Dispensation however the greater maturity of mankind and the greater awareness of the relationship between the Supreme Manifestation and His servants enable us to realize the impossibility of representing, in any human form, whether pictorially, in sculpture or in dramatic representation, the Person of God's Manifestations. In stating the Bahá'í prohibition, the beloved Guardian pointed out this impossibility."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 9, 1977)
345. Need for Skill to Produce an Effective Film about History of the Faith
"As you are no doubt aware, it is not permissible to portray the Manifestations of God in dramatic works and it can be understood that great skill will be needed to produce an effective film about the history of the Faith in which neither the Bab nor Bahá'u'lláh could actually appear. Because of the overwhelming significance of the Bahá'í message and the Bahá'í Revelation, any such film produced under the aegis of the Bahá'í community would have to be of the very highest quality in all respects."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, September 24, 1978)
C. Bahá'í Authors/Writers
346. Bahá'í Authors Should Write in Such Manner as to Attract the Souls
"...Whatever is written should not transgress the bounds of tact and wisdom, and in the words used there should lie hid the property of milk, so that the children of the world may be nurtured therewith, and attain maturity. We have said in the past that one word hath the influence of spring and causeth hearts to become fresh and verdant, while another is like unto blight which causeth the blossoms and flowers to wither. God grant that authors among the friends will write in such a way as would be acceptable to fair-minded souls, and not lead to cavilling by the people."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on the Subject of Writers and Writing, A Compilation, p. 3, July 1980)
347. Bahá'í Writers Should Have Their Works Approved for Publication by National Assembly of Country Where Published
"It is not the practice of the World Centre to review the writings of individual Bahá'ís intended for publication. As you know, Bahá'í authors, writing about the Faith, are requested to have their work approved for publication by the National Spiritual Assembly of the country where such work is published. There is no objection whatever, to your submitting your manuscript to a non-Bahá'í firm, provided that the approval of the manuscript by the National Assembly is first obtained."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, December 10, 1981)
348. Bahá'í Authors/Writers Should Welcome Review of Their Works
"Bahá'í authors should welcome review of their works, and can greatly assist
promptness in review by supplying a sufficient number of copies of the manuscript for each member of the Reviewing Committee to have one.
"Bahá'í authors may submit their works for review to any National Spiritual Assembly, and may send their works, once approved, to any publisher they like, Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í, at home or abroad. It should be remembered, however, that the approval should be given by the National Spiritual Assembly of the country where the work is to be first published. And in the case of a non-Bahá'í publisher the author should insist on use of the system of transliteration at present used by the Faith for languages employing the Roman alphabet.
"It is hoped that Bahá'í authors will provide a constant stream of new works. Introductory books, commentaries, dissertations on various aspects of the Revelation, text books, histories, reviews, audio-visual material are all needed to stimulate study of the Faith and to promote the vital teaching work."
(The Universal House of Justice: from Memorandum on Bahá'í Publishing, Ridvan 1971)
349. Review of Magazine Articles Written by Individual Believers
"In the Feb. 'Bahá'í News', page 3, it mentions that magazine articles about the Cause ... 'written by individual believers as their personal understanding of the teachings' ... need not be reviewed officially. He feels this is unwise, in view of the Master's own instructions that articles about the Cause should not be published by individuals without proper approval of some responsible body.
"The Guardian says the Local Assemblies can pass upon such articles; it is not necessary to refer them to a National Committee.
"So often persons can be carried away by their enthusiasm and express something detrimental to the Faith. Therefore they must either refer their articles to their Local Spiritual Assembly or the National Reviewing Committee."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, April 13, 1946)
350. The Reviewing Committee
"It is recommended that Reviewing Committees be small, composed of two or three believers with adequate education and knowledge of the Cause. It is essential that works submitted be dealt with promptly. The standards to be upheld by reviewers are the following: (a) conformity with the Teachings, (b) accuracy, (c) dignity in presentation. The Spiritual Assembly, on the basis of its Reviewing Committee's report, gives or withholds approval of the work.
"...In general the function of a reviewing committee is to say whether the work submitted gives an acceptable presentation of the Cause or not. Reviewers may win the gratitude and good will of authors by calling attention to such things as occasional grammatical or spelling errors, but approval should not be refused on such grounds; all such details are editorial matters for agreement between author and publisher."
(The Universal House of Justice: Memorandum on Bahá'í Publishing, Ridvan 1971, March 28, 1971 to the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'í world, pp. 1-2)
351. Obligation of Bahá'ís to Present the Faith in Dignified Manner
"We approve your action in writing to the Public Information Department and in publishing a statement instructing Bahá'ís who are authors not to attempt or be persuaded to write articles on the Faith for unsavoury publications.
"It is an obligation of all Bahá'ís to present the Faith in a dignified manner and therefore when writing articles about the Faith they should take into consideration the type of magazine or other publication in which the article is to appear. Should there be any question about its character they should consult with the National Spiritual Assembly. In addition, all authors should bear in mind that anything written about the Faith for publication is subject to review before submission to the publishers."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice written to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 15, 1968)
352. The Function and Purpose of Reviewing
"The function of reviewing is, essentially, to check the Author's exposition of the Bahá'í Faith and its teachings, which may include verification of any quotations from Bahá'í writings. This function should not be confused with evaluation of the literary merit of a work or of its value as a publication, which are normally the prerogative of the publisher...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, March 11, 1965)
353. Purpose of Review
"...The purpose of review is to protect the Faith against misrepresentation by its own followers at this early stage of its existence when comparatively few people have any knowledge of it. An erroneous presentation of the Teachings by a Bahá'í who is accounted a scholar, in a scholarly journal, would by that very fact, do far more harm than an erroneous presentation made by an obscure Bahá'í author with no pretensions to scholarship."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, October 8, 1980)
354. No Objection to Bahá'ís Writing Novels Portraying Historical Events
"There is no objection to Bahá'ís writing novels portraying historical events and figures of the Faith. However, in view of the impossibility of ever portraying adequately the Manifestation of God as a character in a novel, and of the disrespect implicit in such an attempt, the House of Justice feels that no such portrayal should be attempted. Of course, His sayings and the events of His life may be recounted, but in this case care should be taken to quote His exact words as we have them in authorized translations, and events in Bahá'í history should not be distorted.
"Generally speaking, works of fiction which the writers hope will help to promote knowledge of the Cause of God will fulfill this purpose better if they are set against the background of particular events or developing processes in the Cause of God, and not used to portray the actual historical events themselves and the figures taking part in them. The reality of the actual events and the actual personages is so much more convincing than any fictional account. In this connection the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf:
'He would not recommend fiction as a means of teaching; the condition of the world is too acute to permit of delay in giving them the direct teachings associated with the name of Bahá'u'lláh. But any suitable
approach to the Faith, which appeals to this or that group, is certainly worthy of effort, as we wish to bring the Cause to all men, in all walks of life, of all mentalities.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1980)
"There is no objection to your being a journalist as long as you try to keep off political issues; especially the big East-West issues. You have a talent for writing, and it might be of help to you financially and in making contacts for the Faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 30, 1950)
356. Sciences that Begin and End with Words--Bahá'u'lláh Never Meant to Include Story Writing Under this Category
"What Bahá'u'lláh meant primarily with 'sciences that begin and end in words' are those theological treatises and commentaries that encumber the human mind rather than help it to attain the truth. The students would devote their life to their study but still attain no where. Bahá'u'lláh surely never meant to include story writing under such a category; and shorthand and typewriting are both most useful talents very necessary in our present social and economic life.
"What you could do, and should do, is to use your stories to become a source of inspiration and guidance for those who read them. With such a means at your disposal you can spread the spirit and teachings of the Cause; you can show the evils that exist in society, as well as the way they can be remedied. If you possess a real talent in writing you should consider it as given by God and exert your efforts to use it for the betterment of society."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 30, 1932: Extracts from the Bahá'í Writings on the Subject of Writers and Writing, A Compilation, July 1980, p. 6)
357. The Faith Needs Bahá'í Authors
"Regarding the advice you asked him for, he feels that to devote all one's studies with the object of becoming a Bahá'í author is rather risky. We need Bahá'í authors badly, but you have to be assured that you have the talent to earn your living in that field, and also serve the Faith in it.
"He feels that the best thing for you to do is to devote your studies to acquiring a sound education, if you like along literary lines, and then see what develops."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 14, 1957)
358. Doctoral Theses and Similar Treatises
"It has been decided that doctoral theses and similar treatises submitted to institutions of learning for the obtaining of a degree are not subject to Bahá'í review unless they are to be published more widely than is required for the degree in question."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 11, 1982)
Page 104 359. No Publisher Has the Right to Alter Author's Manuscript
"A publishing trust has the right to refuse publication of any particular title, and a National Assembly has the right to review any proposed Bahá'í publication for accuracy and propriety. But no publisher has the right to alter or change an author's manuscript without his knowledge and consent."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice written to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 28, 1966)
D. Bahá'í Publication, Translation, Review and Copyright
360. Bahá'í Newsletters and Bulletins--Why Circulation is Restricted to "Bahá'ís Only"
"In reply to your inquiry of 18th November 1982 about Bahá'í newsletters and bulletins being for Bahá'ís only, we are asked by the Universal House of Justice to quote below from letters written by the Universal House of Justice or at its instruction to other National Assemblies which have asked similar questions.
'With reference to your letter of October 31st asking why the circulation of Bahá'í News should be restricted to Bahá'ís we wish to point out that the same reasons that make it necessary to restrict the attendance at a Nineteen Day Feast to Bahá'ís only apply also to the circulation of Bahá'í Newsletters.
'A Bahá'í news bulletin assumes that the reader is a Bahá'í and it would therefore normally contain items which are purely of a domestic nature of no interest to the general public and which, in some cases, may give the wrong impression to those not familiar with the Bahá'í teachings. However, there is no objection to the friends showing their newsletters to non-Bahá'ís if they so wish or find it useful at times. Furthermore, if the words 'For Bahá'ís Only' which appear on some newsletters are found to be offensive to the non-Bahá'í, there is no requirement for these words to appear on every copy of the newsletter.
'In answer to your query concerning the policy of keeping "Bahá'í News" for Bahá'ís only, the House of Justice instructs us to explain that the circulation of Bahá'í Newsletters is restricted to Bahá'ís because they are vehicles of news that is primarily of internal interest to the friends and the Assembly should be able to write freely to the believers without having to so word the information that it would be easily understandable to a non-Bahá'í reader. In other words, a Bahá'í newsletter is not secret but is an internal journal intended for an informed readership.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico, December 19, 1982)
361. Usage in Spanish Texts of Accents on Persian and Arabic Words
"The question as to whether or not the accents on the word Bahá'í (and indeed on other words transliterated from the Persian and Arabic) should be used when the word is printed entirely in capital letters is one that should be uniform in usage throughout the Spanish-speaking world unless usage varies significantly from country to country. It is suggested, therefore, that you refer this question to the two Bahá'í Publishing Trusts in Spain and Argentina for their comments. The guiding
consideration should not be the usage in relation to accents on Spanish words, but the usage in Spanish texts of accents on capital letters on foreign words appearing in Spanish texts, such as the German umlaut, etc. It should be borne in mind that, whereas the accent in Spanish indicates merely a presence of stress, in the transliteration of Persian words it indicates a difference in articulation of the vowel. For example, the words 'VAHID' and 'VAHID' are two words with different meanings and different pronunciations."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico, July 22, 1984)
362. Publications from World Centre--No Restriction on Use of Quotations
"There is no restriction on Bahá'í authors, institutions and publishing agencies using quotations from the publications of the World Centre, and permission to do so need not be sought. This freedom to quote likewise applies to compilations of the World Centre which have been published.
"Permission to quote from publications of Publishing Trusts should be sought from the Trust concerned except in cases where the Trust has merely printed a compilation issued by the World Centre.
"Of course, Bahá'í authors should seek review of their works by the National Assembly of the country in which it will be printed."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, December 11, 1980)
363. Copyright Clearance on Sacred Writings Not Necessary for Assemblies and Bahá'í Believers
"The Universal House of Justice has been concerned of late to note an apparently growing impression among Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers in many parts of the world, that they must obtain copyright clearance before they may quote from the Sacred Texts of the Faith in any publication. It has now instructed us to make it clear that the Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers are free to quote in their publications from any of the Writings of the three Central Figures of the Faith or from the writings of the beloved Guardian, whether in the original language or in translation, without obtaining clearance from the copyright holder, unless the copyright holder in the case of a translation is an individual or is a non-Bahá'í institution. It is recognized that this ruling may endanger copyrights, but we feel that this is a risk that must be taken.
"The ruling is made to ensure that the Sacred Scriptures of our Faith and the writings of the beloved Guardian may be freely used by the believers; it does not change the existing requirements for individual believers to submit their works on the Faith for review before publication, neither does it relieve Spiritual Assemblies of their responsibility to protect the dignity of the Faith and uphold the proper standard of reverence in the use of its Sacred Scriptures. Thus, if any Assembly sees that one of the friends is making use of any of the Holy Texts in an unbefitting manner, it should remonstrate with him and, if necessary, require him to stop doing so."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 4, 1981)
364. Capitalizing Pronouns in English
"The Guardian wishes your Committee to capitalize all pronouns when referring
to Bahá'u'lláh, the Bab and the Master, even though the newspapers do not use them."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'í News Service Committee, February 5, 1938)
"In regard to your question about capitalizing the pronouns: The Guardian realizes this looks a little strange to non-Bahá'ís, but he feels we, being believers, and having the full sense of the Stations of the Central figures of our Faith, should do this as a sign of respect under all circumstances."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 22, 1949)
365. Capitalizing Pronouns in Other Languages
"He is interested in accomplishing two things--he would like in the European languages to have as much uniformity with the English translations as possible; he does not wish the Bahá'í translations to be in any way a flagrant violation of the rules of the language into which our literature is being translated.
"Your Committee must conscientiously study this question, and then do the best you can to have the Bahá'í literature in French meet the high standards of the French language and grammar.
"If the possessive and demonstrative adjectives and pronouns in French are never capitalized where they stand for 'God', then this should not be done in the Bahá'í literature. If there is a precedent for doing so in the French language, however, they should be. The same is true of the attributes of God."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Translation and Publication Committee of France, February 15, 1957)
366. Quotation Marks--Must Uphold Rigid Standard Inculcated by the Cause
"Also the Guardian feels it is absolutely essential that in all releases issued by your Committee quotation marks be used when passages from Bahá'í Sacred Writings are quoted. The friends should be careful to uphold under all circumstances the rigid standard inculcated by the Cause, and not to compromise easily with the common and accepted standards of the time."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'í News Service Committee, February 5, 1938)
367. National Spiritual Assembly Authorizes Translations Through a Committee of Bahá'í Translators--The Guardian's Method of Transliteration Should Be Used
"The National Spiritual Assembly which undertakes the translation, usually through a committee of Bahá'í translators, is the body which 'authorizes' the translation, if it is approved. In some instances, if there are no Bahá'í translators available, there is no objection, in principle, to employing non-Bahá'ís for this purpose. It is usual for the National Spiritual Assembly to appoint a Reviewing Committee, or establish some means of providing review of the completed translation. You will note from the enclosed memorandum that, with the exceptions enumerated therein, new translations of the Sacred Text into languages other than English must be made from the Guardian's English translation where it exists; and when no such translation exists, advice should be sought from the Universal House of Justice. In the case of Spanish, to avoid
duplication of effort and to achieve the highest standard of accuracy, the National Assembly concerned should feel free to consult EBILA and/or the National Spiritual Assembly of Spain, and indeed the House of Justice encourages the closest co-operation between all administrative bodies and publishing trusts responsible for the production of literature in Spanish.
"Regarding the transliteration of Persian and Arabic words the House of Justice requests that the method adopted by the beloved Guardian, and which is described in the various volumes of 'The Bahá'í World', be followed, as it permits all languages which use the Roman alphabet to transliterate such terms in the same way throughout the Bahá'í world."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama, July 16, 1979)
368. Guidelines for the Translation of Bahá'í Sacred Writings
"Translations into languages other than those akin to Persian and Arabic should normally be made from approved English translations rather than from the original Persian and Arabic. In such cases it is an advantage if it is also possible for the translator(s) to check with the original.
"All new translations into English, and all revisions of earlier translations in that language must be checked at the World Centre and officially approved before publication.
"Any believer is free to translate for his own use anything he wishes, but dissemination or publication of such translation is dependent upon their approval by the appropriate National Spiritual Assembly or, in the case of translations into English, by the World Centre.
a) If an individual Bahá'í spontaneously makes his own translation of a passage he may willingly make it available to a Spiritual Assembly but he cannot be compelled to do so.
b) If a translation made spontaneously by an individual is approved and published, he retains the copyright of his translation unless, of course, he wishes to surrender it.
"When a Spiritual Assembly wishes to have a translation made it should, if possible have the task undertaken by a committee rather than by individuals, as is explained by Abdu'l-Bahá.
a) The members of such a committee need not all be Bahá'ís.
b) Translations made by a committee are the property of the Assembly appointing the committee, and not of the members of the committee.
c) Except for translations into English, a translation made by a committee does not have to be checked unless the Assembly deems it advisable.
d) In accordance with the instructions of Shoghi Effendi the name of the committee should appear in the book as the translator, but the names of the members must not so appear."
(Guidelines for the Translation of Bahá'í Sacred Writings attached to a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Assembly of Panama, July 16, 1979)
369. An Individual Can Be Commissioned to Make Translations--Translations Become Property of the Assembly
"If it is not feasible to form a translation committee, translations must, perforce, be made by individuals.
a) When an individual is commissioned by an Assembly to make a translation for it the translation should become the property of the Assembly, not of the individual, even if the work is done without remuneration. It is advisable to have this and other matters agreed in writing before the work is undertaken so that there may be no ground for subsequent misunderstandings.
b) A translation made by an individual should be checked before being published, if possible, and such checking should be done by a committee rather than by an individual, if this is feasible.
c) When a translation made by an individual is published, his name may appear as translator if he so wishes.
"Normally credit for translation should appear on all complete works and compilations that are published, as well as on books that quote translated passages.
a) Credit for translation should not appear in the case of passages quoted in communications from Bahá'í institutions, even when these are published.
b) Credit for translation need not appear on published leaflets and pamphlets unless there is a legal requirement that it do so."
370. Translation of Bahá'í Literature into Everyday Language-- Simplifications and Paraphrasing Not to be Published as Scripture
"The Universal House of Justice, in response to your letter of 20 April concerning translations into French or Creole using simpler words than the original text, has requested us to send the following three quotations. These make it clear that a quotation in English may be rendered into simple English in order to facilitate its translation into another language or dialect. However, it is not permissible to publish simplifications and paraphrased extracts of Bahá'í Writings as Bahá'í Scripture.
'We have noticed a tendency in a number of countries to attempt to translate Bahá'í literature into the current, easy, everyday language of the country. This, however, should not be an overriding consideration. Many of the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá are in exalted and highly poetic language in the original Persian and Arabic and you will see, for example, that when translating Bahá'u'lláh's Writings into English the beloved Guardian did not use present-day colloquial English but evolved a highly poetic and beautiful style, using numbers of archaic expressions reminiscent of the translations of the Bible.' (From a letter dated 7 October 1973 written by the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)
'Obviously teaching literature and books about the Faith can be written in simple English. However, we feel that when the Sacred Writings are published the standard English translation should be used, but there would be no objection to printing alongside it the translation into simple English which should be described as a paraphrase of the Holy Word. Thus, for the people of ... who have difficulty in comprehending standard English, the simple English version would be in the nature of an explanation of the Writings which they could understand. In the case of teaching literature in which quotations from the Writings appear,
these could either be paraphrased or a simple English version could be used with the standard version printed as a footnote. This method would also provide a means whereby the people of ... could improve their knowledge and understanding of the English language.' (From a letter dated 20 September 1973 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)
'It is, of course, permissible to translate Bahá'í Writings into other languages and dialects of languages. It is also possible to simplify or paraphrase the Bahá'í Writings in order to facilitate their translation into languages and dialects having small vocabularies. However, it is not permissible to publish simplifications and paraphrases of Bahá'í Writings as Bahá'í Scripture.'" (From a letter dated 13 March 1969 written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly)
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Spiritual Assembly of Guadeloupe, May 13, 1986)
371. Translators Should Utilize Most Recent Editions of Books
"The Universal House of Justice has requested us to advise you to base your translations on current editions of all the books referred to, if translation is involved. In each instance you should consult the original publisher and obtain a copy of the latest printing or edition to ensure that all approved corrections are embodied in your translation."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Taiwan, May 22, 1984)
E. Miscellaneous Subjects
372. Friday is Day of Rest in Bahá'í Calendar
"Abdu'l-Bahá gives no reason whatever why Friday has been chosen as the day of rest in the Bahá'í calendar. He just affirms it."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, July 10, 1939: Bahá'í News, No. 162, April 1943, p. 5)
373. Use of Bahá'í Dates
"It is advisable to use both the Bahá'í dates, according to the Bahá'í Calendar, and the usual Gregorian dates as well. The friends at present are free to do as they please."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, December 24, 1943: Bahá'í News, No. 173, February 1945, p. 11)
374. Bahá'í Faith, Designation of
"In reply to your letter of January 26th, we realize that there are occasions on which the use of the term 'Bahá'í World Faith' may be justified and useful. However, it is our hope that the friends will gradually lose the habit of using this term as widely as they do now. The designation 'The Bahá'í Faith' is more dignified and preferable. Any adjective added to this name tends to a diminution of its stature and might be taken to mean that there are other 'Bahá'í Faiths'."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 5, 1967: Copies to various National Spiritual Assemblies)
Page 110 375. Symbol of Bahá'í Faith--Five-Pointed Star
"...Strictly speaking the five-pointed star is the symbol of our Faith, as used by the Bab and explained by Him. But the Guardian does not feel it is wise or necessary to complicate our explanation of the Temple by adding this."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 28, 1949: U.S. Supplement to Bahá'í News, No. 50, p. 4, April 1962)
Page 111IV. BAHÁ'Í LIFE, EGO, SACRIFICE, SELF AND SERVICE
A. Bahá'í Life
376. The Great Thing is to "Live the Life"
"The great thing is to 'Live the Life'--to have our lives so saturated with the Divine teachings and the Bahá'í Spirit that people cannot fail to see a joy, a power, a love, a purity, a radiance, an efficiency in our character and work that will distinguish us from worldly-minded people and make people wonder what is the secret of this new life in us. We must become entirely selfless and devoted to God so that every day and every moment we seek to do only what God would have us do and in the way He would have us do it. If we do this sincerely then we shall have perfect unity and harmony with each other. Where there is want of harmony there is lack of the true Bahá'í Spirit. Unless we can show this transformation in our lives, this new power, this mutual love and harmony, then the Bahá'í teachings are but a name to us."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 2, 1925)
377. If Health is Spent in Sensual Desires, Death Preferable to Such a Life
"If the health and well-being of the body be expended in the path of the Kingdom, this is very acceptable and praiseworthy; and if it be expended to the benefit of the human world in general--even though it be to their material (or bodily) benefit--and be a means of doing good, that is also acceptable. But if the health and welfare of man be spent in sensual desires, in a life on the animal plane, and in devilish pursuits--then disease were better than such health, nay, death itself were preferable to such a life. If thou art desirous of health, wish thou health for serving the Kingdom...."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: From a Tablet to the Bahá'ís of Washington: Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, pp. 114-115)
378. To Attract the Hearts of Others It is Necessary to Live Up to the Teachings
"Indeed if the friends could seek, and exert themselves, to become 100 percent Bahá'ís they would see how greatly their influence over others would be increased, and how rapidly the Cause would spread. The world is seeking not a compromise but the embodiment of a high and shining ideal. The more the friends live up to our teachings in every aspect of their lives, in their homes, in business, in their social relationships, the greater will be the attraction they exercise over the hearts of others.
"He is pleased to see you have naturally, with conviction and good will towards all, been mingling with and teaching the colored people. When the
Bahá'ís live up to their teachings as they should, although it may arouse the opposition of some it will arouse still more the admiration of fair-minded people."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 23, 1945)
379. Bahá'ís Must Cling to Their Faith and to Each Other
"In these days when the forces of inharmony and disunity are rampant throughout the world, the Bahá'ís must cling to their Faith and to each other and, in spite of every difficulty and suffering, protect the unity of the Cause. Often the first efforts at getting the administration of the Faith to work harmoniously are painful because the individual must learn to subject his will to the whole--but these are all minor details, and the friends must all concentrate on constructive work for the Cause."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a group of believers, May 7, 1941)
380. The Advertisements for the Faith Are Love, Hospitality, Understanding and the Will to Help
"He is very pleased to see with what love and devotion you have accepted our beloved Faith and long to serve it.
"Not all of us are capable of serving in the same way, but the one way every Bahá'í can spread the Faith is by example. This moves the hearts of people far more deeply than words ever can.
"The love we show others, the hospitality and understanding, the willingness to help them, these are the very best advertisements of the Faith. They will want to hear about it when they see these things in our lives.
"The Guardian will pray that Bahá'u'lláh will aid you and strengthen you to teach His Cause to many souls."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 14, 1943)
381. How to Acquire Peace of Mind
"...Peace of mind is gained by the centering of the spiritual consciousness on the Prophet of God; therefore you should study the spiritual Teachings, and receive the Water of Life from the Holy Utterances. Then by translating these high ideals into action, your entire character will be changed, and your mind will not only find peace, but your entire being will find joy and enthusiasm."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 15, 1952)
382. One Should Not Give the Impression of Being Fanatic--Seek to be Many-Sided, Normal and Well-Balanced
"You ask about 'spiritual indigestion': Bahá'ís should seek to be many-sided, normal and well-balanced, mentally and spiritually. We must not give the impression of being fanatics but at the same time we must live up to our principles."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 12, 1946: Living the Life)
Page 113 383. The Inner Life of the Spirit is What Counts
"If people only realized it, the inner life of the spirit is that which counts, but they are so blinded by desires and so misled that they have brought upon themselves all the suffering we see at present in the world. The Bahá'ís seek to lead people back to a knowledge of their true selves and the purpose for which they were created, and thus to their greatest happiness and highest good."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 24, 1943)
384. Through Deep Study and Living the Life to Become Like Firm Rocks
"He hopes that these receptive souls you have succeeded to attract into the movement will through deep study and living the life become like firm rocks upon which the Cause can build its future spiritual temple--the temple of the hearts. In one of His very beautiful and stirring poems written in the early days of His Mission Bahá'u'lláh bids us stay away and not become an encumbrance if we desire to live and have our well-being. In case, however, we are ready to sacrifice our all in the path of God then we should hasten to Him and follow His way.
"What the Cause needs is such ardent and self-sacrificing servants and not lukewarm followers who are ready to reap the fruit but unwilling to take a part in winning that victory. Shoghi Effendi, therefore, hopes that you will endeavour to make of your spiritual children of the type Bahá'u'lláh sought to have and create not passive admirers but active servants of the new world order."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 6, 1932)
385. Evolution of the Soul
"Regarding your questions concerning the condition of the soul during illness. The passages in the 'Gleanings' make it quite clear that physical ailments, no matter how severe, cannot bring any change in the inherent condition of the soul. As Bahá'u'lláh says: 'The spirit is permanent and steadfast in its station'. The veil or hindrance that interposes between soul and body during physical disease is sickness itself. Sickness reveals a lack of balance in human organism, an absence of equilibrium in the forces essential for the normal functioning of the human body."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 8, 1936)
386. The Meaning of Self
"Regarding the questions you asked: Self has really two meanings, or is used in two senses, in the Bahá'í writings: one is self, the identity of the individual created by God. This is the self mentioned in such passages as 'he hath known God who hath known himself etc.'. The other self is the ego, the dark, animalistic heritage each one of us has, the lower nature that can develop into a monster of selfishness, brutality, lust and so on. It is this self we must struggle against, or this side of our natures, in order to strengthen and free the spirit within us and help it to attain perfection.
"Self-sacrifice means to subordinate this lower nature and its desires to the more godly and noble side of ourselves. Ultimately, in its highest sense, self-sacrifice means to give our will and our all to God to do with as He pleases. Then He purifies and glorifies our true self until it becomes a shining and wonderful reality."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 10, 1947)
387. The Ego is the Animal Within Us
"The ego is the animal in us, the heritage of the flesh which is full of selfish desires. By obeying the laws of God, seeking to live the life laid down in our teachings, and prayer and struggle, we can subdue our egos. We call people 'saints' who have achieved the highest degree of mastery over their ego.
"There is no contradiction between Gleanings P 66 and P 262. In one place He says the mirror will never be free from dross, in the other He says it will be 'so cleansed as to be able' etc. It is a relative thing; perfection will never be reached, but great, and ever greater, progress can be made."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 8, 1949)
388. Life is a Constant Struggle Against Forces Around Us and Our Own "Egos"
"Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above all against our own 'ego'. We can never afford to rest on our oars, for if we do, we soon see ourselves carried down stream again. Many of those who drift away from the Cause do so for the reason that they had ceased to go on developing. They became complacent, or indifferent, and consequently ceased to draw the spiritual strength and vitality from the Cause which they should have. Sometimes, of course, people fail because of a test they just do not meet, and often our severest tests come from each other. Certainly the believers should try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them through love. Generally speaking nine-tenths of the friends' troubles are because they don't do the Bahá'í thing, in relation to each other, to the administrative bodies or in their personal lives."
389. The Prophets Are the Only Ones Free of the "Dross of Self"
"Regarding the questions you asked in your letter: The only people who are truly free of the 'dross of self' are the Prophets, for to be free of one's ego is a hall-mark of perfection. We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. However, we must constantly mount higher, seek to be more perfect."
390. Self Mastery, Key to
"Today the confirmations of the Kingdom of Abha are with those who renounce themselves, forget their own opinions, cast aside personalities and are thinking of the welfare of others... Whosoever is occupied with himself is wandering in
the desert of heedlessness and regret. The 'Master Key' to self-mastery is self-forgetting. The road to the palace of life is through the path of renunciation."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Star of the West, Vol. XVII, p. 348)
391. Through the Search for God, We Become Acquainted with Ourselves
"The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellow-men, the more profoundly will we become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 18, 1954)
392. Becoming Conscious of Self is a Gradual Process
"You have asked as to what point in man's evolution he becomes conscious of self. This consciousness of self in man is a gradual process, and does not start at a definite point. It grows in him in this world and continues to do so in the future spiritual world.
"Man can certainly recall past experiences in his evolution, and even when his soul leaves this world it will still remember its past."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 20, 1937)
393. Man's Evolution is Both Individual and Collective
"Man's evolution is both individual and collective, because of his twofold relationship to himself and to the society in which he lives. Individual evolution starts with the early stages of one's existence. Consciousness too grows with this evolution."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 14, 1938)
394. The Cause Has the Spiritual Power to Re-Create Us
"The believers, as we all know, should endeavour to set such an example in their personal lives and conduct that others will feel impelled to embrace a Faith which reforms human character. However, unfortunately, not everyone achieves easily and rapidly the victory over self. What every believer, new or old, should realize is that the Cause has the spiritual power to re-create us if we make the effort to let that power influence us, and the greatest help in this respect is prayer. We must supplicate Bahá'u'lláh to assist us to overcome the failings in our own characters, and also exert our own will power in mastering ourselves.
"He will certainly pray for the work of the beloved Cause there and especially that new souls may be attracted and embrace the Faith. He will also pray that the believers may, for the sake of God, draw close to each other and not permit each other's short-comings to be a source of disunity and consequently a means of depriving thirsty souls of this life-giving Message! The world is full of evil and dark forces and the friends must not permit these forces to get hold of them by thinking and feeling negatively towards each other."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 27, 1945)
Page 116 395. Our Thoughts Should Be Turned Determinedly, Intelligently and Unemotionally to God
"He was very sorry to hear of the condition of your dear sister. He would advise her to turn her thoughts determinedly and intelligently--by that I mean unemotionally--to God, realising that He is forgiving, that in one moment He can, through His blessed mercy, take away our sense of failure and help us to do better in the future--if we sincerely wish to; to turn to Him in prayer and seek to draw closer to Him; and to accept His Will and submit her own desires and opinions to His wish and plan for her.
"There is a tremendous darkness in the world today, the darkness caused by mankind's going against the Laws of God and giving way to the animal side of human nature. People must recognize this fact, and consciously struggle against pessimism and depression."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 14, 1945)
396. We Should Focus on the Glory of the Cause and Not on Our Failures
"Regarding your own condition: He strongly urges you not to dwell on yourself. Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Bahá'u'lláh which can make of a mere drop a surging sea! You certainly have no right to feel negative; you have embraced this glorious Faith and arisen with devotion to serve it, and your labours are greatly appreciated by both the Guardian and your fellow-Bahá'ís. With something as positive as the Faith and all it teaches behind you, you should be a veritable lion of confidence, and he will pray that you may become so.
"There is, unfortunately, no way that one can force his own good upon a man. The elements of free will is there, and all we believers--and even the Manifestation of God Himself--can do is to offer the truth to mankind. If the people of the world persist, as they seem to be doing, in their blind materialism, they must bear the consequences in a prolongation of their present condition, and even a worsening of it. Our duty as Bahá'ís is to build up such a love and unity within our own ranks that the people will be attracted by this example to the Cause. We also must teach all we can and strengthen the Bahá'í Community in the administration. But more we cannot do to avert the great sufferings which seemingly still lie ahead of the world in its present evil state."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 13, 1947)
397. Do Not Dwell on Others' Thoughts and Attitudes
"We must never dwell too much on the attitudes and feelings of our fellow-believers towards us. What is most important is to foster love and harmony and ignore any rebuffs we may receive; in this way the weakness of human nature and the peculiarity or attitude of any particular person is not magnified, but pales into insignificance in comparison with our joint service to the Faith we all love."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 19, 1948)
398. Bahá'í Justified in Defending His Life in Emergency
"Regarding the question you raised: In an emergency, when there is no legal source at hand to appeal to, a Bahá'í is perfectly justified in defending his life."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 24, 1943)
"From the texts you already have available it is clear that Bahá'u'lláh has stated that it is preferable to be killed in the path of God's good-pleasure than to kill, and that organized religious attack against Bahá'ís should never turn into any kind of warfare, as this is strictly prohibited in our Writings.
"The House of Justice does not wish at the present time to go beyond the guidelines given in the above-mentioned statements. The question is basically a matter of conscience, and in each case the Bahá'í involved must use his judgment in determining when to stop in self-defense lest his action deteriorate into retaliation.
"Of course the above principles apply also in cases when a Bahá'í finds himself involved in situations of civil disorder. We have, however, advised the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States that under the present circumstances in that country it is preferable that Bahá'ís do not buy nor own arms for their protection or the protection of their families."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, May 26, 1969: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 26)
400. Pioneer Living in a Remote Area Lacking Protection: Circumstances Under which a Bahá'í is Justified in Defending Self
"We have your letter of March 2, 1972 asking if ... a pioneer couple living in a remote area lacking police protection may have a weapon in their possession for defending themselves as thieves have broken into their house twice and robbed them.
"A hitherto untranslated Tablet from Abdu'l-Bahá points out that in the case of attack by robbers and highwaymen, a Bahá'í should not surrender himself, but should try, as far as circumstances permit, to defend himself, and later on lodge a complaint with the government authorities. A statement in a letter written on behalf of the Guardian indicates that in an emergency when there is no legal force at hand to appeal to a Bahá'í is justified in defending his life. Although we have advised certain National Assemblies in countries facing increasing civil disorder that it is preferable that Bahá'ís do not buy or own arms for their protection or the protection of their families, we feel that in the circumstances you have outlined in your letter it would be permissible for the pioneer family to keep a weapon in the house, provided the law permits."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Honduras, March 20, 1972)
D. Self-Sacrifice and Service
401. The Mystery of Sacrifice
"O maid-servant of God! The mystery of sacrifice is that man should sacrifice all
his conditions for the divine station of God. The station of God is mercy, kindness, forgiveness, sacrifice, favour, grace and giving-life to the spirits and lighting the fire of His love in the hearts and arteries. I asked God to make thee a sign of mercy, the banner of kindness among His maid-servants."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. I, p. 65)
402. Self-Sacrifice, Meaning of
"Self-sacrifice means to subordinate this lower nature and its desires to the more godly and noble side of ourselves. Ultimately, in its highest sense, self-sacrifice means to give our will and our all to God to do with as He pleases. Then He purifies and glorifies our true self until it becomes a shining and wonderful reality."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 10, 1947: Living the Life, p. 14)
403. To What Extent Should We Sacrifice Our Lives for the Interest of the Cause?
"The problem of to what extent we should sacrifice our time for the interest of the Cause depends for its solution upon individual means and circumstances. It is a personal problem that we ought to settle individually. One person may give all his time to teaching and rely upon small personal income and another may find himself more fitted to business and give his share of service in the form of financial assistance."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 18, 1930)
404. Accepting to Suffer for Each Other's Sake
"With reference to your question as to whether individuals can help each other by accepting to suffer for each other's sake. Surely such sacrifice for our fellow-humans can have helpful results. This law of sacrifice operates in our own lives, as well as in the lives of the Divine Manifestations."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 31, 1938)
405. Service as Magnet for Divine Confirmation
"...There is nothing that brings success in the Faith like service. Service is the magnet which draws the divine confirmations. Thus, when a person is active, they are blessed by the Holy Spirit. When they are inactive, the Holy Spirit cannot find a repository in their being, and thus they are deprived of its healing and quickening rays."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, July 12, 1952: Living the Life, p. 18)
406. Assistance of Hosts of Divine Concourse
"...An individual must center his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá'u'lláh. When this is done, the hosts of the Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 6, 1954: Ibid., p. 19)
Page 119 407. An Irresistible Urge to Serve--Do Not Look at Your Shortcomings
"...This irresistible urge to serve which you feel and which has prompted you to offer yourself for work in the teaching field is itself a clear indication that you are being guided by the Almighty to attain your highest and noblest goal in this life. For what a greater destiny can you hope to seek except that which Bahá'u'lláh has traced for every one of His loyal believers, namely to consecrate one's all to the service and glorification of His Faith! This assurance should indeed fortify your hopes, and enable you to banish every sense of dissatisfaction, and of unworthiness which may linger in your heart, and which may deter you from participating joyously and actively in serving the Cause. You should not look at your limitations, but derive full confidence at the thought that, however limited your resources and capacities may be, your efforts will be reinforced by Divine confirmations, provided you do your share and discharge your obligations as a believer, fully and conscientiously. Your perseverance will, even as a magnet, draw upon you the favours and blessings of Bahá'u'lláh. Do feel happy and confident, therefore, and fortified by such an assurance arise to contribute all that is in your power towards the furtherance and promulgation of our beloved Cause."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 30, 1939)
408. There is No Rule or Standard Requiring a Believer to Serve in One Field at the Exclusion of Others
"Whatever the particular field of service you may choose, whether teaching or administrative, the essential is for you to persevere, and not to allow any consciousness of your limitations to dampen your zeal, much less to deter you from serving joyously and actively.
"There is no general rule, or any particular standard requiring a believer to serve in one field at the exclusion of others. Every believer is to choose for himself any avenue of work in which he conscientiously feels he can render the greatest amount of service to the Cause. He can seek the advice of his Assembly, and of his fellow-believers before taking such a step, but there is no obligation requiring him to do so."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 6, 1939)
Page 120 V. BEGGING, CHARITIES AND THE POOR
409. Begging is Forbidden--House of Justice to Provide for Disabled
"We have been asked to share with you the following extract from one of the Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá on the subject of begging:
'By the sacred verse: "Begging is forbidden, and it is also prohibited to dispense alms to a beggar" is meant that mendicancy is forbidden and that giving charity to people who take up begging as their profession is also prohibited. The object is to wipe out mendicancy altogether. However, if a person is disabled, striken by dire poverty or becomes helpless, then it is incumbent upon the rich or the trustees to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence. When the House of Justice comes into being it will set up homes for the incapacitated. Thus no one will be obliged to beg, even as the supplementary part of the blessed verse denotes: "It is enjoined upon everyone to earn his livelihood"; then He says: "As to those who are disabled, it devolveth upon the trustees and the rich to make adequate provision for them." By "trustees" is meant the representatives of the people, that is to say the members of the House of Justice.'
"The Universal House of Justice does not wish to go beyond the elucidation given by the Master in the above passage and wishes, for the time being, to leave any matter not entirely covered by this text to the conscience of individual believers."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 13, 1974)
410. Beggars--Most Despised of Men in the Sight of God
"The most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 26)
411. Charity is the Very Essence of the Teachings
"This Bahá'í teaching of human fellowship and kindness implies that we must be always ready to extend every assistance and help we can to those who are in distress and suffering. Bahá'í charity is of the very essence of the Teachings, and should
therefore be developed in every Bahá'í community. Charitable institutions such as orphanages, free schools and hospitals for the poor, constitute an indispensable part of the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar. It is the responsibility of every local Bahá'í community to insure the welfare of its poor and needy members, through whatever means possible.
"But, of course, this extension of assistance to the poor, in whatever form should under no circumstances be allowed to seriously interfere with the major collective interests of the Bahá'í Community, as distinguished from the purely personal interests of its members. The demands of the Cause transcend those of the individual, and should therefore be given precedence. But these two phases of Bahá'í social life, though not of equal importance, are by no means contradictory. Both of them are essential, and should be fostered, but each according to its own degree of importance. It is the responsibility of Bahá'í Assemblies to decide when individual interests should be subordinated to those affecting the collective welfare of the community. But, as already stated, the interest of the individual should always be safeguarded within certain limits, and provided they do not seriously affect the welfare of the group as a whole."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, June 26, 1936)
412. Contributions to Charity by Assemblies and Individuals
"First there is the principle that any believer may sell personal services or property to anyone and do with the proceeds as he wishes, including giving any or all of them to Bahá'í purposes. Thus if a Bahá'í concert artist gives a concert to which admission is charged, he is free, if he so wishes, to give the money so earned to the Fund or to any charity of his choice. In giving the concert, however, he should not represent to non-Bahá'ís that the concert is for the benefit of the Bahá'í Fund or is given on behalf of Bahá'ís for a charity, which brings us to the second principle: That it is improper for Bahá'ís to solicit funds from non-Bahá'ís in the name of the Faith for any purpose. If a non-Bahá'í insists on making a monetary contribution it may be accepted with the express understanding that it will be used only for charitable or philanthropic purposes, but such contributions should be discouraged, not encouraged.
"The third principle concerns contributions made to charity by Bahá'ís themselves. Spiritual Assemblies are, of course, permitted to make contributions to charity--indeed care of the poor and needy is one of the duties assigned to them in the Bahá'í Writings--but they must weigh their responsibilities very carefully and remember that in a highly organised country like the United Kingdom the poor are helped by a multitude of agencies, both governmental and private, whereas only the Bahá'ís can contribute towards the building of the Kingdom of God on earth. This, clearly, is a matter for wise moderation. Assemblies, moreover, should perform their charitable works with a pure motive, and not with the thought of propagandizing for the Faith.
"An individual Bahá'í is, of course, free to contribute to charity from his own resources if he wishes, but as a Bahá'í he should bear in mind the needs of the Bahá'í Fund, which only believers can support."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a Local Spiritual Assembly, March 19, 1973)
413. Surest Way of Lifting Once and for All Burden of Hunger and Misery
"...in the first place every believer is free to follow the dictates of his own
conscience as regards the manner in which to spend his own money. Secondly, we must always bear in mind that there are so few Bahá'ís in the world, relative to the world's population, and so many people in need, that even if all of us gave all we had, it would not alleviate more than an infinitesimal amount of suffering. This does not mean we must not help the needy, we should; but our contributions to the Faith are the surest way of lifting once and for all time the burden of hunger and misery from mankind, for it is only through the system of Bahá'u'lláh--Divine in origin--that the world can be gotten on its feet and want, fear, hunger, war, etc., be eliminated. Non-Bahá'ís cannot contribute to our work or do it for us; so really our first obligation is to support our own teaching work, as this will lead to the healing of the nations."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 8, 1947: Lifeblood of the Cause, 1970, London, pp. 12-13)
414. There Are Many Ways that Help Can Be Rendered to Suffering Fellow-Men
"It is understandable that Bahá'ís who witness the miserable conditions under which so many human beings have to live, or who hear of a sudden disaster that has struck a certain area of the world, are moved to do something practical to ameliorate those conditions and to help their suffering fellow-mortals.
"There are many ways in which help can be rendered. Every Bahá'í has the duty to acquire a trade or profession through which he will earn that wherewith he can support himself and his family; in the choice of such work he can seek those activities which are of benefit to his fellow-men and not merely those which promote his personal interests, still less those whose effects are actually harmful.
"There are also the situations in which an individual Bahá'í or a Spiritual Assembly is confronted with an urgent need which neither justice nor compassion could allow to go unheeded and unhelped. How many are the stories told of Abdu'l-Bahá in such situations, when He would even take off a garment He was wearing and give it to a shivering man in rags.
"But in our concern for such immediate obvious calls upon our succour we must not allow ourselves to forget the continuing, appalling burden of suffering under which millions of human beings are always groaning--a burden which they have bourne for century upon century and which it is the mission of Bahá'u'lláh to lift at last. The principal cause of this suffering, which one can witness wherever one turns, is the corrupton of human morals and the prevalence of prejudice, suspicion, hatred, untrustworthiness, selfishness and tyranny among men. It is not merely material well-being that people need. What they desperately need is to know how to live their lives--they need to know who they are, to what purpose they exist, and how they should act towards one another; and, once they know the answers to these questions they need to be helped to gradually apply these answers to every-day behaviour. It is to the solution of this basic problem of mankind that the greater part of all our energy and resources should be directed...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Italy, November 19, 1974)
415. Bahá'ís Have the Divinely-Given Remedy for the Ills of Mankind
"...There are mighty agencies in this world, governments, foundations, institutions of many kinds with tremendous financial resources which are working to
improve the material lot of human beings. Anything we Bahá'ís could add to such resources in the way of special funds or contributions would be a negligible drop in the ocean. However, alone among men we have the divinely-given remedy for the real ills of mankind; no one else is doing or can do this most important work, and if we divert our energy and our funds into fields in which others are already doing more than we can hope to do, we shall be delaying the diffusion of the Divine Message which is the most important task of all.
"Because of such an attitude, as also because of our refusal to become involved in politics, Bahá'ís are often accused of holding aloof from the 'real problems' of their fellow-men. But when we hear this accusation let us not forget that those who make it are usually idealistic materialists to whom material good is the only 'real' good, whereas we know that the working of the material world is merely a reflection of spiritual conditions and until the spiritual conditions can be changed there can be no lasting change for the better in material affairs.
"We should also remember that most people have no clear concept of the sort of world they wish to build, nor how to go about building it. Even those who are concerned to improve conditions are therefore reduced to combatting every apparent evil that takes their attention. Willingness to fight against evils, whether in the form of conditions or embodied in evil men, has thus become for most people the touchstone by which they judge a person's moral worth. Bahá'ís, on the other hand, know the goal they are working towards and know what they must do, step by step, to attain it. Their whole energy is directed towards the building of the good, a good which has such a positive strength that in the face of it the multitude of evils--which are in essence negative--will fade away and be no more. To enter into the quixotic tournament of demolishing one by one the evils in the world is, to a Bahá'í, a vain waste of time and effort. His whole life is directed towards proclaiming the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, reviving the spiritual life of his fellow-men, uniting them in a divinely-created World Order, and then, as that Order grows in strength and influence, he will see the power of that Message transforming the whole of human society and progressively solving the problems and removing the injustices which have so long bedevilled the world."
416. When a Bahá'í Finds It Essential to Seek the Help of Others
"When a Bahá'í finds it essential to seek the help of others, and after his own efforts and those of his family and close friends have proved inadequate, he may certainly turn to his Local Spiritual Assembly, which will consult on his problem, extend a helping hand to him, if the conditions of the Local Fund permit, and even more importantly, will counsel and advise him on what opportunities are open to him, and what steps he might take to seek a solution to his problem. If the Local Assembly feels that the help or guidance of the National Assembly should be sought, it will no doubt refer the matter to the National Assembly."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 1, 1980: Giving to the Poor, A Compilation of the Universal House of Justice)
417. Local Spiritual Assembly Should Extend Helping Hand to the Poor
"They (Local Spiritual Assemblies) must do their utmost to extend at all times the helping hand to the poor, the sick, the disabled, the orphan, the widow, irrespective of colour, caste and creed.
"They must promote by every means in their power the material as well as the spiritual enlightenment of youth, the means for the education of children, institute, whenever possible, Bahá'í educational institutions, organize and supervise their work and provide the best means for their progress and development."
(Shoghi Effendi: Bahá'í Administration, p. 38)
418. How a Bahá'í May Help His Fellow-Believer Through the Institutions
"In our dealings with the believers, however, apart from the need to give priority to the needs of the Faith, one has to bear in mind, as you point out in your letter, such considerations as wisdom as well as the importance of avoiding actions that may jeopardize our cordial relationships with the believers. If the individual believer is unable personally and prayerfully to resolve such a problem, he should, as each case may indicate, either himself refer to the Spiritual Assembly for guidance, or refer the believers to that institution. A Bahá'í who wishes to help his needy fellow-believer may do so by extending his assistance either personally, or impersonally through the Spiritual Assembly if he feels that this method will provide the means to objectively assess the real needs involved, or will maintain and preserve better relations between him and the believer concerned.
"This is just one more reason why we should endeavour to support, strengthen the foundations, and foster the development of Local Spiritual Assemblies so that they may become rallying points of the friends and the true shepherds of the divine flock."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, April 9, 1973)
C. The Poor
419. Those Possessed of Riches Must Have the Utmost Regard for the Poor
"They who are possessed of riches, however, must have the utmost regard for the poor, for great is the honor destined by God for those poor who are steadfast in patience. By My Life! There is no honor, except what God may please to bestow, that can compare to this honor. Great is the blessedness awaiting the poor that endure patiently and conceal their sufferings, and well is it with the rich who bestow their riches on the needy and prefer them before themselves.
"Please God, the poor may exert themselves and strive to earn the means of livelihood. This is a duty which, in this most great Revelation, hath been prescribed unto every one, and is accounted in the sight of God as a goodly deed. Whoso observeth this duty, the help of the invisible One shall most certainly aid him. He can enrich, through His grace, whomsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, hath power over all things...."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, pp. 202-203)
420. The Greatest Gift We Can Give to the Poor
"Regarding your question concerning helping the poor: The Bahá'ís should not go so far as to refrain from extending charity to the needy, if they are able and willing to do so. However, in this, as in many other things, they should exert moderation. The greatest gift that we can give to the poor and the down-trodden
is to aid to build up the divine institutions inaugurated in this day by Bahá'u'lláh as these institutions, and this World Order when established, will eliminate the causes of poverty and the injustices which afflict the poor. We should, therefore, do both, support our Bahá'í Fund, and also be kind and generous to the needy."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 11, 1942)
421. Do Not Grieve for Being Poor--Some Great Souls Were of the Poorest in the World
"Do not grieve, dear brother, for being poor, for you are rich instead in faith and in spirit. This is a divine wealth for which the richest of the world will crave for in vain. True we must work hard, earn money and keep our family in happiness and prosperity, but we must always realize that our lives must be devoted to things higher and more sublime. We must remember what great souls, whose lives still inspire hundreds and thousands, were of the poorest in the world."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 18, 1927)
Page 126VI. CALAMITIES AND CRISES
422. The World is in Travail
"The world is in travail and its agitation waxeth day by day. Its face is turned toward waywardness and unbelief. Such shall be its plight that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly. Its perversity will long continue. And when the appointed hour is come, there shall suddenly appear that which shall cause the limbs of mankind to quake. Then, and only then, will the Divine Standard be unfurled, and the Nightingale of Paradise warble its melody."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Wilmette, 1983, p. 118)
423. Powerful Forces Are Operating to Bring to a Climax this Portentous Century
"...Both within and without the Cause of God, powerful forces are operating to bring to a climax the twin tendencies of this portentous century. Among the many evidences which reveal this process may be cited, on the one hand, the continual increase of lawlessness, terrorism, economic confusion, immorality and the growing danger from the proliferation of weapons of destruction, and on the other, the world-wide, divinely propelled expansion, consolidation and rapid emergence into the limelight of world affairs of the Cause itself, a process crowned by the wonderful efflorescence of Mount Carmel, the mountain of God, whose Divine springtime is now so magnificently burgeoning."
(From a message of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the world, Ridvan 1983)
424. The People of Baha Are Assured of Divine Guidance
"...the Pen of the Centre of the Covenant has repeatedly prophesied the intolerable calamities which must beset this wayward humanity ere it heeds the life-giving Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.
'Chaos and confusion are daily increasing in the world. They will attain such intensity as to render the frame of mankind unable to bear them. Then will men be awakened and become aware that religion is the impregnable stronghold and the manifest light of the world, and its laws, exhortations and teachings the source of life on earth.'
"Every discerning eye clearly sees that the early stages of this chaos have daily manifestations affecting the structure of human society; its destructive forces are uprooting time-honoured institutions which were a haven and refuge for the inhabitants of the earth in bygone days and centuries, and around which revolved all human affairs. The same destructive forces are also deranging the political, economic, scientific, literary, and moral equilibrium of the world and are destroying the fairest fruits of the present civilization. Political machinations of those in authority have placed the seal of obsolescence upon the root-principles of the world's order. Greed and passion, deceit, hypocrisy, tyranny, and pride are dominating features afflicting human relations. Discoveries and inventions, which are the fruit of scientific and
technological advancements, have become the means and tools of mass extermination and destruction and are in the hands of the ungodly. Even music, art, and literature, which are to represent and inspire the noblest sentiments and highest aspirations and should be a source of comfort and tranquility for troubled souls, have strayed from the straight path and are now the mirrors of the soiled hearts of this confused, unprincipled and disordered age. Perversions such as these shall result in the ordeals which have been prophesied by the Blessed Beauty in the following words: 'Every day a new calamity will seize the earth and a fresh tormenting trial will appear'. 'The day is approaching when its (civilization's) flame will devour the cities.'
"In such an afflicted time, when mankind is bewildered and the wisest of men are perplexed as to the remedy, the people of Baha, who have confidence in His unfailing grace and divine guidance, are assured that each of these tormenting trials has a cause, a purpose, and a definite result, and all are essential instruments for the establishment of the immutable Will of God on earth. In other words, on the one hand humanity is struck by the scourge of His chastisement which will inevitably bring together the scattered and vanquished tribes of the earth; and on the other, the weak few whom He has nurtured under the protection of His loving guidance are, in this formative age and period of transition, continuing to build amidst these tumultuous waves an impregnable stronghold which will be the sole remaining refuge for those lost multitudes. Therefore, the dear friends of God who have such a broad and clear vision before them are not perturbed by such events, nor are they panic-stricken by such thundering sounds, nor will they face such convulsions with fear and trepidation, nor will they be deterred, even for a moment, from fulfilling their sacred responsibilities.
"One of their sacred responsibilities is to exemplify in their lives those attributes which are acceptable at His Sacred Threshold."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Iranian believers resident in various countries throughout the world, February 10, 1980)
425. If Bahá'ís Fail They Are Partly Responsible for Agony of Mankind
"There is so much suffering, such a great and desperate need for a true remedy and the Bahá'ís should realize their sacred obligation is to deliver the Message to their fellowmen at once, and on as large a scale as possible. If they fail to do so, they are really partly responsible for prolonging the agony of humanity."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 18, 1943)
426. The World Will Experience Travails and Testing as Never Before
"We are instructed to say that although there is every reason to expect that the world will experience travails and testing as never before, we do not know what form these upheavals will take, when exactly they will come, how severe they will be, nor how long they will last. The Faith itself as it emerges from obscurity will suffer severe trials. Sensitive souls such as yourself are particularly aware of these impending developments. However, Bahá'u'lláh has given us the Administrative Order which is the channel through which the spirit and guidance flow to the Bahá'ís and to mankind. The beloved Guardian spent his entire lifetime unfolding and explaining the pattern, and it is this administrative machinery that we should seek to support
and strengthen. As weak and fragile as it is in these formative years of the Faith, it is still the haven and protection of the Bahá'ís and of the world. You are therefore encouraged to expend your energies and your many-faceted talents in teaching and consolidating the Bahá'í communities under the direction of the National Spiritual Assembly and its agencies."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 19, 1981)
427. Calamities Will Continue Until Mankind is Chastened Sufficiently...
"You make reference to calamities and request specific answers if there are any as to when they may occur and with what magnitude. The House of Justice noted your comments that you have read what Bahá'u'lláh had to say about the collapse of the old world order and the coming of the new, and that in recent times friends returning from their pilgrimages spoke of meetings with Hands of the Cause and members of the House of Justice in which the coming of great world upheavals was related to a time 'around the end of the Five Year Plan and afterwards'. The House of Justice points out that calamities have been and are occurring and will continue to happen until mankind has been chastened sufficiently to accept the Manifestation for this day. Abdu'l-Bahá anticipated that the Lesser Peace could be established before the end of the twentieth century. However, Bahá'ís should not be diverted from the work of the Cause by the fear of catastrophes but should try to understand why they occur. The beloved Guardian, in innumerable places, has explained the reasons for these occurrences, and since they happen from time to time as explained above we should not be concerned as to when they occur."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, April 15, 1976)
428. Bahá'ís Should Not Waste Time Speculating on the Coming Calamity
"The House of Justice points out that Bahá'u'lláh in no uncertain terms has said: 'O ye peoples of the world! Know, verily, that an unforeseen calamity followeth you, and grievous retribution awaiteth you. Think not that which ye have committed hath been effaced in My sight.' Therefore it considers that it would be fruitless to attempt to foresee the time or the nature of a calamity which Bahá'u'lláh Himself said was 'unforeseen'. No doubt the remarkable progress being made in scientific endeavour holds true in the study by experts of geological upheavals. But we cannot be certain that predictions of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or tidal waves caused by such phenomena can be identified as the cataclysmic events to which Bahá'u'lláh refers.
"In letters to other believers who have asked questions similar to yours, the House of Justice has emphasized that the friends should not waste their time and energies in fruitless speculations on this question. Rather, they should concentrate every ounce of energy on the winning of the goals of the Five Year Plan, which they have clearly before them, confident in the knowledge that whatever may happen in the world, however calamitous it may outwardly appear, will promote God's unalterable purpose for the unification of mankind."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, June 20, 1976)
Page 129 429. It is Important that Bahá'ís Have Correct Attitude Regarding Pending Catastrophe
"The important aspect for the Bahá'ís is that their attitude and actions and response to the pending catastrophe be correct. We all know that the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh is the world's only salvation, and that our duty is to actively teach receptive souls, and to do our utmost to help in the consolidation of the institutions of the Faith. Only in this way can we contribute our share of servitude at His Threshold, and we should then leave the rest to Him."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, November 18, 1980)
430. Should Bahá'ís Be Cut Off from World Centre or from One Another, They Will Be Guided by Spiritual Assemblies, Led by Counsellors, Auxiliary Board Members
"Every institution of this divinely created Order is one more refuge for a distraught populace; every soul illumined by the light of the sacred Message is one more link in the oneness of mankind, one more servant ministering to the needs of an ailing world. Even should the Bahá'í communities, in the years immediately ahead, be cut off from the World Centre or from one another--as some already have been--the Bahá'ís will neither halt nor hesitate; they will continue to pursue their objectives, guided by their Spiritual Assemblies and led by the Counsellors, the members of the Auxiliary Boards and their assistants...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the world, November 3, 1980)
431. Bahá'ís Can Help to Mitigate Suffering of Mankind
"No doubt to the degree we Bahá'ís the world over--strive to spread the Cause and live up to its teachings, there will be some mitigation to the suffering of the peoples of the world. But it seems apparent that the great failure to respond to Bahá'u'lláh's instructions, appeals and warnings issued in the 19th Century, has now sent the world along a path, and released forces, which must culminate in a still more violent upheaval and agony. The thing is out of hand, so to speak, and it is too late to avert catastrophic trials."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 8, 1949)
432. The People of Today Are Suffering for Their Own Sins of Omission and Commission
"You should not consider yourself unfeeling because you see in this world agony the birth of a new and better world. This is just what the Bahá'ís should believe and should teach to others. However much pity and sympathy we may have for humanity, we nevertheless realize that people today are suffering for their own sins of omission and commission. We must help them to see this and to turn their thoughts and acts into the channels divinely prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 14, 1943)
433. We Must Put the Faith First for Our Eternal Security and Happiness
"We do not know what form the immediate future will take, anywhere. Because the passions of mankind are so unregenerate, and it is so deaf to the voice of Bahá'u'lláh, no doubt great suffering will be experienced. What we do know, however, is that
we are Bahá'ís and that our salvation lies in this God-sent Faith. As we give to God, as we serve Him and love Him, so will He vouchsafe to us His mercy, guidance and protection. We must, at all times, put the Faith first and our personal desires and comfort second. Having this Faith we have eternal security and happiness which nothing can take away from us ever, no matter what afflictions may befall a faithless world. The Cause of God is our security, and confidence in Bahá'u'lláh our protection."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 5, 1949)
434. We Do Not Know How Far-Reaching the Catastrophe Will Be
"Shoghi Effendi has never stated how far-reaching the effects of a future war will be, or what other catastrophes may accompany it or follow it. From our teachings we know humanity can and must be welded into some form of political unity--such as a World Federal State--through suffering as it seems only intense suffering is capable of rousing men to the spiritual efforts required. It seems clear to any thinking person that war will be the main cause of this degree of suffering."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 5, 1954)
435. The Unification of Mankind
"...Whatever our shortcomings may be, and however formidable the forces of darkness which besiege us to-day, the unification of mankind as outlined and insured by the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh will in the fullness of time be firmly and permanently established. This is Bahá'u'lláh's promise, and no power on earth can in the long run prevent or even retard its adequate realization. The friends should, therefore, not lose hope, but fully conscious of their power and their role they should persevere in their mighty efforts for the extension and the consolidation of Bahá'u'lláh's universal dominion on earth."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 6, 1933)
436. The Crisis is Serving a Great Purpose
"The crisis that exists in the world is not confined to the farmers. Its effects have reached every means of livelihood. The farmers are in a sense better off because they at least have food to eat. But on the whole the crisis is serving a great purpose. It is broadening the outlook of man, teaching him to think internationally, forcing him to take into consideration the welfare of his neighbours if he wishes to improve his own condition. In short it is forcing humanity to appreciate the significance and follow the precepts laid by Bahá'u'lláh. The present and perhaps the near future is dark, but we have the wonderful promises of the Master before us and they shall all become true...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 3, 1932)
437. The Guardian Does Not Think that God Will Permit Man to Annihilate Himself...
"In regard to your questions: The degree of rapidity with which human beings are to advance certainly depends on their own efforts; but he does not think God will permit man to annihilate himself. Too much evolution is behind him and too much before him for that! We should certainly not procrastinate for a moment. For almost a hundred years now the warnings of Bahá'u'lláh have been ringing in men's ears, and we have every reason to believe terrible things may still befall mankind, if they
do not listen to the divine solution proposed by God's Manifestation for this day. In this connection he is constantly pointing out to the Bahá'ís that their direct Bahá'í work--teaching, perfecting the administration, propagating the Cause of God is their job and of immediate importance because, it is, so to speak, spiritually organic. What they are doing will release forces which will combat the terrible disintegration of society which we witness today in every field, political, economic or otherwise...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 5, 1947)
438. Hardship and Privation, Frustration and Despair Shall Encompass the People...
"Know thou that hardship and privation shall increase day by day, and the people shall thereby be afflicted. The doors of joy and happiness shall be closed on all sides, and terrible wars shall occur. Frustration and despair shall encompass the people until they are forced to turn to the One True God. Then will the light of most joyful tidings so illumine the horizons that the cry of 'Ya Baha'u'l-Abha' will be raised from every direction. This shall come to pass."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: from a Tablet to Isabella D. Brittingham, Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, p. 248, Wilmette 1980, corrected in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, January 16, 1984)
439. Apocalyptic Upheaval
"He advises you to go ahead and plan your college education. We have no indication of exactly what nature the apocalyptic upheaval will be: it might be another war ... but as students of our Bahá'í writings it is clear that the longer the 'Divine Physician' (i.e., Bahá'u'lláh) is withheld from healing the ills of the world, the more severe will be the crises, and the more terrible the sufferings of the patient."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 21, 1949)
440. World Condition Bringing Many Issues to a Head
"...the condition that the world is in is bringing many issues to a head. It would be perhaps impossible to find a nation or people not in a state of crisis today. The materialism, the lack of true religion and the consequent baser forces in human nature which are being released, have brought the whole world to the brink of probably the greatest crisis it has ever faced or will have to face. The Bahá'ís are a part of the world. They too feel the great pressures which are brought to bear upon all people today, whoever and wherever they may be. On the other hand, the Divine Plan, which is the direct method of working toward the establishment of peace and World Order, has perforce reached an important and challenging point in its unfoldment; because of the desperate needs of the world, the Bahá'ís find themselves, even though so limited in numbers, in financial strength and in prestige, called upon to fulfill a great responsibility."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 19, 1956: Bahá'í News, No. 307, September 1956, pp. 1-2)
441. Calamities and Crises
"As humanity plunges deeper into that condition of which Bahá'u'lláh wrote, 'to
disclose it now would not be meet and seemly', so must the believers increasingly stand out as assured, oriented, and fundamentally happy beings, conforming to a standard which, in direct contrast to the ignoble and amoral attitudes of modern society, is the source of their honour, strength, and maturity. It is this marked contrast between the vigour, unity, and discipline of the Bahá'í community on the one hand, and the increasing confusion, despair, and feverish tempo of a doomed society on the other, which, during the turbulent years ahead, will draw the eyes of humanity to the sanctuary of Bahá'u'lláh's world-redeeming Faith."
(From a message of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, Ridvan 1966: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 79-80)
442. Internal Disintegration and External Chaos Being Accelerated
"...Pregnant indeed are the years looming ahead of us all. The twin processes of internal disintegration and external chaos are being accelerated and every day are inexorably moving towards a climax. The rumblings that must precede the eruption of those forces that must cause 'the limbs of humanity to quake' can already be heard. 'The time of the end', 'the latter years', as foretold in the Scriptures, are at long last upon us. The Pen of Bahá'u'lláh, the voice of Abdu'l-Bahá, have time and again, insistently and in terms unmistakable, warned an unheeding humanity of impending disaster. The Community of the Most Great Name, the leaven that must leaven the lump, the chosen remnant that must survive the rolling up of the old, discredited, tottering order, and assist in the unfoldment of a new one in its stead, is standing ready, alert, clear-visioned, and resolute..."
(From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, July 5, 1938: Messages to America, 1932-1946, pp. 13-14)
443. Worsening World Situation--Many Stand Aside and Wring Their Hands
"In the worsening world situation, fraught with pain of war, violence and the sudden uprooting of long-established institutions, can be seen the fulfillment of the prophecies of Bahá'u'lláh and the oft-repeated warnings of the Master and the beloved Guardian about the inevitable fate of a lamentably defective social system, an unenlightened leadership and a rebellious and unbelieving humanity. Governments and peoples of both the developed and developing nations, and other human institutions, secular and religious, finding themselves helpless to reverse the trend of the catastrophic events of the day, stand bewildered and overpowered by the magnitude and complexity of the problems facing them. At this fateful hour in human history many, unfortunately, seem content to stand aside and wring their hands in despair or else join in the babel of shouting and protestation which loudly objects, but offers no solution to the woes and afflictions plaguing our age.
"Nevertheless a greater and greater number of thoughtful and fair-minded men and women are recognizing in the clamour of contention, grief and destruction, now reaching such horrendous proportions, the evidences of Divine chastisement, and, turning their faces towards God, are becoming increasingly receptive to His Word. Doubtless the present circumstances, though tragic and awful in their
immediate consequences, are serving to sharpen the focus on the indispensability of the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh to the needs of the present age, and will provide many opportunities to reach countless waiting souls, hungry and thirsty for Divine guidance."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, November 16, 1969: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, pp. 33-34)
444. A Yawning Gulf Threatens
"...Every system, short of the unification of the human race, has been tried, repeatedly tried, and been found wanting. Wars again and again have been fought, and conferences without number have met and deliberated. Treaties, pacts and covenants have been painstakingly negotiated, concluded and revised. Systems of government have been patiently tested, have been continually recast and superseded. Economic plans of reconstruction have been carefully devised, and meticulously executed. And yet crisis has succeeded crisis, and the rapidity with which a perilously unstable world is declining has been correspondingly accelerated. A yawning gulf threatens to involve in one common disaster both the satisfied and dissatisfied nations, democracies and dictatorships, capitalists and wage-earners, Europeans and Asiatics, Jew and Gentile, white and coloured. An angry Providence, the cynic might well observe, has abandoned a hapless planet to its fate, and fixed irrevocably its doom. Sore-tried and disillusioned, humanity has no doubt lost its orientation, and would seem to have lost as well its faith and hope. It is hovering, unshepherded and visionless, on the brink of disaster. A sense of fatality seems to pervade it. An ever-deepening gloom is settling on its fortunes as she recedes further and further from the outer fringes of the darkest zone of its agitated life and penetrates its very heart."
(Shoghi Effendi: The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 190)
445. Forces of a World Catastrophe--The Fire of Ordeal
"...That the forces of a world catastrophe can alone precipitate such a new phase of human thought is, alas, becoming increasingly apparent. That nothing short of the fire of a severe ordeal, unparalleled in its intensity, can fuse and weld the discordant entities that constitute the elements of present-day civilization, into the integral components of the world commonwealth of the future, is a truth which future events will increasingly demonstrate.
"...Nothing 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."
(Ibid., p. 46)
446. When Crisis Sweeps Over the World, Bahá'ís Should Not Let Hardships Weaken Their Hope in the Future
"...When such a crisis sweeps over the world no person should hope to remain intact. We belong to an organic unit and when one part of the organism suffers all the rest of the body will feel its consequence. This is in fact the reason why Bahá'u'lláh calls our attention to the unity of mankind. But as Bahá'ís we should not let such hardship weaken our hope in the future...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a Bahá'í family, April 14, 1932)
Page 134 447. Stage of Purgation is Indispensable--Bahá'ís Should Not Hope to Remain Unaffected
"...You seem to complain about the calamities that have befallen humanity. In the spiritual development of man a stage of purgation is indispensable, for it is while passing through it that the over-rated material needs are made to appear in their proper light. Unless society learns to attribute more importance to spiritual matters, it would never be fit to enter the golden era foretold by Bahá'u'lláh. The present calamities are parts of this process of purgation, through them alone will man learn his lesson. They are to teach the nations, that they have to view things internationally, they are to make the individual attribute more importance to his moral than his material welfare.
"In such a process of purgation, when all humanity is in the throes of dire suffering, the Bahá'ís should not hope to remain unaffected. Should we consider the beam that is in our own eye, we would immediately find that these sufferings are also meant for ourselves, who claimed to have attained. Such world crisis is necessary to awaken us to the importance of our duty and the carrying on of our task. Suffering will increase our energy in setting before humanity the road to salvation, it will move us from our repose for we are far from doing our best in teaching the Cause and conveying the Message with which we have been entrusted...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer in reply to a letter dated October 14, 1931: Bahá'í News, No. 58, January 1932, p. 1)
448. Dangers Facing America
"He has been told that some of the friends are disturbed over reports brought back by the pilgrims concerning the dangers facing America in the future whenever another world conflagration breaks out.
"He does not feel that the Bahá'ís should waste time dwelling on the dark side of things. Any intelligent person can understand from the experiences of the last world war, and keeping abreast of what modern science has developed in the way of weapons for any future war, that big cities all over the world are going to be in tremendous danger. This is what the Guardian has said to the pilgrims.
"Entirely aside from this, he has urged the Bahá'ís, for the sake of serving the Faith, to go out from these centers of intense materialism, where life nowadays is so hurried and grinding and, dispersing to towns and villages, carry the Message far and wide throughout the cities of the American Union. He strongly believes that the field outside the big cities is more fertile, that the Bahá'ís in the end will be happier for having made this move, and that, in case of an outbreak of war, it stands to reason they will be safer, just the way any other person living in the country, or away from the big industrial areas, is safer.
"It is remarks such as these that the pilgrims have carried back in their notes. He sees no cause for alarm, but he certainly believes that the Bahá'ís should weigh these thoughts, and take action for the sake of spreading the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh, and for their own ultimate happiness as well. Indeed the two things go together."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, June 20, 1954: Bahá'í News, No. 283, September 1954, p. 2)
449. Man's Outlook on Life Too Crude and Materialistic
"Indeed, the chief reason for the evils now rampant in society is the lack of
spirituality. The materialistic civilization of our age has so much absorbed the energy and interest of mankind that people in general do no longer feel the necessity of raising themselves above the forces and conditions of their daily material existence. There is not sufficient demand for things that we should call spiritual to differentiate them from the needs and requirements of our physical existence.
"The universal crisis affecting mankind is, therefore, essentially spiritual in its causes. The spirit of the age, taken on the whole, is irreligious. Man's outlook on life is too crude and materialistic to enable him to elevate himself into the higher realms of the spirit.
"It is this condition, so sadly morbid, into which society has fallen, that religion seeks to improve and transform...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, December 8, 1935)
450. Mental Tests to be Suffered by Believers in the West
"And yet, how often we seem to forget the clear and repeated warnings of our beloved Master, who in particular during the concluding years of His mission on earth, laid stress on the severe mental tests that would inevitably sweep over His loved ones of the West ... tests that would purge, purify and prepare them for their noble mission in life.
"Ours then is the duty and privilege to labour, by day, by night, amidst the storm and stress of these troublous days, that we may quicken the zeal of our fellow-man, rekindle their hopes, stimulate their interests, open their eyes to the true Faith of God and enlist their active support in the carrying out of our common task for the peace and regeneration of the world."
(From a letter written by Shoghi Effendi to the believers in Australia and New Zealand, December 2, 1923: Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, 1923-1957, pp. 1-2)
451. A Civilization Torn by Strife
"In the midst of a civilization torn by strifes and enfeebled by materialism, the people of Baha are building a new world. We face at this time opportunities and responsibilities of vast magnitude and great urgency. Let each believer in his inmost heart resolve not to be seduced by the ephemeral allurements of the society around him, nor to be drawn into its feuds and short-lived enthusiasms, but instead to transfer all he can from the old world to that new one which is the vision of his longing and will be the fruit of his labours."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the East and West, December 18, 1963)
452. Fierce and Manifold Will Be Assaults Faith to Suffer
"...The generality of mankind, blind and enslaved, is wholly unaware of the healing power with which this community has been endowed, nor can it as yet suspect the role which this same community is destined to play in its redemption. Fierce and manifold will be the assaults with which governments, races, classes and religions, jealous of its rising prestige and fearful of its consolidating strength, will seek to silence its voice and sap its foundations. Unmoved by the relative obscurity that surrounds it at the present time, and undaunted by the forces that will be arrayed against it in the future, this community, I cannot but feel confident, will, no matter how afflictive the agonies of a travailing age, pursue its destiny, undeflected in
its course, undimmed in its serenity, unyielding in its resolve, unshaken in its convictions."
(Shoghi Effendi: Messages to America, p. 14)
453. Our Duty to Redeem Fellow Men
"...It is our duty to redeem as many of our fellow men as we possibly can, whose hearts are enlightened, before some great catastrophe overtakes them, in which they will either be hopelessly swallowed up or come out purified and strengthened, and ready to serve. The more believers there are to stand forth as beacons in the darkness whenever that time does come, the better; hence the supreme importance of the teaching work at this time...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of South and West Africa, July 9, 1957: Teaching the Masses, p. 11)
454. Bahá'ís Are the Leaven of God, the Chosen People of God
"...The Bahá'ís are the leaven of God, which must leaven the lump of their nation. In direct ratio to their success will be the protection vouchsafed, not only to them but to their country. These are the immutable laws of God, from which there is no escape: 'For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.'
"They cannot be the chosen people of God,--the ones who have received the bounty of accepting Him in His Day, the recipients of the Master's Divine Plan--and do nothing about it. The obligation to teach is the obligation of every Bahá'í, and particularly, the obligations of the American Bahá'ís towards humanity are great and inescapable. To the degree to which they discharge them will they be blessed and protected, happy and satisfied."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 21, 1957: Bahá'í News, November 1957)
455. Eyes of the World Focussed on Us
"...The eyes of the people of the world are beginning to be focussed on us, and as humanity's plight goes from bad to worse, we will be watched ever more intently by non-Bahá'ís, to see whether we do uphold our own institutions wholeheartedly; whether we are the people of the new creation or not; whether we live up to our beliefs, principles and laws in deed as well as word. We cannot be too careful. We cannot be too exemplary."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, August 5, 1955: Canadian Bahá'í News, Special Section, March 1973, p. 6)
456. Bahá'ís Have Task of Cleansing Humanity by Precept and Example
"In many letters and on many occasions the beloved Guardian warned that the disintegrating process will penetrate deeper and deeper into the very core of human society and that much suffering is in store ere mankind is fused by the fires of universal affliction into one organic commonwealth. Even when universal suffrage and all other rights presently sought by civil rights movements are fully attained, there still remains for the Bahá'ís the unaccomplished task of cleansing humanity, by precept and example, of every trace of racial prejudice. Nothing but the Faith of God can accomplish this."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, March 30, 1965: United States Supplement to Bahá'í News, No. 90, August 1965, p. 2)
Page 137 457. Chosen Ones of God Should Not Be Content with Relative Distinction and Excellence
"The chosen ones of God ... should not look at the depraved conditions of the society in which they live, nor at the evidences of moral degradation and frivolous conduct which the people around them display. They should not content themselves merely with relative distinction and excellence. Rather they should fix their gaze upon nobler heights by setting the counsels and exhortations of the Pen of Glory as their supreme goal. Then it will be readily realized how numerous are the stages that still remain to be traversed and how far off the desired goal lies--a goal which is none other than exemplifying heavenly morals and virtues."
(From a letter of Shoghi Effendi to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tihran, October 30, 1924: Living the Life, p. 2)
458. Obstacles that Stand in the Path
"The gross materialism that engulfs the entire nation at the present hour; the attachment to worldly things that enshrouds the souls of men; the fear and anxieties that distract their minds; the pleasure and dissipations that fill their time, the prejudices and animosities that darken their outlook, the apathy and lethargy that paralyze their spiritual faculties--these are among the formidable obstacles that stand in the path of every would-be warrior in the service of Bahá'u'lláh, obstacles which he must battle against and surmount in his crusade for the redemption of his own countrymen."
(Shoghi Effendi: Citadel of Faith, p. 149)
459. Civilization Undergoing Severe and Unparalleled Tests
"Let us pray to God that in these days of world-encircling gloom, when the dark forces of nature, of hate, rebellion, anarchy and reaction are threatening the very stability of human society, when the most precious fruits of civilization are undergoing severe and unparalleled tests, we may all realize, more profoundly than ever, that though but a mere handful amidst the seething masses of the world, we are in this day the chosen instruments of God's grace, that our mission is most urgent and vital to the fate of humanity, and, fortified by these sentiments, arise to achieve God's holy purpose for mankind."
(Shoghi Effendi: Bahá'í Administration, p. 35)
Page 138VII. CEREMONIES
460. Not Accurate to State that Bahá'í Faith Has No Ceremonies
"It is not accurate to state that the Bahá'í Faith has no ceremonies. The marriage ceremony and the funeral service are examples of such observances in our teachings.
"It would be correct, however, to state that the Faith has certain basic laws and simple rites prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh and that its teachings warn against developing these into a system of uniform and rigid rituals by introducing into them man-made forms and practices. Rituals in other religions usually consist of elaborate ceremonial practices, such as those of the Catholic Church in the celebration of the Mass and the administration of the sacraments, which are performed by a member of the clergy.
"In carrying out the basic laws of our Faith the friends should always maintain a standard of utmost simplicity and observe flexibility in all matters of detail."
(From a letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of Colombia from the Universal House of Justice, August 31, 1967)
461. Naming Ceremonies
"We have your letter of August 22, 1966 inquiring whether 'naming ceremonies' for children should be encouraged as a community activity. In a letter to an individual believer, dated December 20, 1938, the beloved Guardian said:
'Regarding your question whether there is any special ceremony which the believers should perform when they wish to 'name' a baby: The Teachings do not provide for any ceremony whatever on such occasions. We have no 'baptismal service' in the Cause, such as the Christians have. There could be no objection, however, for the friends to come together on such happy occasions, provided they do not hold an official public ceremony, and provided also they strictly avoid any uniformity and rigidity in all such practices...'
"We feel that this activity should be left to the discretion of the parents."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 7, 1966: American Bahá'í, December 1970, p. 10)
462. Spiritual Baptism of Children
"Thou hast asked regarding the naming of children: When thou wishest to name a babe, prepare a meeting therefore; chant the verses and communes, and supplicate and implore the Threshold of Oneness and beg the attainment of guidance for the babe and wish confirmated firmness and constancy; then give the name and enjoy beverage and sweet-meat. This is spiritual baptism."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. I, pp. 149-150)
463. Baptism of Child
"We have your letter of September 14th inquiring about the baptism of a child where
one of the partners to the marriage is a Christian and the other is a Bahá'í.
"Obviously, if both parties are Bahá'ís they cannot baptize their child, however, in the case of a non-Bahá'í spouse insisting upon the baptism of the children, we said in a letter to the National Assembly of Spain on 18 February 1965:
'The Bahá'í parent may attend the ceremony with the understanding that he will not undertake any commitment or vow which is contrary to the principles of his Faith.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 21, 1966)
464. Bahá'ís May and Should Participate in Harmless Cultural, Traditional Observances
"In deciding whether or not to participate in such traditional activities, the Bahá'ís must guard against two extremes. The one is to disassociate themselves needlessly from harmless cultural observances and thus alienate themselves from their non-Bahá'í families and friends; the other is to continue the practice of abrogated observances of previous dispensations and thus undermine the independence of the Bahá'í Faith and create undesirable distinctions between themselves and their fellow-Bahá'ís...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Malaysia, May 26, 1982)
465. There Are Some Religious Ceremonies in which Bahá'ís Should Not Participate
"There are some exclusive religious ceremonies in which Bahá'ís should not participate, in order to safeguard the independence of the Faith. In this regard, the beloved Guardian has given the following advice to another National Assembly: 'In these days the friends should, as much as possible, demonstrate through their deeds the independence of the Holy Faith of God, and its freedom from the customs, rituals and practices of a discredited and abrogated past.' In observing this principle, the House of Justice advises the Bahá'ís to maintain a balance between their adherence to the Cause and obedience to its laws on the one hand, and their role in society on the other. When an individual becomes a Bahá'í he acquires, as you are aware, a wider loyalty to the Manifestations of God. Having found this new way of life, he should be careful not to isolate himself from his family and his people, and he should show respect for his former religion. The Bahá'ís should, of course, avoid performing any acts which could be considered as implying their membership in another religion or which are contrary to Bahá'í principles. There is a clear distinction between participating in festive and cultural events, as opposed to performing religious ceremonies and rituals.
"It should also be remembered that the weaning away of the Bahá'ís from customs and traditions, which have been established among communities for centuries, takes time and is a gradual process. Therefore, while the National Assembly should avoid rigidity in these matters, it should also not compromise when the interests of the Faith and its integrity and independence are at stake."
Page 140 466. Bahá'í Parent May Attend Baptismal Ceremony, but Cannot Make Any Commitment or Vow
"In reply to your letter of 5 September 1984 saying that a ... believer will soon marry a member of the Roman Catholic Church and asking whether it is permissible for their children to be baptized, the Universal House of Justice has instructed us to convey its guidance.
"Children of such a union may be baptized if the Christian parent so wishes; from the Bahá'í point of view the baptism has no effect. It must be emphasized, however, that the Bahá'í parent, while perfectly free to attend the baptismal ceremony, should not undertake any commitment or vow contrary to Bahá'í law and should not surrender her parental right to impart the Bahá'í teachings to her child."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Switzerland, September 20, 1984)
Page 141VIII. CHILDREN
A. Adopted Children and Orphans
467. "He that Bringeth Up His Son or the Son of Another..."
"...He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My loving-kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, K. 48, p. 37)
468. Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá Laud Those Who Adopt Children
"It was a pleasure to Shoghi Effendi to receive your letter of May 26th and to hear about your adopted children. This is a truly Bahá'í act especially as it was often lauded both by Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá, and the Guardian trusts that they will grow to become Bahá'í workers, and thus repay your kind generosity."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, June 20, 1931)
469. Adopted Child and Its Natural Parents+F1
"It is clear that the separation of a child from its natural parents is a tragedy that society must do its best to prevent or mitigate. It is also clear that in certain cases the actual separation may be better for the child than to continue living with a parent whose conduct and character make him unworthy of this sacred function, for the Guardian has explicitly stated that the severing of family ties and renunciation of responsibilities between parents and the children is, in certain cases, permissible under the law of God, but that the Universal House of Justice has to make the law governing such matters.
"Whenever the law of the land or the agreement of adoption prohibits future contact between an adopted child and its natural parents, the Bahá'í law does not require the child to seek the consent of those parents to its marriage.
"In the situation, however, where contact with the natural parent is permitted, it should be a matter of wise discretion at what stage contact, in cases where it has been broken, should be re-established. Just as love for one person need not reduce the love one bears to another, so unity with the adoptive parents need not destroy or reduce the unity a child has with its natural parents, or vice versa. The characters and attitudes of the individuals concerned will have an effect upon this...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, February 17, 1971)
470. A Bahá'í Cannot Take Vow to Educate Adopted Child in Another Religion
"A Bahá'í may not undertake a vow which commits him to any action contrary to the principles of the Faith. In other words, Mrs. ... cannot agree to rear a child in the Catholic Faith.
+F1 (See also: VIII. J. 1. Laws of Marriage, Parental Consent, 1231
"Furthermore, if it is necessary to go through the Catholic marriage ceremony for the sake of the adoption, Mrs. ... must make it clear to the church authorities that she is a Bahá'í, intends to remain a Bahá'í, and that she cannot undertake any vow which is contrary to the laws and principles of her Faith."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, November 26, 1964)
471. A Bahá'í Who Swears to Rear His Children in Another Faith is Subject to Administrative Sanction
"...no Bahá'í can conscientiously swear to bring up his children in another religion; and of course he has no right to lie; therefore it becomes impossible for him to make such a promise on his marriage to a non-Bahá'í. Any Bahá'í doing this should be deprived of his voting rights; and, as he has already made plain before, Bahá'ís who go to the church and are married as Christians must also of necessity be deprived of their voting rights."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the European Teaching Committee, May 13, 1956)
472. Duty Towards Orphans
"In this holy Cause the question of orphans hath the utmost importance. The greatest consideration must be shown towards orphans; they must be taught, trained and educated. The Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, especially, must by all means be given to them as far as possible.
"I supplicate God that thou mayest become a kind parent to orphaned children, quickening them with the fragrances of the Holy Spirit, so that they will attain the age of maturity as true servants of the world of humanity and as bright candles in the assemblage of mankind."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Bahá'í Education, p. 46)
B. Godparents or Co-Parenthood
473. Bahá'ís Serving as Godparents
"In answer to your letter of 28 September 1984 on the above subject, the Universal House of Justice has instructed us to send you the following guidelines.
"The position of 'godparent' varies considerably from country to country, and from one Christian denomination to another.
"In many cases it involves the godparent in participation in a religious service as a member of the church in question, and in assumption of the obligation to bring the child up in the teachings of that church. It is clearly impossible for a Bahá'í to become a godparent in such circumstances. However, where individuals have undertaken vows as godparents prior to becoming Bahá'ís, the Faith does not require them to disavow their promise, but the new Bahá'í should inform the parents of his change in religion so that they may make a change in godparents if they so desire.
"In some countries a godfather or godmother is regarded by most people simply as a good friend of the family who sends gifts to the child annually. If that were all, there would, of course, be no objection to a Bahá'í's accepting
to be a godfather or godmother. However, even in such countries it is likely that, beyond assuming this responsibility, the godparent would have to take part in the baptismal ceremony of the infant and, although many nominal Christians may treat such matters very lightly, a Bahá'í should be aware of the solemnity with which the church regards the rite and should not assume an undertaking which he cannot fulfil or do anything which would imply a denial of his faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Switzerland, November 4, 1984)
474. Bahá'í Couple Should Not Have Their Child Baptized
"The House of Justice has noted your strong emphasis upon the social and economic aspects of co-parenthood in your country, and your mention of the religious basis for the custom. While the diminution of Christian fervor among the rank and file of Dominicans may be great, nevertheless the baptismal origin and other religious aspects of godparenthood cannot be minimized, particularly for rural people who may well be under pressure from parish priests. Your Assembly understands that a conscientious Bahá'í couple must not have their children baptized, nor should Bahá'ís ordinarily participate as godparents in a baptismal ceremony for this also may seem to imply their affiliation with the church...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Dominican Republic, February 17, 1980)
475. A Bahá'í May Become Godparent of a Non-Bahá'í Child if Conditions Are Clear
"You ask whether a Bahá'í may 'become the godparent of the child of a non-Bahá'í if he made it clear that he is a Bahá'í, cannot promise to bring up the child in the Catholic religion, is not affiliated with the Church...'. He may do so, for in such a case all concerned are informed of his beliefs. If called for, an agreement may be drawn up, through the Local Assembly or a lawyer, which would define the social elements of the co-parental relationship while omitting the religious ones."
476. Those Who Took Vows as Godparents Prior to Becoming Bahá'ís
"You ask about those who have undertaken vows as godparents prior to becoming Bahá'ís. Trustworthiness is one of the great qualities which must characterize Bahá'ís, and the new believer therefore, far from repudiating any commitments entered into before becoming a Bahá'í, must be ever more conscientious in discharging them. However there are certain actions which would violate Bahá'í principles and from which the believer must abstain. Others would be incompatible with his allegiance to the Faith, such as the promise made by a godparent to bring up the godchild in the teachings of the Catholic church. In such a case the new believer could suggest to the parents that because of his new understanding of Christianity they would probably prefer to cancel that part of the agreement, at the same time explaining his willingness to continue to discharge the social and economic functions of the godparenthood. The whole matter should be dealt with in a gentle and conciliatory manner, in the hope of retaining the friendship and trust of all concerned."
Page 144 477. Non-Bahá'í Godparents of Bahá'í Children
"In the case of non-Bahá'ís who are godparents of Bahá'í children, the changed obligations of their roles may be quietly discussed with them by the Bahá'í parents, who would point out that they may now wish to be freed of their commitments, and that in any case the religious aspects of the relationship are no longer in effect."
478. Two Bahá'ís May Enter into a Co-Parental Agreement
"You have asked about the possibility of two Bahá'ís entering into a co-parental agreement within the Faith, there is no objection to this."
C. Education and Training of Children
479. Must First Train Children in Principles of Religion
"...Schools must first train the children in the principles of religion, so that the Promise and the Threat recorded in the Books of God may prevent them from the things forbidden and adorn them with the mantle of the commandments; but this in such a measure that it may not injure the children by resulting in ignorant fanaticism and bigotry."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 68)
480. Encourage the Children from Early Childhood
"Encourage the children from their earliest years to master every kind of learning, and make them eager to become skilled in every art--the aim being that through the favouring grace of God, the heart of each one may become even as a mirror disclosing the secrets of the universe, penetrating the innermost reality of all things; and that each may earn worldwide fame in all branches of knowledge, science and the arts.
"Certainly, certainly neglect not the education of the children. Rear them to be possessed of spiritual qualities, and be assured of the gifts and favours of the Lord."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Bahá'í Education, pp. 27-28)
481. Incumbent Upon Bahá'í Children to Surpass Other Children
"It is incumbent upon Bahá'í children to surpass other children in the acquisition of sciences and arts, for they have been cradled in the grace of God.
"Whatever other children learn in a year, let Bahá'í children learn in a month. The heart of Abdu'l-Bahá longeth, in its love, to find that Bahá'í young people, each and all, are known throughout the world for their intellectual attainments. There is no question but that they will exert all their efforts, their energies, their sense of pride, to acquire the sciences and arts."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 141)
482. Parents Held Responsible to God for Education of Children
"It is for this reason that, in this new cycle, education and training are recorded
in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary. That is, it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts. Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, 1982, pp. 126-127)
483. Teachers of Children Serving Bahá'u'lláh
"...this teaching of the children is a service to the Blessed Perfection. Whosoever serves the world of humanity in this or any other way is serving His Holiness Bahá'u'lláh. Your heavenly reward is with Him. The education of children is one of the most great services. All these children are mine. If they are educated and illumined, it is as though my own children were so characterized..."
(Talk of Abdu'l-Bahá in the Holy Land: Star of the West, Vol. XIII, No. 6, p. 172)
484. Failure to Educate Child is an Unpardonable Sin
"This is a sin unpardonable, for they have made that poor babe a wanderer in the Sahara of ignorance, unfortunate and tormented: to remain during a lifetime a captive of ignorance and pride, negligent and without discernment. Verily, if that babe depart from this world at the age of infancy, it is sweeter and better. In this sense, death is better than life; deprivation than salvation; non-existence lovelier than existence; the grave better than the palace; the narrow, dingy tomb better than the spacious, regal home; for in the sight of mankind that child is abased and degraded and in the sight of God weak and defective. In gatherings it is ashamed and humiliated and in the arena of examination subdued and defeated by young and old. What a mistake is this! What an everlasting humiliation!"
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. III, p. 579)
485. Child Left in Natural State Grows Up in Ignorance...
"If a child is left in its natural state and deprived of education, there is no doubt that it will grow up in ignorance and illiteracy, its mental faculties dulled and dimmed; in fact it will become like an animal..."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 311, 1982 ed.)
486. If Babe Did Not Live at All, Better Than to Grow Ignorant
"Therefore the beloved of God and maid-servant of the Merciful must train their children with life and heart and teach them in the school of virtue and perfection. They must not be lax in this matter; they must not be inefficient. Truly, if a babe did not live at all it were better than to let it grow ignorant, for that innocent babe, in later life, would become afflicted with innumerable defects, responsible to and questioned by God, reproached and rejected by the people. What a sin this would be and what an omission!
"Beware! Beware! that ye fail not in this matter. Endeavour with heart, with life, to train your children, especially the daughters. No excuse is acceptable in this matter."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. III, p. 579)
Page 146 487. Training in Morals and Good Conduct is Far More Important Than Book Learning
"Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved--even though he be ignorant--is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the sciences and arts. The reason for this is that the child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If, however, the child be trained to be both learned and good, the result is light upon light."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 135-136)
488. Pupil Must Be Encouraged+F1
"If a pupil is told that his intelligence is less than his fellow-pupils, it is a very great drawback and handicap to his progress. He must be encouraged to advance, by the statement, 'You are most capable and if you endeavour you will attain the highest degree.'"
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 77)
489. Station of Those Who Serve and Teach Children
"O thou teacher of the children of the Kingdom!
"Thou hast arisen to perform a service which would justly entitle thee to vaunt thyself over all the teachers on earth. For the teachers of this world make use of human education to develop the powers, whether spiritual or material, of humankind, whilst thou art training these young plants in the gardens of God according to the education of Heaven, and art giving them the lessons of the Kingdom.
"The result of this kind of teaching will be that it will attract the blessings of God, and make manifest the perfections of man.
"Hold thou fast to this kind of teaching, for the fruits of it will be very great. The children must, from their infancy, be raised to be spiritual and godly Bahá'ís. If such be their training, they will remain safe from every test."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Bahá'í Education, p. 34)
490. Methods of Teaching Children
"Among these children many blessed souls will arise, if they be trained according to the Bahá'í Teachings. If a plant is carefully nurtured by a gardener, it will become good, and produce better fruit. These children must be given a good training from their earliest childhood. They must be given a systematic training which will further their development from day to day, in order that they may receive greater insight, so that their spiritual receptivity be broadened. Beginning in childhood they must receive instruction. They cannot be taught through books. Many elementary sciences must be made clear to them in the nursery; they must learn them in play, in amusement. Most ideas must be taught them through speech, not by book learning. One child must question the other concerning these things, and the other child must give the answer. In this way, they will make great progress. For example, mathematical problems must also be taught in the form
+F1 (See also: VIII. C. Education and Training of Children
of questions and answers. One of the children asks a question and the other must give the answer. Later on, the children will of their own accord speak with each other concerning these same subjects. The children who are at the head of the class must receive premiums. They must be encouraged and when any one of them shows good advancement, for the further development they must be praised and encouraged therein. Even so in godlike affairs. Oral questions must be asked and the answers must be given orally. They must discuss with each other in this manner."
(Talks of Abdu'l-Bahá: The Bahá'í World, Vol. IX, p. 543; Bahá'í Education, p. 73)
491. A Wise Schoolmaster
"A wise schoolmaster should send his scholars out to play or to practice gymnastics for an hour, so that their minds and bodies may be refreshed, and during the hour of the lesson they may learn it better. If the teacher proves that his scholars are advancing, no on-looker has a right to object to his system, or to question his wisdom and say he wastes the boys' time. If a wise father plays with his children, who has a right to say it is not good for them? He calls them to come to him as the hen calls her chicks; he knows that they are little and must be coaxed along--coaxed along because they are young and tiny."
(Words of Abdu'l-Bahá: Star of the West, Vol. IX, No. 8, p. 91)
492. Curriculum of Study: Must Follow Same Curriculum for Daughters and Sons
"He promulgated the adoption of the same course of education for man and woman. Daughters and sons must follow the same curriculum of study, thereby promoting unity of the sexes. When all mankind shall receive the same opportunity of education and the equality of men and women be realized, the foundations of war will be utterly destroyed. Without equality this will be impossible because all differences and distinction are conducive to discord and strife. Equality between men and women is conducive to the abolition of warfare for the reason that women will never be willing to sanction it. Mothers will not give their sons as sacrifices upon the battle-field after twenty years of anxiety and loving devotion in rearing them from infancy, no matter what cause they are called upon to defend. There is no doubt that when women obtain equality of rights war will entirely cease among mankind."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 174-175)
493. Beginning of Formal Education
"...From the age of five their formal education must begin. That is, during the daytime they should be looked after in a place where there are teachers, and should learn good conduct.
"Here they should be taught, in play, some letters and words and a little reading--as is done in certain countries where they fashion letters and words out of sweets and give them to the child. For example, they make an 'a' out of candy and say its name is 'a', or make a candy 'b' and call it 'b', and so on with the rest of the alphabet, giving these to the young child. In this way children will soon learn their letters...
"When the children are ready for bed, let the mother read or sing them the Odes of the Blessed Beauty, so that from their earliest years they will be educated by these verses of guidance."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Bahá'í Education, pp. 39-40)
Page 148 494. Subjects to be Taught in Children's Classes
"The subjects to be taught in children's schools are many, and for lack of time We can touch on only a few: First and most important is training in behaviour and good character; the rectification of qualities; arousing the desire to become accomplished and acquire perfections, and to cleave unto the religion of God and stand firm in His Laws; to accord total obedience to every just government, to show forth loyalty and trustworthiness to the ruler of the time, to be well wishers of mankind, to be kind to all.
"And further, as well as in the ideals of character, instruction in such arts and sciences as are of benefit, and in foreign tongues. Also, the repeating of prayers for the well-being of ruler and ruled; and the avoidance of materialistic works that are current among those who see only natural causation, and tales of love, and books that arouse the passions.
"To sum up, let all the lessons be entirely devoted to the acquisition of human perfections."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: from a Tablet published in The Bahá'í World, Vol. XVI, p. 37)
495. Formal Education Must Begin at the Age of Five
"The Tablet of Abdu'l-Bahá concerning the education of children refers particularly to their formal education which He says must begin at the age of five. The Master makes it clear that during the daytime children of that age and older should be looked after in a place where there are teachers. They should learn good conduct and be taught how to spell and to read and He indicates that spelling and reading can be learned by the use of simple games. Children of all ages can benefit from the guidance given to mothers by Abdu'l-Bahá in which He advises that when the children are ready for bed their mothers should read or sing to them verses of Bahá'u'lláh so that from their earliest years the children will be educated by these words of the Blessed Beauty. The House of Justice adds that you should feel free to hold classes for children under the age of five provided you keep in mind that their attention span is relatively short and so the duration of their class periods should be measured accordingly."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Spiritual Assembly of Newton, Kansas, March 24, 1976)
496. Nothing in Teachings States Child Must Not Be Separated from Parents for First Five Years
"There is nothing in the teachings specifically to state that a child must not be separated from its parents and its home for the first five years of its life. In a Tablet, however, Abdu'l-Bahá points out that formal education at school begins when the child is five years old. Shoghi Effendi has indicated in one of his letters that the formulation of a system of education based on the teachings can only be gradually undertaken, and has to be accomplished by Bahá'í scholars and educationalists of the future...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, March 10, 1975)
497. Mother Has Chief Responsibility for Bringing Up Child
"The task of bringing up a Bahá'í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá'í writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother, whose unique privilege is indeed to create in her home such conditions as would be most conducive to both his material
and spiritual welfare and advancement. The training which the child first receives through his mother constitutes the strongest foundation for his future development...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer in India, November 16, 1939: Dawn of a New Day, p. 202)
498. Mothers Ordained Primary Trainers of Children and Infants
"...It is incumbent upon you to train the children from their earliest babyhood!... It is incumbent upon you to attend to them under all aspects and circumstances, inasmuch as God--glorified and exalted is He!--hath ordained mothers to be the primary trainers of children and infants. This is a great and important affair and a high and exalted position, and it is not allowable to slacken therein at all!"
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. III, p. 606)
499. Training of Children in Case One of Parents is Non-Bahá'í
"The question of the training and education of children in case one of the parents is a non-Bahá'í is one which solely concerns the parents themselves, who should decide about it the way they find best and most conducive to the maintenance of the unity of their family, and to the future welfare of their children. Once the child comes of age, however, he should be given full freedom to choose his religion, irrespective of the wishes and desires of his parents."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, December 14, 1940: Dawn of a New Day, p. 86)
500. Greatest of All Services Rendered by Man to Almighty God--Teach Children to Deliver Speeches of High Quality
"Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children...
"It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God's abounding grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All-Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world.
"Ye should consider the question of goodly character as of the first importance. It is incumbent upon every father and mother to counsel their children over a long period, and guide them unto those things which lead to everlasting honour.
"Encourage ye the school children, from their earliest years, to deliver speeches of high quality, so that in their leisure time they will engage in giving cogent and effective talks, expressing themselves with clarity and eloquence."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 133-134)
501. Preferable that Child Should Receive First Training at Home Under Mother Instead of in the Nursery
"With reference to the question of the training of children: Given the emphasis placed by Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá on the necessity for the parents to train their children while still in their tender age, it would seem preferable that they should receive their first training at home at the hand of their mother, rather than be sent to a nursery.
Should circumstances, however, compel a Bahá'í mother to adopt the latter course, there can be no objection."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 13, 1940)
502. Spiritual Assemblies Should Provide Mothers with Well-Planned Programme
"So long as the mother faileth to train her children, and start them on a proper way of life, the training which they receive later on will not take its full effect. It is incumbent upon the Spiritual Assemblies to provide the mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children, showing how, from infancy, the child must be watched over and taught. These instructions must be given to every mother to serve her as a guide, so that each will train and nurture her children in accordance with the Teachings."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 138)
503. Difficult to Teach and Refine Character Once Puberty is Passed
"It is extremely difficult to teach the individual and refine his character once puberty is passed. By then, as experience hath shown, even if every effort be exerted to modify some tendency of his, it all availeth nothing. He may, perhaps, improve somewhat today; but let a few days pass and he forgetteth, and turneth backward to his habitual condition and accustomed ways. Therefore it is in early childhood that a firm foundation must be laid. While the branch is green and tender it can easily be made straight.
"Our meaning is that qualities of the spirit are the basic and divine foundation, and adorn the true essence of man; and knowledge is the cause of human progress. The beloved of God must attach great importance to this matter, and carry it forward with enthusiasm and zeal."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Bahá'í Education, pp. 24-25)
504. Should Train Children to Memorize Prayers and Tablets+F1
"He is very glad to know that you attach importance to the training of the children, for whatever they learn in that early stage of their development will leave its traces upon their whole life. It becomes part of their nature.
"The Master used to attach much importance to the learning by heart of the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh and the Bab. During His days it was a usual work of the children of the household to learn Tablets by heart; now, however, those children are grown up and do not have time for such a thing. But the practice is most useful to implant the ideas and spirit those words contain into the mind of the children.
"With 'the Dawn-Breakers' in your possession you could also arrange interesting stories about the early days of the Movement which the children would like to hear. There are also stories about the life of Christ, Muhammad and the other Prophets which if told to the children will break down any religious prejudice they may have learned from older people of little understanding."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Spiritual Assembly of West Englewood, October 19, 1932)
+F1 (See also: No. 1516
Page 151 505. Sacred Duty of Children Towards Their Parents
"...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 one's parents. This teaching hath been mentioned in all the Books of God, and reaffirmed by the Most Exalted Pen...."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, Q. 106, p. 139)
"There are also certain sacred duties of children toward parents, which duties are written in the Book of God, as belonging to God. The (children's) prosperity in this world and the Kingdom depends upon the good pleasure of parents, and without this they will be in manifest loss."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Bahá'í Education, p. 50)
506. Children Should Be Trained to Understand Spiritual Significance of Bahá'í Meetings
"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 14th September 1982 concerning the role of Local Spiritual Assemblies in guiding parents and children in standards of behaviour for children at community gatherings, such as Nineteen Day Feasts and Bahá'í Holy Day observances.
"Further to the letter we wrote on its behalf on 28th June 1977, the House of Justice has instructed us to say that children should be trained to understand the spiritual significance of the gatherings of the followers of the Blessed Beauty, and to appreciate the honour and bounty of being able to take part in them, whatever their outward form may be. It is realized that some Bahá'í observances are lengthy and it is difficult for very small children to remain quiet for so long. In such cases one or other of the parents may have to miss part of the meeting in order to care for the child. The Spiritual Assembly can also perhaps help the parents by providing for a children's observance, suited to their capacities, in a separate room during part of the community's observance. Attendance at the whole of the adult celebration thus becomes a sign of growing maturity and a distinction to be earned by good behaviour.
"In any case, the House of Justice points out that parents are responsible for their children and should make them behave when they attend Bahá'í meetings. If children persist in creating a disturbance they should be taken out of the meeting. This is not merely necessary to ensure the properly dignified conduct of Bahá'í meetings but is an aspect of the training of children in courtesy, consideration for others, reverence, and obedience to their parents."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, October 14, 1982)
507. Few Children Are Really Bad
"He is sorry to hear your little boy is not developing satisfactorily; very few children are really bad. They do, however, sometimes have complicated personalities and need very wise handling to enable them to grow into normal, moral, happy adults. If you feel convinced your son will really benefit from going to ...'s school you could send him there. But in general we should certainly always avoid sending Bahá'í children to orthodox religious schools, especially Catholic, as the children receive the imprint of religious beliefs we as believers know are out-dated and no longer for this age. He will especially pray for the solution of this problem."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, May 30, 1947)
Page 152 508. Children Fighting
"Regarding your question about children fighting: The statement of the Master, not to strike back, should not be taken so extremely literally that Bahá'í children must accept to be bullied and thrashed. If they can manage to show a better way of settling disputes than by active self-defence, they should naturally do so."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 11, 1945)
509. Physical Punishment
"As to your question about the use of physical punishment in child training, although there is a Tablet of the Master which considers beating as not permissible, this does not necessarily include every form of corporal punishment. In order to have a full grasp of the Master's attitude towards punishment, one has to study all His Tablets in this respect. For the time being no hard and fast rule can be laid down, and parents must use their own wise discretion in these matters until the time is ripe for the principles of Bahá'í education of children to be more clearly elucidated and applied."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 12, 1975)
510. Problem Child: Discipline of Some Sort Indispensable
"With regard to the statement attributed to Abdu'l-Bahá and which you have quoted in your letter regarding a 'problem child': These statements of the Master, however true in their substance, should never be given a literal interpretation. Abdu'l-Bahá could have never meant that a child should be left to himself, entirely free. In fact Bahá'í education, just like any other system of education is based on the assumption that there are certain natural deficiencies in every child, no matter how gifted, which his educators, whether his parents, school masters, or his spiritual guides and preceptors should endeavour to remedy. Discipline of some sort, whether physical, moral or intellectual, is indeed indispensable, and no training can be said to be complete and fruitful if it disregards this element. The child when born is far from being perfect. It is not only helpless, but actually is imperfect, and even is naturally inclined towards evil. He should be trained, his natural inclinations harmonized, adjusted and controlled, and if necessary suppressed or regulated, so as to insure his healthy physical and moral development. Bahá'í parents cannot simply adopt an attitude of non-resistance towards their children, particularly those who are unruly and violent by nature. It is not even sufficient that they should pray on their behalf. Rather they should endeavour to inculcate, gently and patiently, into their youthful minds such principles of moral conduct and initiate them into the principles and teachings of the Cause with such tactful and loving care as would enable them to become 'true sons of God' and develop into loyal and intelligent citizens of His Kingdom. This is the high purpose which Bahá'u'lláh Himself has clearly defined as the chief goal of every education."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 9, 1939: Bahá'í Education, pp. 65-66)
511. It is Not Permissible to Strike a Child
"Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children
is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it. Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary. It is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child's character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Bahá'í Education, pp. 49-50)
E. Registration of Children
512. Bahá'í Children Do Not Automatically Inherit Faith of Parents
"In letters replying to questions on the registration of children and youth the Universal House of Justice has attempted to avoid laying down rulings that are universally applicable. However, for the assistance of National Spiritual Assemblies it is now providing the following summary of guidelines and elucidations that have been given. We are to emphasize that no hard and fast lines should be drawn, and procedural matters must never be allowed to eclipse the spiritual reality of belief, which is an intensely personal relationship between the soul and its Creator.
"Unlike the children of some other religions, Bahá'í children do not automatically inherit the Faith of their parents. However, the parents are responsible for the upbringing and spiritual welfare of their children, and Spiritual Assemblies have the duty to assist parents, if necessary, in fulfilling these obligations, so that the children will be reared in the light of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh and from their earliest years will learn to love God and His Manifestations and to walk in the way of God's Law. It is natural, therefore, to regard the children of Bahá'ís as Bahá'ís unless there is a reason to conclude the contrary. It is quite wrong to think of Bahá'í children as existing in some sort of spiritual limbo until the age of fifteen at which point they can 'become' Bahá'ís. In the light of this one can conclude the following:
Children born to a Bahá'í couple are regarded as Bahá'ís from the beginning of their lives, and their births should be registered by the Spiritual Assembly.
The birth of a child to a couple, one of whom is a Bahá'í, should also be registered unless the non-Bahá'í parent objects.
A Spiritual Assembly may accept the declaration of faith of a child of non-Bahá'í parents, and register him as Bahá'í child, provided the parents give their consent."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, July 19, 1982)
513. Children Whose Parents Become Bahá'ís
"In the cases of children whose parents become Bahá'ís, much depends upon the ages and reactions of the children concerned. They will require great love and
understanding, and each case must be judged on its own merits. This applies to an added degree, of course, if only one of the parents has accepted the Faith, in which case the attitude of the other parent is an important factor; the aim of the Bahá'ís should be to foster family unity. The important thing is that the children, whether registered as Bahá'ís or not, should be made to feel welcome at Bahá'í children's classes and other community gatherings."
514. Status of Children Under the Age of 15+F1
"We have your letter of 18th August 1971 concerning the status of children under the age of 15 years who wish to become Bahá'ís. We share with you an extract of a letter on the subject written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary:
'Up to the age of 15 years, children are under the direction of their parents. At the age of 15, they may declare their Faith as a conviction, and be registered as Bahá'í youth, whether the parents are Bahá'ís or not. Children under the age of 15 of Bahá'í parents who wish to attend meetings and associate with the friends as Bahá'ís may do so. If non-Bahá'í parents permit a child of less than 15 to attend Bahá'í meetings, and in fact, to be a Bahá'í, this is likewise permissible.' (To the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany, dated July 23, 1954)"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, August 29, 1971: Australian Bahá'í Bulletin, No. 205, September 1971, p. 14))
515. Age 15 Relates to Spiritual Functions and Obligations
"Regarding the age of fifteen fixed by Bahá'u'lláh: This relates only to purely spiritual functions and obligations and is not related to the degree of administrative capacity which is a totally different thing, and is, for the present, fixed at twenty-one."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, May 15, 1940: Bahá'í News, No. 138, p. 1, September 1940)
516. Children Under 15 Cannot Marry
"QUESTION: In a treatise in Persian on various questions, the age of maturity hath been set at fifteen; is marriage likewise conditional upon reaching maturity, or is it permissible before that time?
"ANSWER: Since the consent of both parties is required in the Book of God, and since, before maturity, their consent or lack of it cannot be ascertained, marriage is therefore conditional upon reaching maturity, and is not permissible before that time.
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, Q. 92, pp. 133-134)
517. Children Are of Age at 15 as Far as Keeping Laws of Aqdas
"Regarding children: At fifteen a Bahá'í is of age as far as keeping the laws of the Aqdas is concerned--prayer, fasting, etc. But children under fifteen should certainly observe the Bahá'í Holy Days, and not go to school, if this can be arranged on these nine days."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, October 25, 1947)
Page 155 518. Children of Bahá'í Parents Considered as Bahá'ís
"Although the children of Bahá'í parents are considered to be Bahá'ís, there is no objection at the present time, for purposes of keeping a correct census, and also ascertaining whether the young people are, sincerely, believers, and willing to do their share in service to the Faith, to asking them to make a declaration of their intention, at the age of fifteen or so. Originally the Guardian understands this was adopted in America to enable young Bahá'í men to make certain arrangements in connection with their application for non-combatant status, upon their attaining the age of military service. There is really nothing about it in the Teachings or in the Administration. Your Assembly is free to do as it pleases in this matter."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, June 17, 1954: From a compilation of the Universal House of Justice, Extracts from letters written on behalf of the Guardian on various aspects of age and obligations)
519. Registering Children Upon Attaining Age 15
"...the way in which Bahá'í children should be registered upon reaching the age 15 is within the discretion of each National Spiritual Assembly; there is no objection to using for this purpose the general enrolment card, if such a card is adopted, or a new and separate one specially for Bahá'í children attaining the age of fifteen. It is important, however, that whatever method of enrolment is used or card adopted, it is clear to such children that they had been Bahá'ís up to that time, and that on attaining the age of spiritual maturity they are reaffirming their belief in Bahá'u'lláh.
"The form and wording of an enrolment or registration card is also within the discretion of a National Spiritual Assembly."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany, October 28, 1975: From a compilation of letters written on behalf of the Guardian and the Universal House of Justice regarding enrolment of children. Included in a letter from the House of Justice to the National Assembly of Ecuador, August 9, 1979)
520. Upon Attainment of Age 15 Child Must Reaffirm His Faith
"...Both children of Bahá'í parents, and children who, with their non-Bahá'í parents' consent, declare their faith in Bahá'u'lláh before they are fifteen years old, are regarded as Bahá'ís and it is within a Spiritual Assembly's discretion to request such children to undertake work of which they are capable in the service of the Faith, such as service on suitable committees. However, upon attaining the age of fifteen a child becomes spiritually mature and is responsible for stating on his own behalf whether or not he wishes to remain a member of the Bahá'í community. If he does not then reaffirm his faith, he must be treated, administratively, as a non-Bahá'í."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Brazil, December 12, 1975: Ibid.)
521. Registration of Children of Bahá'í Parents
"In answer to your letter ... concerning the registration of children of Bahá'í parents the Universal House of Justice has instructed us to say that at the present time it prefers to leave the details of such matters to the discretion of each National Spiritual Assembly. One National Assembly, for example, sends a very nice letter
to each Bahá'í child in its community on the occasion of its fifteenth birthday (unless, of course, it has reason to doubt that the child in question is a Bahá'í), explaining the meaning of attaining the age of maturity, and extending the good wishes of the Assembly for his or her future services to the Cause. This does not require an active response from every child but does provide each with an opportunity to make his or her position clear if desired.
"The House of Justice points out that the Assembly must wisely steer a course between seeming to doubt the faith of a child who has been brought up as a devout Bahá'í on the one hand, and seeming to compel a child to be a member of the Bahá'í community against his will, on the other."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany, October 5, 1978: Ibid.)
522. May Be Circumstances in which Children Should Not Be Registered
"It is within the discretion of your National Spiritual Assembly to determine whether children should be registered as Bahá'ís in cases where one parent is not a Bahá'í, although children of Bahá'í parents under age 15, are generally considered Bahá'ís, there may be circumstances in which they should not be registered as such, and this is also left to your discretion. Local Spiritual Assemblies should help by advising the parents to consider it one of their primary obligations to raise their children in a spirit of love and dedication towards the Faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, October 13, 1976)
F. Miscellaneous Topics in Reference to Children
523. Children Should Be Free to Choose Their Own Religion
"Shoghi Effendi wishes me to acknowledge the receipt of your letter ... which you wrote concerning Catholic marriage and the promise that any resulting children should be Catholic.
"The basic principle of the Cause is independent investigation of truth. This applies to us as much as to our children. They should be free to choose for themselves any religion they wish. To promise that they will belong to a certain Faith and not to another is therefore not only contrary to our precepts, but is also a futile promise to give. How can we make the future generation think as we do or follow our dictates. God has made them free. All that we can do is to open their eyes and tell them of what we think to be the truth."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 3, 1931)
524. Teach Child to Say Greatest Name in Moments of Crisis
"He thinks you are wise in not separating yourself from your child; and he will pray that he may grow out of this condition, and gain in physical and spiritual strength. It would be a great advantage to him if you could teach him to say the Greatest Name, when he is himself going through a moment of crisis and suffering."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a Bahá'í couple, December 4, 1954)
525. Criticizing the Faith in Front of Children
"Regarding the question you asked about the attitude of criticizing the Faith in
front of children in a Bahá'í family: The Guardian feels that this is not something that one can lay down a general rule for. A great deal would depend on the age of the children, and whether they are able to think for themselves, and whether one of the parents has sufficient influence over them to offset the effect of the criticism of the other parent. It would seem that if the children are very young, and torn between the influences of both parents, it would be wiser to avoid discussing the Faith in front of them; but only encourage them when the staunch Bahá'í is alone with them, to revere and uphold the Faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 16, 1951)
526. The Real Object of Life--The Guardian Prays for Children
"The Guardian will pray that each of you may become a brilliant light in this dark world, and in due time, lead many seeking souls to the Splendor of the Cause of God. This is the real object of life, and he hopes all your training, will be a means of training your characters, and enriching your spirits, so you may teach the Faith, and become strong supporters of its institutions."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'í children of Kenosha, Wisconsin, December 28, 1956)
527. Teach Children to be Kind to Animals
"Train your children from their earliest days to be infinitely tender and loving to animals. If an animal be sick, let the children try to heal it, if it be hungry, let them feed it, if thirsty, let them quench its thirst, if weary, let them see that it rests.
"Most human beings are sinners, but the beasts are innocent. Surely those without sin should receive the most kindness and love--all except animals which are harmful, such as bloodthirsty wolves, such as poisonous snakes, and similar pernicious creatures, the reason being that kindness to these is an injustice to human beings and to other animals as well... Tenderness and loving-kindness are basic principles of God's heavenly Kingdom. Ye should most carefully bear this matter in mind."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 159-60)
528. Bahá'í Children Can Give to the Fund--Non-Bahá'í Children, No Ruling Made; Teacher to Solve Problem
"Any Bahá'í can give to the Cause's Funds, adult or child. No statement is required on this subject. Bahá'í children have always given to the Cause, everywhere. Whatever situation may arise in a class which non-Bahá'í children attend is for the teacher of the class to solve. No ruling should be made to cover such things."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, February 12, 1949: Lifeblood of the Cause, p. 18)
529. The Universal House of Justice Responds to Children's Questions Regarding the Catastrophe
"The heart-warming messages from the children attending the Indiana District Convention forwarded with your recent letter brought much joy to the Universal
House of Justice, and the House of Justice asks if you will kindly relay to these dear ones its comments on the several questions posed by the children.
"When telling about the Faith to people who disagree with what you are saying, don't argue with them. Try to find a point of agreement and if you can't, then leave them alone. You have done what you can by speaking of the Faith. Now leave them to Bahá'u'lláh.
"Regarding the sad plight of the Bahá'ís in Iran and what children can do about it, the House of Justice suggests that you remember these dear friends in your daily prayers, and encourage your parents to support the efforts of their Local Spiritual Assemblies and National Spiritual Assembly to bring this terrible situation to the attention of the media and the authorities.
"One of the children asks, 'Why did they call it the Universal House of Justice?' In the Most Holy Book the Kitab-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh has written, 'The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice shall be established...'; we know them by the name Local Spiritual Assemblies. Abdu'l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, has stated 'and now concerning the House of Justice which God hath ordained as the source of all good and freed from error, it must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers... By this House is meant the Universal House of Justice, that is, in all countries, a secondary House of Justice (National Spiritual Assembly) must be instituted, and these secondary Houses of Justice must elect the members of the Universal one.' When you study the wonderful Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá, and the explanations of Shoghi Effendi, you will find many references to this supreme administrative institution which will help you to understand why it is called the Universal House of Justice.
"Two of the questions are, in a way, interrelated: 'Will the sun die on us pretty soon?' and 'Will the world end if there is a nuclear war?' No doubt both are prompted by the current wave of rumors about impending calamities that are circulating amongst adults and which are overheard by the children.
"Without minimizing the serious situation facing a world heedless of Bahá'u'lláh's admonitions, it must be remembered that He also refers to the Golden Age of civilization to come. The House of Justice hopes that Bahá'í teachers and parents will do their utmost to encourage the children to study the explanations of the beloved Guardian about the twin processes at work in the world--the steady growth of the Faith, and the devastating forces of disintegration assailing the outworn institutions of present-day society.
"We are asked to assure you that the House of Justice will remember you and the children of your class at the Holy Threshold."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, December 29, 1981)
Page 159IX. CHURCHES
530. Bahá'ís Must Have No Affiliation with Churches
"...we, as Bahá'ís, must not have any affiliations with churches or political parties. But he feels certain that when you meditate on this matter you yourselves will see the wisdom of it. We, as Bahá'ís, can never be known as hypocrites or as people insincere in their protestations and because of this we cannot subscribe to both the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh and ordinary church dogma. The churches are waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ; we believe He has come again in the Glory of the Father. The churches teach doctrines--various ones in various creeds--which we as Bahá'ís do not accept; such as the bodily Resurrection, confession, or, in some creeds, the denial of the Immaculate Conception. In other words, there is no Christian church today whose dogmas we, as Bahá'ís, can truthfully say we accept in their entirety--therefore to remain a member of the Church is not proper for us, for we do so under false pretences. We should, therefore, withdraw from our churches but continue to associate, if we wish to, with the church members and ministers.
"Our belief in Christ, as Bahá'ís, is so firm, so unshakeable and so exalted in nature that very few Christians are to be found now-a-days who love Him and reverence Him and have the faith in Him that we have. It is only from the dogmas and creeds of the churches that we dissociate ourselves; not from the spirit of Christianity."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá'ís of Vienna, June 24, 1947)
531. We Must Have the Courage of Our Convictions
"...No Bahá'í can any longer dissimulate his faith and practise the laws and ordinances of a previous dispensation and call himself at the same time a believer. No compromise, no vacillation can any longer be tolerated. We must have the courage of our convictions and preserve the integrity of our glorious Cause...."
(Postscript by the Guardian to a letter written on his behalf to an individual believer, May 21, 1933)
532. On Becoming a Bahá'í Should Withdraw from Church
"If a person is registered as a member of a church or similar religious organization he should withdraw from it on becoming a Bahá'í.
"In the case of new believers, it should be made clear to them in the course of teaching them the Faith that one cannot be a Bahá'í and also a member of another religious organization. This is simply a matter of straight-forwardness and honesty. A great part of the teaching of Jesus Christ concerned His Second Coming and the preparation of His followers to be ready for it. The Bahá'ís believe He has come. No Christian Church believes this; on the contrary, they either look for Him still, or have ceased to believe that He will come. For a
Bahá'í to be a member of a community which holds such beliefs is disloyalty to Christ and hypocrisy towards the Christians.
"You should not formalize the method by which the withdrawal from the church is to be made, and certainly nothing should be added to a declaration form, if you use one. It should be left to the Local Spiritual Assembly which is accepting the declaration to satisfy itself, as it deems best in each case, that the new believer has already resigned from the church, or does so within a reasonable time of his declaration.
"In regard to the old believers, your Assembly should tactfully, and in a kindly way, make the Bahá'í position clear to them and gently persuade them to resign from their former churches. This is a matter for great tact and discretion. If such a believer remains adamant you will have to consider depriving him of his voting rights."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Switzerland, November 21, 1968: Canadian Bahá'í News, Special Section, March 1973, p. 6)
533. Bahá'ís Are Ardent Believers in Christ
"The friends should by all means be encouraged to withdraw from church membership and be made to realize that, though we as Bahá'ís are ardent believers in Christ, we do not and cannot support, church institutions and doctrines when Christ has come again and brought new laws for the world today and its present needs; to adhere to forms, mostly man-made, and now out-moded and no longer needed, is meaningless. This does not mean they should no longer associate with the church members; they should cease to be registered members of it."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 5, 1943)
534. Ministers Who Consider Themselves Bahá'ís Should Withdraw from Church Membership
"As he has already informed you, the Guardian feels that the time has now come to ask any ministers still affiliated with churches, but who consider themselves practising Bahá'ís, to withdraw from the church openly. This is following the example of the Hand of the Cause, former Archdeacon Townshend, who courageously defied the opinion of his fellow-clergymen, his relatives and the public, and stepped forth from his high office as a Bahá'í. When the friends realize that many of the first to accept the Bab were priests and suffered martyrdom for their act, it does not seem to be asking much that they should rally openly to the Kingdom of the Father which they believe in and for whose advent they cannot very well go on encouraging people in their churches to pray."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 19, 1956)
535. Membership in Jewish Synagogue
"Concerning the membership of Mr. ... in the synagogue: As this concerns his non-Bahá'í Jewish wife and means a great deal to her--even involving the place of her burial--the Guardian does not feel it is right to request him to take a step which would deprive her of her own religious rights. On the other
hand, he sees no reason why Mr. ... should not write a letter to the appropriate authority in this synagogue, explaining that he is a practising Bahá'í, but is keeping his synagogue membership for the benefit of his wife and children..."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, May 8, 1947)
536. Withdrawal of Bahá'í Youth from Church Membership
"Your letter of 25th October has been received and we fully appreciate the problem posed in the case of youth who accept Bahá'u'lláh but whose parents strongly oppose their withdrawal from the Church. In such cases where the parents oppose their withdrawal and insistence upon it by the youth would undermine the unity of the family it is permissible for the withdrawal to be postponed until the youth attain the age of 21. This would not, of course, in any way affect his acceptance into the Bahá'í community. As you mention, this is the very time at which such a newly-declared believer needs all the deepening and confirmation he can receive."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany, November 6, 1972)
537. For Sake of Family Unity Concession Made for Youth
"In reply to your letter of January 26th, we feel that while it is important to be flexible in requesting new believers, particularly youth who may encounter parental opposition, to withdraw from membership of other religious organizations, such flexibility cannot be allowed to extend to compromising Bahá'í law. Two Bahá'ís, when getting married, cannot have the religious ceremony of another Faith.
"As to the age of maturity, voting rights in the Bahá'í Administrative Order are acquired when a believer becomes 21 and you might well make that point the period for severance of those religious ties which members of the Bahá'í community cannot maintain. The main point is that while, for the sake of family unity, the concession has been made to youth on the matter of withdrawal from church membership, every effort should be made to encourage all believers, as well as Bahá'í youth, to observe requirements of Bahá'í membership even at the cost of some hardship or inconvenience."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, February 11, 1973)
538. Bahá'í Attitude Toward the Church
"Regarding church matters: The article of Dr. Townshend should be widely circulated and used. No matter what the attitude of people towards the churches in general may be, it has nothing to do with our Bahá'í attitude, and Townshend has courageously stated this, and it has weight, in view of his former position in the church."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, August 18, 1949: Bahá'í News, No. 226, December 1949, p. 2) (This letter is in reference to Dr. Townshend's article, The Old Churches and the New World Faith, which is published as a pamphlet)
Page 162 539. On Being Expelled from Church
"...Thou has written that they have expelled thee from the church and thy friends are manifesting aversion towards thee. This is the beginning of thy trials. There are greater trials than these. Therefore, be not sad, nay rather, be thou happy and full of glad-tidings. There is no harm done if they have expelled thee from the church.... Thou hast entered into the Heavenly Jerusalem and discovered the Way to the Holy of Holies of the Kingdom. That church is of stone and cement, whereas this Holy of Holies is of overwhelming Light.
"But the more the tormenting friends shun thee, go thou the nearer to them. The more they deride and blame thee, show thou forth the greater love and affection. Do not look upon their shortcomings. Look thou upon all of them as the people of God and endeavour thou in right-doing and well-meaning. Ignorant are they; understand they do not. Therefore they are avoiding, criticizing and scorning thee."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. III, p. 504)
540. Paying Church Tax
"...as regards paying the church tax. If there is a law in ... requiring citizens to pay such a tax, the believers should obey the law and do so. If there is no law covering this matter, but it is a question of a voluntary act and left to the individual they should not pay it.
"In case there is no law, and the Bahá'ís consequently stop paying this contribution to church upkeep, new contacts and believers should not be tactlessly told they must stop doing this, but first confirmed, and strengthened in their faith and then the wisdom and necessity of this step be brought home to them. Certainly no publicity should be given to such a delicate question. In other words, we as Bahá'ís must first clearly define the issue involved, set our goal before us, and work wisely, persistently and patiently towards its accomplishment.
"If, in connection with this church tax matter delicate situations arise, such a school teacher's position, it is for the Assembly to go into the matter and try and find the right solution, bearing in mind the goal towards which the friends are working: the right to be citizens in good standing, but not church members."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the European Teaching Committee, October 26, 1949)
541. Contributions to a Church
"The first case is that of the elderly Catholic woman who is suffering from severe heart disease and is thus liable to die at any time. In this case, as also in that of suffering believers, the Assemblies, whether Local or National, should act tactfully, patiently, and in a friendly and kindly spirit. Knowing how painful and dangerous it is for such believers to repudiate their former allegiances and friendships they should try to gradually persuade them of the wisdom and necessity of such an action, and instead of thrusting upon them a new principle to make them accept it inwardly, and out of pure conviction and desire. Too severe and immediate action in such cases is not only fruitless, but actually harmful. It alienates people instead of winning them to the Cause.
"The other point concerns the advisability of contributing to a church. In this case also the friends must realise that contributions to a church, specially when not regular, do not necessarily entail affiliation. The believers can make such offerings occasionally provided they are certain that while doing so they are not counted as members of any church. There should be no confusion between the terms affiliation and association. While affiliation with ecclesiastical organizations is not permissible, association with them should not only be tolerated but even encouraged. There is no better way to demonstrate the universality of the Cause than this. Bahá'u'lláh indeed, urges His followers to consort with all religions and nations with utmost friendliness and love. This constitutes the very spirit of His message to mankind."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, December 11, 1935)
542. History of the Early Church
"...There is certainly an element of truth at the basis of the organization of the Christian Church. For instance, the primacy of Peter and his right to succession after Jesus have been established by the latter, though only orally and not in an explicit and definite language. The real reason why Christ did not make some explicit statement regarding His succession is not known, and cannot be known. For how can we, poor humans, claim to unravel the mysteries of God's mind and purpose, and to grasp the inscrutable dispensations of His providence. The utmost we can do is to give some explanations, but these must necessarily fail to give the fundamental reason to the problem we seek to solve."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 28, 1936)
Page 164X. COMMITTEES
A. Appointing Committees
543. Freedom to Appoint Any Bahá'í Qualified for the Work
"In going over the minutes of your recent N.S.A. meeting he noticed that you had decided to try as far as possible to eliminate National Spiritual Assembly members from the National Committees. Although he fully realizes your reasons for taking this decision, he feels it infringes on one of the fundamental principles of our administrative order which is freedom of choice--freedom of electors to elect anyone they please to Local or National bodies, and freedom of the members of these bodies to appoint any Bahá'í, who seems best qualified for the work, to function on Committees.
"The first consideration must always be the person best qualified for a job, and National Assembly members should in such matters not be either discriminated against, or in favour of, because of the position they occupy on the National body."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, June 16, 1947: Bahá'í News, No. 198, August 1947, p. 3)
544. Continuity of Committee Personnel
"Although National Assemblies and Local Assemblies may provide for continuity of Committee personnel by re-appointment of members each year, Assemblies should not appoint members of Committees for a term of more than one year."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, December 20, 1966)
545. Preferable Some Qualified Native Believers Serve on Committee
"There is no objection to a National Spiritual Assembly member serving on the National Teaching Committee, but if National Spiritual Assembly members were to predominate on the Committee the purpose of appointing it, which is to relieve the National Assembly of the details of the work, would be defeated. It is also preferable for some qualified native believers to serve on the National Teaching Committee so that they may thus be trained to carry on with the work.
"...the beloved Guardian paid great attention to the administrative arrangements for teaching and was highly in favour of one central National Teaching Committee with Regional Committees responsible to it. He once pointed out that absorption of the petty details of Bahá'í administration by the personnel of the National Spiritual Assembly is manifestly injurious to efficiency and an expert discharge of Bahá'í duties."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Brazil, June 23, 1971)
Page 165 546. Desirability of Easy Meeting of National Teaching Committee--If Possible, Not to be Burdened with Other Duties
"...we ... suggest that for future consideration you should bear in mind the desirability of easy meetings of this important committee which would, of course, be facilitated by members being in the same vicinity. It is also desirable that the members of this vital right arm of the National Spiritual Assembly should, as far as possible, not be burdened with other duties. It has been found that the most effective arrangement is to have a strong, centrally located Teaching Committee--although not necessarily at the National Headquarters--with its members free to devote all their efforts and energies to the work of that committee. The Regional Teaching Committees are in a sense the executive agents of the National Teaching Committee and while there is no harm in members of the Regional Committees being also on the National Teaching Committee it is generally better for them to concentrate on the work in their own particular areas."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Colombia, June 23, 1971)
547. Committees Can Be Constituted with Eye for Improvement and Change
"...He feels that it would be good to infuse more new life--by using different believers of capacity--into National Committees. ...more young people and more people who are capable professional or business people in their private lives are now in the Faith than ever before, and such material should be tapped and exploited so that all Committees possess a certain amount of new blood and get an infusion of fresh ideas. As elections are by secret ballot only the education of the electorate can bring about changes on Assemblies which often stagnate from lack of fresh blood--but Committees appointed as they are by Spiritual Assemblies--can be constituted with an eye for improvement and change."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, March 31, 1945)
548. Assembly Should Use Discretion When Appointing Committee Members-- Incompatible Personalities on Committees
"We are asked by the Universal House of Justice to acknowledge your letter ... in which you ask for guidelines on the following questions:
"a. What attitude should a National Spiritual Assembly take when believers accept appointment to a committee but do not attend its meetings because of what you term incompatible personalities or lack of unity with other members of the committee, and yet they do not resign from the committee?
"As you are already aware, in your choice of members for committees, you must use careful judgement and discretion, with the aim of appointing a membership, which, from the outset, has good prospects of operating with full force. If, despite your efforts to do this, there is disharmony among the committee members, the following extract from a letter of 13 May 1945 written on behalf of the beloved Guardian may be helpful to you.
'Regarding the matter of ... and the inharmony that seems to exist among certain of the friends...: When Bahá'ís permit the dark forces of the world to enter into their own relationships within the Faith they gravely jeopardize its progress; it is the paramount duty of the believers, the Local Assemblies,
and particularly the N.S.A. to foster harmony, understanding and love amongst the friends. All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance--justified or unjustified--for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world: love and unity.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Bolivia, August 19, 1985)
549. National Committees Ordinarily Appointed by and Responsible to the National Spiritual Assembly
"National Committees are ordinarily appointed by and responsible to the National Spiritual Assembly, but within the limits of wise discretion the National Spiritual Assembly may authorize a particular Committee to appoint a sub-committee or to ask individuals to assist it in carrying out its assigned functions.
"In calling these principles to the attention of the believers, however, care must be exercised not to dampen the enthusiasm or initiative of the friends."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the North West Pacific Ocean, September 5, 1974)
550. Non-Members of Assemblies Should Be Given the Opportunity to Develop Administrative Skills
"In the list of national committees for 1983-84, it was noted that eight members of the National Assembly had been appointed to serve. Indeed, your treasurer will be on three committees, and your secretary on two. While it is understandable that those elected to a National Spiritual Assembly generally have great capacity to assume manifold duties, the House of Justice points out that the opportunity for non-members of Assemblies to develop administrative skills is lost when members of a National Assembly serve on a large number of national committees."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, December 28, 1983)
551. Not Necessary that Committee Appointments Expire at Ridvan
"As regards the appointment of committees on a yearly basis, we refer to the Guardian's instructions on page 141 of Bahá'í Administration that '...the renewal, the membership, and functions ... should be reconsidered separately each year by the incoming National Assembly....' Individuals appointed to committees should identify themselves with functions and objectives which normally extend beyond the term of their appointment. Just as members of the National Assembly relate themselves to goals of the Nine Year Plan, members of Local Assemblies and committees should do likewise, so that a single dynamic spirit may animate the important work for which each Assembly or committee is responsible.
"It is not necessary, however, that the term of committee appointments expire at Ridvan. It may be advisable, in order to provide continuity, to begin the committee year in June or July. Furthermore, the fact that, generally speaking, there are few radical changes in committee personnel should also make for continuity of thought and action."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, January 23, 1967)
B. Election of Committee Officers
552. All Committee Members Must Be Given Opportunity to Cast Ballot-- Election of Officers by Majority, Not Plurality+F1
"Concerning the question of the election of committee officers, the House of Justice has instructed us to explain that provided all members of the committee have been given the opportunity to be present at the meeting or to send their ballots by mail, the election of the committee's officers is valid, even if a member does not avail himself of the opportunity to vote. Of course, as you are no doubt aware, election of officers must be by majority vote, not plurality. The House of Justice also points out that it is preferable to have an odd number of members appointed to a committee. This would lessen the chance of a tie vote result."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico, September 2, 1981)
553. If Member Has a Good Reason, He is Free to Suggest He Should Not Be Elected to Office
"...With regard to your question whether members of an Assembly and/or a committee may excuse themselves from being elected to serve as an officer:
"On several occasions the beloved Guardian pointed out that before the election of officers, if any member had a good reason in his own opinion why he should not be elected to one of the offices of the Assembly, he was free to suggest that he should not be so elected. The House of Justice also feels that as the work of the Faith expands and the duties of officers, particularly on National Spiritual Assemblies, acquire more importance, it is permissible and at times advisable to discuss the duties incumbent upon and required of each officer before ballots are cast."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Bolivia, August 18, 1985)
C. Structure and Function of National Committees
554. An Efficient Teaching Structure Must Be Adopted by the National Spiritual Assembly
"The teaching committee structure that each National Assembly may adopt to ensure best results in the extension of its teaching work is a matter left entirely to its discretion, but an efficient teaching structure there must be, so that the tasks are carried out with dispatch and in accordance with the administrative principles of our Faith. From among the believers native to each country, competent travelling teachers must be selected and teaching projects worked out. In the words of our beloved Guardian, commenting upon the teaching work in Latin America: 'strong and sustained support should be given to the vitally needed and meritorious activities started by the native ... travelling teachers, ... who, as the mighty task progresses, must increasingly bear the brunt of responsibility for the propagation of the Faith in their homelands.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies engaged in Mass Teaching Work, February 2, 1966)
+F1 (See also: No. 101
. Any Officer Elected Must Have Received at least Five Votes)
Page 168 555. Function of the National Teaching Committee
"The function of a National Teaching Committee is to take charge, under the direction of the National Spiritual Assembly, of the entire teaching program of the country. It should be given its terms of reference which will specifically define the general objectives and methods of the teaching on the homefront; it should be provided with a budget and be required to submit to the National Spiritual Assembly an overall plan for the accomplishment of its tasks. Once this plan has been approved, the Committee should be allowed to carry out its work, although of course you should receive regular reports of its progress and of its financial position.
"One of the great benefits deriving from such an arrangement is that the National Spiritual Assembly is freed from the day-to-day details of the teaching work and while retaining supervision of this most important method in its own hand, has an executive arm in its National Teaching Committee, which should be given the full confidence and support of the National Spiritual Assembly."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Trinidad and Tobago, November 12, 1971)
556. National Committees Constituted to Serve Needs of Local Assemblies
"He feels that the Local Assemblies should be encouraged to realize that National Committees are constituted to serve their needs, not to dictate arbitrarily to them and to unify the work of the Cause... The Committees in question should be very tactful in dealing with a young Assembly which is beginning to 'feel its oats' as this spirit of independence, if properly handled, can lead it to be strong and independent rather than weak and always relying on other bodies to carry it forward. Assemblies, however, should certainly cooperate with National Committees and not refuse their assistance."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, November 5, 1948: The National Spiritual Assembly, p. 48)
557. National Assembly Should Issue Instructions to National Teaching Committee to Avoid Confusion
"To avoid confusion and follow the proper procedure the National Spiritual Assembly should issue its instructions to the National Teaching Committee who would then transmit them to the Regional Committee. Regional Committees, though appointed by the N.S.A., are the auxiliaries of the National Teaching Committee. The Guardian does not feel he should go into the details of this matter, as they should be arranged by the National Spiritual Assembly itself. He merely lays down the principle to be adhered to."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 28, 1943)
558. Some Committees Need Larger Membership
"The Universal House of Justice has noted in the minutes of your meeting of 1st May 1985 that ... you have adopted a pattern of restricting the membership of each committee to three.
"While the House of Justice appreciates that some committees dealing with technical matters, such as the National Haziratu'l-Quds Committee, could very well have only three members, nevertheless there are some very important
committees, such as the National Teaching and Deepening Committee, the Youth Committee and the Committee for Women and Education of Children, and so on, to which are assigned responsibility for significant aspects of Bahá'í community life, which should have a larger membership to enable consultation to take place more effectively."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Senegal, August 26, 1985)
D. Special Committees (Administrative, Ad Hoc, Emergency--National and Regional Teaching Committees)
559. Administrative Committees Have Authority Only as Given Them by National Spiritual Assembly
"Your letter of 24 May, 1985 to the Universal House of Justice has been received and we are asked to convey its response to your question concerning the role of administrative committees in dealing with personal problems.
"Your caution in clarifying the functions of appointed administrative committees is commendable, for such committees have authority and responsibilities only through the authority and duties given them by the National Assembly appointment. Personal problems arising in communities under activation by such committees should be referred, as you have suggested, to your Assembly for consultation and advice. Should you, knowing its membership, see fit to request a committee to assist in resolving a specific problem, it may do so with your authority; similarly you are free to authorize consultation on a personal problem by an individual having the expertise needed."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Leeward Islands, July 7, 1985)
560. Ad Hoc Committees Can Be Appointed to Deal with Personal Problems
"Regarding your letter of 19 September, 1984 addressed to the Universal House of Justice, we have been directed to convey the following with reference to the three points that you make.
"The first concerns cases of a personal nature which apparently have been on the increase and are consuming a great deal of the time of your Assembly during its meetings. In a letter addressed to your Assembly, dated 30th August 1971, advice was given by the House of Justice to you on this same point. However, for ease of reference, that portion is quoted:
'Personal problems are often best dealt with by the Local Spiritual Assembly or Assemblies concerned. There is no objection to the National Assembly's appointing a committee or committees to deal with such problems as come before it, provided that the final decision remains in the hands of the Assembly itself.'
"In addition to the foregoing, we have been instructed to quote the following passage from a letter addressed to another National Assembly:
'In reply to your letter of February 4th asking whether you may assign personal problems which a Local Spiritual Assembly is unable to deal with
to a nearby Local Spiritual Assembly, we feel that in such cases it would be better for your National Spiritual Assembly to appoint an ad hoc committee for each case, the membership of which could be drawn from one or two nearby communities as well as the community where the particular problem exists.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of El Salvador, October 22, 1984)
561. When an Assembly Lapses, Administrative Committee Can Be Named from Adult Believers of Community
"Your Assembly is empowered to name an administrative committee for the ... community. Such a committee should be viewed as being a temporary expedient for maintaining the life and vigour of the community until such time as the Local Assembly can be re-formed; it is not a replacement for the divine institution of the Local Spiritual Assembly.
"With reference to your specific questions, the Administrative Committee for ... can be named from among the adult believers of the community, without regard for their election or non-election to the now-lapsed Local Assembly. The single active youth can be called upon by the Committee for whatever duties he may be able to undertake. The Committee can continue the Local Bahá'í Fund and also will maintain the incorporation of the Local Assembly.
"The National Spiritual Assembly has the authority to call for a by-election for a Local Assembly in the absence of a quorum of local believers."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, November 8, 1983)
562. Scope of the Functions of the Emergency Committee
"It is entirely appropriate to appoint an emergency committee and to authorize it to take action between National Spiritual Assembly meetings. Your Assembly can also authorize such a committee to deal with routine matters in the interim between your Assembly meetings. In both cases full reports of such committee meetings should be made to all members of the Assembly and all decisions arrived at should be confirmed, or otherwise, at the next meeting of the National Assembly.
"You may decide on the number of the members of the National Assembly to compose such a committee. However, valid meetings of this committee can take place only when all its appointed members are duly notified. The House of Justice feels that giving notice by public service announcements on radio is not a satisfactory means of ensuring that all members have been notified. Finally, you are advised to have regular meetings of your National Assembly and not to allow the arrangement for routine and/or emergency actions to take the place of such meetings."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Liberia and Guinea, June 15, 1977)
563. Latitude of Actions that May Be Taken by an Emergency Committee
"The latitude of actions that may be taken by an emergency committee of your National Assembly in any matter it deals with must be within the framework of guidance and authority given to it by your body.
"This same principle would apply to the actions in which two members of an emergency committee of three feel they have the right to take upon any matter before it."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, December 2, 1982)
564. National Assembly Defines Limits Placed on Emergency Committee-- Decisions of Committee Are Subject to Subsequent Approval of Assembly as a Whole
"...it is for your Assembly to define the limits placed upon an emergency committee appointed by you from among your own membership to take action when absolutely necessary on emergencies which arise between meetings. Decisions of the committee of course always are subject to the subsequent approval of the National Assembly as a whole and you should assure yourselves that you are adequately informed of all its actions taken in your name."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Barbados and Windward Islands, July 2, 1971)
565. Quorum of Emergency Committee Members
"With regard to the question as to whether a quorum of the Emergency Committee members may act, there are no standard rulings and conditions for Emergency Committees. Every National Spiritual Assembly must work out its own procedures in these matters. It may also provide procedures governing the attendance of members of the National Spiritual Assembly who are not also members of the Emergency Committee."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Jamaica, October 24, 1971)
566. Special Committee Can Be Named to Assume Responsibility for Consolidation
"If a National Spiritual Assembly finds that its National Teaching Committee cannot devote sufficient attention to the work of consolidation, it should not hesitate to appoint, in addition, special committees whose tasks would be the conduct of the various activities which are essential for consolidation. Activities falling within this category include the organization of circuits of travelling teachers skilled in consolidation work; the holding of summer and winter schools, weekend institutes and conferences; the initiation and operation of tutorial schools; the dissemination of Bahá'í literature and the encouragement of its study by the friends; and the organization of special courses and institutes for Local Spiritual Assembly members."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, April 17, 1981)
567. Not Necessary for National Committees to be Centred at National Headquarters+F1
"It is not necessary, of course, that the National Teaching Committee be centred at National Headquarters and it need not be a large committee. It is essential, however, that the members appointed be so situated that they can meet frequently during the year and that they be dedicated, active, knowledgeable, creative and reliable. As the National Teaching Committee has high priority in your
+F1 (See also: No. 546
Desirability of Easy Meetings of National Teaching Committee)
administrative responsibilities, you should consider, if necessary, the possibility of relieving its members of other committee responsibilities, in order that they may devote their fullest possible time and energy to the work of the Teaching Committee. Preferably at least one of the members should have secretarial skills and be capable of carrying the heavy burden of correspondence which results when plans are being implemented."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Trinidad and Tobago, November 12, 1971)
568. Regional Committees--Sub-Committees of National Teaching Committee
"...the Guardian has ... re-emphasized the necessity of avoiding overcentralization in the conduct of the affairs of the Cause, thereby relieving your Assembly of an unmanageable amount of detail and routine work, which would interfere with its clear and paramount duty of maintaining a thorough and vigilant supervision over the work of the Cause as a whole. Excessive de-centralization, on the other hand, would tend to nullify the principle which places ultimate authority and responsibility in the hands of the National Spiritual Assembly. His recent instruction regarding the relationship of the Regional Teaching Committees to the National Teaching Committee safeguards this principle which lies at the very basis of the Administrative Order. The Regional Committees, although appointed by the N.S.A., should, unlike all other Committees, be viewed as special adjuncts created specifically for the purpose of helping directly the National Teaching Committee in its all-important task of stimulating the teaching activities of the Faith.... In a sense they are sub-Committees of the National Teaching Committee, to whom their reports and all details of National Teaching activity should be constantly and directly referred."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, May 25, 1941)
569. Too Many Committees Confuse Rather Than Clarify the Work
"A National Teaching Committee, with the regional ones under it, will, he believes, run the work much better. Too many committees, like too many circulars, confuse rather than clarify the work."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, June 30, 1952)
570. Relationship of National Teaching Committee to Regional Teaching Committees
"Regarding the question of the relationship of the National Teaching Committee to the Regional Teaching Committees which you had raised in your last two letters: The Guardian has carefully noted your views on the subject, and while he feels that, as a matter of principle, the appointment of the Regional Committees should be entrusted to the N.S.A., their immediate supervision and control, he believes, directly concern the National Teaching Committee, which body is solely responsible for the organization and conduct of the teaching
campaign throughout the U.S.A. and Canada. The N.S.A. has certainly ultimate jurisdiction over all these Committees, whether national or regional, but should, in view of the ever-expanding teaching activities of the Cause ..., leave to the N.T.C. the task of supervising and coordinating the teaching work of the Regional Committees. The immediate responsibility of these Committees is thus to the N.T.C., which in turn is directly and solely responsible to the N.S.A."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, January 28, 1941)
571. Auxiliary Board Member Can Serve on Certain Special Committees
"The House of Justice feels that committees such as the administrative committee of the Bahá'í International Health Agency, or committees responsible for aspects of social and economic development, which require professional expertise in their members, fall in a different category from other Bahá'í committees. Believers who have the necessary professional skills are often in short supply, and therefore the House of Justice has no objection to Auxiliary Board members' serving on such committees at the present time--indeed it is often highly desirable that they do so--provided, of course, that such service does not so occupy their time and energies that they are unable to carry out their highly important services for the Auxiliary Board."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, September 9, 1984)
572. Collaboration Between Auxiliary Board Members and National and Regional Teaching Committees
"It has become apparent that in some areas the progress of the teaching work requires closer collaboration between Auxiliary Board members and National or Regional Teaching Committees than heretofore. Following consultation with the International Teaching Centre on the matter, we have concluded that the possibilities provided by the present policy are adequate and that where a lack of collaboration has been felt it has arisen from an insufficiently full and frequent exchange of information between the institutions.
"While the members of the Auxiliary Boards and their assistants should never attempt to direct the work of committees or become involved in the administrative work associated with the committees' functions, it is absolutely vital that they be kept fully informed of the committees' activities and plans and their hopes for the work in the area. Only then can the members of the Auxiliary Boards be confident that the services to which they are exhorting the believers and the projects in which they are encouraging them are in harmony with the overall plans and objectives of the National Spiritual Assembly and its committees.
"The existing policy and the reasons for it were conveyed to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and all National Spiritual Assemblies in our letter of 1 October 1969, a copy of which is attached. It should be noted that under this policy it is permissible and highly desirable to have a direct and regular exchange of information between the committees and the Auxiliary Board members. Moreover, at the outset of the work of the year or at times during the year when new plans are being evolved, it is often helpful to arrange for consultations to be held between the Auxiliary Board members and the National or Regional Teaching Committees before such plans are finalized.
"We are confident that a greater awareness of the importance of close collaboration between the two arms of the Administrative Order and of the ways available to achieve this will lead to a much-needed intensification of the teaching work in every land."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, July 6, 1977)
573. National Youth Committee
"...if we say that no older person should take part in the organization of the youth it will be depriving them of the necessary experience needed to have a permanent and working institution.
"Shoghi Effendi believes that the best solution is to have some reasonable age limit for the actual membership of the body of the organization so that only the young people may take part in the different activities and have no older person usurp the floor or deprive them from their chances to train themselves, and express their ideas. At the same time the National Assembly could appoint on the National Committee that is to supervise their work some older and experienced persons who could co-operate with them and guide them in their activities. The National Committee should be composed of both people within the age limit and also older people."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, October 27, 1932)
574. Young Bahá'ís Under 21 May Serve on Committees
"The question of young Bahá'ís being permitted to serve on Committees other than the Youth Committee has been raised in a number of letters recently, and in considering the matter he felt that Bahá'í young people under 21 should not be denied the privilege of Committee work. Though they cannot be voting members of Bahá'í Communities (or exercise the electoral vote at all until they reach that age), and though they cannot, likewise, be elected to Assemblies, there is no reason why they should not serve the Cause on various Committees, as all Committees, National or Local, are subordinate to Assemblies, and their members are not elected but appointed, and appointed by Assemblies. We have many devoted and talented young believers who can be of great assistance to the Cause even though not yet legally of age."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, February 28, 1945)
575. Local Committees
"...regarding local Bahá'í committees: These, though different in their functions enjoy equal rights, and are subject to responsibilities and obligations which, although varying in degree, are equally binding on them all.
"These local committees, being appointed by the Local Spiritual Assembly itself, are responsible to that body alone, and they can be dissolved, and their membership altered by it at any time. The local committees are the hands of the Spiritual Assembly that has appointed them ..., and as such are subject to its rulings.
"The Local Spiritual Assembly cannot delegate to any one of the local
committees the authority to exercise any control or supervision over any other committee or body which it has itself appointed. All local committees are directly and solely responsible to the Local Assembly which alone can exercise the power of supervision over them."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 16, 1939)
576. Structure of National and Regional Teaching Committees
"...Whether it be the body of their elected national representatives, or its chief auxiliary institution, the National Teaching Committee, or its subsidiary organs, the regional teaching committees, or the local Spiritual Assemblies and their respective teaching committees, they who labor for the spread of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh should, through constant interchange of ideas, through letters, circulars, reports, bulletins and other means of communication with these established instruments designed for the propagation of the Faith, insure the smooth and speedy functioning of the teaching machinery of their Administrative Order. Confusion, delay, duplication of efforts, dissipation of energy will, thereby, be completely avoided, and the mighty flood of the grace of Bahá'u'lláh, flowing abundantly and without the least obstruction through these essential channels will so inundate the hearts and souls of men as to enable them to bring forth the harvest repeatedly predicted by Abdu'l-Bahá."
(Shoghi Effendi: The Advent of Divine Justice, pp. 52-53, 1984 ed.)
Page 176XI. CONSULTATION
577. No Welfare, Well-Being Can Be Attained Except Through Consultation
"...Say: No man can attain his true station except through his justice. No power can exist except through unity. No welfare and no well-being can be attained except through consultation."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Consultation: A Compilation, p. 3, from a previously untranslated Tablet)
578. Consultation and Compassion
"...The heaven of divine wisdom is illumined with the two luminaries of consultation and compassion...."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 126)
579. Consultation, Frank and Unfettered
"...Consultation, frank and unfettered, is the bedrock of this unique order. Authority is concentrated in the hands of the elected members of the National Assembly. Power and initiative are primarily vested in the entire body of the believers acting through their local representatives."
(From a postscript by the Guardian to a letter written on his behalf to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, November 18, 1933)
580. The Purpose of Consultation--Should the People of a Village Consult One Another...
"The purpose of consultation is to show that the views of several individuals are assuredly preferable to one man, even as the power of a number of men is of course greater than the power of one man. Thus consultation is acceptable in the presence of the Almighty, and hath been enjoined upon the believers, so that they may confer upon ordinary and personal matters, as well as on affairs which are general in nature and universal.
"For instance, when a man hath a project to accomplish, should he consult with some of his brethren, that which is agreeable will of course be investigated and unveiled to his eyes, and the truth will be disclosed. Likewise on a higher level, should the people of a village consult one another about their affairs, the right solution will certainly be revealed. In like manner, the members of each profession, such as in industry, should consult, and those in commerce should similarly consult on business affairs. In short, consultation is desirable and acceptable in all things and on all issues."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Consultation: A Compilation, quoted in the Guardian's letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of Persia, February 15, 1922, p. 8, Wilmette 1980 ed.)
581. Each Bosom Must Be a Telegraph Station
"Each bosom must be a telegraph station--one terminus of the wire attached to the soul, the other, fixed in the Supreme Concourse--so that inspiration may
descend from the Kingdom of Abha and questions of reality be discussed. Then opinions will coincide with truth; day by day there will be progression and the meetings become more radiant and spiritual. The attainment is conditioned upon unity and agreement. The more perfect the love and agreement, the more the divine confirmations and assistance of the Blessed Perfection will descend... In discussions look toward the reality without being self-opinionated. Let no one assert and insist upon his own mere opinion; nay, rather, let each investigate the reality with the greatest love and fellowship. Consult upon every matter and when one presents the point of view of the reality itself, that shall be acceptable to all. Then will spiritual unity increase among you, individual illumination will be greater, happiness more abundant and you will draw nearer and nearer to the Kingdom of God."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 183)
582. Any Person Can Refer a Matter to the Assembly
"Regarding consultation: Any person can refer a matter to the Assembly for consultation whether the other party wishes to or not. In matters which affect the Cause the Assembly should, if it deems it necessary, intervene even if both sides don't want it to, because the whole purpose of the Assemblies is to protect the Faith, the Communities and the individual Bahá'ís as well."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 17, 1944)
583. Every Member to Express Freely and Openly His Views
"But before the majority of the Assembly comes to a decision, it is not only the right but the sacred obligation of every member to express freely and openly his views, without being afraid of displeasing or alienating any of his fellow-members. In view of this important administrative principle of frank and open consultation, the Guardian would advise you to give up the method of asking other members to voice your opinion and suggestions. This indirect way of expressing your views to the Assembly not only creates an atmosphere of secrecy which is most alien to the spirit of the Cause, but would also lead to many misunderstandings and complications. The Assembly members must have the courage of their convictions, but must also express whole-hearted and unqualified obedience to the well-considered judgment and directions of the majority of their fellow-members."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 28, 1935 )
584. Abstaining Does Not Arise in Bahá'í Voting
"It is important to realize that the spirit of Bahá'í consultation is very different from that current in the decision-making processes of non-Bahá'í bodies.
"The ideal of Bahá'í consultation is to arrive at a unanimous decision. When this is not possible a vote must be taken. In the words of the beloved Guardian: '...when they are called upon to arrive at a certain decision, they should, after dispassionate, anxious and cordial consultation, turn to God in prayer, and with earnestness and conviction and courage record their vote and abide by the voice of majority, which we are told by the Master to be the voice of truth, never to be challenged, and always to be whole-heartedly enforced.'
"As soon as a decision is reached it becomes the decision of the whole Assembly, not merely of those members who happened to be among the majority.
"When it is proposed to put a matter to the vote, a member of the Assembly may feel that there are additional facts or views which must be sought before he can make up his mind and intelligently vote on the proposition. He should express this feeling to the Assembly, and it is for the Assembly to decide whether or not further consultation is needed before voting.
"Whenever it is decided to vote on a proposition all that is required is to ascertain how many of the members are in favour of it; if this is a majority of those present, the motion is carried; if it is a minority, the motion is defeated. Thus the whole question of 'abstaining' does not arise in Bahá'í voting. A member who does not vote in favour of a proposition is, in effect, voting against it, even if at the moment he himself feels that he has been unable to make up his mind on the matter."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, March 6, 1970: Consultation: A Compilation, p. 12, February 1978)
585. Majority Decisions--Instances When Assembly May Decide that All Nine Members Must Be Present
"Concerning a majority decision, ordinarily, the majority referred to is the majority of those present at a particular Assembly meeting. In any event, the Assembly can take no action unless at least a quorum of the members is present. There may be instances, however, in which the Assembly may specify that before voting on particularly important questions all nine members of the Assembly should be present and participate in the consultation and voting. This is within the discretion of the Assembly to decide."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico, July 22, 1984)
586. No Dissenting Votes in the Cause
"There are no dissenting votes in the Cause. When the majority of an Assembly decides a matter the minority, we are told by the Master, should accept this. To insist on having one's dissenting vote recorded is not good, and achieves no constructive end. We must learn to look upon the laws of the Cause and administrative principles and not the shortcomings of the individual members of an Assembly."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 19, 1950)
587. Suspend Consultation when Enmity and Threats Occur
"The honoured members of the Spiritual Assembly should exert their efforts so that no differences may occur, and if such differences do occur, they should not reach the point of causing conflict, hatred and antagonism, which lead to threats. When you notice that a stage has been reached when enmity and threats are about to occur, you should immediately postpone discussion of the subject, until wranglings, disputations, and loud talk vanish, and a propitious time is at hand."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Consultation: A Compilation, from a previously untranslated Tablet)
Page 179 588. Take No Important Step in Personal Affairs Without Consultation
"Settle all things, both great and small, by consultation. Without prior consultation, take no important step in your own personal affairs. Concern yourselves with one another. Help along one another's projects and plans. Grieve over one another. Let none in the whole country go in need. Befriend one another until ye become as a single body, one and all...."
589. When a Believer Has a Problem Several Courses Open to Him
"Your letter of 14th February 1973 enquiring about the uses of Bahá'í consultation has been received.
"This is, of course, a matter in which rigidity should be avoided.
"When a believer has a problem concerning which he must make a decision, he has several courses open to him. If it is a matter that affects the interests of the Faith he should consult with the appropriate Assembly or committee, but individuals have many problems which are purely personal and there is no obligation upon them to take such problems to the institutions of the Faith; indeed, when the needs of the teaching work are of such urgency it is better if the friends will not burden their Assemblies with personal problems that they can solve by themselves.
"A Bahá'í who has a problem may wish to make his own decision upon it after prayer and after weighing all the aspects of it in his own mind; he may prefer to seek the counsel of individual friends or of professional counsellors such as his doctor or lawyer so that he can consider such advice when making his decision; or in a case where several people are involved, such as a family situation, he may want to gather together those who are affected so that they may arrive at a collective decision. There is also no objection whatever to a Bahá'í asking a group of people to consult together on a problem facing him.
"It should be borne in mind that all consultation is aimed at arriving at a solution to a problem and is quite different from the sort of group baring of the soul that is popular in some circles these days and which borders on the kind of confession that is forbidden in the Faith. On the subject of confession the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf to an individual believer: 'We are forbidden to confess to any person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person's forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so. The Guardian wants to point out, however, that we are not obliged to do so. It rests entirely with the individual.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, March 19, 1973: Consultation: A Compilation, pp. 12-13)
590. Assembly Cannot Require a Member to Absent Himself from Consultation
"In your letter of 4 April you enquire further about the principles governing the presence of a member of the National Assembly when a matter concerning him or her personally is being discussed.
"The first principle to bear in mind is that every member of an Assembly has an absolute and incontrovertible right to be present at every meeting of that
body and to be fully informed of every matter coming before it.
"The second principle is that of detachment in consultation. The members of an Assembly must learn to express their views frankly, calmly, without passion or rancour. They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without taking offence or belittling the views of another. Bahá'í consultation is not an easy process. It requires love, kindliness, moral courage and humility. Thus no member should ever allow himself to be prevented from expressing frankly his view because it may offend a fellow member; and, realizing this, no member should take offence at another member's statements.
"The third principle is that if a believer feels that he has been done an injustice by the Assembly, he should appeal the decision in the normal way."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Italy, August 26, 1965)
591. A Member May Wish to Absent Himself While Own Situation Being Discussed
"We note that ... left the room while the National Assembly discussed ways and means of helping her. Naturally, if one wishes to absent himself while his own situation is being discussed by the National Assembly, there is no objection. The National Assembly cannot require a member to remove himself from the consultation, and he is fully entitled to remain."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Italy, February 23, 1965)
"It should also be understood that a member may wish to absent himself from a meeting at which subjects in which he is personally involved are to be discussed. In such cases he may do so unless the Assembly requires him to be present."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre, January 22, 1975)
592. Frank, Full, Unprejudiced Consultation Must Govern Work
"There cannot be in our Faith any room for the political maneuverings so common to the outside world. Frankness, full unprejudiced consultation, must govern all Assembly and committee work, and anything less than this is not only unworthy of a Bahá'í, but a direct disobedience to the Master's instructions and a sign of lack of faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 29, 1948)
Page 181XII. THE COVENANT
A. Bahá'í Covenant
593. The Bahá'í Covenant
"As regards the meaning of the Bahá'í Covenant: The Guardian considers the existence of two forms of Covenant both of which are explicitly mentioned in the literature of the Cause. First is the covenant that every Prophet makes with humanity or, more definitely, with His people that they will accept and follow the coming Manifestation Who will be the reappearance of His reality. The second form of covenant is such as the one Bahá'u'lláh made with His people that they should accept the Master. This is merely to establish and strengthen the succession of the series of Lights that appear after every Manifestation. Under the same category falls the covenant the Master made with the Bahá'ís that they should accept His administration after Him..."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual, October 21, 1921)
"The Most Great Covenant is different from the Everlasting Covenant."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 19, 1945: Bahá'í News, No. 210, August 1948 p. 3)
594. Firmness in the Covenant--"Be He an Insignificant Ant..."
"...Rest ye assured that if a soul ariseth in the utmost perseverance and raiseth the Call of the Kingdom and resolutely promulgateth the Covenant, be he an insignificant ant he shall be enabled to drive away the formidable elephant from the arena, and if he be a feeble moth he shall cut to pieces the plumage of the rapacious vulture."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 209)
595. The Crimson Book
"...what Bahá'u'lláh did not elaborate but what He meant by the 'word' recorded in the Crimson Book was the power of the Covenant.
"The Crimson Book refers to the Book of His Covenant, and the reference above means the power for unity which the Covenant possesses and radiates. On Page 238 of God Passes By you will find the cross-reference to the Crimson Book and the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, January 5, 1948: Bahá'í News, No. 210, August 1948, p. 3)
596. Regarding Covenant Entered into on Mount Paran
"As for the reference in The Hidden Words regarding the Covenant entered into on Mount Paran, this signifieth that in the sight of God the past, the present and the future are all one and the same--whereas, relative to man, the past is gone and forgotten, the present is fleeting, and the future is within the realm
of hope. And it is a basic principle of the Law of God that in every Prophetic Mission, He entereth into a Covenant with all believers--a Covenant that endureth until the end of that Mission, until the promised day when the Personage stipulated at the outset of the Mission is made manifest. Consider Moses, He Who conversed with God. Verily, upon Mount Sinai, Moses entered into a Covenant regarding the Messiah, with all those souls who would live in the day of the Messiah. And those souls, although they appeared many centuries after Moses, were nevertheless--so far as the Covenant, which is outside time, was concerned--present there with Moses. The Jews, however, were heedless of this and remembered it not, and thus they suffered a great and clear loss."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 207)
597. To Withstand Tests Believers Need to be Deepened in the Covenant
"...the believers need to be deepened in their knowledge and appreciation of the Covenants of both Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá. This is the stronghold of the faith of every Bahá'í, and that which enables him to withstand every test and the attacks of the enemies outside the Faith, and the far more dangerous, insidious, lukewarm people inside the Faith who have no real attachment to the Covenant, and consequently uphold the intellectual aspect of the teachings while at the same time undermining the spiritual foundation upon which the whole Cause of God rests.
"He feels you and your dear family should do all you can to teach the believers the Will and Testament and to strengthen their understanding of its important provisions; for all the authority of the administrative bodies, as well as of the Guardian himself, is mainly derived from this tremendous document."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, April 15, 1949)
598. The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá--Needs a Century to Comprehend
"The contents of the Will of the Master is far too much for the present generation to comprehend. It needs at least a century of actual working before the treasures of wisdom hidden in it can be revealed. How can we at this stage and with our limited understanding denounce its spirit and purport."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 25, 1930)
599. The Will and Testament Safeguards the Unity of the Cause
"What he considers, however, to be now of the utmost importance is for the believers, each and all, to cling firmly to the provisions of our beloved Master's Will and Testament, as by this means alone the unity of the Cause, and its safe and speedy growth can be maintained, safeguarded and insured. Such an absolute and unwavering fidelity to Abdu'l-Bahá's Will, and firm adherence to the principles of the Administrative Order is indeed incumbent upon every one of the friends, without any distinction whatever. Upon this basis alone the Faith can be safeguarded and flourish."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 18, 1938)
Page 183 600. Speaking Against the Covenant
"My purpose is to explain to you that it is your duty to guard the religion of God so that none shall be able to assail it outwardly or inwardly. If you find harmful teachings are being set forth by some individual no matter who that individual be, even though he should be my own son, know verily that I am completely severed from him. If anyone speaks against the Covenant, even though he be my own son, know that I am opposed to him. Those who speak falsehoods, who covet worldly things and seek to accumulate the riches of this earth are not of me. But when you find a person living up to the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, following the precepts of the Hidden Words, know that he belongs to Bahá'u'lláh and verily I proclaim that he is of me..."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 456-457)
601. Covenant-Breakers, Defined
"People who have withdrawn from the Cause because they no longer feel that they can support its Teachings and Institutions sincerely, are not Covenant-breakers--they are non-Bahá'ís and should just be treated as such. Only those who ally themselves actively with known enemies of the Faith who are Covenant-breakers, and who attack the Faith in the same spirit as these people, can be considered, themselves, to be Covenant-breakers. As you know, up to the present time, no one has been permitted to pronounce anybody a Covenant-breaker but the Guardian+F1 himself."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, March 30, 1957)
602. Covenant-Breaking is a Spiritual Disease
"...Covenant-breaking is truly a spiritual disease, and the whole view-point and attitude of a Covenant-breaker is so poisonous that the Master likened it to leprosy, and warned the friends to breathe the same air was dangerous. This should not be taken literally; He meant when you are close enough to breathe the same air you are close enough to contact their corrupting influence. Your sister should never imagine she, loyal and devoted, has become a 'carrier'."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, July 29, 1946)
603. Covenant-Breaking Like Contagious Consumption and Cancer
"...Thou hadst asked some questions; that why the blessed and spiritual souls, who are firm and steadfast, shun the company of degenerate persons. This is because, that just as the bodily diseases like consumption and cancer are contagious, likewise the spiritual diseases are also infectious. If a consumptive should associate with a thousand safe and healthy persons, the safety and health of these thousand persons would not affect the consumptive and would not cure him of his consumption. But when this consumptive associates with those
+F1 (Now the Universal House of Justice)
thousand souls, in a short time the disease of consumption will infect a number of those healthy persons. This is a clear and self-evident question."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Tablet to an individual believer, October 1921: Star of the West, Vol. XII, No. 14, p. 233)
604. Afflicted with Contagious Spiritual Disease
"Regarding Mr. ... question about the Covenant-breakers, Bahá'u'lláh and the Master in many places and very emphatically have told us to shun entirely all Covenant-breakers as they are afflicted with what we might try and define as a contagious spiritual disease; they have also told us, however, to pray for them. These souls are not lost forever. In the Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh says that God will forgive Mirza Yahya if he repents. It follows, therefore, that God will forgive any soul if he repents. Most of them don't want to repent, unfortunately. If the leaders can be forgiven it goes without saying that their followers can also be forgiven.
"Also, it has nothing to do with unity in the Cause; if a man cuts a cancer out of his body to preserve his health and very life, no one would suggest that for the sake of unity it should be reintroduced into the otherwise healthy organism. On the contrary, what was once a part of him has so radically changed as to have become a poison."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 30, 1944: Principles of Bahá'í Administration, pp. 22-23)
605. Association with Non-Bahá'ís Who Are in Association with Covenant-Breakers
"We have your letter of 14th March 1970 asking whether it is forbidden for the friends to associate with non-Bahá'ís who are in close association with Covenant-Breakers.
"There are no hard and fast rules about such things. Under some conditions the involvement of the non-Bahá'í party may be superficial and harmless, in which case no action should be taken. For example, Bahá'ís have at times used non-Bahá'ís, such as lawyers, to contact Covenant-breakers in certain matters of business.
"If, however, the Covenant-breaker is using the non-Bahá'í party to spread his ideas among the friends, the matter should be reported to the Continental Board of Counsellors, and whatever they decide in such cases in consultation with the National Spiritual Assemblies concerned should be unreservedly accepted by the friends."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, April 2, 1970)
606. Enemies of the Faith
"Now some of the mischief-makers, with many stratagems, are seeking leadership, and in order to reach this position they instill doubts among the friends that they may cause differences, and that these differences may result in their drawing a party to themselves. But the friends of God must be awake and must know that the scattering of these doubts hath as its motive personal desires and the achievement of leadership."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 214)
C. Believers Forbidden to Associate with Covenant-Breakers
"Ex-communication is a spiritual thing.... Only actual enemies of the Cause are ex-communicated. On the other hand, those who conspicuously disgrace the Faith or refuse to abide by its laws can be deprived, as a punishment, of their voting rights; this in itself is a severe action, and he therefore always urges all National Assemblies (who can take such action) to first warn and repeatedly warn the evil-doer before taking the step of depriving him of his voting rights. He feels your Assembly must act with the greatest wisdom in such matters, and only impose this sanction if a believer is seriously injuring the Faith in the eyes of the public through his conduct or flagrantly breaking the laws of God. If such a sanction were lightly used the friends would come to attach no importance to it, or to feel the N.S.A. used it every time they got angry with some individual's disobedience to them. We must always remember that, sad and often childish as it seems, some of those who make the worst nuisances of themselves to their National Bodies are often very loyal believers, who think they are protecting the true interests of their Faith by attacking N.S.A. decisions!"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, May 8, 1948)
608. No One Has the Right to See Covenant-Breakers Without Permission
"No one has any right to see the Covenant-Breakers without the permission of the N.S.A., and Mrs. ... in doing so should realize she is putting herself in contact with a dangerous, contagious, spiritual disease, as the Master pointed out over and over again! She is also disobeying express instructions of the Master and the Guardian by contacting Covenant-Breakers."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to two individual believers, May 5, 1947)
609. Bahá'ís Cannot Associate with Those Who Have Left the Cause and Are Associating with Covenant-Breakers
"There is no excuse for believers continuing to associate with ... and those who, knowing everything, still insist on doing so, should be shunned by their fellow-Bahá'ís. The same applies to people who have left the Cause and associate with.... The point is that if the believers know and meet with people who are acquainted with Covenant-breakers there is no harm in this, for such individuals are not Bahá'ís and have nothing to do with the issues concerned. But those who have left the Cause, knowing all about such matters, and deliberately associate with Covenant-breakers, are well aware of what they do, and we must not associate with them at all. It is for the Local Assembly, guided by the N.S.A., to enforce such decisions and protect the Cause in its area of jurisdiction.
"The friends should, without too much dwelling on these negative things, be made to understand that some people are spiritually sick and that their disease is, alas, contagious. Some recover from it, as did Mr. ... whose heart could not rest till he returned to the fold; others do not. The Master and Bahá'u'lláh have taught us that associating with these souls is not likely to heal them at
all, but on the contrary exposes one to grave danger of contagion. The history of the Faith has proved this over and over again. The only way we can prove to such people that they are wrong is to censure their conduct; if we sympathise with them we only fortify their perversity and waywardness."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, January 23, 1945)
610. Bahá'í May Remain at Non-Bahá'í Meeting if Covenant-Breaker Appears
"With regard to avoiding association with declared Covenant-breakers. Shoghi Effendi says that this does not mean that if one or more of these attends a non-Bahá'í meeting any Bahá'ís present should feel compelled to leave the meeting or to refuse to take part in the meeting, especially if that part has been prearranged. Also if in the course of some business transaction it should become necessary to negotiate with one of these people, in order to clear up the business, that is permissible, provided the association is confined to the matter of the business in hand. It is different if one of these people should come to Bahá'í meeting. Then it would become necessary to ask him in a most tactful and dignified way to leave the meeting as Bahá'ís are forbidden to associate with him."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 16, 1925)
611. Personal Relations with Covenant-Breakers
"To read the writings of Covenant-breakers is not forbidden to the believers and does not constitute in itself an act of Covenant-breaking. Indeed, some of the Bahá'ís have the unpleasant duty to read such literature as part of their responsibilities for protecting the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh. However, the friends are warned in the strongest terms against reading such literature because Covenant-breaking is a spiritual poison and the calumnies and distortions of the truth which the Covenant-breakers give out are such that they can undermine the faith of the believer and plant the seeds of doubt unless he is forearmed with an unshakable belief in Bahá'u'lláh and His Covenant and a knowledge of the true facts.
"Personal relations with Covenant-breakers, however, such as personal contact or entering into correspondence with one is strictly forbidden. In this connection, however, it is important to remember two qualifications:
"First, the civil rights of Covenant-breakers must be scrupulously upheld. For example, if a Bahá'í owes a debt to a person who breaks the Covenant he must be sure that it is repaid and that his obligations are met.
"Secondly, although the believers are required to avoid, if possible, all contact with Covenant-breakers it sometimes happens that contact on business matters cannot be avoided. For example, in one city the head of the rate collection department was a Covenant-breaker. In such situations the believers should restrict their contact with the Covenant-breaker to a purely formal business level and to an absolute minimum."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, October 29, 1974)
Page 187 612. All Covenant-Breakers Regardless of Nature of Disobedience Must Be Treated in Exactly the Same Manner
"Reference is made to your letter of April 8th in which you ask: 'Does a disciplinary action for disobedience to the Guardian carry the same implications as Covenant-breaking of an ideological order?' There is no distinction between the two concepts. All Covenant-breakers, regardless of the nature of their disobedience to the Covenant should be treated in exactly the same manner."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 19, 1964)
613. Opposition Due to Ignorance or Lack of Proper Training is Not Covenant-Breaking
"Whenever we find a person who opposes some fundamental of our Faith, such as the Institution of the Guardianship, we must first be sure this is not due to ignorance or lack of proper training, before we take action. We must not suppose immediately that that person is necessarily tainted by the spirit of the Covenant-Breakers. If, however, this should prove to be the case, then strong action must be taken by the Assembly."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, June 24, 1948)
614. Role of Auxiliary Board Member for Protection+F1
"The need to protect the Faith from the attacks of its enemies, both within and outside the Faith, is not generally appreciated by the friends, particularly in the West where such attacks have so far been intermittent. One of the vital functions of the Protection Boards is the deepening of the friends' knowledge of the Covenant and increasing their love and loyalty to it, and fostering the spirit of love and unity within the Bahá'í community."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Venezuela, October 1, 1979)
615. God's Mercy Exceeds His Justice
"...we believe that God's Mercy exceeds His Justice, and that through the repentance of a soul, the prayers and supplications of other souls, and the goodness of God, even a person who has passed away in great spiritual darkness can be forgiven, educated spiritually in the next world and progress.
"Owing to ...'s deliberate choice in leaving the Guardian to join the Covenant-breakers, and in his continuous association with them, it is evident he certainly has a spiritual disease."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, February 7, 1947)
616. To Be the Enemy of the Enemies of God is Good Characteristic
"To be the enemy of the enemies of God is a good characteristic. We are not against them personally, just as any intelligent man is not personally against a man who has a dangerous contagious disease. But he carefully isolates the sick individual so that the contagion will not spread. So we shun the spiritually sick, wishing for their cure, but keeping clear of them. You are right to take a firm stand regarding Orientals. One would think that world events would be opening the eyes of the Americans
+F1 (See also: No. 1112
to certain unreliable and mischievous characteristics of nationals of the Middle East."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 22, 1951)
617. It is Better to be Too Vigilant Than to be Too Lax
"The Guardian feels that your attitude of vigilance and intense loyalty is quite right. In such matters as the Covenant it is far better to be too vigilant than too lax. However, he does not feel Mr. ... is lacking in firmness and Faith. Many of the Bahá'ís, ... while loyal to the Cause and the Guardian, do not fully grasp the implications of the Master's Will and the full station of the Guardians of the Cause. They need to study more deeply the spiritual side of the Teachings and the Will itself. And this he has advised the ... to do."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, July 5, 1949)
618. Possibly No Group Have Softer Tongues Than the Covenant-Breakers
"...It is a pity that some of the Western friends, with remarkable naivete, do not grasp the fact that there is absolutely nothing keeping those who have broken the Covenant, whether Bahá'u'lláh's or the Master's, out of the Cause of God except their own inner spiritually sick condition. If they were sound, instead of diseased, and wanted to enter the service of our Faith, they would apply direct to the Guardian, and he would be able to adjudge of their sincerity and, if sincere, would welcome them into the ranks of the faithful as he did with Sydney Sprague. Unfortunately a man who is ill is not made well just by asserting there is nothing wrong with him! Facts, actual states, are what count. Probably no group of people in the world have softer tongues, or proclaim more loudly their innocence, than those who in their heart of hearts, and by their every act, are enemies of the Center of the Covenant. The Master well knew this, and that is why He said we must shun their company, but pray for them. If you put a leper in a room with healthy people, he cannot catch their health; on the contrary they are very likely to catch his horrible ailment."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, April 11, 1949)
619. National Assembly Should Consider Itself as Committee of Vigilance
"He feels that your Assembly should redouble its vigilance, in fact he feels that the National Assembly should consider itself, aside from its other duties, as a Committee of Vigilance to watch over the Faith and protect it from its internal enemies, and from the constantly carried on and insidious activities...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 21, 1957)
620. Bahá'ís Need More Than Anything Else in the World Deeper Understanding Covenants of Bahá'u'lláh and Master
"The Guardian has been considerably disturbed by the inharmony that has arisen in... He feels that what the ... Bahá'ís need--and must have--more than anything else in the world is a far deeper understanding of the Covenants of both Bahá'u'lláh and the Master. This is the rock-foundation without which no
sound super-structure can be built. Neither the administration, nor the general teaching work of the Cause ..., will progress, or be able to accomplish anything, unless the believers are truly firm, deep, spiritually convinced Bahá'ís. An intellectual grasp of the Teachings is purely superficial; with the first real test such believers are shaken from the bough! But once a Bahá'í has the profound conviction of the authority from God, vested in the Prophet, passed on to the Master, and by Him, to the Guardians, and which flows out through the Assemblies and creates order based on obedience--once a Bahá'í has this, nothing can shake him. He, therefore, urges you, and the other members of the ..., to devote as much time as you possibly can, to educating the believers in the Covenant."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, April 11, 1949)
D. Expulsion and Reinstatement; Protection Responsibilities; Books Written by Enemies of the Faith
621. Expulsion of Covenant-Breakers
"The authority of expulsion and reinstatement will be exercised by the Hands of the Cause of God, subject in each instance to the approval of the Universal House of Justice."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Board of Counsellors, June 24, 1968)
622. Protection Specific Function of the Hands of the Cause
"...although the Hands of the Cause of God have the specific functions of protection and propagation, and are specialized for these functions, it is also the duty of the Universal House of Justice and the Spiritual Assemblies to protect and teach the Cause--indeed teaching is a sacred obligation placed upon every believer by Bahá'u'lláh."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 27, 1966: Wellspring of Guidance, p. 86)
623. Expulsion and Reinstatement
"Authority for the expulsion and reinstatement of Covenant-breakers remains with the Hands of the Cause of God. All such matters will be investigated locally by the relative Continental Board of Counsellors in consultation with any Hand or Hands who may be in the area. The Continental Board of Counsellors and the Hands concerned will then make their reports to the International Teaching Center where they will be considered. The decision whether or not to expel or reinstate will be made by the Hands of the Cause residing in the Holy Land who will, as at present, submit their decision to the Universal House of Justice for approval."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, June 8, 1973)
624. Accomplishments to be Attained with the Covenant of the Everlasting Father
"The progress of the Cause of God gathers increasing momentum and we may
with confidence look forward to the day when this Community, in God's good time, shall have traversed the stages predicated for it by its Guardian, and shall have raised on this tormented planet the fair mansions of God's Own Kingdom wherein humanity may find surcease from its self-induced confusion and chaos and ruin, and the hatreds and violence of this time shall be transmuted into an abiding sense of world brotherhood and peace. All this shall be accomplished within the Covenant of the everlasting Father, the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh."
(From the message of the Universal House of Justice to Bahá'ís of the World, Ridvan 1973)
625. Course on Covenant-Breaking Should Be Included in Summer School Curriculum
"...and your Assembly cannot be too careful or vigilant in watching over the Community seeking out the sources of corruption and protecting the friends. He feels that a course on Covenant-breaking should be included in the Summer School curriculum, so that the friends may understand the nature of this evil, and how it has affected our Faith for one hundred years, and other Faiths in the past. The American Bahá'ís, aside from the older ones, do not seem to have any concept whatsoever of what a Covenant-breaker is, and the place to educate them in these matters is in the Summer Schools and on other occasions when they meet in large numbers."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 21, 1957)
626. Should Not Accept Contributions from Those Who Lose Voting Rights: They Can Be Buried in Bahá'í Cemetery, Receive Charity
"...As contributions to Bahá'í funds are used to support the administration of the Faith, they should not be accepted from those who are deprived of their voting rights; but such believers, should not be prevented from being buried in a Bahá'í cemetery or receiving charity--which we even give to non-Bahá'ís--if in dire need."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, May 8, 1947 to the National Spiritual Assembly of India: Dawn of a New Day, p. 123)
627. Literature Written by Enemies of the Faith
"In reply to your letter of September 20, 1975, the Universal House of Justice instructs us to say that the friends should be advised to ignore these books and any similar ones which might be written by enemies of the Faith. There should certainly be no attempt made to destroy or remove such books from libraries. On the other hand there is no need at all for the friends to acquire them and, indeed, the best plan is to ignore them entirely."
(Referring to books by Hermann Zimmer and William Miller. Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama, October 2, 1975)
628. Books by Unenlightened Enemies of the Cause
"It is better not to read books by Covenant-breakers because they are haters of the Light, sufferers from a spiritual leprosy, so to speak. But books by well
meaning yet unenlightened enemies of the Cause can be read so as to refute their charges."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 19, 1945: Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, pp. 107-108)
629. Obedience to the Center of the Covenant
"...whosoever obeys the Center of the Covenant appointed by Bahá'u'lláh has obeyed Bahá'u'lláh, and whosoever disobeys Him has disobeyed Bahá'u'lláh...."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 323)
Page 192XIII. DEATH
630. Every Bahá'í is Encouraged to Make a Will and Testament
"In the 'Kitab-i-Aqdas' Bahá'u'lláh has stated: 'It is incumbent upon everyone to write his testament. It behooveth him to adorn its heading with the Most Great Name, to testify therein to the oneness of God as manifested in the Day-Spring of His revelation and to set forth such good deeds as he may wish to be realized, that these may stand as his testimony in the worlds of Revelation and of Creation and be as a treasure stored up with his Lord, the Protector, the Trusted One.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, September 4, 1982)
631. By Preparing a Legal Will, the Believer Can Dispose of His Estate as He Chooses, Within Limits of Law
"According to the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh, the making of a will is essentially an obligation of the individual Bahá'í. Each believer is free to dispose of his estate in whatever manner he chooses, within the limits imposed by civil law and after payment of burial expenses and other debts and obligations. There are several ways a believer can leave instructions regarding his burial; there is no objection for such instructions to be included in the will, if the law permits, and the believer so wishes."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Bolivia, October 1, 1980)
632. Neither National nor Local Assembly Should Be Named Executor, if the Institution So Prefers
"Should a believer express a desire to make a bequest to a National or Local Spiritual Assembly, you may furnish information as to the correct name and address of such institution, and you are free to inform those who ask that neither the National or Local Spiritual Assemblies should be named as executor of a will."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Hawaiian Islands, January 14, 1971)
633. Bahá'ís Should Make Their Will Specifying the Desire for a Bahá'í Funeral--Should Inform the Assembly and the Non-Bahá'í Relatives
"The friends should be strongly advised to make wills specifying that they want their funerals to be conducted under the auspices of the Bahá'í Faith or at least in conformity with its requirements and they should make this known both to the Local Spiritual Assembly and to their own relatives, while they are still alive.
In this way it is quite possible that agreements may be reached with non-Bahá'í relatives before death takes place."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of France, August 18, 1972)
634. The Spiritual Assembly Must Carefully Consider Bequest of the Testator-- Unreasonable Demands May Be Refused
"In the eyes of Bahá'í law a will is sacred and thus, when a testator makes a bequest to a Spiritual Assembly and attaches thereto certain duties and conditions, the Assembly has the responsibility to fulfil them. However, if the will imposes an unreasonable financial burden or a condition which could become an unreasonable financial burden, or if fulfilment of the conditions would be prejudicial to the best interests of the Faith, the Assembly may have no alternative to refusing the bequest, for if it accepts the bequest it is in honour bound to fulfil the conditions."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany, January 10, 1978)
635. A Provision in the Will Contrary to Bahá'í Law Should Be Declared Null and Void by the Assembly
"On the other hand, if the testator, being a Bahá'í, makes a provision in his will that is contrary to Bahá'í law (e.g., to bury his remains in a place more than one hour's journey from the place of death), that provision is null and void in Bahá'í law and the Assembly must not fulfil it even if failure to do so would cause the bequest to be revoked in civil law. If failure to fulfil such a condition does not cancel the bequest in civil law, the Assembly is not required to refuse the bequest as it would have to do in the case of failure to fulfil a valid condition."
636. Bahá'ís Are Free to Formulate Provisions of Their Wills--We Are Not Permitted to Challenge Provisions of Another's Will
"Shoghi Effendi urged Local Spiritual Assemblies to admonish the friends not to overlook the importance of wills. In letters written on his behalf we find the following important points.
1. The friends are free to formulate the provisions of their wills as they please, and the Spiritual Assembly has the obligation to support and enforce these provisions unless, of course, they are in conflict with the principles of the Faith.
2. While it is appropriate and advisable for the friends to deposit a copy of their wills with the Spiritual Assembly, they should not be required to do so, but should be left free in this matter.
3. It is not necessary for the Spiritual Assembly to publish the text of a 'model' will. Each believer should compose his will according to his own wish.
"Other points to remember are that an individual is entirely free to leave his or her possessions as he wishes, provided all his debts are paid, and provided there are no legal limits on the freedom of individuals to bequeath their property. A person's will is sacred and therefore a Bahá'í is not permitted to challenge the provisions of another's will. The civil law in relation to the making of wills is sometimes quite
complex. It is, therefore, highly advisable for an individual to consult a lawyer when he makes his will to ensure that his intention is not nullified by some possible breach of the requirements of the law in the drawing up or execution of the will. It is also highly desirable for a Bahá'í to take steps during his lifetime to ensure that he will be given a funeral in accordance with Bahá'í law and that his remains be not cremated. It may be possible to include such a provision in the will, or some other procedure may need to be followed, depending upon the civil law."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, September 4, 1986)
B. Burial Laws
637. Forbidden to Carry Body More Than an Hour's Distance
"...It is forbidden you to transport the body of the deceased a greater distance than one hour's journey from the city; rather should it be interred, with radiance and serenity, in a nearby place."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, K. 130, p. 66)
"QUESTION: Is the ordinance that the body of the deceased should be carried no greater distance than one hour's journey applicable to transport by both land and sea?
"ANSWER: This command applieth to distances by sea as well as by land, whether it is an hour by steamship or by rail; the intention is the hour's time, whatever the means of transport. The sooner the burial taketh place, however, the more fitting and acceptable will it be."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, Q. 16, pp. 111-112)
638. Burial Law Binding on Believers in the West
"As to the law of burial, the Universal House of Justice suggests that you confine your statement to the following parts of this law which are now binding on the believers in the West:
(1) That the body must be buried, not cremated.
(2) That the Prayer for the Dead is to be recited for a believer of the age of 15 years or over. This, as you know, is the prayer which appears as number CLXVII in Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh.
(3) That the body not be transported more than an hour's journey from the place of death. The method of transport is not specified, but the journey must not take longer than one hour."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, December 3, 1975)
639. Preparation for Burial--Embalming Not Permitted
"Regarding the questions which you ask, concerning Bahá'í burials ..., etc. At the present time, the Guardian is not stressing these matters, as their establishment might divert attention to the supreme tasks we have before us. However, the answers are as follows: Under the Bahá'í teachings it seems clear that the body is not to be embalmed. The burial should take place within an hour's travel time from the place of death. The preparation for the body for
burial is a careful washing, and placing in a shroud of white cloth, silk preferably. There is nothing in the teachings with regard to turning the body over to scientific institutions for scientific research, and therefore the individual may do as he wishes, until such a time as the Universal House of Justice may legislate on this matter, if they ever do. The practice in the Orient, is to bury the person within 24 hours of the time of death; sometimes even sooner; although there is no provision in the teachings as to the time limit."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, April 2, 1955)
640. Bahá'í Burial Law--Coffin Should Be of Crystal, Stone or Wood
"In brief, the Bahá'í law for the burial of the dead states that it is forbidden to carry the body for more than one hour's journey from the place of death; that the body should be wrapped in a shroud of silk or cotton, and on its finger should be placed a ring bearing the inscription 'I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate'; and that the coffin should be of crystal, stone or hard fine wood. A specific Prayer for the Dead (see note 10) is ordained, to be said before interment. As affirmed by Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardian, this law precludes cremation of the dead. The formal prayer and the ring are meant to be used for those who have attained the age of maturity, i.e., 15 years of age...."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Notes, N. 149, p. 229)
641. Foetus to be Treated With Respect, No Matter How Young
"From a Bahá'í point of view, the soul is present from conception and therefore the foetus, no matter how young, should not be treated with disrespect and carelessly discarded into an incinerator, if this can be prevented. The House of Justice knows of nothing in the Writings specifically referring to the burial of embryos, and, in previous instances, has left such details to the discretion of the parents. In one case it was reported to the World Centre that the parents had buried the foetus in a corner of their own garden and had said a few prayers for the progress of their child's soul."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 6, 1987)
642. Cremation is Contrary to Bahá'í Law--Bahá'í Relatives and the Spiritual Assembly Are Responsible
"As was explained to your Assembly in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice on 10 January 1978, if a Bahá'í makes a provision in his will that is contrary to Bahá'í law, that provision is null and void in Bahá'í law, and neither the Bahá'í relatives nor the Spiritual Assembly are permitted to fulfil it. Thus, if a Bahá'í states in his will that his remains are to be cremated he should, nevertheless, be buried in accordance with Bahá'í law unless there is some element of the civil law would prevent such an occurrence--in which case the civil law would have to be followed, but the Assembly, as indicated above, could take no part in it...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Germany, December 9, 1984)
Page 196 643. In Case of Death at Sea, Maritime Law is Applicable--Burial on Land is Preferable
"The laws of burial as revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitab-i-Aqdas do not refer to the occurrence of death at sea. Until such time as the Universal House of Justice legislates on these matters, the friends when faced with such incidents should be guided by whatever civil or maritime law is applicable under the circumstances. Should land be reached, however, obviously the body must be buried on land in the nearest suitable place."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, quoted in a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of New Zealand, October 20, 1974)
"Bahá'í laws of burial do not refer to burial at sea and the House of Justice has not yet legislated on the matter. However, it is preferable that Bahá'í burial should take place on land whenever this is possible."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, December 23, 1985)
644. Believer Should Ensure that He Will Be Buried According to Bahá'í Law
"The friends should certainly be informed of the Bahá'í laws relating to burial and encouraged to do all they can to ensure that after their passing they are buried according to Bahá'í law. It is not always possible to ensure this by stating it in a Will and Assemblies should consult upon the matter, taking legal advice if necessary, and make the best arrangements possible to enable the Bahá'ís in their care to be buried in the Bahá'í way."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, December 31, 1972)
645. Enfolding the Body of the Deceased
"In the Bayan, the Bab specified that the body of the deceased should be wrapped in five sheets of silk or cotton. Bahá'u'lláh confirmed this provision and added the stipulation that for 'those whose means are limited a single sheet of either fabric will suffice'.
"When asked whether the 'five sheets' mentioned in the law referred to 'five full-length shrouds' or 'five cloths which were hitherto customarily used', Bahá'u'lláh responded that the intention is the 'use of five cloths.'
"Concerning the way in which the body should be wrapped, there is nothing in the Bahá'í Writings to define how the wrapping of the body is to be done, either when 'five cloths' are used or only 'a single sheet'. At present, the Bahá'ís are free to use their judgement in the matter."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Notes, N. 151, pp. 229-230)
646. Face of the Dead Should Be Turned Toward the Qiblih
"The dead should be buried with their face turned towards the Qiblih. There is also a congregational prayer to be recited. Besides this there is no other ceremony to be performed."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 6, 1935)
Page 197 647. Hour's Journey May Be Calculated from City Limits
"We have been instructed by the Universal House of Justice to convey its reply to your enquiry of 20th June 1978 about the Bahá'í burial law concerning the one hour's travel from the place of death.
"The House of Justice advises that the place of death may be taken to be the city or town in which the believer passes away, and therefore the hour's journey may be calculated from the city limits to the place of burial. However, it should be borne in mind that the spirit of Bahá'u'lláh's law is to be buried near where one dies."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, July 9, 1978)
648. Graveyard More Than an Hour on Foot from a Village
"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 10th August 1981 in which you ask for guidance in observing the law for the burial of the dead in cases where the graveyard is more than an hour's journey on foot from a village.
"If alternative means of transport are not available or practicable in cases such as you mention, another possibility is for the Bahá'ís of such a village to acquire a graveyard nearer to the village so that it can be reached within one hour from the village limits. If no such solution is feasible the believers will just have to do their best for the present to keep the journey as short as possible. In any case the House of Justice presumes that the journey is not likely to greatly exceed the one hour limit."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama, September 21, 1981)
649. The Burial Stone
"The placing of the burial stone on the dead has no other significance than to emphasize our profound conviction that our souls come from our Creator and to Him they return, and in Him we believe and trust."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, July 29, 1942)
650. Bury the Dead in Silk
"The Bab has told us to bury the dead in silk (if possible) in coffins of crystal. Why? Because the body, though now dust, was once exalted by the immortal soul of man!"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 13, 1944)
651. Should Advise Bahá'ís in Military Service of Burial Laws
"You should also advise all individual Bahá'ís who are in service that they should take whatever measures are necessary to see that Bahá'í laws regarding burial are observed. Such individuals should also notify their families or next of kin about these laws and of their wish to be buried according to Bahá'í law."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 11, 1968)
C. Bahá'í Cemeteries
652. Bahá'ís Are Permitted to Accept Land from the Government for Cemetery
"In response to your question about acquiring land from the Government for the specific purpose of establishing a Bahá'í cemetery, the House of Justice advises that it is permissible for Bahá'ís to be granted by government authorities the ownership or use of land for this purpose."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Brazil, February 20, 1978)
"You have stated in your letter that it is a custom there for the body to be disinterred after three years and put in a smaller casket for reburial. Since this is apparently not required by law, it would be best for you to advise the friends to make the necessary arrangements with the cemetery authorities so that disinterment of the body does not take place."
654. At Present No Definite Regulations for Bahá'í Cemeteries
"At the present time there are no definite regulations for preparing Bahá'í cemeteries. However, in a Tablet of the Master's, He emphasizes the need for the cemetery to have a beautiful outward appearance and states that the graves should not be joined together but that each one should have a flower bed around its four sides. He also indicates that it would be pleasing if a pool were located in the center of the cemetery and beautiful trees were planted around it as well as around the cemetery itself."
655. Should Not Refuse to Bury Bahá'í Who Lost Voting Rights--Assembly May Permit Burial of Non-Bahá'ís
"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 15th June 1984 asking whether it is permissible to bury non-Bahá'ís in a Bahá'í cemetery, and has asked us to convey the following to you.
"It would not be right to refuse to bury in a Bahá'í cemetery one who has lost his voting rights. Furthermore, it is quite possible that non-Bahá'í relatives of believers or others may be permitted to be buried in a Bahá'í cemetery. However, a deciding factor could be whether the area of land chosen for use as a Bahá'í cemetery would be large enough to permit burial of non-Bahá'ís. It is suggested that no hard and fast rules be adopted, but that each case be considered on its own merits."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Brazil, July 12, 1984)
656. The Most Great Name or Ringstone Symbol Not Appropriate on Gravestones
"Normally the building of structures or headstones on graves should be left to the family of the deceased, and all expenses should be covered by them.
"The use of the Most Great Name or the ringstone symbol on gravestones is not appropriate. In a letter dated September 17, 1971 to an individual believer we wrote the following:
'Concerning the questions you ask in your postscript, there is no specific ruling regarding the type of headstone that may be used at a grave site. However, regarding the inscription on a headstone, the beloved Guardian asked the believers not to use any form of the Greatest Name but a nine-pointed star may be used. Or, you may wish to have an appropriate text from the Sacred Writings inscribed on the headstone. The position of the body in the grave should be with the feet pointing toward the Qiblih, which is Bahji in Akka'."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Uganda, May 4, 1972)
D. Funeral Services
657. Official Bahá'í Funeral Service for Believers Only
"An official Bahá'í funeral service should only be given for a believer, but there is no objection to the reading of Bahá'í prayers, or indeed to a Bahá'í conducting the funeral service of a non-Bahá'í, if this has been requested."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 20, 1946)
658. Utmost Simplicity and Flexibility Should Be Observed...
"Regarding the Bahá'í funeral service: It is extremely simple, as it consists only of a congregational prayer to be read before burial.... Your National Spiritual Assembly should take great care lest any uniform procedure or ritual in this matter be adopted or imposed upon the friends. The danger in this, as in some other cases regarding Bahá'í worship, is that a definite system or rigid rituals and practices be developed among the believers. The utmost simplicity and flexibility should be observed...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, January 10, 1936)
659. No Objection to Bahá'ís Attending Non-Bahá'í Funeral of Bahá'ís
"There is no objection to Bahá'ís attending the non-Bahá'í funeral service of a Bahá'í whose non-Bahá'í relatives have prevented the Bahá'í funeral from taking place. The Bahá'ís should, however, endeavour to offer Bahá'í prayers for the progress of the soul of their departed friend, if circumstances permit. If they cannot be offered on the occasion of the funeral they should be offered at another time."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Colombia, May 4, 1966)
660. Obligatory Prayer for the Dead--Permissible to Change Gender
"We have your letter of 23 December 1966 asking whether it is permissible to change the gender of the pronoun in Bahá'í prayers for the dead when the deceased person is a woman.
"The prayer for the dead which is obligatory appears on page 260 of 'Prayers and Meditations'. This prayer allows for a change in gender.
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