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Bahá'í divisions

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Title: Bahá'í divisions  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Faith in Italy, Bahá'í Faith in the Netherlands, Criticism of the Bahá'í Faith, Orthodox Bahá'í Faith
Collection: Bahá'Í Divisions, Religious Schisms
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Bahá'í divisions

The Bahá'í Faith has had challenges to its leadership, usually at the death of the head of the religion.[1][2] The vast majority of Bahá'ís have followed a line of authority from Bahá'u'lláh to `Abdu'l-Bahá to Shoghi Effendi to the Custodians to the Universal House of Justice.[3][4] Sects diverging from this line of leadership have failed to attract a sizeable following.[5] In this sense, there is only one major branch of the Bahá'í Faith,[6] represented by at least 5 million adherents, whereas the groups that have broken away have either become extinct with time, or have remained very small in numbers, representing far less than 0.1% of all Baha'is.[2][5][7] Globally the Bahá'í community has maintained its unity.[7]

Bahá'í scriptures define a Lesser Covenant regarding succession which is intended to keep the Bahá'ís unified.[8] Claimants challenging the widely accepted successions of leadership are shunned by the majority group as Covenant-Breakers.[7]

A separate entry discusses the Bahá'í/Bábí split.


  • `Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry 1
    • Aftermath 1.1
  • Shoghi Effendi as Guardian 2
    • Appointment 2.1
    • American disputes 2.2
    • Family members expelled 2.3
  • The founding of the Universal House of Justice 3
    • Guardianship 3.1
    • Relationship between the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice 3.2
    • Role of the Hands of the Cause 3.3
    • Charles Mason Remey 3.4
    • Decision of the Universal House of Justice 3.5
    • A break in the line of Guardians 3.6
  • Further development of Remey's followers 4
    • Under the Hereditary Guardianship 4.1
    • Orthodox Bahá'í Faith 4.2
    • Rex King 4.3
    • Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant 4.4
    • Baha'is Loyal to Jacques Soghomonian 4.5
    • The Remey Society 4.6
    • The Man 4.7
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

`Abdu'l-Bahá's ministry

Bahá'u'lláh remained in the Akka-Haifa area under house arrest until his death in 1892. According to the terms of his will, his eldest son `Abdu'l-Bahá was named the centre of authority; Mírzá Muhammad `Alí, the eldest son from Bahá'u'lláh's second wife was assigned a secondary position.[9]

Pursuant to his role as Centre of the Covenant, `Abdu'l-Bahá asserted absolute leadership. Soon Muhammad `Ali complained that `Abdu'l-Bahá was not sharing authority and started working against his elder brother.[10] Most members of the families of Bahá'u'lláh's second and third wives supported Muhammad `Alí but there were very few outside of Haifa who followed him.[10]

Muhammad `Alí's machinations with the Ottoman authorities resulted in `Abdu'l-Bahá's re-arrest and confinement in

  • Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. The Will and Testament of Abdul Baha, An Analysis.
  • Living Schools of Religion Vergilius Ferm, ed. Ames, Iowa: Littlefield, Adams & Co., 1956. Chapter 19, "The Bahá'í Cause," by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab (pages 309-14)
  • Official Page of the Unitarian Baha'is
  • Proclamation of Mason Remey – Remey's public declaration in 1960
  • Orthodox Bahá'í Guardian – Official website
  • Tarbiyat Bahá'í Community – Official website
  • Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant – Official website
  • Guardianship of the Bahá'í Faith – Jacques Soghomonian – Official website
  • Mason Remey and Those Who Followed Him – Published by the Universal House of Justice, along with introductory statements.
  • Issues Related to the Study of the Bahá'í Faith – Extracts from letters written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice
  • From Gaslight to Dawn by Julie Chanler New History Foundation, NY 1956.

External links

  • Momen, Moojan (2007-06-08). "Marginality and Apostasy in the Baha'i Community".  

Further reading

  • Stone, Jon R. (ed) (2000). Expecting Armageddon, Essential Readings in Failed Prophecy. New York: Routledge. pp. 269–282.  
  • Spataro, Francis C. (2003). Charles Mason Remey and the Bahá'í Faith. Tover Publications, Queens, NY 11427-2116. 2003 ISBN 0-9671656-3-6.
  • Smith, Peter (2008). An Introduction to the Baha'i Faith. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Smith, Peter (2000). A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications.  
  • Momen, Moojan; Smith, Peter (1989). "The Baha'i Faith 1957-1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments". Religion 19: 63.  
  • Momen, Moojan (2003). "The Covenant and Covenant-Breaker". Retrieved 2009-01-01. 
  • Hinnells, John R., ed. (1984). A Handbook of Living Religions (Paperback ed.). London, UK: Penguin.  
  • Hatcher, William; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. New York: Harper and Row.  
  • "Bahá'í Faith: Bahá'í and Babi schisms". Encyclopædia Iranica. 1989. 
  • Cohen, Erik (1972). "The Bahá'í Community of Acre". Folklore Research Center Studies 3: pp. 119–141. 
  • Browne, E.G. (1918), "Materials for the Study of the Bábí Religion"
  • Barrett, David (2001).  


  1. ^ a b MacEoin, Dennis. "Bahai and Babi Schisms". Iranica. The history of Bahaism as a distinct movement is punctuated by divisions of varying severity, usually occurring as responses to the death of one of the religion’s leaders. 
  2. ^ a b c Barrett 2001, pp. 247–248
  3. ^ Momen & Smith 1989, p. 64
  4. ^ a b c Smith 2000, pp. 115–116
  5. ^ a b c MacEoin, Dennis. "Bahai and Babi Schisms". Iranica. Other small groups have broken away from the main body from time to time, but none of these has attracted a sizeable following. 
  6. ^ Major Branches of Religions Ranked by Number of Adherents,
  7. ^ a b c Smith 2000, pp. 116 Quote from source: "Some attempts were made during the 1950s and 1960s to bring together the disparate groups of Covenant-breakers, but these had little effect. Globally, the Bahá'í community has maintained its unity."
  8. ^ Momen 2003, §D [1]]
  9. ^ Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 221
  10. ^ a b Smith 2000, pp. 252
  11. ^ Smith 2008, p. 44
  12. ^ Smith2008
  13. ^ a b Smith, P. (1999). A Concise Encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford, UK: Oneworld Publications. p. 218.  
  14. ^ Smith, Peter (2004). The Baha'i Faith in the West. Kalimat Press. pp. 4, 7.  
  15. ^ Cole, Juan R.I.; Quinn, Sholeh; Smith, Peter et al., eds. (July 2004). "Behai Quarterly". Documents on the Shaykhi, Babi and Baha'i Movements ( 08 (2). Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  16. ^ a b Shu'a'ullah, Behai Quarterly Volume 4 Page 23
  17. ^ Browne, p. 82. The reference appears to be to the unitarian theology of one god, rather than any identification with the American Unitarian Association.
  18. ^ a b Warburg, Margit. Bahá'í: Studies in Contemporary Religion. Signature Books. p. 64.  
  19. ^ a b Momen 2003, §G.2.b [2]]
  20. ^ a b c Momen 2003, §G.2.c [3]]
  21. ^ MacEoin, Dennis. "Bahai and Babi Schisms". Iranica. In Palestine, the followers of Moḥammad-ʿAlī continued as a small group of families opposed to the Bahai leadership in Haifa; they have now been almost wholly re-assimilated into Muslim society. 
  22. ^ McGlinn, Sen (March 27, 2010). "A Muhammad Ali revival?". Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  23. ^ a b Masumian, Abid; Momen, Moojan (n.d.). "The Truth about Baha'u'llah's Great-Granddaughter, Nigar Bahai Amsalem". ?. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  24. ^ Schory, Noemi (2010-04-17). "Producer's Statement". Bahais in My Backyard, A Belfilms Production. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
  25. ^ a b c Momen 2003, §G.2.d.iv [4]]
  26. ^ See Effendi 1944, p. 355 [5]
  27. ^ Momen 2003, §G.2.d.i [6]]
  28. ^ Momen 2003, §G.2.d.ii [7]]
  29. ^ Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, The Bahá'í Cause pp. 309-14
  30. ^ a b Smith 2000, pp. 325
  31. ^ Smith, Peter (2004). Smith, Peter, ed. Baha'is in the West 14. Kalimat Press. p. 15. 
  32. ^ Moojan Momen 2003, § G.2.d.ii [8] See also New York Tax Exempt and NonProfit Organizations [9]
  33. ^ Khan, Janet A. (2005). Prophet's Daughter: The Life and Legacy of Bahíyyih Khánum, Outstanding Heroine Of The Bahá'í Faith. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 123–4.  
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Smith 2000, pp. 169–170
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Momen 2003, §G.2.e [10]]
  36. ^ a b c d e f Smith 2000, pp. 175–177
  37. ^ a b Smith 2000, pp. 356–357
  38. ^ a b c d e Smith 2000, pp. 346–350
  39. ^ Momen & Smith 1989, p. 89
  40. ^ Time Magazine Dec. 9, 1957 "In the Hands of the Hands"
  41. ^ a b c Smith 2000, p. 117
  42. ^ For their authority, the Custodians referred to the Will and Testament of `Abdul-Bahá which states that "the Hands of the Cause of God must elect from their own number nine persons that shall at all times be occupied in the important services in the work of the Guardian of the Cause of God.”(Hatcher & Martin 1998, p. 190)(`Abdu'l-Bahá 1901-08, p. 12) See: Rabbani, Ministry of the Custodians, 1992, Letter of 28 May 1960, to all National Spiritual Assemblies (pp. 204-206), Letter of 5 July 1960, to all National Spiritual Assemblies (pp. 208-209), Letter of 7 July 1960, to all Hands of the Cause, Cable of 26 July 1960, to all National Spiritual Assemblies (p.223), and Letter of 15 October 1960, to all National Spiritual Assemblies (pp. 231-236)[11] In addition, the Guardian had written that the Hands had executive authority in carrying out his directives. (Effendi 1982, pp. 82–83)[12]
  43. ^ See Rabbani 1992, p. 37 [13] and Effendi & 1971 pp-7-8 [14]
  44. ^ See Rabbani 1992, p. 169 [15]
  45. ^ Taherzadeh 1992, p. 324
  46. ^ a b Smith 2000, p. 200
  47. ^ a b c d e f g Smith 2000, p. 292
  48. ^ See Charles Mason Remey, Proclamation to the Bahá'ís of the World, p. 1 [16]
  49. ^ The Hands of the Cause wrote regarding his reasoning on this point, "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." (Rabbani 1992, p. 234) [17]
  50. ^ See Charles Mason Remey, Proclamation to the Bahá'ís of the World, p. 5 and also "Role of the Hands of the Cause".
  51. ^ See Charles Mason Remey, Proclamation to the Bahá'ís of the World, pp. 6-7 [18]
  52. ^ Biography of Charles Mason RemeyBrent Mathieu,
  53. ^ Taherzadeh 1992, p. 387
  54. ^ Taherzadeh 2000, p. 370
  55. ^ See (Rabbani 1992, p. 223)
  56. ^ See Effendi 1982, pp. 82–83 [19]
  57. ^ Smith 2000, pp. 292–293
  58. ^ Smith 2008, p. 68
  59. ^ The Universal House of Justice, Letter of 9 March 1965, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986, p. 50
  60. ^ Momen & Smith 1989, p. 76
  61. ^ Taherzadeh 1992, p. 390
  62. ^ The Universal House of Justice, Letter of 7 December 1969, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986, p. 158
  63. ^ The Universal House of Justice specifically refers to paragraph 42 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas as evidence that Bahá'u'lláh anticipated that the line of Guardians was not guaranteed forever by providing for the disposition of the religion's endowments in the absence of the Aghsán.(Taherzadeh 1992, p. 390) See also Notes 66 and 67 of the The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pp. 196-197.
  64. ^ Warburg 2004 [20]
  65. ^ Grattan, Joan (1995). "Special Collections: Milton S. Eisenhower Library". The Johns Hopkins University. Retrieved 2007-09-26. 
  66. ^ Bahá'ís vs New Mexico Group District Court, N.D. Illinois, E. Div. No. 64 C 1878. Decided June 28, 1966
  67. ^ THE COVENANT, Moojan Momen. Quoting Chicago Tribune, 10 June 1988, section 1, p. 9
  68. ^ [21], US District Court for Northern District Court of Illinois Eastern Division, Civil Action No. 64 C 1878: Orthodox Bahá'í Respondents' Surreply Memorandum to NSA's Reply Memorandum, p2 para 2 line 15
  69. ^, and
  70. ^ , 153 Mont. 233, 455 P.2d 631 (Montana, 1969)State v. Jensen
  71. ^ a b c d Stone 2000, p. 271
  72. ^ Harvard researchers have noted a community of 30 members in the headquarters of  )
  73. ^ stone 2000, p. 280
  74. ^ *Spataro, Francis C. (2003). Charles Mason Remey and the Bahá'í Faith, Tover Publications, Queens, NY 11427-2116. 2003 ISBN 0-9671656-3-6.


"The House of Mankind and the Universal Palace of Order" followed Jamshid Ma'ani and John Carré, but appears now to be defunct. In the early 1970s a Persian man named Jamshid Ma'ani claimed he was "The Man"; or a new Manifestation of God. He gained a few dozen Iranian Bahá'í followers. John Carré heard of Jamshid, and wrote a book about him; trying to get other Bahá'ís to accept him as a new Manifestation. Carré even invited "The Man" to live in his home in California, but soon concluded, after living with "The Man" for four months, that "The Man" was not at all godly or spiritual and certainly not a Manifestation of God. "The Man" went back to Iran, and Carré ended all association with him.[35]

The Man

Francis Spataro of New York City, who supported Donald Harvey's claim as Remey's successor, independently organized "The Remey Society" after losing favor with Harvey. Spataro published books about Charles Mason Remey,[74] and at one time had a newsletter with about 400 recipients. When Spataro began to preach that Charles Mason Remey was a "Prophet" Harvey cut all ties to Spataro. He then continued to promote the life and works of Charles Mason Remey. In 1995 Francis Spataro became an Old Catholic priest and left the Bahá'í religion altogether. The Remey Society is now extinct.

The Remey Society

Donald Harvey (d.1991), was appointed by Remey as "Third Guardian" in 1967.[47] After Harvey's death in 1991, leadership of this group went to Jacques Soghomonian, a resident of Marseilles, France.[35]

Baha'is Loyal to Jacques Soghomonian

A researcher has noted that since 1980 BUPC membership has never exceeded 200 nationwide,[71][72] and declined in size significantly by 1990 and beyond.[73] Adherents were mostly concentrated in Montana.[71]

Since the 1970s, Jensen believed Remey's adopted son Joseph Pepe was the Guardian, an idea that Pepe rejected several times. In 1991 Jensen appointed followers to a second International Bahá'í Council (sIBC), intending that it would grow into an elected Universal House of Justice after a nuclear holocaust.[71] Jensen died in 1996.

Leland Jensen was one of the believers who accepted Remey's claim to the Guardianship. In 1969 he was convicted of "a lewd and lascivious act" for sexually molesting a 15-year-old female patient,[70] and served four years of a twenty-year sentence in the Montana State Prison. It was in prison that Jensen converted several inmates to his ideas of being what he called the "Establisher" of the Bahá'í Faith, stemming from his belief that the Bahá'í administrative order became corrupted following the death of Shoghi Effendi, and that he was chosen by God to re-establish the administration. After being paroled in 1973, and before Remey's death, Jensen formed a group called the Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant.[71]

Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant

Rex King rejected all claimants to the Guardianship after Shoghi Effendi including Remey, but rather claimed that he, Rex King, was a "regent" pending the emergence of the second Guardian who was in "occultation". His group called themselves the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith under the Regency. King died in 1977, and appointed four of his family as a council of regents. This group today calls itself the "Tarbiyat Baha'i Community".[35]

Rex King

Joel Marangella was president of Remey's "Second International Bahá'í Council", and claimed in 1969 to have been secretly appointed by Remey as Guardian several years earlier. His supporters came to be known as Orthodox Bahá'ís.[47] Membership data is scarce. One source estimated them at no more than 100 members in 1988,[67] and the group claimed a United States membership of about 40 in a 2007 court case.[68] Websites claiming to represent the Orthodox community indicate followers in the United States and India.[69] Joel Marangella died in San Diego, California on Sept 1, 2013.

Orthodox Bahá'í Faith

Over the years following 1966 the followers of Mason Remey were not organized; several of the individuals involved began forming their own groups based on different understandings of succession.[35]

In 1964 the NSAUHG filed a lawsuit against the National Spiritual Assembly (NSA) of the Bahá'ís of the United States to receive the legal title to the Bahá'í House of Worship in Illinois, and all other property owned by the NSA. The NSA counter-sued and won.[66] Later that year, Remey asked the NSAUHG to dissolve, as well as the second International Bahá'í Council that he had appointed with Joel Marangella as president, residing in France. Marangella, Donald Harvey, and Jacques Soghomonian previously served on the National Spiritual Assembly of France in 1961, and had been declared Covenant-breakers when they accepted Mason Remey as the next Guardian.[35]

In 1962 Mason Remey asked his supporters in the United States to organize themselves and elect a "National Spiritual Assembly Under the Hereditary Guardianship" (NSAUHG). The Assembly was incorporated in New Mexico in 1964.

Under the Hereditary Guardianship

Remey died at the age of 100 living many of his last years in Florence, Italy.[65]

Remey died in 1974, having appointed a third Guardian, but the number of adherents to the Orthodox faction remains extremely small. Although successful in Pakistan, the Remeyites seem to have attracted no followers in Iran. Other small groups have broken away from the main body from time to time, but none of these has attracted a sizeable following.[5]

The Encyclopædia Iranica reports the following:

Among the Bahá'ís who accepted Mason Remey as the second Guardian, several further divisions have occurred based on conflicting opinions of legitimacy and succession of authority.[2][35] They began to split into smaller groups even before his death in 1974.[64] Small Remeyite groups are now largely confined to the United States.[35] Some of these divisions are described below.

All those that professed belief in Mason Remey as the second Guardian did not accept the Universal House of Justice established in 1963.

Further development of Remey's followers

The House commented that its own authority was not dependent on the presence of a Guardian,[38] and that its legislative functioning was unaffected by the absence of a Guardian.[34] It stated that in its legislation it would be able to turn to the mass of interpretation left by Shoghi Effendi.[34] The Universal House of Justice addressed this issue further early after its election clarifying that "there is nowhere any promise or guarantee that the line of Guardians would endure forever; on the contrary there are clear indications that the line could be broken."[61][62][63]

Mason Remey and his successors asserted that a living Guardian is essential for the Bahá'í community, and that the Bahá'í writings required it. The basis of these claims were almost universally rejected by the body of the Bahá'ís,[36] for whom the restoration of scripturally sanctioned leadership of the Universal House of Justice proved more attractive than the claims of Mason Remey.[60]

A break in the line of Guardians

A short time later it elaborated on the situation in which the Guardian would die without being able to appoint a successor, saying that it was an obscure question not covered by Bahá'í scriptures, that no institution or individual at the time could have known the answer, and that it therefore had to be referred to the Universal House of Justice, whose election was confirmed by references in Shoghi Effendi's letters that after 1963 the Bahá'í world would be led by international plans under the direction of the Universal House of Justice.[59]

The Bahá'í institutions and believers around the world pledged their loyalty to the Hands of the Cause, who dedicated the next few years to completing Shoghi Effendi's Ten Year Crusade, culminating with the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963. It was at this time the Custodians officially passed their authority as the head of the Faith to the Universal House of Justice,[41][58] which soon announced that it could not appoint or legislate to make possible the appointment of a second Guardian to succeed Shoghi Effendi.[38]

Original members of the first Universal House of Justice, 1963.

Decision of the Universal House of Justice

Remey maintained his claim to Guardianship, and with a small group of followers went on to establish what came to be known as the Orthodox Bahá'ís Under the Hereditary Guardianship, which later broke into several other divisions based on succession disputes within the groups that followed Remey.[35][57]

In response, and after having made many prior efforts to convince Remey to withdraw his claim,[53][54] the Custodians took action and sent a cablegram to the National Spiritual Assemblies on 26 July 1960.[55] Two days later the Custodians sent Mason Remey a letter informing him of their unanimous decision to declare him a Covenant-breaker.[47] They cited the Will and Testament of `Abdul-Bahá, the unanimous joint resolutions of November 25, 1957, and their authority in carrying out the work of the Guardian[56] as their justification. Anyone who accepted Remey's claim to the Guardianship was also expelled.[47]

Remey never addressed the requirement that Guardians should be male-descendants of Bahá'u'lláh, of whom Remey was not. His followers later referred to letters and public statements of `Abdu'l-Bahá calling him "my son" as evidence that he had been implicitly adopted[52] but these claims were almost universally rejected by the body of the Bahá'ís.[36]

Regarding the authority of the Hands of the Cause, Remey wrote in his letter that the Hands "have no authority vested in themselves... save under the direction of the living Guardian of the Faith."[50] He further commanded the Bahá'ís to abandon plans for establishing the Universal House of Justice.[51]

He based his claim on his having been appointed President of the first International Bahá'í Council by Shoghi Effendi in 1951.[47] The appointed council represented the first international Bahá'í body. Remey believed that his appointment as the council's president meant that he was the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.[47][49]

On 8 April 1960, Remey made a written announcement that he was the second Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith and explained his "status for life as commander in chief of Bahá’í affairs of the world" in this proclamation which he requested to be read in front of the annual US convention in Wilmette.[48]

Charles Mason Remey was among the Hands who signed the unanimous proclamations in 1957, acknowledging that Shoghi Effendi had died without having appointed his successor.[35][47] He was also among the nine Custodians initially elected to serve in the Holy Land as interim head of the religion.[41]

Charles Mason Remey

Upon the election of the Universal House of Justice at the culmination of the Ten Year Crusade in 1963, the nine Hands acting as interim head of the religion closed their office.[36]

In deciding when and how the International Bahá'í Council would develop into the Universal House of Justice, the Hands agreed to carry out Shoghi Effendi's plans for moving it from the appointed council, to an officially recognized Bahá'í Court, to a duly elected body, and then to the elected Universal House of Justice.[43] In November 1959, referring to the goal of becoming recognized as a non-Jewish religious court in Israel, they said: "this goal, due to the strong trend towards the secularization of Religious Courts in this part of the world, might not be achieved."[44][45] The recognition as a religious court was never achieved, and the International Bahá'í Council was reformed in 1961 as an elected body in preparation for forming the Universal House of Justice.[46] The Hands of the Cause made themselves ineligible for election to both the council and the Universal House of Justice.[46]

In their deliberations following Shoghi Effendi's passing they determined that they were not in a position to appoint a successor, only to ratify one, so they advised the Bahá'í community that the Universal House of Justice would consider the matter after it was established.[36]

  • "That the entire body of the Hands of the Cause, ... shall determine when and how the International Bahá'í Council shall pass through the successive stages outlined by Shoghi Effendi culminating in the election of the Universal House of Justice"
  • "That the authority to expel violators from the Faith shall be vested in the body of nine Hands [The Custodians.], acting on reports and recommendations submitted by Hands from their respective continents."

That same day the Hands passed a unanimous resolution that clarified who would have authority over various executive areas.[4][42] Among these were:

On November 25, 1957, the Hands signed a unanimous proclamation stating that he had died "without having appointed his successor"; that "it is now fallen upon us... to preserve the unity, the security and the development of the Bahá'í World Community and all its institutions"; and that they would elect from among themselves nine Hands who would "exercise ... all such functions, rights and powers in succession to the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith... as are necessary to serve the interests of the Bahá'í World Faith, and this until such time as the Universal House of Justice... may otherwise determine." This body of nine Hands became known as the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, sometimes referred to as the Custodians.[41]

Shortly after Shoghi Effendi's death, the 27 then-living Hands of the Cause (Hands) deliberated over whether or not they could legitimately consent to any successor.[39] Following these events Time Magazine reported that there were debates about two possible candidates for Guardian.[40]

Role of the Hands of the Cause

The roles of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice are complementary, the former providing authoritative interpretation, and the latter providing flexibility and the authority to adjudicate on "questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book."[34][38] The authority of the two institutions was elucidated by `Abdu'l-Bahá in his will, saying that rebellion and disobedience towards either the Guardian or the Universal House of Justice, is rebellion and disobedience towards God.[34][38] Shoghi Effendi went into further detail explaining this relationship in The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, indicating that the institutions are interdependent.[38]

Relationship between the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice

The will also vested authority in the Guardian's appointed assistants, known as the Hands of the Cause, giving them the right to "cast out from the congregation of the people of Bahá" anyone they deem in opposition to the Guardian.[4]

`Abdu'l-Bahá warned the Bahá'ís to avoid the problems caused by his half-brother Muhammad `Alí.[37] He stipulated the criteria and form for selecting future Guardians, which was to be clear and unambiguous.[34] His will required that the Guardian appoint his successor "in his own life-time ... that differences may not arise after his [the Guardian's] passing."[34] The appointee was required to be either the first-born son of the Guardian, or one of the Aghsán (literally: Branches; male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh).[34] Finally, `Abdu'l-Bahá left a responsibility to nine Hands of the Cause, elected from all of the Hands, who "whether unanimously or by a majority vote, must give their assent to the choice of the one whom the Guardian of the Cause of God hath chosen as his successor."[36]

Other than allusions in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh to the importance of the Aghsán, the role of the Guardian was not mentioned until the reading of the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá. Shoghi Effendi later expressed to his wife and others that he had no foreknowledge of the existence of the Institution of Guardianship, least of all that he was appointed as Guardian.[37]


Shoghi Effendi died in 1957 without explicitly appointing a successor Guardian.[34] He had no children, and during his lifetime all remaining male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh had been excommunicated as Covenant-breakers.[34] He left no will.[34] Shoghi Effendi's appointed Hands of the Cause unanimously voted it was impossible to legitimately recognize and assent to a successor.[35] The Bahá'í community was in a situation not dealt with explicitly in the provisions of the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá.[34] Furthermore, the Universal House of Justice had not yet been elected, which represented the only Bahá'í institution authorized to adjudicate on matters not covered by the religion's three central figures.[36] To understand the transition following the death of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, an explanation of the roles of the Guardian, the Hands of the Cause, and the Universal House of Justice is useful.

The founding of the Universal House of Justice

In 1932 Shoghi Effendi's great aunt, Bahiyyih Khanum, died. She was greatly respected and had instructed all to follow Shoghi Effendi through several telegrams she had sent around the world announcing the basics of the provisions of `Abdu'l-Bahá's will and was witness to the actions relatives took in violation of provisions of the will.[33] Bahíyyih Khánum had devoted much of her life towards protecting the accepted leadership of the Bahá'í Faith and after Shoghi Effendi's appointment there was little internal opposition until after her death when nephews began to openly oppose Shoghi Effendi over Bahá'u'lláh's house in Baghdad.[25] Some family members disapproved of his marriage to a Westerner, Mary Maxwell — daughter of one of the foremost disciples of `Abdu'l-Bahá — in 1937. They claimed that Shoghi Effendi introduced innovations beyond the Iranian roots of the Faith. This gradually resulted in his siblings and cousins disobeying his instructions and marrying into the families of Covenant-breakers, many of whom were expelled as Covenant-breakers themselves. However, these disagreements within Shoghi Effendi's family resulted in no attempts to create a schism around an alternative leader. At the time of his death in 1957, he was the only remaining male member of the family of Bahá'u'lláh who had not been expelled. Even his own parents had openly fought against him.[25]

Family members expelled

All of the divisions of this period were short-lived and restricted in their influence.[1]

[32] Another division occurred primarily within the American Bahá'í community, which increasingly consisted of non-Persians with an interest in alternative spiritual pursuits. Many had been strongly attracted to the personality of `Abdu'l-Bahá and the spiritual teachings of the Bahá'í Faith. Some regarded it as an ecumenical society to which all persons of goodwill—regardless of religion—might join. When Shoghi Effendi made clear his position that the Bahá'í Faith was an independent religion with its own distinct administration through local and national spiritual assemblies, a few felt that he had overstepped the bounds of his authority. Most prominent among them was a New York group including

After the death of `Abdu'l-Bahá, Ruth White questioned the Will's authenticity as early as 1926,[27] and openly opposed Shoghi Effendi's Guardianship, publishing several books on the subject. She wrote a letter to the United States Postmaster General and asked him, among other things, to prohibit the National Spiritual Assembly from "using the United States Mails to spread the falsehood that Shoghi Effendi is the successor of `Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian of the Cause." She also wrote a letter to the High Commissioner for Palestine; both of these letters were ignored.

American disputes

At this time Muhammad-`Alí revived his claim to leadership of the Bahá'í community.[25] He seized the keys of the Tomb of Bahá'u'lláh at the mansion of Bahjí, expelled its keeper, and demanded that he be recognized by the authorities as the legal custodian of that property. But the Palestine authorities, after investigations, instructed the British officer in `Akká to deliver the keys into the hands of the keeper loyal to Shoghi Effendi.[26]

At 24, Shoghi Effendi was particularly young when he assumed leadership of the religion in 1921, as provided for by `Abdu'l-Bahá in his Will and Testament. He had received a Western education at the Syrian Protestant College and later at Balliol College, Oxford.

Shoghi Effendi at the time of becoming Guardian in 1921. Taken in Haifa.


Shoghi Effendi as Guardian

This schism had very little effect. In the `Akká area, the followers of Muhammad `Alí have been reduced to at most six families who have no common organized religious activities,[18] and have been almost wholly assimilated into Muslim society.[21] A modern academic observer has reported an attempt to revive the claims of Muhammad Ali in order to lend legitimacy to a newly established sect avowing loyalty to Bahá'u'lláh but rejecting the authority that Bahá'u'lláh gave to 'Abdu’l-Bahá and the Universal House of Justice.[22] In addition, Nigar Bahai Amsalem, the great-granddaughter of Bahá'u'lláh and granddaughter of both Mirza Muhammad Ali and Bahá'u'lláh's youngest son Badiullah was interviewed[23] in the 2006 Israeli mockumentary film [24]Baha'is In My Backyard. It mentions that she has built a shrine at the tomb of Mirza Muhammad Ali and opposes the Universal House of Justice. She withheld information on the extent of her opposition during her interview for the film.[23]

When `Abdu'l-Bahá died, his will went into great detail about how Muhammad `Alí had been unfaithful to the Covenant, labelling him a Covenant-breaker, and appointing Shoghi Effendi as leader of the Faith instead, with the title of Guardian. Whole books within Bahá'í literature have been printed to refute the claims of Muhammad `Alí. (Balyuzi, Taherzadeh, etc.) This represented what is often described as the most testing time for the Bahá'í Faith.[20] The Behaists rejected the authority of the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, claiming loyalty to the leadership succession written by Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i-Ahd.[16]


The function of these representatives was to explain matters to the Bahá'ís and to encourage them to persevere in cutting all contacts. Often these individuals would have `Abdu'l-Bahá's authority to open up communications with those involved to try to persuade them to return. In Iran, such envoys were principally the four Hands of the Cause appointed by Bahá'u'lláh.[20]

`Abdu'l-Bahá's response to determined opposition during his tenure was patterned on Bahá'u'lláh's[19] and evolved across three stages. Initially, like Bahá'u'lláh,[19] he made no public statements but communicated with his brother Muhammad `Alí and his associates directly, or through intermediaries, as both parties attempted reconciliation. When it became clear that reconciliation was not possible, and fearing damage to the community, he wrote to the Bahá'ís explaining the situation, identifying the individuals concerned, and instructing the believers to sever all ties with those involved. Finally, he sent representatives to those areas most affected by the problem.[20]

[18] He published a Unitarian Bahai magazine called Quarterly for three years, 1934 to 1937, in the English language, which featured the writings of Muhammad Ali and various other Unitarian Bahais.[17] or "Unitarian Bahá'ís".[16] Muhammad `Alí's supporters either called themselves Behaists [15] Later on, Kheiralla switched sides in the conflict between Bahá'u'lláh's sons and supported Mirza Muhammad Ali. He formed the Society of Behaists, a religious denomination promoting Unitarian Bahaism in the U.S., which was led after his death by Shuaullah Behai, son of Mirza Muhammad Ali, after he emigrated to the United States in June 1904 at the behest of his father.[14][13] Initially he was loyal to 'Abdu'l-Bahá, but he taught that 'Abdu'l-Bahá was the return of Christ, and when 'Abdu'l-Bahá learned this was becoming the widespread understanding of the Bahá'ís in America he took pains to correct the mistake.[13]

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