Soraya Afnan

Soraya, the second child of Mirza Mohsen Afnan and Touba Khanum, was another of the educated, well read, female grandchildren of the Master. From the American School for Girls in Cairo to Bedford College in London, she lived up to the high intellectual standards of her family. Later, while staying in Bordeaux in France with her mother who was in a sanatorium there after a nervous breakdown, she tried to study nursing. That however was cut short when her mother’s health deteriorated and they had to return to Haifa. (See Ruhi Afnan’s 1970 article re their mother’s health). Her marriage to Dr. Faizy Afnan, the third son of Forough Khanum (the daughter of Baha’u’llah) and Sayid Ali Afnan, took her to Baghdad where she lived for a number of years. The marriage was childless and it eventually broke up and Soraya returned to Haifa.

Though the whole family were ‘outcasts’ from the community when all this happened, Shoghi Effendi made it an excuse with which he beat not only Touba Khanum and her sons Ruhi and Suheil, but also his sister Rouhanguise, whom he accused, along with her husband Nayer Afnan (the brother of Feizy Afnan) of having ‘plotted’ not only the marriage of Feizy and Soraya, but also that of Shoghi Effendi’s other sister Mehranguise, to the fourth and youngest son of Forough Khanum, Hassan Afnan. (See Taherzadeh’s chapter on the “Faithless Relatives of Shoghi Effendi” in his book The Covenant of Baha’u’llah).

Why Shoghi Effendi saw these marriages as the results of ‘plots’ is anyone’s guess. Especially as the accusations came much later than the actual events that prompted them. His highly suspicious mind seemed to be seeing ‘enemies’, ‘disobedience,’ ‘treachery’, ‘rebelliousness’, ‘disloyalty’, ‘pivots of machinations’, ‘viruses of violation’… everywhere, and he wielded the weapon of ‘excommunication’ as if it resulted in a burst of blessings upon him and the Faith of which he was the Guardian.

Obedience had become an obsession with him. But obedience to what? Imagined enemies, treacherous plotters, naysayers instead of yes-men… he saw them all around. And he proceeded to place his trust in that which gave him a sense of security, stability, even victory over his imagined enemies. The means? Why, expel them, of course. No one came forward to say ‘Why?’. No one to seek a hearing, grant redress or to oppose. Easy and straightforward.

An Iranian who also happened to be a Baha’i of ‘good standing’, had an explanation that I repeat here, though I have no proof of its validity. ‘We Iranians,’ he said, ‘are very good at setting up gods and worshiping them. Obeying them, accepting all they say as God’s own truth, follows naturally.’

On the other hand there is the explanation put forward by none other than the wife of the Guardian, Ruhiyyih Khanum, and quoted by Taherzadeh in the book and chapter quoted above where she says:

Whereas we ordinary human beings react in one way way, these extraordinary human beings react in an entirely different way…. I used to wonder, in the early years of my life with the Guardian, why he got so terribly upset by these happenings, why he reacted so violently to them, why he would be prostrated from evidence of Covenant-breaking. Gradually I came to understand that such beings, so different from us, have some sort of mysterious built-in scales in their very souls; automatically they register the spiritual state of others…. We individual Baha’is are like the fish in the sea of the Cause, but these beings are like the sea itself, any alien element in the sea of the Cause, so to speak, with which, because of their nature, they are wholly identified, produces an automatic reaction on their part: the sea casts out its dead.

Does this make sense? What transgression did Soraya Afnan or any of her family commit to be considered as ‘dead’ and ‘cast out’ from the sea of the Baha’i Faith?