General introduction to the English and Persian/Arabic Writings of Shoghi Effendi:
Summary of the major themes

By Muin Afnani

First presented at the Irfan Colloquia Session #60
Bosch Bahá'í School: Santa Cruz, California, USA
May 26–29, 2005
(see list of papers from #60)

    The writings of Shoghi Effendi, written over a period of 36 years (1921-1957), constitute a unique collection of religious writings. These writings can be studied from several perspectives including their forms and content.

    From the perspective of the language we can say that about three fourth of the writings of Shoghi Effendi are in English, and the reminder in Persian and Arabic. It is commonly known that Shoghi Effendi used elevated style of language in His English writings. It is interesting to note that His Persian and Arabic writings are written in even more difficult styles, so much so that a higher mastery of those languages is needed for the native speakers to understand them thoroughly.

    Aside from His own writings Shoghi Effendi also translated significant portions from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, the Báb, and `Abdu'l-Bahá. His own writings can be classified into two groups: those that were written by the Guardian Himself and those that contain His views and instructions but written by His secretary and then reviewed and signed by Shoghi Effendi. In terms of the content of His own writings we can say that the following are some of the major themes found in them:
    • Interpretation of the Holy Writings.
    • Recording the major events and victories unfolding in the Cause of God and reporting them to Bahá'ís throughout the world.
    • Explanation of the major world issues in relation to the teachings of the Faith and the destiny of the Bahá'í community.
    • The development of the Bahá'í Administrative Order, and its relation to the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.
    • Assessing the needs of various Bahá'í communities and providing resources for them.
    • The principle of encouragement: He constantly encouraged the friends. His writings are lessons in providing encouragement.
    • Documenting the history of the Faith, and providing explanation of the various ages and epochs that the Cause of God will go through. Providing a vision for the Bahá'í world of the unfoldment of the divine Will through major and minor plans of God.
    • Responding to countless inquiries and providing explanation on questions dealing with historical, sociological, educational, philosophical, and other themes.
    Of course the above list is not complete, but it offers a glimpse of the diversity of the content of Shoghi Effendi's writings.

    As for the translations, Shoghi Effendi translated some major works from various periods of Bahá'u'lláh's ministry: early and late Baghdad period, Adrianople period, and various periods of Akka. Most of the translations took place within the first 18 years of His Guardianship. In addition to setting the standard for the translation of the Writings from Arabic and Persian into English, as part of His translations, Shoghi Effendi interpreted and explained themes and concepts not understood properly by the friends until that time.

    Finally, it might be interesting to note that the Guardian wrote important messages to the Bahá'ís of the East in Persian and Arabic which contain a wealth of information related to all the topics listed above. For example, we know that Shoghi Effendi wrote the book called "God Passes By" in 1944 chronicling the 100-year history of the Faith of God. He also wrote another chronicle of the Faith in Persian, in no less than 100 pages, explaining the events of the first 100 years of the Cause of God and, offered it to the friends at Naw-Ruz of 101 B.E. This work is known as the "Tablet of the Century". No doubt the translation of these messages into English will be considered in future.

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