Excommunication By Shoghi Effendi

Following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Shoghi Effendi also chose to excommunicate his relatives who did not show absolute deference to his wishes and views. By the end of his life, he had excommunicated every one of the descendants of ‘Abdu’l-Baha as well as all the descendants of Baha’u’llah’s third wife. Thus, the entire family of Ba- ha’u’llah—except for Shoghi Effendi himself, his wife Ruhiyyih, and ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s widow Munirih and sister Bahiyyih—ended up expelled from the mainstream Baha’i community and shunned.

         One of the most disturbing examples was Shoghi Effendi’s excommunication of his cousin Munib Shahid for marrying a Muslim. In the words of Hassan Jalal Shahid, the last surviving grandchild of‘Abdu’l- Baha:

               [Regarding my brother Dr Munib Shahid of the American University of Beirut (AUB)… His wife Serene Husseini was the daughter of Jamal Husseini. He was a notable of Jerusalem, a prominent and respected Palestinian politician who had been exiled by the British to the Seychelles Islands and then to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to put an end to his struggle for an in-dependent Palestine. While there, his daughter Serene wanted to get married to my brother Munib Shahid. She contacted her father, Jamal Husseini, for his consent. He did not know who Munib Shahid was and asked a fellow exile from Haifa, Mr Tanimi, about him. Mr Tamini told him to consider it an honor that the grandson of Abdul-Baha wanted to marry his daughter. On the recommendation, he consented to and blessed the marriage….

My brother was a sincere and true Bahai and tried many times, until the last years of his life to return to the Cause [i.e. the organized Baha’i faith], … Munib was no Covenant Breaker and died a disappointed man for having been deprived of something that meant so much to him and in which he sincerely believed.

Ref: Hassan Jalal Shahid, “Comments About Munib Shahid,” http://www. abdulbahasfamily.org/writings/comments-about-munib-shahid/

                 One more relative of Shoghi Effendi whom he excommunicated deserves special attention: his cousin Ruhi Afnan, a grandson of ‘Abdu’l-Baha who was a prominent and well-respected teacher of the Baha’i faith. Ruhi Afnan was such a significant figure that the liberal Baha’i leader Ahmad Sohrab wrote a whole book about him and his case, an unauthorized biography entitled Abdul Baba’s Grandson: Story of a Twentieth Century Excommunication, even though Mr. Afnan never supported Mr. Sohrab’s denomination. Here is his summary from that book, of Mr. Afhan’s career as a Baha’i administrator and spokesperson:

                   Ruhi Effendi Afhan acted as confidential secretary to the Guardian of the Bahai Cause for fourteen years; and the records of the Bahai organization show that during that time, from 1922 to 1936, he was constantly in demand in a variety of capacities. In 1924, he appeared in London as Shoghi Effendi’s personal representative and delivered a brilliant address on the Bahai Religion before The Conference of Some Living Religions Within the British Empire. In 1927, he visited the United States as traveling agent and spiritual salesman of the Guardian, championing with fervor and zeal the system of Bahai administration before recognized and declared Bahais. He was an outstanding and honored guest at the 20th Annual Bahai Convention in Chicago, where he participated vitally in all proceedings; was the guest speaker at Green Acre Bahai Summer School in Maine, and traveled from coast to coast, delivering Bahai speeches before churches, colleges and outside gatherings.

                    In 1928, we find him in Geneva, Switzerland, where, as the accredited representative of the Bahai Cause, he participates in the Conference of International Peace Through the Churches. Here, we see him taking the floor, offering some constructive suggestions which, as one report says, were very much to the point, and carrying his argument. In 1935, with the Guardian’s approval (See Baha ’i News, page 3, October 1935), he pays his second visit to the United States; takes part in the National Bahai meeting in Chicago and, before his departure, addresses a number of local Bahai communities.

           Ref: Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, Abdul Baha’s Grandson: Story of a Twentieth Century Excommunication (New York: Universal Publishing Co., 1943), pp. 67-68. Emphasis in original.

Despite Ruhi Aihan’s exemplary record of service to the Baha’i faith, Shoghi Effendi excommunicated him in 1941, stating three rea­sons: (1) that Mr. Afhan’s sister married one of the sons of Foroughiyya and Ali Afhan, all of whom he considered to be Covenant-breakers; (2) that Ruhi Afhan himself married a cousin, one of the granddaughters of‘Abdu’l-Baha, of whom he apparently disapproved; and (3) that Mr. Afhan supposedly made his second trip to the United States without Shoghi Effendi’s approval.

 Ref: These points were made by Shoghi Effendi in two cablegrams received by the leaders of the American Baha’i community on November 10,1941 and pub­lished in the December 1941 issue of Baha’i News, pp. 1-2. Archives are available online at http://bahai-news.info.

    In a long and very interesting letter Mr. Afnan wrote in 1970, he recalls, among other things, that:

      For twelve years after Shoghi Effendi cast me out of the Cause I regularly wrote a petition—at least once a year—and more often than not, took them to the House [of Shoghi Effendi] myself. Several times I saw [Shoghi’s wife] Ruhiyyih Khanum who would meet me and end up by rejecting my request. I always wondered whether Shoghi Effendi read those letters or not. One day I asked [Shoghi’s mother] Zia Khanum. She told me that other than myself, many people wrote such petitions, for example Rouha Khanum [Zia Khanum’s sister and Ruhi’s aunt]. Apparently Shoghi Effendi had a special suitcase full of such letters from members of the family, all of which he saved. Zia Khanum added that she herself, every month, sometimes every week, would write such a petition and pour out her heart, in an effort to clarify matters to her son. I don’t know whether that suitcase full of letters still exists. If it does, it would tell the story of those people and the pain they bore.

      According to Ruhi Afhan, he was even banned from visiting Baha’- u’llah’s tomb, and threatened by Shoghi Effendi’s wife, who informed him that “orders had been given to beat me and throw me out” if he ever went to the Shrine.  This only changed as a result of a lawsuit by Kamar Bahai in 1952.

 Ref: Letter by Ruhi Mohsen Afnan to the Baha’i Spiritual Assembly of Iran, 1970. Translation by Bahiyeh Afnan Shahid, available online at http://www.abdulbahasfemily.org/documents/Ruhi-Afhan-1970-letter.pdf, pp. 20-21.

Courtesy:- Extracts taken from the book ‘ A Lost History of the Baha’i Faith’ by Shua Ullah Behai

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