February 1923: Keys to the Shrine of Baha’u’llah were returned to Shoghi Effendi by the British High Commissioner in Palestine

Shortly after 'Abdu'l-Bahá's ascension, this disgruntled and perfidious half-brother [Muhammad-Ali] had filed a claim, based on Islamic law (he who pretended he had still a right to be the successor of Bahá'u'lláh!), for a portion of the estate of 'Abdu'l-Bahá which he now claimed a right to as His brother. He had sent for his son, who had been living in America and agitating his father's claims there, to join him in this new and direct attack on the Master and His family. Not content with this exhibition of his true nature he applied to the civil authorities to turn over the custodianship of Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine to him on the grounds that he was 'Abdu'l-Bahá's lawful successor. The British authorities refused on the grounds that it appeared to be a religious issue; he then appealed to the Muslim religious head and asked the Mufti of 'Akká to take formal charge of Bahá'u'lláh's Shrine; this dignitary, however, said he did not see how he could do this as the Bahá'í teachings were not in conformity with Shariah law. All other avenues having failed he sent his younger brother, Badiullah, with some of their supporters, to visit the Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh where, on Tuesday, 30 January, they forcibly seized the keys of the Holy Tomb from the Bahá'í caretaker, thus asserting Muhammad-Ali's right to be the lawful custodian of his Father's resting-place. This unprincipled act created such a commotion in the Bahá'í Community that the Governor of 'Akká ordered the keys to be handed over to the authorities, posted guards at the Shrine, but went no further, refusing to return the keys to either party.

Since Shoghi Effendi had arrived in Haifa, the shock of the announcement of his appointment as the Guardian of the Faith, coupled with the terrible ordeal of the passing of the Master, were taking their toll on his health. He was so crushed under the weight of bereavement that he could not even attend a memorial meeting for the Master which was held in His residence forty days after His ascension. Three weeks later, this latest transgression by the Covenant-breakers in laying hands on the sacred Shrine of Bahá'u'lláh Himself, came as a further blow.

Although the seizure of the key of the Shrine by this bitterest enemy brought further shock and sorrow to the tender and sensitive heart of Shoghi Effendi, yet, in spite of his physical weakness, the evidence of divine guidance was apparent in his actions, actions characterised by a resolve and a wisdom which called to mind the wisdom of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His penetrating foresight. Shoghi Effendi appealed to the government for the return of the key, but his absence from the Holy Land, which lasted about eight months, postponed the issue. He pursued this matter with great diligence until full rights of possession were restored to him by the authorities. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha'u'llah)

In February 1923, the British High Commissioner in Palestine decided in favor of the Baha’is and returned the key to the Guardian, just over one year after it had been forciblytaken from the legitimate Baha’i custo dian of the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. (Adapted from ‘The Priceless Pearl,’by Ruhiyyih Khanum, ‘The Covenant of Baha'u'llah,’ by Adib Taherzadeh, and ‘Prophet’s Daughter,’ by Janet Khan)