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Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Thu Dec 11, 2008 11:11 pm
by briren08
Hello all! Time to start a new thread!

Marriage! Yay love and such.

Anyway, down to business.

My fiancee and I have been engaged a little over a year now. I know that according to the Baha'i Faith, I (we) must seek permission from all living biological parent before we are married. I also heard about the 95-day thing where we would have to get married after obtaining permission. Here are my questions:

My fiancee's(Jared) mother remarried when he was eight. He considers the man she married to be his father. He does not look kindly at his biological father and tries to avoid all contact with him. Do we still need to obtain permission from his biological father, or will the man he calls Dad and recognizes as his father be permissible?

Also. Do all Bahai's believe in the 95-day period? If so, do we have to formally get their permission or am I breakin some rule by being engaged so long?

Jared is not Baha'i, nor do I think he will become Baha'i. Does he have to say what I will say (when and if I decide to convert) when I marry him. (I know what the ceremonial prayer is)

Thanks in advance for your answers. You guys are great!!

Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 12:52 am
by brettz9
Hello Brittany,

Firstly, let me say, regarding your question, "Do all Bahai's believe in...", it is important for a new Baha'i to be aware that, in this age, God has made clear for His believers to which institutions we should turn after Baha'u'llah's passing, so there is no room for different groups of Baha'is forming sects as occurred in previous religions. In fact, despite the fact that there have been and still are a few obscure attempts to divide the Baha'i Faith, the overwhelming majority of Bahai's in the world all follow the Universal House of Justice, to whom we are to turn whenever there may be different understandings of the Writings which could cause disagreement between believers. Baha'u'llah Himself in fact guaranteed that the Faith's unity would be preserved.

Of course, different individuals, cultures, and communities will differ in their understandings and knowledge of the Baha'i Writings, but, unless it is a topic which has not been described or decided in our Writings or by the Universal House of Justice, or left to our discretion, we all are to turn to what our Writings say.

That being said, in the case of the 95-day engagement period, and some other laws, this law is not presently binding on Baha'is in the West. So, while it may be praiseworthy to do so, you are under no obligation of doing so.

A Baha'i must have a Baha'i wedding, however, and besides parental consent, that includes the reciting of the vow. If one of the couple is not a Baha'i, it is permissible to hold another ceremony in addition to the Baha'i one, but within 24 hours of the Baha'i ceremony.

As far as consent of biological parents, it is still required to obtain their consent (except if they are dead or legally dead, legally insane, a Covenant-breaker, or "in certain very rare cases" if "a state of disownment" can be said to exist, or if it is illegal in the country for adopted children to try to find their natural parents).

Although the following is about prejudicial reasons of withholding consent, I think the rest still would apply whatever the reason for the distance:

All too often nowadays such consent for marriage is withheld by non-Bahá'í parents for reasons of bigotry or racial prejudice; yet we have seen again and again the profound effect on those very parents of the firmness of the children in the Bahá'í law, to the extent that not only is the consent ultimately given in many cases, but the character of the parents can be affected and their relationship with their child greatly strengthened.

Thus, by upholding Bahá'í law in the face of all difficulties we not only strengthen our own characters but influence those around us.

(The Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 107)

Children must recognize and understand that this act of consenting is the duty of a parent. They must have respect in their hearts for those who have given them life, and whose good pleasure they must at all times strive to win.

(Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated February 1, 1968, to a National Spiritual Assembly at ... er=1#16.14)

You can read further such quotes at ... ter=1#16.1 , ... 20Marriage or ... nt_parents

take care,

Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:27 pm
by briren08
Thanks for answering my questions. I'm still kinda in the dark though. Jared won't even talk to his biological father at all let alone to ask if he can marry me. He doesn't want his bio father to come to the wedding and asking permission would seem like an automatic invite. It's difficult for me to explain. Ugh.

Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 7:44 am
by brettz9
I should mention that there are a few conditions, according to our Writings where a parent can have done something so horrible as to merit them no longer being considered worthy of being a parent:

Bahá'u'lláh has placed great emphasis on the duties of parents toward their children, and he has urged children to have gratitude in their hearts for their parents, whose good pleasure they should strive to win as a means of pleasing God himself. However, He has indicated that under certain circumstances, the parents could be deprived of the right of parenthood as a consequence of their actions. The Universal House of Justice has the right to legislate on this matter. It has been decided for the present that all cases should be referred to it in which the conduct or character of a parent appears to render him unworthy of having such parental rights as that of giving consent to marriage. Such questions could arise, for example, when a parent has committed incest, or when the child was conceived as consequence of rape, and also when a parent consciously fails to protect the child from flagrant sexual abuse.

(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated January 24, 1993, to an individual believer, in Developing Distinctive Baha'i communities, no. 16.17)

But, in normal circumstances, the Baha'i Faith views marriage as a union of two families. This also the practice in many cultures. I think we as a society have kind of gotten away from that, and have really deprived ourselves as a result. The Baha'i Faith's purpose is to bring love, forgiveness, and reinvigorate our societies with such virtues.

The fruits that best befit the tree of human life are trustworthiness and godliness, truthfulness and sincerity; but greater than all, after recognition of the unity of God, praised and glorified be He, is regard for the rights that are due to one's parents.

(Baha'u'llah, The Most Holy Book, Question and Answer, no. 106)

Besides our owing it to the parents who gave us life, however imperfect he feels his father may have raised him or whatever, it is also you who are marrying into his family. For this special time in his and your life, this could be a great and unique chance to find at least some peace to "bury the hatchet" so to speak between them, even if he feels it impossible to really maintain a relationship. His father is a part of who he is, the man you are to marry, so I think looking at it this way, you might possibly be able to see this less of an arbitrary restriction, and more of a liberating, if somewhat challenging opportunity. Besides this, the ability to forgive is a very helpful quality to know that your future life partner is capable of demonstrating! :)

While you can take my own thoughts above with a grain of salt, this is one area in which Baha'i law is quite strict, and in which your Local Spiritual Assembly is also to be involved, as such requirements are meant as a protection to the most basic unity of society, the family.

In the Bahá'í Cause marriage has been encouraged, but made somewhat difficult, conditioned as it is upon the consent of the four parents. Divorce, on the other hand, has been made relatively easy, and the sociologists are just beginning to realise the importance of this law....

((On behalf of?) Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 435)


Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 3:06 pm
by emifinan
I'm adopted, but I have found my birthmother and though I am not engaged (or even dating) I thought about how I will have to get consent from her and my biological father.

My adoption papers stated that my biological father is unknown, which is likely true. But since finding my birthmother I have not asked her specifically, so there is a chance she does know his name. After much research, I would have to attempt to contact him to obtain consent despite the fact that I really really really do not want to.

But I'm comforted to know that if he denied contact with me, or denied consent without getting to know my (future) fiance, I could ask the NSA or Universal House of Justice (can't remember which) to permit my marriage without my biological fathers consent.

I asked myself "if by contacting my biological father we establish a relationship and get to know one another, how could that be bad?" Sure I am hurt by the situation, and I'm sure he would be hurt that he never knew I existed, but if it is in our capacity as human beings to rise above our past hurts and love each other, then why shouldn't we? As Baha'i's, we are told to rise up as human beings by following the teachings. It's not easy, but many worthwhile things are the most difficult. If I open my heart and my biological father closes his, then it is HIS shortcoming, not my own.

When contacting my biological mother, it helped me to think of my biological mother as her distinct person, rather than as my "biological mother." The mother role has been filled in my life, but my love for my adopted mother does not prevent me from loving my biological mother. She now holds a unique place in my life. And while it can hurt, to think that she didn't keep me, I focus more on the present day, and how wonderful and joyous my life is being raised by two wonderful adoptive parents and now having the great joy of knowing my birthmom and my brother. Human situations can be difficult, as I imagine it will be if I ever need to contact my biological father, but I have the capacity to at least try.

So I would urge your fiance to contact his biological father. Support him and help him understand that this man is a separate person from his father, and will not replace him or threaten him in any manner. Urge him to let go of his hurt and disappointment and develop his capacity to love each and every human being, despite their apparent flaws. If he refuses to even try to contact his biological father, you will not be able to have a Baha'i marriage, and despite how much you love him, you might want to think critically about these personality traits in him that are preventing him from being compassionate and loving towards his biological father, and whether or not you are ok with these personality traits in a spouse.

Best of luck! Sorry for the long reply :)

Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 6:55 pm
by Fadl
Dear Brittany,

It’s nice to know that you are considering marriage, and are concerned about the Baha’i laws of marriage. One thing I would tell you from the beginning is that if you are not a Baha’i then you are not obligated to any of the marriage laws. However, this may only be a technicality, since, and I would argue this, if you believe in Baha’u’llah in your heart, then you are Baha’i enough and should obey his commandments.

If you don’t yet believe in Baha’u’llah, then I have shown you a loop hole. But I wouldn’t take it if I were you, since I think the teachings of Baha’u’llah will have the greatest benefit for all people, and will lead to a good marriage. The other way may be easier, but comes with much greater risks than if you follow what God has chosen as the best path.

I am married to a non-Baha’i, and her father was at first very opposed to the idea of his daughter marrying an American. He can't speak a word of English, and had lived most of his life as a proud Soviet and Russian citizen, who could not imagine anything worse than losing his daughter to an American, who can’t speak Russian and worse isn’t even a Christian! He and his daughter were very close, and his prejudice towards me caused her a lot of tears and suffering. She was also very worried; because she knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t marry her without his consent. Imagine how happy he must have been to learn that without his permission I couldn’t take her from him after all!

I won’t bother you with all the details, but I’ll tell you that the story has a happy end, and now I have a very close relationship with my Russian father-in-law. Not only did his consent comply with the Baha’i law, but it gave our marriage day a great blessing. It gave a feeling of rightness and legitimacy that would have otherwise been impossible. As an American, it would have been completely normal to get married whether anyone liked it or not! As a Russian, it would have been OK for her too, to marry me defiant of her father. But if we had done that (even if I weren’t a Baha’i) there would be a dark cloud hanging over our marriage. We would have caused harm to her father, and, I might never have the trust and respect from him that I now have. You know, it took me more than one year to get that consent, and I’d never have it otherwise if I could do it again. For one year he refused to speak to me or even acknowledge me. Once we did speak everything changed quickly. You see, it’s much easier to hate someone you don’t even know. Once people get acquainted, there are no more monsters; only people. To this day, 2 years later, he and I still chat, and enjoy each other’s friendship.

In this day, the cause of God is for unity. Aside from the estrangement between your fiancé and his father affecting your prospects for marriage, do you imagine that this unhealthy situation between your fiancé and his father is causing them no other harm? If you hope to be this man’s wife, certainly you must also care about what is good for him—and even his father too. All too many marriages these days are built selfishly on the myth that a marriage is only about two people in love and everyone else need only butt out! It is this false idea which leads to so many marriage tragedies. I’m sure that anyone who has been married, had children, and then put them through the pain of divorce would not stand behind the notion that a marriage is only about two people.

Brittany, you should try and get the consent. You know, to get the consent will require the healing between two estranged souls who should love each other. What a wonderful beginning for your marriage if the first thing it did was cause the healing between a father and his son. Can you see how great a thing this would be? I hope your marriage will be so blessed as to have such a unifying effect. If you love each other, you will be willing to sacrifice some time in order to enjoy the long and lasting results of a healthy and blessed marriage. After all, no one would hasten to long term unhappy consequences and suffering just for expediency. Would they?

If after awhile, it becomes clear that even speaking with his father is impossible, because he truly has no feeling of fatherhood, or who was maybe an unloving and abusive parent who has “forfeited the rights of fatherhood” then you should go to your LSA and see if it is appropriate to marry without his consent. I don’t know if it will work or not, the LSA would have to make its own determination based on the facts. But I can tell you, if you spent a lot of effort trying to contact him, to make a relationship, to get his consent, then your chances will likely be much greater.

Your fiancé must also understand your need to do this. If he can’t then I would be worried about the depth of his concern and feeling for you. After all, he needn’t ever become a Baha’i but he must be able to respect your need to do so. If he doesn’t like Baha’i laws for himself, then he should be able to see it as something he is willing to do for you, if not Baha’u’llah.

I wish you success, Brittany, and I will pray that you have the strength and wisdom to do what will be best. Remember that no test lasts forever, and that bad times are eventually replaced by better times!

Baha’u’llah wrote:Dissipate not the wealth of your precious lives in the pursuit of evil and corrupt affection, nor let your endeavours be spent in promoting your personal interest. Be generous in your days of plenty, and be patient in the hour of loss. Adversity is followed by success and rejoicings follow woe. Guard against idleness and sloth, and cling unto that which profiteth mankind, whether young or old, whether high or low. Beware lest ye sow tares of dissension among men or plant thorns of doubt in pure and radiant hearts. (Tablets of Baha'u'llah [Lawhi Hikmat,Tablet of Wisdom], 138)

Take care, and remember that we are here for you when you need us.


PS The link you have to your Myspace seems to be incorrect or is not working!

Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:59 pm
by briren08
Ugh. Thank you all. It's easy for me to see what you are saying, but the depth of the situation is bottomless. Jared's father cheated on his mother and conceived a child with another woman. He has 3 siblings (two are twins) who were born within 2 months of each other. He left Jared's mother and went to live with the woman he cheated with. He physically, mentally AND sexually abused this women. He used her as a prostitute to pay for his drugs and alcohol.

Two Christmases ago, Jared tried to be civil towards his bio father. Instead of getting to know Jared, his father said that he wasn't his actual father and named some other man. (This is untrue.) He then proceeded to (on Christmas) ask Jared's mom for money to buy drugs with.

Jared also has a 1-year old sister by yet another woman and his father hasn't allowed him to see her. The baby's mother died a few months ago.

Jared's bio father's mother even says he isn't worth being called human. (I don't know him, but from who I've talked to its iffy.)

Needless to say, no one has any respect for the man.

I'm sorry to have spilled it all out, but it feels good to let everyone know. I don't know if this counts as anything, but I'ved read all of the laws and thigns on marriage and I can't find anything. *sigh*

Thanks for any insite and responses.

Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 11:04 pm
by briren08
PS The link you have to your Myspace seems to be incorrect or is not working!

Fixed it!

Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:56 am
by brettz9
Hello Brittany,

In my most recent post before this one, I cited a letter which stated that under certain cases of abusiveness, a person could be considered to be "unworthy of having such parental rights as that of giving consent to marriage". In such cases, "The Universal House of Justice has the right to legislate on this matter. It has been decided for the present that all cases should be referred to it..."

What I would recommend is to bring this quotation to the attention of your Local Spiritual Assembly. Have you been in contact with them about this? If you meet your local Baha'i community, someone can put you in touch.

The Assembly would be in charge of overseeing a Baha'i marriage, and they could contact the National Spiritual Assembly which in turn would presumably consult the Universal House of Justice.


Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 4:31 pm
by wpc09
It's essential to work with a Local Spiritual Assembly (an Assembly must oversee any Baha'i marriage). They should know the proper requirements, including the following (contrary to what one of the posters wrote):

"Regarding the question whether it is necessary to obtain the consent of the
parents of a non-Bahá’í participant in a marriage with a Bahá’í: as Bahá’u’lláh has
stated that the consent of the parents of both parties is required in order to
promote unity and avoid friction, and as the Aqdas does not specify any
exceptions to this rule, the Guardian feels that under all circumstances the consent
of the parents of both parties is required."

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, in Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 13

A non-Baha'i marrying a Baha'i does have to abide by the requirements for Baha'i marriage.

Re: Marriage and Engagement

Posted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 6:13 pm
by brettz9
Wpc09, I have cited quite a few quotations from our Writings which indicate that there are some exceptions. The quote you supplied indicates an emphasis that in general there are no exceptions, but it should not be taken out of context (of the context of the original letter, or out of context of the rest of the Writings).

The case you cite seems to be asking whether there is a categorical exception because a spouse is a non-Baha'i, and you are right that non-Baha'is must obtain consent, but as the other quotations I supplied indicate, there can be some rare cases, where due to abuse or other circumstances, the parents may no longer be considered worthy of being parents.