Baha’u’llah’s Message to the World
We desire but the good of the world and the happiness of the nations; … That all nations should become one in faith and all men as brothers; … that the bonds of affection and unity between the sons of men should be strengthened; … that diversity of religion should cease, and differences of race be annulled-what harm is there in this? … Yet so it shall be; these fruitless strifes, these ruinous wars shall pass away and the `Most Great Peace’ shall come…. Is not this that which Christ foretold? … These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family.
– Abdu’l-Baha (A Traveler’s Narrative p. 39-40)
Shoghi Effendi led the Baha’i World as the first Guardian of the Faith until his death in 1957. During his ministry the Faith gradually spread to all continents, national and local administrative bodies were established in many countries, and the World Center was developed and expanded in Haifa, Israel, near the burial places of the Bab and Baha’u’llah.
When Shoghi Effendi passed away in 1957, the Covenant of Baha’u’llah faced a great challenge. No will was found appointing a successor as Guardian of the Cause. At the time of the first Guardian’s death, the only prominent international leaders in the Baha’i community were the Hands of the Cause.
Suddenly left without a spiritual leader and without any specific guidance, the Hands of the Cause assumed charge of the Faith and called for the election of the first Universal House of Justice, in 1963. Almost immediately the Universal House of Justice proclaimed that the Guardianship was finished and that there would be no future Guardians. Many of the believers could not accept this. The majority, however, accepted the position and leadership of the new Universal House of Justice, even though Baha’i scriptures state that the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice are inseparable institutions and the Guardian is the chairman for life of the House of Justice. Despite the clear language of the scriptures, most Baha’is abandoned the Guardianship, and now recognize the Universal House of Justice as the exclusive administrative leader of the Baha’i world.
The Question of the Continuing Guardianship
Some Baha’is, however, still uphold the validity of the continuing Institution of the Guardianship. The Tarbiyat Baha’i Community is an organized community of Baha’is who believe that a lineal descendant of Baha’u’llah will arise to claim the Guardianship at some point in the future. In the meantime, the Tarbiyat Baha’i Community is led by a council of “regents” who serve no other purpose than to unite Baha’is in anticipation of the day when the second Guardian arises to reestablish spiritual guidance and unity in the Baha’i World.