The Role of the Hands of the Cause of God

Bahá'u'lláh has enjoined upon His followers to teach His Cause, and this commandment has always been carried out by every sincere and true Bahá'í. In the early days of the Faith the believers in Persia were devotedly engaged in awakening the souls, but each one played his part in accordance with his ability. Not everybody was able to speak about religion. The actual work of teaching, adducing proofs and confirming people was usually left to those who had the gift of knowledge and the understanding of religious subjects. As we have said, these individuals were known as muballigh (teacher). In every locality there were usually a few knowledgeable believers who were thus named and who were available to discuss the Faith in private meetings with people who had been contacted by individual Bahá'ís.

Often, teaching the Cause was carried out as team work. There were many who searched for receptive souls and were able to attract them to the Cause through prayer and perseverance, and eventually prepare them to attend a meeting in which a muballigh would speak to them about the Faith. There were others who would offer their homes for such meetings, and there were some who had to render other services to make these meetings possible. Wisdom was, and always is, an important aspect of teaching. The Bahá'í teachers first weighed up the capacity of the person, and then began teaching the Faith to him step by step with wisdom and prudence.*


* see vol. 2 pp. 91-106.

These teachers of the Cause usually had a deep understanding of the Faith and were well versed in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and in the Holy Books of the past. Most of them were learned people, but there were some very successful teachers who were illiterate or had very little education. We have discussed in a previous volume* the difference between the ability to understand spiritual truth and the gift of knowledge. The former comes through having faith and being detached from earthly things, while the latter comes through learning. There have been some individuals who had great knowledge of the Faith, but did not understand its truth. On the other hand, there were many who possessed the two.

The outstanding qualities possessed by most teachers of the Cause in those days were a passionate love for Bahá'u'lláh which made them radiant souls, and a deep understanding of the Faith whether educated or not. In the absence of any institutions of the Faith such as local and national spiritual assemblies in the days of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá, a muballigh would play a significant part in deepening the friends in the knowledge of the Faith as well as helping and encouraging them to discharge their duties in the field of teaching.

As far back as 1881 Bahá'u'lláh in one of His Tablets1 directed Ibn-i-Asdaq to make arrangements, in consultation with Mullá 'Alí-Akbar-i-Sháhmírzádí and another believer, for the appointment in every locality in Persia of a suitable resident Bahá'í teacher. He places great emphasis on this matter and regards it as the most important of all things. From the very early days, too, Bahá'u'lláh Himself directed a few outstanding and knowledgeable souls to travel continually throughout Persia and the neighbouring countries in the capacity of muballigh to teach the Faith in different towns and villages. Their main task was to speak to interested people in private meetings which were usually organized by local believers. These travelling teachers rendered an invaluable service: through their devotion, their knowledge, their spirituality and radiance they succeeded in helping the


* see vol. 3, pp. 94-6.

1. Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 27, p. 281.
believers in their teaching work and brought a great many souls under the shadow of the Cause of God. This practice continued during the ministries of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, and as the numbers grew there were two categories of muballigh: the 'local' and the 'travelling'. When the national institutions of the Faith were established in Persia one of their important obligations was to ensure that in every locality there were some individuals who could function in the capacity of a muballigh.

Parallel with the duty of teaching the Faith is the principle of conducting the affairs of the community through the process of consultation which Bahá'u'lláh has ordained in His teachings. Before the establishment of the institutions of the Faith, important decisions, whether concerned with the local community or an individual, were often taken by consultation among a few teachers of the Faith and others who were older and more experienced Bahá'ís. As we have already stated, the practice of naming certain individuals as muballigh continued during the ministries of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. When the local spiritual assemblies were constituted in Persia during the ministry of the Guardian, he advised that the spiritual assembly in its decision-making process ought to pay special attention to the views of the muballigh in the area and try to implement his advice.

It seems that this process, which started at the time of Bahá'u'lláh and later was consolidated by the appointment of four Hands of the Cause by Him, was formally institutionalized during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi and later the Universal House of Justice. In the Formative Age of the Faith, which began with the ascension of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, the Hands of the Cause appointed* by Shoghi Effendi became an integral part of the institutions of the Administrative Order of Bahá'u'lláh. Similarly the Boards of Counsellors, appointed by the Universal House of Justice to perpetuate the main functions of the Hands of the Cause into the future, also constitute an institution of the Faith. This institution, together with its appointed arm known as


* The first contingent of Hands of the Cause were appointed in 1951.

Auxiliary Board Members and their assistants, seems to be carrying out the same functions which were once allotted to those teachers of the Faith entitled muballigh on the international, national and local levels. It must be stated, however, that there are today a great many teachers of the Faith, highly knowledgeable, devoted and active, who render notable service to the Cause but are not members of this institution, and therefore do not have certain responsibilities in relation to the Bahá'í community. These responsibilities, apart from teaching and encouraging the believers in their service to the Cause, include consultation with the local and national spiritual assemblies, responsibilities which are not unlike some of the functions of the muballigh in older days.

During the last few years of His life Bahá'u'lláh chose four of His devoted followers and designated them as Hands of the Cause of God. They were Hájí Mullá 'Alí-Akbar-i-Sháhmírzádí, known as Hájí Ákhúnd; Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí, known as Ibn-i-Abhar; Mírzá 'Alí-Muhammad, known as Ibn-i-Asdaq; and Hájí Mírzá Hasan, surnamed Adíb. These appointments, so far as we know, did not take place at one time. Also, they did not take the form of announcing their names to the community or outlining their functions in one special Tablet. With the exception of Mírzá Hasan-i-Adíb, who embraced the Faith about three years before the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh, the other three Hands of the Cause were long-standing believers. They were the recipients of many Tablets in which, over the years, He showered upon them His blessings, guided their steps, praised their work and exalted their station in glowing terms. In these Tablets He often refers to them as 'the Chosen Ones', 'the loved ones', 'the detached souls', 'the pure in spirit' and similar designations.

Towards the end of His life He revealed a Tablet to each one of these souls, designating them as 'Hands of the Cause of God'. As far as we can gather, the first time He used the term 'Hand of the Cause' to refer to an individual with certain responsibilities was in a Tablet revealed in honour of Ibn-i-Asdaq on 19 Rajab 1304 (13 April 1887). Perhaps all three Hands of the Cause were


appointed around the same time. There is a Tablet revealed in honour of Ibn-i-Abhar dated 24 Sha'bán 1306 (26 April 1889) which makes it clear that he had already been designated a Hand of the Cause. The present writer has not been able to find a definite date for the appointment of Hájí Mírzá Hasan-i-Adíb. He was the last appointee, as he only became a believer around 1889.

Perhaps it is true to say that for quite some time the believers did not appreciate the significance of the appellation 'Hand of the Cause' and the implications of designating certain individuals as such. One may think of two reasons for this. First, Bahá'u'lláh had often used the term 'Hands' in earlier Tablets such as the Súriy-i-Haykal* and others without referring to any particular person; secondly, there was no apparent change in the activities of these souls after their appointment, since they continued to be always engaged in promoting the Cause and assisting the believers in their manifold activities. For instance, Bahá'u'lláh confirms in a Tablet2 that from the early days of His arrival in 'Akká He had instructed Mullá 'Alí-Akbar to be engaged in the protection of the Cause. The friends began to understand the functions and duties of the Hands of the Cause gradually, as the years went by. This happened especially during the Ministry of 'Abdu'l-Bahá when He directed them to carry out certain duties as a body.

In order to appreciate the function of the Hands of the Cause, let us examine some basic principles of life and creation. In a Tablet3 revealed in honour of His Trustee, Hájí Abu'l-Hasan-i-Amín, Bahá'u'lláh states that movement is caused by heat, and heat by the Word of God.† This is a profound statement, the first part of which is proved by science, the second taught by religion. This pronouncement is not only valid physically, but has deep spiritual significance as well. Religious enthusiasm and fervour are generated by the warmth of one's heart.

A believer can arise to serve the Cause with devotion only when


* see vol. 3, chapter 7.

† For more information on this topic see above, pp. 42-3.

2. Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 22, p. 9.

3. Iqtidárát, p. 249.



Hand of the Cause of God appointed by Bahá'u'lláh Known as Hájí Ákhúnd



Hand of the Cause of God appointed by Bahá'u'lláh



Hand of the Cause of God appointed by Bahá'u'lláh



Hand of the Cause of God appointed by Bahá'u'lláh

his heart is warmed by the fire of the love of God. In simpler terms this means that when the love of Bahá'u'lláh enters the heart of a believer, he will feel exhilarated and uplifted. It is then that he will be motivated to serve Him. If service to the Cause is rendered without spiritual fire and love it will be ineffective in the end, even though at first it may appear to be successful. To serve without burning love within the heart results in frustration, despair and confusion. In this case the individual may experience great difficulties in his faith. Service rendered to the Cause, when motivated by a believer's love for Bahá'u'lláh, will become a means of drawing closer to Him, whereas service with an ulterior motive renders him egotistical and deprives him of true happiness.

We have learnt from the words of Bahá'u'lláh that the Word of God is the cause of producing the heat whereby creation has come into being. This is also true in a spiritual sense. Only the Word of God can light the flame of love in the heart of a believer, and then only provided the individual succeeds in severing his attachment from the things of this world. Those who attained the presence of Bahá'u'lláh experienced the power and majesty of the Word if they were pure in heart. Those who were not pure in heart did not receive this bounty, even though they were very close to His Person. The best example of this is provided by some of the sons and daughters of Bahá'u'lláh who were in attendance for years and yet were the remotest from Him in spirit.

There is nothing more potent than the Word of God in creating the fire of His love in the heart of a believer. Next to that is the influence which a true believer may exert on the heart of another through close association. So powerful is this influence that Bahá'u'lláh states in the Hidden Words:

He that seeketh to commune with God, let him betake himself to the companionship of His loved ones; and he that desireth to hearken unto the word of God, let him give ear to the words of His chosen ones.4
This passage demonstrates the great contribution which the

4. Hidden Words, Persian no. 56.
Hands of the Cause, themselves highly exhilarated by the love of their Lord, made towards enthusing and arousing the believers and enabling them thereby to draw nearer to Bahá'u'lláh. These devoted souls warmed the hearts of the friends by the fire of their faith which burnt brightly within them. To commune with these holy souls was to commune with God, and to hear their words was to hear the Word of God.

We can see, therefore, the vital role with which the Hands of the Cause were entrusted by Bahá'u'lláh. By virtue of the fire which raged within their hearts they were able to ignite others. Of course this role is not limited to the Hands. Any believer who is aglow with the love of God can impart the fire of his faith to others. The history of the Faith has recorded the names of many immortal teachers of the Cause who have been endowed with this quality.

Although Bahá'u'lláh appointed only four Hands of the Cause, He indicated that there were others whose rank He had not divulged. For example, Hájí Amín, the Trustee of Bahá'u'lláh, wrote Him a glowing report about some meritorious services rendered by one of the Afnáns in Yazd. In response, Bahá'u'lláh stated in a Tablet5 that He knew there were some believers in that land who were accounted as Hands of the Cause in the sight of God, but through His wisdom He had not outwardly revealed their names, although in reality they were well known among the Concourse on high, the denizens of His Kingdom.

It becomes apparent from the study of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, that He gave the station of a Hand of the Cause to one other person. He was Áqá Siyyid Áqá, the eldest son of the illustrious Afnán, Áqá Mírzá Áqá entitled Núru'd-Dín.* In a Tablet6 revealed in honour of Áqá Siyyid Áqá, Bahá'u'lláh confirms that through the bounty of God he is reckoned as an Afnán and a Hand of the Cause. Áqá Siyyid Áqá was a devoted believer, but somehow he was not involved in the work of the Hands. Maybe he could be considered as being in the category of those souls who rank spiritually among the Hands, but whose


* see below, pp. 329-31.

5. Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 15, p. 96.

6. Khánidán-i-Afnán, p. 221.

names, as indicated by Bahá'u'lláh, were not revealed in this life.

In another Tablet to one of the Afnáns7 Bahá'u'lláh mentions that owing to the lack of capacity of the peoples of the world, the ranks and stations of believers have not been disclosed. In yet another Tablet8 Bahá'u'lláh declares that any believer who has heard the call of God in this day, turned His whole being towards His Most Exalted Realm, and detached himself from every earthly thing, is reckoned as a Hand of the Cause among the people.

'Abdu'l-Bahá throws further light on this subject in His Writings. In answer to a question concerning the Hands of the Cause, 'Abdu'l-Bahá, as recorded by Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání, the renowned chronicler of His journeys to Europe and America, is reported to have said these words:

The Hands of the Cause are such blessed souls that the evidences of their sanctity and spirituality will be felt in the hearts of people. Their influence must be such that the souls may be carried away by their goodly character, their pure motives, their justice and fairness, that individuals may be enamoured of their praiseworthy character and their virtuous attributes, and that people may turn their faces towards them for their qualities and resplendent signs. 'Hand of the Cause' is not a title which can be given to anybody. Neither is it a position to be handed down to whomsoever may desire it...The more any soul becomes self-effacing, the more confirmed will he be in the service of the Cause of God; and the more humble, the nearer will he be to Him.9
It must be made clear, however, that no one is qualified, nor has the right, to nominate a believer as a Hand of the Cause, except Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá or Shoghi Effendi. 'Abdu'l-Bahá states in one of His Tablets10 that the Hands of the Cause are those souls who have been appointed by the Most Exalted Pen, or who have been addressed by 'Abdu'l-Bahá with that designation.

The conclusion, therefore, is that Bahá'u'lláh appointed the four Hands of the Cause mentioned above, who functioned as


7. Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 23, p. 273.

8. Áthár-i-Qalam-i-A'lá, vol. 6, p. 327.

9. Cited in Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 2, p. 13.

10. ibid.

Hands, held consultative meetings together, and became known in the community as occupying a position of spiritual leadership. During the Ministry of 'Abdu'l-Bahá these four could be seen to have created the nucleus of a sacred institution which was further developed and consolidated during the ministry of Shoghi Effendi, constituting one of the twin arms of the Administrative Order of Bahá'u'lláh. One of the four, Ibn-i-Asdaq, lived long enough to serve the Guardian during the opening years of the Formative Age. 'Abdu'l-Bahá did not appoint any Hands during His Ministry. He only referred to a few outstanding believers posthumously as having the station of the Hands of the Cause: they are Mullá Sádiq-i-Khurásání known as Ismu'lláhu'l-Asdaq,* Nabíl-i-Akbar,† 'Alí-Muhammad-i-Varqá,‡ and Shaykh-Ridáy-i-Yazdí.§ According to the provisions of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Faith, appointed some Hands of the Cause. During the last six years of his ministry he appointed thirty-two; he also appointed ten souls posthumously as Hands of the Cause.

In the same way as there are some souls whose spiritual qualities and exalted rank are concealed in this life, only to be revealed in the world beyond, the opposite is also true. In one of His Tablets11 Bahá'u'lláh states that there are some people who become famous in this life and are prominent in the Kingdom of Names, ø but in reality their inner beings are sunk in the abyss of evil passions and corrupt desires. Indeed, the history of the Bahá'í community is replete with stories of individuals such as these, individuals who were foremost among the teachers or administrators of the Faith and were renowned among the believers. But


* see vol. 3, pp. 62-3, 253-60, 266-7.

† see vols. 1 and 2.

‡ see above, ch. 4.

§ Since there are one or two others by the same name, it is not possible to identify him. However, some believe strongly that he is Mullá Muhammad-i-Ridáy-i-Muhammad-Ábádí. For his life story see vol. 1, pp. 84-91.

ø For an explanation of this term see vol. 2, pp. 39-43.

11. Cited in Má'idiy-i-Ásamání, vol. 7, p. 36.
when confronted with tests,* they eventually revealed their true nature and perished spiritually at the end. The stories of a few such people who lived during the Ministries of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá have been described in previous volumes.† This condition, however, is not exclusive to the early days of the Faith. It exists today and will exist in the future also.

The greatest enemy of a believer and the most formidable barrier between him and God is self and evil passion. Should a person become a captive of his own base and appetitive nature he will be denuded of his spiritual qualities, and at the end will turn into a darkened self.

In several of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh pays tribute to the devotion and self-sacrifice of the Hands of the Cause, describes their main functions as the diffusion of the divine fragrances and the protection of His Cause, and prays that they may be assisted by the Almighty to serve His Faith, to guide and enthuse the believers and at all times be ready to carry out His commandments. In a Tablet to Mullá 'Alí-Akbar12 Bahá'u'lláh calls on the Hands to help the believers become aware of the laws and principles of the Faith and exert every effort to carry them out. In a Tablet13 He states that the Hands of His Cause circle around His Will, and do not speak except by His leave. He declares that through them the standards of the oneness of God have been raised among people and the banners of holiness unfurled in all regions. Bahá'u'lláh further testifies that the inmates of the highest Paradise, the denizens of His Kingdom, and beyond them the Tongue of Grandeur, bestow upon them their blessings and salutations.

In another Tablet14 Bahá'u'lláh states that God has appointed the Hands of His Cause as guards and custodians of the stronghold of His Faith so that they can protect it from the onslaught of the unfaithful and the ignorant. He describes the Hands of the Cause as the lamps of guidance who stand guard at


* For an explanation of the necessity and wisdom of tests see vol. 3, pp. 47-9.

† For example, the story of Jamál-i-Burújirdí and Siyyid Mihdíy-i-Dahají, and the Covenant-breakers in vol. 2.

12. Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 15, p. 385.

13. Mu'assisiy-i-Ayádíy-i-Amru'lláh p. 11.

14. ibid. p. 12.

the entrance of His mighty edifice and prevent the ungodly from entering it. In several of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh has revealed short prayers for the Hands of His Cause. One is revealed in the Lawh-i-Dunyá* and has been translated into English:

Light and glory, greeting and praise be upon the Hands of His Cause, through whom the light of fortitude hath shone forth and the truth hath been established that the authority to choose rests with God, the Powerful, the Mighty, the Unconstrained, through whom the ocean of bounty hath surged and the fragrance of the gracious favours of God, the Lord of mankind, hath been diffused. We beseech Him--Exalted is he--to shield them through the power of His hosts, to protect them through the potency of His dominion and to aid them through His indomitable strength which prevaileth over all created things. Sovereignty is God's, the Creator of the heavens and the Lord of the Kingdom of Names.15
In His Will and Testament 'Abdu'l-Bahá has summarized the duties of the Hands of the Cause in one passage:

The obligations of the Hands of the Cause of God are to diffuse the Divine Fragrances, to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all men and to be, at all times and under all conditions, sanctified and detached from earthly things. They must manifest the fear of God by their conduct, their manners, their deeds and their words.
These statements extolling the station of the Hands of the Cause and delineating their functions must not be allowed to give rise to the view that in some ways the institution of the Hands, followed by that of the Counsellors, is carrying out the functions of priesthood as in other religions. The fact that Bahá'u'lláh has abolished priesthood is an ample testimony that this is not the case. The following statement by the Universal House of Justice clarifies this point:

It should be apparent to the friends that, as Bahá'u'lláh Himself both abolished the priesthood and instituted the body

* see below, ch. 22.

15. Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 83.
of the Hands of the Cause, the Hands cannot be confused with a priesthood. There are basic differences between a priesthood and Bahá'í institutions, such as the Hands of the Cause and the Continental Boards of Counsellors. A priesthood is usually a profession, has sacramental functions and confers upon the individual occupant of the ecclesiastical office jurisdiction over the believers. In the Bahá'í Faith, there is no profession in any of its institutions, there are no sacraments and no individual has a sacramental function. Jurisdiction over communities and individuals is not vested in individuals. Even in the matter of teaching, the friends must realize that although a Hand of the Cause or a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors or indeed any other believer may be deeply learned in the Teachings so that one naturally gives weight to his exposition of them, no one, apart from the Master and the Guardian, is authorized to interpret the Sacred Writings.16
During His lifetime Bahá'u'lláh directed the Hands to consult among themselves and with other believers on issues which were vital for the growth and development of the Bahá'í community. For example, Ibn-i-Abhar, one of the Hands, had posed the question of the well-being and prosperity of the Bahá'ís of Persia. In a Tablet17 revealed in 1889 Bahá'u'lláh in response states that one should adhere to any means which may become the cause of the exaltation of the Word of God, the elevation of the minds and souls, the upliftment of the station of man, and the achievement of those things which benefit humanity. He then asserts that the answer will come through consultation. He urges Ibn-i-Abhar and the other Hands to gather together and invite a few devoted souls who have attained the station of certitude in the Faith and are observing the teachings, to join them in consultation about the various affairs. The next step, Bahá'u'lláh advises, would be to rely on God's confirmations and carry out the decision reached. He assures them that if they do this, they will be inspired by Him to achieve that which is the cause of prosperity and salvation.

It seems that at a certain point in His Ministry Bahá'u'lláh, wishing to emphasize the importance of consultation in resolving


16. Letter dated 19 May 1969 to a National Spiritual Assembly.

17. Mu'assisiy-i-Ayádíy-i-Amru'lláh , p. 425.

various issues, sometimes deliberately declined to give guidance when asked for advice and instead urged the questioner to seek consultation on the subject. For instance, Ibn-i-Abhar once sought guidance from Bahá'u'lláh as to where he should reside in Persia. The answer was that first he ought to seek consultation with some souls who were well-assured and steadfast in the Faith, and then implement their decision.

In a Tablet18 to His Trustee Hájí Amín, Bahá'u'lláh informs him that His Pen is ready to vouchsafe the bounties of God to any soul who may ask for a Tablet in his own name. He expresses willingness to do this so that the heedless ones may become informed and the fast-asleep be awakened. But the choice of names must be made through the consultation of the Hands. He states that He has given this commandment to the Hands so that the principle of consultation may be fully established and strengthened in this world. A few extracts from the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá concerning the importance of consultation have been quoted in a previous volume.*

It is apparent from these statements that the consultative meetings of the Hands of the Cause in which the affairs of the community were consulted upon were in operation long before the establishment of local and national spiritual assemblies. Indeed, the consultative meeting of the Hands evolved into the Spiritual Assembly of Tihrán, the first assembly in the Bahá'í world. The consultative meeting of the Hands usually consisted of the Hands and those whom they invited to take part, but these were not always the same individuals. Discussions were mainly concerned with propagation of the Faith and its protection.

In 1899 'Abdu'l-Bahá instructed the Hands of the Cause to establish the first elected Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Tihrán. The details were left to the Hands. Unlike the present system, in which the whole Bahá'í community in a town takes part in the election of the Spiritual Assembly, the Hands invited a number of well-known Bahá'ís of Tihrán to be the electors.


* see vol. 3, pp. 317-18.

18. Unpublished compilation, National Archives Committee, no. 15, p. 71.
These elected the members by secret ballot and the Hands were permanent members who actually issued credential papers for each elected member and invited them to serve on the Assembly.

It is interesting to note that one member of the Assembly, Mr Síyávash, was of Zoroastrian stock, and another, Mr Javáhirí, of Jewish background. This was a very significant development in the Bahá'í community, for in the early days the believers in Persia were not fully integrated. They were known as Bahá'ís of Muslim, Zoroastrian or Jewish backgrounds. The integration began at a slow pace during the time of the Master and gained momentum as intermarriages, though few at first, took place. Ibn-i-Abhar, one of the Hands of the Cause, gave his daughter in marriage to a Bahá'í youth of Jewish descent and this practice became universally acceptable among the Bahá'ís of Persia. During the Guardian's ministry every trace of division within the rank and file of the believers was eliminated. Today it is a difficult task to know who is from which background in the Bahá'í community.

It is obvious that every nation has its own prejudices. When people enter the Faith of God they are bound to bring with them various unacceptable practices to which they have been accustomed. But as the believers grow in the Faith and become more mature Bahá'ís, and especially when they enter into the arena of service to the Cause as teachers or administrators, they gradually become purged of their prejudices and are increasingly able to employ the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh in their individual as well as collective lives.

The Hands of the Cause, while serving on the Spiritual Assembly of Tihrán, reserved for themselves the right to cast two votes each during consultation. This practice continued for some years until 'Abdu'l-Bahá gave directions to change the system and to establish the principle of one vote for each person. Of course 'Abdu'l-Bahá had every confidence in the Hands, but He explained that if this practice were not stopped there could be great difficulties in the future. He gave the example of the time when influential people such as kings would enter the Faith.




Seated, front row, from left: Hájí Mírzá 'Abdu'lláh-Sahih-Furúsh, Mírzá 'Azízu'lláh Varqá,
Áqá Dhakaríyyá Javáhirí (Jewish background); seated middle row, from left: three of the Hands of the Cause,
Mírzá Hasan-i-Adíb, Mírzá 'Alí-Muhammad Ibn-i-Asdaq, Hájí Mullá 'Alí-Akbar (known as Hájí Akhund),
Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-i-Vakílu'd-Dawlih (an Afnán); standing from left: 'Alí-Muhammad
Khán-i-Ásifu'l-Hukámá, Muhammad Khán-i-Jadhbih, Mírzá Muhammad-Husayn-i-Muhtadí,
Mírzá Síyávash-i-Sefidvash (Zoroastrian background)

They could use this practice as a precedent and arrogate to themselves the right to cast multiple votes.

All communications to the Spiritual Assembly were effected through the Hands. At first all letters of the Spiritual Assembly were sent out under the signature of the Hands, and later a seal was made in four pieces and each piece kept by one of the Hands, who would put the seal of the Assembly on all communications. Gradually, the situation changed with the election of a chairman and a secretary. At last, at the time when every person in the country was obliged to adopt a surname* and record it in the Registry office, 'Alí-Akbar-i-Muhibb'us-Sultán, then secretary of the Spiritual Assembly, took the surname 'Rawhání' (Spiritual) and signed all communications under his surname which was considered very apt. The seal was also changed into one piece which was kept by the chairman.


* In the mid-1920's the government of Persia made it obligatory for every person to adopt a surname. Before that people did not have surnames.