November 17, 2011

How Shoghi Effendi heard the devastating news of the passing of ‘Abdu’l-Baha

The address of Major Tudor Pole, in London, was often used as the distributing point for cables and letters to the Baha'is. Tudor Pole was a prominent early British Baha'i who heard of the Faith in 1908 and visited 'Abdu'l-Baha in Egypt in 1910. The Master stayed at his guest house in Clifton during his visits to Bristol in 1911 and 1913. During World War I Tudor-Pole joined British military intelligence in Egypt, and was responsible for initiating British moves to secure 'Abdu'l-Baha's safety during the invasion of Palestine.

On November 29, 1921, at 9:30 in the morning the following cable reached that office:

Cyclometry London
His Holiness 'Abdu'l-Baha ascended Abha Kingdom. Inform friends.
Greatest Holy Leaf

In notes he made of this terrible event and its immediate repercussions Tudor Pole records that he immediately notified the friends by wire, telephone and letter. I believe he must have telephoned Shoghi Effendi, asking him to come at once to his office, but not conveying to him at that distance a piece of news which he well knew might prove too much of a shock. However this may be, at about noon Shoghi Effendi reached London, went to 61 St. James' Street (off Piccadilly and not far from Buckingham Palace) and was shown into the private office. Tudor Pole was not in the room at the moment but as Shoghi Effendi stood there his eye was caught by the name of 'Abdu'l-Baha on the open cablegram lying on the desk and he read it. When Tudor Pole entered the room a moment later he found Shoghi Effendi in a state of collapse, dazed and bewildered by this catastrophic news. He was taken to the home of Miss Grand, one of the London believers, and put to bed there for a few days. Owing to passport difficulties Shoghi Effendi cabled Haifa he could not arrive until the end of the month. He sailed from England on December 16th, accompanied by Lady Blomfield and Rouhangeze, and arrived in Haifa by train at 5:20 p.m. on December 29th, from Egypt where his boat from England had docked. Many friends went to the station to bring him home; it is reported he was so overcome on his arrival that he had to be assisted up the steps. Awaiting him in the house was the only person who could in any measure assuage his suffering -- his beloved great-aunt, the sister of 'Abdu'l-Baha. She had already -- so frail, so quiet, so modest at all times -- shown herself in these past weeks to be a strong rock to which the believers clung in the midst of the tempest that had so suddenly burst upon them. The calibre of her soul, her breeding, her station, fitted her for the role she played in the Cause and in Shoghi Effendi's life during this extremely difficult and dangerous period. (Adapted from ‘The Guardian of the Baha’i Faith’, by Ruhiyyih Rabbani, pp. 13-14; and ‘A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baha’i Faith’, by Peter Smith)