Abdu'l-Baha, The Master
Shoghi Effendi, The Guardian
Universal House of Justice

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The Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith

After the passing of `Abdu'l-Bahá in 1921, the leadership of the Bahá'í community entered a new phase, evolving from that of a single individual to an administrative order founded on the "twin pillars" of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice.

This administrative order was originally envisaged by Bahá'u'lláh in his Book of Laws and was given further shape by `Abdu'l-Bahá, particularly in His Will and Testament. In that document He appointed His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, as Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith and also referred to the future election of the Universal House of Justice, a legislative body of which the Guardian would be the "sacred head and the distinguished member for life."

The Universal House of Justice was not established in `Abdu'l-Bahá's lifetime; it fell to the Guardian to lay the base for its foundation throughout the thirty-six years of his tenure as head of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh.

Throughout those years, Shoghi Effendi educated the Bahá'í community about the administrative order of the Faith and prepared it for the eventual establishment of that order's other central institution by writing consistently about the interconnection of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, both of which he described as "divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose." He continued on to state that their common purpose is "to insure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings." The institution of the Guardianship is Bahá'u'lláh's means for providing for the continuation of the unerring interpretation of His word. The function of the Universal House of Justice, on the other hand, is to legislate upon matters "not expressly revealed in the Sacred Texts." As Shoghi Effendi said, "Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer [the Bahá'í Faith's] affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions."

The interconnection of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice is further evidenced by the Guardian's ceaseless labor to foster the expansion of the Bahá'í community around the world in order to establish and develop the national legislative bodies of the administrative order; the goal of this work was the election of the Universal House of Justice and the full development in all aspects of the order ordained by Bahá'u'lláh.

While the Guardianship was outlined as a hereditary institution and `Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament provided for the possibility of a line of succession to His appointee as Guardian, Shoghi Effendi died without any heirs and without being able to appoint a successor, as no other members of his family met the stipulations that had been outlined by `Abdu'l-Bahá. The vitality of the Guardianship continues, however, through the voluminous writings, the extensive guidance, and other legacies left to the Bahá'í community from Shoghi Effendi's ministry between 1921 and 1957. To appreciate fully the scope of these legacies, it is helpful for us to take a more detailed look at the many facets of the Guardian's work to develop the Bahá'í community.

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