Page 300 XXV. HOLY DAYS
1018. Two Holy Days When Work is Not Prohibited--The Significance of the Day of the Covenant Explained
"In response to your letter of 2 December 1984 asking a question about the event commemorated on the Day of the Covenant, the Universal House of Justice has directed us to send you the following extract from a letter written on behalf of the beloved Guardian on this subject:
'The Day of the Covenant Nov. 26th and the Day of the Ascension Nov. 28th, anniversaries of the birth and the Ascension of Abdu'l-Bahá must be observed by the friends coming together, but work is not prohibited. In other words the friends must regard observance of these two anniversaries as obligatory--but suspension of work not to be regarded as obligatory.'
"The explanation of how 26 November came to be substituted, in relation to the Birthday of Abdu'l-Bahá, for 23 May is related by the late Hand of the Cause Hasan M. Balyuzi in his book, 'Abdu'l-Bahá', on page 523:
'Abdu'l-Bahá told the Bahá'ís that this day was not, under any circumstances, to be celebrated as His day of birth. It was the day of the Declaration of the Bab, exclusively associated with Him. But as the Bahá'ís begged for a day to be celebrated as His, He gave them November 26th, to be observed as the day of the appointment of the Centre of the Covenant...'
"The House of Justice hopes that this will assist your understanding of the significance of this important date in the Bahá'í calendar."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the Administrative Committee for South Zaire, January 23, 1984)
1019. Suspension of Bahá'í Administrative Activities on Bahá'í Holy Days
"Concerning your question about holding meetings of consultation on Bahá'í Holy Days, we have been requested to share with you an excerpt from the translation of a Persian letter from the beloved Guardian dated 3 January 1929 to an individual believer:
'On the Bahá'í festivals and solemn commemorations it is preferable for Assemblies, Committees and Bahá'í Institutions to suspend their activities. However, final decision in these matters rests with the Universal House of Justice.'
"The Universal House of Justice feels that the above directive of the Guardian is adequate for the time being. It should be clear, however, that should emergencies occur which require the holding of meetings of Bahá'í institutions on the nine Holy Days of the Faith, this would be permissible."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Mexico, July 21, 1982)
Page 301 1020. Bahá'í Radio Should Refrain from Work on Nine Holy Days--Volunteers May Present Special Programs
"The Universal House of Justice has considered your inquiry of 18 April concerning Bahá'í Holy Days and the operation of the Radio Bahá'í facility in Labranza, and we have been asked to convey its reply.
"As you are well aware, not only should Bahá'ís refrain from work on the nine Holy Days, but the shops and establishments owned by Bahá'ís should also be closed on these Days. If government regulations do not require the station to be on the air on a mandatory daily basis, Radio Bahá'í should not engage in regular broadcasts on the nine Holy Days. However, to aid the Bahá'í Community in its observance of any one of these Days, the station may offer at a particular time a special program suited to such observance. Those wishing to be involved in the production and airing of the program would be rendering a special service.
"You have no doubt noted that since the Bahá'í day begins at sunset and ends at the following sunset, no Gregorian day would be fully taken up by the observance of any one of the nine Bahá'í Holy Days; thus there is time to broadcast regular programs every day of the Gregorian year. The station naturally will inform its listeners of the meaning of each Holy Day well in advance so that they can appreciate the reason for the station's silence on such a Day.
"The House of Justice feels that this confirmation of the religious character of the station would be a means of teaching, a source of encouragement to the believers and model for their emulation."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Chile, July 6, 1986)
1021. Business Places Owned by Bahá'ís Must Close During the Nine Holy Days --In the Bahá'í Temple Minimal Essential Services May Be Provided
"The beloved Guardian made it absolutely clear that the command to cease work during the nine Holy Days is a matter for conscientious obedience by every individual believer. In the case of businesses and other undertakings entirely under Bahá'í control they must also close down during the Bahá'í Holy Days, even though non-Bahá'ís may be members of their staffs.
"It is fully appreciated that the Bahá'í Temple must be open for worship on the Holy Days and therefore it is permitted to provide, to the minimum extent possible, essential services. Those necessary tasks, such as cleaning and other preparation of the building, which can be carried out on the previous day should be so done and only those duties which must be performed should be undertaken on the Holy Day. In the case of the Temple it is immaterial whether the workers are Bahá'ís or non-Bahá'ís since it is the duty of the Faith to observe, especially in respect of its own institutions, the command to cease work on the Holy Days."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama, August 12, 1977)
1022. Exceptions Can Be Made When Contract Demands Service
"Regarding the sale of tea and other refreshments in a cinema under non-Bahá'í ownership: Those friends who have hired from the owner of the cinema a stall for the sale of such refreshments should make every effort to obtain permission to close on Bahá'í holidays. In case, however, the non-Bahá'í owner or partner refuses to grant their request their only alternative is to obey.
"The case is different with a bread bakery owned by a believer. In this case there can be no excuse whatever why the shop should not be closed during Bahá'í holidays, as there are always non-Bahá'í bakers from whom the public can buy."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 28, 1937)
1023. Gift Giving is Not an Integral Part of Any of the Bahá'í Holy Days-- nor is There a Prohibition
"The exchanging of presents among believers or the giving of gifts to children is not an integral part of any of our nine Bahá'í Holy Days. There is no prohibition against it, and it is, as you say, a custom among Persian believers such as the Bahá'í to whom you spoke, to exchange gifts at Naw-Ruz.
"The desire of you and your husband to associate the time of gift giving with your children's involvement in the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh is praiseworthy and it is felt that the following extract from a letter written by the secretary of the beloved Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand on December 26, 1941 will be of value to you: 'The intercalary days are specifically set aside for hospitality, the giving of gifts, etc. Bahá'u'lláh Himself specified that they be used this way, but gave no explanation for it.'
"In 'The Bahá'í World', Vol. XV, p. 691 we read: 'Bahá'u'lláh designated those days as the 'Ayyam-i-Ha' and ordained that they should immediately precede the month of Ala, which is the month of fasting. He enjoined upon His followers to devote these days to feasting, rejoicing, and charity.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 18, 1982)
1024. Proper Time to Hold Meetings of Commemoration
"...Regarding your question of the proper time to celebrate or hold our meetings of commemoration: The time should be fixed by counting after sunset; the Master passed away one hour after midnight, which falls a certain number of hours after sunset; so His passing should be commemorated according to the sun and regardless of daylight saving time. The same applies to the ascension of Bahá'u'lláh Who passed away about 8 hours after sunset."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, August 12, 1944)
"...This sacred day, when the sun illumines equally the whole earth, is called the equinox, and the equinox is the symbol of the Manifestation of God. The Sun of Truth rises on the horizon of Divine Mercy and sends forth its rays. This day is consecrated to commemorate it...."
(Talk by Abdu'l-Bahá, March 21, 1913: Star of the West, Vol. V, No. 1, p. 4)
1026. Naw-Ruz Has Nothing to Do with the Nineteen Day Feast
"He would like to point out that if the believers gather before sundown on a certain date it does not matter if the meeting continues after sunset; it may still be considered as being held on the day they gathered. The Naw-Ruz Feast should be held on March 21 before sunset and has nothing to do with the 19-Day Feast. The 19-Day Feast
is administrative in function whereas the Naw-Ruz is our New Year, a Feast of hospitality and rejoicing."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, July 5, 1950)
1027. Naw-Ruz Should Be Celebrated According to the Vernal Equinox
"Regarding Naw-Ruz: If the vernal equinox falls on the 21st of March before sunset it is celebrated on that day. If at any time after sunset, Naw-Ruz will then, as stated by Bahá'u'lláh, fall on the 22nd. As to which spot should be regarded as the standard, this is a matter which the Universal House of Justice will have to decide...."
(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)
1028. Naw-Ruz Cards
"There is no objection to individual Bahá'ís sending Naw-Ruz cards if they want to; also the National Spiritual Assembly can send them out occasionally, but it should not become a fixed custom."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand, March 14, 1947: Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, 1923-1957, p. 65)
1029. Celebration of the Christian Holidays Among the Bahá'ís Should Be Discontinued
"As regards the celebration of the Christian Holidays by the believers: It is surely preferable and even highly advisable that the friends should in their relation to each other discontinue observing such holidays as Christmas and New Years, and to have their festal gatherings of this nature instead during the intercalary days and Naw-Ruz."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 19, 1938)
1030. Holy Days Are Appropriate Occasions to Found Institutions and Projects for Social and Economic Development
"Briefly, every nation has a day known as a holiday which they celebrate with joy. In the sacred Laws of God, in every cycle and dispensation, there are blessed feasts, holidays and workless days. On such days all kinds of occupations, commerce, industry, agriculture etc., are not allowed. Every work is unlawful. All must enjoy a good time, gather together, hold general meetings, become as one assembly, so that the national oneness, unity and harmony may become personified in all eyes. As it is a blessed day it should not be neglected or without results by making it a day limited to the fruits of mere pleasure. During such blessed days institutions should be founded that may be of permanent benefit and value to the people so that in current conversation and in history it may become widely known that such a good work was inaugurated on such a feast day. Therefore, the intelligent must search and investigate reality to find out what important affair, what philanthropic institutions are most needed and what foundations should be laid for the community on that particular day, so that they may be established. For example, if they find that the community needs
morality, then they may lay down the foundation of good morals on that day. If the community be in need of spreading sciences and widening the circle of knowledge, on that day they should proceed in that direction, that is to say, direct the thoughts of all the people to that philanthropic cause. If, however, the community is in need of widening the circle of commerce or industry or agriculture they should start the means so that the desired aim may be attained. If the community needs protection, proper support and care of orphans, they should act upon the welfare of the orphans, etc. Such undertakings that are beneficial to the poor, the weak and the helpless should be pursued in order that, on that day, through the unity of all and through great meetings, results may be obtained, the glory and blessings of that day may be declared and manifest....
"In all the cycles of the prophets the philanthropic affairs were confined to their respective peoples only--with the exception of small matters, such as charity, which was permissible to extend to others. But in this wonderful dispensation, philanthropic affairs are for all humanity, without any exception, because it is the manifestation of the mercifulness of God. Therefore, every universal matter--that is, one that belongs to all the world of humanity--is divine; and every matter that is sectarian and special is not universal in character--that is, it is limited. Therefore, my hope is that the friends of God, every one of them, may become as the mercy of God to all mankind."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Star of the West, Vol. IX, No. 1, pp. 8-9, and cited in a compilation, prepared by the Office of Social and Economic Development, entitled Social and Economic Development)
Page 305 XXVI. THE INSTITUTION OF THE HUQUQU'LLAH
1031. Payment of Huququ'llah Purifies One's Property, Attracts Prosperity and Blessings
"It is clear and evident that the payment of the Right of God is conducive to prosperity, to blessing, and to honour and divine protection. Well is it with them that comprehend and recognize this truth and woe betide them that believe not. And this is on condition that the individual should observe the injunctions prescribed in the Book with the utmost radiance, gladness and willing acquiescence. It behoveth you to counsel the friends to do that which is right and praiseworthy. Whoso hearkeneth to this call, it is to his own behoof, and whoso faileth bringeth loss upon himself. Verily our Lord of Mercy is the All-Sufficing, the All-Praised."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Huququ'llah, A Compilation of the Universal House of Justice, June 1985, Extract No. 6, from a previously untranslated Tablet)
1032. A Bounty which Shall Remain with Every Soul in Every World of God
"Huququ'llah is indeed a great law. It is incumbent upon all to make this offering, because it is the source of grace, abundance, and of all good. It is a bounty which shall remain with every soul in every world of the worlds of God, the All-Possessing, the All-Bountiful."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Ibid., Extract No. 7)
1033. Moderation Versus Extravagance
"Say: Pride not yourselves on earthly riches ye possess. Reflect upon your end and upon the recompense for your works that hath been ordained in the Book of God, the Exalted, the Mighty. Blessed is the rich man whom earthly possessions have been powerless to hinder from turning unto God, the Lord of all names. Verily he is accounted among the most distinguished of men before God, the Gracious, the All-Knowing."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Ibid., Extract No. 25)
1034. Solicitation of the Huququ'llah is Not Permitted
"...To demand the Huquq is in no wise permissible. This command was revealed in the Book of God for various necessary matters ordained by God to be dependent upon material means. Therefore, if someone, with utmost pleasure and gladness, nay with insistence, wisheth to partake of this blessing, thou mayest accept. Otherwise, acceptance is not permissible."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Ibid., Extract No. 9)
Page 306 1035. Trustworthiness in Huququ'llah--On Acquiring 100 Mithqals of Gold, 19 Belong Unto God
"Should a person acquire one hundred mithqals of gold, nineteen mithqals thereof belong unto God, the Creator of earth and heaven. Take heed, O people, lest ye deprive yourselves of this great bounty. We have prescribed this law unto you while We are wholly independent of you and of all that are in the heavens and on the earth. Indeed there lie concealed in this command, mysteries and benefits which are beyond the comprehension of anyone save God, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. Say, through this injunction God desireth to purify your possessions and enable you to draw nigh unto such stations as none can attain, except those whom God may please. Verily, He is the Generous, the Gracious, the Bountiful.
"O people! Act not treacherously in the matter of Huququ'llah and dispose not of it, except by His leave. Thus hath it been ordained in His Epistles as well as in this glorious Tablet.
"Whoso dealeth dishonestly with God will in justice be exposed, and whoso fulfilleth the things he hath been commanded, divine blessings will descend upon him from the heaven of the bounty of his Lord, the Bestower, the Bountiful, the Most Generous, the Ancient of Days. Verily He desireth for you the things that are inscrutable to you at present, though the people themselves will readily discover them when their souls take their flight and the trappings of their earthly gaieties are rolled up. Thus warneth you the Author of the Preserved Tablet."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Ibid., Extract No. 10)
1036. Huququ'llah Designated as an Institution of the Cause--Calculation of Equivalent of One Mithqal of Gold
"...many details in the computation of Huququ'llah have been left by Bahá'u'lláh to the judgement and conscience of the individual believer. For example, He exempts such household equipment and furnishings as are needful, but He leaves it to the individual to decide which items are necessary and which are not. Contributions to the funds of the Faith cannot be considered as part of one's payment of Huququ'llah; moreover, if one owes Huququ'llah and cannot afford both to pay it and to make contributions to the Fund, the payment of Huququ'llah should take priority over making contributions. But as to whether contributions to the Fund may be treated as expenses in calculating the amount of one's assets on which Huququ'llah is payable: this is left to the judgement of each individual in the light of his own circumstances.
"The Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf that 'one mithqal consists of nineteen nakhuds. The weight of twenty-four nakhuds equals four and three-fifths grammes. Calculations may be made on this basis.' Nineteen mithqals therefore equal 69.191667 grammes. One troy ounce equals 31.103486 grammes, thus 19 mithqals equal 2.224563 oz...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer: Ibid., Extract No. 105)
1037. Promulgation of the Huququ'llah a Responsibility of the Spiritual Assemblies--The Universal House of Justice Determines How Huququ'llah Can Be Used
"Since the Huququ'llah has, according to the injunction in the Book, been designated as one of the institutions of the Cause, and inasmuch as the fulfilment of
this obligation is binding on the people of Baha, therefore it is deemed appropriate that your Spiritual Assembly should fully familiarize the dear friends in Persia with the significance of this momentous responsibility and to promulgate gradually in the entire community such ordinances related to Huququ'llah as are laid down in His perspicuous Book. Obviously in pursuance of the explicit Texts solicitation of the Huququ'llah is not permissible, but it is the responsibility of those Trustees of the Cause to address appeals of a general character to the dear friends, so that they may become more informed about this essential obligation. God willing, through the occasional reminders issued by your Assembly, they may gain the privilege and honour of achieving this benevolent deed--a deed that draws forth heavenly blessings, serves as a means of purifying the earthly possessions of the devoted friends, and promotes the international activities of the people of Baha.
"It is evident to those Trustees of the Merciful that this Body, by virtue of the explicit Text of the sacred Writings, is the Body to which all things must be referred, and the Huququ'llah can be used to promote the interests of the Cause throughout the Bahá'í world only with the permission of the Authority in the Cause to which all must turn."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, October 27, 1963, translated from the Persian: Ibid., Extract No. 96)
1038. Personal Accounting Should Separate Huququ'llah from Contributions-- Huququ'llah Comes First
"The payment of the Huququ'llah is one of the essential spiritual obligations that the wondrous Pen of Bahá'u'lláh has laid down in the Most Holy Book.
"It would be preferable and more fitting if these two accounts, namely contributions to the Funds and payments of the Huququ'llah were to be kept separate. This means that in the first instance you should pay your Huququ'llah, and then you may offer your devoted contributions at your own discretion to the International Fund which is now being used for achieving the goals of the Nine Year Plan."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 18, 1965, translated from the Persian: Ibid., Extract No. 97)
1039. As a Token of Mercy, Cost of Burial and Debts Take Precedence Over Huququ'llah
"Thou hast asked which is to take precedence: the Huququ'llah, the debts of the deceased, or the cost of burial. It is God's command that the cost of burial take precedence, then the payment of debts, then the Right of God. Verily He is the One Who will pay due recompense, the All-Rewarding, the All-Generous. If the property is not equal to the debts, the estate must be distributed in direct proportion to each debt. The settlement of debts is a most important command set forth in the Book. Well is it with him who ascendeth unto God, without any obligations to Huququ'llah and to His servants. It is evident that the Huququ'llah hath priority over all other liabilities; however, as a token of mercy, He Who is the Dawning-Place of Revelation hath commanded that which hath been revealed by His life-giving and omniscient Pen in this Tablet."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Ibid., Extract No. 22)
Page 308 1040. The Trusteeship of the Huququ'llah--Cannot Be Turned Over to Every Person
"Payments for the Huququ'llah cannot be handed over to every person. These words have been uttered by Him Who is the sovereign Truth. The Huququ'llah should be kept in the custody of trusted individuals and forwarded to His holy court through the Trustees of God."
(Bahá'u'lláh: Ibid., Extract No. 58)
1041. The Huquq is Not Payable on Entire Possessions Each Year
"The Huquq is not levied on one's entire possessions each year. A person's wealth may be worth 100,000. How can he be expected to pay Huquq on this property every year? For instance, whatever income thou has earned in a particular year, you should deduct from it your expenses during that year. The Huquq will then be payable on the remainder. Possessions on which Huquq was paid the previous year will be exempt from further payment."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Ibid., Extract No. 65)
1042. Huquq is Not Payable on Agricultural Tools and Equipment
"Huquq is applied on everything one possesseth. However, if a person hath paid the Huquq on a certain property, and the income from that property is equal to his needs, no Huquq is payable by that person.
"Huquq is not payable on agricultural tools and equipment, and on animals used in ploughing the land, to the extent that these are necessary."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Ibid., Extract No. 68)
1043. Value of Residence, Furniture and Tools of Trade Exempt from Huququ'llah of Heir
"Concerning your question whether the heirs to whom the principal residence, furniture and clothing of the deceased are transferred by way of inheritance will be exempt from the payment of Huquq or not, he said: Since the residence, furniture and the tools of trade have, in accordance with the explicit Text, been granted exemption from the Huquq, therefore, when the transfer of ownership takes place such possessions continue to be exempt."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, September 29, 1942: Ibid., Extract No. 88)
1044. Payment of the Huququ'llah is a Binding Spiritual Obligation--Conduces to Prosperity and Honour, Ensures Attainment of True Happiness
"Payment of Huququ'llah is a spiritual obligation binding on the people of Baha. The injunction is laid down in the Most Holy Book, and clear and conclusive explanations are embodied in various Tablets.
"Every devoted believer who is able to meet the specified conditions, must pay the Huququ'llah, without any exception. Indeed according to the explicit Text of the Most Holy Book, failure to comply with this injunction is regarded as a betrayal of trust, and the divine call: 'Whoso dealeth dishonestly with God will in justice be exposed,' is a clear reference to such people.
"The Centre of the Covenant has affirmed the obligation of Huquq in these words: 'The Lord as a sign of His infinite bounties hath graciously favoured His servants
by providing for a fixed money offering (Huquq), to be dutifully presented unto Him, though He, the True One and His servants have been at all times independent of all created things'.
"This weighty ordinance, as testified by the Pen of Glory is invested with incalculable benefit and wisdom. It purifies one's possessions, averts loss and disaster, conduces to prosperity and honour and imparts divine increase and blessing. It is a sacrifice offered for and related to God, and an act of servitude leading to the promotion of His Cause. As affirmed by the Centre of the Covenant, Huquq offerings constitute a test for the believers and enable the friends to become firm and steadfast in faith and certitude.
"In brief, payment of Huququ'llah is one of the binding spiritual responsibilities of the followers of Bahá'u'lláh and the proceeds thereof revert to the Authority in the Cause to whom all must turn. Moreover, the Ancient Beauty--magnified be His praise--has affirmed that after the establishment of the Universal House of Justice necessary rulings would be enacted in this connection in conformity with that which God has purposed, and that no one, except the Authority to which all must turn, has the right to dispose of this Fund. In other words, whatever portion of one's wealth is due to the Huququ'llah belongs to the World Centre of the Cause of God, not to the individuals concerned.
"Thus the friends should not follow their own volition and judgement in using any of the funds set aside for Huququ'llah for any other purpose, even for charitable contributions of the Faith.
"We earnestly hope that everyone may be privileged to observe this sacred and blessed obligation which would ensure the attainment of true happiness and would serve to promote the execution of Bahá'í enterprises throughout the world.
"Verily God is Self-Sufficient above the need of His creatures."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, October 25, 1970, translated from the Persian: Ibid., Extract No. 100)
Page 310 XXVII. SPECIAL INSTITUTIONS
A. Institutions Defined
1045. Definition of Institution
"While the friends may be concerned at the range of agencies of the Cause which are called institutions, attempts at classification are not useful, for of course an institution is anything which has been instituted. One group of Bahá'í institutions is of the administration of the Faith on international, national and local levels, another represents functions based upon laws given by the Manifestation. It is sufficient to accept what is officially named an institution, while observing the range of appropriate applications of that title."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, June 20, 1980)
1046. Clarification of the Institutions Attendant to the Guardianship
"According to the 'Will and Testament' the institutions attendant to the Guardianship are the body of the Hands of the Cause, and the nine Hands of the Cause occupied in important services in the work of the Guardian. As you know, in his own lifetime, the Guardian also authorised the Hands to appoint Auxiliary Board members for protection and for propagation.
"However, this does not mean that the institution of the Counsellors, as presently organized, is, strictly speaking, an institution attendant to the Guardianship. To understand this subject in its several aspects you are advised to study carefully the letter written by the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and all National Spiritual Assemblies, dated 24 April 1972. You will find the relevant passage from this letter on pages 11-13 of the compilation entitled 'The Institution of the Continental Boards of Counsellors' published by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Canada."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, December 1, 1982)
B. The Guardianship
1047. The Guardianship--Acceptance of--Day that Will Not Be Followed by Night
"He feels that if ... ponders more deeply about the fundamentals of Divine Revelation, she will also come to understand the Guardianship. Once the mind and heart have grasped the fact that God guides men through a Mouthpiece, a human being, a Prophet, infallible and unerring, it is only a logical projection of this acceptance to also accept the station of Abdu'l-Bahá and the Guardians. The Guardians are the evidence of the maturity of mankind in the sense that at long last men have progressed to the point of having one world, and of needing one world
management for human affairs. In the spiritual realm they have also reached the point where God could leave, in human hands (i.e., the Guardians'), guided directly by the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, as the Master states in His Will, the affairs of His Faith for this Dispensation. This is what is meant by 'this is the day which will not be followed by the night'. In this Dispensation, divine guidance flows on to us in this world after the Prophet's ascension, through first the Master, and then the Guardians. If a person can accept Bahá'u'lláh's function, it should not present any difficulty to them to also accept what He has ordained a divinely-guided individual in matters pertaining to His Faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 25, 1948: Bahá'í News, No. 232, p. 8, June 1950)
1048. The Word "Guardianship" Used with Various Meanings
"Regarding your first question, it is important that when considering the references to the Guardianship in the writings of the Faith, and especially when striving to understand how these references apply at the present time, you should realize that the word 'guardianship' is used with various meanings in different contexts. In certain contexts it indicates the office and function of the Guardian himself, in others it refers to the line of Guardians, in still others it bears a more extended meaning embracing the Guardian and his attendant institutions. Nevertheless, it would be quite incorrect to state, at the present time when there is no Guardian, that the Hands of the Cause are members of the Institution of Guardianship. Nor would it be correct to so designate the International Teaching Centre, the Counsellors, the members of the Auxiliary Boards and their assistants."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 5, 1977)
1049. Prerogatives and Duties Invested in the Guardian Are of Three Kinds
"In the specific sense of referring to the office and function of the Guardian himself, the House of Justice finds that the prerogatives and duties vested in him are of three kinds. First, as was explained in a letter to an individual believer, which was published in 'Wellspring of Guidance', there are a number of functions and objects which the Guardianship shares with the Universal House of Justice and which the House of Justice must continue to pursue. Secondly, there are other functions of the Guardianship which, in the absence of a Guardian, devolve upon the Universal House of Justice, for example, the Headship of the Faith, the responsibility for directing the work of the Institution of the Hands of the Cause of God and of ensuring the continuing discharge of the functions of protection and propagation vested in that Institution, and the right to administer the Huququ'llah. Thirdly, there are those prerogatives and duties which lie exclusively within the sphere of the Guardian himself and, therefore, in the absence of a Guardian, are inoperative except insofar as the monumental work already performed by Shoghi Effendi continues to be of enduring benefit to the Faith. Such a function is that of authoritative interpretation of the Teachings."
Page 312 1050. Infallibility of the Guardian is Not for Individual Believers to Limit or to Judge
"Shoghi Effendi was asked several times during his ministry to define the sphere of his operation and his infallibility. The replies he gave and which were written on his behalf are most illuminating. He explains that he is not an infallible authority on subjects such as economics and science, nor does he go into technical matters since his infallibility is confined to 'matters which are related strictly to the Cause'. He further points out that 'he is not, like the Prophet, omniscient at will', that his 'infallibility covers interpretation of the revealed word and its application', and that he is also 'infallible in the protection of the Faith'. Furthermore, in one of the letters, the following guideline is set forth: '...It is not for individual believers to limit the sphere of the Guardian's authority, or to judge when they have to obey the Guardian and when they are free to reject his judgement. Such an attitude would evidently lead to confusion and to schism. The Guardian being the appointed interpreter of the Teachings, it is his responsibility to state what matters which, affecting the interests of the Faith, demand on the part of the believers complete and unqualified obedience to his instructions.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 22, 1977)
1051. Authoritative Interpretation of the Teachings is the Exclusive Right of the Guardian After Abdu'l-Bahá
"It must always be remembered that authoritative interpretation of the Teachings was, after Abdu'l-Bahá, the exclusive right of the Guardian, and fell within the 'sacred and prescribed domain' of the Guardianship, and therefore the Universal House of Justice cannot and will not infringe upon that domain. The exclusive sphere of the Universal House of Justice is to 'pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on such laws and ordinances as Bahá'u'lláh has not expressly revealed'. Apart from this fundamental difference in the functions of the twin pillars of the Order of Bahá'u'lláh, insofar as the other duties of the Head of the Faith are concerned, the Universal House of Justice shares with the Guardian the responsibility for the application of the revealed Word, the protection of the Faith, as well as the duty 'to insure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers, and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its Teachings.' However, the Universal House of Justice is not omniscient; like the Guardian, it wants to be provided with facts when called upon to render a decision, and like him it may well change its decision when new facts emerge."
1052. The Distinction Between Authoritative Interpretation and Individual Understanding
"A clear distinction is made in our Faith between authoritative interpretation and the interpretation or understanding that each individual arrives at for himself from his study of its teachings. While the former is confined to the Guardian, the latter, according to the guidance given to us by the Guardian himself, should by no means be suppressed. In fact such individual interpretation is considered the fruit of man's
rational power and conducive to a better understanding of the teachings, provided that no disputes or arguments arise among the friends and the individual himself understands and makes it clear that his views are merely his own. Individual interpretations continually change as one grows in comprehension of the teachings. In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is stated, 'To deepen in the Cause means to read the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the Master so thoroughly as to be able to give it to others in its pure form. There are many who have some superficial idea of what the Cause stands for. They, therefore, present it together with all sorts of ideas that are their own. As the Cause is still in its early days we must be most careful lest we fall into this error and injure the Movement we so much adore. There is no limit to the study of the Cause. The more we read the Writings, the more truths we can find in Them, the more we will see that our previous notions were erroneous.' So, although individual insights can be enlightening and helpful, they can also be misleading. The friends must therefore learn to listen to the views of others without being over-awed or allowing their faith to be shaken, and to express their own views without pressing them on their fellow Bahá'ís.
"The Cause of God is organic, growing and developing like a living being. Time and again it has faced crises which have perplexed the believers, but each time the Cause, impelled by the immutable purpose of God, overcame the crisis and went on to greater heights."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 27, 1966)
1053. God Ordained, in This Day, that Guidance Has Been Vouchsafed to Man Through Institutions
"...In view of the fact that guidance in this day, through the bounty of God, and because of the very nature of Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation, has been vouchsafed to man through institutions in this world; namely the Guardianship at present; and also in the future, the International House of Justice; individuals are not in a position to interpret the Teachings, and have no justification for claiming special stations."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, December 13, 1955)
1054. Future Guardians
"Future Guardians are clearly envisaged and referred to in the Writings, but there is nowhere any promise or guarantee that the line of Guardians would endure forever; on the contrary there are clear indications that the line could be broken. Yet, in spite of this, there is repeated insistence in the Writings on the indestructability of the Covenant and the immutability of God's Purpose for this Day.
"One of the most striking passages which envisage the possibility of such a break in the line of the Guardians is in the Kitab-i-Aqdas itself:
'The endowments dedicated to charity revert to God, the Revealer of Signs. No one has the right to lay hold on them without leave from the Dawning-Place of Revelation. After Him the decision rests with the Aghsan (Branches), and after them with the House of Justice--should it be established in the world by then--so that they may use these endowments for the benefit of the Sites exalted in this Cause, and for
that which they have been commanded by God, the Almighty, the All-Powerful. Otherwise the endowments should be referred to the people of Baha, who speak not without His leave and who pass no judgement but in accordance with that which God has ordained in this Tablet, they who are the champions of victory betwixt heaven and earth, so that they may spend them on that which has been decreed in the Holy Book by God, the Mighty, the Bountiful.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to Hands of the Cause of God, Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies, December 7, 1969)
1055. The Guardian is Assured the Guidance of Both Bahá'u'lláh and the Bab
"Instructions sent on behalf of the Guardian are binding, as are the words of the Guardian; although of course, they are not the Guardian's words.
"The Guardian's infallibility covers interpretation of the revealed word and its application. Likewise any instructions he may issue having to do with the protection of the Faith, or its well-being must be closely obeyed, as he is infallible in the protection of the Faith. He is assured the guidance of both Bahá'u'lláh and the Bab, as the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Bahá clearly reveals."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, August 20, 1956)
1056. He is the Interpreter of the Word: Divine Truth is Relative
"The Will and Testament of Bahá'u'lláh and the Will and Testament of the Master clearly and explicitly indicate that the Interpreter of the Word was the Centre of the Covenant and now is the Guardian. There are no other Interpreters whatsoever and no individual may interpret. This is strictly forbidden.
"Divine Truth is relative and that is why we are enjoined to constantly refer the seeker to the Word itself--and why any explanations we make to ease the journey of the soul of any individual must be based on the Word--and the Word alone."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, June 4, 1957)
1057. Guardianship Does Not Lose Significance nor Position Because There is No Living Guardian
"During the whole thirty-six years of his Guardianship Shoghi Effendi functioned without the Universal House of Justice. Now the Universal House of Justice must function without the Guardian, but the principle of inseparability remains. The Guardianship does not lose its significance nor position in the Order of Bahá'u'lláh merely because there is no living Guardian. We must guard against two extremes: one is to argue that because there is no Guardian all that was written about the Guardianship and its position in the Bahá'í World Order is a dead letter and was unimportant; the other is to be so overwhelmed by the significance of the Guardianship as to underestimate the strength of the Covenant, or to be tempted to compromise with the clear texts in order to find somehow, in some way, a 'Guardian'."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 27, 1966: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 86-87)
1058. Station of Guardianship Cannot Be Claimed Ere the Expiration of 1000 Years
"My purpose is this, that ere the expiration of a thousand years, no one has the right to utter a single word, even to claim the station of Guardianship.
"The Most Holy Book is the Book to which all peoples shall refer, and in it the Laws of God have been revealed. Laws not mentioned in the Book should be referred to the decision of the Universal House of Justice..."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Persian and Arabic Tablets, Vol. III, pp. 499-501: cited by the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Netherlands, March 9, 1965: Wellspring of Guidance, p. 47)
C. The Universal House of Justice
1059. The Universal House of Justice Called into Being by the Author of the Faith
"...In it (Kitab-i-Aqdas) He formally ordains the institution of the 'House of Justice,' ... and designates its members as the 'Men of Justice,' the 'Deputies of God,' the 'Trustees of the All-Merciful,'..."
(Shoghi Effendi: God Passes By, 1987 ed., Wilmette, p. 214)
1060. Apex of Bahá'u'lláh's World Order
"...There are statements from the Master and the Guardian indicating that the Universal House of Justice, in addition to being the Highest Legislative Body of the Faith, is also the body to which all must turn, and is the 'apex' of the Bahá'í Administrative Order, as well as the 'supreme organ of the Bahá'í Commonwealth.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 27, 1966)
1061. Legislative Functions
"The centre of the executive power is the government, and the legislative power lies in the hands of thoughtful and wise men. On the other hand, if these strong pillars and firm foundations are not complete and comprehensive, how can it be supposed that there will be safety and salvation for the nation? But as, in these latter days, such excellency is rare, the government and the whole body of the nation are in sore need of just and discerning directions. Thus it is of the utmost importance to establish an assembly of learned men, who, being proficient in the different sciences and capable of dealing with all the present and future requirements, will settle the questions in accordance with forbearance and firmness.
"All the civic affairs and the legislation of material laws for the increasing needs of the enlightened humanity belong to the House of Justice. This, the House of Justice, will be not only a body for the legislation of laws according to the spirit and requirement of the time, but a board of arbitration for the settlement of all disputes arising between peoples. When the Universal House of Justice is organized the members will do their utmost for the realization of greater cordiality and comity amongst the nations. The Laws of Bahá'u'lláh are the unchangeable, organic laws of the Universal House of Justice. They are the very foundation upon which the structure of additional legislation is built... Again, I repeat, the House of Justice, whether National or Universal, has only legislative power and not executive power...."
(From words of Abdu'l-Bahá in: Star of the West, Vol. VII, No. 15, pp. 138-139)
1062. Process of Legislating
"It should be understood by the friends that before legislating upon any matter
the Universal House of Justice studies carefully and exhaustively both the Sacred Texts and the writings of Shoghi Effendi on the subject. The interpretations written by the beloved Guardian cover a vast range of subjects and are equally as binding as the Text itself.
"...Unity of doctrine is maintained by the existence of the authentic texts of Scripture and the voluminous interpretations of Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, together with the absolute prohibition against anyone propounding 'authoritative' or 'inspired' interpretations or usurping the function of the Guardian. Unity of administration is assured by the authority of the Universal House of Justice."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Netherlands, March 9, 1965: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 52-53)
"...As already announced to the friends, a careful study of the Writings and interpretations on any subject on which the House of Justice proposes to legislate always preceded its act of legislation. Second, the Universal House of Justice, itself assured of divine guidance, is well aware of the absence of the Guardian and will approach all matters of legislation only when certain of its sphere of jurisdiction, a sphere which the Guardian has confidently described as 'clearly defined'..."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 27, 1966: Ibid., p. 84)
"It may help the friends to understand this relationship if they are aware of some of the processes that the Universal House of Justice follows when legislating. First, of course, it observes the greatest care in studying the Sacred Texts and the interpretations of the Guardian as well as considering the views of all the members. After long consultation the process of drafting a pronouncement is put into effect. During this process the whole matter may well be reconsidered. As a result of such reconsideration the final judgement may be significantly different from the conclusion earlier favoured, or possibly it may be decided not to legislate at all on that subject at that time...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, December 7, 1969: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 40)
1063. Has General Functions of Protecting and Administering the Cause
"The Universal House of Justice, beyond its function as the enactor of legislation, has been invested with the more general functions of protecting and administering the Cause, solving obscure questions and deciding upon matters that have caused difference...."
(Ibid., pp. 38-39)
1064. Infallibility of the Universal House of Justice is Not Dependent on the Presence of the Guardian
"The infallibility of the Universal House of Justice, operating within its ordained sphere, has not been made dependent upon the presence in its membership of the Guardian of the Cause. Although in the realm of interpretation the Guardian's pronouncements are always binding, in the area of the Guardian's participation in legislation it is always the decision of the House itself which must prevail. This is
supported by the words of the Guardian: 'The interpretation of the Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, is as authoritative and binding as the enactments of the International House of Justice, whose exclusive right and prerogative is to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgement on such laws and ordinances as Bahá'u'lláh has not expressly revealed. Neither can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the other. Neither will seek to curtail the specific and undoubted authority with which both have been divinely invested.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 27, 1966)
1065. The Universal House of Justice Has Conferred Infallibility
"To epitomize: essential infallibility belongs especially to the supreme Manifestations, and acquired infallibility is granted to every holy soul. For instance, the Universal House of Justice, if it be established under the necessary conditions--with members elected from all the people--that House of Justice will be under the protection and the unerring guidance of God. If that House of Justice shall decide unanimously, or by a majority, upon any question not mentioned in the Book, that decision and command will be guarded from mistake. Now the members of the House of Justice have not, individually, essential infallibility; but the body of the House of Justice is under the protection and the unerring guidance of God: this is called conferred infallibility."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Some Answered Questions, 1984 ed., Wilmette, pp. 172-173)
1066. The Process of Deducing Subsidiary Laws from the Original Text is the Right of the House of Justice
"As regards the need to have deductions made from the Writings to help in the formulation of the enactments of the House of Justice, there is the following text from the pen of Abdu'l-Bahá:
'Those matters of major importance which constitute the foundation of the Law of God are explicitly recorded in the Text, but subsidiary laws are left to the House of Justice. The wisdom of this is that the times never remain the same, for change is a necessary quality and an essential attribute of this world, and of time and place. Therefore the House of Justice will take action accordingly.
'Let it not be imagined that the House of Justice will take any decision according to its own concepts and opinions. God forbid! The Supreme House of Justice will take decisions and establish laws through the inspiration and confirmation of the Holy Spirit, because it is in the safekeeping and under the shelter and protection of the Ancient Beauty, and obedience to its decisions is a bounden and essential duty and an absolute obligation, and there is no escape for anyone.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 27, 1966)
1067. In the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh Certain Functions Are Reserved to Certain Institutions
"In the Order of Bahá'u'lláh there are certain functions which are reserved to certain institutions, and others which are shared in common, even though they may be more in the special province of one or the other. For example, 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. Similarly, although after the Master authoritative interpretation was exclusively vested in the Guardian, and although legislation is exclusively the function of the Universal House of Justice, these two Institutions are, in Shoghi Effendi's words, 'complementary in their aim and purpose.' 'Their common, their fundamental object is to ensure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings.' Whereas the Universal House of Justice cannot undertake any function which exclusively appertained to the Guardian, it must continue to pursue the object which it shares in common with the Guardianship."
1068. The Decisions and Laws Made by the Universal House of Justice Are Inspired and Confirmed by the Holy Spirit--This Exclusive Authority Will Preclude Errors of Past Dispensations
"Say, O people: Verily the Supreme House of Justice is under the wings of your Lord, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful, that is under His protection, His care, and His shelter; for He has commanded the firm believers to obey that blessed, sanctified and all-subduing body, whose sovereignty is divinely-ordained and of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whose laws are inspired and spiritual.
"Briefly, this is the wisdom of referring the laws of society to the House of Justice. In the religion of Islam, similarly, not every ordinance was explicitly revealed; nay not a tenth part of a tenth part was included in the Text; although all matters of major importance were specifically referred to, there were undoubtedly thousands of laws which were unspecified. These were devised by the divines of a later age according to the laws of Islamic jurisprudence, and individual divines made conflicting deductions from the original revealed ordinances. All these were enforced. Today this process of deduction is the right of the body of the House of Justice, and the deductions and conclusions of individual learned men have no authority, unless they are endorsed by the House of Justice. The difference is precisely this, that from the conclusions and endorsements of the body of the House of Justice whose members are elected by and known to the worldwide Bahá'í community, no differences will arise; whereas the conclusions of individual divines and scholars would definitely lead to differences, and result in schism, division and dispersion. The oneness of the world would be destroyed, the unity of the Faith would disappear, and the edifice of the Faith of God would be shaken."
(From the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, cited in a letter to an individual believer, May 27, 1966 by the Universal House of Justice)
1069. The Strong Cord to which All Must Cling is the Covenant
"However great may be our inability to understand the mystery and the implications of the passing of Shoghi Effendi, the strong cord to which all must cling with assurance is the Covenant. The emphatic and vigorous language of Abdu'l-Bahá's Will and Testament is at this time, as at the time of His own passing, the safeguard of the Cause: 'Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn and all that is not
expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the Truth and the Purpose of God Himself. Whoso doth deviate therefrom is verily of them that love discord, hath shown forth malice, and turned away from the Lord of the Covenant.' And again: 'All must seek guidance and turn unto the Centre of the Cause and the House of Justice. And he that turneth unto whatsoever else is indeed in grievous error.'"
1070. The Universal House of Justice is the "Last Refuge of a Tottering Civilization"
"The Universal House of Justice, which the Guardian said would be regarded by posterity as 'the last refuge of a tottering civilization' is now, in the absence of the Guardian, the sole infallibly guided institution in the world to which all must turn, and on it rests the responsibility for ensuring the unity and progress of the Cause of God in accordance with the revealed Word. There are statements from the Master and the Guardian indicating that the Universal House of Justice, in addition to being the Highest Legislative Body of the Faith, is also the body to which all must turn, and is the 'apex' of the Bahá'í Administrative Order, as well as the 'supreme organ of the Bahá'í Commonwealth'. The Guardian has in his writings specified for the House of Justice such fundamental functions as the formulation of future world-wide teaching plans, the conduct of the administrative affairs of the Faith, and the guidance, organisation and unification of the affairs of the Cause throughout the world. Furthermore in 'God Passes By' the Guardian makes the following statement: 'The Kitab-i-Aqdas ... not only preserves for posterity the basic laws and ordinances on which the fabric of His future World Order must rest, but ordains, in addition to the function of interpretation which it confers upon His Successor, the necessary institutions through which the integrity and unity of His Faith can alone be safeguarded.' He has also, in 'The Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh' written, that the members of the Universal House of Justice 'and not the body of those who either directly or indirectly elect them, have thus been made the recipients of the divine guidance which is at once the life-blood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation.'"
1071. The Chosen Successors of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá
"...They have ... in unequivocal and emphatic language, appointed those twin institutions of the House of Justice and of the Guardianship as their chosen Successors, destined to apply the principles, promulgate the laws, protect the institutions, adapt loyally and intelligently the Faith to the requirements of progressive society, and consummate the incorruptible inheritance which the Founders of the Faith have bequeathed to the world."
(Shoghi Effendi: World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, 1982 ed., Wilmette, pp. 19-20)
1072. The Universal House of Justice Bears Responsibility for Executive and Judicial Functions as Well as Legislative
"While ultimately the major function of the Universal House of Justice will be that
of legislation, it has continuing responsibility for executive and judicial functions of the institution. Therefore it is not accurate to refer to members of the House of Justice as 'legislators,' understandable as is the wish to give simple titles rather than complex ones."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Grenada, May 19, 1985)
1073. Appointment of a Successor to Shoghi Effendi or More Hands of the Cause Not Possible
"As the Universal House of Justice has already announced, it cannot legislate to make possible the appointment of a successor to Shoghi Effendi, nor can it legislate to make possible the appointment of any more Hands of the Cause, but it must do everything within its power to ensure the performance of all those functions which it shares with these two mighty Institutions. It must make provision for the proper discharge in future of the functions of protection and propagation, which the administrative bodies share with the Guardianship and the Hands of the Cause; it must, in the absence of the Guardian, receive and disburse the Huququ'llah, in accordance with the following statement of Abdu'l-Bahá: 'Disposition of the Huquq, wholly or partly, is permissible, but this should be done by permission of the authority in the Cause to whom all must turn'; it must make provision in its Constitution for the removal of any of its members who commits a sin 'injurious to the common weal'. Above all, it must, with perfect faith in Bahá'u'lláh, proclaim His Cause and enforce His Law so that the Most Great Peace shall be firmly established in this world and the foundation of the Kingdom of God on earth shall be accomplished."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 27, 1966)
D. Supreme Tribunal
1074. Factor in Establishing the Lesser Peace
"The Supreme Tribunal is an aspect of a World Superstate; the exact nature of its relationship to that State we cannot at present foresee.
"Supreme Tribunal is the correct translation; it will be a contributing factor in establishing the Lesser Peace."
(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)
1075. The Supreme Tribunal Will Fulfil Task of Establishing Universal Peace
"...the question of universal peace, about which Bahá'u'lláh says that the Supreme Tribunal must be established: ...the Supreme Tribunal which Bahá'u'lláh has described will fulfil this sacred task with the utmost might and power. And His plan is this: that the national assemblies of each country and nation--that is to say parliaments--should elect two or three persons who are the choicest men of that nation, and are well informed concerning international laws and the relations between governments and aware of the essential needs of the world of humanity in this day. The number of these representatives should be in proportion to the number of inhabitants of that country. The election of these souls who are chosen by the national assembly, that is, the parliament, must be confirmed by the upper house,
the congress and the cabinet and also by the president or monarch so these persons may be the elected ones of all the nation and the government. From among these people the members of the Supreme Tribunal will be elected, and all mankind will thus have a share therein, for every one of these delegates is fully representative of his nation. When the Supreme Tribunal gives a ruling on any international question, either unanimously or by majority rule, there will no longer be any pretext for the plaintiff or ground of objection for the defendant. In case any of the governments or nations, in the execution of the irrefutable decision of the Supreme Tribunal, be negligent or dilatory, the rest of the nations will rise up against it, because all the governments and nations of the world are the supporters of this Supreme Tribunal. Consider what a firm foundation this is!..."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 306-307)
1076. The Mission of the Supreme Tribunal is to Prevent War
"A Supreme Tribunal shall be elected by the peoples and Governments of every nation, where members from each country and Government shall assemble in unity. All disputes shall be brought before this Court, its mission being to prevent war.
"A Supreme Tribunal shall be established by the peoples and Governments of every nation, composed of members elected from each country and Government. The members of this Great Council shall assemble in unity. All disputes of an international character shall be submitted to this Court, its work being to arrange by arbitration everything which otherwise would be a cause of war. The mission of this Tribunal would be to prevent war."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Paris Talks, London, 1961 ed., pp. 132 and 155)
1077. International Executive--A Step Leading to Bahá'í World Government
"As regards the International Executive referred to by the Guardian in his 'Goal of a New World Order', it should be noted that this statement refers by no means to the Bahá'í Commonwealth of the future, but simply to that world government which will herald the advent and lead to the final establishment of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. The formation of this International Executive, which corresponds to the executive head or board in present-day national governments, is but a step leading to the Bahá'í world government of the future, and hence should not be identified with either the institution of the Guardianship or that of the International House of Justice."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 17, 1934)
E. Hands of the Cause of God
1078. The Institution of "The Learned"
"...the beloved Guardian wrote on 4 November 1931: 'In this holy cycle the "learned" are, on the one hand, the Hands of the Cause of God, and, on the other, the teachers and diffusers of His teachings who do not rank as Hands, but who have attained an eminent position in the teaching work. As to the "rulers" they refer to the members of the Local, National and International Houses of Justice. The duties of each of these souls will be determined in the future.' (Translated from the Persian).
"The Hands of the Cause of God, the Counsellors and the members of the Auxiliary Boards fall within the definition of the 'learned' given by the beloved Guardian. Thus they are all intimately interrelated and it is not incorrect to refer to the three ranks collectively as one institution.
"However, each is also a separate institution in itself...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies, April 24, 1972: Messages from The Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 92)
1079. The Hands of the Cause Not Heirs of Any Name or Title
"...The Hands of the Cause in this dispensation are not heirs of any name or title. Nay, they are holy personages, the rays of whose holiness and spirituality throw light on the minds of people. Hearts are attracted by the beauty of their morals, the sincerity of their intentions and the sense of equity and justice. Souls are involuntarily enamoured of their praiseworthy morals and laudable qualities; faces turn spontaneously to their manifest signs and traces. It is not a title that may be awarded to whomsoever it pleases, nor is it a chair of honour in which whosoever pleases sits. The Hands of the Cause are the Hands of God. Hence whosoever is the servant and the promoter of the Word of God, he is the Hand of God. The object is the spirit and not the letters or words. The more self-effacing one is, the more he is assisted in the Cause of God; and the more meek and humble, the nearer is he to God."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Mahmoud's Diary, pp. 29-30)
1080. Tablet Revealed for the Hands of the Cause
"May My praise, salutations, and greetings rest upon the stars of the heaven of Thy knowledge--the Hands of Thy Cause--they who circled round Thy Will, spoke not save after Thy leave, and clung not save unto Thy hem. They are servants whose mention and praise are recorded in the Holy Writ, Thy Books and Tablets wherein are extolled their services, victories, and high resolve. Through them the standards of Thy oneness were raised in Thy cities and realms, and the banners of Thy sanctity were uplifted in Thy Kingdom. They utter not a word on any subject ere Thou hast spoken, for their ears are attuned to hear Thy Command, and their eyes are expectant to witness the effulgence of Thy Countenance. They are servants who have been well-favoured, have attained Thy good-pleasure, and have arisen in Thy Cause. The people of the world, the denizens of the Kingdom, and the dwellers of Paradise and the Realm on High, and beyond them, the Tongue of Grandeur send salutation upon them. Praise be to Thee, O my God, that Thou hast aided me to make mention of them and to praise them and their stations in Thy Cause and in Thy days.
"No God is there save Thee, the Reckoner, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise."
(Tablet of Bahá'u'lláh, translated in the Holy Land: Bahá'í News, No. 420, p. 2, March 1966)
1081. Auxiliary Institution of Guardianship
"...The institution of the Hands of the Cause of God was brought into existence in the time of Bahá'u'lláh and when the Administrative Order was proclaimed and formally established by Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will, it became an auxiliary institution of the Guardianship. The Auxiliary Boards, in their turn, were brought
into being by Shoghi Effendi as an auxiliary institution of the Hands of the Cause."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies, April 24, 1972: Messages from The Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 92)
1082. Functions of the Hands of the Cause
"...The institution of the Hands of the Cause of God, charged in the Sacred Texts with the specific duties of protecting and propagating the Faith, has a particularly vital responsibility to discharge. In their capacity as protectors of the Faith, the Hands will continue to take action to expel Covenant-breakers and to reinstate those who sincerely repent, subject in each instance to the approval of the Universal House of Justice."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Followers of Bahá'u'lláh throughout the World, October 1963: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 13-14)
1083. The Authority of Expulsion and Reinstatement Exercised by the Hands of the Cause
"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. When a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors learns of any incipient Covenant-breaking, the matter should be reported without delay to a Hand of the Cause available in the area, who will deal with the matter. A copy of the report should be sent to the Hands in the Holy Land and to the other members of the Board. Should no Hand of the Cause be available in the area, the report should be sent to the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, with copy to the other members of the Board, in which case the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land will deal with the matter. Such reports should contain full details of actions already taken.
"Reinstatement of Covenant-breakers will follow similar procedures."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors, June 24, 1968)
1084. Prerogative and Obligation of the Hands of the Cause to Consult with Boards of Counsellors and National Assemblies
"The Hands of the Cause of God have the prerogative and obligation to consult with the Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies on any subject which, in their view, affects the interests of the Cause....
"...The House of Justice will call upon them to undertake special missions on its behalf, to represent it on both Bahá'í and other occasions and to keep it informed of the welfare of the Cause ... they will operate increasingly on an intercontinental level, a factor which will lend tremendous impetus to the diffusion throughout the Bahá'í world of the spiritual inspiration channelled through them--the Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, June 24, 1968: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, pp. 7-8)
1085. Inappropriate for Them to Serve on Administrative Institutions
"The exalted rank and specific functions of the Hands of the Cause of God make
it inappropriate for them to be elected or appointed to administrative institutions, or to be elected as delegates to national conventions. Furthermore, it is their desire and the desire of the House of Justice that they be free to devote their entire energies to the vitally important duties conferred upon them in the Holy Writings...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, November 1964: Wellspring of Guidance, p. 42)
1086. The Rank and Position of the Hands of the Cause of God
"The rank and position of the Hands of the Cause are superior to the position of the National Assemblies. In writing concerning the Hands, therefore, when there is reference to the Institutions of the Faith, after the Guardian+F1, should be mentioned the Hands, and then the National bodies. Because the Guardian has restrained the Hands at this time, and given as one of their functions, aiding the National bodies in winning the goals of the Ten Year Crusade, the National bodies should not misunderstand the true position of the Hands. They should report to the Hands, where teaching assistance is needed, etc., so the Hands, and their Auxiliary Boards, may be of the greatest assistance."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, April 30, 1957)
F. International Teaching Centre
1087. The International Teaching Centre Establishment and Duties
"...The time is indeed propitious for the establishment of the International Teaching Centre, a development which, at one and the same time, brings to fruition the work of the Hands of the Cause residing in the Holy Land and provides for its extension into the future, links the institution of the Boards of Counsellors even more intimately with that of the Hands of the Cause of God, and powerfully reinforces the discharge of the rapidly growing responsibilities of the Universal House of Justice.
"The duties now assigned to this nascent institution are:
--- To coordinate, stimulate and direct the activities of the Continental Boards of Counsellors and to act as liaison between them and the Universal House of Justice.
--- To be fully informed of the situation of the Cause in all parts of the world and to be able, from the background of this knowledge, to make reports and recommendations to the Universal House of Justice and give advice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors.
--- To be alert to possibilities, both within and without the Bahá'í community, for the extension of the teaching work into receptive or needy areas, and to draw the attention of the Universal House of Justice and the Continental Boards of Counsellors to such possibilities, making recommendations for action.
--- To determine and anticipate needs for literature, pioneers and travelling teachers and to work out teaching plans, both regional and global, for the approval of the Universal House of Justice.
"All the Hands of the Cause of God will be members of the International
+F1 (and the Universal House of Justice)
Teaching Centre. Each Hand will be kept regularly informed of the activities of the Centre through reports or copies of its minutes, and will be able, wherever he may be residing or travelling, to convey suggestions, recommendations and information to the Centre and, whenever he is in the Holy Land, to take part in the consultations and other activities of the Centre."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, June 8, 1973)
G. Continental Boards of Counsellors
1088. Duties of Continental Boards of Counsellors
"...Their duties will include directing the Auxiliary Boards in their respective areas, consulting and collaborating with National Spiritual Assemblies, and keeping the Hands of the Cause and the Universal House of Justice informed concerning the conditions of the Cause in their areas.
"The Auxiliary Boards for Protection and Propagation will henceforth report to the Continental Boards of Counsellors who will appoint or replace members of the Auxiliary Boards as circumstances may require...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, June 24, 1968: Wellspring of Guidance, pp. 141-142)
"...The Counsellors are responsible for stimulating, counselling and assisting National Spiritual Assemblies, and also work with individuals, groups and Local Assemblies.
"...if the Counsellors find that a National Spiritual Assembly is not functioning properly, they should not hesitate to consult with the National Spiritual Assembly about this in a frank and loving way."
(From a message of the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies, October 1, 1969: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, pp. 30, 32)
1089. Terms of Office of the Continental Counsellors
"In June 1979 we were moved to announce that the duration of the terms of office of Continental Counsellors would be five years, to start on the Day of the Covenant of this year...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, November 3, 1980)
1090. Relationship of Counsellors to National Spiritual Assemblies
"The relationship of Continental Boards of Counsellors to National Spiritual Assemblies will follow the pattern of the relationship between the Hands of the Cause and National Spiritual Assemblies, outlined by the beloved Guardian in various communications. Within the framework of these, and of general instructions given to them by the Universal House of Justice, the Boards of Counsellors will decide the manner in which they will collaborate and consult with National Spiritual Assemblies in their areas...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, June 24, 1968)
Page 326 1091. Relationship Between Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies
"The statement that the Boards of Counsellors outrank the National Institutions of the Faith has a number of implications. A Board of Counsellors has the particular responsibility of caring for the protection and propagation of the Faith throughout a continental zone which contains a number of national Bahá'í communities. In performing these tasks it neither directs nor instructs the Spiritual Assemblies or individual believers, but it has the necessary rank to enable it to ensure that it is kept properly informed and that the Spiritual Assemblies give due consideration to its advice and recommendations. However, the essence of the relationships between Bahá'í institutions is loving consultation and a common desire to serve the Cause of God rather than a matter of rank or station."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, March 27, 1978)
1092. The Counsellors and Auxiliary Board Members Are Free from Administrative Responsibilities
"The National Spiritual Assembly has the responsibility to formulate its plans and prosecute them. The Boards of Counsellors outrank the National Institutions of the Faith and are not engaged in the conduct and administering of these plans. This aloofness in itself provides them with the opportunity to concentrate on the general and vital issues of the Cause, and enables them to provide guidance to the National Spiritual Assemblies, which are usually weighed down with the numberless current tasks and issues of the day-to-day work of the community. Furthermore, such freedom from administrative responsibilities makes it possible for the Counsellors and their Auxiliary Board members to be removed from the entanglements and involvements that engagement in administrative duties sometimes entails, and heightens their capacity to be a source of inspiration and stimulation to the friends."
(From a summary of points prepared by the Universal House of Justice, based on a letter from that Body to a National Spiritual Assembly, May 20, 1970)
1093. The Counsellors and the National Spiritual Assemblies Have One Common Objective
"The Counsellors and the National Spiritual Assemblies have one common objective which is service to the Cause and the promotion and protection of its interests. The closer the collaboration between these two institutions the richer will be the blessings showered upon them and the community."
1094. The Counsellors Follow in the Footsteps of the Hands of the Cause
"The Hands of the Cause have the essential duties of propagation and protection of the Faith. Although the Counsellors occupy a rank lower than that of the Hands of the Cause, they are nevertheless charged with the same two responsibilities and follow in the footsteps of the Hands of the Cause."
Page 327 1095. The Functions of the Counsellors and the Spiritual Assemblies Are Complementary
"Since the functions of the propagation and the protection of the Faith are among the duties of Spiritual Assemblies, wholehearted collaboration and regular, continuous and full consultation between these Assemblies and the institution of the Counsellors are necessary. It should not be assumed that these two arms act independently of each other and are not in need of the essential support which each must give to the other. The functions are indeed complementary."
1096. The Proper Functioning of Society Requires Preservation of Ranks and Classes
"It is clear from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, as well as from those of Abdu'l-Bahá and the interpretations of the Guardian, that the proper functioning of human society requires the preservation of ranks and classes within its membership. The friends should recognize this without envy or jealousy, and those who occupy ranks should never exploit their position or regard themselves as being superior to others...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, March 27, 1978)
1097. Pride and Self-Aggrandisement Are Among the Most Deadly of Sins
"Courtesy, reverence, dignity, respect for the rank and achievements of others are virtues which contribute to the harmony and well-being of every community, but pride and self-aggrandisement are among the most deadly of sins.
"The House of Justice hopes that all the friends will remember that the ultimate aim in life of every soul should be to attain spiritual excellence-- to win the good pleasure of God. The true spiritual station of any soul is known only to God. It is quite a different thing from the ranks and stations that men and women occupy in the various sectors of society. Whoever has his eyes fixed on the goal of attaining the good pleasure of God will accept with joy and radiant acquiescence whatever work or station is assigned to him in the Cause of God, and will rejoice to serve Him under all conditions.
"There are many passages on this theme in the Holy Writings, and the Universal House of Justice hopes that these remarks will help the friends to turn to them and understand their purport."
1098. Differentials of Rank Meant to Canalize, Not Obstruct the Work of the Cause
"...the transcendent spirit of loving cooperation which must motivate and infuse the conduct of any institution or any believer, whether he labours in the capacity of a member of an institution or as an individual who desires to advance the interests of the Faith. The differentials of rank, functions or procedures between agencies of the Bahá'í administration are meant to canalize, not obstruct, the work of the Cause; and it is the fervent hope of the House of Justice that these aspects of the administration will properly be viewed in the context of humble service to the Blessed Perfection, which is the loftiest objective of all who gather under the banner of the Most Great Name."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, October 10, 1983)
Page 328 1099. Counsellors Should Give Wide Latitude to Auxiliary Board Members in Carrying Out Their Work
"The Counsellors in each continental zone have wide latitude in the carrying out of their work. Likewise they should give to each Auxiliary Board member considerable freedom of action within his own allocated area. Although the Counsellors should regularly direct the work of the Auxiliary Board members, the latter should realise that they need not wait for direction; the nature of their work is such that they should be continually engaged in it according to their own best judgement, even if they are given no specific tasks to perform. Above all the Auxiliary Board members should build up a warm and loving relationship between themselves and the believers in their area so that the Local Spiritual Assemblies will spontaneously turn to them for advice and assistance."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and the National Spiritual Assemblies, October 1, 1969)
1100. Assemblies Plan and Direct the Work--The Plans Should Be Well Known to Counsellors and Auxiliary Board Members
"It is the Spiritual Assemblies who plan and direct the work, but these plans should be well known to the Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members, because one of the ways in which they can assist the Assemblies is by urging the believers continually to support the plans of the Assemblies. If a National Spiritual Assembly has adopted one goal as preeminent in a year, the Auxiliary Board members should bear this in mind in all their contacts with the believers and should direct their attention to the plans of the National Assembly, and stimulate them to enthusiastically support them."
1101. The Counsellors May Report Misconduct of Individuals to the National Spiritual Assembly Through Board Member
"Information about the conduct of individuals which adversely affects the interests of the Faith may be conveyed by the Counsellors to the National Spiritual Assembly either directly or, if the Counsellors so choose, through one or more of their Auxiliary Board members. The method of conveyance of such information is left to the discretion of the Counsellors.
"Any matter which is related to the protection of the Faith is obviously a primary concern of the National Assembly, as it is of the Counsellors."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Virgin Islands, June 16, 1982)
1102. Every Institution of This Divinely Created Order is One More Refuge for a Tottering Society
"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 have already 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 of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, May 25, 1975)
H. Auxiliary Boards for Protection and Propagation
1103. Two Auxiliary Boards with Distinct But Complementary Functions Established by the Guardian
"The beloved Guardian's message of October 1957 clearly indicates that the two Auxiliary Boards must have distinct but complementary functions. In that message he charges the Protection Board with 'the specific duty of watching over the security of the Faith' and says that the duty of the Propagation Board would 'henceforth be exclusively concerned with assisting the prosecution of the Ten-Year Plan.'
"It must also be borne in mind that these twin agencies derive their complementary functions from one and the same source, are interrelated, and their members act as 'deputies', 'assistants' and 'advisers' of the Hands of the Cause of God, and, now, the Continental Boards of Counsellors. It is further clear that Shoghi Effendi was reluctant to specify in too great detail matters related to the functioning of the Auxiliary Boards, preferring to leave such things to be worked out in the light of experience."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre, October 10, 1976)
1104. Areas for the Protection Board and Propagation Board Are Not Necessarily the Same
"Provision for the work of the Auxiliary Boards is set forth in the By-Laws of the Universal House of Justice. See page 16, Article X of the printed copy of 'The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice'. However, the areas for the Protection Boards and the Propagation Boards need not be the same. They can overlap."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, August 3, 1973)
1105. In Exceptional Circumstances One Board Member Might Cover an Area
"It is desirable that every part of each zone have both a Protection Board member and a Propagation Board member responsible for it, nevertheless it is within the discretion of each Board of Counsellors to assign a member of only one of the Boards to an area if, in the light of the conditions in that area, it believes this would be preferable."
(From a memorandum of the Universal House of Justice to the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, October 7, 1973)
1106. Advisable that Auxiliary Board Member Reside in Area which He Serves
"As you know, the beloved Guardian repeatedly emphasized the importance of Auxiliary Board members' visiting Assemblies and groups in the respective areas served by them. While details concerning the appointment and functioning of the members of Auxiliary Boards are left to the Counsellors, in light of the Guardian's instructions cited above, they should take into consideration, in making a new appointment, the
advisability of that appointee residing in the area which he serves."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre, February 4, 1976)
1107. Many of the Functions of Members of the Two Boards and Assemblies Are Held in Common
"In implementing their functions the members of the two Auxiliary Boards will often be promoting the same thing; moreover, many of their functions are held in common especially in the areas of consolidation and deepening, and it is left to each Board of Counsellors to determine the range of responsibility assigned to each Auxiliary Board member so that in the circumstances of each area maximum collaboration is achieved. Experience has shown that good results can usually be obtained when the Counsellors consult upon these matters with their Auxiliary Board members.
"It should, furthermore, be remembered that these self-same functions are being carried out by the Assemblies, National and Local, and their committees, which have at this time the great responsibility for actually executing the teaching plans and for administering, consolidating and protecting the Bahá'í communities. The Auxiliary Board members should thus watch carefully that their work reinforces and complements that of the administrative institutions."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre, October 10, 1976)
1108. The Members of the Boards Should Encourage the Friends and Assemblies to be Unified
"The members of the Boards in turn should encourage the friends-- individuals and Assemblies alike--through correspondence and through visits, and impress upon them that the foundation of all of our activities is unity; they should encourage the friends to be unified under all circumstances, so that the work may go ahead with the confirmation of the Holy Spirit. The members of the Boards should likewise encourage the friends to contribute freely to the various Funds which have been established, as the Funds are the life-blood of the Community, and the work cannot be carried forward unless the life-blood is constantly circulating."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Hands of the Cause of God, June 7, 1954)
1109. Auxiliary Boards Will Stimulate and Help Teaching Work
"The Guardian feels sure that the Auxiliary Boards ... will stimulate and help the teaching work, which of course includes pioneer work, and be a prop and mainstay to the often over-worked and over-burdened National Spiritual Assemblies...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the American National Spiritual Assembly, June 20, 1954: Auxiliary Board Members, A Compilation dated March 25, 1969)
1110. Auxiliary Board Members Free to Have Direct Contact with Individuals and Local Assemblies
"...Auxiliary Board Members are not only free, but are urged, in accordance with the writings of the beloved Guardian, to have direct contact with the individual friends,
as well as the Local Spiritual Assemblies. It is at this very foundation of the administrative structure of the Faith where so often we find, alas, weakness and inefficiency."
(From a letter written by the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Uganda and Central Africa, December 15, 1965: Ibid.)
1111. The Friends Should Feel Free to Refer to Either Auxiliary Board Member
"The question has been raised as to how Local Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers are to know which matters they should refer to which Auxiliary Board member. We feel that this will be worked out at the local level in the light of experience, and that meanwhile the Assemblies and believers should not concern themselves unduly about it. They should feel free to refer to either Board, and if the Auxiliary Board member feels that the matter would better have been referred to his colleague, he can either himself pass the question on, or suggest the different approach to the Assembly or believer. This is similar to the situation, already familiar to Board members, when they have referred to them a matter which should properly be dealt with by a National Spiritual Assembly or one of its committees."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre, October 10, 1976)
1112. Protection Board Members' Responsibilities
"The need to protect the Faith from the attacks of its enemies is not generally appreciated by the friends because such attacks, particularly in the West, have so far been intermittent. However, we know that these attacks will increase and will become concerted and universal. The writings of our Faith clearly foreshadow not only an intensification of the machinations of internal enemies, whether religious or secular, as our beloved Faith pursues its onward march towards ultimate victory. Therefore, in the light of the warnings of Shoghi Effendi, the Auxiliary Boards for Protection should keep 'constantly' a 'watchful eye' on those 'who are known to be enemies or to have been put out of the Faith', discreetly 'investigate' their activities, warn intelligently the friends of the opposition inevitably to come, explain how each crisis in God's Faith has always proved to be a blessing in disguise, prepare them for the 'dire contests' which are 'destined to range the Army of Light against the forces of darkness', and, when the influence of the enemies spreads and reaches their fold, the members of these Auxiliary Boards should be alert to their schemes to 'dampen the zeal and sap the loyalty' of the believers and, by adopting 'wise and effective measures', counteract these schemes and arrest the spread of their influence. Above all, the members of the Protection Boards should concentrate on deepening the friends' knowledge of the Covenant and increasing their love and loyalty to it, on clearly and frankly answering, in conformity with the teachings, whatever questions may trouble any of the believers, on fostering the spiritual profundity and strength of their Faith and certitude, and on promoting whatever will increase the spirit of loving unity in Bahá'í communities."
1113. Moral Problems Should Be Dealt with Only When They Arise
"...We feel that instead of having Board Members investigate the private lives of
believers, the Board Members should be called upon to educate the believers regarding the principles of the Faith and that problems involving alleged immorality or irregularities in marital status should be dealt with only when they arise. These problems should not be sought out."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, August 14, 1974)
1114. Propagation Board Members' Responsibilities
"The primary tasks of the Propagation Boards, however, are to direct the believers' attention to the goals of whatever plans have been placed before them, to stimulate and assist them to promote the teaching work in the fields of proclamation, expansion, consolidation and pioneering, to encourage contributions to the funds, and to act as standard-bearers of the teachers of the Faith, leading them to new achievements in the diffusion of God's Message to their fellow human beings."
1115. Members of Auxiliary Boards Should Be Freed from Administrative Responsibilities
"Members of the Auxiliary Boards should be freed from administrative responsibilities including serving on Committees and as delegates to conventions. In the event of any member of a National Assembly accepting appointment to a Board, the National Assembly should accept this as valid reason for that member's resignation from the Assembly; should a Board Member be elected to a National Assembly, he must choose on which body he will serve."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assemblies of the Bahá'í World, November 1964)
1116. Auxiliary Board Member Must Decide What to Report to the Local Spiritual Assembly--Generally, the More Freely Information is Shared Between Institutions, the Better
"In answer to your fourth question, the House of Justice instructs us to say that an element of judgement is required in deciding what are and what are not 'administrative' matters. Immoral actions of believers, for example, generally become subjects for administrative action only when they are blatant or flagrant, and reflect on the good name of the Faith. If a believer turns to an assistant or Auxiliary Board member for advice on a personal matter it is for the assistant or Auxiliary Board member to decide whether he should advise the believer to turn to his Spiritual Assembly, whether he should himself give advice and, in either case, whether he should report the matter to the Counsellors, or to the Local Assembly, which, of course, would depend upon the degree of confidentiality he had undertaken to observe. Likewise, it is for the Counsellor to decide whether it is a matter of which the National Assembly should be informed. All this is, of course, within the general context that, apart from matters which ought to remain confidential, the more freely information is shared between the institutions of the Faith the better."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Virgin Islands, August 2, 1982)
Page 333 1117. Board Member Should Feel Responsible Before God in the Discharge of His Responsibilities
"Each Auxiliary Board Member who is allotted a specific area in which to serve, should establish contact with the Local Spiritual Assemblies and other localities of his area, encourage and guide all such centres in the implementation of the goals of the Plan, become informed of the relative strength and weakness of each locality, and feel responsible before God in the discharge of his responsibilities. Should he lose contact with a particular Local Spiritual Assembly or locality, he should use his initiative in finding a satisfactory solution to the problem. He should also send his reports and recommendations to the Counsellors on a regular basis."
(From a summary of points prepared by the Universal House of Justice, based on a letter from that Body to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated May 20, 1970)
I. Auxiliary Board Member Assistants
1118. Appointment of Auxiliary Board Members' Assistants
"...we have decided to take a further step in the development of the institution by giving to each Continental Board of Counsellors the discretion to authorize individual Auxiliary Board members to appoint assistants...
"The exact nature of the duties and the duration of the appointment of the assistants is also left to each Continental Board to decide for itself. Their aims should be to activate and encourage Local Spiritual Assemblies, to call the attention of Local Spiritual Assembly members to the importance of holding regular meetings, to encourage local communities to meet for the Nineteen Day Feasts and Holy Days, to help deepen their fellow-believers' understanding of the Teachings, and generally to assist the Auxiliary Board members in the discharge of their duties....
"...Believers can serve at the same time both as assistants to Auxiliary Board members and on administrative institutions."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Bahá'ís of the World, October 7, 1973)
1119. Primary Aim of Assistants is to Stimulate and Assist the Believers
"The establishment and strong growth of Local Spiritual Assemblies is one of the most fundamental requirements for the spread of the Message of Bahá'u'lláh, the development of Bahá'í community life and the emergence of a transformed society...
"Already a number of specific steps have been taken by the Universal House of Justice to assist National Spiritual Assemblies towards the attainment of these objectives. The most far-reaching of these steps is the authority given to members of the Auxiliary Boards to appoint assistants whose primary aim is to stimulate and assist the believers to bring into being and to consolidate Local Spiritual Assemblies in all localities where nine or more Bahá'ís reside, and to advise and assist these Assemblies in the performance of their God-given duties. The effects of the appointment of assistants by Auxiliary Board members are beginning to appear and will undoubtedly bear more and more fruit as the months pass."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to National Spiritual Assemblies, March 6, 1977)
1120. An Assistant May Serve Two Board Members
"As to the Assistants, it is evident that the Propagation Board members are in greater need of assistants. However, this should not inhibit the appointment and use of
assistants by Protection Board members. It may be found that in many areas the appointment of only one Assistant to attend to both functions will prove sufficient for the time being, but we foresee a time when this situation may well change. Here again, the way in which relationships are worked out and coordinated must remain flexible and dependent on local conditions."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre, October 10, 1967)
1121. The House of Justice Prefers that Assistants Not Retire from Administrative Work
"As you know, when informing the Bahá'ís of the world in October 1973 of its decision to authorize the appointment of believers to assist Auxiliary Board members in the discharge of their duties, the House of Justice said that such appointees can serve at the same time both as assistants to Auxiliary Board members and on administrative institutions. As is often the case, a believer whose knowledge of the Teachings and devotion to the Faith make him or her a logical choice to serve on an Assembly becomes a suitable candidate for appointment as an assistant to an Auxiliary Board member. The House of Justice leans towards assistants not retiring from administrative work, although in consultation with their Spiritual Assembly it may be quite in order; it would be preferable, however, for the suggestion to come from the appointee and not from the Spiritual Assembly."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 31, 1982)
1122. Assistant Functions Individually, Does Not Function in Relation to National Assembly, Should Foster Warm Relationship Between Local Assembly and Board Member
"In the relationship between assistants and the National Spiritual Assembly no problems should arise, because the functions are entirely separate. An assistant is appointed by an Auxiliary Board member to help him in a specified area of the territory and he functions as an assistant only in relation to that area. Assistants, like Auxiliary Board members, function individually, not as a consultative body. Assistants who are members of a National Assembly or a national committee do not function as assistants in relation to that body, and they have the same duty to observe the confidentiality of its consultations, and of matters considered by the Assembly to be confidential, as does any other member. An assistant can, of course, be a member of a Local Spiritual Assembly, but his task here as an Assistant is to help the Spiritual Assembly to function harmoniously and efficiently in the discharge of its duties and this will hardly succeed if he gives the Assembly the feeling that he is reporting privately everything it does to the Auxiliary Board member. He should, on the contrary, do all he can to foster an atmosphere of warm and loving collaboration between the Local Assembly and the Board member."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Virgin Islands, August 2, 1982)
Page 335 1123. Principle of Confidentiality Applies to Assistant Who is Assembly Member --Most Subjects Dealt with Are Not Confidential
"Every institution in the Faith has certain matters which it considers should be kept confidential, and any member who is privy to such confidential information is obliged to preserve the confidentiality within the institution where he learned it. Such matters, however, are but a small portion of the business of any Bahá'í institution. Most subjects dealt with are of common interest and can be discussed openly with anyone. Where no confidentiality is involved the institutions must strive to avoid the stifling atmosphere of secrecy; on the other hand, every believer must know that he can confide a personal problem to an institution of the Faith with the assurance that knowledge of the matter will remain confidential.
"Members of Assemblies, whether they are assistants or not, are obviously in a position to receive confidential information as individuals from several sources. It is an important principle of the Faith that one must not promise what one is not going to fulfil. Therefore, if a Bahá'í accepts confidential information either by virtue of his profession (e.g., as a doctor, a lawyer, etc.), or by permitting another person to confide in him, he is duty bound to preserve that confidentiality."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, August 2, 1982)
J. Relationships Between Counsellors, Auxiliary Board Members and Assistants, and National and Local Assemblies and Committees
1124. Authority and Direction Flow from the Assemblies--Counsellors, Auxiliary Board Members and Assistants Advise, Stimulate and Assist
"Authority and direction flow from the Assemblies, whereas the power to accomplish the tasks resides primarily in the entire body of the believers. It is the principal task of the Auxiliary Boards to assist in arousing and releasing this power. This is a vital activity, and if they are to be able to perform it adequately they must avoid becoming involved in the work of administration. For example, when Auxiliary Board members arouse believers to pioneer, any believer who expresses his desire to do so should be referred to the appropriate committee which will then organise the project. Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members should not, themselves, organise pioneering or travel teaching projects. Thus it is seen that the Auxiliary Boards should work closely with the grass roots of the community: the individual believers, groups and Local Spiritual Assemblies, advising, stimulating and assisting them. The Counsellors are responsible for stimulating, counselling and assisting National Spiritual Assemblies, and also work with individuals, groups and Local Assemblies."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies, October 1, 1969: The Continental Boards of Counsellors, Wilmette, 1981, pp. 37-38)
1125. Auxiliary Board Member May Meet with Local Spiritual Assembly Occasionally
"The National Spiritual Assembly should by all means encourage close co-operation and collaboration between the Auxiliary Board members and the Local Spiritual
Assemblies, but it is not required that an Auxiliary Board member be present at all Local Assembly meetings. At occasional meetings, when the Local Spiritual Assembly wishes to discuss matters regarding the progress of the Cause in certain areas, for instance, attendance by a member of the Auxiliary Board would be of assistance, but such matters should be left to the discretion of the Local Spiritual Assemblies concerned. Of course whenever an Auxiliary Board member feels it necessary to consult with the Local Spiritual Assembly, he or she may request the Assembly to hold a meeting in his presence for the particular subject."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Burma, July 13, 1986)
1126. Relationship Between Auxiliary Board Members and Local Assemblies Should Not Be Hampered by Regulations
"...we feel it important to stress that the relationship between Auxiliary Board members and Local Spiritual Assemblies should not be hampered by regulations; the methods of submitting information--either by minutes or otherwise--are optional... The relationship between Auxiliary Board members and Local Spiritual Assemblies should not be a matter of rights and prerogatives; it should be one of loving and wholehearted collaboration, in the spirit of the beloved Guardian's statement that 'the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation'."
(From a memorandum of the Universal House of Justice to the Hands of the Cause of God in the Holy Land, October 7, 1970)
1127. Problems with Board Members to be Reported to Counsellors
"In general the House of Justice feels that where a National Spiritual Assembly has reason to believe that the actions of an Auxiliary Board member are giving rise to problems in a community, it is preferable for it to report the matter to the Counsellors rather than approach the Board member directly. But where the matter is purely personal it may be preferable for the Assembly to take it up with the Board member himself initially in the hope that the problem can be solved confidentially although, of course, any serious problem with a Board member should be reported to the Counsellors in any case. Likewise, if the issue is a small and unimportant one it may be simply solved by direct action and not justify invoking the action of the Counsellors."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the South West Pacific, October 25, 1977)
1128. Counsellors Need Not Consult with National Spiritual Assembly About Appointments
"We have your letter of 28th November 1968, informing us of the appointment of ... as a member of the Auxiliary Board, and raising the question as to whether the Continental Board of Counsellors should consult with National Spiritual Assemblies before appointing Auxiliary Board members from the membership of a National Spiritual Assembly.
"Inasmuch as the appointee himself must decide whether or not he can accept the appointment we see no necessity for a Continental Board of Counsellors to consult
with National Spiritual Assemblies, except in very exceptional circumstances, and in such instances it is within the discretion of the Continental Board of Counsellors as to whether they will do so.
"However, the appointee is free to consult with his National Spiritual Assembly as to whether or not he should accept the appointment to the Auxiliary Board."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Italy, December 17, 1968: The Continental Board of Counsellors, op. cit., p. 36)
1129. Gatherings of Counsellors, Board Members, National Assembly Members and Committee Members Encouraged
"...in the implementation of that plan, there should be the closest collaboration between the National Spiritual Assembly and its committees and the Local Spiritual Assemblies on the one hand, and the Counsellors, Auxiliary Board members and their assistants on the other. An aspect of this collaboration could well be the gathering, if circumstances permit, of Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members with the National Assembly and its committees in a meeting where, because of their inevitable involvement in the operations of the plan, all together can become acquainted with the details of it and, at the same time, engender the esprit de corps necessary to its successful execution."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, October 10, 1983)
1130. Auxiliary Board Members and Committees Should Exchange Information
"...it is permissible and highly desirable to have a direct and regular exchange of information between the committees and the Auxiliary Board members."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, July 1977)
1131. Board Member Reports and Recommendations Are Sent to Counsellors, Not to National Assembly or Committees
"Reports and recommendations for action, however, are quite different. Auxiliary Board members should send theirs to the Counsellors and not to the National Assemblies or national committees directly. It is possible that the Counsellors may reject or modify the recommendation; or, if they accept it and pass it on to the National Spiritual Assembly, the National Assembly may decide to refuse it. For an Auxiliary Board Member to make recommendations directly to a national committee would lose the benefit of the knowledge and experience in a wider field than that of which the Auxiliary Board member is aware, and would short-circuit and undermine the authority of both the Counsellors and the National Assembly.
"Similarly, although an Auxiliary Board member can and should receive information from the National Assemblies and national committees, his primary source of information about the community should be his own direct contacts with Local Spiritual Assemblies, groups and individual believers. In this way the Counsellors as well as the National Spiritual Assemblies have the benefit of two independent sources of information about the community: through the Auxiliary Board members on the one hand, and through the national committees on the other."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies, October 1, 1969)
Page 338 1132. National Spiritual Assemblies Should Refer to Protection Board Member for Protection Matters
"It is the duty of Local and National Spiritual Assemblies to refer to the Auxiliary Board members for protection matters which may involve not only possible Covenant-breaking, but also problems of disunity within the community, the removal of voting rights or any other matters in which you feel the guidance and advice of the Protection Boards may be helpful to the institutions of the Faith. The Auxiliary Board members of course keep the Continental Board of Counsellors informed and the Counsellors then take whatever steps they feel are called for.
"You are free at any time to refer to the Continental Board of Counsellors and the Auxiliary Board members for protection any matters about which you are not clear involving the security of the Faith in your area and you will always find them willing to assist you in dealing with such problems."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Venezuela, October 1, 1979)
1133. Administrative Institutions May Request Auxiliary Board Member to Perform Certain Tasks
"A National Spiritual Assembly, National Committee or Local Spiritual Assembly may directly request an Auxiliary Board member to perform such tasks as speaking at summer schools, appearing on television, etc. It should, of course, be left to the discretion of the Auxiliary Board member to determine whether such a request would clash with his other commitments."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, October 10, 1983)
1134. Auxiliary Board Members Teach, Advise on, Observe and Report on Administration
"Assemblies sometimes misunderstand what is meant by the statement that Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members are concerned with the teaching work and not with administration. It is taken to mean that they may not give advice on administrative matters. This is quite wrong. One of the things that Counsellors and Auxiliary Board members should watch and report on is the proper working of administrative institutions. The statement that they do not have anything to do with administration means, simply, that they do not administer. They do not direct or organise the teaching work nor do they adjudicate in matters of personal conflict or personal problems. All these activities fall within the sphere of responsibility of the Spiritual Assemblies. But if an Auxiliary Board member finds a Local Spiritual Assembly functioning incorrectly he should call its attention to the appropriate Texts; likewise if, in his work with the community, an Auxiliary Board member finds that the teaching work is being held up by inefficiency of national committees, he should report this in detail to the Counsellors who will then decide whether to refer it to the National Spiritual Assembly concerned. Similarly, if the Counsellors find that a National Spiritual Assembly is not functioning properly, they should not hesitate to consult with the National Spiritual Assembly about this in a frank and loving way."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the Continental Boards of Counsellors and National Spiritual Assemblies, October 1, 1969: The Continental Boards of Counsellors, op. cit., pp. 39-40)
Page 339 1135. It is Not Necessary to Inform National Assembly When Board Members Are Working with a Local Spiritual Assembly
"It is not necessary for the Continental Board of Counsellors to inform the National Spiritual Assembly whenever an Auxiliary Board member is working with a Local Spiritual Assembly in their area. However, it is anticipated that a cordial relationship will be maintained between the Continental Board of Counsellors and the National Assembly and that the Continental Board of Counsellors will share with the National Spiritual Assembly such information as they feel will assist the National Assembly in their work.
"...it is not necessary that a member of the Continental Board of Counsellors or an Auxiliary Board member obtain the consent of the National Spiritual Assembly before contacting a Local Spiritual Assembly. However, an attitude of courtesy, respect and understanding on the part of both the administrative institutions and the Counsellors and their Auxiliary Board members should characterize their relationships to each other. Thus when a member of the Auxiliary Board wishes to meet with the Local Spiritual Assembly, both the Board member and the Local Spiritual Assembly should try to arrange a mutually satisfactory time as far in advance as possible."
(From a communication of the Universal House of Justice to the Hands of the Cause in the Holy Land, May 10, 1970)
1136. National Assemblies Should Avail Themselves of Services of Auxiliary Board Members and Their Assistants
"The National Spiritual Assemblies in consultation with the Counsellors should avail themselves of the services of the Auxiliary Board members and their assistants, who, together 'with the travelling teachers selected by the Assembly or its Teaching Committees, should be continuously encouraged to conduct deepening courses ... and to make regular visits to Local Spiritual Assemblies'.
"The visitors, whether Auxiliary Board members, their assistants or travelling teachers 'should meet on such occasions not only with the Local Assembly but, of course, with the local community members, collectively at general meetings and even, if necessary, individually in their homes'."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to National Spiritual Assemblies, Naw-Ruz 1979, citing a letter dated February 2, 1966 to all National Spiritual Assemblies engaged in mass teaching work)
Page 340 XXVIII. LANGUAGES
1137. Leave Granted to be Instructed in Divers Tongues
"The Lord hath granted leave to whosoever desireth it that he be instructed in the divers tongues of the world that he may deliver the Message of the Cause of God throughout the East and throughout the West, that he make mention of Him amidst the kindreds and peoples of the world in such wise that hearts may revive and the mouldering bone be quickened."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, K 118, p. 62)
1138. The Utmost Importance of an Auxiliary Language
"Today the greatest need of the world of humanity is discontinuance of the existing misunderstandings among nations. This can be accomplished through the unity of language. Unless the unity of languages is realized, the Most Great Peace and the oneness of the human world cannot be effectively organized and established because the function of language is to portray the mysteries and secrets of human hearts. The heart is like a box, and language is the key. Only by using the key can we open the box and observe the gems it contains. Therefore, the question of an auxiliary international tongue has the utmost importance. Through this means international education and training become possible; the evidence and history of the past can be acquired. The spread of the known facts of the human world depends upon language. The explanation of divine teachings can only be through this medium. As long as diversity of tongues and lack of comprehension of other languages continue, these glorious aims cannot be realized. Therefore, the very first service to the world of man is to establish this auxiliary international means of communication. It will become the cause of the tranquility of the human commonwealth. Through it sciences and arts will be spread among the nations, and it will prove to be the means of the progress and development of all races."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: The Promulgation of Universal Peace. Wilmette, 1982, pp. 60-61)
1139. Man's Speech is the Revealer of His Heart
"Profitless discussions fatigue and weary a person...
"Man's speech is the revealer of his heart. In whatever world the heart travels, man's conversation will revolve around that center. From his words you can understand in what world he is traveling, whether he is looking upward toward the realm of light or downward to the nether world, whether he is mindful or unaware, whether he is awake or asleep, whether he is alive or dead. For this reason His Holiness Ali says: 'Man is hidden behind his tongue. Out of the abundance of his heart does man speak.'"
(Words of Abdu'l-Bahá, July 25, 1914: Star of the West, Vol. VIII, No. 2, pp. 24-25)
Page 341 1140. Esperanto
"Regarding the subject of Esperanto: It should be made clear to the believers that while the teaching of that language has been repeatedly encouraged by Abdu'l-Bahá, there is no reference either from Him or from Bahá'u'lláh that can make us believe that it will necessarily develop into the international auxiliary language of the future. Bahá'u'lláh has specified in His writings that such a language will have either to be chosen from one of the existing languages, or an entirely new one should be created to serve as a medium of exchange between nations and peoples of the world. Pending this final choice, the Bahá'ís are advised to study Esperanto only in consideration of the fact that the learning of this language can considerably facilitate inter-communication between individuals, groups and Assemblies throughout the Bahá'í world in the present stage of the evolution of the Faith."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, June 4, 1937: Bahá'í News, No. 109, July 1937, p. 1)
1141. The Present Need of an Auxiliary Language
"What Bahá'u'lláh is referring to in the Eighth Leaf of the Exalted Paradise is a far distant time, when the world is really one country, and one language would be a sensible possibility. It does not contradict His instructions as to the need immediately for an auxiliary language."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 16, 1946)
1142. Esperanto Will Spread to a Certain Degree
"Thou has written regarding the language of Esperanto. This language will be spread and universalized to a certain degree, but later on a language more complete than this, or the same language will undergo some changes and alterations and will be adopted and become universal...."
(Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. III, p. 692)
1143. The Persian Tongue
"Acquire the Persian tongue, so as to learn of the meanings of the divine words and to know the divine mysteries, to develop an eloquent speech and to translate the blessed Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh. The Persian language shall become noteworthy in this cycle; nay, rather, the people shall study it in all the world."
(Ibid., Vol. II, p. 306)
Page 342 XXIX. LAWS AND ORDINANCES
1144. Obedience to the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh Will Impose Hardships and Tests in Individual Cases
"Obedience to the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh will necessarily impose hardships in individual cases. No one should expect, upon becoming a Bahá'í, that his faith will not be tested, and to our finite understanding of such matters these tests may occasionally seem unbearable. But we are aware of the assurance which Bahá'u'lláh Himself has given the believers that they will never be called upon to meet a test greater than their capacity to endure."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 7, 1965)
1145. Certain Laws Are Universally and Vitally Applicable at the Present Time
"...he feels it is his duty to explain that the Laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh in the Aqdas are, whenever practicable and not in direct conflict with the Civil Law of the land, absolutely binding on every believer or Bahá'í institution whether in the East or in the West. Certain laws, such as fasting, obligatory prayers, the consent of parents before marriage, avoidance of alcoholic drinks, monogamy, should be regarded by all believers as universally and vitally applicable at the present time. Others have been formulated in anticipation of a state of society destined to emerge from the chaotic conditions that prevail to-day. When the Aqdas is published this matter will be further explained and elucidated. What has not been formulated in the Aqdas, in addition to matters of detail and of secondary importance arising out of the applications of the Laws already formulated by Bahá'u'lláh, will have to be enacted by the Universal House of Justice. This body can supplement but never invalidate or modify in the least degree what has already been formulated by Bahá'u'lláh. Nor has the Guardian any right whatsoever to lessen the binding effect much less to abrogate the provisions of so fundamental and sacred a Book."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, August 11, 1935)
1146. Laws Governing Physical and Spiritual Lives
"Just as there are laws governing our physical lives, requiring that we must supply our bodies with certain foods, maintain them within a certain range of temperatures, and so forth, if we wish to avoid physical disabilities, so also there are laws governing our spiritual lives. These laws are revealed to mankind in each age by the Manifestation of God, and obedience to them is of vital importance if each human being, and mankind in general, is to develop properly and harmoniously. Moreover, these various aspects are interdependent. If an individual violates the spiritual laws for his
own development, he will cause injury not only to himself but to the society in which he lives. Similarly, the condition of society has a direct effect on the individuals who must live within it."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer; excerpts to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February 6, 1973: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, pp. 105-106)
1147. It is Difficult to Follow the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh
"As you point out, it is particularly difficult to follow the laws of Bahá'u'lláh in present-day society whose accepted practice is so at variance with the standards of the Faith. However, there are certain laws that are so fundamental to the healthy functioning of human society that they must be upheld whatever the circumstances. Realising the degree of human frailty, Bahá'u'lláh has provided that other laws are to be applied only gradually, but these too, once they are applied, must be followed, or else society will not be reformed but will sink into an ever worsening condition. It is the challenging task of the Bahá'ís to obey the law of God in their own lives, and gradually to win the rest of mankind to its acceptance."
(Ibid., p. 106)
1148. Punishments Decided by the House of Justice
"You express surprise at the Guardian's reference to 'the necessary punishment from society'. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas Bahá'u'lláh prohibits sexual immorality and in the Annex to that Book states that the various degrees of sexual offences and the punishments for them are to be decided by the Universal House of Justice. In this connection it should be realised that there is distinction drawn in the Faith between the attitudes which should characterize individuals in their relationship to other people, namely, loving forgiveness, forbearance, and concern with one's own sins not the sins of others, and those attitudes which should be shown by the Spiritual Assemblies, whose duty is to administer the law of God with justice."
(Ibid., p. 110)
1149. Laws Should Be Obeyed But Not Through Fear of Punishment
"It is a vital and urgent duty of the Assemblies, both National and Local, not only to apply the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh with justice and firmness, but to increase the believers' understanding of and devotion to these Laws. In this way they will obey them not through fear of punishment but out of love for Bahá'u'lláh and because their whole lives have been transformed and re-oriented in the Way of God."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, October 11, 1965: United States Supplement to Bahá'í News, No. 97, March 1966, p. 3)
1150. We Must Obey Ordinances, Even Though at First We See No Need for Them
"It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult. With you, and indeed most Bahá'ís, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances, like fasting and daily prayer, are hard to understand and obey at first. But we must always think that these things are given to all men for a thousand years to come. For Bahá'í children who see these things practiced in
the home, they will be as natural and necessary a thing as going to church on Sunday was to the more pious generation of Christians. Bahá'u'lláh would not have given us these things if they would not greatly benefit us, and, like children who are sensible enough to realize their father is wise and does what is good for them, we must accept to obey these ordinances even though at first we may not see any need for them. As we obey them we will gradually come to see in ourselves the benefits they confer."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 16, 1949)
1151. One Cannot Continue Drinking As a Bahá'í--Should Be Made Aware Gradually
"People should not be encouraged to enter the Cause on false pretenses. They cannot continue drinking as Bahá'ís and they should be made to realize this gradually after they become believers, or rather registered members of the community. We cannot expect people to be fully aware and instructed believers before they are enrolled, but certain essentials they must have accepted sooner or later and be willing to make the effort to live up to."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, June 16, 1948)
1152. Unfair to Require New Applicants for Membership to First Accept All Laws of the Faith
"The Guardian fully shares your view that it would be most unwise, and unfair to those who apply for membership in the Community to require that they should at first accept all the laws of the Faith. Such a requirement would be impossible to carry out as there are many laws in the 'Aqdas' with which even the well-confirmed and long-standing believers are not yet familiar. As you rightly point out the process of becoming a Bahá'í is an evolutionary one, and requires considerable time, and sustained effort on the part of the new believer. Such questions as the withdrawal from Church membership and that of abstention from alcoholic liquors should not be thrust upon the newcomer, but explained to him gradually, so that he himself may be convinced of the truth underlying these ordinances of the Cause."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 17, 1938)
1153. Difference Between Advice (Exhortation, Counsel) and a Binding Command
"Now, as regards your questions as to in what way can one determine whether a particular passage from the Master's Writings is in the nature of an exhortation, or is a positively binding statement. Just as in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, the text of the Tablet itself shows whether it is an exhortation, a counsel or advice, or whether it constitutes a positive and binding command. Obviously, there might be found certain passages that are doubtful, and these should be referred to the Guardian+F1 for interpretation and clarification."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 14, 1939)
+F1 (Now the Universal House of Justice)
1154. Abortion Merely to Prevent the Birth of an Unwanted Child is Strictly Forbidden in the Cause
"Abortion merely to prevent the birth of an unwanted child is strictly forbidden in the Cause. There may, however, be instances in which an abortion would be justified by medical reasons, and legislation on this matter has been left to the Universal House of Justice. At the present time, however, the House of Justice does not intend to legislate on this very delicate issue, and therefore it is left to the consciences of those concerned who must carefully weigh the medical advice in the light of the general guidance given in the teachings."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ireland, March 16, 1983)
1155. Surgical Operation and Abortion--The Soul Appears at Conception
"Abortion and surgical operations for the purpose of preventing the birth of unwanted children are forbidden in the Cause unless there are circumstances which justify such actions on medical grounds, in which case the decision, at present, is left to the consciences of those concerned who must carefully weigh the medical advice in the light of the general guidance given in the Teachings. Beyond this nothing has been found in the Writings concerning specific methods or procedures to be used in family planning. It should be pointed out, however, that the Teachings state that the soul appears at conception, and that therefore it would be improper to use such a method, the effect of which would be to produce an abortion after conception has taken place."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 23, 1975)
1156. Faith Recognizes Sex Impulse But Condemns Its Illegitimate Expression
"The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expressions such as free love, companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá'ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 5, 1938: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 108)
1157. Sex Relationships Outside of Marriage Not Permissible
"With reference to the question you have asked concerning the Bahá'í attitude towards the problem of sex and its relation to marriage.
"The Bahá'í Teachings on this matter, which is of such vital concern and about which there is such a wide divergency of views, are very clear and emphatic. Briefly stated the Bahá'í conception of sex is based on the belief that chastity should be strictly practised by both sexes, not only because it is in itself highly commendable
ethically, but also due to its being the only way to a happy and successful marital life. Sex relationships of any form outside marriage are not permissible therefore, and whoso violates this rule will not only be responsible to God, but will incur the necessary punishment from society."
(Ibid., p. 107)
1158. Sexual Intercourse Permissible Only Between Man and Wife
"The Bahá'í teaching on sexual intercourse is very clear. It is permissible only between a man and the woman who is his wife...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February 6, 1973; excerpt from a letter in response to questions from an individual believer: Ibid.)
1159. Adultery Retards Progress of the Soul
"...Every other word of Bahá'u'lláh's and Abdu'l-Bahá's Writings is a preachment on moral and ethical conduct; all else is the form, the chalice, into which the pure spirit must be poured; without the spirit and the action which must demonstrate it, it is a lifeless form.
"When we realize that Bahá'u'lláh says adultery retards the progress of the soul in the afterlife--so grievous is it--and that drinking destroys the mind, and not to so much as approach it, we see how clear are our teachings on these subjects."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, September 30, 1949: Living the Life, pp. 15-16, World Centre, November 1972)
D. Birth Control
1160. Question of Birth Control Not Specifically Answered in Writings
"As to the problem of birth control, neither Bahá'u'lláh nor Abdu'l-Bahá has revealed anything direct or explicit regarding this question. But the Bahá'í Teachings, when carefully studied imply that such current conceptions like birth control, if not necessarily wrong and immoral in principle, have nevertheless to be discarded as constituting a real danger to the very foundations of our social life. For Bahá'u'lláh explicitly reveals in His Book of Laws that the very purpose of marriage is the procreation of children who, when grown up, will be able to know God and to recognize and observe His Commandments and Laws as revealed through His Messengers. Marriage is thus, according to the Bahá'í Teachings, primarily a social and moral act. It has a purpose which transcends the immediate personal needs and interests of the parties...."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 14, 1935)
1161. Population Explosion, No Reference in Writings: Time of Appearance of Human Soul, etc.
"In a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual he has further pointed out that the 'chief and sacred purpose' of marriage is 'the perpetuation of the human race ... and its elevation to the true station destined for it by God.' In another letter written on his behalf it is stated: '...the fundamental purpose of marriage is to bring other souls into this world, to serve God and love Him.'
"We have not discovered any specific reference in the texts to the problem of
population explosion in its relation to birth control. This question, of course, is a matter which is currently a subject of concern and speculation by many. A study of our teachings, however, indicates that in the future there will no doubt be a general improvement of standards of life and of health, but there will also be the full exploitation of unused and as yet unsuspected resources of the planet along with the control and tapping of its sources of raw material, with a great increase in productivity.
"You have raised the point about the time of the appearance of the human soul. You are quite right in your deduction in this regard, as our teachings clearly confirm that the soul of man comes into being at conception.
"As to your desire and that of your husband to avoid any action which would permanently prevent you from bearing children, the only text we have so far found on that subject is in a letter to an individual believer from the beloved Guardian. The question asked was whether after a few children it would be permissible to have a surgical operation on the wife to prevent further conception. His reply was that such an act was unacceptable and unworthy, and those who commit the act were responsible before God.
"When the Guardian was asked whether the exercise of birth control constitutes a sin in a case where the number of children would prevent the father from fulfilling his obligation to educate his children, he stated that it is the duty of Bahá'ís to uphold moderation in all things, and avoid illegal methods."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, July 31, 1970)
1162. When Exercised to Prevent Procreation of Any Children
"Another believer, having read this letter, asked the beloved Guardian whether all birth control methods for any purpose were absolutely prohibited by Bahá'í Teachings. The secretary to the beloved Guardian wrote on his behalf on 4th February, 1937, as follows:
'The Guardian has ... given his careful consideration to your question regarding the Bahá'í view of birth control.
'...there is no reference whatsoever in the Writings on this subject. The utmost we can say is by way of reference from what Bahá'u'lláh has revealed regarding the nature, purpose and character of marriage.
'We, as Bahá'ís, are not therefore in a position either to condemn the practice of birth control or to confirm it.
'Birth control, however, when exercised in order to deliberately prevent the procreation of any children is against the spirit of the Law of Bahá'u'lláh, which defines the primary purpose of marriage to be the rearing of children and their spiritual training in the Cause. The Universal House of Justice will have to consider this issue and give its verdict upon it.'
"The Universal House of Justice feels that the time has not yet arrived for legislation on this matter, and that these instructions provide sufficient guidance for the friends for the time being."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, July 13, 1967)
1163. Husband and Wife to Decide How Many Children to Have
"There is nothing in the Sacred Writings specifically on the subjects of birth control, abortion or sterilization, but Bahá'u'lláh did state that the primary purpose
of marriage was the procreation of children, and it is to this primary purpose that the beloved Guardian alludes in many of the letters which are quoted in the compilation. This does not imply that a couple are obliged to have as many children as they can; the Guardian's secretary clearly stated on his behalf, in answer to an enquiry, that it was for the husband and wife to decide how many children they would have. A decision to have no children at all would vitiate the primary purpose of marriage unless, of course, there were some medical reason why such a decision would be required.
"You and your husband, therefore, should have no feeling that you are obliged to add to your already large family. This is a matter entirely for you to decide, and there are many methods of preventing conception, including self-discipline and restraint, to which you can have recourse. Sterilization, however, would be a more far-reaching action than any of these, with implications and results beyond those necessary for the immediate purpose of limiting the size of your family, and is not permissible in Bahá'í law except in rare instances where it is necessary for a medical reason."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 28, 1977)
1164. Vasectomy to Avoid Having Unwanted Children Not Permitted if It Results in Permanent Sterility
"Directly to your question about having a vasectomy, in general it is not permissible to have a surgical operation for the purpose of avoiding having unwanted children if such an operation could result in permanent sterility. While circumstances might exist in which sterilization would be justified, this does not appear to be the case with you."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 30, 1974)
1165. Tubal Ligation
"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of April 29 asking about tubal ligation and has noted that you are familiar with general Bahá'í principles on the subject. However, it has directed us to say that under normal circumstances it is not permissible to have a surgical operation for the purpose of not having more children if such an operation could result in permanent sterility."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, May 28, 1978)
1166. Should Take into Consideration Availability, Reliability and Reversibility of Operation
"It is clear that to have a surgical operation merely to avoid unwanted children is not acceptable. However, as in the case of abortion, circumstances might exist in which such an operation would be justified. Individual believers called upon to make such a decision must be guided by the Bahá'í principles involved, the best professional advice available to them, and their own consciences. In arriving at a decision the parties must also take into consideration the availability, reliability and reversibility of all contraceptive methods."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, October 25, 1971)
Page 349 1167. No Reference in Writings Regarding Contraception to Prevent Transmission of Undesirable Traits
"With regard to your question whether it would be permissible for a believer to limit the number of his children by the use of contraceptive methods, in order to prevent the transmission through inheritance of undesirable family traits and tendencies; this, the Guardian wishes me to inform you, is a question to which there is no specific reference in the Teachings, and should therefore be explained and decided upon by the future International House of Justice."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 2, 1938)
1168. In-Vitro Fertilization and Surrogate Mothers+F1
"The queries you raise about donors of eggs or sperm in cases of infertility and the state of the souls of frozen embryos relate to the broader question of the Bahá'í attitude toward recent advances in medical science which increase the probability of conception in cases of infertility.
"The Bahá'í view is very balanced. While appreciating the value of the new medical techniques which enable previously childless couples to enjoy the blessings of a family, the teachings define such limits as are necessary to preserve the dignity of the individual and the sanctity of marriage.
"...While artificial insemination is a very different process from in-vitro fertilization, the principle enunciated by the Guardian is the same, namely, that to be acceptable to Bahá'ís the egg cell of the wife should be fertilized by the sperm of the husband in the procedure.
"The spiritual and social implications involved in the use of surrogate mothers to provide for the gestation of the embryo, even when the embryo results from the fertilization of the husband's sperm and the wife's egg cell which is later implanted into the womb of the third party, are too far-reaching for such a procedure to be permissible to Bahá'ís."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, October 25, 1984)
1169. Individuals Must Decide Hazards of Contraceptive Agents at Present: Permanent Sterilization
"As to birth control methods, the House of Justice does not wish to comment on the effectiveness or possible hazards of present-day contraceptive agents, and leaves it to individuals to decide what course of action they will take in light of the teachings and the best medical advice available...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 4, 1981: From a compilation entitled, Birth Control and Related Subjects, p. 3)
1170. Letter to a Physician Specializing in Obstetrics and Gynecology
"Since you are a physician specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, your professional decisions in this field are frequent and difficult ones. In each individual case your physician's judgement and your Bahá'í conscience should guide you to the correct decision whenever permanent sterilization of a patient is contemplated. Of the four
+F1 (See also: No. 973)
categories you have listed, only the first, grave sickness of the mother, clearly falls within Bahá'í permissibility. In the second category, only grave genetic defects, but obviously not all genetic defects could be considered to be valid cause for intervention. As for lack of social and financial means, and anticipation of supernumerary children where individual maternal request is decisive, neither can be acceptable as reasons for permanent sterilization.
"What can now be considered to be a form of family fertility control for some patients are those methods of intervention which are reversible and therefore do not necessarily bring about permanent sterility. Where such methods have been employed, the wish by patients to have additional children, for whatever reason, can be realized through a corrective operation."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, April 18, 1982: Ibid.)
E. Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco1. Alcohol
1171. Both Light and Strong Drinks Prohibited Unless Prescribed by a Doctor
"Regarding the use of liquor: According to the text of the Book of Aqdas, both light and strong drinks are prohibited. The reason for this prohibition is that alcohol leadeth the mind astray and causeth the weakening of the body. If alcohol were beneficial, it would have been brought into the world by the divine creation and not by the effort of man. Whatever is beneficial for man existeth in creation. Now it hath been proved and is established medically and scientifically that liquor is harmful.
"As to the meaning of that which is written in the Tablets: 'I have chosen for thee whatsoever is in the heaven and the earth', this signifieth those things which are in accordance with the divine purpose and not the things which are harmful. For instance, one of the existing things is poison. Can we say that poison must be used as it hath been created by God? Nevertheless, intoxicating liquor, if prescribed by a physician for the patient and if its use is absolutely necessary, then it is permissible.
"In brief, I hope that thou mayest become inebriated with the wine of the love of God, find eternal bliss and receive inexhaustible joy and happiness. All wine hath depression as an after effect, except the wine of the Love of God."
(From a Tablet of Abdu'l-Bahá to an individual believer, translated from the Persian: Prohibition of Intoxicating Drinks, A Compilation, April 1979)
1172. In the Kitab-i-Aqdas It is Forbidden to Take Anything that Deranges the Mind
"With regard to your first question on alcohol and drinking, Bahá'u'lláh, fully aware of the great misery that it brings about, prohibits it as He expressly states that everything that takes away the mind, or in other words makes one drunk, is forbidden."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 15, 1926: Ibid.)
Page 351 1173. Drinking Forbidden, No Excuse to Touch It Even in Plum Pudding
"Under no circumstances should Bahá'ís drink. It is so unambiguously forbidden in the Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh that there is no excuse for them even touching it in the form of a toast, or in a burning plum pudding; in fact, in any way."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 3, 1957: Cited in a letter from the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, December 21, 1972)
1174. Cake Flavours and Extracts
"You ask whether it is permissible for the friends to use cake flavours, such as vanilla, lemon and rum flavoured extracts, as such flavours have a certain percentage of alcohol in them, and whether Bahá'ís may work in factories manufacturing such extracts.
"We have found no texts prohibiting the friends from using flavoured extracts in their food. This may be a matter for later legislation by the Universal House of Justice but for the time being the friends should be left free to do as they choose. The same principle applies to those who are employed in factories manufacturing such extracts."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, April 7, 1974)
1175. Strictly Prohibited Foods Flavoured with Alcoholic Liquors
"With reference to your question whether those foods which have been flavoured with alcoholic liquors such as brandy, rum, etc., should be classified under the same category as the intoxicating drinks, and consequently be avoided by believers, the Guardian wishes all the friends to know that such foods, or beverages, are strictly prohibited."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, January 9, 1939)
1176. Alcohol for Home Remedies, No Instruction Allowing Its Use
"Although it is clear from the teachings that the use of alcohol is permitted if it is prescribed by a physician for treatment purposes, we have not been able to find any instructions which permit its use in the preparation of home remedies for common illnesses."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, December 21, 1973)
1177. The Serving of Alcoholic Drinks by Bahá'ís and Bahá'í Institutions
"In response to questions raised on the permissibility of serving alcoholic drinks in a number of different circumstances, the Universal House of Justice has formulated the following guidelines.
"The fact that Bahá'ís themselves must not drink alcohol is abundantly clear and needs no comment here. With regard to the serving of alcohol to non-Bahá'ís:
1. No Bahá'í institution should serve alcohol to non-Bahá'ís under any circumstances.
2. If an individual Bahá'í is entertaining an individual guest or a small group of guests as an official representative of the Bahá'í community, he should not serve alcohol in his own home, but must use his discretion whether or not to do so if the entertaining is taking place in a restaurant.
3. No Bahá'í should serve alcohol at any function or reception given by him, such as a wedding reception or a party to which a number of people are invited.
4. When a Bahá'í is privately entertaining an individual non-Bahá'í or a small group of guests in his own home, he must himself judge whether or not to serve alcohol. This will depend to a great degree on the customs of the country in which he is living, the individuals concerned, and the host's relationship to his guests. Obviously it is better for the Bahá'í not to serve alcohol if possible, but against this he must weigh the probable reaction of the guest in the circumstances which prevail and in the particular situation. In some countries there would be no problem in failing to provide alcohol to a guest; in others it would be regarded as extremely peculiar and anti-social and would immediately raise a barrier to further contact. It is not desirable to make a major issue of the matter.
5. When such private entertaining of an individual or small group of non-Bahá'ís is taking place in a restaurant the same general principles as in point 4 above apply, except that in such a public place a failure to provide alcoholic drinks would be less easily understood than in a private home, and the Bahá'í must use his discretion accordingly.
6. Alcohol must not be served in a restaurant or other business which is wholly owned by Bahá'ís.
7. If a Bahá'í is employed by others in a job which involves the serving of alcohol, he is not obliged to change that employment. This is a matter left to each individual to decide in the light of his own conscience. Obviously such kinds of employment vary widely from bartending to serving in a grocery in which wine is retailed. If the job requires a great deal of involvement with the serving of alcohol it is better for the Bahá'í to obtain other employment if he can."
(Guidelines prepared by the Universal House of Justice, The Serving of Alcoholic Drinks by Bahá'ís and Bahá'í Institutions, attached to a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 31, 1982)
1178. A Business Partnership Between a Bahá'í and Non-Bahá'ís
"Since no explicit text or instruction of the beloved Guardian has been found on such a situation, i.e., the sale of alcoholic beverages by a business in which a Bahá'í is a partner with non-Bahá'ís, the House of Justice feels that no hard and fast rules should be drawn at the present time. This is a matter which needs to be decided in each case in the light of the spirit of the teachings and the circumstances of the case and, unless the situation is endangering the good name of the Faith, it should be left to the conscience of the believer concerned who should, of course, make every effort to dissociate himself from such an activity."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, October 10, 1983)
1179. Assembly's Role Toward Those Who Continue to Drink
"As to those believers who continue to drink, they should be lovingly exhorted, then firmly warned and eventually deprived of their voting rights. The number of times a person is exhorted and warned is a matter left to the discretion of each Local Spiritual Assembly, in consultation with the National Spiritual Assembly. The policy you adopt should not be one of removing the administrative rights of the believers in a bureaucratic and automatic way, as this would be unwise and unjust. Your Assembly
as well as all Local Spiritual Assemblies should courageously and continuously remind the friends of their obligation in this respect, handle firmly all flagrant cases, and use such cases in a way that, by force of example, they exert their influence upon the other believers. It must be made clear to the Local Assemblies that they should be willing to cooperate with the believers affected by such drinking habits, when any such believer promises gradually and systematically to reduce his drinking with the objective in mind of entirely abandoning this habit."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of South and West Africa, November 12, 1965)
1180. Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous
"With regard to the problem of alcoholism, which is indeed a terrible scourge to mankind, it must never become a source of disunity among believers. Bahá'u'lláh's principle, in case of sickness, is to consult the best physician you can, follow his advice, and pray. If, therefore, you have consulted Alcoholics Anonymous, this should be your procedure. If, however, you are not satisfied with them, you are entirely free to consult someone else. But the same principle would apply. Do what the doctor (or expert) says, and pray."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice, July 14, 1963)
1181. Bahá'í Advertising Agent Should Use Wisdom in Avoiding the Promotion of Intoxicating Drinks
"The House of Justice ... points out that, as far as advertising is concerned, the Bahá'í must use wisdom in deciding what is allowable and what is not. For example, while the issuing of an advertisement specifically for wines would seem to be inadmissible, there would be no objection to a Bahá'í advertising agent's issuing an advertisement listing the prices of goods on sale at a supermarket even if wines and spirits are included on it. It is, thus, a matter of emphasis and wisdom. Primarily the House of Justice wishes the decision in such matters to be left to the judgement of the individual concerned, but where there is any doubt, or where the National Spiritual Assembly feels that the good name of the Faith is being injured, the Assembly should, of course, be consulted and could decide in specific instances.
"In view of the requirements of his conscience in light of Bahá'í law, a Bahá'í advertising agent might be well advised to include a clause in any contract he signs in which difficulties of this nature might arise, protecting his right to demur."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, December 20, 1977: Prohibition of Intoxicating Drinks)
1182. The Right of the Non-Bahá'í Parent--The Serving of Champagne
"The future christening of the child should present no problem, for the Bahá'í parent should have no objection to the baptism of his child if the Catholic mother wishes it. Similarly, the use of champagne upon that occasion is a matter which she is free to undertake, but of course the Bahá'ís would not partake of alcoholic beverages."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, December 7, 1977: Ibid.)
Page 354 2. Drugs
1183. Hallucinogens, a Form of Intoxication
"Concerning the so-called 'spiritual' virtues of the hallucinogens ... spiritual stimulation should come from turning one's heart to Bahá'u'lláh, and not through physical means such as drugs and agents.
"From the description given in your letter it appears that hallucinogenic agents are a form of intoxicant. As the friends, including the youth, are required strictly to abstain from all forms of intoxicants, and are further expected conscientiously to obey the civil law of their country, it is obvious that they should refrain from using these drugs.
"A very great responsibility for the future peace and well-being of the world is borne by the youth of today. Let the Bahá'í youth by the power of the Cause they espouse be the shining example for their companions."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, April 15, 1965: National Bahá'í Review, No. 3, March 1968)
1184. The Use of Marijuana, LSD and Other Psychedelic Products
"In reply to your request of October 24, 1967 that we issue a statement concerning 'the use of marijuana, LSD and other psychedelic products', we have already informed the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States that Bahá'ís should not use hallucinogenic agents, including LSD, peyote and similar substances, except when prescribed for medical treatment. Neither should they become involved in experiments with such substances.
"Although we have found no direct reference to marijuana in the Bahá'í writings, since this substance is derived from what is considered to be a milder form of cannabis, the species used to produce hashish, we can share with you a translation from the Persian of a Tablet of Abdu'l-Bahá on hashish:
'Regarding hashish, you had pointed out that some Persians have become habituated to its use. Gracious God! This is the worst of all intoxicants, and its prohibition is explicitly revealed. Its use causeth the disintegration of thought and the complete torpor of the soul. How could anyone seek this fruit of the infernal tree, and by partaking of it, be led to exemplify the qualities of a monster? How could one use this forbidden drug, and thus deprive himself of the blessings of the All-Merciful?...
'Alcohol consumeth the mind and causeth man to commit acts of absurdity, but ... this wicked hashish extinguisheth the mind, freezeth the spirit, petrifieth the soul, wasteth the body and leaveth man frustrated and lost.'"
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Hawaiian Islands, November 11, 1967)
"Anyone involved in the use of peyote should be told that in the Bahá'í Faith spiritual stimulation comes from turning one's heart to Bahá'u'lláh and not through any physical means. They should therefore be encouraged to give up the use of peyote."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, November 9, 1963: Alaska Bahá'í News, May 1972, p. 4)
Page 355 1186. Opium Destroys the Conscience, the Mind and the Perceptions
"As to opium, it is foul and accursed. God protect us from the punishment He inflicteth on the user. According to the explicit Text of the Most Holy Book, it is forbidden, and its use is utterly condemned. Reason showeth that smoking opium is a kind of insanity, and experience attesteth that the user is completely cut off from the human kingdom. May God protect all against the perpetration of an act so hideous as this, an act which layeth in ruins the very foundation of what it is to be human, and which causeth the user to be dispossessed for ever and ever. For opium fasteneth on the soul, so that the user's conscience dieth, his mind is blotted away, his perceptions are eroded. It turneth the living into the dead. It quencheth the natural heat. No greater harm can be conceived than that which opium inflicteth. Fortunate are they who never even speak the name of it; then think how wretched is the user."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, Wilmette, 1982, pp. 148-149)
1187. Dealing in Heroin and Other Narcotics Forbidden
"Dealing in heroin or other similar drugs which are forbidden in the Faith should certainly not be undertaken by Bahá'ís except in the context of the legitimate handling of such drugs that doctors and similar professionals may be called upon to undertake in the course of their duties. Furthermore, dealing in narcotics is in many countries a crime and on this basis also would be forbidden to Bahá'ís."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice cited in a compilation on alcohol and drugs sent to an individual believer by the International Teaching Centre, October 17, 1978)
1188. The Renouncing of Tobacco, Alcohol and Opium--Purity and Sanctity Should Distinguish the People of Baha
"O ye, God's loved ones! Experience hath shown how greatly the renouncing of smoking, of intoxicating drink, and of opium, conduceth to health and vigour, to the expansion and keenness of the mind and to bodily strength. There is today a people+F1 who strictly avoid tobacco, intoxicating liquor and opium. This people is far and away superior to the others, for strength and physical courage, for health, beauty and comeliness. A single one of their men can stand up to ten men of another tribe. This hath proved true of the entire people: that is, member for member, each individual of this community is in every respect superior to the individuals of other communities.
"Make ye then a mighty effort, that the purity and sanctity which, above all else, are cherished by Abdu'l-Bahá, shall distinguish the people of Baha; that in every kind of excellence the people of God shall surpass all other human beings; that both outwardly and inwardly they shall prove superior to the rest; that for purity, immaculacy, refinement, and the preservation of health, they shall be leaders in the vanguard of those who know. And that by their freedom from enslavement, their knowledge, their self-control, they shall be first among the pure, the free and the wise."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 150)
1189. Smoking is Discouraged, But Not Forbidden
"Regarding your questions: Concerning smoking: It is not forbidden in the Bahá'í
+F1 (Possibly Abdu'l-Bahá was referring to the Sikhs)
teachings and no one can enforce its prohibition. It is strongly discouraged as a habit which is not very clean or very healthy. But it is a matter left entirely to the conscience of the individual and not of major importance, whereas the use of alcohol is definitely forbidden and thus not left optional to the conscience of the believer."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 19, 1941)
1190. Smoking Has Nothing to Do with Firmness in the Covenant
"Smoking has nothing to do with firmness in the Covenant. Bahá'ís are advised not to smoke for reasons of health and hygiene, not because of any spiritual reasons. We naturally cherish every hint and advice from Abdu'l-Bahá regarding our conduct, but as He has not forbidden this, we must leave each person free to decide for himself."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, August 9, 1944)
1191. To New Bahá'ís, We Should Not Stress Giving Up Smoking
"He feels that we should not lay stress to new Bahá'ís on the necessity of giving up smoking, especially as this is purely optional, and many of the Bahá'ís still do smoke. There are many things in the Teachings that require a stiff effort on the part of a new believer, and we should not add to the hurdles at the very beginning, so to speak."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 4, 1954)
1192. Smoking by Degrees Injurious
"...I wish to say that, in the sight of God, the smoking of tobacco is a thing which is blamed and condemned, very unclean, and of which the result is by degrees injurious. Besides it is a cause of expense and of loss of time and it is a harmful habit...."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Bahá'í World Faith, p. 335)
1193. Guidelines for Individuals and Assemblies About Tobacco Smoking
"Many believers feeling the same concern expressed by Dr. ... wrote to the beloved Guardian about it. In answer to such letters the Guardian's secretary replied on his behalf that Bahá'ís had no right to prevent anyone from smoking; that Bahá'ís were free to smoke but it was preferable for them not to do so; and that an issue should not be made of this matter. The use of tobacco, in common with other personal practices, should be subject to considerations of courtesy. The Bahá'í in his daily life, whether smoker or non-smoker, should always be conscious of the rights of those about him and avoid doing anything which would give offense.
"Believers have also raised the question about smoking during Bahá'í meetings. It is entirely within the authority of Local and National Spiritual Assemblies to prohibit smoking in meetings held under their auspices. An Assembly may well feel that it does not wish to raise an additional barrier to seekers by prohibiting smoking at public meetings in a society where it is the accepted practice to smoke. On the other hand, it might be wise for the Assembly to caution the Bahá'ís to restrain their smoking at teaching meetings and firesides in case it is offensive to some seekers. In the case of Nineteen Day Feasts or meetings of Assemblies or committees, it is not right
that friends who find smoking offensive should be made to endure it in Bahá'í meetings which they are required or expected to attend. If certain individuals feel that they must smoke, then arrangements, such as a break in the meeting, could be made for their convenience. It would, of course, be entirely inappropriate to smoke during the devotional part of a Feast, or at any other devotional gathering.
"It is to be hoped that the widespread publicity being given to the evil effects of smoking, both on smokers and on those who have to breathe smoke-laden air, will help to convince everyone of the wisdom of Abdu'l-Bahá in strongly discouraging Bahá'ís from smoking. However, Bahá'ís must be careful not to go beyond the Teachings in this matter and try to enforce as a law a matter in which Bahá'u'lláh has deemed it wise to allow freedom of decision."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, March 4, 1974)
F. Crime, Criminals and Prisoners
1194. Believers Charged with Criminal Offences+F1
"...regarding believers who have been charged with criminal offences, suspected to have committed such offences, or convicted by the court. The principle to bear in mind is that each case falling in any of the aforementioned categories should be considered separately on its own merits. No hard and fast rule should be applied.
"...it should be realized that the application of Bahá'í sanctions is not an automatic action in response to a verdict of the court."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, May 3, 1967: Extracts Concerning Crime, Criminals, Prisoners and Related Subjects, A Compilation)
1195. Bahá'í Institutions Cannot Enforce Criminal Laws at Present--Such Cases Are Handled in Civil Court
"...you cite violations of the criminal laws of the state. These cases are handled in the civil courts, and may or may not be subject to Bahá'í administrative action depending upon the nature of the offence and its effect on the Faith. Generally speaking the development of the Administrative Order has not progressed to the point where Bahá'í institutions enforce criminal laws."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, May 7, 1974: Ibid.)
1196. Rehabilitation of Criminals Left to Experts in that Field
"...Bahá'u'lláh has given us the general moral and social principles to guide our lives, but their application to the rehabilitation of criminals is left to the experts in that field to develop in the same way that economics is left to economists."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, September 3, 1974: Ibid.)
1197. Administrative Action in Cases Involving Disobedience to Civil Law
"We have your letter ... asking about administrative action in cases involving disobedience to civil law.
+F1 (See also: No. 187)
"...We think it is not possible to make a categorical statement applying to all cases. Each case should be decided on its own merits."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, December 7, 1969: Ibid.)
1198. Penalty for Arson--Laws for a More Evolved Society
"As regards the question you raised about the penalty for arson in the Aqdas, the penalty for arson is burning or life imprisonment; in other words the same penalty as for first degree murder.
"We must not question this, but studying the Bahá'í Faith and its Teachings in their entirety, realize that the law of God for this Day is a healing for the nations, and that, at a future period when a purely Bahá'í society exists and these laws can be enforced, humanity may have reached a much higher point of evolution than at present, and the mere threat of them may be sufficient in most cases to protect the Community and protect the law from being broken."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 15, 1957)
1199. Capital Punishment and the Criminally Insane
"The question of whether capital punishment should be inflicted on the criminally insane is one for the Universal House of Justice to decide. Such people, however, not being responsible for their actions, will not suffer any spiritual effect from acts committed while mentally deranged."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, August 25, 1939)
1200. Suicide is Forbidden in the Cause+F1
"Suicide is forbidden in the Cause. God Who is the Author of all life can alone take it away, and dispose of it in the way He deems best. Whoever commits suicide endangers his soul, and will suffer spiritually as a result in the other Worlds Beyond."
1201. The Sale or Purchasing of Lottery Tickets
"In reviewing your Minutes for 15 March 1967, we note Item 25-8 in which the Treasurer suggests a lottery as a means of disposing of a Persian carpet which has been given to you by one of the believers. We do not feel this is an appropriate way in which to raise funds....
"As far as individuals are concerned, we have carefully studied the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi on this point and it is apparent that such subsidiary matters are not recorded in the Holy Texts. The Universal House of Justice is not prepared to decide at this time whether the purchase of lottery tickets should be permitted or prohibited."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, July 4, 1967: Extracts Concerning Gambling, Lotteries and Raffles, a compilation of the Universal House of Justice)
1202. Horse Racing, Betting and Raffles
"Although we have not found any text which forbids the owning of race horses,
+F1 (See also: Nos. 674-678)
horse racing as a means of winning the prize money and betting at race courses, we quote the translation of a Tablet of Abdu'l-Bahá on horse racing: 'Betting on horse racing is a pernicious disease. It hath been seen in Europe what distress this hath caused. Thousands have become afflicted and distraught. The friends of God must engage in work which is lawful and attracteth blessings, so that God's aid and bounty may always surround them.' (Translated from the Persian)
"We do not feel ... that it is appropriate for funds for the Faith to be raised through raffles."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, June 20, 1972: Ibid.)
1203. Betting on Football Games, Bingo and the Like
"Although we may have written to you previously commenting on the question as to whether lotteries and betting, such as betting on football games, bingo, etc., are included under the prohibition of gambling, we repeat that this is a matter that is to be considered in detail by the Universal House of Justice. In the meantime, your National Assembly should not make an issue of these matters and should leave it to the consciences of the individual friends who are to decide for themselves in each case."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, September 27, 1972: Ibid.)
1204. Bingo and Other Games of Chance for the Fund
"As to participation in Bingo games by a Local Spiritual Assembly with the intention of contributing to the Fund, we do not feel it is appropriate for funds for the Faith to be raised through games of chance or raffles."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, January 29, 1973: Ibid.)
H. Chastity and Sex Education
1205. Sex Education Requires Wisdom and Good Judgment on the Part of Parents
"The House of Justice points out that sex education, especially education concerning the physiological aspects of sex, is a delicate matter, requiring wisdom and good judgment on the part of parents who can impart information to their children and answer their questions in accordance with the stage of development of each child and the degree of his or her understanding. It is, moreover, a subject that needs to be placed in its proper context of the spiritual and emotional development of individuals, the nature of the family and the purpose of human life...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, September 25, 1981)
1206. Bahá'í Youth Should Stand Out Against the Laxity and Depravity of a Permissive Society
"...the Cause of God will derive immense benefit when it is observed that the Bahá'ís, and particularly Bahá'í youth, stand out against the laxity and depravity
of the permissive society, that the exalted standards of conduct which they strive to uphold are firmly rooted in spiritual principles, giving them confidence, self-respect and true happiness. On the other hand only the greatest harm can be done to the Cause if its followers are simply engulfed by the current tide."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, November 23, 1983)
1207. The Individual Believer in Accordance with His Prayerful Understanding of the Writings Should Determine His Course of Conduct
"It is neither possible nor desirable for the Universal House of Justice to set forth a set of rules covering every situation. Rather it is the task of the individual believer to determine, according to his own prayerful understanding of the Writings, precisely what his course of conduct should be in relation to situations which he encounters in his daily life. If he is to fulfill his true mission in life as a follower of the Blessed Perfection, he will pattern his life according to the Teachings. The believer cannot attain this objective merely by living according to a set of rigid regulations. When his life is oriented towards service to Bahá'u'lláh, and when every conscious act is performed within this frame of reference, he will not fail to achieve the true purpose of his life.
"Therefore, every believer must continually study the sacred Writings and the instructions of the beloved Guardian, striving always to attain a new and better understanding of their import to him and to his society. He should pray fervently for Divine Guidance, wisdom and strength to do what is pleasing to God, and to serve Him at all times and to the best of his ability."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, October 17, 1968: National Bahá'í Review, No. 47, November 1971, p. 3)
1208. Bahá'ís Should Not Hesitate to Seek Advice from Assemblies When They Feel the Need and Must Learn Through Study and Prayer to Obtain a Clearer Vision of Their Mission
"There is no need to dwell at length on the implications of spotless chastity and the integrity of the sacred marital bond set forth in our teachings, as these have been clearly outlined and amply elaborated in our scriptures and in the writings of our beloved Guardian. Such matters as the age of marriage or the manner of meeting economic commitments are left to the individual to decide for himself. The friends, however, should not hesitate to seek the advice of their Local Spiritual Assemblies in all such matters if they feel the need.
"As the suffering and unrest afflicting humanity increase, and moral restraints are one by one abolished, the Bahá'ís must learn to obtain, through study and prayer, a clearer vision of their mission, earnestly seek to purge their lives of the influences of laxity and promiscuity characterizing modern society, and insure that the fair name and integrity of the Faith they serve and love so dearly remain unstained and unsullied."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to two believers, May 22, 1966)
1209. One Must Learn to Control Animal Impulses, Not Be a Slave to Them
"In considering the effect of obedience to the laws on individual lives, one must remember that the purpose of this life is to prepare the soul for the next. Here one
must learn to control and direct one's animal impulses, not to be a slave to them. Life in this world is a succession of tests and achievements, of falling short and of making new spiritual advances. Sometimes the course may seem very hard, but one can witness, again and again, that the soul who steadfastly obeys the law of Bahá'u'lláh, however hard it may seem, grows spiritually, while the one who compromises with the law for the sake of his own apparent happiness is seen to have been following a chimera: he does not attain the happiness he sought, he retards his spiritual advance and often brings new problems upon himself."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, excerpts from a letter to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February 6, 1973)
1210. Kissing in Modern Society is Detrimental to Morals+F1
"What Bahá'u'lláh means by chastity certainly does not include the kissing that goes on in modern society. It is detrimental to the morals of young people, and often leads them to go too far, or arouses appetites which they cannot perhaps at the time satisfy legitimately through marriage, and the suppression of which is a strain on them.
"The Bahá'í standard is very high, more particularly when compared with the thoroughly rotten morals of the present world. But this standard of ours will produce healthier, happier, nobler people, and induce stabler marriages."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 19, 1947)
1211. Bahá'ís Must Set the Example and Lead the Way to a True Human Standard of Life
"The world today is submerged, amongst other things, in an over-exaggeration of the importance of physical love, and a dearth of spiritual values. In as far as possible the believers should try to realize this and rise above the level of their fellow-men who are, typical of all decadent periods in history, placing so much over-emphasis on the purely physical side of mating. Outside of their normal, legitimate married life they should seek to establish bonds of comradeship and love which are eternal and founded on the spiritual life of man, not on his physical life. This is one of the many fields in which it is incumbent on the Bahá'ís to set the example and lead the way to a true human standard of life, when the soul of man is exalted and his body but the tool for his enlightened spirit. Needless to say this does not preclude the living of a perfectly normal sex life in its legitimate channel of marriage."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 28, 1941: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, pp. 108-109)
1212. Chastity Implies Before Marriage Absolutely Chaste, After Marriage Absolutely Faithful to One's Chosen Companion
"The question you raise as to the place in one's life that a deep bond of love with someone we meet other than our husband or wife can have is easily defined in view of the teachings. Chastity implies both before and after marriage an unsullied, chaste sex life. Before marriage absolutely chaste, after marriage absolutely faithful to one's chosen companion. Faithful in all sexual acts, faithful in word and in deed."
+F1 (See also: No. 1438)
Page 362 1213. Bahá'í Youth Should Study the Teachings on Chastity for Guidance in Deciding which Intimacies Are Permissible and which Are Not
"We have received your letter of 19th June 1973 and can sympathize with the problems that Bahá'í youth face when trying to live up to the Bahá'í standards of behaviour. It is, perhaps, natural that in the bewildering amoral environment in which Bahá'í youth are growing up they feel the need for specific instructions on which intimacies are permissible and which are not. However, we feel it would be most unwise for any Bahá'í institution to issue detailed instructions about this.
"The Bahá'í youth should study the teachings on chastity and, with these in mind, should avoid any behaviour which would arouse passions which would tempt them to violate them. In deciding what acts are permissible to them in the light of these considerations the youth must use their own judgement, following the guidance of their consciences and the advice of their parents.
"If Bahá'í youth combine such personal purity with an attitude of uncensorious forbearance towards others they will find that those who may have criticized or even mocked them will come, in time, to respect them. They will, moreover, be laying a firm foundation for future married happiness."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a Local Spiritual Assembly, July 9, 1973)
1214. Youth Should Be Taught Self-Control
"...The Bahá'í youth should, on the one hand, be taught the lesson of self-control which, when exercised, undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of character and of personality in general, and on the other should be advised, nay even encouraged, to contract marriage while still young and in full possession of their physical vigour. Economic factors, no doubt, are often a serious hindrance to early marriage but in most cases are only an excuse, and as such should not be over stressed."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, December 13, 1940: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 109)
1215. Chastity Should Be Strictly Practiced by Both Sexes
"The Bahá'í teaching on sexual intercourse is very clear. It is permissible only between a man and the woman who is his wife. In this connection we share with you extracts from four letters+F1 written on behalf of the Guardian which throw light on various aspects of the matter...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February 6, 1973)
1216. Chastity is One of the Most Challenging Concepts in This Permissive Age
"As to chastity, this is one of the most challenging concepts to get across in this very permissive age, but Bahá'ís must make the utmost effort to uphold Bahá'í standards, no matter how difficult they may seem at first. Such efforts will be made easier if the youth will understand that the laws and standards of the Faith are meant to free them from untold spiritual and moral difficulties in the same way that a proper appreciation of the laws of nature enables one to live in harmony with
+F1 (Please refer to Nos. 1156 and 1157 for two of these extracts.)
the forces of the planet. You may wish also to seek the advice of the Education Committee on teaching chastity to young Bahá'ís."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 14, 1985)
1217. Children Out of Wedlock
"...in reply to your letter of 8 April 1981 requesting guidance on how to deal with problems involving Bahá'í women who have had children out of wedlock.
"Normally administrative rights should not be suspended because of the birth of a child out of wedlock. The questions to be considered are whether the party is guilty of blatant and flagrant immorality, whether such conduct is harming the Faith, and whether the believer has refused or neglected to improve her conduct despite repeated warnings.
"If you find that the girls in question are responding to the exhortations of the Assembly and have corrected their behaviour, you should consider the matter closed and restore their administrative rights. Your Assembly should, of course, provide for the proper deepening of the friends, and in a loving and patient manner attempt to instill in them a respect for Bahá'í Laws."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, May 6, 1981)
1218. In Sexual Morality People Often Stumble and Fall Short of the Ideal-- The Spiritual Assembly Should Act as a Loving Father Rather Than a Judge
"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 15 May 1986 asking whether administrative sanctions should be imposed on unmarried couples in which one or both are Bahá'ís and who have had children out of wedlock. We have been asked to convey the following guidance.
"As you readily understand, Bahá'ís are exhorted to lead a chaste and holy life, and, according to Bahá'í Law, sexual intercourse is permissible only between a man and the woman who is his wife. In sexual morality, as in other realms of behaviour, people often stumble and fall short of the ideal. It is the task of Spiritual Assemblies to ensure that the friends are deepened in their understanding of the teachings, and are exhorted to apply them in their lives. In caring for its community, a Spiritual Assembly should act as a loving father rather than as a stern judge in such matters. Nevertheless, if a believer's behaviour is blatantly and flagrantly immoral and, therefore, is harmful to the good name of the Faith, the Assembly must counsel him (or her), urge him to reform his conduct, warn him of the consequences if he does not mend his ways and, ultimately, if the believer persists in misbehaviour, the Assembly must deprive him of his administrative rights. This deprivation remains in force until such time as the believer repents of his actions and is able to satisfy the Spiritual Assembly that he has rectified his behaviour."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, June 5, 1986)
1219. The Institutions Should Adopt Such Programs as Will Deepen the Believers in Their Understanding as to How to Attain to the High Standards of Spotless Chastity Inculcated by Bahá'u'lláh
"...Bahá'ís in their deep love for Bahá'u'lláh should be eager to apply every
spiritual precept in their own lives while at the same time exercising patience, forbearance and forgiveness in respect to the shortcomings of others. It is for the Institutions of the Faith to adopt such programmes as will deepen the believers in their understanding of the teachings so that they will unhesitatingly and eagerly follow Him.
"There is no doubt that the standard of spotless chastity inculcated by Bahá'u'lláh in His teachings can be attained by the friends only when they stand forth firmly and courageously as uncompromising adherents of the Bahá'í way of life, fully conscious that they represent teachings which are the very antithesis of the corrosive forces which are so tragically destroying the fabric of man's moral values. The present trend in modern society and its conflict with our challenging principles of moral conduct, far from influencing the believers to compromise their resolve to adhere undeviatingly to the standards of purity and chastity set forth for them by their Faith, must stimulate them to discharge their sacred obligations with determination and thus combat the evil forces undermining the foundations of individual morality."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to two individual believers, May 22, 1966)
"We have found in the Holy Writings no explicit references to masturbation, but there are a number of principles and teachings which can guide a Bahá'í to the correct attitude towards it. In a letter to an individual believer, written by the Guardian's secretary on his behalf, it is pointed out that:
'The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expressions such as free love, companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá'ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control.'
"In response to another letter enquiring if there were any legitimate way in which a person could express the sex instinct if, for some reason, he were unable to marry or if outer circumstances such as economic factors were to cause him to delay marriage, the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf:
'Concerning your question whether there are any legitimate forms of expression of the sex instinct outside of marriage: According to the Bahá'í Teachings no sexual act can be considered lawful unless performed between lawfully married persons. Outside of marital life there can be no lawful or healthy use of the sex impulse. The Bahá'í youth should, on the one hand, be taught the lesson of self-control which, when exercised, undoubtedly has a salutary effect on the development of character and of personality in general, and on the other should be advised, nay even encouraged, to contract marriage while still young and in full possession of their physical vigour. Economic factors, no doubt, are often a serious hindrance to early marriage but in most cases are only an excuse, and as such should not be over stressed.'
"In another letter on the Guardian's behalf, also to an individual believer, the secretary writes:
'Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis of sex...'
"This indicates how the whole matter of sex and the problems related to it have assumed far too great an importance in the thinking of present-day society.
"Masturbation is clearly not a proper use of the sex instinct, as this is understood in the Faith. Moreover it involves, as you have pointed out, mental fantasies, while Bahá'u'lláh, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, has exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known Tablets Abdu'l-Bahá encourages us to keep our 'secret thoughts pure'. Of course many wayward thoughts come involuntarily to the mind and these are merely a result of weakness and are not blameworthy unless they become fixed or even worse, are expressed in improper acts. In 'The Advent of Divine Justice', when describing the moral standards that Bahá'ís must uphold both individually and in their community life, the Guardian wrote:
'Such a chaste and holy life, with its implications of modesty, purity, temperance, decency, and clean-mindedness, involves no less than the exercise of moderation in all that pertains to dress, language, amusements, and all artistic and literary avocations. It demands daily vigilance in the control of one's carnal desires and corrupt inclinations.'
"Your problem, therefore, is one against which you should continue to struggle, with determination and with the aid of prayer. You should remember, however, that it is only one of the many temptations and faults that a human being must strive to overcome during his lifetime, and you should not increase the difficulty you have by over-emphasising its importance. We suggest you try to see it within the whole spectrum of the qualities that a Bahá'í must develop in his character. Be vigilant against temptation, but do not allow it to claim too great a share of your attention. You should concentrate, rather, on the virtues that you should develop, the services you should strive to render, and, above all, on God and His attributes, and devote your energies to living a full Bahá'í life in all its many aspects."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, a copy of which was sent to the compiler with a letter dated March 8, 1981)
1221. Acts of Immorality
"Amongst the many other evils afflicting society in this spiritual low water mark in history, is the question of immorality, and over-emphasis of sex. Homosexuality, according to the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, is spiritually condemned. This does not mean that people so afflicted must not be helped and advised and sympathized with. It does mean that we do not believe that it is a permissible way of life; which, alas, is all too often the accepted attitude nowadays.
"We must struggle against the evils in society by spiritual means, and medical and social ones as well. We must be tolerant but uncompromising, understanding but immovable in our point of view.
"The thing people need to meet this type of trouble, as well as every other type, is greater spiritual understanding and stability; and of course we Bahá'ís believe that ultimately this can only be given to mankind through the Teachings of the Manifestation of God for this Day."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 21, 1954)
+F1 (See also: Nos. 185, 1221-1230)
Page 366 1222. Homosexuality and Transsexuality
"A number of sexual problems such as homosexuality and transsexuality can well have medical aspects, and in such cases recourse should certainly be had to the best medical assistance. But it is clear from the teaching of Bahá'u'lláh that homosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled, but is a distortion of his or her nature which should be controlled and overcome. This may require a hard struggle, but so also can be the struggle of a heterosexual person to control his or her desires. The exercise of self-control in this, as in so very many other aspects of life, has a beneficial effect on the progress of the soul. It should, moreover, be borne in mind that although to be married is highly desirable, and Bahá'u'lláh has strongly recommended it, it is not the central purpose of life. If a person has to wait a considerable period before finding a spouse, or if ultimately, he or she must remain single, it does not mean that he or she is thereby unable to fulfil his or her life's purpose."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 12, 1973: cited in Messages from The Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 110-111)
1223. Through Advice, Help of Doctors, and Prayer, Can Overcome This Handicap
"No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá'u'lláh, and homosexual relationships he looks upon as such, besides being against nature.
"To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.
"God judges each soul on its own merits. The Guardian cannot tell you what the attitude of God would be towards a person who lives a good life in most ways, but not in this way. All he can tell you is that it is forbidden by Bahá'u'lláh, and that one so afflicted should struggle and struggle again to overcome it. We must be hopeful of God's Mercy but not impose upon it."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 26, 1950)
1224. Bahá'í Law Protects and Strengthens Marriage
"...We shrink, for very shame, from treating of the subject of boys. Fear ye the Merciful, O peoples of the world! Commit not that which is forbidden you in Our Holy Tablet, and be not of those who rove distractedly in the wilderness of their desires."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, K 107, p. 58)
"The word translated here as 'boys' has, in this context, in the Arabic original, the implication of paederasty. Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations.
"The Bahá'í teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Bahá'í law thus restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married."
(The Universal House of Justice: The Kitab-i-Aqdas: N 134, p. 223)
Page 367 1225. The Question Should Not Be if a Practicing Homosexual Can Be a Bahá'í, But as Such Can He Overcome His Problem Through the Teachings
"Bahá'í teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Thus Bahá'í law restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married.
"Thus, it should not be so much a matter of whether a practicing homosexual can be a Bahá'í as whether, having become a Bahá'í, the homosexual can overcome his problem through knowledge of the teachings and reliance on Bahá'u'lláh."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 14, 1973)
1226. Recognizing the Divine Origin of the Sex Impulse in Man, Religion Teaches It Must Be Controlled
"...Any act or activity by a believer which is contrary to our teachings will surely be harmful to the spiritual future of the individual concerned, and may give non-Bahá'ís a wrong impression of the principles of our Faith. Whereas consider how important it is for a believer to reflect in his actions the redeeming features of the Cause he has embraced. Shoghi Effendi has pointed out:
'Not by the force of numbers, not by the mere exposition of a set of new and noble principles, not by an organized campaign of teaching--no matter how worldwide and elaborate in its character--not even by the staunchness of our faith or the exaltation of our enthusiasm, can we ultimately hope to vindicate in the eyes of a critical and sceptical age the supreme claim of the Abha Revelation. One thing and only one thing will unfailingly and alone secure the undoubted triumph of this sacred Cause, namely, the extent to which our own inner life and private character mirror forth in their manifold aspects the splendour of those eternal principles proclaimed by Bahá'u'lláh.'
"While recognizing the divine origin and force of the sex impulse in man, religion teaches that it must be controlled, and Bahá'u'lláh's law confines its expression to the marriage relationship. The unmarried homosexual is therefore in the same position as anyone else who does not marry. The Law of God requires them to practise chastity.
"Even though you feel that the conflict between sensuality and spirituality is more than you can bear, your affirmation--'I do know I am a Bahá'í' is a positive factor in the battle you must wage. Every believer needs to remember that an essential characteristic of this physical world is that we are constantly faced with trials, tribulations, hardships and sufferings and that by overcoming them we achieve our moral and spiritual development; that we must seek to accomplish in the future what we may have failed to do in the past; that this is the way God tests His servants and we should look upon every failure or shortcoming as an opportunity to try again and to acquire a fuller consciousness of the Divine Will and purpose."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, January 9, 1977)
1227. We Are Assured of the Guidance of God When We Make an Effort to Obey Him
"Certainly the problem confronting you is a difficult one. However, its solution lies within your power, for Bahá'u'lláh has assured us that God 'will never deal unjustly
with anyone, neither will He task a soul beyond its power'.+F1 And again, 'Whensoever he hath fulfilled the conditions implied in the verse: "Whoso maketh efforts for Us," he shall enjoy the blessings conferred by the words: "In Our Way shall We assuredly guide him."' You can be confident that with the help of doctors, by prayer and meditation, by self-abnegation and by giving as much time as possible to serving the Cause in your community you can eventually succeed in overcoming your problem."
1228. One Must Make an Effort to Resist Wayward Impulses When They Arise by Turning to the Sacred Writings to Divert One's Thoughts
"The House of Justice comments that while there is little in Bahá'í literature that specifically points to the causes of homosexuality itself, there is much that concerns the nature of man, his inner life and growth, and the way to a true Bahá'í life. If you are sincerely intent on overcoming your problem, you must yourself determine to resist wayward impulses each time they arise and the House of Justice feels that there is no better way than to turn to the Writings to divert our thoughts into spiritual channels, perhaps to concentrate on what we may do to help others along the way to discovering the Bahá'í Faith. The more we occupy ourselves with teaching the Cause and serving our fellow-man in this way, the stronger we become in resisting that which is abhorrent to our spiritual selves.
"Man's physical existence on this earth is a period during which the moral exercise of his free will is tried and tested in order to prepare his soul for the other worlds of God, and we must welcome affliction and tribulations as opportunities for improvement in our eternal selves. The House of Justice points out that homosexuals are not the only segment of human society labouring at this daily task--every human being is beset by such inner promptings as pride, greed, selfishness, lustful heterosexual or homosexual desires, to name a few which must be overcome, and overcome them we must if we are to fulfil the purpose of our human existence."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, July 16, 1980)
1229. A Homosexual Relationship Subverts the Purpose of Human Life
"There should be real incentive for you to courageously face the problems inherent in the situation you describe in your letter, and to firmly resolve to change your way of life. But you must desire to do so. Both you and your Bahá'í friend must first recognize that a homosexual relationship subverts the purpose of human life and that determined effort to overcome the wayward tendencies which promote this practice which, like other sexual vices, is so abhorrent; the Creator of all mankind will help you both to return to a path that leads to true happiness."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, August 23, 1982)
1230. Homosexuality, Immorality and Adultery Are Forbidden in the Faith
"The question of how to deal with homosexuals is a very difficult one. Homosexuality is forbidden in the Bahá'í Faith by Bahá'u'lláh; so, for that matter, are immorality and adultery. If one is going to start imposing heavy sanctions on people who are the victims of this abnormality, however repulsive it may be to
+F1 (Bahá'u'lláh: Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 106, 1982 U.S. edition)
others, then it is only fair to impose equally heavy sanctions on any Bahá'ís who step beyond the moral limits defined by Bahá'u'lláh. Obviously at the present time this would create an impossible and ridiculous situation.
"He feels, therefore, that, through loving advice, through repeated warnings, any friends who are flagrantly immoral should be assisted, and, if possible, restrained. If their activities overstep all bounds and become a matter of public scandal, then the Assembly can consider depriving them of their voting rights. However, he does not advise this course of action, and feels it should only be resorted to in very flagrant cases."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, August 20, 1955)
J. Laws of Marriage
1. Parental Consent
1231. Knowledge of Character Responsibility of Two Parties and Parents
"Bahá'í law places the responsibility for ascertaining knowledge of the character of those entering into the marriage contract on the two parties involved, and on the parents, who must give consent to the marriage.
"The obligation of the Spiritual Assembly is to ascertain that all requirements of civil and Bahá'í law have been complied with, and, having done so, the Assembly may neither refuse to perform the marriage ceremony nor delay it."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, March 30, 1967)
1232. Must Become Thoroughly Acquainted with Characters of Each Other
"Bahá'í marriage is the commitment of the two parties one to the other, and their mutual attachment of mind and heart. Each must, however, exercise the utmost care to become thoroughly acquainted with the character of the other, that the binding covenant between them may be a tie that will endure forever. Their purpose must be this: to become loving companions and comrades and at one with each other for time and eternity....
"The true marriage of Bahá'ís is this, that husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God. This is Bahá'í marriage."
1233. Law Requiring Parental Consent Should Encourage Young People to Consider Marriage Seriously
"Bahá'u'lláh definitely says that the consent of the parents should be obtained before the marriage is sanctioned and that undoubtedly has great wisdom. It will at least detain young people from marrying without considering the subject thoroughly. It is in conformity with this teaching of the Cause that Shoghi Effendi cabled that the consent of your parents should be obtained.
"I personally believe that if you retain your love as a pure and close friendship and continue your studies until you bring them to a close then you will be in a better position to judge and perhaps your parents would be given time to give the subject
better consideration. Time can always provide things and settle disputes that temporary endeavour and heated discussion cannot help."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 29, 1929)
1234. Consent Required of Parents for Adults, for Second Marriages, for Bahá'ís or Non-Bahá'ís
"About the consent of parents for marriage: This is required before and also after the man or woman is twenty-one years of age. It is also required in the event of a second marriage, after the dissolution of the first whether through death or through divorce.
"The parental consent is also a binding obligation irrespective of whether the parents are Bahá'ís or not, whether they are friendly or opposed to the Cause. In the event of the death of both parents, the consent of a guardian is not required."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 10, 1936)
1235. The Law of Parental Consent is to Strengthen Family Relationships
"Bahá'u'lláh has clearly stated the consent of all living parents is required for a Bahá'í marriage. This applies whether the parents are Bahá'ís or non-Bahá'ís, divorced for years or not. This great law He has laid down to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of children for those who have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator. We Bahá'ís must realize that in present-day society the exact opposite process is taking place: young people care less and less for their parents' wishes, divorce is considered a natural right, and obtained on the flimsiest and most unwarrantable and shabby pretexts. People separated from each other, especially if one of them has had full custody of the children, are only too willing to belittle the importance of the partner in marriage also responsible as a parent for bringing those children into this world. The Bahá'ís must, through rigid adherence to the Bahá'í laws and teachings, combat these corrosive forces which are so rapidly destroying home life and the beauty of family relationships, and tearing down the moral structure of society."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, October 25, 1947)
1236. Consent of Parents Law of Great Importance Affecting the Foundation of Human Society
"In many cases of breach of marriage laws the believers apparently look upon the law requiring consent of parents before marriage as a mere administrative regulation, and do not seem to realize that this is a law of great importance affecting the very foundations of human society. Moreover they seem not to appreciate that in the Bahá'í Faith the spiritual and administrative aspects are complementary and that the social laws of the Faith are as binding as the purely spiritual ones."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, August 29, 1965: Canadian Bahá'í News, No. 265, February 1973, p. 11)
1237. Consent of All Living Parents Places a Grave Responsibility on Each Parent
"It is perfectly true that Bahá'u'lláh's statement that the consent of all living parents
is required for marriage places a grave responsibility on each parent. When the parents are Bahá'ís they should, of course, act objectively in withholding or granting their approval. They cannot evade this responsibility by merely acquiescing in their child's wish, nor should they be swayed by prejudice; but, whether they be Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í, the parents' decision is binding, whatever the reason that may have motivated it. Children must recognize and understand that this act of consenting is the duty of a parent. They must have respect in their hearts for those who have given them life, and whose good pleasure they must at all times strive to win."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, February 1, 1968)
1238. Parents May Seek Advice of Spiritual Assembly, But Decision Rests with the Parents
"In reply to your letter of 9 March, 1979 requesting comment on an item in the Minutes of a Local Spiritual Assembly concerning parental consent to marriage, the Universal House of Justice directs us to say that while parents may seek advice of an Assembly about whether they should consent to the marriage of their children and the Assembly may give such advice, the decision rests with the parents and the Assembly cannot assume that responsibility."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, April 5, 1979)
1239. The Opposition of Family Members Other Than Parents Does Not Affect Validity of the Marriage
"In this connection, the Guardian feels the necessity of bringing to your attention the fact that the validity of a Bahá'í marriage is conditioned upon the consent of the two parties and their parents only. So that in case the other members of your family show any dislike or opposition to your sister's union with Mr. ..., their objection does under no circumstances invalidate it. Your parents' approval would be sufficient even though all the rest of your family may violently oppose it."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to a Bahá'í couple, March 31, 1937)
1240. Marriage to Non-Bahá'í, Consent of Parents of Both Parties Required
"Regarding the question whether it is necessary to obtain the consent of the parents of a non-Bahá'í participant in a marriage with a Bahá'í: As Bahá'u'lláh has stated that the consent of the parents of both parties is required in order to promote unity and avoid friction, and as the Aqdas does not specify any exceptions to this rule, the Guardian feels that under all circumstances the consent of the parents of both parties is required."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, August 12, 1941)
1241. The Child May Ask Parents to Reconsider--May Request Assistance of Assembly
"It is clear from your letter that you understand the basic requirement that parental consent is necessary to having a Bahá'í marriage and that parents may give or withhold consent for their own reasons. If in a given case the parents at first withhold consent, there is no harm in the child's asking his parents to reconsider,
bearing in mind that he has to abide by their decision. The child, on the other hand, may not wish to pursue the matter; it is left entirely to his own judgement of the circumstances whether to request reconsideration or not.
"There have been instances when parties have appealed to Bahá'í institutions (local and national) to assist them in removing any misunderstanding that may have stood in the way of a positive decision on the part of their parents. But there are no hard and fast rules in these matters. Each case is dealt with according to the prevailing circumstances at the time."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, October 28, 1984)
1242. Consent of Parents Often Withheld for Reasons of Bigotry
"...the Bahá'í law requiring consent of parents to marriage. All too often nowadays such consent is withheld by non-Bahá'í parents for reasons of bigotry or racial prejudice; yet we have seen again and again the profound effect on those very parents of the firmness of the children in the Bahá'í law, to the extent that not only is the consent ultimately given in many cases, but the character of the parents can be affected and their relationship with their child greatly strengthened.
"Thus, by upholding Bahá'í law in the face of all difficulties we not only strengthen our own characters but influence those around us."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer; copies to all National Spiritual Assemblies, February 6, 1973: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, pp. 106-107)
1243. If Parents Are Alive, Consent Must Be Obtained
"Regarding your question of applying the sanction of suspension of voting rights to people who marry without the consent of parents, this should be done from now on. The law of the Aqdas is explicit and not open to any ambiguity at all. As long as the parents are alive, the consent must be obtained; it is not conditioned on their relationship to their children. If the whereabouts of the parents is not known legally, in other words, if they are legally dead, then it is not necessary for the children to obtain their consent, obviously. It is not a question of the child not knowing the present whereabouts of its parents, it is a question of a legal thing--if the parents are alive, they must be asked."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, June 26, 1956: Bahá'í News, No. 335, January 1959, p. 2)
1244. Circumstances Under which Parental Consent for Bahá'í Marriage Not Required
"In reply to your letter about the problem of ... who is unable to locate the natural father of her fiance we are glad to offer you the following guidance:
"The only circumstances under which parental consent for Bahá'í marriage is not required are the following:
1. If the parent is dead.
2. If the parent has absented himself to the degree that he can be adjudged legally dead.
3. If the parent is certified insane and therefore legally incompetent to give consent.
4. If the parent is a Covenant-breaker.
5. It is possible under Bahá'í Law, in certain very rare cases, to recognize that a state of disownment exists. All such cases should be referred to the Universal House of Justice.
"The problem therefore is reduced to the simple question of whether your National Assembly accepts that Miss ...'s father-in-law elect cannot be traced and therefore may, to your satisfaction, be presumed to be legally dead. You should of course ascertain that Miss ... has made every effort possible to trace her fiance's father."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Alaska, May 30, 1971)
1245. Withdrawal from the Faith in Order to Evade Law of Bahá'u'lláh is Not Possible for True Believer
"The responsibilities laid upon parents as they give consideration to the question of consent to marriage of their children is directed to their conscience and therefore it is not possible to apply sanctions. On the other hand, the Bahá'í law requiring children to obtain the consent of their parents to marriage is subject to sanction, and as you know these are matters set forth in the Kitab-i-Aqdas and in the instructions of the beloved Guardian.
"At some time or other, every law of Bahá'u'lláh may impose a test upon the faith of a believer and the question is whether the believer will meet the test or not. As you are aware, withdrawal from the Faith in order to evade a law of Bahá'u'lláh is not possible to a true believer."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, August 22, 1968)
1246. Parents Give Consent to Marriage, Not to a Bahá'í Religious Ceremony
"1. Your understanding about withdrawal of consent by one or more of the parents prior to a Bahá'í marriage is correct; namely, if such withdrawal occurs, the marriage cannot take place.
"2. The principle of the Bahá'í law requiring parental consent to marriage is that the parents consent to the marriage of the man to the woman concerned. It does not require that they consent to the performance of any particular ceremony. Obviously, where the parents are Bahá'ís, it is taken for granted that the marriage of a Bahá'í couple will be by the performance of the Bahá'í ceremony. In some cases, however, it would be difficult for non-Bahá'í parents to give consent to the participation of their son or daughter in a Bahá'í religious ceremony, and in these cases the distinction of principle is important. In other words, if the non-Bahá'í parents consent to the marriage of the couple, the Bahá'í ceremony can be held unless they expressly object to the holding of the Bahá'í ceremony, in which case the marriage cannot take place."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, July 23, 1984)
1247. Every Reasonable Avenue of Search Must Be Exhausted to Find Parent-- The Responsible Assembly Must Be Satisfied This Has Been Done
"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 8 May 1986 presenting Miss ..., problem of consent to her marriage by her putative father. We are asked to convey its response.
"It seems clear that Miss ... has a slender connection with her genetic father. Nevertheless, despite his long absence and his lack of any relationship with either mother or daughter, Miss ... is obligated to make every effort, however discreetly carried out, to ascertain his whereabouts, including such steps as contacting persons, firms or agencies, and even advertising in newspapers if necessary. The Local or National Assembly accepts that Miss ...'s father-in-law elect cannot be traced and the National Assembly may offer its assistance to the couple, if needed. When the Assembly is satisfied that every reasonable avenue of search has been exhausted without discovering the missing parent, the Assembly may permit the marriage to take place."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, June 2, 1986)
1248. One May Ask Others to Approach Parent on His or Her Behalf
"If the father has been certified mentally incompetent, then no consent is required. Otherwise his consent must be obtained.
"If the young lady is concerned about approaching her father directly she may ask others to do this on her behalf. We suggest also that the Local Assembly be asked to assist."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, August 18, 1968)
1249. Marriages Are Supposed to Promote Unity and Harmony--Alienated Parent and Child Might Be Brought Together
"He feels that marriage is primarily a thing that the two young people must decide upon. If the young Bahá'í girl you mentioned desires to marry the son of the Hindu ... and her parents consent, and his parents consent, then there is nothing to prevent the union, as long as Bahá'í laws are followed.
"The Guardian suggests that the young man himself seek out his father, and explain to him that he wishes to marry a Bahá'í girl according to civil law, and then with a brief Bahá'í ceremony following it for her sake, and ask his father's permission and blessing. Marriages are supposed, as Bahá'u'lláh says, Himself, to promote unity and harmony in the world, and not dissension and alienation.
"It would be a wonderful opportunity if this marriage could bring the father and son, alienated from each other, together, at least in a moment of friendly and filial contact. In order to live up to the Bahá'í laws for the new age we are entering upon, we have to make sacrifices. If the Bahá'ís themselves will not sacrifice for their Faith, who will? It may often be difficult, but the results will be seen in a more rapid spread of the Cause and a greater unity amongst the Community itself."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 12, 1953)
1250. Summary of Requirements for Adopted Children in Respect to Consent
"Regarding the matter of adopted children, the consent of all natural parents must be obtained wherever this is legally possible but no effort should be made to trace the natural parents if this contravenes the provision of the adoption certificate or the laws of the country. If there is no such legal bar to approaching the natural parents and if it is legally established that the man in question is the father, the child must obtain his consent if he is alive. If the presumed father has disappeared to the
degree that he can be presumed legally dead then his consent is not required. Furthermore, if the assumed natural father denies that he is the father of the child the following principles apply: if his name appears on the birth certificate of the child and if the law of the country presumes that the name on the birth certificate is that of the father, then he should be considered as the father for the purpose of obtaining consent. If the name of the father given on the birth certificate is not a conclusive presumption of parenthood and if the man in question has always denied that he is the father of the child, the child is not required to seek the consent of this man unless it has been legally established that he is the father notwithstanding his denial."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, October 24, 1965)
1251. Adopted Children and the Special Significance of Their Relationship with the Natural Parents
"We acknowledge receipt of your letter of November 13, 1973 expressing concern that the provision of the Bahá'í marriage law requiring consent of living natural parents creates a double standard in your family because you have adopted children as well as your own.
"We appreciate your concern and are in sympathy with your worthy aspiration to attain unity in your family group. However, the unity of your family need not be imperilled because your adopted children when ready for marriage must obtain consent of their natural parents. Just as love for one person need not reduce the love one bears to another, so unity with the adoptive parents need not destroy nor reduce the unity a child may have with its natural parents, or vice versa. The characters and attitudes of the individuals concerned will have an effect upon this.
"You also state that unless there is a broader concept of the meaning of 'natural parent', you feel the law creates disharmony. Perhaps the following extract from a letter written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary was quoted to you by your National Spiritual Assembly, but we draw your attention to that portion we have underlined because it refers to the special significance of the relationship between children and their natural parents.
'Bahá'u'lláh has clearly stated the consent of all living parents is required for a Bahá'í marriage.... This great law He has laid down to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of children for those who have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator.'
"In short, love for the foster parents and unity with their home should not exclude love for a child's natural parents, although it is likely a child will become very much more a part of the home in which he lives and grows up.
"Of course, wherever 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. However, children may very well wish to obtain the consent of their foster parents although not obliged to do so."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, December 11, 1973)
1252. Uniform Adoption Law
"We have your letter of 23 July informing us of the Uniform Adoption Law
which makes it the practice to withhold the names of natural parents from the adoptive parents and the child, and asking for advice as to what is required under the laws of Bahá'í marriage regarding consent of the natural parents.
"In cases where the Uniform Adoption Law prevents the disclosure of the names of the natural parents, the child is under no obligation to seek their consent to marriage, but in those cases where it is possible for the child to know his natural parents, consent must be obtained provided there is nothing in the law or in the adoption contract which prevents him from doing so."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, August 7, 1966: Bahá'í Bulletin of Australia; No. 145, September 1966, p. 2)
1253. Duty of Assembly to Ascertain if Consent is Freely Given. It is Desirable to Have Signed Consent, is Not Requirement Under Law
"In the Bahá'í Faith it is the right of each individual to choose without duress his future partner in marriage and the freedom of the parents in exercising their right to give or refuse consent is unconditional. While it is desirable to have a signed consent from each parent it is not a requirement under Bahá'í Law. The responsible Spiritual Assembly must satisfy itself that consents are freely given but it should not insist upon a signed document. Reliable evidence of oral consents is quite sufficient; some parents freely give their consents orally while refusing to write their consents."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Guyana, April 11, 1978)
1254. If Parents Do Not Name Future Spouse in Letter of Consent
"Basically, Bahá'í Law pertaining to marriage requires that the parties intending to marry must obtain consent of all living natural parents. Further, the responsibility of the parents in giving their consent is unrestricted and unconditioned, but in discharging this duty they are responsible for their decision to God. Should the parents in their letter of consent, as you indicated, not name a specific future spouse, the House of Justice states that it could be accepted and it would be permissible to perform a Bahá'í marriage ceremony on the basis of such a letter."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, October 9, 1975)
2. Bahá'í Engagement
1255. First You Must Select One
"As for the question regarding marriage under the Law of God: First thou must choose one who is pleasing to thee, and then the matter is subject to the consent of father and mother. Before thou makest thy choice, they have no right to interfere."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 118)
1256. Period of Engagement and Announcement of Engagement
"The Laws of the Kitab-i-Aqdas regarding the period of engagement have not been made applicable to believers in the West, and therefore there is no requirement that the parties to a marriage obtain consent of the parents before announcing their engagement. However, there is no objection to informing the believers that it would
be wise for them to do so in order to avoid later embarrassment if consents are withheld."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, January 17, 1971: Australian Bahá'í Bulletin, February 1971, No. 198)
1257. If Both Parties Are Persian Engagement Should Not Exceed 95 Days
"...the Universal House of Justice instructs us to say that according to its ruling, the law of the Kitab-i-Aqdas that the lapse of time between engagement and marriage should not exceed ninety-five days, is binding on Persian believers wherever they reside, if both parties are Persian. This law is not applicable, however, if one of the parties is a western believer.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, October 31, 1977)
1258. The Ninety-Five Days Should Commence When the Two Parties Have Been Betrothed
"In principle, according to the decisive text of Abdu'l-Bahá, the period of ninety-five days should commence only when the two parties have been betrothed, and the marriage is agreed. Therefore, the breaking of an engagement, although possible, should rarely occur. The Assemblies should, when the reason for breaking or extending the fixed period of engagement is valid, render every assistance to the parties involved to remove their difficulties and facilitate their observance of the ordinance of the Book.
"However, if the revoking, extending, or renewing of engagement in the judgement of the Assembly is an intentional disregard of the law of the Book, then the National Spiritual Assembly should, in each case, carefully consult and carry out whatever action they may decide..."
(Translated from a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, June 29, 1971)
1259. The Breaking of an Engagement Does Not Violate Bahá'í Law
"...the breaking of an engagement, though not always desirable, does not violate Bahá'í marriage law."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, November 11, 1969)
1260. It is Unlawful to Announce a Marriage Earlier Than 95 Days Before Wedding
"...it is unlawful to announce a marriage earlier than ninety-five days before the wedding."
(Bahá'u'lláh: The Kitab-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers, Q 43, p. 120)
1261. It is Unlawful to Become Engaged to a Girl Before She Attains Maturity+F1
"It is unlawful to become engaged to a girl before she reaches the age of maturity."
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 150)
+F1 (See also: No. 516)
Page 378 3. Bahá'í Marriage
1262. The Bahá'í Teachings Raise Marriage to the Status of a Divine Institution; However, There is a Small Section of Humanity Who Should Not Marry...
"The Bahá'í Teachings do not only encourage marital life, considering it the natural and normal way of existence for every sane, healthy and socially-conscious and responsible person, but raise marriage to the status of a divine institution, its chief and sacred purpose being the perpetuation of the human race--which is the very flower of the entire creation--and its elevation to the true station destined for it by God.
"That there should be, however, certain individuals who by reason of some serious deficiency, physical or mental, would be incapacitated to contract marriage and enjoy the blessings of an enduring and successful marital life is only too evident, but these constitute only a very small section of humanity, and are therefore merely an exception, and their condition cannot possibly invalidate what an all-wise and loving Providence has decreed to be the normal way to a fruitful and constructive social existence.
"The exact conditions and circumstances under which such incapacitated individuals should be advised or even prevented perhaps from entering into any sort of marital existence have not been specified in the Bahá'í Writings, but will have to be defined later on by the Universal House of Justice. In the meantime, those believers who consider themselves as falling into the above category would do well, before taking any final decision themselves, to consult medical experts, who are both conscientious and competent, and to abide by their recommendation.
"This is what the Guardian would advise you to do, and he will pray that you may be guided in reaching the right decision in this assuredly delicate and indeed most vital matter confronting you at present. Whether your illness is the result of any inherent constitutional weakness and inherited predisposition is a question which you should refer to experts in the medical field, though even expert physicians themselves may in very few cases find it exceedingly hard, if not altogether impossible, to give a final and decisive answer."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 15, 1939)
1263. The Institution of Marriage as Conceived and Established by Bahá'u'lláh Constitutes the Foundation of Social Life
"It must be first clearly emphasized that the institution of marriage as conceived and established by Bahá'u'lláh is extremely simple though of a vital social importance, constituting as it does the very foundation of social life. Compared to matrimonial conceptions and forms current amongst existing religions, the Bahá'í conception of marriage is practically void of all ceremonies. There is no officiating priesthood. The two contracting parties simply appear before the Spiritual Assembly and express their desire to be united with the bonds of marriage. There is a short formula which they have to pronounce before the members, and a marriage certificate which they both have to sign. In the Cause we do not have what is commonly called the 'Aqid'. The appearance of the two parties before the Assembly has only an administrative importance. It carries with it no spiritual or sacramental obligation of significance. I mean only the mere act of appearing before the Assembly, not marriage itself, which is of course essentially a spiritual and moral act of union."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, July 6, 1935)
Page 379 1264. The Physical Aspect of Marital Union is Subordinate to the Moral and Spiritual Purposes and Functions
"The Institution of marriage as established by Bahá'u'lláh, while giving due importance to the physical aspect of marital union, considers it as subordinate to the moral and spiritual purposes and functions with which it has been invested by an all-wise and loving Providence. Only when these different values are given each their due importance, and only on the basis of the subordination of the physical to the moral, and the carnal to the spiritual, can such excesses and laxity in marital relations as our decadent age is so sadly witnessing be avoided, and family life be restored to its original purity, and fulfil the true function for which it has been instituted by God."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, May 8, 1939: Family Life, pp. 18-19)
1265. Marriage Between Two Bahá'ís Can Be a Potent Force in the Lives of Others
"He hastens to wish you both every happiness in your forthcoming marriage, and he hopes that it will not only be a blessing to you both, but to the Faith as well.
"A marriage between two souls, alive to the Message of God in this day, dedicated to the service of His Cause, working for the good of humanity, can be a potent force in the lives of others and an example and inspiration to other Bahá'ís, as well as to non-believers."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, August 4, 1943)
1266. Bahá'í Union Must Be a True Relationship that Will Endure
"When, therefore, the people of Baha undertake to marry, the union must be a true relationship, a spiritual coming together as well as a physical one, so that throughout every phase of life, and in all the worlds of God, their union will endure; for this real oneness is a gleaming out of the love of God."
(Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 117)
1267. Moral Duty to Marry But Marriage is Not an Obligation
"...Of course, under normal circumstances, every person should consider it his moral duty to marry. And this is what Bahá'u'lláh has encouraged the believers to do. But marriage is by no means an obligation. In the last resort it is for the individual to decide whether he wishes to lead a family life or live in a state of celibacy."
(From a letter of the Guardian to an individual believer, May 3, 1936; cited by the Universal House of Justice in a letter to an individual believer, February 6, 1973: Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, pp. 109-110)
1268. Bahá'u'lláh Has Urged Marriage as the Natural and Rightful Way of Life
"He realizes your desire to get married is quite a natural one, and he will pray that God will assist you to find a suitable companion with whom you can be truly happy and united in the service of the Faith. Bahá'u'lláh has urged marriage upon all people as the natural and rightful way of life. He has also, however, placed strong
emphasis on its spiritual nature, which, while in no way precluding a normal physical life, is the most essential aspect of marriage. That two people should live their lives in love and harmony is of far greater importance than that they should be consumed with passion for each other. The one is a great rock of strength on which to lean in time of need; the other a purely temporary thing which may at any time die out."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to Mr. John Stearns, January 20, 1943--the first pioneer to Ecuador)
1269. The Bahá'í Faith Does Not Contemplate Any Form of "Trial Marriage"
"Concerning the three definitions of 'companionate marriage' which you give in your letter: the first, which is defined as living together without being married, on either a trial or immoral basis, is obviously unacceptable in Bahá'í teachings and is, moreover, an offence which, if persisted in, could call for deprivation of voting rights. The second and third, namely (2) a marriage where the couple agree ahead of time that they will not have children, ever, and (3) a marriage in which the couple would not have children until they are sure that they wish to stay married, divorce by mutual consent being envisaged before children are born, are private situations which would be undetectable by anyone who has not been confided in by either the husband or the wife. Thus, unlike the first type of 'companionate marriage' they do not constitute blatant immorality and no question of the removal of voting rights would arise. Nevertheless they are also both contrary to the spirit of Bahá'í law. The Bahá'í Teachings do not contemplate any form of 'trial marriage'. A couple should study each other's character and spend time getting to know each other before they decide to marry, and when they do marry it should be with the intention of establishing an eternal bond. They should realize, moreover, that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. A couple who are physically incapable of having children may, of course, marry, since the procreation of children is not the only purpose of marriage. However, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Teachings for a couple to decide voluntarily never to have any children."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, November 3, 1982)
1270. Regarding Couples Living Together Without Being Married
"When considering cases of couples who are living together without being married it is important to distinguish those who started this association after becoming Bahá'ís from those who were in this condition already at the time of accepting the Faith. The House of Justice is sure that your Assembly is aware that it is not permissible for Bahá'ís to enter into such an immoral relationship and that any believers who do so must be counselled by the Assembly and warned to correct their conduct, either by separating or by having a Bahá'í marriage ceremony in accordance with the provisions of Bahá'í law. If, after repeated warnings, the believers concerned do not conform to Bahá'í law, the Assembly has no choice but to deprive them of their voting rights.
"The situation of those who were living in such a relationship when they accepted the Faith is less clear-cut, and the House of Justice has instructed us to send your Assembly the following summary of the applicable principles which was prepared
in response to a similar question by another National Spiritual Assembly.
1. In general, marriages entered into by parties prior to their enrolment in the Faith are recognized as valid under Bahá'í law, and in such cases an additional Bahá'í marriage ceremony is not permitted. This applies whether the marriage was established under civil or religious law or under tribal custom.
2. A couple living together merely as man and mistress when either or both become Bahá'í are not married in the eyes of Bahá'í law, and must either have a Bahá'í marriage in accordance with the provisions of Bahá'í law, or cease living together. In other words, the Assembly must deal with the situation as it would in any other case of immoral behaviour, explaining the requirements of the law, giving repeated warnings, and ultimately, if the offender does not comply, he must forfeit his voting rights.
3. Because of unusual conditions in certain countries and certain cases it sometimes happens that a person will become a Bahá'í when he or she is living in a situation which does not clearly fit within either of the above definitions. Such a case occurs, for example, where a couple have established firm ties of union and are living together in such a way that they appear to be married and are accepted as such by those around them; the union has stood the test of time and there may even be children, and yet, in fact, the couple are not actually married in any of the ways defined above. The principle followed here is that we do not pry into people's lives and insist on their undoing those ties they have established before becoming believers, but the union is accepted as a marriage in the eyes of Bahá'í law. The Guardian upheld this principle in situations which arise in some Catholic countries where, because of the relationship between church and state divorce is impossible, and one or both of the parties may still be legally married to someone else. Where it is possible for such a couple to regularize their position in civil law by having a civil marriage ceremony, they may certainly do so, but it is neither necessary nor permissible for them to have a Bahá'í marriage ceremony, since, in the eyes of Bahá'í law, they are already united in marriage."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Panama, September 7, 1981)
1271. The Basic Difference Between the Two Categories of Relationships
"The basic difference between the two categories of relationships is that common law marriage is considered by the parties concerned as a solemn contract with the sole intention of establishing a family but which, because of legal complications, cannot be duly registered, whereas in companionate marriage and the like the parties concerned initiate and maintain their relationship either on a trial basis or on other immoral grounds, both of which are condemned in our Teachings.
"We feel that by applying these principles in each of the cases you cite in your letter, with wisdom, kindness and love you will be able gradually to educate the friends in the fundamentals of our Teachings and enable them to overcome their moral difficulties."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Paraguay, November 21, 1967)
1272. Faith Accepts in Certain Cases Unions which Are "Immoral But Accepted" by Society in which the People Live
"As you will see, the Bahá'í Faith accepts as man and wife couples who, prior to
becoming Bahá'ís, have had a valid marriage ceremony, whether this be civil, religious or by tribal custom, even if this has resulted in a polygamous union. Furthermore, the Faith accepts in certain cases unions which are 'immoral but accepted' by the society in which the people live. In all these cases, because the union is accepted by the Faith, there is no question of a couple's having a Bahá'í wedding ceremony subsequently because, as the Guardian says, 'Bahá'í marriage is something you perform when you are going to be united for the first time, not long after the union takes place'. If, however, such a couple would like to have a meeting of their friends at which Bahá'í prayers and readings are said on behalf of their marriage now that they are Bahá'ís, there is no objection to their doing so, although it must be understood that this does not constitute a Bahá'í marriage ceremony."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Peru, June 23, 1969)
1273. Legalizing Existing Situation Does Not Require Bahá'í Marriage
"The matter of regularising a situation in civil law is quite separate and largely depends upon the requirements of the law. If a couple whose union is recognized by the Faith but is not valid in civil law wish to have a civil marriage, they may most certainly do so. This is purely a rectification of the civil position and does not require the holding of a Bahá'í marriage ceremony."
1274. Difference Between Companionate Marriage and Common Law Marriage
"We have reviewed your letter of October 25 asking questions concerning the application of Bahá'í marriage laws in your community.
"The problem you describe in your letter is more or less common to the other territories in Latin America, and during the lifetime of the Guardian similar problems were presented to him by National Assemblies operating at the time in Latin America. The replies given by the Guardian indicate that distinction should be made between companionate marriage and flagrant immorality on the one hand, and common law marriage contracted because of the present relationship of law and the church in those areas on the other. Whilst the first type of relationship is immoral and therefore cannot be tolerated, the second type of relationship, if contracted before a person has become a Bahá'í, may be accepted by the institutions of the Faith without requiring the person to undo such ties."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Paraguay, November 21, 1967)
1275. Companionate Marriage and Flagrantly Immoral Relationships
"Regarding companionate marriage and flagrant immorality, we quote below two passages from letters written on behalf of the Guardian:
'The Guardian has instructed me to say that companionate marriage, where there is no legal or religious marriage, is an immoral relationship and we cannot accept as believers those who are openly behaving in this way.' (To the NSA of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, dated September 26, 1957)
'As regards flagrantly immoral relationships, such as a man living with a
mistress, this should be brought to his attention in a loving manner, and he should be urged to either marry the woman if he is free to do so, or to give up this conduct, so detrimental to the Faith and to his own spiritual progress.'" (To the NSA of Central America, dated February 9, 1957)
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Paraguay, November 21, 1967)
1276. Violation of Marriage Law, Ascertain if Bahá'í Informed of Requirements
"...For the present, your Assembly should follow the guidance already given by the beloved Guardian, keeping in mind that suspension of voting rights is not an automatic procedure.
"In all marriage cases, including those you list, your Assembly must first ascertain if the Bahá'í in question was informed of the requirements for Bahá'í marriage, and of his own responsibilities in connection therewith. In cases involving disregard of Bahá'í laws other than that of marriage, you should be slow to impose this severe sanction."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, April 14, 1965)
1277. Incorrect Information Given by Assembly
"Similarly, you should take into account a believer's good intention if he acted in accordance with incorrect advice or instruction given to him by his Local Spiritual Assembly or another Bahá'í institution."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, October 11, 1965)
1278. Bahá'ís Ignorant of Law in a Different Category Altogether
"At the present stage in the development of the Bahá'í Community, Bahá'ís who failed to have a Bahá'í marriage through ignorance of the law are in a different category altogether from those who wittingly broke the law. The latter must have a Bahá'í ceremony in order to regain their voting rights; but the former should be treated in the same manner as those Bahá'ís who married before they entered the Faith and those Bahá'ís who married without a Bahá'í ceremony before the law was applied: they should be considered married and not be required to have a Bahá'í ceremony."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 20, 1966)
1279. Be Patient and Forbearing in Application of Laws to Indigenous People: Must Not Pry into People's Personal Lives
"There are, however, as you will see from the 21 November letter to Paraguay, situations which are not accepted by the Bahá'í Faith, and when people who are living in such immoral situations become Bahá'ís they must rectify their condition or be subject to loss of their voting rights. We wish to emphasize, however, that although all immorality is condemned in the Teachings, it is only flagrant immorality that is now sanctionable. You should not pry into people's affairs, and only in cases of flagrant immorality should you consider imposing sanctions, and then only after you have patiently explained to the believers concerned the Bahá'í laws involved and given them ample time to comply. Particularly in the application
of these laws to indigenous people should you be patient and forbearing. The emphasis should be on education rather than on rigid enforcement of the law immediately.
"When someone who is already a Bahá'í knowingly violates Bahá'í marriage law he is subject to loss of his voting rights. Apart from the cases mentioned in paragraph four above, believers wishing to be married must have a Bahá'í ceremony, and this is true even if only one of the parties is a Bahá'í...."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Peru, June 23, 1969)
1280. Bigamy Not Permitted
"The situation facing you is admittedly difficult and delicate, but no less grave and indeed vital are the responsibilities which it entails and which, as a faithful and loyal believer, you should conscientiously and thoroughly assume. The Guardian, therefore, while fully alive to the special circumstances of your case, and however profound his sympathy may be for you in this challenging issue with which you are so sadly faced, cannot, in view of the emphatic injunctions contained in the Teachings, either sanction your demand to contract a second marriage while your first wife is still alive and is united with you in the sacred bonds of matrimony, or even suggest or approve that you divorce her just in order to be permitted to marry a new one.
"For the Bahá'í Teachings do not only preclude the possibility of bigamy, but also, while permitting divorce, consider it a reprehensible act, which should be resorted to only in exceptional circumstances, and when grave issues are involved, transcending such ... considerations as physical attraction or sexual compatibility and harmony. The Institution of marriage, as established by Bahá'u'lláh, while giving due importance to the physical aspect of marital union, considers it as subordinate to the moral and spiritual purposes and functions with which it has been invested by an all-wise and loving Providence. Only when these different values are given each their due importance, and only on the basis of the subordination of the physical to the moral, and the carnal to the spiritual, can such excesses and laxity in marital relations as our decadent age is so sadly witnessing be avoided, and family life be restored to its original purity, and fulfil the true function for which it has been instituted by God."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to a believer who, having married his first wife out of compassion, now wished permission to marry a woman with whom he had fallen in love, saying that his wife was agreeable to his taking this second wife, May 8, 1939: Extracts from the Bahá'í Teachings Discouraging Divorce, pp. 4-5)
1281. Summary of Bahá'í Requirements Concerning Marriages with Followers of Other Religions
"In your letter of 1st July 1979 you requested the Universal House of Justice to provide you with a statement on the Bahá'í requirements concerning marriages with followers of other Faiths. The House of Justice has instructed us to send you the following summary.
1. When a Bahá'í is marrying a non-Bahá'í, and the non-Bahá'í wishes to have the ceremony of his (or her) own religion, the Bahá'í party may take part in it under the following conditions:
1.1 That all concerned, including the officiating priest, know that he is a Bahá'í.
1.2 That he does not, by having the ceremony, renounce his faith.
1.3 That he does not undertake any vow to act contrary to Bahá'í principles (such as to bring up the children in another Faith).
1.4 That the ceremony be held on the same day as the Bahá'í ceremony, either before or after it.
2. If a civil ceremony is required by law in addition to the two religious ceremonies, all three ceremonies must be held on the same day.
3. If a Bahá'í has the marriage ceremony of another religion and, in so doing, violates any of the above requirements, he is liable to loss of his voting rights.
4. If voting rights are removed and the offender requests reinstatement, they may be restored if the Assembly is satisfied that the believer is repentant, subject to the following conditions:
4.1 If the Bahá'í dissimulated his faith or undertook a vow contrary to Bahá'í principles in order to have the ceremony of another religion, and if the holding of the ceremony was dependent upon such an act, he must dissolve the marriage. His voting rights may then be restored, but, if he still wishes to be married to the same woman, he can be so only if they marry in accordance with the requirements of Bahá'í law.
4.2 If the Bahá'í dissimulated his faith or undertook a vow contrary to Bahá'í principles, and the holding of the marriage ceremony of the other faith was not dependent upon such an act, it is not necessary to dissolve the marriage, but the Bahá'í must do whatever is necessary to officially inform the appropriate authorities that he was a Bahá'í at the time of his marriage, and to withdraw the vow. Following the taking of these steps the Bahá'í's voting rights may be restored on condition that a Bahá'í marriage ceremony be held immediately after their restoration.
4.3 If the Bahá'í neither dissimulated his faith nor undertook any vow contrary to Bahá'í principles, and his only offence was failure to have the Bahá'í ceremony on the same day as the ceremony of the other religion (or the civil ceremony), his voting rights may be restored on condition that a Bahá'í marriage ceremony be held immediately after their restoration.
5. The holding of a Bahá'í marriage ceremony, which would permit the restoration of voting rights is subject to the same requirements as any other Bahá'í marriage, and if a Bahá'í has had a civil ceremony of another religion without a Bahá'í ceremony and without obtaining consent of parents, the Assembly, before granting the Bahá'í ceremony, must be satisfied that the consent of the parents is freely given.
6. If a Bahá'í has a civil marriage or the marriage of another religion, and the Assembly is satisfied that this was because he (or she) was genuinely ignorant of Bahá'í law on the subject, the Assembly may excuse the fault. In such a case the person is recognized as married in the same way as if he had been married before accepting the Faith. It is thus neither necessary nor possible for him to have a Bahá'í ceremony."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Greece, July 15, 1980)
Page 386 1282. Mixed Marriages (i.e., Bahá'í and Non-Bahá'í)
"With reference to your question regarding mixed marriages, that is to say between Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís, in all such cases the believer must insist that the Bahá'í ceremony should, as far as he is concerned, be performed in its entirety, but should also give full freedom to the other contracting party to carry out the non-Bahá'í rite or ceremony be it Muslim, Christian or otherwise, provided the latter does not invalidate the Bahá'í marriage act. This is the general principle which your N.S.A. should explain to the friends."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iraq, April 16, 1936)
1283. Roman Catholic Marriage Requirements with Non-Catholics
"We wish to advise you also of a recent instruction by Pope Paul VI, which liberalizes the Roman Catholic attitude to marriage with non-Catholics. It is now permissible for Catholics to enter into 'mixed marriages' and the requirement to bring up children in the Roman Catholic religion need not be enforced. The National Assembly of Italy reports a recent marriage between a Bahá'í and a Catholic in which the officiating priest for the Catholic ceremony required no written undertaking but declared that the couple should promise to bring up their children religiously. Of course, this liberalism on the part of the Roman Catholic Church in no way affects the Bahá'í laws of marriage, including the obligation to make clear to all concerned that one is a Bahá'í and to abstain from undertaking a vow contrary to the principles of the Faith. You may find, in the case of a Bahá'í marrying a Catholic, less difficulty than formerly if a Catholic priest of the newer liberal persuasion can be found."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador, January 9, 1967)
1284. In Reality No Individual Performs the Marriage Ceremony and if for Any Reason Non-Bahá'í Refuses to Recite Verse, Bahá'í Cannot Marry that Person
"When a Bahá'í marriage ceremony takes place, there is no individual, strictly speaking, who 'performs' it--no Bahá'í equivalent to a minister of the Church. The couple themselves perform the ceremony by each saying, in the presence of at least two witnesses, the prescribed verse 'We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.' This ceremony is performed under the authority of a Spiritual Assembly which has the responsibility for ensuring that the various requirements of Bahá'í law, such as obtaining the consent of the parents, are met, to whom the witnesses must be acceptable, and which issues the marriage certificate.
"The sincerity with which the sacred verse is spoken is a matter for the consciences of those who utter it. According to the explicit text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, both the bride and groom must, in the presence of witnesses, recite the prescribed verse; this is an essential requirement of the marriage ceremony. Thus if a Bahá'í is marrying a non-Bahá'í and this person for any reason refuses to utter this verse, then the Bahá'í cannot marry that person."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Norway, May 23, 1985)
1285. Marriage of Bahá'í to Atheist
"The laws conditioning Bahá'í marriage are found in the 'Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas' under C., Laws of Personal Status, beginning on
Page 39 of that publication. No Bahá'í marriage can be valid without the recitation of the prescribed verse by both parties."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in answer to a letter from the National Spiritual Assembly of Ecuador regarding an atheist who agreed to the Bahá'í ceremony but since he did not believe in God did not wish to repeat the marriage verse using the name of God. Letter dated December 19, 1974)
1286. Marriage by Proxy
"In reply to your letter of October 19th asking whether a young believer in your jurisdiction may be married by proxy; we do not approve of the proposed proxy marriage."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, October 26, 1967)
1287. Hindu Ceremony is Possible for Bahá'í, Provided...
"As regards marriage between a Bahá'í and a Hindu, having a Hindu ceremony is possible only if the people concerned, including the officiating priest, are aware that the Bahá'í remains a Bahá'í although taking part in the Hindu marriage ceremony in deference to his or her Hindu partner."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of India, May 4, 1970: 19-Day Feast Circular of India, February 2, 1971, p. 7)
1288. Inter-Racial Marriage
"In regard to your question concerning the nature and character of Bahá'í marriage. As you have rightfully stated, such a marriage is conditioned upon the full approval of all four parents. Also your statement to the effect that the principle of the oneness of mankind prevents any true Bahá'í from regarding race itself as a bar to union is in complete accord with the Teachings of the Faith on this point. For both Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá never disapproved of the idea of inter-racial marriage, nor discouraged it. The Bahá'í Teachings, indeed, by their very nature transcend all limitations imposed by race, and as such can and should never be identified with any particular school of racial philosophy."
(From a letter of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, January 27, 1935: Bahá'í News, No. 90, p. 1, March 1935)
1289. Marriage Between Relatives
"The Universal House of Justice has instructed us to acknowledge your letter of 15 December 1980 in which you ask what prohibitions, in addition to the one on marrying one's step-mother, there may be restricting marriage between relatives, and to say that the House of Justice has not as yet seen fit to make regulations on the subject of marriage with one's kindred. For the present, therefore, decisions are left to the consciences of the individual Bahá'ís who must, of course, obey the civil law. Consideration must also be given to the prevailing customs and traditions in each country so that any action in this respect will not reflect upon the Faith in an adverse way."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, January 15, 1981)
1290. Marriage Ceremony for Two Non-Bahá'ís
"There is no objection to performing a Bahá'í marriage for two non-Bahá'ís, if they
desire to have our simple ceremony. This, on the contrary, is yet another way of demonstrating our liberality."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, October 25, 1947: Bahá'í News, No. 202, December 1947, p. 2)
1291. The "So-Called" Marriage Tablet
"With regard to your question concerning the so-called Marriage Tablet printed on page 47 of the supplement of the British Prayer Book, this is not a Tablet, but a talk ascribed to the Master by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab. It was given some time in December, 1918 about Sohrab's marriage. It cannot be regarded as Bahá'í scripture as 'nothing can be considered as scripture for which we do not have an original text,' as the beloved Guardian pointed out. The friends may use this talk, but it is not to be considered as scripture."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of South and West Africa, January 18, 1971: Bahá'í Journal of the United Kingdom, No. 218, August 1973, p. 2)
1292. Wedding Plans Should Be Left Entirely in the Hands of the Bride and Groom
"An Assembly has the overriding duty to protect the good name of the Faith in relation to any activity of the friends, but it should always exercise great care not to restrict the individual's freedom of action unnecessarily. Normally the size of the wedding celebration, the place in which it is to be held and who is to be invited are all left entirely to the discretion of the bride and groom and an Assembly should interpose an objection only if it is quite certain that the Cause will really be injured if it does not do so.
"In the case of any Bahá'í wedding, delayed or otherwise, the date on the certificate must be the date the ceremony is performed."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, January 20, 1966)
1293. Believers Should Not Attend Weddings of Bahá'ís Marrying Contrary to Bahá'í Law
"Further to your letter of 5 September 1974, the Universal House of Justice has now had an opportunity to consider your question about believers attending weddings of Bahá'ís who are marrying contrary to Bahá'í law, and we have been asked to convey to you the following.
"If it is known beforehand that a believer is violating such laws, it would be inappropriate for the friends to attend the ceremony. This is out of respect for Bahá'í law. However, if without realizing the situation believers find themselves in attendance at a ceremony in the course of which it is apparent that such a violation is occurring, they should not make an issue of it."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of New Zealand, November 11, 1974: Australian Bahá'í Bulletin, No. 243, September 1975, p. 4)
1294. The Compulsory Part of a Bahá'í Wedding is the Pledge of Marriage in the Presence of Two Assembly Witnesses
"When the consent of the parents is obtained, the only other requirement for the ceremony is the recitation by both parties in the presence of two witnesses of the
specifically revealed verse: 'We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.' The following quotations from letters written by the Guardian's secretary indicate the desirability of the Bahá'í marriage ceremony being simple:
'There is no ritual, according to the Aqdas, and the Guardian is very anxious that none should be introduced at present and no general form accepted. He believes the ceremony should be as simple as possible....'
'The only compulsory part of a Bahá'í wedding is the pledge of marriage, the phrase to be spoken separately by the Bride and Bridegroom in turn, in the presence of Assembly witnesses.'"
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, July 23, 1984)
1295. When a Bahá'í Marries a Non-Bahá'í Both Ceremonies Can Be Held in the Place of Worship of Another Religion, if Requested, and Provided that...
"In response to your email of 6 February 1986 we have been instructed by the Universal House of Justice to send you the following clarifications:
--- When two Bahá'ís are marrying, the wedding ceremony should not be held in the place of worship of another religion, nor should the forms of the marriage of other religions be added to the simple Bahá'í ceremony.
--- When a Bahá'í is marrying a non-Bahá'í, and the religious wedding ceremony of the non-Bahá'í partner is to be held in addition to the Bahá'í ceremony, both ceremonies may, if requested, be held in the place of worship of the other religion provided that:
--- Equal respect is accorded to both ceremonies. In other words, the Bahá'í ceremony, which is basically so simple, should not be regarded as a mere formal adjunct to the ceremony of the other religion.
--- The two ceremonies are clearly distinct. In other words, they should not be commingled into one combined ceremony."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, February 26, 1986)
1296. Witnesses Can Be Any Two Trustworthy People Acceptable to Assembly: Makes Possible for Lone Pioneer to Have Bahá'í Marriage in a Remote Post
"...The only requirement, however, is that the bride and groom, before two witnesses, must state 'We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.' These two witnesses may be chosen by the couple or by the Spiritual Assembly, but must in any case be acceptable to the Assembly; they may be its chairman and secretary, or two other members of the Assembly, or two other people, Bahá'í or non-Bahá'í, or any combination of these. The Assembly may decide that all marriage certificates it issues are to be signed by the chairman and secretary, but that is a different matter and has nothing to do with the actual ceremony or the witnesses.
"...you state that the two witnesses at the marriage must be Bahá'ís. Although this is the usual practice, it is not essential. The witnesses can be any two trustworthy people whose testimony is acceptable to the Spiritual Assembly under whose jurisdiction the marriage is performed. This fact makes it possible for a lone pioneer in a remote post to have a Bahá'í marriage."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Switzerland, August 8, 1969)
Page 390 1297. Two Essential Obligations Regarding Education of Children
"In all cases of marriage of Bahá'ís to followers of other religions the Bahá'í has two essential obligations as regards the children:
a. He must not educate or assume a vow to educate the children of the marriage in a religion other than his own.
b. He must do whatever he can to provide for the training of the children in the Bahá'í teachings.
"...Bearing in mind the obligation of the Bahá'í parent to offer his child a Bahá'í education, there is no objection to the attendance of the child of a Bahá'í parent, or even a Bahá'í child, at a parochial school if circumstances require."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, May 10, 1966)
1298. Bahá'í Ceremony Should Be as Simple as Possible, No Rituals
"Regarding the question you raise in your letter about the Bahá'í marriage. As you know there is no ritual, according to the Aqdas, and the Guardian is very anxious that none should be introduced at present and no general forms accepted. He believes this ceremony should be as simple as possible, the parties using the words ordained by Bahá'u'lláh, and excerpts from the writings and prayers being read if desired. There should be no commingling of the old forms with the new and simple one of Bahá'u'lláh, and Bahá'ís should not be married in the Church or any other acknowledged place of worship of the followers of other Faiths...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, March 13, 1944)
1299. Meaning of Consummation of Marriage
"The Universal House of Justice has instructed us to give the following answer to your letter of 24 June in which you ask questions about the principle that the Bahá'í and other wedding ceremony must take place on the same day.
i. In a letter written on behalf of the beloved Guardian he pointed out that this requirement is because of a provision in Bahá'í law that marriage must be consummated within twenty-four hours of the ceremony.
ii. Both ceremonies must precede the consummation of the marriage, and both the ceremonies and the consummation must take place within the same 24-hour period. As the House of Justice does not wish to go beyond this at this time we are asked to tell you that it is within the discretion of your Assembly to fix the time at which the 24-hour period is to begin."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, dated 31 July 1979)
"The consummation of marriage by a couple is, as you aptly state, an intimate and private matter outside the scrutiny of others. While consummation normally implies a sexual relationship, the Bahá'í law requiring consummation to take place within twenty-four hours of the ceremony can be considered as fulfilled if the couple has commenced cohabitation with the intention of setting up the family relationship."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, dated 28 July, 1978)
Page 391 1300. Consummation of Marriage Must Take Place Within Twenty-Four Hours of Bahá'í Marriage Ceremony
"As to cases involving another ceremony in addition to the Bahá'í one, the friends should bear in mind that according to Bahá'í law the consummation of the marriage must take place within twenty-four hours of the Bahá'í marriage ceremony. If other marriage ceremonies are to be held in addition to the Bahá'í one, all the ceremonies must precede consummation of the marriage and, together with the consummation, fall within one twenty-four hour period. Naturally any requirements of civil law as to the order in which the ceremonies should be held must be observed."
(From the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre, February 17, 1976)
1301. Reporting Bahá'í Marriage: Individual Only Acts for Assembly
"...In reporting Bahá'í marriages it is much better to mention that the ceremony was performed by the Assembly, as this is the proper thing to do, and an individual only acts for the Assembly on this occasion. As a funeral is not a legal ceremony more latitude can be allowed, especially as the family of the deceased may want some particular Bahá'í friend to officiate."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, July 20, 1946: Bahá'í News, No. 188, p. 3, October 1946)
1302. Attitude of Present-Day Society Towards Divorce
"The Universal House of Justice has noted with increasing concern that the undisciplined attitude of present-day society towards divorce is reflected in some parts of the Bahá'í World Community. Our Teachings on this subject are clear and in direct contrast to the loose and casual attitude of the 'permissive society' and it is vital that the Bahá'í Community practise these Teachings."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to all National Spiritual Assemblies, January 18, 1980)
1303. There Are No Grounds for Divorce in the Faith--Divorce Should Only Be Considered if There is a Strong "Aversion" to One's Partner
"Concerning the definition of the term 'aversion' in relation to Bahá'í divorce law, the Universal House of Justice points out that there are no specific 'grounds' for Bahá'í divorce such as there are in some codes of civil law. Bahá'í law permits divorce but, as both Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá have made very clear, divorce is abhorred. Thus, from the point of view of the individual believer he should do all he can to refrain from divorce. Bahá'ís should be profoundly aware of the sanctity of marriage and should strive to make their marriages an eternal bond of unity and harmony. This requires effort and sacrifice and wisdom and self-abnegation. A Bahá'í should consider the possibility of divorce only if the situation is intolerable and he or she has a strong aversion to being married to the other partner. This is the standard held up to the individual. It is not a law, but an exhortation. It is a goal to which we should strive."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, November 3, 1982)
Page 392 1304. Youth Should Be So Deepened in the Teachings that the Thought of Divorce Will Be Abhorrent to Them
"From the point of view of the Spiritual Assembly, however, the matter is somewhat different. The Spiritual Assembly should always be concerned that the believers in its community are being deepened in their understanding of the Bahá'í concept of marriage, especially the young people, so that the very thought of divorce will be abhorrent to them. When an application for divorce is made to a Spiritual Assembly, its first thought and action should be to reconcile the couple and to ensure that they know the Bahá'í teachings on the matter. God willing, the Assembly will be successful and no year of waiting need be started. However, if the Assembly finds that it is unable to persuade the party concerned to withdraw the application for divorce, it must conclude that, from its point of view, there appears to be an irreconcilable antipathy, and it has no alternative to setting the date for the beginning of the year of waiting. During the year the couple have the responsibility of attempting to reconcile their difference, and the Assembly has the duty to help them and encourage them. But if the year of waiting comes to an end without reconciliation the Bahá'í divorce must be granted as at the date of the granting of the civil divorce if this has not already taken place."
1305. The Party Who is the Cause of Divorce Will Become Victim of Formidable Calamities
"It can be seen, therefore, that 'aversion' is not a specific legal term that needs to be defined. Indeed a number of other terms are used in describing the situation that can lead to divorce in Bahá'í law, such as 'antipathy', 'resentment', 'estrangement', 'impossibility of establishing harmony' and 'irreconcilability'. The texts, however, point out that divorce is strongly condemned, and should be viewed as 'a last resort' when 'rare and urgent circumstances' exist, and that the partner who is the 'cause of divorce' will 'unquestionably' become the 'victim of formidable calamities'."
1306. The Friends Must Strictly Refrain from Divorce
"Formerly in Persia divorce was very easily obtained. Among the people of the past Dispensation a trifling matter would cause divorce. However, as the light of the Kingdom shone forth, souls were quickened by the spirit of Bahá'u'lláh, then they totally eschewed divorce. In Persia now divorce doth not take place among the friends, unless a compelling reason existeth which maketh harmony impossible. Under such rare circumstances some cases of divorce take place.
"Now the friends in America must live and conduct themselves in this way. They must strictly refrain from divorce unless something ariseth which compelleth them to separate because of their aversion for each other, in that case with the knowledge of the Spiritual Assembly they may decide to separate. They must then be patient and wait one complete year. If during this year harmony is not re-established between them, then their divorce may be realized. It should not happen that upon the occurrence of a slight friction of displeasure between husband and wife, the husband would think of union with some other woman or, God forbid, the wife also think of another husband. This is contrary to the standard of heavenly value and true chastity. The friends of God must so live and conduct themselves, and evince such excellence of character and conduct, as to make others astonished. The love
between husband and wife should not be purely physical, nay rather it must be spiritual and heavenly. These two souls should be considered as one soul. How difficult it would be to divide a single soul! Nay, great would be the difficulty!
"In short, the foundation of the Kingdom of God is based upon harmony and love, oneness, relationship and union, not upon differences, especially between husband and wife. If one of these two become the cause of divorce, that one will unquestionably fall into great difficulties, will become the victim of formidable calamities and experience deep remorse."
(Abdu'l-Bahá: Extracts from the Bahá'í Teachings Discouraging Divorce: A Compilation prepared by the Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, January 1980)
1307. Divorce is Conditional Upon the Approval and Permission of the Spiritual Assembly
"Regarding divorce, the Guardian stated that it is discouraged, deprecated and against the good pleasure of God. The Assembly must circulate among the friends whatever has been revealed from the Pen of Abdu'l-Bahá in this connection so that all may be fully reminded. Divorce is conditional upon the approval and permission of the Spiritual Assembly. The members of the Assembly must in such matters independently and carefully study and investigate each case. If there should be valid grounds for divorce and it is found that reconciliation is utterly impossible, that antipathy is intense and its removal is not possible, then the Assembly may approve the divorce."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, July 7, 1938--translated from the Persian: Ibid., p. 3)
1308. Should Think of Future of Children
"He was very sorry to hear that you and your husband are still so unhappy together. It is always a source of sorrow in life when married people cannot get on well together, but the Guardian feels that you and your husband, in contemplating divorce, should think of the future of your children and how this major step on your part will influence their lives and happiness.
"If you feel the need of advice and consultation he suggests you consult your Local Assembly; your fellow Bahá'ís will surely do all they can to counsel and help you, protect your interests and those of the Cause."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, November 16, 1945: Extracts from the Bahá'í Teachings Discouraging Divorce, p. 4)
1309. Divorce Concerns Children's Entire Future and Their Attitude Towards Marriage
"There is no doubt about it that the believers in America, probably unconsciously influenced by the extremely lax morals prevalent and the flippant attitude towards divorce which seems to be increasingly prevailing, do not take divorce seriously enough and do not seem to grasp the fact that although Bahá'u'lláh has permitted it, He has only permitted it as a last resort and strongly condemns it.
"The presence of children, as a factor in divorce, cannot be ignored, for surely it places an even greater weight of moral responsibility on the man and wife in considering such a step. Divorce under such circumstances no longer just concerns them and their desires and feelings but also concerns the children's entire future and
their own attitude towards marriage."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, December 19, 1947: Ibid., p. 5)
1310. One May Discover He Has Not Purchased Either Freedom or Happiness
"He was very sorry to hear that you are contemplating separation from your husband. As you no doubt know, Bahá'u'lláh considers the marriage bond very sacred; and only under very exceptional and unbearable circumstances is divorce advisable for Bahá'ís.
"The Guardian does not tell you that you must not divorce your husband; but he does urge you to consider prayerfully, not only because you are a believer and anxious to obey the laws of God, but also for the sake of the happiness of your children, whether it is not possible for you to rise above the limitations you have felt in your marriage hitherto, and make a go of it together.
"We often feel that our happiness lies in a certain direction; and yet, if we have to pay too heavy a price for it in the end we may discover that we have not really purchased either freedom or happiness, but just some new situation of frustration and disillusion."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, April 5, 1951: Extracts from the Bahá'í Teachings Discouraging Divorce, pp. 5-6)
1311. Cannot Use the Cause or Service to It as Reason for Divorce
"Shoghi Effendi wishes me to add this note in connection with your marriage; he does not feel that any believer, under any circumstances whatsoever, can ever use the Cause or service to it as a reason for abandoning their marriage; divorce, as we know, is very strongly condemned by Bahá'u'lláh, and only grounds of extreme gravity justify it."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, April 7, 1947: Ibid., p. 4)
1312. Every Effort Should Be Made to Salvage Marriage--In Case of Pioneers, It is Even More Important
"He has been very sorry to hear that your marriage seems to have failed utterly. I need not tell you as a Bahá'í that every effort should be made by any Bahá'í to salvage their marriage for the sake of God, rather than for their own sake. In the case of pioneers, it is even more important, because they are before the public eye. However, in such matters it is neither befitting nor right that the Guardian should bring pressure on individuals. He can only appeal to you and ... to try again; but if you cannot rise to this test, that is naturally a personal matter."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, January 13, 1956: Ibid., p. 6)
1313. Bahá'í Family Should Be Preserved
"Wherever there is a Bahá'í family, those concerned should by all means do all they can to preserve it, because divorce is strongly condemned in the Teachings, whereas harmony, unity and love are held up as the highest ideals in human relationships. This must always apply to the Bahá'ís, whether they are serving in the pioneering field or not."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of Central America, November 9, 1956: Ibid., p. 6)
Page 395 1314. One Year of Waiting Whether Bahá'í When Married or Not
"As regards Bahá'í divorce as mentioned in your letter of June 12th: Bahá'ís (whether one party or both are believers) should follow the Bahá'í law of divorce, i.e., one year of waiting, and not neglect this divinely given law. Whether they were Bahá'ís when married or not has nothing to do with it."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, June 12, 1952)
1315. If Divorce is Illegal Within a Country, Bahá'ís Are Bound by Law of the Country
"In answer to the question raised in your letter of June 5 as regards divorce: The Guardian says that if within a country divorce, because of affiliation of church and State in this matter, is considered illegal, the Bahá'ís must be bound by this law. At the present time they must under no circumstances raise such matters with any Government in question. This means that it is not right for a believer to get a divorce outside of, say Colombia, and then remarry outside and return there, where his divorce would be illegal."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to the National Spiritual Assembly of South America, July 11, 1951)
1316. If One Party is Mentally Ill
"We have reviewed your letter of January 21, 1964 requesting instructions as to how to handle Bahá'í divorce when one of the parties is mentally ill.
"Far from being required to live together during the year of patience, the parties are in fact prohibited from doing so.
"The Bahá'í divorce must be handled either by the Local Assembly or by the National Assembly, but either may handle it at the discretion of your Assembly."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Colombia, February 23, 1964)
1317. Bahá'ís Who Intend to Divorce Must Consult with Local or National Assembly
"However, it is necessary that Bahá'ís who intend to divorce be aware that they must consult with their Local or National Assembly, that basically a year of waiting must ensue before divorce can be effected, and that the Assembly has certain responsibilities toward the couple concerned about which they will be informed through consultation with the Assembly."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, April 16, 1967)
1318. The Believers Should Know that Although Divorce is Permitted in Bahá'í Law, It is Condemned
"It is, of course, important for the friends to realise that although divorce is permitted in Bahá'í law, it is nevertheless condemned, and great efforts should be made to avoid it. It is always the hope that, during the year of patience, affection between the couple will recur and that divorce will not be necessary. Therefore, although normal social relationships between each of the partners and
members of both sexes is permissible, it is quite contrary to the spirit of the teachings for either party to be courting a new partner during the year of waiting. This should be made clear to the couple and they should be exhorted to conduct themselves as Bahá'ís. However, this is not an area in which the Assembly should resort to sanctions if either or both of the pair disregard this principle. Naturally, if one of the parties conducts himself or herself in a way that is blatantly or flagrantly immoral the matter should be handled as any other similar case would be, but from your cables we understand that this is not the situation in the case at present before you."
(From a letter written by the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, February 15, 1973)
1319. The Assembly Should Determine that Irreconcilable Antipathy Exists Before Setting the Date of the Beginning of the Year of Waiting
"Regarding the case of the married couple who have separated and wish to set the date of the beginning of the year of waiting retroactively, we are directed to say that the conclusions expressed in the fourth paragraph of your letter are correct; that is, that the Local Assembly should determine, before setting the date of the beginning of the year of waiting, that irreconcilable antipathy exists. While a Local or National Assembly may request the advice of the Continental Board of Counsellors and their Board members, and should be grateful for their assistance, it is the Assembly's responsibility to conduct its own investigation and come to a decision. Assemblies are, of course, discouraged from probing unnecessarily into details of personal lives and the examination of a divorce problem should not go beyond what is necessary to ascertain whether or not such antipathy does, indeed, exist.
"When a Spiritual Assembly receives an application for Bahá'í divorce its first duty is to try to reconcile the couple. If this is not possible, and the couple separates, further efforts at reconciliation should be made during the ensuing year.
"While there are circumstances in which the date of waiting may be fixed retroactively, the situation you describe of the husband leaving for the purpose of finding work cannot be accepted as one of them."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, May 30, 1983)
1320. Procedure for an Assembly When Application for Divorce is Received
"The procedure, briefly, is that when a Spiritual Assembly receives an application for divorce its first duty is to try to reconcile the couple. When it determines that this is not possible, it should then set the date of the beginning of the year of waiting. That could be the date on which the Assembly reaches the decision, unless the couple are still living together, in which case it must be postponed until they separate. If the couple had already separated some time before, the Assembly may back-date the beginning of the year; however, the earliest date on which it can be set is the date on which the couple last separated with the intention of obtaining a divorce."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Netherlands, September 11, 1986)
1321. The Setting of the Date of the Beginning of the Year of Patience is Not Automatic
"...The setting of the date of the beginning of the year of patience is not automatic.
The Assembly must first determine whether grounds for a Bahá'í divorce exist and should make every effort to reconcile the parties. If the aversion existing between the parties is found to be irreconcilable then the Assembly may set the date for the beginning of the year of waiting..."
(From a letter written by the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, September 7, 1970)
1322. Beginning of the Year of Patience Normally Commences When Parties Notify Assembly of their Separation with Intent to Divorce
"Thus the date of the beginning of the year of patience normally commences when one of the parties notifies the Assembly that they have separated with the intention of divorce. However, the Assembly may establish the beginning of the year of patience on a prior date provided it is satisfied such prior date reflects the actual date of separation and there is good reason for so doing."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, August 26, 1965)
1323. Duties of Assembly or Committee on Divorce Procedures
"In the opening paragraphs of your letter you speak of your Committee adjudicating upon divorce settlements, and the House of Justice feels that the use of the word 'adjudicate' may lie at the root of some of the problems that the committee is facing. In a country like the United Kingdom, where divorce is subject to the civil law, the function of the Assembly (or its committee) in dealing with a divorce case is not primarily a matter of adjudication. Its first duty is to try to reconcile the couple. If it finds that it is unable to do this, it then sets the beginning of the year of waiting and continues, as circumstances permit and wisdom dictates, throughout the running of the year, its attempts at reconciliation.
"One of the duties of the committee is to see that the requirements of Bahá'í law governing the year of waiting are not violated--that is to say, that the two parties live apart and that proper provisions are made for the financial support of the wife and children. As you will see from the enclosures, this is a matter that needs to be considered for each case on its own merits. If the matter can be amicably arranged between the parties, well and good. If not, the basic principle of Bahá'í law is that the husband is responsible for the support of his wife and children so long as they are married; that is until the granting of the divorce. In a particular case, however, it may have been the wife who was the bread-winner of the family, or both the husband and wife may have been earning income. The Assembly should not ignore such specific situations and change them merely because a year of waiting is running. The application of these principles should not be in the form of an adjudication which the Assembly will require the couple to accept, but as a basis for an arrangement which the couple will amicably agree to and present to the court for endorsement. If the Assembly is unable to get the couple to agree, it should leave the matter to the civil court."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, February 24, 1983)
1324. Dating During the Year of Patience
"It is always the hope that, during the year of patience, affection between the couple
will recur and that divorce will not be necessary. Therefore, although normal social relationships between each of the partners and members of both sexes are permissible, it is quite contrary to the spirit of the teachings for either party to be courting a new partner during the year of waiting. This should be made clear to the couple if necessary and they should be exhorted to conduct themselves as Bahá'ís. However, this is not an area in which the Assembly should resort to sanctions if either or both of the pair disregard this principle. Naturally, if one of the parties conducts himself or herself in a way that is blatantly or flagrantly immoral the matter should be handled as any other similar case would be."
(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 6, 1974)
1325. Summary--Relating to the Fixing of the Date of Separation
1. The first task of the National Spiritual Assembly is to attempt to reconcile the couple, but if it finds that this is not possible and that an irreconcilable antipathy exists, it must register the beginning of the year of waiting. The Assembly may meet with the couple together or separately in its attempts to reconcile them. If there are compelling reasons for doing so, the Assembly may set a date retroactively for the beginning of the year of waiting, but this date can in no case be earlier than the last day the couple separated with the intention of having a divorce.
2. Attempts at reconciliation should continue during the year of waiting. Divorce, though permitted in the Bahá'í Faith, is abhorred and it is the hope that during the year of waiting the couple may become reconciled and divorce avoided.
3. With this in mind, it is more within the spirit of Bahá'í law for Bahá'ís to postpone the initiation of civil proceedings, (if the law of the country requires a civil divorce) until the end of the year of waiting. However, if such postponement gives rise to inequity or to a legal prejudice against the possibility of a civil divorce, it is, of course, permissible for the civil proceedings to be initiated during the year of waiting.
4. In most countries a civil divorce is required and, where this is so, the Bahá'í divorce does not become effective until the civil divorce has been granted. If the year of waiting has run its course when the civil divorce is granted, the Bahá'í divorce becomes automatically effective on that date. If the couple become reconciled before the granting of the civil divorce, even if the year of waiting has already elapsed, they have merely to inform the Spiritual Assembly and resume their marital status.
5. In case the civil divorce is actually granted before the end of the year of waiting and the couple become reconciled within that time between the granting of the civil divorce and the end of the year of waiting, they are, of course, still married in the eyes of the Bahá'í law and need only a civil marriage to restore the marriage bond.
6. The parties to a divorce must live apart in separate residences during the year of waiting. Any cohabitation of the parties stops the running of the year of waiting. If thereafter a divorce is desired a new date for the beginning of a new year of waiting must be set by the Assembly.
7. It is the responsibility of the husband to provide support for his wife and children during the year of waiting.
8. It is the responsibility of the Assembly to assist the divorced couple to arrive at an amicable settlement of their financial affairs and arrangement for the custody and support of the children rather than let these matters be a subject of litigation in the civil courts. If the Assembly is unable to bring the couple to an agreement on such matters then their only recourse is to the civil court.
"These are some of the general guidelines your Assembly should have in mind in divorce cases...."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, June 20, 1977)
1326. It is Not Possible to Shorten the Period of Waiting
"It is not possible to shorten the period of waiting as this is a provision of the Kitab-i-Aqdas. However, a National Spiritual Assembly may, if circumstances justify it, backdate the beginning of the year provided that this is not earlier than the date the parties last separated with the intention of obtaining a divorce. It is not clear in the case you have cited whether the parties lived together during the period between June 1975 and the date you set for the beginning of the year of waiting on January 15th. If the parties were separated during this period and living in separate residences, then you could consider backdating the beginning of the year of waiting."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Assembly, July 18, 1976)
1327. The Assembly is Obliged to Consider Application for a Year of Waiting
"An Assembly is obliged to consider an application for a year of waiting from either party to a marriage, whether the other party wants the divorce or not. In this specific case you should therefore follow the usual procedure."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, July 28, 1985)
1328. During Period of Legal Separation Dating in the Spirit of Courtship is Outside Bounds of Propriety
"The Universal House of Justice has instructed us to transmit its reply to your letter of 8 October concerning dating during the time of legal separation of one party.
"While the Bahá'í woman should not be forbidden to have occasional meetings in the spirit of friendship with a man legally separated from his wife, dating in the spirit of courtship is outside the bounds of Bahá'í propriety, even where the interpersonal relationship of the couple is not blatant or flagrant, casting reflections upon the strict morality required of Bahá'ís. The Bahá'í should be advised to break off the acquaintanceship should it appear to progress beyond friendship, for the non-Bahá'í man is, as you correctly state, still married; the legal separation may carry with it the hope and prospect of restoration of his marriage, a possibility which should not be obstructed by involvement with another woman. In cases such as this one, counsel rather than sanctions are called for, should the involvement of the Bahá'í woman require intervention."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, December 6, 1981)