Did Shoghi Effendi appoint a successor?

“That Shoghi Effendi did not write a Will was due to the circumstances of his ministry and of his life. It must be realized that he was a most meticulous person who never left anything to chance, especially in the case of such a vital issue as writing his Will and Testament to appoint a successor to himself. Only through reflection will a believer come to appreciate the wisdom and inevitability of Shoghi Effendi remaining silent on this question.

One of Bahá’u’lláh’s injunctions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is that every Bahá’í should write a Will and Testament, and that foremost in it he should bear witness to the oneness of God in the Dayspring of His Revelation, Bahá’u’lláh. This confession of faith is to be a testimony for him in both this world and the next. A Will also directs the distribution of wealth among one’s heirs. As to the first requirement, Shoghi Effendi’s letter entitled The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh is one of the finest declarations of faith ever written. No believer has written such an outstanding confession of his religious beliefs as Shoghi Effendi did in this remarkable document. As to the second part of a Will, which is the bequeathing of a person’s wealth to his inheritors, Shoghi Effendi did not have any worldly possessions and therefore had no need to distribute them. Thus, it can be said that he carried out the commandment of Bahá’u’lláh with regard to the writing of a Will.

As to the appointment of a successor, the Master had stated in His Will and Testament that should the ‘first-born’ of the Guardian not inherit his spiritual qualities, he should appoint another Ghusn (Branch). The word Ghusn has been used by Bahá’u’lláh to signify His male descendants exclusively. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was designated as Ghusn-i-A‘zam (The Most Great Branch) and Shoghi Effendi as Ghusn-i-Mumtaz (The Chosen Branch). Shoghi Effendi was not in a position to appoint a successor to himself because he had no son and there was not a single Ghusn who was faithful to the Cause of God. Every one of the descendants of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had been declared a Covenant-breaker.

You suggest the possibility that, for the good of the Cause, certain information concerning the succession to Shoghi Effendi is being withheld from the believers. We assure you that nothing whatsoever is being withheld from the friends for whatever reason. There is no doubt at all that in the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Shoghi Effendi was the authority designated to appoint his successor, but he had no children and all the surviving Ag͟hṣán had broken the Covenant. Thus, as the Hands of the Cause stated in 1957, it is clear that there was no one he could have appointed in accordance with the provisions of the Will. To have made an appointment outside the clear and specific provisions of the Master’s Will and Testament would obviously have been an impossible and unthinkable course of action for the Guardian, the divinely-appointed upholder and defender of the Covenant. Moreover, that same Will had provided a clear means for the confirmation of the Guardian’s appointment of his successor, as you are aware. The nine Hands to be elected by the body of the Hands were to give their assent by secret ballot to the Guardian’s choice. In 1957 the entire body of the Hands, after fully investigating the matter, announced that Shoghi Effendi had appointed no successor and left no will. This is documented and established.

The fact that Shoghi Effendi did not leave a will cannot be adduced as evidence of his failure to obey Bahá’u’lláh—rather should we acknowledge that in his very silence there is a wisdom and a sign of his infallible guidance. We should ponder deeply the writings that we have, and seek to understand the multitudinous significances that they contain. Do not forget that Shoghi Effendi said two things were necessary for a growing understanding of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh: the passage of time and the guidance of the Universal House of Justice.

From a letter dated 27 May 1966 written by the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer.

Shoghi Effendi, who faithfully adhered to the wishes of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá throughout his ministry, would never have been careless in a matter so essential to the integrity of the Faith as the question of the appointment of his successor. It is unthinkable that he would appoint someone to succeed him who did not possess the qualifications laid down by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will. It is equally untenable to suggest that he would do so in a manner which deviated from the explicit requirements in that same document, which included the affirmation of his choice by nine designated Hands of the Cause of God, so that “differences” would “not arise after his passing.” How perverse the suggestion of the violators of the Covenant that Shoghi Effendi would ignore the Master’s instructions and make a veiled and indirect appointment of his successor! Rather should the fact that Shoghi Effendi did not name a successor be seen as a sign of his meticulous adherence to every word of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and an indication of his conclusion that there was no qualified individual whom he could appoint.

Therefore, it should be clear to every steadfast follower of Bahá’u’lláh that the end of the line of Guardians was not the result of any decision or action taken by the Hands of the Cause of God following the sudden passing of Shoghi Effendi. The line was brought to a close when, compelled by existing circumstances and the strict provisions of the Will, Shoghi Effendi did not name a successor. To entertain the possibility that it may one day be re-established is futile. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote that “ere the expiration of a thousand years, no one has the right to utter a single word, even to claim the station of Guardianship.” And in the same passage He exhorted the friends, “Should there be differences of opinion, the Supreme House of Justice would immediately resolve the problems.” The Universal House of Justice, soon after its formation, stated that it “finds that there is no way to appoint or to legislate to make it possible to appoint a second Guardian to succeed Shoghi Effendi.”

While the line of Guardians has ended, the Covenant is preserved. The vast body of interpretations of Shoghi Effendi informs the decisions of the Universal House of Justice as the Faith continues its onward march. The unity of the Faith is safeguarded, and the realization of Bahá’u’lláh’s great purpose for humanity assured. “The Hand of Omnipotence hath established His Revelation upon an unassailable, an enduring foundation,” Bahá’u’lláh has stated. “Storms of human strife are powerless to undermine its basis, nor will men’s fanciful theories succeed in damaging its structure.”

With reference to the specific questions raised in the letter we have received, one concerns the meaning of the designation “Ag͟hṣán”, as found in the Writings. While in some cases, as affirmed by the Guardian, the term applies specifically to Bahá’u’lláh’s sons, at other times it is used more broadly to include His male descendants. For example, in His Will and Testament ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to Shoghi Effendi as “the chosen branch”. The reference to Shoghi Effendi as Ghuṣn here—the singular form of Ag͟hṣán—follows the usage of Bahá’u’lláh in relation to the titles He gave His sons, that is, the Most Great Branch, the Greater Branch, and the Purest Branch. A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi explains that the word Ag͟hṣán “refers to Bahá’u’lláh’s descendants”; another describes Hussein Rabbani, the Guardian’s brother, as “the grandchild of the Master, an Afnán and Ag͟hṣán mentioned in the Will and Testament of the Master.” It is evident, then, that the designation Ag͟hṣán, or Ghuṣn, includes Shoghi Effendi and the other male descendants of Bahá’u’lláh.

If, at any time, male descendants of Bahá’u’lláh appear who are faithful to the Covenant, it would nevertheless not be possible for any of them to occupy the office of Guardian, for, as already explained, in the absence of appointment by Shoghi Effendi, they cannot claim the station of Guardianship and there is no way for one to be named to it by an act of the House of Justice.

From a message dated 18 February 2008 written by the Universal House of Justice to the Friends in Iran.