Hands of the Cause
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The Hands of the Cause, or Hands (informally) was a title for an appointed position in the Baháʼí Faith. The position was appointed for life by the religion's founders, with the last one dying in 2007. Hands of the Cause played a significant role in propagating the religion, and protecting it from schism.
With the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the twenty-seven living Hands of the Cause at the time would be the last appointed (the last living being ʻAlí-Muhammad Varqá, d. 2007). The Universal House of Justice, the governing body first elected in 1963, created the Institution of the Counsellors in 1968 and the appointed Continental Counsellors over time took on the role that the Hands of the Cause were filling. The announcement in 1968 also changed the role of the Hand of the Cause, changing them from continental appointments to worldwide, and nine Counsellors working at the International Teaching Centre took on the role of the nine Hands of the Cause who worked in the Baháʼí World Centre.
The most complete list of the Hands available is from The Baháʼí World: Vol XIV. The Universal House of Justice has confirmed that this list may not be complete, and that a study of the letters and archives may reveal others named to this position.
Note: Orthography of some names below is not correct. Accented and underscored characters were not transcribed.
Appointed by Baháʼu'lláh
- Hají Mullá ʻAlí-Akbar (1842–1910), known as Hají Ákhúnd
- Hájí Mírzá Muhammad-Taqí (d.1917), known as Ibn-i-Abhar
- Mírzá Muhammad-Hasan (1848–1919), known as Adíb
- Mírzá ʻAli-Muhammad (d.1928), known as Ibn-i-Asdaq
Appointed posthumously by ʻAbdu'l-Bahá
- Aqá Muhammad-i-Qa'ini (1829–1892), known as Nabíl-i-Akbar
- Mirzá 'Alí-Muhammad Varqá (d. 1896), the father of Rúhu'lláh
- Mullá Sádiq-i-Muqaddas, entitled Ismu'llahu'l-Asdaq
- Shaykh Muhammad-Ridá-i-Yazdi
Appointed posthumously by Shoghi Effendi
- John Ebenezer Esslemont (1874–1925)
- Hájí Amín (1831–1928)
- Keith Ransom-Kehler (1876–1933)
- Martha Root (1872–1939)
- John Henry Hyde Dunn (1855–1941)
- Siyyid Mustafá Rúmí (d. 1942)
- 'Abdu'l-Jalil Bey Sa'd (d. 1942)
- Muhammed Taqiy-i-Isfáhani (d. 1946)
- Roy C. Wilhelm (1875–1951)
- Louis George Gregory (1874–1951)
Appointed individually by Shoghi Effendi [year of appointment]
- Amatu'l-Bahá Rúḥíyyih K͟hánum (1910–2000) 
- Jalál K͟háḍih (1897–1990)  (also transliterated Jalal Khazeh)
- Paul Edmond Haney (1909–1982) 
- ʻAlí-Muhammad Varqá (1911–2007) 
- Agnes Baldwin Alexander (1875–1971) 
First contingent, appointed 24 December 1951 by Shoghi Effendi
- Dorothy Beecher Baker (1898–1954)
- Amelia Engelder Collins (1873–1962)
- ʻAlí-Akbar Furútan (1905–2003)
- Ugo Giachery (1896–1989)
- Hermann Grossmann (1899–1968)
- Horace Hotchkiss Holley (1887–1960)
- Leroy C. Ioas (1896–1965)
- William Sutherland Maxwell (1874–1952)
- Taráz'u'lláh Samandarí (1874–1968)
- Valíyu'lláh Varqá (1884–1955)
- George Townshend (1876–1957)
- Charles Mason Remey (1874–1974)
Second contingent, appointed 29 February 1952 by Shoghi Effendi
- Siegfried Schopflocher (1877–1953)
- S͟hu'á'u'lláh ʻAláʼí (1889–1984)
- Músá Banání (1886–1971)
- Clara Dunn (1869–1960)
- D͟hikru'lláh K͟hádim (1904–1986)
- Adelbert Mühlschlegel (1897–1980)
- Corinne Knight True (1861–1961)
Last contingent, appointed 2 October 1957 by Shoghi Effendi
- Hasan Muvaqqar Balyúzí (1908–1980)
- Abu'l-Qásim Faizi (1906–1980)
- John Graham Ferraby (1914–1973)
- Harold Collis Featherstone (1913–1990)
- Rahmatu'lláh Muhájir (1923–1979)
- Enoch Olinga (1926–1979)
- John Aldham Robarts (1901–1991)
- William Sears (1911–1992)
During the period between the death of Shoghi Effendi and the election of the Universal House of Justice the Hands of the Cause held a convocation from which they constituted a body of nine from among their number to serve in the Holy Land and to act as Custodians of the Baháʼí Faith, a body which functioned without officers and with a quorum of five, whose duties included taking care of Baháʼí World Center properties and other assets; corresponding with and advising National and Regional Spiritual Assemblies; acting on behalf of the Baháʼí Faith for its protection; and maintaining close contact with the rest of the Hands, who would henceforth devote their time to the successful completion of the goals of the Ten Year Crusade. The Hands of the Cause maintained the number of Custodians, replacing those who died or were unable, for health or personal reasons, to remain at the Baháʼí World Center permanently.
The Custodians is terminology in the Baháʼí Faith, which refers to nine Hands of the Cause assigned specifically to work at the Baháʼí World Centre to 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 ʻAbdu'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."
- (ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, The Will And Testament of ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, p. 12)
The Hands of the Cause are also referred to by Shoghi Effendi as the "Chief Stewards of Baháʼu'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth". (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baháʼí World - 1950-1957, p. 127)
Ministry 1957 – 1963
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 Baháʼí 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 Baháʼí Faith were selected by a unanimous proclamation by the whole body of the Hands of the Cause in ʻAkká, 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 Baháʼí Faith, His Eminence the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, assembled this 25 November 1957 at the Baháʼí World Centre and constituting the supreme body of the Baháʼí World Community
- DO HEREBY UNANIMOUSLY RESOLVE AND PROCLAIM AS FOLLOWS:
- WHEREAS THE Guardian of the Baháʼí Faith, His Eminence the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, died in London (England) on 4 November 1957, without having appointed his successor;
- AND WHEREAS it is now fallen upon us as Chief Stewards of the Baháʼí World Faith to preserve the unity, the security and the development of the Baháʼí World Community and all its institutions;
- AND WHEREAS in accordance with the Will and Testament of ʻAbdu'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 Baháʼí World Faith
- to exercise -- subject to such directions and decisions as may be given from time to time by us as the Chief Stewards of the Baháʼí World Faith -- all such functions, rights and powers in succession to the Guardian of the Baháʼí Faith, His Eminence the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, as are necessary to serve the interests of the Baháʼí 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 Baháʼu'lláh and the Will and Testament of ʻAbdu'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 Baháʼí 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
- "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 Baháʼís 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 Baháʼu'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 Baháʼu'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 BAHAʼI 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 Baháʼí Faith, His Eminence the late Shoghi Effendi Rabbani, as are necessary to serve the interests of the Baháʼí 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 Baháʼu'lláh and the Will and Testament of ʻAbdu'l-Bahá, may otherwise determine", do now declare that the Universal House of Justice was so established and elected by action of the International Baháʼí 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 Baháʼí 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 Baháʼí 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)
- Apostles of Baháʼu'lláh
- Disciples of ʻAbdu'l-Bahá
- Institution of the Counsellors
- Letters of the Living
- ʻAbdu'l-Bahá (1992) [Composed 1901-08]. The Will And Testament of ʻAbdu'l-Bahá. Mona Vale, N.S.W, Australia: Baháʼí Publications Australia. ISBN 0-909991-47-2.
- Effendi, Shoghi (1971). Messages to the Baháʼí World, 1950-1957. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Baháʼí Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-036-5.
- Effendi, Shoghi (1974). Baháʼí Administration. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Baháʼí Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-166-3.
- Marks, Geoffry W., ed. (1996). Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1963-1986. Wilmette, Illinois: Baháʼí Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-87743-239-2.
- Compiled by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United Kingdom, ed. (1976). Principles of Baháʼí Administration (4th ed.). London, UK: Baháʼí Publishing Trust. ISBN 0-900125-13-6.
- Harper, Barron (1997). Lights of Fortitude (Paperback ed.). Oxford, UK: George Ronald. ISBN 0-85398-413-1.
- Hornby, Helen, ed. (1983). Lights of Guidance: A Baháʼí Reference File. Baháʼí Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. ISBN 81-85091-46-3.
- Rabbani, Ruhiyyih (1992). The Ministry of the Custodians 1957-1963. Baháʼí World Centre. ISBN 0-85398-350-X.
- Universal House of Justice (2007). Reflections on the Institution of the Hands of the Cause of God (PDF).
- "Hands of the Cause of God". Baháʼí Encyclopedia Project. Online. National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of the United States. 2009. Retrieved 2020-12-08.
- Hands of the Cause of God - links to biographies
- Fadil-i-Mazandarani - House of Justice message of 1998 concerning the status and rank of Fadil-i-Mazandarani.
- The Guardian Announces Appointment of Hands of the Cause - Announcement of the first contingent of 12 Hands in 1951.
- Second Appointment of Hands of the Cause - Announcement of the second contingent, appointing 7 new hands in 1952.
- A Tribute to the Hands of the Cause of God - History, appointments, and other details.