“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.”
[The Universal House of Justice, 23rd September 2007]
On Sunday afternoon (25th November) I attended the United Kingdom’s national memorial service for Hand of the Cause of God Dr. ‘Ali-Muhammad Varqa. By my count there were about six hundred people present at Ealing Town Hall to mark the end of both a life of devoted service on the part of Dr. Varqa and the end of the institution (for want of a better word) of the Hands of the Cause of God, of whom Dr. Varqa was the last surviving member.
The programme for the event looked like this…
HAND OF THE CAUSE OF GOD – DR. ‘ALI-MUHAMMAD VARQA 1912-2007
NATIONAL MEMORIAL MEETING
Ealing Town Hall, Sunday 25 November 2007
Music – Tomaso Albioni, Adagio in G minor
Welcome from the National Spiritual Assembly
of the Baha’is of the United Kingdom
Message to the Baha’is of the World from the Universal House of Justice,
23 September 2007
Prayer of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Bisharatu’n-Nur, p.411
Prayer of Baha’u’llah, “He is God, exalted is He…”
Persian Chant – the voice of Mrs Rawhaniyyih Varqa
Music – “Porporo” from the soundtrack Farinelli
Prayer of Baha’u’llah, “Create in me a pure heart…”
From a Tablet of Baha’u’llah, “Know thou of a truth…”, Gleanings, pp.161-2
Music – Christoph Willibald Gluck, “Dance of the Blessed Spirits”
Prayer of Baha’u’llah on Huquq’u’llah, , Baha’i Prayers, pp.287-8
Prayer of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Majmu’iyyih Munajatha Hadrat-i’Abdu’l-Baha, pp.276-8
Music – From the Stabat Mater by Antonio Bononcini
Prayer of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, “O my God! O my God! Verily, thy servant…”
Music – Baha’u’llah, From the Lawh-i-Dunya,
“Light and glory, greeting and praise”
Eulogies – Dr Faraneh Vargha-Khadem and Mr ‘Ali Nakhjavani
Prayer of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Bisharatu’n-Nur, p.491
This programme, which started just after 3pm, called on us to reflect upon the life of man who was destined, from birth, to become a devoted servant of Baha’u’llah. His name was given to him by ‘Abdu’l-Baha in memory of his grandfather who was a Baha’i martyr (executed for his beliefs) and he was appointed to the station of Hand of the Cause by Shoghi Effendi following the passing of his father in 1955. His father, Valiyu’llah Varqa, was also a Hand of the Cause of God.
Born in January 1912, Dr. Ali-Muhammad Varqa studied economics and history in Tehran and got married in 1935 to Rawhaniyyih Muhtadi, whose voice was heard chanting a prayer during the memorial meeting. Together they had three daughters, Elahe, Nadieh and Faraneh, the latter of whom shared some moving words about her father, on the families behalf toward the end of the programme.
In the late 1940’s Dr Varqa was given a grant to study in Paris and he was awarded a doctorate from the Sorbonne in 1950. After this he returned to Iran to work as a professor and was a very active figure in the Baha’i community there. He also helped his father with his work as the Trustee of the fund of Huququ’llah, a form of voluntary tax to which Baha’is should give 19% of their profits, after necessary expenses, once they amount to a certain sum. When his father passed away in 1955 the role of Trustee of that fund also fell to Dr Varqa, a role in which he served longer than anybody else to date.
Mr. ‘Ali Nakhjavani, a former member of the Universal House of Justice who spoke about the life and service of Dr. ‘Ali-Muhammad Varqa at the end of the memorial programme, shared some thoughts on the special relationship that Dr. Varqa had with some of the countries that he visited, including many French speaking ones, which he was often asked to visit because of his good command of the French language. Dr Varqa was present at the formation of the first National Spiritual Assembly of several countries around the world, and maintained a close, father-like fondness and communication with them. Below is a photo of him present at the formation of the first National Spiritual Assembly of Congo and Gabon in 1971.
The Audio-Visual content of the programme included photographs and video footage from the memorial gathering in the Holy Land and of his funeral procession and burial in the Baha’i cemetery in Haifa. It also contained extracts from a video in which Amatu’l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum, ‘Ali Akbar Furutan and Dr. ‘Ali-Muhammad Varqa (who were the last three surviving Hands of the Cause), shared some memories together.
The programme was very good. The only slight shame was that the audio visual presentation included a lot of the information that Mr. ‘Ali Nakhjavani had also prepared to share with us, which took a little of the shine of his presentation, especially with his eulogy coming at the end of a fairly long programme, but it was still a privilege to hear from somebody who had known and served alongside Dr. Varqa in a distinguished role. Mr. Nakhjavani finished his eulogy with a new provisional translation he had managed to acquire of a very beautiful prayer by ‘Abdu’l-Baha, before the official closing prayer ended official proceedings a little under three hours after they had started.
Below is te full text of the message sent by the Univeral House of Justice to the Baha’is of the world following the passing of Dr. Varqa:
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 Graciou s 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
(photos copyright of the Baha’i International Community)