Ruhiyyih Rabbani, 89, the widow of a Bahai leader who herself became a revered senior figure in the faith, died Jan. 19 in Haifa, Israel. The cause of death was not reported.

Madame Rabbani was born in New York, the daughter of a Canadian father and an American mother who were both members of the Bahai faith. In 1937, she married the world head of the Bahai faith, Shoghi Effendi Rabbani.

Madame Rabbani held several senior positions and played a major role in increasing the Bahai faith to 5 million followers worldwide, said a statement from the faith's headquarters in Haifa.

She had served as her husband's secretary and aide. After her husband's death in 1957, she helped establish the nine-member Universal House of Justice that her husband said should replace him.

Madame Rabbani traveled to 185 countries and territories as part of her quest to integrate millions of Bahai followers into a unified global community, the statement said.

She wrote books on religion and on her husband, including "The Priceless Pearl" and "Prescription for Living."

In later life, Madame Rabbani, a tall, striking figure with brilliant eyes who regularly wore a head scarf, promoted environmental causes in addition to the Bahai faith.

The Bahai faith is based on the belief that the will of one God is progressively revealed through the prophets of the great religions. The founder, Baha'u'llah, established the religion in 19th-century Iran, which consequently expelled him.

Madame Rabbani was the last remaining link to the founder's family.

Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, more than 200 Bahai followers have been put to death in Iran.