February 1923: Shoghi Effendi is recognized by the governing authorities in Palestine as the custodian of the Shrine of Baha’u’llah

The Mansion of Bahji (Arabic for ‘Delight’) is located north of Akka. It was occupied by Baha’u’llah from September 1879 until His ascension in 1892. The present structure was built by Udi Khammar, the Christian merchant whose house in Akka had earlier been occupied by Baha’u’llah, and was completed in 1870. It was here that Baha’u’llah revealed most of His later Writings, and also received the English orientalist E.G. Browne. When Baha’u’llah passed away He was interred in a room in one of the surrounding buildings occupied by his daughter Furughiyyih Khanum and her husband, Siyyid 'Ali Afnan. That room became the Shrine of Baha’u’llah, and is regarded by Baha’is as the most sacred place on earth. It is the Qiblah to which Baha'is turn in prayer.


Many members of Baha’u’llah’s family had lived with Him at Bahji, in the mansion itself or in a number of smaller buildings surrounding it. 'Abdu'l-Baha and His family, however, had continued to live in Akka. After Baha’u’llah’s ascension a complex situation developed, in which 'Abdu'l-Baha was the majority (two-thirds) owner of the mansion, but the occupants were His half-brothers, headed by Muhammad-‘Ali, together with all families and supporters. Given the increasingly open animosity displayed by this group towards 'Abdu’l-Baha, visits to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah subsequently became fraught, 'Abdu'l-Baha obtaining a small 'tea-house' in the vicinity so that He could visit His Father's Shrine in greater serenity. He also rented an adjoining building to serve as a pilgrim house. A Baha’i loyal to 'Abdu'l-Baha was appointed caretaker of the Shrine itself. After 'Abdu'l-Baha’s death Muhammad-‘Ali made legal claim to become the custodian of the Shrine, forcing the issue by having the keys seized (30 January 1922). Shoghi Effendi never rested until, through representations he made to the authorities, backed by insistent pressure from Bahá'ís all over the world, succeeded to convince the British authorities who had intervened and retained the keys, to give the custody of the Holy Tomb back into his own hands. This took place in February 1923 when a decision was made by the British authorities in favor of Shoghi Effendi. Thenceforth the Shrine remained in uncontested Baha’i possession. The mansion meanwhile was falling into increasing disrepair, until Muhammad-‘Ali was finally forced to abandon it in November 1929. Shoghi Effendi immediately began to have the building restored, furnishing it as a Baha'i museum and a place of pilgrimage (by 1932). Complete ownership of the building was secured in 1957. (Adapted from ‘A Concise Encyclopedia of the Baha’i Faith’, by Peter Smith; and ‘The Guardian of the Baha'i Faith’, by Ruhiyyih Khanum)