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When, on 4 November 1957, the light of the world was dimmed by his passing, and I rushed to London at the request of Ruhiyyih Khanum, the map had just been finished. On entering his room, the day after his passing, I saw it lying on two small mahogany tables that had been drawn together to make the necessary wide space available. Coloured pencils, pens, penknife, eraser, rulers and a compass were lying to the right of the map, just as he had left them when, in the late afternoon of the previous day, turning to Ruhiyyih Khanum, he had said: “The map is now finished.”
The next morning he winged his flight to the Kingdom on High, but the map was there, to testify to his love for mankind and to what he had created to bring about its unity. – Ugo Giachery, Shoghi Effendi: Recollections, p. 43.
The Baha’i author Marzieh Gail, in her book Arches of the Years, characterizes the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, as a “perfectionist,” following the lead of his spiritual forefather, the Bab. Yet this guiding line of uncompromising exactitude for beauty and detail also shows itself in the workmanship of Shoghi Effendi’s other distinguished ancestors, Baha’u’llah, and his beloved grandfather, Abdu’l-Baha.
The Guardian—tasked with overseeing and administering the growing global Baha’i community for thirty-six years after the passing of Abdu’l-Baha—loved recording the growth of the Faith visually. He produced many maps, of various countries and regions, which documented and encouraged the gradual spread of the Baha’i teachings around the world.
Let’s pause and reflect on his final masterpiece—a map of the entire world, illustrating the progress of the Guardian’s plans and hopes for the culmination of Baha’u’llah’s primary teaching, the oneness of humanity. “The map is now finished,” the Guardian told his wife Ruhiyyih Khanum on November 3, 1957. Then, on the very next day, Shoghi Effendi’s soul winged its way into the realms beyond. Slightly bent with age, grey at the temples, Shoghi Effendi had finished his earthly work.
Who was Shoghi Effendi? He was an expert in law, history, religious teachings, ethics, art, music, languages, finance, and architecture. He also dearly loved the sister fields of geography, cartography and ecology. With his vast knowledge of plant species, he ordered from seed catalogues to beautify the once-barren slopes of Mt. Carmel, the world center of the Baha’i Faith. Always a futurist and a visionary, destiny marked him as the “one who yearns” as he spread abroad Baha’u’llah’s divine verses as a great teacher, translator and interpreter. Shoghi Effendi, without a doubt, became a divine light, a practical and enlightening source of guidance, advice, courage and consolation for the Baha’is and for the world at large. His work blessed humanity, as a brilliant administrator, strategic planner, translator, writer and historian. A man of delightful wit and magnetic optimism, he carried the eyes of humanity far ahead to the consummation of God’s divine plan. He crossed over to the world of the mystic as a writer of prayers and prose that tantalize the soul.
There is only one word for such a rare human being, who combines within his person so many diverse skills, so many facets of excellence: genius. Now we know why Abdu’l-Baha called him “the Priceless Pearl.”
If you would like to see the lasting evidence of Shoghi Effendi’s genius, dedication and eye for beauty, just look at the spectacular gardens that surround the Baha’i holy places in Israel. Then, look at the gorgeous garden of humanity that represents the global Baha’i community today: people of every color, every nationality, every former faith, every cultural background, every walk of life, all dwellers in the new garden of the Baha’i teachings:
O Ye Dwellers in the Highest Paradise! Proclaim unto the children of assurance that within the realms of holiness, nigh unto the celestial paradise, a new garden hath appeared, round which circle the denizens of the realm on high and the immortal dwellers of the exalted paradise. Strive, then, that ye may attain that station, that ye may unravel the mysteries of love from its wind-flowers and learn the secret of divine and consummate wisdom from its eternal fruits. Solaced are the eyes of them that enter and abide therein! – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 27.