Shoghi Effendis liv og arbeid

Shoghi Effendis liv og arbeid

Shoghi Effendis liv og arbeid

For 36 years—from 1921 until his passing in 1957—Shoghi Effendi immersed himself completely in the work he had been appointed to shoulder as Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith. His guiding hand directed the evolution and growth of the Bahá’í community throughout the world at a critical stage in its development.

Early Life

Shoghi Effendi as a child.

Related to both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, Shoghi Effendi was born in ‘Akká while his Grandfather, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, was still a prisoner. From his earliest years, a staunchness of faith coupled with a deep devotion to his Grandfather motivated Shoghi Effendi’s every action. He wished to master the English language so that he could serve as a secretary and translator for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and so, in the spring of 1920, he left for Oxford University where he further developed his impressive command of English. 

When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá passed away in November 1921, Shoghi Effendi was devastated. In a state of profound grief, he learned that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will and Testament had appointed him the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith.

Despite his personal distress, Shoghi Effendi vigorously assumed his daunting responsibilities. He set out to execute the provisions of what he identified as three “charters” of the Bahá’í Faith: Bahá’u’lláh’s Tablet of Carmel, establishing the mandate for the development of the Bahá’í World Centre in the Holy Land; The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, outlining the framework for the evolution of the Bahá’í administration; and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Tablets of the Divine Plan, providing the guidelines for the global expansion of the Bahá’í community.

With the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Bahá’í Faith entered a new stage in its growth. What Shoghi Effendi described as its “apostolic era” or “heroic age” had passed, and its “formative age” had begun. His own position as Guardian involved a function and style of leadership quite different from that of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. 

In 1937, Shoghi Effendi married Mary Maxwell from Montreal, Canada, who became known to Bahá’ís by the title Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum. Years later, in a message to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, the Guardian described her as “my helpmate, my shield…and my tireless collaborator in the arduous tasks I shoulder.” 

Building the Bahá’í Administration

The development of Bahá’u’lláh’s administrative order was a major focus of Shoghi Effendi’s attention. As the Bahá’í institutions evolved, they would mobilize the community’s human and material resources, providing the necessary instruments for the implementation of the Divine Plan. First, a structure of elected local and national Bahá’í institutions was required to administer the affairs of the growing community. Shoghi Effendi guided these nascent institutions to carry out a wide range of essential activities, such as promoting the teachings, publishing literature, and organizing community life—all the while learning how to practice the method of consultative decision making prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh.

In 1937, 16 years after the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the administrative capacity in a number of countries had developed sufficiently that Shoghi Effendi could begin implementing plans to diffuse the Bahá’í teachings further afield and establish communities throughout the entire planet, in fulfilment of the objectives laid out in the Tablets of the Divine Plan. 

To spearhead and support this work, the Guardian began appointing the “Hands of the Cause of God”, a corps of outstanding Bahá’ís on every continent, whom he later designated as the “Chief Stewards of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth”. The function of this body of high-ranking believers was to lead initiatives in promoting the Bahá’í teachings, encourage learning, assist and educate the Assemblies in their duties, and provide moral leadership and encouragement. In 1951, Shoghi Effendi appointed the members of an International Bahá’í Council, which he described as the forerunner to the Universal House of Justice. In 1954, a global network of Auxiliary Board members to assist the Hands of the Cause was also formed. 

Expansion of the Bahá’í Community

In order to realize the aims of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Divine Plan—to establish the Bahá’í Faith in every land—the Guardian initially encouraged and assisted what was then a relatively small band of Bahá’ís to spread out across the planet. A few arose immediately. Foremost among them was an American journalist, Martha Root, who traversed the globe at least four times and shared the Bahá’í message with countless souls, among them Queen Marie of Romania—the first royal personage to embrace the teachings. Shoghi Effendi maintained regular correspondence with Martha Root and the numerous other intrepid individuals who left their homes to spread the Faith.

Shoghi Effendi as a young man.

As the number of Bahá’ís—and their capacity to act—increased, Shoghi Effendi systematically set about putting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s plan (as set out in the Tablets of the Divine Plan) into effect, giving a series of specific plans to a number of national Bahá’í communities to spread the Faith further afield. By 1953, the Bahá’ís were able to embark upon what he described as a “fate-laden, soul-stirring, decade-long, world-embracing Spiritual Crusade”. Through this campaign, the Bahá’ís throughout the world achieved astonishing results. When ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had passed away, some 35 countries were already opened to the Bahá’í Faith with a few having rudimentary organization at the national level. By the time of Shoghi Effendi’s passing in 1957, Bahá’ís resided in 219 new sovereign states, dependencies and major islands. By 1963, there were 56 nationally elected governing councils—known as National Spiritual Assemblies—as well as more than 4,500 Local Spiritual Assemblies, and Bahá’ís in more than 15,000 localities. 

The Bahá’í World Centre

With a keen sense of design, Shoghi Effendi planted beautiful gardens on Mount Carmel.

During his ministry, Shoghi Effendi began to construct in the Holy Land the heart and nerve-centre of a world-embracing Faith, overcoming what often seemed to be insurmountable material obstacles. 

Among the many tasks he shouldered in this regard, one was particularly weighty—to safeguard the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh and the buildings and land adjoining it. Securing the entirety of the property, and beautifying its environs, was a task that occupied him until the end of his life. 

In Haifa, he oversaw the construction of the superstructure for the Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel, which with its golden dome became known as the “Queen of Carmel”. He also laid out magnificent gardens around both Shrines and acquired, restored and beautified many other sites associated with Bahá’í history, including the surroundings of the resting places of the sister, brother, mother, and wife of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. 

To establish facilities for the world administrative centre of the Faith on Mount Carmel, Shoghi Effendi mapped out an “arc” on the mountainside, around which buildings housing the international institutions of the Bahá’í Faith would be situated. The first of these, the International Archives Building, was completed shortly before his passing. 

Crises and Victories

Throughout Shoghi Effendi’s ministry, he guided the Bahá’í community through numerous challenges: the German Bahá’ís were persecuted under Nazi rule; a number of Bahá’ís were arrested and interrogated in Turkey; the highly-developed community in ‘Ishqábád—following sustained persecution by the Soviet authorities in the 1920s and 1930s—was dispersed; further opposition to the Faith broke out in Iran; the house of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdad was seized and could not be regained.

A late photograph of Shoghi Effendi surveying garden developments at Bahjí.

With characteristic calm and perception, Shoghi Effendi saw the potential for triumph in every apparent crisis facing the Bahá’ís. For example, in Egypt the courts delivered a series of judgments which, while on the surface appeared to be adverse, were hailed by Shoghi Effendi as recognition of the independent nature of the Bahá’í Faith. While assisting the community to take action in national courts and on the international stage to defend their basic human rights, he also taught them to see difficulties as opportunities to carry forward the work of the Faith. 

The Passing of Shoghi Effendi

Despite carrying the enormous burden of duties and responsibilities, the Guardian devoted whatever time he could spare to greeting pilgrims visiting the Holy Land from both East and West. He met with them, encouraged and advised them, and shared news of the progress of the community worldwide. 

In November 1957—while he was visiting London for the purpose of purchasing furniture and ornaments for the buildings and gardens of the Bahá’í World Centre—Shoghi Effendi passed away suddenly at the age of 60. The Bahá’ís of the world were left in a state of profound grief. His final resting place is in the New Southgate Cemetery in north London. Today, it is a place of prayer and reflection for visitors from all over the world.

Veiledning og oversettelser

Veiledning og oversettelser

Veiledning og oversettelser

High on the list of priorities of any religious system must be the determination of the canon of its scripture and the application of these sacred writings to the circumstances of individual and community life. Empowered by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to be the sole authoritative interpreter of the Bahá’í Writings, Shoghi Effendi read world events in the light of the Bahá’í scriptures and shared with the Bahá’í community the results of these analyses in the form of letters. His role as interpreter of the sacred texts was of immeasurable importance to the development of the Bahá’í Faith, assuring to this day a unity of understanding that has protected the community from division. 

At the same time, nascent Bahá’í institutions around the world were deluging the Guardian with questions on an enormous range of subjects, and his answers to these inquiries also formed a significant portion of his interpretation of Bahá’u’lláh’s Revelation

In some 26,000 letters and thousands of cables, Shoghi Effendi offered guidance, inspiration and encouragement to individuals, groups and Bahá’í institutions.

The Guardian often signed his letters “Your true brother, Shoghi”

Around half of these letters were composed in Persian and Arabic. Among countless themes and concepts, Shoghi Effendi clarified, in exquisitely beautiful and powerful language, the laws and fundamental verities of the Faith; outlined the salient features of the responsibilities of the Universal House of Justice; set out the steps to be taken for the election and functioning of local and national Assemblies; and spelled out the obligations of individual Bahá’ís.

Among his letters, a few ran to the length of an entire book. Several volumes have been compiled of the most important of his letters and messages. Seven written between 1929 and 1936 were collected under the title The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. In them, the Guardian clarified the doctrinal verities at the core of the Bahá’í Faith, explored its mission in the world, explained the true stations of its Central Figures, and presented the structure and mandates of Bahá’í institutions. 

Another letter of Shoghi Effendi, published under the title, The Advent of Divine Justice (25 December 1938), called the Bahá’ís to a consistency of belief and language, and the rectitude of conduct necessary, to execute the tasks that lay ahead of it. Three years later, as conflict gripped the world, a letter published as The Promised Day Is Come (28 March 1941), reassured the Bahá’ís of the genesis, direction and necessity of the “titanic upheaval” humanity was experiencing. 

God Passes By

Shoghi Effendi wrote prolifically during his lifetime.

In the early 1940s Shoghi Effendi focused attention on the events of Bahá’í history and, in 1944, in commemoration of the centenary of the declaration of the Báb, he released God Passes By, his highly detailed study covering the entire century, from the Báb’s first announcement of His mission to the completion of the first “Seven Year Plan”.

Simultaneous to this, Shoghi Effendi penned a parallel work in Persian which similarly reviewed the history of the Bahá’í Faith and expounded on the features of the World Order enshrined in Bahá’u’lláh’s Writings

Translation Work 

Shoghi Effendi served as the principal translator of the Bahá’í Writings. He had studied English from his early childhood and, as a young man, was able to continue his studies at the American University of Beirut and subsequently at Oxford University, where he remained until the time of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s passing in 1921. Since the major administrative bodies of the Faith during the first critical decades of the Guardianship were located in English-speaking countries, Shoghi Effendi’s ability to express and interpret Bahá’í concepts in English provided an invaluable source of guidance to the Faith’s new followers in the Western World.

The Guardian’s superlative command of language and meticulous choice of words set the standard for all Bahá’í translations to follow. He rendered major works of Bahá’u’lláh into English—such as The Hidden Words (1929), The Kitáb-i-Íqan (1931) and the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (1941)—and organized extracts from them and other essential passages into the anthologies, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh(1935) and Prayers and Meditations of Bahá’u’lláh (1938). He translated countless other prayers and passages from Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and included them within his own letters. Shoghi Effendi also recreated in English an authentic account of the Faith’s early history, known as The Dawn-Breakers (1932).

Shoghi Effendis bortgang

Shoghi Effendis bortgang

Shoghi Effendis bortgang


On 4 November 1957, Shoghi Effendi passed away suddenly in London, following a bout of influenza. He was just 60 years old. Five days later, his funeral cortege made its way northwards across the city to what was then called the Great Northern London Cemetery, where the Guardian’s remains were interred.

The following year, a simple column was built over Shoghi Effendi’s grave, fashioned from the same white marble he had himself chosen for the resting places of his illustrious family members in Haifa. The column is surmounted by a globe, the outline of Africa facing forward to symbolize the great love that Shoghi Effendi had for the continent and the spirituality of its peoples. Atop the globe sits a large gilded bronze eagle, a reproduction of a Japanese sculpture which Shoghi Effendi had placed in his own room and admired for its realism and beauty. 

The Guardian’s resting place, today part of the New Southgate Cemetery, is a place of prayer and reflection for visitors from all over the world. 


The final resting place of Shoghi Effendi at the New Southgate Cemetery, London. Engraved into the column is a description of Shoghi Effendi from the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Behold he is the blest and sacred bough that has branched out from the Twin Holy Trees. Well is it with him that seeketh the shelter of his shade that shadoweth all mankind.”

The Bahá’í Community 1957-1963

Despite the overwhelming grief caused by the unexpected passing of the Guardian of their Faith—and the fact that the supreme, international governing body ordained by Bahá’u’lláh was yet to be elected—the Bahá’ís of the world succeeded in maintaining their unity and single focus in a remarkable manner. 

For five-and-a-half years—from Shoghi Effendi’s passing until the Universal House of Justice was able to take the reins of the Bahá’í Faith in 1963—the community’s one safe course was to follow with undeviating firmness the Guardian’s plan for the expansion and consolidation of the Bahá’í community. In this they were guided and encouraged by a body of experienced and devoted believers that Shoghi Effendi had himself raised up.

During His own lifetime, Bahá’u’lláh had appointed a few distinguished Bahá’ís as “Hands of the Cause of God”. Their role was formally defined by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will and Testament, where He emphasized and clarified their responsibilities, including protecting and propagating the Faith. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote that the Guardian must appoint and direct future Hands of the Cause. 

During the last six years of his life, Shoghi Effendi named 32 Bahá’ís as Hands of the Cause. When he passed away, 27 of them were still living. In a message penned just weeks before his passing, Shoghi Effendi referred to the Hands of the Cause of God as “the Chief Stewards of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth”.1

After Shoghi Effendi’s death, these “Chief Stewards” determined that they would have to exercise leadership of the Faith and move the Bahá’í world as swiftly as possible towards the election of the Universal House of Justice. This was welcomed with the complete agreement and loyalty of the National Spiritual Assemblies and the Bahá’ís around the world. Shortly after assuming temporary responsibility for the Faith, the Hands of the Cause announced that the election of the Universal House of Justice would take place in April 1963.

The Hands of the Cause assisted the Bahá’í community to achieve the objectives of a decade-long plan that the Guardian had initiated in 1953. Under their leadership, the number of National Spiritual Assemblies more than doubled from 26 when Shoghi Effendi passed away, to the 56 that elected the Universal House of Justice for the first time.

In strictly adhering to the explicit criteria established by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will and Testament for the appointment of future Guardians, Shoghi Effendi did not name a successor by the time of his passing. He did not have any children; nor was there any other living male descendent of Bahá’u’lláh who displayed the necessary spiritual qualities or had remained loyal to the Faith. After the Guardian’s passing, all of the Hands of the Cause of God signed documents affirming that they could find no written Will in which Shoghi Effendi might have appointed a successor.

Since the Guardian’s passing, there have been a few attempts to create a schism in the Bahá’í community, but such is the strength and unity of the Bahá’í community that these efforts are always futile. When in 1960, at the age of over 80, one of the oldest Hands of the Cause of God—Charles Mason Remey—asserted that he was “the hereditary successor” of Shoghi Effendi, his unfounded claim aroused little interest. He died in 1974, ignored even by the handful of people who he had originally attracted.

Only the Universal House of Justice had the authority to confirm whether or not there could be another Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, subject to the criteria for his appointment laid out in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Following its election in 1963, the Universal House of Justice announced that it could find no way to appoint or to legislate to make it possible to appoint a second Guardian to succeed Shoghi Effendi. 

Thanks to the Hands of the Cause of God, the Bahá’í Faith remained united and protected during the critical years following the passing of Shoghi Effendi. The Universal House of Justice wrote about these Chief Stewards of the Faith, “The entire history of religion shows no comparable record of such strict self-discipline, such absolute loyalty and such complete self-abnegation by the leaders of a religion finding themselves suddenly deprived of their divinely inspired guide.”2