1. Religion & Spirituality

Shoghi Effendi – The First Guardian of the Baha'i Faith



March 1, 1897 in Akka, now part of Israel


November 4, 1957 in London, England


Shoghi Effendi received a much more Westernized education than his predecessors, including attending what is now known as the American University of Beirut, and Oxford University in England. He returned home on the death of his grandfather, Abdu'l-Baha, in 1921. In 1937, he married an American named Mary Sutherland Maxwell, who became known as Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum.

Question of Succession:

Abdu'l-Baha explicitly named Effendi as his successor within the Baha'i Faith. However, his great grandfather Baha'u'llah, the founder of the faith, had just as explicitly named Mirza Mohammed Ali, Abdu'l-Baha's brother, as successor after Abdu'l-Baha. However, while Ali outlived Abdu'l-Baha, he never challenged Effendi's right to lead, probably because he knew the chances were slim that the majority of Baha'is would accept him, due to the preaching of Abdu'l-Baha against him.

Creation of a Baha'i Administration:

One of Shoghi Effendi's major contributions was the creation of the Baha'i administration system. This consists of numerous local Spiritual Assemblies, which are elected annually, National Assemblies elected annually by delegates from the local Bahai communities, and the Universal House of Justice, now established in Haifa Israel, which is elected by the sitting members of National Assemblies.

As the Baha'i organization became more recognized and grew in size and complexity, various legal definitions and legislations had to be put in place by Effendi, such as membership within the Baha'i community and voting rights.


Like his grandfather, Effendi excommunicated any Baha'i who challenged him. This led to the excommunication of most of his family, including Abdu'l-Baha's widow.


Effendi took suddenly ill during a trip to London and died quite unexpectedly at the age of 61. He was buried near London according to Baha'i customs laid down by Baha'u'llah.

Abdu'l-Baha's will had stated that successive Guardians should come from Effendi's descendants. However, Effendi died without children and without the writing of a will, even though Baha'u'llah commanded all Baha'is to prepare such a document. Thus, he is both the first and the last Guardian of the Baha'i Faith. Matters of doctrine are now determined solely by the Universal House of Justice and by personal interpretation.

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