It’s with great sadness that the Baha’i world learned today of the passing of Dr. ‘Ali-Muhammad Varqá, the last living member of the Hands of the Cause of God, those selfless, sanctified souls appointed as servants and guides to the worldwide Baha’i Community, whose work, whose only passion was to protect and proclaim the Baha’i Faith in every corner of the globe. According to the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the Hands of the Cause were appointed by the Guardian (Shoghi Effendi) and served under His direction. As the Guardian is no longer with us, however, the Hands of the Cause are no longer appointed, and their work is now taken up by the Continental Board of Counsellors, appointed by the Universal House of Justice.
In a message sent today to the Baha’is of the world announcing the passing of Dr. Varqá, the Universal House of Justice pays him tribute and requests the prayers of the Friends everywhere for the progress of his soul through all the worlds of God. We have truly witnessed today, as Barney Leith puts it, the passing of a link with Baha’i history.
23 September 2007
To the Baha’is of the World
In the early hours of last night, revered, greatly admired, well-loved Hand of the Cause of God Dr. ‘Ali-Muhammad Varqa departed this earthly plane after a period of outstanding, consecrated service to the Blessed Beauty that spanned many decades.
With grieving hearts we bid farewell to the last of that noble company, the Chief Stewards of Baha’u’llah’s embryonic World Commonwealth, into which he is now gathered in realms of deathless delight and joy. The fervor of his love for the teaching work inspired countless believers across the globe, whether at the events he attended as the representative of the Guardian or of the Universal House of Justice, or in his extensive travels to promote the goals of the Master’s Divine Plan. In such activities he contributed mightily to the progress of the Ten Year Crusade and subsequent global teaching plans. Until his final days, he was leonine in his determination to protect the Faith. He wore with marked distinction the mantle of Trustee of Huququ’llah that fell to him from the shoulders of his illustrious father, impressing a record of imperishable achievement on the annals of the Formative Age — achievement which has set a pattern that secures important features for the operation into the future of that divinely ordained institution. Throughout the many years of his valiant endeavor to maintain the integrity of the two offices of so high a rank to which he was simultaneously elevated, his manner was imbued with a luminous gentleness, a genuine kindliness and a natural dignity which combined to reflect the character of a saintly personality. For these exemplary traits he will ever be remembered. Our heartfelt sympathy reaches out to the members of his dear family in their sad loss, which is shared by the entire Baha’i community. With deeply held trust in the bounties of the Gracious Lord, we pray at the Sacred Threshold for the progress of his resplendent soul throughout the divine worlds.
We advise the friends in all lands to commemorate his passing and request befitting memorial services in his honor at all Houses of Worship.
[The Universal House of Justice]
The official informational website of the Baha’i International Community describes the Hands of the Cause of God in this way:
An emphasis on group leadership, as opposed to individual power, runs throughout the Bahá’í administrative system. Individuals do not set policy or make rules in Bahá’í institutions — Spiritual Assemblies make the decisions, although they may delegate specific executive responsibilities.
There are, however, several distinct groups of individuals who are recognized for their spiritual capacities and experience. They play a special role in inspiring and advising the Bahá’í community.
Although they have no decision-making power, their ideas and insights are regularly sought by elected Bahá’í decision-making bodies.
Foremost among these advisers are the “Hands of the Cause of God.” This title has been given to 50 individuals in the history of the Faith; all were chosen by Bahá’u’lláh, referred to as such by `Abdu’l-Bahá, or appointed by Shoghi Effendi. No more can now be appointed.
In 1968, the Universal House of Justice began to designate a number of spiritually mature and experienced individuals as “Continental Counsellors,” so as to extend into the future the functions of the Hands of the Cause in the areas of the protection and propagation of the Faith. Appointed to five year terms, they coordinate their activities through the instrumentality of Continental Boards. The work of the Boards–which comprise those Counsellors who reside in a specific continental region–is coordinated, in turn, by a body known as the International Teaching Centre, located at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. Continental Counsellors appoint various auxiliaries and assistants, who are charged with working to stimulate and advise Bahá’í communities at the regional and local levels. There are 81 Continental Counsellors worldwide. Another nine serve as members of the International Teaching Centre.