Ruhi Effendi Afnan

Ruhi Mohsen Afnan (end of December 1899 – 1971). He often told the story of how he was born on the last day of the last month of the last year of the century.

The Master’s grandchildren were all well educated and went to the best schools in Palestine and abroad. Ruhi Afnan, like Shoghi Effendi, who was two years his senior, went to the College des Freres in Haifa, then to the preparatory section (prep) of the American University of Beirut (AUB) and then on to the University itself. He then went on to University College London to study International Law. As a young man, again like Shoghi Effendi, Ruhi served the Master as interpreter and secretary. After the passing away of the Master in 1921, and when Shoghi Effendi had a breakdown upon finding out that he had been left the huge responsibility of becoming the Guardian, it was Ruhi Afnan who accompanied him on his long sojourn in Europe. (See Ruhi Afnan’s 1970 letter to the Spiritual Assembly of Iran). When Shoghi Effendi finally returned to Haifa, Ruhi for many years served as his secretary, assistant and helper in more ways than one. They had always been good friends, had grown up in the same family and household and shared their dedication to the Cause.

Ruhi undertook two very successful visits to the US to preach the Cause. After the second trip Shoghi Effendi had suggested that while he was away on his usual summer sojourn in Europe, Ruhi could go and preach wherever he chose (see Ruhi’s 1970 letter referred to above). But before that could happen, the situation changed. Shoghi Effendi decided to ‘expel’ him from the Cause. Having done that he expected Ruhi’s mother to ‘shun’ him. When she did not do that she too was ‘shunned’. However, no cables had been officially sent by Shoghi Effendi, formally ‘expelling’ him. In fact when Ruhi and his cousin, Zahra Shahid decided to get married they had a Baha’i ceremony at the Spiritual Assembly of Beirut. However, the said Assembly was soon disbanded by the Guardian. The formal ‘expulsion’ happened when his sister, Soraya, married the third son of Forough Khanum (the daughter of Bahaullah) and Sayid Ali Afnan, when a cable was sent expelling Touba Khanum (a daughter of the Master) and her three sons, Ruhi, Soheil and Fuad (the latter posthumously, as he had already died in the London blitz some time before) and her daughter Soraya. The reasons given, among others, were that Touba Khanum and her family had concurred in the marriage of Soraya to Dr Faizy Afnan; that Ruhi had gone on his second trip to the US without his permission; and that Fuad had gone to London to study without Shoghi Effendi’s knowledge and consent.

Another matter that disturbed Shoghi Effendi greatly was the book regarding Ruhi Afnan that Ahmad Sohrab wrote, called Abdul Baha’s Grandson: Story of a 20th Century Excommunication. This book has been written without Ruhi’s knowledge and consent — something the Guardian was not willing to believe, and when Ahmad Sohrab sent a copy to Ruhi it was sent back with a strong letter of protest.

Unable to preach the Cause, Ruhi Afnan took to writing books, another way of serving a Cause that meant so much to him. These he published, at his own expense, at the Philosophical Library of New York and included the following titles:

  • The Great Prophets, Philosophical Library, New York, 1960.
  • Zoroaster’s Influence on Greek Thought, Philosophical Library, New York, 1965.
  • Zoroaster’s Influence on Anaxagoras, the Greek Tragedians and Socrates, Philosophical Library, New York, 1969.
  • The Revelation of Baha’u’llah and The Bab, Book One: Descartes’ Theory of Knowledge, Philosophical Library, New York, 1970.
  • The Revelation of Baha’u’llah and The Bab, Book Two: Spinoza Concerning God, Philosophical Library, New York, 1977. (This book was published by his wife after his death.)

Baha’is are told not to read these books, because Ruhi is considered a ‘covenant breaker’.

(Incidentally, if anyone wishes to see the reasons given by the Guardian for the ‘expulsions’ of all the members of the family, then other than the Baha’i sites on the internet, the book of Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah published by George Ronald 1992 has a chapter entitled ‘The Faithless Relatives of Shoghi Effendi’.)

Ruhi Afnan always was and remained, until the end of his life and in every sense of the word, a dedicated, devoted and sincere Baha’i. He was deeply disappointed and greatly depressed by the way things had gone. The prayer of Baha’ullah that he quotes at the end of his 1970 letter to the Baha’i Spiritual Assembly goes to show where he rested his hopes and aspirations, uprooted member of the Baha’i community that he had been forced to become.

Ruhi Afnan and Zahra Shahid had two sons, Iraj and Parviz.