O ye the learned ones in Bahá ¶173
Bahá’u’lláh eulogizes the learned among His followers. In the Book of His Covenant, He wrote: “Blessed are the rulers and learned among the people of Bahá.”1 Referring to this statement, Shoghi Effendi has written:
In this holy cycle the “learned” are, on the one hand, the Hands of the Cause of God, and, on the other, the teachers and diffusers of His Teachings who do not rank as Hands, but who have attained an eminent position in the teaching work. As to the “rulers” they refer to the members of the Local, National and International Houses of Justice. The duties of each of these souls will be determined in the future.2
The Hands of the Cause of God were individuals appointed by Bahá’u’lláh
and charged with various duties, especially those of protecting and propagating His Faith. In Memorials of the Faithful
‘Abdu’l-Bahá referred to other outstanding believers as Hands of the Cause, and in His Will and Testament He included a provision calling upon the Guardian of the Faith to appoint Hands of the Cause at his discretion.3
Shoghi Effendi first raised posthumously a number of the believers to the rank of Hands of the Cause, and during the latter years of his life appointed a total of 32 believers from all continents to this position. In the period between the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 and the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963, the Hands of the Cause directed the affairs of the Faith in their capacity as Chief Stewards of Bahá’u’lláh’s
embryonic World Commonwealth (see note 67
). In November 1964, the Universal House of Justice determined that it could not legislate to make it possible to appoint Hands of the Cause. Instead, by a decision of the House of Justice in 1968, the functions of the Hands of the Cause in relation to protecting and propagating the Faith were extended into the future by the creation of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, and in 1973 through the establishment of the International Teaching Centre, which has its seat in the Holy Land.
The Universal House of Justice appoints the Counsellor members of the International Teaching Centre and the Continental Counsellors. Members of Auxiliary Boards are appointed by the Continental Counsellors. All these individuals fall within the definition of the “learned” given by Shoghi Effendi in the statement quoted above.
1 Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh : Kitáb-i-‘Ahd, p. 221
2 4 November 1931 : Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-1973, p. 91; Lights of Guidance, pp. 321-22, no. 1078
3 The Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 12-13