The Widow of Guardian of the Baha’i Faith
Hand of Cause of God
On March 24, 1937 aged 26 she married the Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, Shoghi Effendi, and it was at this time that she was given the name "Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khanum" by Shoghi Effendi. ("Amatu'l-Bahá" means "Handmaiden of Glory".) Almost immediately after their marriage, she served as the Guardian's secretary, and then in 1941 until 1957 she served as Shoghi Effendi's principal secretary in English. In 1951 she was appointed to the International Bahá'í Council, which was an administrative institution of the Bahá'í Faith created as a precursor to the Universal House of Justice, to act as a liaison between the Council and Shoghi Effendi. Later on March 26, 1952, she was appointed to the office of Hand of the Cause of God — a distinguished rank in service to the religion — for which she attended to issues related to the propagation and protection of the religion.
Shoghi Effendi and Ruhiyyih Khanum did not have any children; therefore, when Shoghi Effendi passed away unexpectedly in 1957, Ruhiyyih Khanum not only had a personal crisis to manage, but also had to deal with the earth shattering devastation that occurred within the world wide Baha’i community. Shoghi Effendi had died without a will, and without a designated successor as Guardian of the Baha’i Faith. Ruhiyyih Khanum and the other Hands of the Cause of God also had to deal with the anxiety and confusion that this circumstance created. There was a risk of a schism because of what was happening, but Ruhiyyih Khanum was a true leader in these dark times, helping to steer the Baha’is toward a democratically elected governing institution, preordained by Baha’u’llah in the Kitab-i-aqdas, which represented the entire Baha’i community: the Universal House of Justice.
In 1963, more than 4 years after Shoghi Effendi’s passing, the first Universal House of Justice was elected. Ruhiyyih Khanum, rather than take a vacation continued to work often to the point of exhaustion in service to the Baha’i Faith. She visited communities in North America, Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia.
Ruhiyyih Rabbani died in January 19, 2000 in her home in Haifa, Israel. She was 90. Haifa, (January 23) — She was buried in Haifa, Israel, in a garden facing the home where she lived since 1937.
About 1000 people attended the funeral, including Mr. Chris Greenshields, Minister-Counsellor of the Canadian Embassy; Mrs. Marsha Von Duerckheim, Consul-General of the US Embassy; Mr. Ariel Kenet of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Roman Bronfman, Member of the Knesset; Mr. Amram Mitzna, the Mayor of Haifa; and Mr. Shmaryahu Biran, the Mayor of Acre. Dr. Nissim Dana of the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs represented the Israeli Government.