Shoghi Effendi: Guardian of the Baha'i Faith

Who was Shonghi Effendi?

Shoghi Effendi Rabbani was the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith from 1921 to his death in 1957.

Life of Shoghi Effendi

Shoghi Effendi was the eldest grandson of `Abdu'l-Bahá. Born on March 1, 1897, from his earliest childhood he had a special relationshop with his grandfather. He studied at the American University of Beirut and later at Balliol College, Oxford in England. He had an excellent command of the English language and was highly intelligent.

After the passing of 'Abdu'l-Bahá on November 28th 1921 Shoghi Effendi learned that he had been appointed to a newly created position called the Guardianship, the highest appointed position in the new administrative order of the Bahá'í Faith set out in the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá.

In 1937, Shoghi Effendi married Mary Maxwell, or Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, a Canadian. She was the only child of May Maxwell, one of the foremost disciples of 'Abdu'l-Baha, and William Sutherland Maxwell, a distinguished Canadian architect. Then 27 years old, Mary Maxwell was a tall, athletic active woman.

In 1941 she became Shoghi Effendi's principal secretary in English. In 1951, Shoghi Effendi appointed her to the First International Bahai Council, (the embryonic Universal House of Justice). Shoghi Effendi and Ruhiyyih Khanum never had children.


Shoghi Effendi, who was a student at Oxford University at the time of his grandfather's passing, served as the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith until his passing in 1957. For thirty-six years he developed the worldwide Bahá'í community and its administrative structure. Because the Bahá'í community was relatively small and undeveloped when the Guardian assumed the leadership of the Faith, he strengthened and developed it over many years to the point where it was capable of supporting the administrative structure envisioned by `Abdu'l-Bahá. Under Shoghi Effendi's direction, National Spiritual Assemblies were formed, and many thousands of Local Spiritual Assemblies sprang up as the Bahá'í Faith spread around the globe.

In his lifetime, Shoghi Effendi translated many of the writings of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá. During his ministry the Bahá'í Religion developed into a global faith. From the time of appointment until his death, the Bahá'í Faith grew from 100,000 to 400,000 members, and countries of representation went from 35 to 250. He also appointed 32 living Hands of the Cause, oversaw the completion of the superstructure of the Shrine of the Bab, wrote God Passes By in 1944 to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the Faith, launched the Ten Year Crusade in 1953, and acted as the official representative of the Faith to legal authorities in Palestine/Israel throughout many attempts by Covenant-breakers to take authority from him.

Covenant-breaking (Excommunication)

In Abdu'l Baha's Will and Testament, he stated:

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 Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance of 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!

Throughout Shoghi Effendi's life, nearly all remaining family members and descendents of Abdu'l-Baha rebelled against his authority at some point, and were expelled by him as Covenant-breakers. Other branches of Bahá'u'lláh's family had already been declared Covenant-breakers in Abdu'l-Baha's Will and Testament. Refer to Covenant-Breaking in Shoghi Effendi's Immediate Family.

In the case of the Expulsion of Ruhi Afnan, it received public attention, and created particular hardships for Shoghi Effendi's family life.

Unexpected Death and End of the Guardianship

Shoghi Effendi's passing came unexpectedly in 1957 as he was traveling to Britain and caught the Asiatic flu.

His death caught the Bahá'í world off guard, and until the Universal House of Justice was elected in 1963, the Bahá'í Faith was administered by the Hands of the Cause, appointed by Shoghi Effendi. After the election, the Universal House of Justice decided that given the circumstances, and the provisions of the Will and Testament of Abdu'l Baha, it was not possible for another Guardian to be appointed.

Therefore, although the Guardianship was originally intended to be a continuing hereditary position, the majority of Bahá'ís regard Shoghi Effendi as the first and last Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.

Source: Wikipedia under GFDL.