Bahai News -- SMH-Obituaries:Ruhiyyih Rabbani
Baha'i leader, 1910-2000
The last official leader of the Baha'i faith was Shoghi Effendi Rabbani,
known to Baha'is simply as Shoghi Effendi. Since his death in 1957, the
Baha'is have been governed by a legislature but his wife, Ruhiyyih
Rabbani, became the pre-eminent member of the Baha'i faith. Rabbani has
died in her home at Haifa in Israel.
The Baha'is, who number more than five million and believe in the unity
of all religions and the oneness of humanity, emerged in Iran in the
mid-19th century. Mirza Husain Ali, known as Bahá'u'lláh,
meaning Glory of God, is considered the religion's founder; Shoghi
Effendi was his great-grandson.
Rabbani was treated as a link with Baha'is' spiritual roots and accorded
special respect. "She was venerated by millions of people," said Dr
Firuz Kazemzadeh, a Baha'i and former professor of Russian at Yale
Frank Lewis, a Baha'i and professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Yale,
said that pilgrims to Haifa, the centre of the Baha'i faith, regularly
sought out Rabbani. "People treated her recollections and interpretations
of doctrine with a special degree of reverence," he said.
Mary Sutherland Maxwell was born in New York in 1910 to William Sutherland
Maxwell, a Canadian architect, and his American wife, May Bolles. The
Maxwells were prominent Baha'is and visited Haifa several times. Their
daughter met her future husband as a girl. On a family visit a few years
later, the parents were surprised when Rabbani asked for her hand. "He
sort of knew her and decided it was time he should get married," Lewis
Rabbani worked tirelessly as her husband's researcher and secretary. The
couple had no children, and a direct descendant would not necessarily
have become head of the faith anyway.
But Shoghi Effendi did appoint a group of 30 Baha'is to become Hands of
the Cause. They elected nine to run the religion until a permanent
council, the Universal House of Justice, could be established in 1963.
Rabbani was one of the nine "hands".
Though she worked for environmental causes and travelled to promote
Baha'i, acquaintances say she always missed her husband. She wrote a
biography about him called The Priceless Pearl and a book of sad
- Douglas Martin, The New York Times
©Copyright 2000, The Sydney Morning Herald
Page last updated/revised 012900
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