Hossein Rabbani

Hossein Effendi Rabbani

The older of Shoghi Effendi’s two brothers, Hossein was, like Shoghi Effendi, educated at The Jesuit College des Freres in Haifa and then went on to the American University in Beirut. After graduation he launched into the service of the Guardian, being at his beck and call over a myriad of things, ranging from the secretarial to the bearer of grave messages to the members of the community. Of Shoghi Effendi’s siblings maybe he was the most submissive, obedient and ready to comply with the sometimes difficult tasks set for him by his brother. I remember my husband (and his cousin) Hassan Shahid once asking him how he had the heart and the courage to give people the message that the Guardian wanted them to leave their country, their home and their means of livelihood and relocate in some new country. “ It[BS1] was my duty to give the message, not to question the whys and wherefores,” was his answer. One such message went to Ibrahim Zein who was working in a Bank in Haifa, had a responsible job, was well respected and well-liked. The Guardian ordered him and his family to go to Egypt. With heavy hearts, they obeyed and complied. Once there it proved very difficult to find employment and their savings soon came to an end. Unable to manage, they were forced to return to Haifa where the Bank was only too willing to take him back. The Guardian, however, saw it differently and Ibrahim Zein and all his family were “expelled.”

Eventually, my uncle Hossein did not manage to remain in the good books of his brother. One evening, while passing through Persian Street by chance, my father Nayer Afnan witnessed a scene that confirmed that very clearly. Shoghi Effendi was at the window of his living quarters, on the second floor of the Andaroon, ordering Mansoor, his henchman, to go on beating his brother Hossein at the entrance courtyard of No. 7 Persian Street. This, Mansoor was doing with gusto, and had my father not arrived to pull the two apart, God only knows what the outcome would have been. Soon thereafter my uncle Hussein became a resident of Karm, the small house on the slopes of Mt. Carmel that my grandfather had. Eventually, my grandmother and my uncle Riaz joined the family there. When the turn of my aunt Mehranguise came to leave the Andaroon, she rented a small apartment not far from Karm. We, in the meantime, were living on Prophet Street and therefore family get-togethers were possible. I still have a pair of silver filigree earrings that my uncle Hossein gave me one afternoon while celebrating my birthday. This was in the early 1940s. Many years later, when Hassan and I visited him in Germany in the early 1960s (where he then lived with his German wife and his daughter Zia) he told us that one of the great consolations of his exile from the community and the Faith, was spending hours reading a collection of the tablets of Baha’u’llah and Abdul Baha that he had. They were his only contact with both his religious convictions, his community, and his mother tongue.

Talk of sadness, of exile, of desolation…