January 25, 2012

The Marriage of Shoghi Effendi – recalled by his wife Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum (nee, Mary Maxwell)

The marriage of Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, with Mary Maxwell of Canada (later to be known as Amatu’l-Bahá Ruhiyyih Khanum - which means: Maidservant of Bahá, Lady Ruhiyyih) took place on 25 March 1937 in Haifa, Israel. Many years later in her book about Shoghi Effendi, ‘The Priceless Pearl’, Ruhiyyih Khanum describes the circumstances surrounding her wedding and help us appreciate the incredible simplicity of the event - reminiscent of the simplicity of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's own marriage in the prison-city of 'Akká – and its thought-provoking example to Bahá'ís everywhere:

No one, with the exception of his parents, my parents and a brother and two sisters of his living in Haifa, knew it was to take place. He felt strongly urged to keep it a secret, knowing from past experience how much trouble any major event in the Cause invariably stirred up. It was therefore a stunning surprise to both the servants and the local Baha'is when his chauffeur drove him off, with me beside him, to visit the Holy Tomb of Baha'u'llah on the afternoon of 25 March 1937. His heart drew him to that Most Sacred Spot on earth at such a moment in his life.. . . When we arrived at Bahji and entered the Shrine he requested me to give him his ring, which I was still wearing concealed about my neck, and this he placed on the ring-finger of my right hand, the same finger that corresponded to the one of his own on which he himself had always worn it. This was the only gesture he made. He entered the inner Shrine, beneath the floor of which Baha'u'llah is interred, and gathered up in a handkerchief all the dried petals and flowers that the keeper of the Shrine used to take from the threshold and place in a silver receptacle at the feet of Baha'u'llah. After he had chanted the Tablet of Visitation we came back to Haifa and in the room of the Greatest Holy Leaf our actual marriage took place. . . . Except for this visit, the day he told me he had chosen to confer this great honour on me, and one or two brief moments in the Western Pilgrim House when he came over for dinner, I had never been alone with the Guardian. There was no celebration, no flowers, no elaborate ceremony, no wedding dress, no reception. His mother and father, in compliance with the laws of Baha'u'llah, signified their consent by signing our marriage certificate and then I went back to the Western Pilgrim House across the street and joined my parents (who had not been present at any of these events), and Shoghi Effendi went to attend to his own affairs. At dinner-time, quite as usual, the Guardian appeared, showering his love and congratulations on my mother and father. He took the handkerchief, full of such precious flowers, and with his inimitable smile gave them to my mother, saying he had brought them for her from the inner Shrine of Baha'u'llah. My parents also signed the marriage certificate and after dinner and these events were over I walked home with Shoghi Effendi, my suitcases having been taken across the street by Fujita while we were at dinner. We sat for a while with the Guardian's family and then went up to his two rooms which the Greatest Holy Leaf had had built for him so long ago.