The Priceless Pearl
Rúhíyyih Rabbani
23:20 h
The Priceless Pearl is a book published in 1969. The book talks of the life of Shoghi Effendi, his early life, his work towards the faith, and towards the later part of his life. The book was written by his wife Amatu'l-Bahá Rúḥíyyih Khánum. It also has some personal stories in it, such as the marriage between the Guardian and Rúḥíyyih Khánum, and his close connection to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Bahíyyih Khánum, The Greatest Holy Leaf.
The Priceless Pearl
Rúḥíyyih Rabbani

Shoghi Effendi, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s eldest grandson

Chapter 1

The Childhood and Youth of Shoghi Effendi

Salutation and praise, blessing and glory rest upon that primal branch of the Divine and Sacred Lote-Tree, grown out, blest, tender, verdant and flourishing from the Twin Holy Trees; the most wondrous, unique and priceless pearl that doth gleam from out the Twin Surging Seas.

Like a cloud-break in a stormy sky these words, even as a mighty shaft of sunlight, broke through the gloom and tempest of dangerous years and shone from on high upon a small boy, the grandson of a prisoner of the Sultan of Turkey, living in the prison-city of Akka in the Turkish province of Syria. The words were written by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the first part of His Will and Testament and referred to His eldest grandchild, Shoghi Effendi.

Although already appointed the hereditary successor of his grandfather, neither the child, nor the ever-swelling host of followers of Bahá’u’lláh throughout the world, were made aware of this fact. In the Orient, where the principle of lineal descent is well understood and accepted as the normal course of events, there was hope no doubt, that even as Bahá’u’lláh Himself had demonstrated the validity of this mysterious and great principle of primogeniture, so would ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His son and successor, do likewise. Many years before His passing, in answer to a question from some Persian believers as to whether there would be one person to whom all should turn after His death, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had written: “… Know verily that this is a well-guarded secret. It is even as a gem concealed within its shell. That it will be revealed is predestined. The time will come when its light will appear, when its evidences will be made manifest, and its secrets unravelled.”

More light is thrown on this subject by the diary of Dr Yunis Khan, who spent three months in Akka with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá during 1897, and returned in 1900 for a stay of many years. From his words we infer that, perhaps due to news having reached the West that a grandson had been born to the Master, a believer in America had written to Him that in the Bible is mentioned that after ‘Abdu’l-Bahá “a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11: 6) and does this mean a real, living child who exists? Dr Yunis Khan was not aware, in 1897, that this question had been put and that ‘Abdu ’l-Bahá had revealed the following Tablet in answer to it:

O Maidservant of God!

Verily, that child is born and is alive and from him will appear wondrous things that thou wilt hear of in the future. Thou shalt behold him endowed with the most perfect appearance, supreme capacity, absolute perfection, consummate power and unsurpassed might. His face will shine with a radiance that illumines all the horizons of the world; therefore forget this not as long as thou dost live inasmuch as ages and centuries will bear traces of him.

Upon thee be greetings and praise
‘Abdu’l-Bahá ‘Abbás

It may seem surprising that such an important Tablet was not known in the East but we must remember that there was practically no contact between the Bahá’ís of the West and East in those days and Tablets were circulated among the American friends by copy or word of mouth. When Yunis Khan received a letter from America, at a time when the dark clouds of Covenant-breaking were gathering ever thicker about the Master, he was therefore wholly unaware of the background which might have brought about the question this friend now asked him to put to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; indeed he states in his diary that it was not until many years later he heard of this Tablet’s existence. Yunis Khan writes: “‘Abdu’l-Bahá was walking in front of the khan [the building where many believers used to stay in Akka]; I approached and told Him ‘someone has written to me from America that we have heard the Master has said that the one whose appearance will follow me has recently been born and is in this world. If this is so we are answered, but if this is not so then?’ After waiting a moment, with a look full of meaning and secret exaltation, He said: ‘Yes, this is true.’ Hearing this glad tidings my soul rejoiced; I felt assured that the Covenant-breaking will come to naught and the Cause of God triumph throughout the world and this world become the mirror of the heavenly world. However, to understand what He meant by ‘appearance’, as we Bahá’ís conceive its meaning, was very difficult for me, and remained in my mind a mystery; seeking further information I thereupon asked Him: ‘Does this mean a revelation?’ If He had replied with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ this would have created more complications and aroused more questions, but fortunately His answer was conclusive and such as to silence any questioner, and in even clearer words He said: ‘ The triumph of the Cause of God is in his hands!’” Yunis Khan then goes on to state that he wrote this answer to the believer in America but did not share it for many years with anyone and even in his own mind refused to contemplate its implications or ask himself if that child was in Akka or somewhere else. He explains this reserved attitude on his part as due to the words of Bahá’u’lláh in the book of His Covenant in which He says that all eyes must be focused on the Centre of the Covenant (‘Abdu’l-Bahá), and to the defections, machinations and mischief which for two generations disrupted the family of the Manifestation of God.

In another part of his diary Yunis Khan describes his first glimpse of the Master’s eldest grandson: “For many days the occupants of the Pilgrim House had begged the Afnan [Shoghi Effendi’s father] to see Shoghi Effendi. One day, unexpectedly, this child of four months was brought to the biruni [reception room of the Master]. The believers approached him with joy and I too had this privilege, but I said to myself ‘only look upon him as a Bahá’í child’. However I could not control my feelings because an inner force obliged me to bow low before him and for a moment I was bewitched by the beauty of this suckling child. I kissed the soft hair of his head and sensed such a power in him that I can find no words to express it, but only say he looked like the babe one sees in the arms of the Blessed Virgin. For several days the face of this child was before me, then gradually I forgot it. Two other times I had these same feelings, once when he was nine years old and once when he was eleven years old.”

Yunis Khan also records that after he had observed in Shoghi Effendi’s babyhood and early childhood inner and outer evidences of his great spirituality and unique character he could contain himself no longer and confided to an old and trustworthy believer those memorable words he had heard from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá regarding a child in whose hands would be the triumph of the Cause of God.

Be this at it may, the fact remains that until the Master passed away in November 1921, and His Will and Testament was found in His safe and opened and read, no one in the Bahá’í world knew that Shoghi Effendi was the “unique pearl”, and just how unique and glorious a pearl it was that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá left behind Him no one really understood until November 1957 it was recalled to the Seas from which it had been born.