The Bahá’í Covenant The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh

How the Covenant in the Bahá’í Faith creates and maintains a unified religious community.

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What challenge to the Covenant occurred after the passing of Shoghi Effendi?

The claim of Mason Remey

The death of Shoghi Effendi had really been like an arrow shot into our hearts. Each one struggled with his bereavement in his own way. One of us, Mason Remey, one of the oldest and most distinguished, solved his personal dilemma by concluding that the Bahá’í Faith could not go on without a Guardian and that undoubtedly Shoghi Effendi’s successor was himself — for various invalid and unprovable reasons, such as that he was one of the earliest, famous believers of the West, had been made a Hand of the Cause by Shoghi Effendi and President of the International Bahá’í Council. All this was true, but it still did not make him the second Guardian. Mason Remey’s activities, beginning in 1960, when he “proclaimed” himself the second Guardian, were a profound source of embarrassment to his fellow-Hands who, in addition to all their other heavy, heartbreaking responsibilities, now found themselves obliged to progressively remonstrate with, admonish, warn, expose and finally excommunicate him. This extraordinary and sudden display of unexpected pride and conceit passed over the Bahá’í world, producing a brief flutter in France, a passing ripple in Chile and sundry vibrations in the United States, Pakistan and one or two other countries, and was soon gone forever. For those who, like myself and Paul Haney, had known and loved him all our lives, and Milly Collins, who had been a particularly old friend and co-worker, it was a very bitter and tragic experience. Unfollowed and unmourned, alone and isolated in his old age, when he died he was buried by his young secretary who was not a Bahá’í. Although this whole episode had no effect on the Faith, it added to the burdens of the Custodians, consumed hours of consideration better spent on constructive matters, and saddened our hearts. Like any branch cut off from the root, the Remey incident withered away.
Ruhiyyih Khanum, Ministry of the Custodians, p. 15

When it became clear that Shoghi Effendi had not appointed a successor to himself, some Bahá’ís failed to …[understand] the spirit of the Covenant of Bahá’u'lláh, [and] insisted that a second Guardian must be created. Mason Remey, an ambitious individual, became the candidate, and with constant encouragement by a few equally ambitious men he claimed in 1960 that he was the successor of Shoghi Effendi. Sadly however, this was like trying to make a flower from paper and pretend that it was real.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will and Testament extolled Shoghi Effendi as the ‘Sign of God’, the ‘Chosen Branch’, the ‘blest and sacred bough that hath branched out from the Twin Holy Trees’, ‘the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin surging seas’. Such a being was created by God especially to become the Guardian of the Cause, and his appointment was made by the Centre of the Covenant Himself. He was a descendant both of Bahá’u'lláh and of the family of the Báb. How could a few individuals who looked for leadership and sought power for their own selfish interests raise up a lesser man to the station of the Guardianship? In His Will and Testament, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has laid down the conditions that Shoghi Effendi’s successor must be either the ‘first-born’ of the Guardian or another Ghusn (male descendant of Bahá’u'lláh), and that the Hands of the Cause must give their assent to his choice. How could Mason Remey fulfil these conditions? It is interesting to note that, in a Tablet to the Hand of the Cause of God, Mulla Ali-Akbar, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá makes this important statement.

…ere the expiration of a thousand years, no one has the right to utter a single word, even to claim the station of Guardianship. The most Holy Book is the Book to which all peoples shall refer, and in it the Laws of God have been revealed. Laws not mentioned in the Book should be referred to the decision of the Universal House of Justice. There will be no grounds for difference… Beware, beware lest anyone create a rift or stir up sedition. ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, cited in “Wellspring of Guidance: Messages 1963-1968″, pp. 47-48

After Mason Remey made his absurd claim, the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land tried their utmost to bring him to his senses. But in his delusion, he persisted on his errant course and consequently he and those few who followed him were announced as Covenant-breakers. The Bahá’í community was once again purged by this process; the impurities which would have imposed dire afflictions upon the Faith had they been allowed to remain within the fold, were cast out, resulting in revitalization of the body of the Cause of God.

This episode of Covenant-breaking by Mason Remey was one of the flimsiest of all rebellions in the history of the Faith. It did not take very long until a number of those who had been misled by him realized their mistake, repented and returned to the community or withdrew from the Faith altogether. Mason Remey’s efforts to form a following for himself failed miserably. After his death, serious rivalries broke out between his lieutenants who claimed to be his successors. The divinely-ordained instruments serving the Covenant of Bahá’u'lláh have been so strengthened today that the efforts of this group of Covenant-breakers have become null and void, and the power of the Covenant has driven them into oblivion.

…Before Mason Remey’s preposterous claim, the wisdom of the words [of] ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will and Testament that the Hands of the Cause ‘must give their assent to the choice of the one whom the Guardian of the Cause of God hath chosen as his successor’[paragraph 19] was not clear to many. But after Remey’s defection, it became clear that this requirement was a means for the protection of the Cause of God. If there was to be a successor to Shoghi Effendi, he needed the approval of the Hands, and Mason Remey did not have this.
Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 386-391

Mason Remey has had the temerity to assert that the beloved Guardian of the Cause appointed him during his own lifetime as his successor. He builds up his claim by saying that because he was appointed President of the first International Bahá’í Council, he becomes automatically the President of the elected International Bahá’í Council, and later, on its election, Chairman of the Universal House of Justice. To quote his own argument:

‘He who is President of the Universal House of Justice is the Guardian of the Faith for he who is the Guardian of the Faith is President of the Universal House of Justice. These two offices are one and the same. Therefore, when the beloved Guardian Shoghi Effendi appointed me President of the Bahá’í International Council, that, he explained, was the forerunner of the Universal House of Justice that was the Embrionic [sic] Universal House of Justice that would eventually develop into the Universal House of Justice. I or one of my successors in Guardianship would be President of this divinely instituted infallible body, the Universal House of Justice; therefore the Guardianship of the Bahá’í Faith and the Presidency of the Universal House of Justice are one and the same position in the Faith.’

This contention requires a careful study of the Words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the Will and Testament, because this sacred document sets forth the conditions requisite for Guardianship in no uncertain terms. We must never forget for a moment that it was the Master Who established the Station of the Guardianship; and in fact appointed the successor of Shoghi Effendi as between Shoghi Effendi’s first born, or another branch (Ghosn).

In the Will He clearly states:

He is the expounder of the Words of God and after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendants…. [paragraph 16]

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. He that is appointed must manifest in himself detachment from all worldly things, must be the essence of purity, must show in himself the fear of God, knowledge, wisdom and learning. Thus, should the first-born of the Guardian of the Cause of God not manifest in himself the truth of the words: “The child is the secret essence of its sire”, that is, should he not inherit of the spiritual within him (the Guardian of the Cause of God) and his glorious lineage not be matched with a goodly character, then must he (the Guardian of the Cause of God), choose an other branch to succeed him.[paragraph 18]

…The word “Ghosn” (plural Aghsan) is an Arabic word, meaning “branch”.

Bahá’u'lláh used this word specifically to designate his own male descendants. It does not apply to any other category of people. He gave the title to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá of “the Most Great Branch”. His second son, Muhammad ‘Ali was known as “the Greater Branch”; His third son, Midhi, “the Purest Branch”, etc. The Guardian himself is designated in the Master’s Will as “the Chosen Branch”.

…Because of ignorance of the Arabic and Persian languages and the use of these two terms in our Sacred Texts, spurious arguments have been put forth by those making the false claim that Shoghi Effendi could have appointed a successor other than a blood descendant of Bahá’u'lláh.

…Bahá’u'lláh, in writing, in unambiguous terms established the Master as the Centre of His Covenant. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His turn, in His Own handwriting created the beloved Guardian, Shoghi Effendi as the Centre of His Covenant and specified the conditions of future Guardianship.

Without one written word from the Guardian, Mason Remey claims that because he was the President of the International Bahá’í Council, and because this body is the embryonic international institution, it automatically makes him the President of that future body, and hence, Guardian of the Faith.

If the President of the International Bahá’í Council is ipso facto the Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith, then the beloved Guardian, himself, Shoghi Effendi would have had to be the President of this first International Bahá’í Council.

If the presidency of the first International Bahá’í Council, which was not an elected body but appointed by Shoghi Effendi was a permanent thing, why did the beloved Guardian himself call for an elected International Bahá’í Council in the future as part of the evolution of this institution and its eventual efflorescence into the Universal House of Justice?

We have not even an intimation in any writing of Shoghi Effendi that the officers of the first appointed International Bahá’í Council would be carried forward into the elected International Bahá’í Council.

…Mason Remey signed the first communication sent out by 26 Hands of the Faith, from Bahji in November, 1957, in which it was stated that as the beloved Guardian had left no Will and no successor, the Hands of the Faith, designated by Shoghi Effendi as the Chief Stewards of Bahá’u'lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth, would carry on the work of the Crusade until the formation of that infallible Body, the Universal House of Justice.

Although Mason Remey, himself a Hand of the Cause, acted as one of the nine Hands in the Holy Land until the end of October, 1959, he never intimated his claim to be the second Guardian to any individual Hand, to the group of Hands serving at the World Centre, or to the body of the Hands gathered in Bahji at their Conclaves.

The first intimation any of us received of this astounding claim was when he mailed us a copy of his proclamation, at a time when it was already in the mail to National Assemblies and individuals.

How can Mason Remey reconcile his assertion that he was appointed by Shoghi Effendi as his successor during his lifetime with the provisions in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá that during the lifetime of the Guardian, nine of the Hands of the Cause of God must be elected by their fellow-Hands, and give their assent to the choice made by him of his successor? If the Guardian appointed Mason Remey, why did he go against the provisions of the Will in this important respect? Such an implication is a flagrant attack on Shoghi Effendi himself…
Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, 15 October 1960, Ministry of the Custodians, p. 231

For more information please read “Mason Remey and Those Who Followed Him” and “The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice“. Also, for an exceptional commentary on the claims of Mason Remey, read this>