Equality of men and women

All research or scholarship questions
BruceDLimber
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Re: Equality of men and women

Postby BruceDLimber » Thu Nov 08, 2007 8:24 am

golha wrote:The founders of Bahai Faith has explicitly stated that women and men are equal. But women are excluded from service on the UHJ, in spite of the religion’s clear teaching on the equality of the sexes. Why?
Please present a reasonable answer.


I'll give you a reasonable, direct, and complete answer:

Nobody knows!

Simple as that.

Our scriptures do tell us that the reason for this will become clear in the future, but for the time being nobody really knows wny this is (though there are myriads of informal speculations about, none of which carry any official weight in the Faith).

Also, it's worth noting that our scriptures don't say women are "excluded" from this, but rather "excused." Slight difference in nuance.

If you want to read more about this, I recommend the information at Planet Baha'i: it discusses this topic among many others. You can see it at:

http://www.planetbahai.org

BTW, it also has a very good discusison forum with many friendly and knowledgeable folks, both Baha'i and otherwise!

Regards,

Bruce

British_Bahai
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Re: Equality of men and women

Postby British_Bahai » Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:30 pm

(1) Bahaullah Himself stipulated the male membership of the Universal House of Justice and no reason was given. Every religion has mysteries, and our scriptures indicate that the reason will become clear in the future.

(2) The stipulation over membership does not contradict the principle of the equality of men and women - in fact the House of Justice promotes and implements this throughout the Bahai world.

(3) Service on the House of Justice is not a question of rank. In fact, Hands of the Cause have a higher rank within the faith than a member of the House of Justice, and many of the preeminent Hands of the Cause were women.

golha wrote:The founders of Bahai Faith has explicitly stated that women and men are equal. But women are excluded from service on the UHJ, in spite of the religion’s clear teaching on the equality of the sexes. Why?
Please present a reasonable answer.

British_Bahai
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Re: Equality of men and women

Postby British_Bahai » Thu Dec 13, 2007 12:05 pm

british_bahai wrote:(2) The stipulation over membership does not contradict the principle of the equality of men and women - in fact the House of Justice promotes and implements this throughout the Bahai world.

http://news.bahai.org/story/592

British_Bahai
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Re: Equality of men and women

Postby British_Bahai » Thu Dec 20, 2007 1:48 pm

BruceDLimber wrote:Also, it's worth noting that our scriptures don't say women are "excluded" from this, but rather "excused." Slight difference in nuance.

Do you know the original quote? I cant find it

BruceDLimber
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Re: Equality of men and women

Postby BruceDLimber » Fri Dec 21, 2007 8:24 am

Sorry; I don't have it at hand.

Perhaps someone else here does.

Regards,

Bruce

British_Bahai
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Re: Equality of men and women

Postby British_Bahai » Fri Dec 21, 2007 12:41 pm

BruceDLimber wrote:Sorry; I don't have it at hand.

Perhaps someone else here does.

Regards,

Bruce

Never mind, I'll have a hunt for it myself

British_Bahai
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Postby British_Bahai » Fri Dec 21, 2007 12:44 pm

I thought this is kinda relevant to this thread....

A Compilation on Women
(Compiled by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, Bahá’í World Centre, January 1986)


Free to download (as a .pdf or .doc) from here

British_Bahai
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Re: Equality of men and women

Postby British_Bahai » Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:55 pm

british_bahai wrote:
BruceDLimber wrote:Also, it's worth noting that our scriptures don't say women are "excluded" from this, but rather "excused." Slight difference in nuance.

Do you know the original quote? I cant find it


Brett: do you happen to know it? O:) I cant find it...

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:06 am

Bruce is the one that said it. I don't recall such a quotation. Maybe Bruce is mixing it with these passages?:

The Lord hath ordained that those of you who are able shall make pilgrimage to the sacred House, and from this He hath exempted women as a mercy on His part.

(Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Adqas, par. 32)


The Universal House of Justice has clarified that the provisions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas granting exemptions from certain duties and responsibilities are, as the word indicates, exemptions and not prohibitions. Any believer is, therefore, free to avail himself or herself of an applicable exemption if he or she so wishes. However, the House of Justice counsels that, in deciding whether to do so or not, the believer should use wisdom and realize that Bahá'u'lláh has granted these exemptions for good reason.

(Kitab-i-Aqdas, note 20)


In fact there are a number of passages which do say "confined", etc., but the point is that we are told that the reason for now is a mystery. I think the following passage (the whole letter actually) also indicates a proper attitude for any of us with regard to avoiding the leader worship mentality which in part gives rise to the overemphasis on this topic:

The House of Justice hopes that all the friends will remember that the ultimate aim in life of every soul should be to attain spiritual excellence--to win the good pleasure of God. The true spiritual station of any soul is known only to God. It is quite a different thing from the ranks and stations that men and women occupy in the various sectors of society. Whoever has his eyes fixed on the goal of attaining the good pleasure of God will accept with joy and radiant acquiescence whatever work or station is assigned to him in the Cause of God, and will rejoice to serve Him under all conditions.

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, http://bahai-library.com/file.php5?file ... ounsellors )



You might be interested in this letter if you haven't seen it yet:
http://www.bahai-library.com/uhj/women.uhj.html

And I found this letter interesting too--while reading the Baha'i Writings, men may even be made to start to feel inferior! (I've also highlighted a passage which would seem to me might indicate that while serving on the House of Justice is not something to which to aspire, it is still an honor for those men who are so chosen--of course read the full passage):

As to the question of women being chosen rather than men: In this cycle there were men who arose through a divine power and who shone forth as the sun from the dawning-point of holiness; and, likewise, there appeared certain women who became side by side with men. The expression which you quote, "Every woman who is directed to the guidance of God in this great age, will surpass men in every respect," signified that, in this age, certain women will appear who will surpass some men. It does not mean that they will surpass all the men who have given their lives as sacrifices in this Cause; for in this wonderful cycle there appeared such men as his holiness Khudoos, his holiness Bab-el-Bab, his holiness the "King of Martyrs" and his holiness the "Beloved of Martyrs," his holiness the great Vaheed1, and such ones who have no equals in the world of existence. If, in the letters to the maid-servants of the Merciful, there hath been written in the sense of encouragement (that form which such meanings can be inferred), the purport is that some women in the wonderful age have surpassed some men, and not that all women have surpassed all men. The members of the House of Spirituality must give unlimited encouragement to women. In this age, both men and women are in the shadow of the Word of God. Whosoever endeavors the most will attain the greatest share, be it of men or of women, of the strong or of the weak. As to the matter of teaching and the choosing of men, the letters which I have written to the Spiritual Meeting (House of Spirituality) of which you are a member, will answer this question and will manifest the station of men who remain firm in the Covenant of God. Refer to them. As to the number of Tablets to women, this is due to the fact that most of the letters which come to the Holy Land are from women. Rarely do letters come from men and, naturally, to women the most are written. Men are enjoined more than women to give the Message of the Cause of God and to diffuse His fragrances. My dear friend! If thou didst know how dear thou art to `Abdu'l-Bahá, thou wouldst spread wings, and through excess of joy, soar and begin teaching all that country.

(Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha Abbas, vol. 2, pp. 335-337)


Note that the above is an old translation that probably needs to be revised somewhat (at least the transliteration). Also, I'm not sure if there were paragraphing in the original, as our online copy does not have paragraphing. One might also bear in mind the context of the time for the community in which this was written (see the link to the letter from the House of Justice above).

warmest regards,
Brett

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Sun Mar 02, 2008 1:32 am

In addition to my last post just now, I have a few more to add:

"The beloved Guardian in reply to the same query from a believer pointed out in a letter written on his behalf on July 15th 1947: 'People must just accept the fact that women are not eligible to the International House of Justice. As the Master says the wisdom of this will be known in the future, we can only accept, believing it is right, but not able to give an explanation calculated to silence an ardent feminist!'

"We must have faith in the Supreme Manifestation of God and His Exemplar, Whose prescience is revealed in such provisions which will one day 'be made manifest even as the mid-day sun.'"

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual
believer, May 26, 1971)


As regards the membership of the International House of Justice, 'Abdu'l-Bahá states in a Tablet that it is confined to men, and that the wisdom of it will be revealed as manifest as the sun in the future. In any case the believers should know that, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá Himself has explicitly stated that sexes are equal except in some cases, the exclusion of women from the International House of Justice should not be surprising. From the fact that there is no equality of functions between the sexes one should not, however, infer that either sex is inherently superior or inferior to the other, or that they are unequal in their rights."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual
believer, July 28, 1936: Women, A Compilation, p. 9)


The establishment of a women's assemblage for the promotion of knowledge is entirely acceptable, but discussions must be confined to educational matters. It should be done in such a way that differences will, day by day, be entirely wiped out, not that, God forbid, it will end in argumentation between men and women. As in the question of the veil, nothing should be done contrary to wisdom. The individual women should, today, follow a course of action which will be the cause of eternal glory to all womankind, so that all women will be illumined. And that lieth in gathering to learn how to teach, in holding meetings to recite the verses, to offer supplications to the kingdom of the Lord of evident signs, and to institute education for the girls. Ponder the manner in which Jinab-i-Táhirih used to teach. She was free from every concern, and for this reason she was resplendent.

Now the world of women should be a spiritual world, not a political one, so that it will be radiant. The women of other nations are all immersed in political matters. Of what benefit is this, and what fruit doth it yield? To the extent that ye can, ye should busy yourselves with spiritual matters which will be conducive to the exaltation of the Word of God and of the diffusion of His fragrances. Your demeanour should lead to harmony amongst all and to coalescence and the good-pleasure of all....

I am endeavouring, with Bahá'u'lláh's confirmations and assistance, so to improve the world of the handmaidens that all will be astonished. This progress is intended to be in spirituality, in virtues, in human perfections and in divine knowledge. In America, the cradle of women's liberation, women are still debarred from political institutions because they squabble. They are yet to have a member in the House of Representatives. Also Bahá'u'lláh hath proclaimed: "O ye men of the House of Justice." Ye need to be calm and composed, so that the work will proceed with wisdom, otherwise there will be such chaos that ye will leave everything and run away. "This newly born babe is traversing in one night the path that needeth a hundred years to tread." In brief, ye should now engage in matters of pure spirituality and not contend with men. 'Abdu'l-Bahá will tactfully take appropriate steps. Be assured. In the end thou wilt thyself exclaim, "This was indeed supreme wisdom!" I appeal to you to obliterate this contention between men and women....

No one can on his own achieve anything. 'Abdu'l-Bahá must be well pleased and assist.


The emphasized portion of the above passage, I believe may actually hint to a specific reason for this restriction to men on the Universal House of Justice, and likewise in the following:

"As regards the constitution of the House of Justice, Baha'u'llah addresses the men. He says: `O ye men of the House of Justice!'

"But when its members are to be elected, the right which belongs to women, so far as their voting and their voice is concerned, is indisputable. When the women attain to the ultimate degree of progress, then, according to the exigency of the time and place and their great capacity, they shall obtain extraordinary privileges. Be ye confident on these accounts."

(Paris Talks, within pp. 182-184, quoted on-line at http://bahai-library.org/writings/abdul ... ec-20.html )


The time is not right yet, and perhaps will not be for at least 1000 years, given that the membership on the Universal House of Justice is explicitly for men only--even while the cause of women is promised to make great strides during this Dispensation. Again, this has nothing to do with their inherent stations.

As the passages on this topic indicate we don't know whether the exclusion is due to an inherent difference in function, there are certain passages which might lead one to think that women will hold such a high position in the future (even higher than the unprecedented role of Bahiyyih Khanum in leading the Faith during one period of time), or on the other hand, that the necessity for a sense of forcefulness at the head of the Faith which gives commands for all to obey precludes this, just as man is considered to be the head of the family and how 'Abdu'l-Baha indicated that the lack of previous women Manifestations of God:

At this point a lady asked, `Up to the present time, not a single woman has appeared as a Messenger from God. Why have all the Manifestations of God been men?' `Abdu'l-Bahá replied:
Although women are equal to men in abilities and capacities, there is no doubt that men are bolder and physically more powerful. This distinction is also apparent in the animal kingdom, for example among pigeons, sparrows, peacocks and others.

(Mahmud's Diary, July 11, 1912 (this is an authentic account of 'Abdu'l-Baha wrote the Universal House of Justice)


One last item... In the long passage above, it drives home the importance for women (and as elsewhere, for men) to focus on teaching. Note what 'Abdu'l-Baha further says about women and teaching:

"Ponder ye: in this wonderful Cause numerous were the men who scaled the heights of knowledge; they had a brilliant utterance, a convincing proof, an eloquent tongue and magnificent speech, but the blessed leaf, Jinab-i-Tahirih, because she was a woman, emerged with immense splendour and dumbfounded all the people. If she were a man, this would not have been so at all. Therefore, ye should know that the greatness of the Cause hath penetrated the nerves and veins of the world in such wise that if one of the leaves is attracted and gains mastery in demonstrating reasons and proofs and in uttering convincing evidences, she will shine resplendently."

('Abdu'l-Baha, Women compilation, at http://bahai-library.org/compilations/women/5.html )

Fadl
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Re: Equality of men and women

Postby Fadl » Sun Mar 02, 2008 2:32 am

golha wrote:The founders of Bahai Faith has explicitly stated that women and men are equal. But women are excluded from service on the UHJ, in spite of the religion’s clear teaching on the equality of the sexes. Why?
Please present a reasonable answer.


Hi Golha,

I think that the word equal is commonly misconstrued to mean same, which in this case it doesn't.

'Abdu'l-Baha used the analogy of men and women being the wings of one bird. On the surface, this may seem to further promote the idea of sameness, because a left wing and a right wing indeed look the same. However, and in fact, a left wing and right wing are diametrically opposed and inverses of each other. While both equal, and essential, they are not interchangeable, and should you put the left wing in the right wing socket and the right wing in the left wing socket, you will have a severely handicapped bird that could never hope to fly.

It is true that the UHJ is the most powerful institution in the Baha'i world. However, there women serving on every other institution of the faith and in all levels.

We don't know the precise reasoning for the exclusion of women from this position. In fact, were it not for the fact that the Guardian and Abdu'l-Baha had commented on this and clarified that women cannot serve on the UHJ, I would have expected that they could, because, even though Baha'u'llah did say: "O ye 'men' of Justice!" in the Aqdas, the whole book is to be regarded as mutatis mutandis and applicable to either sexes.

I cannot personally think of a good reason why women shouldn't serve, other than "because 'Abdu'l-baha said so." However, I can and do acknowledge that men and women are equal but different, and that they each have some vital and distinct roles to play even if they are absolutely equal to each other in intelligence, capacity, spirituality, and almost anything that really matters and makes someone a fully human or spiritual being.

If we trust in Baha'u'llah and his covenant, I think it is possible to feel assured that this issue is not some contradiction with the faith and its principle of equality of men and women. Rather, it is a system of achieving the optimum balance needed for our (men and women) utmost achievement and well-being for humanity.

After all, Baha'u'llah did teach the equality of men and women, while at the same time knowing full well that men always have and always will be deprived of motherhood. An act that mirrors the ultimate human reflection of one of God's most cherished attributes: Creator.

British_Bahai
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Postby British_Bahai » Wed Mar 26, 2008 10:45 am

BruceDLimber wrote:
british_bahai wrote:
BruceDLimber wrote:Also, it's worth noting that our scriptures don't say women are "excluded" from this, but rather "excused." Slight difference in nuance.

Do you know the original quote? I cant find it

Sorry; I don't have it at hand.

Perhaps someone else here does.

Regards,

Bruce

hmm... is this the one you were thinking of?
http://bahai-library.com/index.php5?fil ... er=5#n2073
This whole section (link given) is interesting


2073. Clarification Exclusion of Women on House of Justice

"Your letter of March 26th, 1971 asking for clarification of the exclusion of women from membership in the Universal House of Justice in view of the great principle of the Cause of the equality of men and women has been received and we offer you the following comments.

"In a Tablet to an early woman believer Abdu'l-Bahá stated: 'O maidservant of God! Know thou that in the sight of God, the conduct of women is the same as that of men... From the spiritual point of view ... there is no difference between women and men...' He added, however: 'As to the House of Justice: according to the explicit text of the Law of God, its membership is exclusively reserved to men. There is divine wisdom in this which will presently be made manifest even as the mid-day sun.'

"The beloved Guardian in reply to the same query from a believer pointed out in a letter written on his behalf on July 15th 1947: 'People must just accept the fact that women are not eligible to the International House of Justice. As the Master says the wisdom of this will be known in the future, we can only accept, believing it is right, but not able to give an explanation calculated to silence an ardent feminist!'

"We must have faith in the Supreme Manifestation of God and His Exemplar, Whose prescience is revealed in such provisions which will one day 'be made manifest even as the mid-day sun.'"

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 26, 1971)


OK - on se


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