Jan 16, 2016

The Greatest Holy Leaf’s unparalleled role in religious history and the significance of the Arc, the site of her resting place – by Baharieh Rouhani Ma’ani

The year 2013 marks the hundredth anniversary of ‘Abdu’l- Bahá’s return to the Holy Land from His historic trip to Egypt and the West. He left Haifa for Egypt in September 1910 and returned there three years later. The person “invested … with the responsibility” to attend “to the multitudinous details arising out of His protracted absence from the Holy Land” (‘BAHÍYYIH KHÁNUM’, A compilation from Bahá'í sacred texts and writings of the Guardian of the Faith and Bahíyyih Khánum's own letters, made by the Research department at the Bahá'í World Centre [henceforth “BK”] p. 39) was His honoured sister, Bahíyyih Khánum, [1] the Greatest Holy Leaf. In the words of Shoghi Effendi: “At the time of His [‘Abdu’l- Bahá’s] absence in the western world, she was His competent deputy, His representative and vicegerent, with none to equal her” (BK 28).

The centenary of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s return to the Holy Land after His protracted absence coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. As we gather to celebrate these landmarks, we take time to ponder upon the life of a most remarkable woman in the history of religion, focus attention on the outstanding services she rendered and on the significance of the site Shoghi Effendi chose for her burial place. It was his choice of a specific spot on Mount Carmel that determined the location of the Arc, around which are built the institutions of the world administrative centre of the Faith, the Seat of the Universal House of Justice occupying its centre top.

The Greatest Holy Leaf

Born in Tihran to Bahá’u’lláh and Ásíyih Khánum in 1846, she was named Fatimih at birth. She was later called Bahíyyih. In a Tablet revealed in her honour, Bahá’u’lláh confirms that she appeared in His name. “Verily she is a leaf that hath sprung from this preexistent Root. She hath revealed herself in My name and tasted of the sweet savours of My holy, My wondrous pleasure” (BK p. v). The full text of Bahá’u’lláh’s original Arabic of the above is inscribed around the circular dome of the Greatest Holy Leaf’s monument on Mount Carmel (Ibid).