 1951 to the Bahá'í world (in cablegram form) and from subsequent momentous messages he had dispatched at the time, taken together with the information outlined in his published plans on the goals to be achieved during the Ten Year Global Crusade (1953-1963) as they pertained to the development of the newly-appointed International Bahá'í Council. On the other hand, in retrospect, it is obvious why Shoghi Effendi chose to draw an obscuring veil over the information that he had revealed to us in such an indirect way that evening in Haifa. For, if he had done otherwise, and openly revealed this information to the Bahá'í world, it would have produced incredulity, consternation and such chaos that it would have unquestionably severely impeded, at the very least, our teaching efforts and the achievement of the goals that Shoghi Effendi had set for us in the Ten Year Global Crusade (1953-1963). It is also particularly clear why he could not have confided the name of his successor-to-be to Rúhíyyih Khánum as it would have informed her that he knew that his death was not far off (all spiritually advanced souls knowing when their end shall be) and he had known, as well, as we have learned from her book about Shoghi Effendi, that she could never have survived such foreknowledge.

It is perhaps understandable that Rúhíyyih Khánum, stricken with profound grief, and still suffering from a state of shock as a result of Shoghi Effendi's sudden passing on 4 November 1957 while on a trip to England, would have been very distraught and in less than a clear frame of mind to consider the matter of succession when the Hands of the Cause assembled in a conclave in 'Akká less than three weeks following his passing for the purpose of determining Shoghi Effendi's successor seemingly unmindful of the fact that such a conclave is not called for or, in fact, is required under the provisions of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá for the Guardian's successor must be appointed by him "in his own life-time" thereby precluding, even for a moment, any interregnum in the Guardianship and that he, therefore, had obviously already been appointed (as, indeed, he had been) but had not been recognized and should be looked for in their midst. Having looked for and not found a will and testament amongst Shoghi Effendi's papers (because the use of a will is precluded under the terms of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Testament) the Hands issued their proclamation on 25 November 1957 stating that "Shoghi Effendi had left no Will and Testament," a statement, in itself, that revealed the obvious fact that they could not have recently referred to the terms of 'Abdu-l-Bahá's Will which clearly specify that "It is incumbent upon the guardian of the Cause of God to appoint in his own life-time him that shall become his successor, that differences may not arise after his passing."And they further revealed a surprising lack of understanding of the meaning of certain passages of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament, not to mention their obvious and incredible loss of faith in the sacredness, and immutability of this immortal Document although it had been described by Shoghi Effendi as "the Child of the Covenant"and "the Charter of the New World Order" of Bahá'u'lláh, for they fallaciously stated in this same proclamation that "no successor to Shoghi Effendi could have been appointed by him."

Through the inclusion of the statements quoted above in their proclamation to the Bahá'í world these Hands apparently did not seem to realize that, they had, in effect, repudiated the major provisions of the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a Document that Shoghi Effendi had equated in its sacredness and immutability with the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and therefore an act, on their part, which can only be characterized as a flagrant violation of the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh. Furthermore, they had, however unwittingly and indirectly, accused Shoghi Effendi of imposture for they could not point to a single word in all that Shoghi Effendi had written on the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh that indicated anything other than the continuity of the Guardianship down through the future ages of the Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh. Nor had they seemed to realize that in one fell swoop they had dismantled forever the international institutions of the Administrative Order at the World Center of the Faith, as delineated by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, whose establishment, "at long last," Shoghi Effendi had acclaimed to the Bahá'í world with such joy but a few years before his passing. That Rúhíyyih Khánum, should have supported this stand, especially in the light of her words concerning the Guardianship, quoted above, and acquiesced in this shameful abandonment of the Guardianship by the Hands of the Cause (with a single notable exception) and should have continued to do so, as time went on, when the pain of Shoghi Effendi's loss should have become less intense and the clarity of her thinking should have been restored to a state of normalcy had been, in my view, incomprehensible and unpardonable, to say the least.

My third letter to Rúhíyyih Khánum was written because the Haifa Notes of Gayle Woolson, an American Bahá'í, had come to my attention only after writing my first two letters. Gayle had distinguished herself by her outstanding pioneering services for the Faith in several Latin American countries, the accounts of which can be found in several issues of the United States Bahá'í News at the time. The esteem and high regard in which she had been held by the newly declared Bahá'ís of South America are evidenced by the fact that she had been elected a member of the first National Spiritual Assembly of South America. She had made her pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the period February 16-25, 1956, less than two years prior to Shoghi Effendi's passing. The credibility of her Haifa Notes were certainly beyond question. She records in these notes the following highly important statement made by Shoghi Effendi to one of the Persian pilgrims who had obviously been concerned about the matter of succession when he questioned him about a son:

" EVERYTHING THAT IS WRITTEN IN THE WILL AND TESTAMENT WILL BE FULFILLED. THE BAHÁ'ÍS MUST NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT THIS. "

As this significant and unambiguous statement made by Shoghi Effendi can leave no doubt in the mind of the reader that Shoghi Effendi had undeniably made provision for the continuity of the Guardianship, as enjoined by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament, it was placed at the very top of my third letter to Rúhíyyih Khánum to attract her attention, even if she chose not to read its remaining contents, with the hopeful anticipation that this statement by Shoghi Effendi's that so undeniably indicated to anyone familiar with the provisions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will, the most important provision of which pertains to the matter of succession, that Shoghi Effendi had provided, without question, for the continuation of the Guardianship.

It was my fervent hope then that this would finally bring to her the frightening realization of her great error in abandoning the Guardianship and of her failure to exert the great influence that she possessed upon her fellow-Hands not to do likewise (an effort that would not have been required in the case of the only Hand of the Cause who had endeavored from the outset, and in numerous instances afterwards, to persuade them not to forsake the Guardianship) and that, having seen her tragic error, she would then have undertake a reexamination of the question of the continuity of the Guardianship and to reconsider with an open and unbiased mind the validity of the claim to the Guardianship set forth in the Proclamation of one of her fellow-Hands whom she had known well since childhood. For he was one whose meritorious services to the Faith over the years since that time had been in some respects unique and unsurpassed; one whose fidelity to and firmness in the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh as well as the nobility of his character had been frequently eulogized by 'Abdu'l-Bahá in Tablets addressed to both him and to others (published in issues of Star of the West); one who had been the earliest author of several publications about the Faith; one who had travelled to every continent of the globe for the purpose of assisting the believers in their teaching endeavors; one whose outstanding achievements for the Faith had been recognized by Shoghi Effendi when he had been elevated by him to the rank of a Hand of the Cause (in the first contingent of twelve living Hands named on 24 December 1951); one who had been the distinguished architect of several Bahá'í Temples as well as the International Archives building on Mount Carmel and the Western Pilgrim House, already constructed, and the architect chosen by 'Abdu'l-Bahá for the Temple to eventually be built on Mount Carmel; one who had been brought to Haifa by Shoghi Effendi in 1950 and advised that henceforth he should consider Haifa his permanent home; one whom Shoghi Effendi had especially honored, above all others in the Bahá'í world, by appointing him the President of the International Bahá'í Council – the embryonic Universal House of Justice – established in accordance with his Proclamation of 9 January 1951; one who had served as Shoghi Effendi's representative at appropriate official functions of the Israel government and finally, following Shoghi Effendi's passing in England as the sorrowful and grieving friends at his funeral gathered around the grave site in the cemetery in London where he was to be buried, the one who stood next to Rúhíyyih Khánum as they lowered the casket of Shoghi Effendi into the grave and upon whose shoulder she had laid her head as this sad event took place.

One might well ask if such an outstanding servant of Bahá'u'lláh with his matchless life-long and brilliant record of service to the Faith had not been deemed worthy to inherit the Guardianship of the Faith who would ever be worthy? Irrefutable evidence has been presented in these letters to Rúhíyyih Khánum that Shoghi Effendi did, indeed, consider him worthy and by appointing him as his successor "in his own life-time" faithfully preserved the Bahá'í Administrative Order for future generations to come in all of its divinely-conceived perfection and glory as delineated by the "master-hand of its perfect Architect."





Joel Bray Marangella