Custodians

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For more meanings of this word, see Custodian (disambiguation).

The Custodians is terminology in the Bahá'í Faith, which refers to nine Hands of the Cause assigned specifically to work at the Bahá'í World Centre top assist Shoghi Effendi as head of the religion, referred to as Guardian. After his death they were chosen by secret ballot, with all living Hands of the Cause voting.

The position of the Custodians was referred to in the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá:

"The Hands of the Cause of God must elect from their own number nine persons that shall at all times be occupied in the important services in the work of the Guardian of the Cause of God. The election of these nine must be carried either unanimously or by majority from the company of the Hands of the Cause of God and these, whether unanimously or by a majority vote, must give their assent to the choice of the one whom the Guardian of the Cause of God hath chosen as his successor."
(`Abdu'l-Bahá, The Will And Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 12)

The Hands of the Cause are also referred to by Shoghi Effendi as the "Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth". (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World - 1950-1957, p. 127)

Ministry 1957 – 1963[edit]

In 1957 after the unexpected death of Shoghi Effendi while he was travelling to Britain, the leadership of the religion passed from Shoghi Effendi to the Custodians, who were entrusted with the protection of the Bahá'í Faith, until the Universal House of Justice was elected in 1963. This period is referred to as the Ministry of the Custodians.

The nine Hands of the Cause who constituted the Custodians of the Bahá'í Faith were selected by a unanimous proclamation by the whole body of the Hands of the Cause in `Akká, Israel, shortly after Shoghi Effendi died. In a statement released by the complete body of the Hands of the Cause they wrote:

We the undersigned:
in our capacity as Hands of the Cause of God duly nominated and appointed by the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, His Eminence the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, assembled this 25th of November, 1957 at the Bahá'í World Centre and constituting the supreme body of the Bahá'í World Community
DO HEREBY UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVE AND PROCLAIM AS FOLLOWS:
WHEREAS THE Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, His Eminence the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, died in London (England) on the 4th of November, 1957, without having appointed his successor;
AND WHEREAS it is now fallen upon us as Chief Stewards of the Bahá'í World Faith to preserve the unity, the security and the development of the Bahá'í World Community and all its institutions;
AND WHEREAS in accordance with the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá) "the Hands of the Cause of God must elect from their own number nine persons that shall at all times be occupied in the important services in the work of the Guardian of the Cause of God"; 30
We nominate and appoint from our own number to act on our behalf as the Custodians of the Bahá'í World Faith
Ruhiyyih Rabbani
Charles Mason Remey
Amelia E. Collins
Leroy C. Ioas
Hasan Balyuzi
`Alí-Akbar Furútan
Jalal Khazeh
Paul E. Haney
Adelbert Muhlschlegel
to exercise -- subject to such directions and decisions as may be given from time to time by us as the Chief Stewards of the Bahá'í World Faith -- all such functions, rights and powers in succession to the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, His Eminence the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, as are necessary to serve the interests of the Bahá'í World Faith, and this until such time as the Universal House of Justice, upon being duly established and elected in conformity with the Sacred Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, may otherwise determine.
[Signed as follows]
Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Zikrullah Khadem, M.B. [Musa Banani], Charles Mason Remey,Ali Mohammad Varqa, William Sears, Amelia E. Collins, T. Samandari, John Robarts, Leroy C. Ioas, Djalal Khazeh, Enoch Olinga, Ugo Giachery, John Ferraby, Agnes B. Alexander, Hasan M. Balyuzi, Paul E. Haney, H. Collis Featherstone, Shoaullah Alai, Horace Holley, Clara Dunn, Ali Akbar Furutan, Abul Qasim F. Teherani, Dr. R. Mohajer, Hermann Grossmann, Dr. Adelbert Muhlschlegel
(Custodians, Ministry of the Custodians, p. 28)

In 1959 Mason Remey and Hasan Balyuzi found that they could no longer serve in a permanent capacity as Custodian of the Faith at the Bahá'í World Centre, and thus John Ferraby and Horace Holley were selected to replace them as Custodians. Then in 1960 after the death of Horace Holley, William Sears was elected to replace him and serve as a Custodian.

Turning to the Universal House of Justice[edit]

Extract from Bahai texts

The Custodians called for the election of the Universal House of Justice at the close of the Ten Year Crusade.

"The Chief Stewards of the Faith are therefore calling a Convention in the Holy Land for the election of the Universal House of Justice on the first, second and third days of Ridvan, 1963. The members of all National and Regional Spiritual Assemblies elected by the Bahá'ís in Ridvan, 1962 will, in conformity with the teachings, constitute the electoral body empowered to vote for this crowning unit of the embryonic World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, upon whose deliberations the unique bounty of receiving divine inspiration has been bestowed, and whose decisions are infallibly guided by both the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh."
(Custodians, Ministry of the Custodians, p. 321)

Upon the election of the Universal House of Justice the Custodians closed their office and turned to that group.

"WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, DULY NOMINATED AND APPOINTED AS CUSTODIANS OF THE Bahá'í WORLD FAITH BY THE DECLARATION OF THE HANDS OF THE CAUSE OF GOD MADE AT BAHJI ON NOVEMBER 25TH, 1957 "to exercise [...] all such functions, rights and powers in succession to the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, His Eminence the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, as are necessary to serve the interests of the Bahá'í World Faith, and this until such time as the Universal House of Justice, upon being duly established and elected in conformity with the Sacred Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, may otherwise determine", do now declare that the Universal House of Justice was so established and elected by action of the International Bahá'í Convention held at Haifa on April 21st, 22nd and 23rd, 1963 and we hereby release all the said functions, rights and powers which were conferred upon us under the said Declaration of November 25th, 1957 as determined by the Universal House of Justice in its communication of June 7th, 1963, and we declare that all the said functions, rights and powers now devolve rightfully and in full accordance with the Sacred Writings of the Bahá'í Faith upon the Universal House of Justice. We make this statement for the full body of the Hands of the Cause of God in accordance with the powers conferred upon us by the Declaration of November 25th, 1957, and the office of Custodians of the Bahá'í World Faith has thus ceased to exist."
(Custodians, Ministry of the Custodians, p. 433)

The Universal House of Justice referred to the services of the Custodians in this way:

"From the very outset of their custodianship of the Cause of God the Hands realized that since they had no certainty of divine guidance such as is incontrovertibly assured to the Guardian and to the Universal House of Justice, their one safe course was to follow with undeviating firmness the instructions and policies of Shoghi Effendi. The entire history of religion shows no comparable record of such strict self-discipline, such absolute loyalty and such complete self-abnegation by the leaders of a religion finding themselves suddenly deprived of their divinely inspired guide. The debt of gratitude which mankind for generations, nay, ages to come, owes to this handful of grief-stricken, steadfast, heroic souls is beyond estimation."
(The Universal House of Justice, Letter 9 March 1965, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986, p. 50)

References[edit]