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Abstract:
Authorized translation of an excerpt of a tablet on "the wisdom of referring certain important laws to the House of Justice."
Notes:
This extract was included by the House in a letter which is posted in full at bahai-library.com/uhj_takfir. The title has been provided for this web-posting.

Universal House of Justice and the Principles of Jurisprudence

by Abdu'l-Bahá

translated by Universal House of Justice.
2001-04
Ye have asked[1] concerning the wisdom of referring certain important laws to the House of Justice. Before all else, this divine cycle is purely heavenly and spiritual, and concerned with the matters of the soul. It hath but little connection to physical, temporal, or worldly matters. The Christian dispensation was in like manner solely spiritual. Thus, in the entire New Testament, there appeareth naught but the prohibition of divorce and the allusion to the abrogation of the Sabbath. Even as He saith, ‘the Son of man came not to judge the world but to save the world.’[2] This most great cycle is likewise of purely spiritual character and is the bestower of life eternal. For the head cornerstone of the religion of God consisteth in refining the characters, reforming the manners, and improving the attributes of [Page 3] men. The purpose is that beings that are veiled may see, and that dark and defective realities may become illumined.

All other ordinances are subservient to faith, certitude, confidence, and understanding. This blessed cycle being however the greatest of all divine cycles, it embraceth all spiritual and temporal matters, and is endowed with the utmost power and sovereignty. Therefore, those[3] matters of major importance which constitute the foundation of the Law of God are explicitly recorded in the Text, but subsidiary laws are left to the House of Justice. The wisdom of this is that the times never remain the same, for change is a necessary quality and an essential attribute of this world, and of time and place. Therefore the House of Justice will take action accordingly.

Let it not be imagined that the House of Justice will take any decision according to its own concepts and opinions. God forbid! The Supreme House of Justice will take decisions and establish laws through the inspiration and confirmation of the Holy Spirit, because it is in the safekeeping and under the shelter and protection of the Ancient Beauty, and obedience to its decisions is a bounden and essential duty and an absolute obligation, and there is no escape for anyone.

Say, O People: Verily the Supreme House of Justice is under the wings of your Lord, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful, that is under His protection, His care, and His shelter; for He has commanded the firm believers to obey that blessed, sanctified, and all-subduing body, whose sovereignty is divinely ordained and of the Kingdom of Heaven and whose laws are inspired and spiritual.

Briefly,[4] this is the wisdom of referring the laws of society to the House of Justice. In the religion of Islám, similarly, not every ordinance was explicitly revealed; nay not a tenth part of a tenth part was included in the Text; although all matters of major importance were specifically referred to, there were undoubtedly thousands of laws which were unspecified. These were devised by the divines of a later age according to the laws of Islamic jurisprudence, and individual divines made conflicting deductions from the original revealed ordinances. All these were enforced. Today this process of deduction is the right of the body of the House of Justice, and the deductions and conclusions of individual learned men have no authority, unless they are endorsed by the House of Justice. The difference is precisely this, that from the conclusions and endorsements of the body of the House of Justice whose members are elected by and known to the worldwide Bahá’í community, no differences will arise; whereas the conclusions of individual divines and scholars would definitely lead to differences, and result in schism, division, and dispersion. The oneness of the Word would be destroyed, the unity of the Faith would disappear, and the edifice of the Faith of God would be shaken.

Notes
    [1] The original of this Tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’ appears in Majmu‘ih-‘i-Makatib-i-Hadrat-i-‘Abdu’l-Bahá (“Collected Letters of His Holiness ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’”). Volume 59. Irán National Bahá’í Archives Private Printing: Tihrán, 1978. The title as given for this text is not original and was suggested by the present editor. The English transliteration of the Arabic translation was kindly provided by Dr. Mehran Ghasempour in an e-mail message to the present editor, dated Friday, January 10th, 2003 (MW’s note).

    [2] John 12:47 (MW’s note).

    [3] The passage from this point to the end of the paragraph is published in the Introduction to Bahá’u’lláh’s Kitáb-i-Aqdas, The Most Holy Book, (Haifa: Bahá’í World Center, 1992), p. 4-5 (MW’s note).

    [4] Passage from this point to the end of the paragraph published in the Introduction to Bahá’u’lláh’s Kitáb-i-Aqdas, The Most Holy Book, (Haifa: Bahá’í World Center, 1992), p. 5 (MW’s note).

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