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A Profile of the Bahá'í Faith and its Worldwide Community

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bullet.gif (837 bytes) The Bahá'ís
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Unity in Diversity
bullet.gif (837 bytes) Bahá'u'lláh
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Social and Moral
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Spiritual Beliefs of
the Bahá'í Faith
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A System for
Global Governance
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) A Century of 
Growth and
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) New Approaches
to Old Problems
bullet1.gif (837 bytes) Towards the New
World Order

The Era of the Guardian : The Work of Shoghi Effendi

On 28 November 1921, `Abdu'l-Bahá passed away peacefully in His sleep. Like His father, `Abdu'l-Bahá was concerned with the potential for religious schism after His passing. So He, too, left a clear and explicit will and testament--an extension of the Covenant established by Bahá'u'lláh.

In that document, `Abdu'l-Bahá appointed His oldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, to succeed Him as Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith. The Guardianship was an institution anticipated by Bahá'u'lláh.

In this office, Shoghi Effendi was the authoritative interpreter of the Bahá'í teachings.

Born in Acre on 1 March 1897, Shoghi Effendi spent much of his early childhood at `Abdu'l-Bahá's knee. He attended the American University in Beirut, and then Oxford University in England--which gave him a superb knowledge of the English language and of Western culture.

During Shoghi Effendi's ministry, the Bahá'í Faith became a truly global religion. At the time of `Abdu'l-Bahá's passing;in 1921, there were 100,000 Bahá'ís. Most were Iranian, and most lived in Iran or other countries in the Middle East. A handful of followers lived in India, Europe, and North America--about 35 countries in all. Some 36 years later, by the time of Shoghi Effendi's passing in 1957, there were about 400,000 Bahá'ís, and they resided in more than 250 countries, territories and colonies.

The letters of Shoghi Effendi also developed guidelines for the system of elections and group decision-making that has become one of the Bahá'í Faith's distinguishing features. He wrote letters to fledgling Bahá'í institutions that explained the implications of Bahá'u'lláh's teachings on issues ranging from family life to world government. He elaborated on the relationship of the Bahá'í Faith to other religions and doctrines. His lucid and incisive writings further helped to clarify the distinctive Bahá'í views on matters of ethics, theology and history.

Perhaps most important, insofar as the growth of the Bahá'í Faith is concerned, Shoghi Effendi's letters to the Bahá'í world provided a continuing source of encouragement and support. Although the Bahá'í Faith today enjoys wide respect, to become a Bahá'í in the 1930s, 1940s, or 1950s was to expose oneself to suspicion and ridicule.

Shoghi Effendi's clear vision of the Bahá'í Faith as God's revelation to our age, and his certainty of its ultimate triumph, helped to invigorate a generation of believers who, though few in number, were responsible for having spread Bahá'u'lláh's message to every corner of the globe.

The Universal House of Justice

By the time of Shoghi Effendi's passing in 1957, the Faith had established the necessary broad base of national and local Spiritual Assemblies, thus permitting the election of the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body envisioned by Bahá'u'lláh.

For Bahá'ís, the long-awaited establishment of the first Universal House of Justice on 21 April 1963 represented an event of transcendent importance. It had been conceived by Bahá'u'lláh, and invested by Him with the promise that it would be infallibly guided by God in its decisions.

"Great is thy blessedness, O earth, for thou hast been made the foot-stool of thy God, and been chosen as the seat of His mighty throne." -- Bahá'u'lláh

The nine members chosen that year by secret ballot came from four continents, represented three major religious backgrounds (Jewish, Christian, and Muslim), and were of several different ethnic origins. Since that time, elections for the Universal House of Justice have been held every five years. [See page 44.]

As the supreme institution of the Bahá'í Faith, the Universal House of Justice took on the task of directing the growth and development of the worldwide Bahá'í community. This was accomplished through a series of plans; each plan ran for from five to nine years and outlined a series of goals for expansion and recognition.

In 1963, worldwide Bahá'í membership had reached 400,000. Bahá'ís lived in 11,000 localities and were organized into 56 national and regional communities. By 1992, there were some 5,000,000 Bahá'ís, residing in more than 116,000 localities, and organized into 165 national communities. continues continues

"Excerpted from The Bahá'ís, a publication of the Bahá'í International Community."

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Photo from page 55

Shoghi Effendi

Photo from page 56
In April 1963, some 6,000 Bahá'ís gathered in London's Royal Albert Hall for the First Bahá'í World Congress, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of Bahá'u'lláh's mission.






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