The Baha’i Faith and Its Institution of Guardianship
The Baha’i Faith was heralded by a young man named Siyyid Ali Muhammad, who became known as the Bab. The Bab declared His mission on 23 May 1844, closing the Prophetic Cycle and opening the new Cycle of Light and Truth, destined to last at least 500,000 years. The Babi and the Baha’i dispensation are the first two dispensations of the many to come in this new cycle. The Bab directed His followers to spread the new teachings throughout the Persian Empire in the mid-nineteenth century. He stirred the frozen Persian community to its depths, creating waves of opposition within the religious hierarchy and the Persian ruling elites. Many distinguished religious leaders, ruling personnel, and ordinary people accepted His new teachings. The ruling Persian clergy class, however, found Him to be a threat. The Bab was arrested and exiled within Persia. Finally, He was judged by a number of religious leaders in Tabriz and executed by the order of the Persian government in 1850. Many of His followers were savagely put to death by mobs, religious leaders, and the Persian government.
In 1852, a man named Mirza Husayn-Ali, a follower of the Bab, was arrested in Tehran and put into prison. While in prison, Mirza Husayn-Ali became aware that he was God’s new Messenger, fulfilling the Bab’s promise of the One to come after Him and formally ending the Babi dispensation, which lasted only nine years. Mirza Husayn-Ali became known as Baha’u’llah, Arabic for “Glory of God”; but it was not until 1863 that He proclaimed His mission and revelation to the world.
Like the Bab before him, Baha’u’llah faced exile and persecution. He was sent into exile to Baghdad, Istanbul, Adrianople, and finally Akka, today part of Israel, where He lived under house arrest until He left this world in 1892. A prolific writer, Baha‘u’llah sent tablets to the leaders of His time: Napoleon III; Queen Victoria; Pope Pius IX; Alexander II, Czar of the vast Russian Empire; William I, King of Prussia; Francis Joseph, King-emperor of Austria-Hungary; Sultan ‘Adul’l-‘Aziz of the Ottoman Empire; and N’asiri’d-Din Shah, the ruler of Persia. He invited the leaders and the people of the world to embrace a new teaching for the establishment of the unity of humankind.
The outstanding teachings of the Baha’i Faith can be summed up in the following principles: the declaration of Universal Peace; oneness of mankind; Religion must be the cause of fellowship and love; all kinds of prejudices, religious, racial, political, and national, destroy the edifice of humanity; establishment of a universal language; equality between women and men; material civilization must be completed by spiritual civilization; Religion is the foundation for world unity; universal education; and complete harmony between science and religion. The Founder of the Baha’i Faith confirmed that the unity of humanity and universal peace will be realized and the Kingdom of God on earth will be established per the prophecies of His Holiness the Christ.
Baha’u’llah left this world in 1892. In His Will, the Book of the Covenant, He appointed ‘Abdu’l-Baha to succeed Him. ‘Abdu’l-Baha directed the affairs of the Baha’i Faith and wrote numerous books and tablets on the importance of the Faith during His ministry, which lasted from the passing of Baha’u’llah to his own death in late November 1921. After ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s ascension, He was succeeded by Shoghi Effendi as the first guardian of the Faith, in accordance with ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament.
To regulate the activities of the worldwide human communities and nations, the Founder of the Baha’i Faith engineered an administrative system known as The World Order of Baha’u’llah (WOB). WOB contains various institutions. The two most important Institutions of WOB are the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice.
The institution of Guardianship is represented by a Guardian at any time in the Baha’i Dispensation. The first Guardian was Shoghi Effendi, named and appointed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in His Will and Testament. The Guardian’s duties are fully described in ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament as well as in "The Dispensation of Baha’u’llah," a chapter in The World Order of Baha'u'llah by Shoghi Effendi. Guardian’s duties include: appointing his successor in his own lifetime; sitting at the head of the Universal House of Justice; interpreting the Holy Writings; and having the final say on matters of the Faith as the Authorized Interpreter of the Baha’i dispensation, which will be in existence not less than a thousand years.
The Institution of the Universal House of Justice (UHJ) is formed by marrying a universally elected body of the people and the Institution of Guardianship represented by the guardian. The formation of the Universal House of Justice is under the supervision and direction of the guardian of the Faith. UHJ passes laws and regulations that are not found in the Writings of Baha’u’llah or ‘Abdu’l-Baha. UHJ can cancel the laws enacted by past Houses and may enact new ones to meet the requirements of the time. The guardian, as the head of the Universal House of Justice, has only one vote and does not have the right of veto or to disregard any member’s vote or the vote of the majority.
The first guardian, Shoghi Effendi, in his own life time, formed the embryo of the Universal House of Justice and appointed Charles Mason Remey as its president in an announcement to the Baha’i World made by two cablegrams of 9 January and 2 March 1951. In these two cablegrams, the first guardian appointed his successor as well as announces formation of the embryo of the Universal House of Justice. The first cablegram reads:
Proclaim National Assemblies of East and West weighty epoch-making decision of formation of first International Baha'i Council, forerunner of supreme administrative institution destined to emerge in fullness of time within precincts beneath shadow of World Spiritual Center of Faith already established in twin cities of Akka and Haifa. Fulfillment of prophecies uttered by Founder of Faith and Center of His Covenant culminating in establishment of Jewish State, signalizing birth after lapse of two thousand years of an independent nation in the Holy Land, the swift unfoldment of historic undertaking associated with construction of superstructure of the Bab's Sepulcher on Mount Carmel, the present adequate maturity of nine vigorously functioning national administrative institutions throughout Baha'i World, combine to induce me to arrive at this historic decision marking most significant milestone in evolution of Administrative Order of the Faith of Baha'u'llah in course of last thirty years. Nascent Institution now created is invested with threefold function: first, to forge link with authorities of newly emerged State; second, to assist me to discharge responsibilities involved in erection of mighty superstructure of the Bab's Holy Shrine; third, to conduct negotiations related to matters of personal status with civil authorities. To these will be added further functions in course of evolution of this first embryonic International Institution, marking its development into officially recognized Baha'i Court, its transformation into duly elected body, its efflorescence into Universal House of Justice, and its final fruition through erection of manifold auxiliary institutions constituting the World Administrative Center destined to arise and function and remain permanently established in close neighborhood of Twin Holy Shrines. Hail with thankful, joyous heart at long last the constitution of International Council which history will acclaim as the greatest event shedding luster upon second epoch of Formative Age of Baha'i Dispensation potentially unsurpassed by any enterprise undertaken since inception of Administrative Order of Faith on morrow of Abdu'l-Baha's Ascension, ranking second only to glorious immortal events associated with Ministries of the Three Central Figures of Faith in course of First Age of most glorious Dispensation of the five thousand century Baha'i Cycle. Advise publicize announcement through Public Relations Committee. ["Message to the Baha’i World." Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1958, page 7]
Part of the second cablegram states:
Greatly welcome assistance of the newly-formed International Council, particularly its President, Mason Remey, and its Vice-President, Amelia Collins, through contact with authorities designed to spread the fame, consolidate the foundations and widen the scope of influence emanating from the twin spiritual, administrative World Centers permanently fixed in the Holy Land constituting the midmost heart of the entire planet. ["Message to the Baha’i World." Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Publishing Trust 1958, page 22]
After Shoghi Effendi left this world on 4 November 1957, a group of people then elevated to the rank of the Hands of the Cause, led by Shoghi Effendi’s widow Mrs. Rabbani, openly opposed and challenged the authority of C. M. Remey, the head of the embryo of the Universal House of Justice. They propagated the idea that the lines of guardianship ended with the passing of the first guardian and there will be no other guardians after Shoghi Effendi.
Based on the fact that an embryo possesses all perfections, the International Baha’i Council, that is the embryo of the Universal House of Justice, was potentially the Universal House of Justice. Further, and in accordance with the Will and Testament, the Head of the Universal House of Justice is the guardian of the Faith and the guardian of the Faith is the head of the Universal House of Justice. These two offices are in fact one office.
Upon these facts, the Institution of Guardianship will continue in the Baha’i Dispensation. Shoghi Effendi writes;
Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship the World Order of Baha'u'llah would be mutilated and permanently deprived of that hereditary principle which, as ‘Abdu'l-Baha has written, has been invariably upheld by the Law of God. ...Without such an institution the integrity of the Faith would be imperiled, and the stability of the entire fabric would be gravely endangered. Its prestige would suffer, the means required to enable it to take a long, an uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking, and the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn.[The World Order of Baha’u’llah, Shoghi Effendi. Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1955, page 148]
In another passage Shoghi Effendi states:
It must be also clearly understood by every believer that the institution of the Guardianship does not under any circumstances abrogate, or even in the slightest degree detract from the power granted to the Universal House of Justice by Baha'u'llah in the Kit’ab-i-Aghdas, and repeatedly and solemnly confirmed by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in his Will. It does not constitute in any manner a contradiction to the Will and Writing of Baha'u'llah, nor does it nullify any of his revealed instructions. It enhances the prestige of that exalted assembly, stabilizes its supreme position, safeguards its unity, and assures the continuity of its labours, without presuming in the slightest to infringe upon the inviolability of its clearly-defined sphere of jurisdiction… [The World Order of Baha’u’llah. Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1955, page 8]
C. M. Remey, after over two years sending various correspondence and appeals to the ex-Hands, with no result, announced his proclamation as the second Guardian of the Baha’i Faith in 1960. C. M. Remey stated that he was the second guardian of the Baha’i Faith and successor to the first Guardian from the moment Shoghi Effendi left this world on 4 November 1957.
The ex-Hands, after “assuming the reins of authority with no documents” [Introduction to The Ministry of the Custodians: 1957—1963: An Account of the Stewardship of the Hands of the Cause, with an introduction by The Hand of the Cause Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyah Khanum. Baha'i World Centre, 1992, page 9] to support them, and with no authority for any administrative function in the WOB, collectively claimed to be the successor to the first guardian. To further mislead the believers, they formed an illegitimate universal house of justice in 1963. Their so-called universal house of justice does not have the living guardian as its president. It has not been formed in accordance with the Writings of the Faith. It does not manifest the development of the embryo of the Universal House of Justice, established by the first Guardian of the Faith in the early 1951 cablegrams. Thus this body, the so-called universal house of justice, is a false universal house of justice and it is illegitimate.
Shoghi Effendi rejected, in advance, the validity of such an institution in a letter dated the summer of 1925 where he states:
Any institution that is not established in accordance with the Divine Order, not in conformity with the principles and the conditions recorded in the Holy Writings, as it is required for this august institution, consequently such an institution is void of credential, deprived of spiritual station, and forbidden to have any right to legislate and enact laws and ordinances which are not explicitly recorded in the Holy Writings. It also lacks the essential qualities and the Divine confirmation. [From the letter of 27 November 1925 to central spiritual assembly of Iran]
The present administration in Haifa, the false universal house of justice and its supporters, do not represent the Baha’i Faith. The Divinely established Baha’i Faith no longer exists among these people. The Haifa Group converted the Baha’i Faith into a sect that is yet another source of division and disharmony among the people of the world. In the last fifty years this administration has changed and twisted the Baha’i Writings to suit their objectives and continues to keep the believers uninformed so they would follow their design. Whoever opposes them and expresses his or her view is blacklisted and excommunicated, even though this group has no authority to do so. Their victims are shunned and separated from their loved ones, and their divinely given human rights have been shamefully violated by the Haifa Group and their supporters. They are committing the same mistakes as the Rabbis did in the time of Christ, or the priests did in the Dark Ages, or the mullahs have done since the inception of the Babi and the Baha’i Faith.