Fifteen: Retrospect and Prospect
bear witness, O friends! that the favor is complete, the argument fulfilled, the
proof manifest, and the evidence established. Let it now be seen what your endeavors
in the path of detachment will reveal. In this wise hath the divine favor been
fully vouchsafed unto you and unto them that are in heaven and on earth. All praise
to God, the Lord of all worlds. -- BAHA'U'LLAH, The Hidden Words.
it is impossible, within the space at our disposal, to describe in detail the
progress of the Bahá'í Faith throughout the world. Many chapters might be devoted
to this fascinating subject, and many thrilling stories related about the pioneers
and martyrs of the Cause, but a very brief summary must surface.
Persia the early believers in this revelation met with the utmost opposition,
persecution and cruelty at the hands of their fellow countrymen, but they faced
all calamities and ordeals with sublime heroism, firmness and patience. Their
baptism was in their own blood, for many thousands of them perished as martyrs;
while thousands more were beaten, imprisoned, stripped of their possessions, driven
from their homes or otherwise ill-treated. For sixty years or more anyone in Persia
who dared to own allegiance to the Bab or Baha'u'llah did so at the risk of his
property, his freedom and even his life. Yet this determined and ferocious opposition
could not more check the progress of the Movement than a cloud of dust could keep
the sun from rising.
From one end of Persia1
the other Bahá'ís are now to be found
in almost every city and town, and even amongst the
nomad tribes. In some villages the whole population
is Bahá'í and in other places a large
proportion of the inhabitants are believers. Recruited
from many and diverse sects, which were bitterly hostile
to each other, they now form a great fellowship of friends
who acknowledge brotherhood, not only with each other,
but with all men everywhere, who are working for the
unification and upliftment of humanity, for the removal
of all prejudices and conflict, and for the establishment
of the Kingdom of God in the world.
miracle could be greater than this? Only one, and that
the accomplishment throughout the entire world of the
task to which these men have set themselves. And signs
are not lacking that this greater miracle, too, is in
progress. The Faith is showing an astonishing vitality,
and is spreading, like leaven, through the lump of humanity,
transforming people and society as its spreads.2
relatively small number of Bahá'ís may still seem insignificant in comparison
with the followers of the ancient religions, but they are confident that a divine
Power has blessed them with the high privilege of serving a new order into which
will throng the multitudes of East and West at no distant day.
therefore, it remains true that the Holy Spirit has reflected from pure hearts
in all countries still unconscious of the Source, and the growth of the Faith
can be witnessed in the many efforts outside the Bahá'í community to promote one
or another of Baha'u'llah's teachings, nevertheless the lack of any enduring foundation
in the old order is convincing proof that the ideals of the Kingdom can only become
fruitful within the framework of the Bahá'í community.
more we study the lives and teachings of the Bab and Baha'u'llah, the more impossible
does it seem to find any explanation of Their greatness, except that of Divine
Inspiration. They were reared in an atmosphere of fanaticism and bigotry. They
had only the most elementary education. They had no contact with Western culture.
They had no political or financial power to back Them. They asked nothing from
men, and receive little but injustice and oppression. The great ones of earth
ignored or opposed Them. They were scourged and tortured, imprisoned and subjected
to direst calamities in the fulfillment of Their mission. They were alone against
the world, having no help but that of God, yet already Their triumph is manifest
grandeur and sublimity of Their ideals, the nobility and self-sacrifice of Their
lives; Their dauntless courage and conviction, Their amazing wisdom and knowledge,
Their grasp of the needs of both Eastern and Western peoples, the comprehensiveness
and adequacy of Their teachings, Their power to inspire wholehearted devotion
and enthusiasm in Their followers, the penetration and potency of Their influence,
the progress of the Movement They founded -- surely these constitute proofs of
Prophethood as convincing as any which the history of religion can show.
Bahá'í glad tidings disclose a vision of the Bounty of God and of the future progress
of humanity, which is surely
the greatest and most glorious Revelation ever given to mankind, the development
and fulfillment of all previous Revelations. Its purpose is nothing less than
the regeneration of mankind and the creation of "new heavens and a new earth."
It is the same task to which Christ and all the Prophets have devoted Their lives,
and between these great teachers there is no rivalry. It is not by this Manifestation
or by that, but by all together, that the task will be accomplished.
Abdu'l-Baha says: --
is not necessary to lower Abraham to raise Jesus. It is not necessary to lower
Jesus to proclaim Baha'u'llah. We must welcome the Truth of God wherever we behold
it. The essence of the question is that all these great Messengers came to raise
the Divine Standard of Perfections. All of them shine as orbs in the same heaven
of the Divine Will. All of them give Light to the world.
task is God's, and God calls not only the Prophets but all mankind to be His co-workers
in this creative process. If we refuse His invitation, we shall not hinder the
work from going on, for what God wills shall surely come to pass. If we fail to
play our part He can raise up other instruments to perform His purpose; but we
shall miss the real aim and object of our own lives. At-one-ment with God -- becoming
His lovers, His servants, the willing channels and mediums of His Creative Power,
so that we are conscious of no life within us but His Divine and abundant life
-- that, according to the Bahá'í teaching, is the ineffable and glorious consummation
of human existence.
however, is sound at heart, for it is made "in the image and likeness of God,"
and when at last it sees the truth, it will not persist in the paths of folly.
Baha'u'llah assures us that erelong the call of God will be generally accepted,
and mankind as a whole will turn to righteousness and obedience. "All sorrow will
then be turned into joy, and all disease into health," and the kingdoms of this
world shall become "the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall
reign for ever and ever" (Rev. xi, 15). Not only those on earth, but all
in the heavens and on the earth, shall become one in God and rejoice eternally
of the world today surely affords ample evidence that, with rare exceptions, people
of all religions need to be reawakened to the real meaning of their religion;
and that reawakening is an important part of the work of Baha'u'llah. He comes
to make Christians better Christians, to make Muslims real Muslims, to make all
men true to the spirit that inspired their Prophets. He also fulfills the promise
made by all these Prophets, of a more glorious Manifestation which was to appear
in the "Fullness of Time" to crown and consummate Their labors. He gives a fuller
unfolding of spiritual truths than His predecessors, and reveals the Will of God
with regard to all the problems of individual and social life that confront us
in the world today. He gives a universal teaching which affords a firm foundation
on which a new and better civilization can be built up, a teaching adapted to
the needs of the world in the new era which is now commencing.
unification of the world of humanity, the welding together of the world's different
religions, the reconciliation of Religion and Science, the establishment of Universal
Peace, of International Arbitration of an International House of Justice, of an
International Language, the Emancipation of Women, Universal Education, the abolition
not only of Chattel Slavery, but of Industrial Slavery, the Organization of Humanity
as a single whole, with due regard to the rights and liberties of each individual
-- these are problems of gigantic magnitude and stupendous difficulty in relation
to which Christians, Muhammadans and adherents of other religions have held and
still hold the most diverse and often violently opposed views, but Baha'u'llah
has revealed clearly defined principles, the general adoption of which would obviously
make the world a paradise.
quite ready to admit that the Bahá'í teachings would be a splendid thing for Persia
and for the East, but imagine that for the nations of the West they are unnecessary
or unsuitable. To one who mentioned such a view, Abdu'l-Baha replied: --
to the meaning of the Cause of Baha'u'llah, whatever has to do with the universal
good is divine, and whatever is divine is for the universal good. If it be true,
it is for all; if not, it is for no one; therefore a divine cause of universal
good cannot be limited to either the East or the West, for the radiance of the
Sun of Truth illumines both the East and the West, and it makes its heat felt
in the South and in the North -- there is no difference between one Pole and another.
At the time of the Manifestation of Christ, the Romans and Greeks thought His
Cause was especially for the Jews. They thought they had a perfect civilization
and nothing to learn from Christ's teachings, and by this false supposition many
were deprived of His Grace. Likewise know that the principles of Christianity
and the Commandments of Baha'u'llah are identical and their paths are the same.
Every day there is progress; there was a time when this divine institution (of
progressive revelation) was in embryo, then newborn, then a child, then an intellectual
youth; but today it is resplendent with beauty and shining with the greatest brilliancy.
is he who penetrates the mystery and takes his place in the world of the illumined
passing of its beloved leader, Abdu'l-Baha, the Bahá'í Faith entered on a new
phase of its history. This new phase represents a higher state in the existence
of the same
spiritual organism, a more mature and consequently a more responsible expression
of the faith felt by its members. Abdu'l-Baha had devoted His superhuman energy
and unique capacity to the task of spreading His love for Baha'u'llah throughout
the East and West. He had lighted the candle of faith in countless souls. He had
trained and guided them in the attributes of the personal spiritual life. In view
of the momentous importance of the Last Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, the
gravity of the issues it raises and the profound wisdom underlying its provisions,
we give a few extracts which vividly portray the spirit and leading principles
which animated and guided Abdu'l-Baha and are transmitted as a rich heritage to
His faithful followers: --
ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are
in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God's grace. It is incumbent
upon everyone to show the utmost love, rectitude of conduct, straight forwardness
and sincere kindliness unto all the peoples and kindreds of the world, be they
friends or strangers. So intense must be the spirit of love and loving kindness,
that the stranger may find himself a friend, the enemy a true brother, no difference
whatsoever existing between them. For universality is of God and all limitations
O my loving friends! Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the
world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will
and friendliness, that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy
of the grace of Baha, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from
the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of
the world may give way to the Light of Unity. Should other peoples and nations
be unfaithful to you show your fidelity unto them, should they keep aloof from
you attract them to yourself, should they show their enmity be friendly towards
them, should they poison your lives, sweeten their souls, should they inflict
a wound upon you, be a salve to their sores. Such are the attributes of the sincere!
Such are the attributes of the truthful.
ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon you to be submissive to all monarchs
that are just and to show your fidelity to every righteous king. Serve ye the
sovereigns of the world with utmost truthfulness and loyalty. Show obedience unto
them and be their well-wishers. Without their leave and permission do not meddle
with political affairs, for disloyalty to the just sovereign is disloyalty to
is my counsel and the commandment of God unto you. Well is it with them that act
Thou seest all things weeping me and my kindred rejoicing in my woes. By Thy Glory,
O my God! Even amongst mine enemies, some have lamented my troubles and my distress,
and of the envious ones a number have shed tears because of my cares, my exile
and my afflictions. They did this because they found naught in me but affection
and care and witnessed naught but kindliness and mercy. As they saw me swept into
the flood of tribulation and adversity and exposed even as a target to the arrows
of fate, their hearts were moved with compassion
-- "The Lord is our witness;
naught have we seen from him but faithfulness, generosity and extreme compassion."
The Covenant-breakers, foreboders of evil, however, waxed fiercer in their rancor,
rejoiced as I fell a victim to the most grievous ordeal, bestirred themselves
against me and made merry over the heartrending happenings around me.
call upon Thee, O Lord my God! with my tongue and with all my heart, not to require
them for their cruelty and their wrong-doings, their craft and their mischief,
for they are foolish and ignoble and know not what they do. They discern not good
from evil, neither do they distinguish right from wrong, nor justice from injustice.
They follow their own desires and walk in the footsteps of the most imperfect
and foolish amongst them. O my Lord! Have mercy upon them, shield them from all
afflictions in these troubled times and grant that all trials and hardships may
be the lot of this Thy servant that hath fallen into this darksome pit. Single
me out for every woe and make me a sacrifice for all Thy loved ones. O Lord, Most
High! May my soul, my life, my being, my spirit, my all be offered up for them.
O God, my God! Lowly, suppliant and fallen upon my face, I beseech Thee with all
the ardor of my invocation to pardon whosoever hath hurt me, forgive him that
hath conspired against me and offended me, and wash away the misdeeds of them
that have wrought injustice upon me. Vouchsafe unto them Thy goodly gifts, give
them joy, relieve them from sorrow, grant them peace and prosperity, give them
Thy bliss and pour upon them Thy bounty.
art the Powerful, the Gracious, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting!
disciples of Christ forgot themselves and all earthy things, forsook all their
cares and belongings, purged themselves of self and passion and with absolute
detachment scattered far and wide and engaged in calling the peoples of the world
to the Divine Guidance, till at last they made the world another world, illumined
the surface of the earth and even to their last hour proved self-sacrificing in
the pathway of that Beloved One of God. Finally in various lands they suffered
glorious martyrdom. Let them that are men of action follow in their footsteps!
God, my God! I call Thee, Thy Prophets and Thy Messengers, Thy Saints and Thy
Holy Ones, to witness that I have declared conclusively Thy Proofs unto Thy loved
ones and set forth clearly all things unto them, that they may watch over Thy
Faith, guard Thy Straight Path and protect Thy Resplendent Law. Thou art, verily,
the All-Knowing, the All-Wise!
Abdu'l-Baha's passing, the time had come to establish the administrative order
which has been termed the pattern and nucleus of the world order which it is the
special mission of the religion of Baha'u'llah to establish. The Will and Testament
of Abdu'l-Baha consequently marks a turning point in Bahá'í history, dividing
the era of immaturity and irresponsibility from that era in which the Bahá'ís
themselves are destined to fulfill their spirituality by enlarging its scope from
the realm of personal experience to that of social unity and cooperation. The
three principal elements in the administrative plan left by Abdu'l-Baha are: --
Guardian of the Cause of God,"
Hands of the Cause of God," and
Houses of Justice, Local, National and International."1
appointed His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, to the responsible position of
"Guardian of the Cause" (Valiyy-i-Amru'llah). Shoghi Effendi is the eldest son
of Diya'iyyih Khanum, the eldest daughter of Abdu'l-Baha. His father, Mirza Hadi,
is a relative of the Bab (although not a direct descendant, as the Bab's only
child died in infancy). Shoghi Effendi was twenty-five years of age, and was studying
at Balliol College, Oxford, at the time of his grandfather's passing. The announcement
of his appointment is made in Abdu'l-Baha's Will as follows: --
my loving friends! After the passing away of this wronged one, it is incumbent
upon the Aghsan (Branches), the Afnan (Twigs) of the Sacred Lote-Tree, the Hands
(pillars) of the Cause of God and the loved ones of the Abha Beauty to turn unto
Shoghi Effendi -- the youthful branch branched from the two hallowed and sacred
Lote-Trees and the fruit grown from the union of the two offshoots of the Tree
of Holiness, -- as he is the sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the
Cause of God, he unto whom all the Aghsan, the Afnan, the Hands of the Cause of
God and His loved ones must turn. He is the expounder of the words of God and
after him will succeed the first-born of his lineal descendants.
sacred and youthful branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God as well as the Universal
House of Justice, to be universally elected and established, are both under the
care and protection of the Abha Beauty, under the shelter and unerring guidance
of His Holiness, the Exalted One (may my life be offered up for them both). Whatsoever
they decide is of God. ...
ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon the Guardian of the Cause of God
to appoint in his own lifetime him that shall become his successor, that differences
may not arise after his passing. He that is appointed must manifest in himself
detachment from all worldly things, must be the essence of purity, must show in
himself the fear of God, knowledge, wisdom and learning. Thus, should the first-born
of the Guardian of the Cause of God not manifest in himself the truth of the words:
-- "The child is the secret essence of its sire," that is, should he not inherit
of the spiritual within him (the Guardian of the Cause of God) and his glorious
lineage not be matched with a goodly character, then must he (the Guardian of
the Cause of God) choose another branch to succeed him.
Hands of the Cause of God must elect from their own number nine persons that shall
at all times be occupied in the important services of the work of the Guardian
of the Cause of God. The election of these nine must be carried either unanimously
or by majority from the company of the Hands of the Cause of God and these, whether
unanimously or by a majority vote, must give their assent to the choice of the
one whom the Guardian of the Cause of God hath chosen as his successor. This assent
must be given in such wise as the assenting and dissenting voices may not be distinguished
(i.e., secret ballot).
own lifetime Baha'u'llah appointed a few tried and trusted friends to assist in
directing and promoting the work of the Movement, and gave them the title of Ayadiyi-Amru'llah
(lit. "Hands of the Cause of God"). Abdu'l-Baha makes provision in His Will for
the establishment of a permanent body of workers to serve the Cause and help the
Guardian of the Cause. He writes: --
friends! The Hands of the Cause of God must be nominated and appointed by the
Guardian of the Cause of God. ...
obligations of the Hands of the Cause of God are to diffuse the Divine Fragrances,
to edify the souls of men, to promote learning, to improve the character of all
men and to be, at all times and under all conditions, sanctified and detached
from earthly things. They must manifest the fear of God in their conduct, their
manners, their deeds and their words.
body of the Hands of the Cause of God is under the
direction of the Guardian of the Cause of God. He
must continually urge them to strive and endeavor
to the utmost of their ability to diffuse the sweet
savors of God, and to guide all the peoples of the
world, for it is the light of Divine Guidance that
causeth all the universe to be illumined.1
has been the general characteristic of religion that organization marks the interruption
of the true spiritual influence and serves to prevent the original impulse from
being carried into the world. The organization has invariably become a substitute
for religion rather than a method or an instrument used to give the religion effect.
The separation of peoples into different traditions unbridged by any peaceful
or constructive intercourse has made this inevitable. Up to the present time,
in fact, no Founder of a revealed religion has explicitly laid down the principles
that should guide the administrative machinery of the Faith He has established.
Bahá'í Cause, the principles of world administration were expressed by Baha'u'llah,
and these principles were developed in the writings of Abdu'l-Baha, more especially
in His Will and Testament.
purpose of this organization is to make possible a true and lasting unity among
peoples of different races, classes, interests, characters, and inherited creeds.
A close and sympathetic study of this aspect of the Bahá'í Cause will show that
the purpose and method of Bahá'í administration is so perfectly adapted to the
fundamental spirit of the Revelation that it bears to it the same relationship
as body to soul. In character, the principles of Bahá'í administration represent
the science of cooperation; in application, they provide for a new and higher
type of morality worldwide in scope. ...
Bahá'í community differs from other voluntary gatherings in that its foundation
is so deeply laid and broadly extended that it can include any sincere soul. Whereas
other associations are exclusive, in effect if not in intention, and from method
if not from ideal, Bahá'í association is inclusive, shutting the gates of fellowship
to no sincere soul. In every gathering there is latent or developed some basis
of selection. In religion this basis is a creed limited by the historical nature
of its origin; in politics this is party or platform; in economics this is a mutual
misfortune or mutual power; in the arts and sciences this basis consists of special
training or activity or interest. In all these matters, the more exclusive the
basis of selection, the stronger the movement -- a condition diametrically opposed
to that existing in the Bahá'í Cause. Hence the Cause, for all its spirit of growth
and progress, develops slowly as regards the numbers of its active adherents.
For people are accustomed to exclusiveness and division in all affairs. The important
sanctions have ever been warrants and justifications of division. To enter the
Bahá'í Movement is to leave these sanctions behind -- an experience which at first
invariably exposes one to new trials and sufferings, as the human ego revolts
against the supreme sanction of universal love. The scientific must associate
with the simple and unlearned, the rich with the poor, the white with the colored,
the mystic with the literalist, the Christian with the Jew, the Muslim with the
Parsee: and on terms removing the advantage of long established presumptions and
for this difficult experience there are glorious compensations. Let us remember
that art grows sterile as it turns away from the common humanity, that philosophy
likewise loses its vision when developed in solitude, and that politics and religion
never succeed apart from the general needs of mankind. Human nature is not yet
known, for we have all lived in a state of mental, moral, emotional or social
defense, and the psychology of defense is the psychology of inhibition. But the
love of God removes fear; the removal of fear establishes the latent power, and
association with others in spiritual love brings these powers into vital, positive
expression. A Bahá'í community is a gathering where this process can take place
in this age, slowly at first, as the new impetus gathers force, more rapidly as
the members become conscious of the powers unfolding the flower of unity among
responsibility for and supervision of local Bahá'í affairs is vested in a body
known as the Spiritual Assembly. This body (limited to nine members) is elected
annually on April 21st, the first day of Ridvan (the Festival commemorating the
Declaration of Baha'u'llah) by the adult declared believers of the community,
the voting list being drawn up by the outgoing Spiritual Assembly. Concerning
the character and functions of this body, Abdu'l-Baha has written as follows:
is incumbent upon every one [every believer] not to take any step [of Bahá'í activity]
without consulting the Spiritual Assembly, and they must assuredly obey with heart
and soul its bidding and be submissive unto it, that things may be properly ordered
and well arranged. Otherwise every person will act independently and after his
own judgment, will follow his own desire, and do harm to the Cause.
prime requisites for them that take counsel together are purity of motive, radiance
of spirit, detachment from all else save God, attrationg to His Divine Fragrances,
humility and lowliness amongst His loved ones, patience and long-suffering in
difficulties and servitude to His exalted Threshold. Should they be graciously
aided to acquire these attributes, victory from the unseen Kingdom of Baha shall
be vouchsafed to them. In this day, assemblies of consultation are of the greatest
importance and a vital necessity. Obedience unto them is essential and obligatory.
The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for
ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth
with absolute freedom his own opinion and must on no account feel hurt for not
until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark
of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. If after discussion,
a decision be carried unanimously well and good; but if, the Lord forbid, differences
of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail. ...
first condition is absolute love and harmony amongst the members of the assembly.
They must be wholly free from estrangement and must manifest in themselves the
Unity of God, for they are the waves of one sea, the drops of one river, the stars
of one heaven, the rays of one sun, the trees of one orchard, the flowers of one
garden. Should harmony of thought and absolute unity be non-existent, that gathering
shall be dispersed and that assembly be brought to naught. The second condition:
-- They must when coming together turn their faces to the Kingdom on High and
ask aid from the Realm of Glory. ... Discussions must all be confined to spiritual
matters that pertain to the training of souls, the instruction of children, the
relief of the poor, the help of the feeble throughout all classes in the world,
kindness to all peoples, the diffusion of the fragrances of God and the exaltation
of His Holy Word. Should they endeavor to fulfill these conditions the Grace of
the Holy Spirit shall be vouchsafed unto them, and that assembly shall become
the center of the Divine blessings, the hosts of Divine confirmation shall come
to their aid, and they shall day by day receive a new effusion of Spirit.
Expounding this subject, Shoghi Effendi writes: --
nothing whatever should be given to the public by any individual among the friends,
unless fully considered and approved by the Spiritual Assembly in his locality;
and if this (as is undoubtedly the case) is a matter that pertains to the general
interest of the Cause in that land, then it is incumbent upon the Spiritual Assembly
to submit it to the consideration and approval of the national body representing
all the various local assemblies. Not only with regard to publication, but all
matters without any excerption whatsoever, regarding the interests of the Cause
in that locality, individually or collectively, should be referred exclusively
to the Spiritual Assembly in that locality, which shall decide upon it, unless
it be a matter of national interest, in which case it shall be referred to the
national [Bahá'í] body. With this national body also will rest the decision whether
a given question is of local or national interest. (By national affairs is not
meant matters that are political in their character, for the friends of God the
world over are strictly forbidden to meddle with political affairs in any way
whatsoever, but rather things that affect the spiritual activities of the body
of the friends in that land.)
harmony, however, as well as cooperation among the various local assemblies and
the members themselves, and particularly between each assembly and the national
body, is of the utmost importance, for upon it depends the unity of the Cause
of God, the solidarity of the friends, the full, speedy and efficient working
of the spiritual activities of His loved ones. ...
various Assemblies, local and national, constitute today the bedrock upon the
strength of which the Universal House [of Justice] is in future to be firmly established
and raised. Not until these function vigorously and harmoniously can the hope
for the termination of this period of transition be realized. ...
bear in mind that the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority
but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving
consultation. Nothing short of the spirit of a true Bahá'í can hope to reconcile
the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity
of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion
and prudence on the one hand, and fellowship, candor and courage on the other.
local Spiritual Assemblies of a country are linked together and co-ordinating
through another elected body of nine members, the National Spiritual Assembly.
This body comes into being by means of an annual election held by elected delegates
representing the local Bahá'í communities. ... The National Convention in which
the delegates are gather together is composed of an elective body based upon the
proportional representation. ... These National Conventions are preferably held
during the period of Ridvan, the twelve days beginning April 21st which commemorate
the Declaration made by Baha'u'llah in the Garden of Ridvan near Baghdad. The
recognition of delegates is vested in the outgoing National Spiritual Assembly.
Convention is an occasion for deepening one's understanding of Bahá'í activities
and of sharing reports of national and local activities for the period of the
elapsed year. ... The function of a Bahá'í delegate is limited to the duration
of the National Convention and participation in the election of the new National
Spiritual Assembly. While gathered together, the delegates are a consultative
and advisory body whose recommendations are to be carefully considered by the
members of the elected National Spiritual Assembly. ...
relation of the National Spiritual Assembly to the local Spiritual Assemblies
and to the body of the believers in the country is thus defined in the letters
of the Guardian of the Cause:
the establishment of "National Assemblies," it is of vital importance that in
every country, where the conditions are favorable and the number of the friends
has grown and reached a considerable size ... that a "National Spiritual Assembly"
be immediately established, representative of the friends throughout that country.
immediate purpose is to stimulate, unify and coordinate by frequent personal consultations,
the manifold activities of the friends as well as the local Assemblies; and by
keeping in close and constant touch with the Holy Land, initiate measures, and
direct in general the affairs of the Cause in that country.
serves also another purpose, no less essential than the first, as in the course
of time it shall evolve into the National House of Justice (referred to in Abdu'l-Baha's
Will as the "secondary House of Justice"), which according to the explicit text
of the Testament will have, in conjunction with the other National Assemblies
throughout the Bahá'í world, to elect directly the members of the International
House of Justice, that Supreme Council that will guide, organize and unify the
affairs of the Movement throughout the world. ...
National Spiritual Assembly, which, pending the establishment of the Universal
House of Justice, will have to be re-elected once a year, 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
issues, affecting the interests of the Cause in that country such as the matter
of translation and publication, the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar, the Teaching Work, and
other similar matters that stand distinct from strictly local affairs, must be
under the full jurisdiction of the National Assembly.
will have to refer each of these questions, even as the local Assemblies, to a
special Committee, to be elected by the members of the National Spiritual Assembly,
from among all the friends in that country, which will bear to it the same relation
as the local committees bear to their respective local Assemblies.
it, too, rests the decision whether a certain point at issue is strictly local
in its nature, and should be reserved for the consideration and decision of the
local Assembly, or whether it should fall under its own province and be regarded
as a matter which ought to receive its special attention. ...
it is bounden duty, in the interest of the Cause we all love and serve, of the
members of the incoming National Assembly, once elected by the delegates at Convention
time, to seek and have the utmost regard, individually as well as collectively,
for the advice, the considered opinion and the true sentiments of the assembled
delegates. Banishing every vestige of secrecy, of undue reticence, of dictatorial
aloofness, from their midst, they should radiantly and abundantly unfold to the
eyes of the delegates, by whom they are elected, their plans, their hopes, and
their cares. They should familiarize the delegates with the various matters that
will have to be considered in the current year, and calmly and conscientiously
study and weigh the opinions and judgments of the delegates. The newly elected
National Assembly, during the few days when the Convention is in session and after
the dispersal of the delegates, should seek ways and means to cultivate understanding,
facilitate and maintain the exchange of views, deepen confidence, and vindicate
by every tangible evidence their one desire to serve and advance the common weal.
National Spiritual Assembly, however, in view of the unavoidable limitations imposed
upon the convening of frequent and long-standing sessions of the Convention, will
have to retain in its hands the final decision on all matters that affect the
interests of the Cause ... such as the right to decide whether any local Assembly
is functioning in accordance with the principles laid down for the conduct and
the advancement of the Cause. ...
the matter of drawing up the voting list to be used at the annual local Bahá'í
elections, the responsibility for this is placed upon each local Spiritual Assembly,
and as a guidance in the matter the Guardian has written the following:
to state very briefly and as adequately as present circumstances permit the principal
factors that must be taken into consideration before deciding whether a person
may be regarded as a true believer or not. Full recognition of the station of
the Forerunner, the Author, and the True Exemplar of the Bahá'í Cause, as set
forth in Abdu'l-Baha's Testament; unreserved acceptance of, and submission to,
whatsoever has been revealed by their Pen; loyal and steadfast adherence to every
clause of our Beloved's sacred Will; and close association with the spirit as
well as the form of the present day Bahá'í administration throughout the world
-- these I conceive to be the fundamental and primary considerations that must
be fairly, discreetly and thoughtfully ascertained before reaching such a vital
instructions provide for the further development of Bahá'í organization.
now, concerning the House of Justice which God hath
ordained as the source of all good and freed from
all error, it must be elected by universal suffrage,
that is, by the believers. Its members must be manifestations
of the fear of God and daysprings of knowledge and
understanding, must be steadfast in God's faith and
the well-wishers of all mankind. By this House is
meant the Universal House of Justice, that is, 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.1
Unto this body all things must be referred. It enacted
all ordinances and regulations that are not to be
found in the explicit Holy Text. By this body all
the difficult problems are to be resolved and the
Guardian of the Cause of God is its sacred head and
the distinguished member for life of that body. Should
he not attend in person its deliberations, he must
appoint one to represent him. ... This House of Justice
enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them.
The legislative body must reinforce the executive,
the executive must aid and assist the legislative
body so that through the close union and harmony of
these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice
may become firm and strong, that all the regions of
the world may become even as Paradise itself. ...
Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn and all that is not expressly recorded
therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body,
whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the Truth and
the Purpose of God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that
love discord, hath shown forth malice and turned away from the Lord of the Covenant.
at the present time, the Bahá'ís in all parts of the world maintain an intimate
and cordial association by means of regular correspondence and individual visits.
This contact of members of different races, nationalities and religious traditions
is concrete proof that the burden of prejudice and the historical factors of division
can be entirely overcome through the spirit of oneness established by Baha'u'llah.
larger implications of this order are explained by Shoghi Effendi in successive
communications addressed to the Bahá'í community since February, 1929: --
cannot refrain from appealing to them who stand identified with the Faith to disregard
the prevailing notions and the fleeting fashions of the day, and to realize as
never before that the exploded theories and the tottering institutions of present-day
civilization must needs appear in sharp contrast with those God-given institutions
which are destined to arise upon their ruin. ...
Baha'u'llah ... has not only imbued mankind with a new and regenerating Spirit.
He has not merely enunciated certain universal principles, or propounded a particular
philosophy, however potent, sound and universal these may be. In addition to these
He, as well as Abdu'l-Baha after Him, has, unlike the Dispensations of the past,
clearly and specifically laid down a set of Laws, established definite institutions,
and provided for the essentials of a Divine Economy. These are destined to be
a pattern for future society, a supreme instrument for the establishment of the
Most Great Peace, and the one agency for the unification of the world, and the
proclamation of the reign of righteousness and justice upon the earth. ...
the Dispensation of Christ, unlike the Dispensation of Muhammad, unlike all the
Dispensations of the past, the apostles of Baha'u'llah in every land, wherever
they labor and toil, have before them in clear, in unequivocal and emphatic language,
all the laws, the regulations, the principles, the institutions, the guidance,
they require for the prosecution and consummation of their task. ... Therein lies
the distinguishing feature of the Bahá'í Revelation. Therein lies the strength
of the unity of the Faith, of the validity of a Revelation that claims not to
destroy or belittle previous Revelations, but to connect, unify, and fulfill them.
though our Faith may now appear in the eyes of men, who either denounce it as
an offshoot of Islam, or contemptuously ignore it as one more of those obscure
sects that abound in the West, this priceless gem of Divine Revelation, now still
in its embryonic state, shall evolve within the shell of His law, and shall forge
ahead, undivided and unimpaired, till it embraces the whole of mankind. Only those
who have already recognized the supreme station of Baha'u'llah, only those whose
hearts have been touched by His love, and have become familiar with the potency
of His spirit, can adequately appreciate the value of this Divine Economy -- His
inestimable gift to mankind. -- March 21, 1930.
is towards this goal -- the goal of a new World Order, Divine in origin, all-embracing
in scope, equitable in principle, challenging in its features -- that a harassed
humanity must strive. ...
pathetic indeed are the efforts of those leaders of
human institutions who, in utter disregard of the
spirit of the age, are striving to adjust national
processes, suited to the ancient days of self-contained
nations, to an age which must either achieve the unity
of the world, as adumbrated by Baha'u'llah, or perish.
At so critical an hour in the history of civilization
it behooves the leaders of all the nations of the
world, great and small, whether in the East or in
the West, whether victors or vanquished, to give heed
to the clarion call of Baha'u'llah and, thoroughly
imbued with a sense of world solidarity, the sine
quaa non of loyalty to His Cause, arise manfully to
carry out in its entirety the one remedial scheme
He, the Divine Physician, has prescribed for an ailing
humanity. Let them discard, one for all, every preconceived
idea, every national prejudice, and give heed to the
sublime counsel of Abdu'l-Baha, the authorized Expounder
of His teachings. You can best serve your country,
was Abdu'l-Baha's rejoinder1
to a high official in the service of the federal government
of the United States of America, who had questioned
Him as to the best manner in which he could promote
the interests of his government and people, if you
strive, in your capacity as a citizen of the world,
to assist in the eventual application of the principles
of federalism underlying the government of your own
country to the relationships now existing between
the peoples and nations of the world. ...
form of a world Super-State must needs be evolved, in whose favor all the nations
of the world will have willingly ceded every claim to make war, certain rights
to impose taxation and all rights to maintain armaments, except for purposes of
maintaining internal order within their respective dominions. Such a state will
have to include within its orbit an International Executive adequate to enforce
supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth;
a World Parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective
countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments;
and a Supreme Tribunal whose judgment will have a binding effect even in such
cases where the parties concerned did not voluntarily agree to submit their case
to its consideration. A world community in which all economic barriers will have
been permanently demolished and the interdependence of Capital and Labor definitely
recognized; in which the clamor of religious fanaticism and strife will have been
forever stilled; in which the flame of racial animosity will have been finally
extinguished; in which a single code of international law -- the product of the
considered judgment of the world's federated representatives -- shall have as
its sanction the instant and coercive intervention of the combined forces of the
federated units; and finally a world community in which the fury of a capricious
and militant nationalism will have been transmuted into an abiding consciousness
of world citizenship -- such indeed, appears, in its broadest outline, the Order
anticipated by Baha'u'llah, an Order that shall come to be regarded as the fairest
fruit of a slowly maturing age. ...
there be no misgivings as to the animating purpose of the world-wide Law of Baha'u'llah.
Far from aiming at the subversion of the existing foundations of society, it seeks
to broaden its basis, to remold its institutions in a manner consonant with the
needs of an ever-changing world. It can conflict with no legitimate allegiances,
nor can it undermine essential loyalties. Its purpose is neither to stifle the
flame of a sane and intelligent patriotism in men's hearts, nor to abolish the
system of national autonomy so essential if the evils of excessive centralization
are to be avoided. It does not ignore, nor does it attempt to suppress, the diversity
of ethnical origins, of climate, of history, of language and tradition, of thought
and habit, that differentiate the peoples and nations of the world. It calls for
a wider loyalty, for a larger aspiration than any that has animated the human
call of Baha'u'llah is primarily directed against all forms of provincialism,
all insularities and prejudices.
For legal standards, political and economic theories are solely designed to safeguard
the interests of humanity as a whole, and not humanity to be crucified for the
preservation of the integrity of any particular law or doctrine. ...
principle of the Oneness of Mankind -- the pivot round which all the teachings
of Baha'u'llah revolve -- is no mere outburst of ignorant emotionalism or an expression
of vague and pious hope. ... Its implications are deeper, its claims greater than
any which the Prophets of old were allowed to advance. Its message is applicable
not only to the individual, but concerns itself primarily with the nature of those
essential relationships that must bind all the states and nations as members of
one human family. ...
represents the consummation of human evolution. ...
the forces of a world catastrophe can alone precipitate such a new phase of human
thought is, alas, becoming increasingly apparent. ...
but a fiery ordeal, out of which humanity will emerge, chastened and prepared,
can succeed in implanting that sense of responsibility which the leaders of a
newborn age must arise to shoulder. ...
not Abdu'l-Baha Himself asserted in unequivocal language that "another war, fiercer
than the last, will assuredly break out"? -- November 28, 1931.
Administrative Order ... will, as its component parts, its organic institutions,
begin to function with efficiency and vigor, assert its claim and demonstrate
its capacity to be regarded not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the
New World Order destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind.
of all the Revelations gone before it this Faith has ... succeeded in raising
a structure which the bewildered followers of bankrupt and broken creeds might
well approach and critically examine, and seek, ere it is too late, the invulnerable
security of its world-embracing shelter. ...
what else if not the power and majesty which this Administrative Order -- the
rudiments of the future all-enfolding Bahá'í Commonwealth -- is destined to manifest,
can these utterances of Baha'u'llah allude: "The world's equilibrium hath been
upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order.
Mankind's ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique,
this wondrous System -- the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed." ...
Bahá'í Commonwealth of the future of which this vast Administrative Order is the
sole framework, is, both in theory and practice, not only unique in the entire
history of political institutions, but can find no parallel in the annals of any
of the world's recognized religious systems. No form of democratic government;
no system of autocracy or of dictatorship, whether monarchical or republican;
no intermediary scheme of a purely aristocratic order; nor even any of the recognized
types of theocracy, whether it be the Hebrew Commonwealth, or the various Christian
ecclesiastical organizations, or the Imamate or the Caliphate in Islam -- none
of these can be identified or be said to conform with the Administrative Order
which the master-hand of its perfect Architect has fashioned. ...
no one, while this System is still in its infancy, misconceive its character,
belittle its significance or misrepresent its purpose. The bedrock on which this
Administrative Order is founded is God's immutable Purpose for mankind in this
day. The Source from which it derives its inspiration is no one less than Baha'u'llah
Himself. ... The central, the underlying aim which animates it is the establishment
of the New World Order as adumbrated by Baha'u'llah. The methods it employs, the
standard it inculcates, incline it to neither East nor West, neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither rich nor poor, neither white nor colored. Its watchword is the unification
of the human race; its standard the "Most Great Peace." ... February 8, 1934.
contrast between the accumulating evidences of steady consolidation that accompany
the rise of the Administrative Order of the Faith of God, and the forces of disintegration
which batter at the fabric of a travailing society, is as clear as it is arresting.
Both within and outside the Bahá'í world the signs and tokens which, in a mysterious
manner, are heralding the birth of that World Order, the establishment of which
must signalize the Golden Age of the Cause of God, are growing and multiplying
day by day. ...
Baha'u'llah's own words proclaim it, "will the present day Order be rolled up,
and a new one spread out in its stead." ...
Revelation of Baha'u'llah ... should ... be regarded as signalizing through its
advent the coming of age of the entire human race. It should be viewed not merely
as yet another spiritual revival in the ever-changing fortunes of mankind, not
only as a further stage in a chain of progressive Revelations, nor even as the
culmination of one of a series of recurrent prophetic cycles, but rather as marking
the last and highest stage in the stupendous evolution of man's collective life
on this planet. The emergence of a world community, the consciousness of world
citizenship, the founding of a world civilization and culture ... should ... be
regarded, as far as this planetary life is concerned, as the furthermost limits
in the organization of human society, though man, as an individual, will, nay
must indeed as a result of such a consummation, continue indefinitely to progress
and develop. ...
unity of the human race, as envisaged by Baha'u'llah, implies the establishment
of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely
and permanently united, and 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. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize
it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the
whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component
nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy
the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive,
backed by an international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and
apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic
unity of the whole commonwealth. A world tribunal will ajudicate and deliver its
compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the
various elements constituting this universal system. A mechanism of world intercommunication
will be devised, embracing the whole planet, freed from national hindrances and
restrictions, and functioning with marvelous swiftness and perfect regularity.
A world metropolis will act as the nerve center of a world civilization, the focus
towards which the unifying forces of life will converge and from which its energizing
influences will radiate. A world language will either be invented or chosen from
among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated
nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue. A world script, a world literature,
a uniform and universal system of currency, of weights and measures, will simplify
and facilitate intercourse and understanding among the nations and races of mankind.
In such a world society, science and religion, the two most potent forces in human
life, will be reconciled, will cooperate, and will harmoniously develop. The press
will, under such a system, while giving full scope to the expression of the diversified
views and convictions of mankind, cease to be mischievously manipulated by vested
interests, whether private or public, and will be liberated from the influence
of contending governments and peoples. The economic resources of the world will
be organized, its sources of raw materials will be tapped and fully utilized,
its markets will be coordinated and developed, and the distribution of its products
will be equitably regulated.
rivalries, hatred, and intrigues will cease, and racial animosity and prejudice
will be replaced by racial amity, understanding and cooperation. The causes of
religious strife will be permanently removed, economic barriers and restrictions
will be completely abolished, and the inordinate distinction between classes will
be obliterated. Destitution on the one hand, and gross accumulation of ownership
on the other, will disappear. The enormous energy dissipated and wasted on war,
whether economic or political, will be consecrated to such ends as will extend
the range of human inventions and technical development, to the increase of the
productivity of mankind, to the extermination of disease, to the extension of
scientific research, to the raising of the standard of physical health, to the
sharpening and refinement of the human brain, to the exploitation of the unused
and unsuspected resources of the planet, to the prolongation of human life, and
to the furtherance of any other agency that can stimulate the intellectual, the
moral, and spiritual life of the entire human race.
world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority
over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both
the East and the West, liberated from the curse of war and its miseries, and bent
on the exploitation of all the available sources of energy on the surface of the
planet, a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is
sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one
common Revelation -- such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the
unifying forces of life, is moving. ...
whole of mankind is groaning, is dying to be led to unity, and to terminate its
age-long martyrdom. And yet it stubbornly refuses to embrace the light and acknowledge
the sovereign authority of the one Power that can extricate it from its entanglements,
and avert the woeful calamity that threatens to engulf it. ...
of the whole of mankind is the hall-mark of the stage which human society is now
approaching. Unity of family, of tribe, of city-state, and nation have been successively
attempted and fully established. World unity is the goal towards which a harassed
humanity is striving. Nation-building has come to an end. The anarchy inherent
in state sovereignty is moving towards a climax. A world, growing to maturity,
must abandon this fetish, recognize the oneness and wholeness of human relationships,
and establish once for all the machinery that can best incarnate this fundamental
principle of its life. -- March 11, 1936.
[The above letters have been published in one volume entitled The World Order
Lord Curzon, in his book, Persia and the Persian Question, published in 1892,
the year of Baha'u'llah's death, writes: --
lowest estimate places the present number of Babis in Persia at half a million.
I am disposed to think, from conversations with persons well qualified to judge,
that the total is nearer one million. They are to be found in every walk of life,
from the ministers and nobles of the Court to the scavenger or the groom, not
the least arena of their activity being the Mussulman priesthood itself. ...
Babism continues to grow at its present rate of progression, a time may conceivably
come when it will oust Mohammedanism from the field in Persia. This, I think,
it would be unlikely to do, did it appear upon the ground under the flag of a
hostile faith. But since its recruits are won from the best soldiers of the garrison
whom it is attacking, there is greater reason to believe that it may ultimately
prevail." (Vol. i, pp. 449-502). back 2.
The number of Bahá'ís is increasing every year and by 1979 the number of localities
throughout the world where Bahá'ís reside has risen to over 103,000. (See Epilogue).
The Local and National Houses of Justice are at the present time designated Local
and National Assemblies, as previously indicated. back
Of the Hands of the Cause appointed by Shoghi Effendi during his thirty-six year
ministry, twenty-seven were living at the time of his passing. He also instituted,
in 1954, Auxiliary Boards to be appointed by the Hands and to be their deputies,
assistants and advisors. back
This section on the Administrative Order is taken from the article on The Present-Day
Administration of the Bahá'í Faith by Horace Holley, published in 1933 in The
Bahá'í World, Volume V, p. 191 et seq. Passages in this article quoting from Bahá'í
writings have been replaced by newer translations where these are available. back
The Universal House of Justice was elected for the first time in April 1986 by
the members of fifty-six National Spiritual Assemblies. back
In the year 1912. back
Go on to the Epilogue,
or to the table