Jurisdiction: 1. the legal power or authority to hear and decide cases; the power of executing the laws and administering justice.   2. the power or right of exercising authority.   3. the limit within which power may be exercised.   4. the territorial range of authority.

Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary)


The laws that govern its operation and limit its functions are those which have been expressly ordained in the Kitab-i-Aqdas.

Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 156

... the institutions of the Guardianship and of the Universal House of Justice.... each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction.... Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives.

Shoghi Effendi, WOB, pp. 147-148

There is a profound difference between the interpretations of the Guardian and the elucidations of the House of Justice in exercise of its function to "deliberate upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure, and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book." The Guardian reveals what the Scripture means; his interpretation is a statement of truth which cannot be varied.

Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p. 52


He is the expounder of the words of God....

'Abdu'l-Bahá, Will and Testament, p. 11

The interpretation of the Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, is ... authoritative and binding.... He interprets what has been specifically revealed....

Shoghi Effendi, WOB, p. 150

The infallibility of the Guardian is confined to matters which are related strictly to the Cause and interpretation of the teachings; he is not an infallible authority on other subjects, such as economics, science, etc. When he feels that a certain thing is essential for the protection of the Cause, even if it is something that affects a person personally, he must be obeyed, but when he gives advice, such as that he gave you in a previous letter about your future, it is not binding; you are free to follow it or not as you please.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian. pp. 34-35

Future Guardians cannot "abrogate" the interpretations of former Guardians, as this would imply not only lack of guidance but mistakes in making them; however, they can elaborate and elucidate former interpretations, and can certainly abrogate some former ruling laid down as a temporary necessity by a former Guardian.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í News #197, p. 6


... one of the cardinal and pivotal institutions ordained by Bahá'u'lláh ... who have been invested by the unerring Pen of the Center of His Covenant with the dual function of guarding over the security, and of insuring the propagation, of His Father's Faith.

Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Bahá'í World, p. 127

... the Hands of the Cause of God must be ever watchful and so soon as they find anyone beginning to oppose and protest against the guardian of the Cause of God cast him out from the congregation of the people of Bahá....

'Abdu'l-Bahá, W&T, p. 12

The authority of expulsion and reinstatement will be exercised by the Hands of the Cause of God, subject in each instance to the approval of the Universal House of Justice.

Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 189

Authority for the expulsion and reinstatement of Covenant-breakers remains with the Hands of the Cause of God.

Universal House of Justice, LOG, p. 189


At whatever time all the beloved of God in each country appoint their delegates, and these in turn elect their representatives, and these representatives elect a body, that body shall be regarded as the Supreme Baytu'l-'Adl (Universal House of Justice).

'Abdu'l-Bahá, cited in Bahá'í Administration, p. 84

... the Universal House of Justice has been invested with the function of legislating on matters not expressly revealed in the teachings.... whose exclusive right and prerogative is to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on such laws and ordinances as Bahá'u'lláh has not expressly revealed.... Neither the Guardian of the Faith nor any institution apart from the International House of Justice can ever usurp this vital and essential power or encroach upon that sacred right.

Shoghi Effendi, WOB, p. 150-153

All matters of State should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship must be observed according to that which God hath revealed in His Book.

Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Other Sections, p. 91

... the institution of the Guardianship ... the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives....

Shoghi Effendi, WOB, p. 148


... in all countries a secondary House of Justice must be instituted, and these secondary Houses of Justice must elect the members of the Universal one.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, W&T, p. 4

It is very evident that in the future ... each province will be independent in itself, but there will be federal union protecting the interests of the various independent states.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, Pomulgation of Universal Peace, 2nd ed., p. 167

... the central principle guiding for the present the administration of the Cause has been to make the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assemblies as independent as possible in the conduct of such affairs as fall within their province

Shoghi Effendi, BA, p. 85

... as envisaged by Bahá'í ... a world commonwealth ... in which the autonomy of its state members ... definitely and completely safeguarded.

Shoghi Effendi, WOB, p. 203

... National Assemblies ... constitute the electoral bodies in the formation of the International House of Justice, and are empowered to direct, unify, coordinate and stimulate the activities of individuals as well as local Assemblies within their jurisdiction.

Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 332

This National Spiritual Assembly ... obviously assumes grave responsibilities, for it has to exercise full authority over all the local Assemblies in its province, and will have to direct the activities of the friends, guard vigilantly the Cause of God, and control and supervise the affairs of the Movement in general.

Shoghi Effendi, BA, p. 39

There can be no conflict of authority, no duality under any form or circumstances in any sphere of Bahá'í jurisdiction whether local, national or international. The National Assembly, however, although the sole interpreter of its Declaration of Trust and By-Laws, is directly and morally responsible if it allows any body or institution within its jurisdiction to abuse its privileges or to decline in the exercise of its rights and prerogatives .

Shoghi Effendi, NSA, p. 12


... local councils.... Designated as "Spiritual Assemblies"... annually and directly elected ... charged with the responsibility of promoting at all times the best interests of the communities within their jurisdiction, of familiarising them with their plans and activities and of inviting them to offer any recommendations they might wish to make....

Shoghi Effendi, GPB, pp. 330-331

Article VII, Section 2. The general powers and duties of a local Spiritual Assembly shall be as set forth in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh, 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi.

By-Laws of the NSA of the US

To it all local matters pertaining to the Cause must be directly and immediately referred for full consultation and decision.

Shoghi Effendi, BA, p. 37

... all Bahá'ís should be encouraged to turn to their Assembly for the solution of their various problems, thus enabling the Spiritual Assembly to fulfil one of its most important functions, ...

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 145

In all such matters as you mention in your letter, Shoghi Effendi wishes the friends to take the Assemblies into their confidence and discuss it with them. Being on the spot they can judge better and take into consideration all the different aspects of the problem. We should always trust the Assemblies and go to them for advice.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá'í Administration, 4th ed., p. 20

These bodies have the sacred obligation to help, advise, protect and guide the believers in every way within their power when appealed to – indeed they were established just for the purpose of keeping order and unity and obedience to the law of God amongst the believers.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, LSA, p. 16

In all such matters, the friends should first approach the Local, then the National Assembly and only in case they can obtain no satisfaction should they approach the Guardian on these matters. This way many difficulties will be avoided.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, DG, p. 25

Regarding consultation: Any person can refer a matter to the Assembly for consultation whether the other person wishes to or not. In matters which affect the Cause the Assembly should, if it deems it necessary, intervene even if both sides don't want it to, because the whole purpose of the Assemblies is to protect the Faith, the Communities and the individual don't as well.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, PBA, 4th ed., p. 58

The Guardian wishes to emphasize the importance of avoiding reference to civil courts of cases of dispute between believers, even in non-Baha'i issues. It is the Assembly's function to endeavour to settle amicably such disputes, both in order to safeguard the fair name and prestige of the Cause, and to acquire the necessary experience for the extension of its functions in the future.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, PBA, 4th ed., pp. 28-29

When a difficulty occurs between two individuals with reference to private rights, it is necessary for a third to settle the question: this is the part of Government....

'Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 317

... Bahá'í elective Assemblies, now assuming the duties and functions of religious courts.

Shoghi Effendi, GPB, p. 371

The Guardian is constantly encouraging the friends and the Assemblies to fulfil their respective duties; the friends should learn to refer to, and lean on, their Assemblies, and the Assemblies should assume the responsibility of making decisions and carrying them out.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Light of the Pacific, #76, p. 4

The local friends should understand the importance of the law of consultation and realize that it is to the local Assembly that they must turn.... and seek its advice and guidance in the solution of personal problems and adjudication of disputes, should they arise among the members of the community.

Universal House of Justice, US Supplement to BN, May 1966

The best criterion whereby you can measure the spiritual attainment of an Assembly is the extent its members feel themselves responsible for the welfare of the group.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, LOG, p. 61


As to the principle according to which the area of the jurisdiction of a Local Assembly is to be determined, he feels this to be the function of the National Spiritual Assembly; whatever principle they uphold should be fairly applied to all localities without any distinction whatever.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, LOG, p. 5

He wishes me to stress the fact that from now on any group that is formed must belong to one civil community, as otherwise endless confusion and misunderstanding would ensue. The limits of each civil community must be clearly recognized, and no overlapping should be allowed under any circumstances.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, BN #132, p. 4

May I remind you regarding the situation in San Francisco that no two independent recognised centers can possibly be recognized in the same city, and that the center which bears my name should act in all matters only with the full consent and approval of the San Francisco Spiritual Assembly.

Shoghi Effendi, BA, p. 96

Naturally, wherever there is already an Assembly qualified by State law to perform a Bahá'í marriage, it is very improper for the officers of another Assembly to go into the area of jurisdiction of that Assembly and perform a marriage. However, the qualified officers of an Assembly can perform a marriage anywhere within the State, as long as it is not in the area of jurisdiction of another similarly qualified Assembly.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Bulletin on Marriage, NSA of US, 1952, p. 3

Bahá'ís are subject to the jurisdiction of the Spiritual Assembly in whose area they are, even though their stay is temporary. Thus, in the case you cite, the two believers are subject to the jurisdiction of the Local Assembly in the locality where their conduct came into question. The case does not have to be referred to their "home" Assembly. However, it may be advisable for the Assembly assuming jurisdiction to contact the "home" Assemblies and work in close collaboration with them.

Universal House of Justice, LOP, #90, p. 1


(Definition:) Right in the narrow sense.... signifies one's affirmative claim against another, as distinguished from "privilege," one's freedom from the right or claim of another....
      Another use of the term "right" ... is to denote that one person is not subject to the power of another person.... the idea sought to be conveyed is of the exemption of the person concerned from a legal power on the part of the persons composing the government to alter his legal relations in a certain way. In such cases the real concept is one of exemption from legal power, i.e. "immunity."

Walter Wheeler Cook, in his Introduction to Fundamental Legal Conceptions, by Wesley Newcomb Hohler, pp. 6-8*

* This material is reprinted by permission of the copyright owner, Yale University Press.

... in this human world there is no greater blessing than liberty.** You do not know. I, who for forty years have been a prisoner, do know. I do know the value and blessing of liberty. For you have been and are now living in freedom and you have no fear of anybody. Is there a greater blessing than this?

'Abdu'l-Bahá, PUP, 2nd ed., p. 52

** Liberty: See also, "Why Do We Need Law?" in Lesson 1.

Would the setting up of just legislation, in accord with the Divine laws which guarantee the happiness of society and protect the rights of all mankind and are an impregnable proof against assault – would such laws, insuring the integrity of the members of society and their equality before the law, inhibit their prosperity and success?

'Abdu'l-Baha: Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 14

... the free exercise of the individual's rights, and the security of his person and property, his dignity and good name, [must be] assured.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, SDC, p. 115

The general rights of mankind must be guarded and preserved.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 154

... the communities must protect the rights of man.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, SAQ, p. 310

Justice must be sacred, and the rights of all the people must be considered.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, PT, p. 159

Then comes the station of those just kings ... whose name as powerful champions of the people's rights has echoed through creation.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, SDC, p. 20

... a world commonwealth ... in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded.

Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 203

Power and initiative are primarily vested in the entire body of the believers acting through their local representatives.

Shoghi Effendi, NSA, p. 27

We should ... lay no unnecessary restrictions that would fetter individual initiative and enterprise.

Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Funds, p. 15

Among the powers and duties with which the Universal House of Justice has been invested are: ... to safeguard the personal rights, freedom and initiative of individuals; and to give attention to the preservation of human honour .

Universal House of Justice, Constitution, p. 5

Just as in the world of politics there is need for free thought, likewise in the world of religion there should be the right of unrestricted individual belief. Consider what a vast difference exists between modern democracy and the old forms of despotism. Under an autocratic government the opinions of men are not free, and development is stifled, whereas in democracy, because thought and speech are not restricted, the greatest progress is witnessed. It is likewise true in the world of religion. When freedom of conscience, liberty of thought and right of speech prevail – that is to say, when every man according to his own idealization may give expression to his beliefs – development and growth are inevitable.

'Abdu'l-Bahá. PUP, 2nd ed., p. 197

Let us also remember that at the very root of the Cause lies the principle of the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, his freedom to declare his conscience and set forth his views.

Shoghi Effendi, BA, p. 63

As regards the statement of our own views and explanations of the teachings: Shoghi Effendi believes that we should not restrict the liberty of the individual to express his own views so long as he makes it clear that these views are his own. In fact, such explanations are often helpful and are conducive to a better understanding of the teachings. God has given man a rational power to be used and not killed.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, BN #68, p. 3

We all have a right to our opinions, we are bound to think differently....

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, LSA, p. 27

Now with reference to your last dear letter in which you had asked whether the believers have the right to openly express their criticism of any Assembly action or policy; it is not only the right, but the vital responsibility of every loyal and intelligent member of the Community to offer fully and frankly, but with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly, any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local Community, and it is the duty of the Assembly also to give careful consideration to any such views submitted to them by any one of the believers. The best occasion chosen for this purpose is the Nineteen Day Feast, which, besides its social and spiritual aspects, fulfills various administrative needs and requirements of the Community, chief among them being the need for open and constructive criticism and deliberation regarding the state of affairs within the local Bahá'í Community.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Bahá'í Meetings, pp. 27-28

According to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh the family, being a human unit, must be educated according to the rules of sanctity. All the virtues must be taught the family. The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother – none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have their certain prerogatives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved,...

'Abdu'l-Baha, PUP, p. 168))

The choice of clothing and the cut of the beard and its dressing are left to the discretion of men. But beware, O people, lest ye make yourselves the playthings of the ignorant.

Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 23

Regarding Bahá'í women using facial make-up: individuals are entirely free to do as they please in such purely personal matters. As enjoined to use moderation in all things, and to seek the Golden mean, the NSA can, if it deems it necessary or advisable, counsel the believers to use moderation in this respect also.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Dawn of a New Day, p. 193

The standard inculcated by Bahá'u'lláh, seeks, under no circumstances, to deny any one the legitimate right and privilege to derive the fullest advantage and benefit from the manifold joys, beauties, and pleasures with which the world has been so plentifully enriched by an All-Loving Creator.

Shoghi Effendi, Advent Divine Justice, p. 33

The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this purpose that the institution of marriage has been established.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, LOG, p. 345

... that God-given right of every elector to vote only in favor of those who he is conscientiously convinced are the most worthy candidates.

Shoghi Effendi, BA, p. 136

... contributions ... are of a purely voluntary character ... no coercion or solicitation of funds is to be tolerated in the Cause....

Shoghi Effendi, WOB, p. 9

... voluntary sharing of one's property with others ... should not be introduced by coercion so that it becomes a law and man is compelled to follow it.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'í World Faith, p. 288

If a capitalist is forced to give up a portion of his income and possessions, there will be no love in his heart, no permanent benefit in his action.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. III, #8, p. 6

Regarding the publication of Bahá'í periodicals in America, there is no doubt whatsoever that every individual Bahá'í is free to inaugurate and conduct any magazine of his own provided that nothing is published therein which in the estimation of the National Assembly tends in the least to become detrimental or injurious to the highest interests of the Cause. Within these limits, and these limits only, private initiative should in no wise be discouraged and is indeed highly praiseworthy.

Shoghi Effendi, BA, p. 76

In connection with the selection of particular photographs of 'Abdu'l-Bahá for circulation among the friends, the Guardian strongly feels that no definite ruling should be laid down establishing the superiority or distinction of any particular photograph. The friends should be left quite free to use their individual independent judgment in this matter.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, LOG, p. 487

... the Guardian's secretary replied on his behalf that Baha'is had no right to prevent anyone from smoking; ... The use of tobacco, in common with other personal practices, should be subject to considerations of courtesy. The Baha'i in his daily life, whether smoker or non-smoker, should always be conscious of the rights of those about him and avoid doing anything which would give offense.

Universal House of Justice, LOG, p. 356

... the believers, while anxious to observe all prescribed Bahá'í Feasts and Anniversaries, should also take into consideration the rights and interests of their non-Baha'i partners and associates, and not to force these to stop working when they are under no moral or religious obligation to do so.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, BN #97, p. 1

In our collective haste to establish one of the fundamental principles of Bahá'í administration, the authority of Spiritual Assemblies, another important principle, the rights of the individual believer, seems here and there to be occasionally overlooked.
      To correct this overemphasis upon authority at the expense of rights, the National Spiritual Assembly reminds the American believers that the Guardian has more than once definitely upheld an area of individual rights which the authority vested in Spiritual Assemblies cannot invade.
      ... For example, a Spiritual Assembly has no authority over any individual believer's private property, neither his income nor his home or business establishment. Neither can an Assembly hope to exercise any useful authority over the efforts of individual believers to spread the Teachings by employing the opportunities which arise in the course of daily life.... each and every believer is free to arrange informal gatherings in his own home, for the promotion of the Cause, without formal approval or action by the Spiritual Assembly.
      ... the Spiritual Assembly itself is in duty bound to uphold and protect the rights of individual believers just as it is in duty bound to uphold and protect any other organic 1ST teaching or principle.

NSA of US and Canada, BN #81, pp. 4-5

The National Spiritual Assembly has asked us to respond.... to your inquiries as you have enumerated them: 1.  A Bahá'í who has been accused of wrongdoing has a right to know what he is accused of. 2.  He has a right to know what evidence has been presented against him.

Written on behalf of NSA of US to an individual


The day is approaching when God will have raised up a people ... who will demand the restitution of Our rights from them that, without a tittle of evidence, have treated Us with manifest injustice.

Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 129-130

When ... the people ... do not meet with justice and secure their rights ... they can take their case to higher courts and describe the deviation of the local administration from the spiritual law.... and in this way justice will be done.

'Abdu'l-Bahá, SDC, p. 18

... whenever there is any infringement of Bahá'í rights, or lapse in the proper procedure, the friends should take the matter up with the Assembly concerned, and if not satisfied, then with the NSA. This is both their privilege and their duty.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, NSA, p. 55


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