The Broken Baha’i “Covenant”

The history of the Baha’i faith is in large part a story of shattered plans and broken promises or to put it in Baha’i terminology, “Covenant-breaking.” During the ministry of each leader and at every stage of transfer of leadership, there has been a great deal of conflict and controversy. Covenants have been broken not only by those who have traditionally been assigned the blame, but by the recognized leaders of the faith as well. With every fresh round of dissension and excommunications, there were valid arguments on both sides, but one side utterly defeated the other and demonized it to such a degree that its views are typically never considered by Baha’is or by the average person studying the Baha’i religion.

          Baha’is have responded to the historical record by digging in their heels on the thoroughly refutable claim that theirs is the only religion in history which has a perfect, unbroken chain of authority passed down from one leader to the next. It does not; no major religion does. In fact, Baha’i may actually be more noteworthy among religions for its perfect record of leadership conflicts in every generation or stage of development during the first one hundred years of its existence. The Baha’i “Covenant” is broken—and always has been, from the moment Baha’u’llah declared himself to be a new Manifestation of God.

                   Let’s start there. The Bab appointed Mirza Yahya Nuri, a younger half-brother of Baha’u’llah, as his successor. It was far from clear that another Divine Manifestation should appear anytime soon; according to Babism, the founders of religions were supposed to appear roughly every one thousand years. But because the Bab’s successor was a quiet man with a reclusive personality—more interested in writing esoteric religious texts than in playing the role of a charismatic leader for the nascent Babi community—many followers of the Bab began looking for a forceful personality to provide them with the divine guidance they craved. Several prominent Babis proclaimed themselves to be “Him whom God shall make manifest,” interpreting vague prophecies of the Bab in their own favor. Mirza Husayn Ali Nuri was one of these claimants, calling himself Baha’u’llah. Shortly thereafter, Mirza Yahya responded by making a similar claim, and called himself Subh-i-Azal.

          It is beyond the scope of this book to investigate the conflict between these two brothers, but suffice it to say that it was ferocious. There were denunciations and counter-denunciations, and the Nuri family was split between supporters of each brother.  Things reached the point of assassinations and attempted assassinations. Eventually the government had to intervene and banish the two branches of the family and their respective fanatical followers to two different provinces of the Ottoman Empire: the Azalis to Cyprus, and the Baha’is to Syria (now Israel).

                    After leading the Baha’is for almost 30 years without a Universal House of Justice, ‘Abdu’l-Baha died and left the reins of authority to his grandson, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, whom he gave the title of “Guardian.” However, he made it explicitly clear in his will that Shoghi Effendi should work together with the democratically elected leadership body, at long last to be created, that Baha’u’llah had originally envisioned. As ‘Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

                    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 [Baha’u’llah]… Whatsoever they decide is of God….

[Concerning the House of Justice which God hath ordained as the source of all good and freed from all error, it must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers. Unto this body all things must be referred. It enacteth all ordinances and regulations that are not to be found in the explicit Holy Text. By this body all the difficult problems are to be resolved and the Guardian of the Cause of God is its sacred head and the distinguished member for life of that body.

Ref: The Will And Testament of’Abdu’l-Baha (Wilmette, 111.: US Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1990 reprint), Part One, pp. n, 14.

                   Defying his grandfather’s instructions to create the Universal House of Justice and lead the Baha’i faith in conjunction with its elected members as its chairman, Shoghi Effendi chose to rule unilaterally. His ministry lasted over 35 years, and during that entire time the House of Justice was never brought into being. This was a choice he made—a choice which violated both the spirit and the letter of ‘Abdu’l- Baha’s will. There were plenty of eminent Baha’is from various nations who could have served capably and admirably on a Universal House of Justice, had it been created, but Shoghi Effendi evidently preferred to hold all power in his own hands—just as ‘Abdu’l-Baha had preferred and chosen in his own ministry.

Courtest:- Extracts taken form the book “The Lost History Of the Baha’i Faith”

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