Daily Reflection – 3 Jalál (Glory)

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“Launched through these very acts[1] into the troublesome seas of ceaseless tribulation, piloted by the mighty arm of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and manned by the bold initiative and abundant vitality of a band of sorely-tried disciples, the Ark of Baha’u’llah’s Covenant has, ever since those days, been steadily pursuing its course contemptuous of the storms of bitter misfortune that have raged, and which must continue to assail it, as it forges ahead towards the promised haven of undisturbed security and peace.”

[1 Events associated with the introduction of the Faith in the West]

(Shoghi Effendi, from a letter dated 21 April 1933, published in “The World Order of Baha’u’llah – Selected Letters”, p. 84)

“The Covenant is the “axis of the oneness of the world of humanity” because it preserves the unity and integrity of the Faith itself and protects it from being disrupted by individuals who are convinced that only their understanding of the Teachings is the right one — a fate that has overcome all past Revelations. The Covenant is, moreover, embedded in the Writings of Baha’u’llah Himself. Thus, as you clearly see, to accept Baha’u’llah is to accept His Covenant; to reject His Covenant is to reject Him.”

(3 January 1982, from a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer)

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Segment 21: The Infallibility of the Twin Successors: The Guardian and the Universal House of Justice: The two parts of Abdu’l-Baha’s Covenant – God’s part and our part -by Brent Poirier

The Infallibility of the Twin Successors: The Guardian and the Universal House of Justice.pdf

Let’s revisit this extract from a letter from Shoghi Effendi’s secretary written on his behalf – and please recall that such letters were not only written at the direction of Shoghi Effendi; the vast majority of them also bear Shoghi Effendi’s signature:

“As regards the meaning of the Bahá’í Covenant: The Guardian considers the existence of two forms of Covenant both of which are explicitly mentioned in the literature of the Cause . . . . The second form of Covenant is such as the one Bahá’u’lláh made with His people that they should accept the Master. This is merely to establish and strengthen the succession of the series of Lights that appear after every Manifestation. Under the same category falls the Covenant the Master made with the Bahá’ís that they should accept His administration after Him.” (From a letter on behalf of the Guardian dated October 21, 1932; Directives from the Guardian, p. 15, #43)

Please pay special attention to that last sentence:  

“the Covenant the Master made with the Bahá’ís that they should accept His administration after Him.”

This is an extremely important point. It is common to hear Bahá’ís say that the Master was the Successor to Bahá’u’lláh, as was written by Baha’u’llah’s own pen in His Will; and that Shoghi Effendi was the successor to the Master, as was written by the Master’s own pen in His Will; and then the statements from the friends sometimes get sort of fuzzy. Generally there is no mention that the House of Justice is also named as the Master’s successor in His own handwriting in His Will – but that is the case. The House of Justice is not the Head of the Faith because there’s no one else to do it; it is the Head of the Faith because the Master, in the same passage where He names the Guardian as His successor, names the House of Justice as His successor. The House of Justice is not only the supreme Body and infallible; it is in the line of successorship. The House of Justice is one of the twin Successors of the Manifestation and `Abdu’l-Bahá.  This is perhaps the most important point in these materials.

The Universal House of Justice is, in conjunction with the Guardianship, the Successor to `Abdu’l-Bahá

In this statement, Shoghi Effendi states who the Successors of the Master and Bahá’u’lláh are:

“They [Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá] have also, in unequivocal and emphatic language, appointed those twin institutions of the House of Justice and of the Guardianship as their chosen Successors, destined to apply the principles, promulgate the laws, protect the institutions, adapt loyally and intelligently the Faith to the requirements of progressive society, and consummate the incorruptible inheritance which the Founders of the Faith have bequeathed to the world.” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 19.)

So in these quotations above, we have one statement from Shoghi Effendi stating that the twin institutions of the House of Justice and the Guardianship are the Successors; and in another statement on his behalf, he states this another way—that the successor to the Master is “His administration”.

Emeric Sala, a devoted believer, went on pilgrimage during 1937 and left this account of a conversation with the beloved Guardian:

One night Shoghi Effendi asked me a question, which I could not answer, nor did I understand its significance at that time. Shoghi Effendi asked me:

“Since after the martyrdom of the Báb the authority of the Faith was passed on to Bahá’u’lláh, and after his passing to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, to whom was it transferred after the ascension of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá?”

I answered, of course, to Shoghi Effendi. He said no. I then said the Guardian. He again shook his head. I then ventured the Universal House of Justice. He again said no, and I could see from his expression that he was disappointed with my inability to answer his question. Then he asked, are the friends not reading my letters? The answer, he said, is clearly stated in The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh. It is divided into four parts: Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, and the fourth part entitled the “World Order of Bahá’u’lláh,” which is the answer to his question.
Shoghi Effendi’s Question (Actually, the fourth section is entitled the “Administrative Order.”)

As the House of Justice wrote in its Constitution, the Covenant of Baha’u’llah

“…continues to fulfil its life-giving purpose through the agency of the Universal House of Justice whose fundamental object, as one of the twin successors of Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá, is to ensure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of the Faith…” (The Constitution of The Universal House of Justice, p. 3)

The Heart of the Covenant of `Abdu’l-Bahá

As we read previously, the Master’s Will and Testament is, according to Shoghi Effendi’s guidance, the Master’s Covenant.  Letter of 3 July 1949 (First Pioneer School)

A Covenant has two parties, each of whom makes a solemn promise to the other. God promises something to us – and we promise something to God. We became parties to the twin Covenants of Baha’u’llah and the Master when we became Baha’is.

  • God’s part of the Covenant:  Baha’u’llah and the Master promise to guide the Universal House of Justice.
  • Our part of the Covenant: We promise to turn to it, and to seek its guidance.

The heart of the Master’s Covenant is contained in these words:

The sacred and youthful branch, the guardian of the Cause of God as well as the Universal House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of His Holiness, the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both).  Whatsoever they decide is of God.  Whoso obeyeth him not, neither  obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God.  May the wrath, the fierce indignation, the vengeance of God rest upon him!”  (The Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Baha, p. 11)

The Master here covenants, or promises, that both the Guardian of the Cause and the Universal House of Justice are guided by Bahá’u’lláh (“The Abhá Beauty”) and the Báb (“His Holiness, the Exalted One”). In one of his World Order letters, Shoghi Effendi states that the Bab and Baha’u’llah are both “presiding … over the destinies of this supreme Dispensation” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 97), echoing the Master’s solemn Covenant that both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh guide the Universal House of Justice and the Guardian. This is God’s part of the Master’s Covenant; it is a re-phrasing of what He writes on page 11 of His Will.

Man’s part of the Covenant—to turn to these twin institutions and seek their guidance—is stated in the rest of that paragraph on page 11 of the Will, and again in the closing words of the Master’s Will:

Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; whoso opposeth him hath opposed God; whoso contendeth with them hath contended with God; whoso disputeth with him hath disputed with God; whoso denieth him hath denied God; whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God; whoso deviateth, separateth himself and turneth aside from him hath in truth deviated, separated himself and turned aside from God.
(The Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Baha, p. 11)

All must seek guidance and turn unto the Center of the Cause and the House of Justice.  And he that turneth unto whatsoever else is indeed in grievous error.  (The Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Baha, pp. 25-26)

Imagine the significance of this passage. These are the very last words of Abdu’l-Baha to the human race – turn to the Guardian and to the Universal House of Justice. These words are worthy of memorizing, and of teaching to our children.

The Close Functioning of the Twin Institutions

In His Will (p. 14), the Master provided that the Universal House of Justice was to be elected by the National Spiritual Assemblies (referred to in the Will as the “Secondary Houses of Justice”), and that the Guardian of the Cause would serve as its permanent Chairman:

“. . . the Guardian of the Cause of God is its sacred head and the distinguished member for life of that body.”  

As a side-note, the title given to Shoghi Effendi by the Master, is Ghusn-i-Mumtaz or the Chosen Branch.  Mumtaz is an Arabic word that is used, for example, to designate the best student in a class.  It appears again in the Master’s Will, p. 14, translated as “distinguished” – the Guardian is the “distinguished” member of the House of Justice.

As the House of Justice has written, the Master “obviously envisaged their functioning together,” i.e. the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice.  (Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, p. 87)

Shoghi Effendi also referred to this relationship between these twin institutions in a letter he wrote to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine:

The passing of `Abdu’l-Bahá marked the termination of the first and Heroic Age of the Bahá’í Faith and signalized the opening of the Formative Age destined to witness the gradual emergence of its Administrative Order, whose establishment had been foretold by the Báb, whose laws were revealed by Bahá’u’lláh, whose outlines were delineated by `Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will and Testament, and whose foundations are now being laid by the national and local councils which are elected by the professed adherents of the Faith, and which are paving the way for the constitution of the World Council, to be designated as the Universal House of Justice, which in conjunction with me, as its appointed Head and authorized interpreter of the Bahá’í teachings, must coordinate and direct the affairs of the Bahá’í community, and whose seat will be permanently established in the Holy Land, in close proximity to its world spiritual center, the resting-places of its Founders.   Summary Statement – 1947, Special UN Committee on Palestine   
(Under the sub-heading “The Administrative Order”)

As we will see in the next two Units of this course, these two divine institutions have each had to function separately from the other. Each was independently promised infallible divine guidance – in the case of the Universal House of Justice, this promise was made by Baha’u’llah, as well as by the Master.

Segment 11- Baha’u’llah’s Covenant: Unique in the Annals of History -by Dana Paxson

Baha’u’llah’s Covenant: Unique in the Annals of History.pdf

The claim to uniqueness in the title of this essay can be seen to rest on firm foundations, of which we examine these three: first and foremost its [Baha’u’llah’s Covenant] written, explicit, indisputable statement in the Hand of its Author for all to see; second, its evident and most-prominent place in a series of Covenants that have brought the Revelations of the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh unmarred, whole, and vital, into the hands of the world’s peoples; and third, the utterly-diverging fates of those who either embraced or rejected it.

Regarding the first of these identified foundations, Shoghi Effendi writes:

‘… this unique and epoch-making Document, designated by Bahá’u’lláh as His “Most Great Tablet,” and alluded to by Him as the “Crimson Book” in His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,” can find no parallel in the Scriptures of any previous Dispensation, not excluding that of the Báb Himself. For nowhere in the books pertaining to any of the world’s religious systems, not even among the writings of the Author of the Bábí Revelation, do we find any single document establishing a Covenant endowed with an authority comparable to the Covenant which Bahá’u’lláh had Himself instituted.

‘“So firm and mighty is this Covenant,” He Who is its appointed Center [‘Abdu’l-Bahá] has affirmed, “that from the beginning of time until the present day no religious Dispensation hath produced its like.” “It is indubitably clear,” He, furthermore, has stated, “that the pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant.”’[1]

Also from Shoghi Effendi:

“This Primitive Age of the Bahá’í Era, unapproached in spiritual fecundity by any period associated with the mission of the Founder of any previous Dispensation, was impregnated, from its inception to its termination, with the creative energies generated through the advent of two independent Manifestations and the establishment of a Covenant unique in the spiritual annals of mankind.”[2]

The unique character of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, as expressed in His Kitáb-i-‘Ahd (Book of the Covenant) and Hid Kitáb-i-Áqdas (The Most Holy Book, the book of the laws of His Dispensation), emerges first in His explicit, written assertions in these two revealed works, assertions in a form unprecedented in all of recorded human history. In the words of the distinguished historian and scholar Adib Taherzadeh:

“Through these writings Bahá’u’lláh established a mighty and irrefutable covenant unprecedented in the annals of past religions. Never before has a Manifestation of God left behind an authoritative statement in which He has explicitly directed His people to turn to someone as His successor, or follow a defined system of administration for governing the religious affairs of the community.”[3]

Regarding the second of the foundations of the claim to this Covenant’s uniqueness, one need only contemplate its place in the series of clear transfers of authority that began with the Báb and led onward through Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice, all in their ushering in of the great Bahá’í cycle of future Dispensations. This series can be viewed as the living realization of “the cord to which have clung all in this world and in the world to come”, as one reads in Bahá’u’lláh’s prayer to be recited during the Bahá’í Fast. The essays comprising the series of which the present essay is but one part, provide a broad survey of this theme, one which requires entire volumes for the beginnings of an adequate treatment. It should be sufficient here to note that in no other faith has such a cord of connection ever been explicitly furnished to the followers of God.

Regarding the third of the foundations of the claim, one is reminded of the challenge appearing in Bahá’u’lláh’s great Tablet of Ahmad, “Whosoever desireth, let him turn aside from this counsel, and whosoever desireth, let him choose the path to his Lord.”

The uniqueness of this Covenant, termed the “Lesser Covenant” to distinguish it from the overarching Covenant of God with all of humanity for all of His Dispensations, is demonstrated most clearly through its continuing shielding of the Bahá’í Community from schism, deformity, and confusion. The choice of devotion or infidelity stands always before each of us. In His Tablet of Visitation, Bahá’u’lláh testifies to this divergence:

“I bear witness… that through a word from Thee Thou hast decided between all created things, causing them who are devoted to Thee to ascend unto the summit of glory, and the infidels to fall into the lowest abyss.”

In a Tablet to Howard MacNutt, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote:

“Today, every wise, vigilant and foresighted person is awakened, and to him are unveiled the mysteries of the future which show that nothing save the power of the Covenant is able to stir and move the heart of humanity, just as the New and Old Testaments propounded throughout all regions the Cause of Christ and were the pulsating power in the body of the human world. A tree that hath a root shall bear fruit, while the tree that hath none, no matter how high and hardy it may be, will eventually wither, perish and become but a log fit for the fire.

“The Covenant of God is like unto a vast and fathomless ocean. A billow shall rise and surge therefrom and shall cast ashore all accumulated foam.”[4]

And so it was when the Bahá’í community was assailed by those who disputed the authority conferred on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá the Center of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant. No proof of the Covenant’s power is clearer than the sobering fates that befell those who attacked it, in stark contrast to the steadily-emerging splendor of the globe-girdling development of the Bahá’í community continuing today – the very community the attackers sought to seize for their very own.

For one mighty example of what befell the breakers of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant, we turn to Shoghi Effendi once more, as he writes of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s half-brother, Mirzá Muhammad-‘Alí and those who took his side against the Master:

“And finally, he who, from the moment the Divine Covenant was born until the end of his life, showed a hatred more unrelenting than that which animated the afore-mentioned adversaries of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, who plotted more energetically than any one of them against Him, and afflicted his Father’s Faith with a shame more grievous than any which its external enemies had inflicted upon it—such a man, together with the infamous crew of Covenant-breakers whom he had misled and instigated, was condemned to witness, in a growing measure, as had been the case with Mírzá Yaḥyá and his henchmen, the frustration of his evil designs, the evaporation of all his hopes, the exposition of his true motives and the complete extinction of his erstwhile honor and glory. His brother, Mírzá Ḍíyá’u’lláh, died prematurely; Mírzá Áqá Ján, his dupe, followed that same brother, three years later, to the grave; and Mírzá Badí‘u’lláh, his chief accomplice, betrayed his cause, published a signed denunciation of his evil acts, but rejoined him again, only to be alienated from him in consequence of the scandalous behavior of his own daughter. Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s half-sister, Furúghíyyih, died of cancer, whilst her husband, Siyyid ‘Alí, passed away from a heart attack before his sons could reach him, the eldest being subsequently stricken in the prime of life, by the same malady. Muḥammad-Javád-i-Qazvíní, a notorious Covenant-breaker, perished miserably. Shu‘á‘u’lláh who, as witnessed by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá in His Will, had counted on the murder of the Center of the Covenant, and who had been despatched to the United States by his father to join forces with Ibráhím Khayru’lláh, returned crestfallen and empty-handed from his inglorious mission. Jamál-i-Burújirdí, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí’s ablest lieutenant in Persia, fell a prey to a fatal and loathsome disease…”[5]

Contrast these sordid outcomes and others in the remainder of this sobering passage with the steadily-unfolding advancement of the Cause of God, alive, thriving, and animating human advancement in the world today, and we see an irrefutable, visible proof of the uniqueness of the Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh. This “vast and fathomless ocean” firmly casts ashore all its “accumulated foam”.

The clear, explicit, written character of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant; its pivotal, enduring, and essential place in the stream of a cycle destined to span half a million years of continuing Revelations in the future; and the irresistible potency of its protection of those who enter unshakably into its embrace: all these testify to its utter uniqueness among the Revelations lavished by God on humanity. Thanks to the bestowal of this Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, we stand near the very beginnings of a golden era of astonishment, wonder, and splendor.

Notes:

[1] God Passes By
Author: Shoghi Effendi Source: US Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979 second printing Pages: 412

[2] Citadel of Faith pp. 4-6

[3] Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 99

[4] Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá
Author: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Source: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982 lightweight edition Pages: 320

[5] Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, pp. 316-320

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