Bahá'í Library Online
. . . .
.
>>   Notable Talks Study Guides
Abstract:
Transcripts of six talks given at a week-long course on the World Order of Baha'u'llah, sponsored by the NSA of Italy. Document includes compilation and outline. (This online version compiled from three different editions of this book.)
Notes:
This text, excluding the quotations section, was earlier published in 2004 under the title Towards World Order by Casa Editrice Baha'i (Acuto, 2004). Also published as Towards World Order (Bundoora, Victoria: Baha'i Publications Australia, 2005). In the 2007 edition a chapter on "The Covenant" and a chart "Towards Bahá'í World Civilisation" were added, as well as a second Foreword, including other questions and answers.

A participant [email on file] writes: "Mr Nakhjavani gave these talks in February of 2004. It was a wonderful experience - he gave one talk every morning for six days, and was available during the rest of the time for questions and discussions with the youth. Bahiyyih Nakhjavani also gave talks on Shoghi Effendi's use of language in the mornings. In the afternoons, we had workshops to discuss various specific points of the morning's talk, and to prepare presentations. We reconvened in the late afternoon, compared notes, and asked questions. Then in the evening Mrs Violette Nakhjavani shared her experiences traveling with Ruhiyyih Khanum."

Also downloaded book as a PDF.


World Order of Baha'u'llah:
Six Talks on the Various Aspects of

by Ali Nakhjavani

2004/2007
single page chapter 1 next chapter
Contents
Foreword
Foreword to the Second Edition
Bullet Points for the Six Talks (outline)
1. The Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace
2.The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice under the provisions of
      the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament
3.The constitution of the Universal House of Justice
4.the Bahá’í administrative order in contrast to religious and secular systems
5.The role of the American Bahá’í community in the emergence of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh
6.The evolution of the Bahá’í Administrative Order - its spirit and form (the Rulers and the Learned)
Quotations in the Six Talks
References
Download this book as a PDF: nakhjavani_talks_world_order.pdf

Foreword

Sixty young Bahá’ís from 24 countries in Europe gathered in Acuto for a week-long course on the study of various aspects of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh [February, 2004]. This course was arranged by the National Spiritual Assembly of Italy, in consultation with the Board of Counsellors in Europe.

The attached notes are transcripts of the six presentations made during the week. The reader will find some overlapping of issues in one or more of the talks. Such repetitions have not been eliminated, in order to keep the text of the talks, as presented to the class. The questions asked and the answers given have been sorted according to the themes of the presentation each day, and appear at the end of the text of each of the six talks.

The points raised in these notes are for the most part based on the Writings of our Faith, as I have understood them. Shoghi Effendi has warned the friends that the future will witness attacks on the Administrative Order. It is hoped that the themes presented and the conclusions drawn in these notes will assist the participants of this course to defend the Cause against these attacks in the days to come.

          A. N.

Foreword to the Second Edition (including Questions and Answers)

In response to a suggestion made at Acuto that I make a presentation on the significance of the Bahá'í Covenant, I gave a talk on this subject. It was subsequently suggested that features of the talk be prepared by me, followed by Questions and Answers discussed at that Session.

This is now ready for inclusion in the second edition of the book. It has been added at the beginning as an introduction to the contents of the earlier editions. A Chart has also been included as an Appendix which attempts to portray the twin processes of integration and disintegration at work ever since the inception of the Faith in 1844.

    `Alí Nakhjávání
    Molsheim, France
    July 2007

THE COVENANT

As the Administrative Order, which is the Harbinger of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, has been described by Shoghi Effendi as the "Child of the Covenant" (God Passes By 243), it is important that in any discussion of the various aspects of the World Order, and as an introduction to such a theme a study of the Bahá'í Covenant be made, however cursory this might be. A Covenant is an agreement between two parties. When this term is used in a religious context, it defines the bond between God and His Messenger, and the Latter's relationship with the human race in respect of conveyance of authority to designated Successors, of responsibilities to be discharged by individuals and society, and the stages to be reached in fulfilment of the vision of the future.

In his God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi has identified two types of Covenant: the Greater and the Lesser. The Greater is the Covenant which, in the words of the Guardian "God had, from time immemorial, entered through the Prophets of all ages, with the whole of mankind, regarding the newborn Revelation" (God Passes By 27). This Revelation, again in Shoghi Effendi's words, signals "the end of the Prophetic Era and the beginning of the Era of Fulfilment" (God Passes By 100). As a sub-set of this Covenant we could include the Covenant entered by Bahá'u'lláh with His followers regarding the next Manifestation, after the lapse of a minimum period of a thousand years. (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶37)

The Lesser Covenant, on the other hand, is that Covenant that the Manifestation of God makes with the body of His followers regarding His immediate and subsequent Successors, assigning to them specific powers and functions. To this category belongs Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant in respect of His appointment of `Abdu'l-Bahá as His immediate Successor, as well as the Covenant embedded in the Writings of both Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá concerning the responsibilities of the Chief Institutions of the Administrative Order, namely the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. (Lights of Guidance 181) The Hand of the Cause George Townshend identifies yet another type of Covenant, which he describes as the "Ethical Covenant" which deals with the obligations and duties prescribed by God's Messenger for the believers to accept and obey, and to live the way of life laid down in His teachings. (e.g. Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶1 & ¶149)

The comments made in this Introduction will be concerned with the various aspects of the Lesser Covenant, often referred to as the Bahá'í Covenant. We will discuss the background of the appointment of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the Law of Succession as set forth in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, the anticipation of the Institution of the Guardianship as set out in the verses of the Most Holy Book, and the provisions which establish the Institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice. Finally we will consider the references in the authentic Writings of our Faith regarding the Power of the Covenant and its functions.

The Station of `Abdu'l-Bahá

Referring to the Most Great Branch, Bahá'u'lláh in His Suriy-i-Ghusn which was revealed in Adrianople, has written: "Verily the Limb of the Law of God hath sprung forth from this Root which God hath firmly implanted in the Ground of His Will... Magnified be He, therefore, for this sublime, this blessed, this mighty, this exalted Handiwork... Render thanks unto God, O people, for His appearance, for verily He is the most great Favour unto you, the most perfect bounty upon you, and through Him every mouldering bone is quickened. Whoso turneth towards Him hath turned towards God, and whoso turneth away from Him hath turned away from My Beauty, hath repudiated my Proof, and transgressed against Me." (World Order 135)

In His Kitáb-i-Aqdas there are two verses, which Shoghi Effendi has translated and which refer to the station of the Master: The first is as follows: "When the ocean of My presence hath ebbed and the Book of My Revelation is ended turn your faces towards Him Whom God hath purposed, Who hath branched from this Ancient Root" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶121). And the second adds to `Abdu'l-Bahá's prerogatives the right to interpret the Holy Writ: "When the mystic Dove will have winged its flight from its Sanctuary of Praise and sought its far-off goal, its hidden habitation, refer ye whatsoever ye understand not in the Book to Him Who hath branched from this mighty Stock" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶174). In order to dispel any doubt about His intention, Bahá'u'lláh in His Kitábi-`Ahd, after quoting the first of the two verses cited above, declares: "The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch [`Abdu'l-Bahá]." (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 221)

On two pages of the "Dispensation of Bahá'u'lláh" Shoghi Effendi has recorded passages from several Tablets of the Blessed Beauty where He, in an awe-inspiring tone, affirms the exalted station of `Abdu'l-Bahá. Those who wish to enhance their understanding of the lofty station of the One Who was the Mystery of God, are encouraged to read these passages and meditate on the inner meanings deposited in them (World Order l35-136).

The Law and Line of Succession

One of the most important and vital paragraphs of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is, in my opinion, paragraph ¶42. In this paragraph, Bahá'u'lláh makes mention of "endowments dedicated to charity", and states that these revert to the "Dawning-place of Revelation" as long as He is alive. He then goes on to declare: "After Him, this authority shall pass to the Aghsán, and after them to the House of Justice – should it be established in the world by then... Otherwise the endowments will revert to the people of Bahá who speak not except by His leave..." In explaining the line of succession stipulated in this passage, Note 66 (Kitáb-i-Aqdas 196) of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas points out that the word "Aghsán" means "Branches" or male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh. It then goes on to state the following: "This term [Aghsán] has particular implications not only for the disposition of endowments but also for the succession of authority following the passing of Bahá'u'lláh and of `Abdu'l-Bahá"(Kitáb-i-Aqdas 196). Elaborating further this theme, this same Note states: "This passage of the Aqdas, therefore anticipates the succession of chosen Aghsán and thus the institution of the Guardianship, and envisages the possibility of a break in their line. The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very situation provided for in this passage, in that the line of the Aghsán ended before the Universal House had been established" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas 197). To sum up, the line of succession after Bahá'u'lláh Himself, as stipulated in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, consists of the chosen Aghsán (i.e. `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi), the Chief Stewards (i.e. the Hands of the Cause during the interregnum), and finally the Universal House of Justice.

It is highly significant that Bahá'u'lláh makes a clear distinction between the Aghán in a general way and the specified, the "chosen" Aghsán who become Focal Points of the Covenant. For example in His Kitáb-i-Aqdas He states: "God hath bidden you to show forth kindliness towards My kindred, but He hath granted them no right to the property of others" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶61). As a further confirmation of this general rule, He is even more emphatic in His Kitáb-i-`Ahd where He declares: "It is enjoined upon everyone to manifest love towards the Aghsán, but God hath not granted them any right to the property of others" (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 222). However, in the same Book He ordains that the Aghsán who are designated as His Successors certainly do not fall in the general category of Aghsán, in the broad sense of the term.

As to the term "people of Bahá" mentioned in paragraph ¶42 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas quoted above, we find the following explanation in Note 67 of the Book (Kitáb-i-Aqdas 197): "The term `people of Bahá is used with a number of different meanings in the Bahá'í Writings. In this instance, they are described as those `who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet'. Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the Hands of the Cause of God directed the affairs of the Cause until the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963". We must remember in this connection that Shoghi Effendi in his last message to the Bahá'í World, dated October 1957, had described the responsibilities of the Hands of the Cause as "the Chief Stewards of Bahá'u'lláh's embryonic World Commonwealth, who have been invested by the unerring Pen of the Centre of His Covenant with the dual function of guarding over the security, and of insuring the propagation, of His Father's Faith" (Messages to the Bahá'í World 127). The term "steward" according to the Oxford Dictionary is "a person entrusted with management of another's property."

As Custodians of the Faith, the Hands of the Cause of God managed the affairs of the Cause entrusted to them in a most exemplary manner. In their message of November 1959 they announced that the election of the Universal House of Justice will be held at Ridván 1963, coinciding with the termination of Shoghi Effendi's World Crusade (The Ministry of the Custodians 166). When it was formed, the Universal House of Justice paid the following tribute to the Hands of the Cause: "The entire history of religion shows no comparable record of such strict self-discipline, such absolute loyalty, and such complete self-abnegation by the leaders of a religion finding themselves suddenly deprived of their divinely inspired guide. The debt of gratitude which mankind for generations, nay, ages to come, owes to this handful of grief-stricken, steadfast, heroic souls is beyond estimation." (The Ministry of the Custodians 2)

The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice

While the institution of the Guardianship was unequivocally and formally established in the provisions of the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, its anticipation could be found in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. This subject has been fully addressed by the Universal House of Justice in a letter dated 27 May 1980. We read as follows: "Although there is no explicit reference to the Guardianship in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Synopsis and Codification lists `Anticipation of the Institution of the Guardianship'. On page 214 of God Passes By, when summarizing the contents of the Aqdas, Shoghi Effendi states that in it Bahá'u'lláh `anticipates by implication the institution of Guardianship', and again, on page 147 of The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh the Guardian refers to `the verses of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas the implications of which clearly anticipate the institution of the Guardianship'. One such implication is in the matter of Huqúqu'lláh (The Right of God) which is ordained in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas without provision being made for who is to receive it; in His Will and Testament `Abdu'l-Bahá fills this gap by stating `It is to be offered through the Guardian of the Cause of God...' Other implications of this institution can be seen in the terms in which `Abdu'l-Bahá is appointed as the Successor of Bahá'u'lláh and the Interpreter of His Teachings. The faithful are enjoined to turn their faces towards the one whom `God hath purposed ` and who `hath branched from this Ancient Root', and are bidden to refer whatsoever they do not understand in the Bahá'í Writings to him who `hath branched from this mighty Stock'. Yet another can be seen in the provision of the Aqdas concerning the disposition of international endowments – a passage which not only refers this matter to the Aghsán (male descendants of Bahá'u'lláh) but also provides for what should happen should the line of Aghsán end before the coming into being of the Universal House of Justice." (Messages from the Universal House of Justice 450-452)

As to the exalted station of the Guardian as ordained in the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá, it would suffice to quote the key thoughts and terms incorporated in that Immortal Document. `Abdu'l-Bahá refers to him as "the Light that after My passing shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance", as "the primal branch", "the blest and sacred bough", "the sign of God, the chosen branch, the Guardian of the Cause of God, he unto whom all... His loved must turn. He is the expounder of the words of God", who is "under the care and protection of the Abhá Beauty [and] under the shadow of His Holiness the Exalted One [the Báb]... Whoso obeyeth him not ...hath not obeyed God... whoso disbelieveth in him hath disbelieved in God". And finally: "Well is it with him that seeketh the shelter of his shade that shadoweth all mankind." (Will and Testament 3 & 11)

Regarding the station of the Universal House as Head of the Faith, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas refers to its members as "the trusted ones of the Merciful" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶30) – also translated by the Guardian as "Trustees of the All-Merciful" in God Passes By p. 214. Likewise, the Supreme Elected Institution is established as the Focal Point of the Cause after the Aghsán (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶42), and, furthermore, its members are referred to as "men" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶52) and as "Deputies of God." (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶147)

Furthermore in the Eighth Leaf of the Words of Paradise, Bahá'u'lláh gives the community of the faithful the assurance that "God will verily inspire them [members of the Universal House of Justice] with whatsoever He willeth (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 68). `Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament has also stated that the Universal House of Justice is "under the care and protection" and "the shelter and guidance" of Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb. Referring to the Guardian as well as the Universal House of Justice He has written: "Whatsoever they decide is of God." He goes on to state that whoso does not obey the Universal House of Justice "hath not obeyed God" (Will and Testament 11). The Supreme House of Justice has also been described as "the source of all good and free from all error" (Will and Testament 14) and in the same Document we read that the decisions of the Body, whether taken unanimously or by majority of votes are "verily the purpose of God Himself... Whatsoever they [the elected members] decide has the same effect as the Text itself." (Will and Testament 19)

`Abdu'l-Bahá in other Tablets declares that the "Supreme House of Justice will take decisions and establish laws through the inspiration and confirmation of the Holy Spirit" (Messages from the Universal House of Justice 85). He describes the Institution, as a "blessed, sanctified and all-subduing body, whose sovereignty is divinely ordained" (Messages from the Universal House of Justice 85). Shoghi Effendi has added his voice to the foregoing by stating that the elected members have "been made the recipients of the divine guidance which is at once the lifeblood and ultimate safeguard of this Revelation." (World Order 153)

The Power of the Covenant and its Functions

The full text of the Will and Testament of Bahá'u'lláh, which is known to the friends as "The Book of My Covenant" or "The Book of the Covenant", and quite often referred to, in its Persian form, as the "Kitáb-i-`Ahd", is found on pages 219-223 of Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas . The second sentence of the first paragraph reads as follows: "We have bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless Heritage." The generality of the friends understood that this "Heritage" was a reference to the Cause of God. However, when Shoghi Effendi wrote his God Passes By, it was realized that the "Heritage" was indeed Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant bequeathed by Him to His heirs – namely, the Community of the Most Great Name. (God Passes By 314)

In a way, we could say that the entire Document is about the Covenant, in both its specific and general sense. Shoghi Effendi has given us a summary of the contents of the Kitáb-i-`Ahd in the following terms: "In this weighty and incomparable Document its Author discloses the character of this `excellent and priceless heritage' bequeathed by Him to His `heirs'; proclaims afresh the fundamental purpose of His Revelation; enjoins `the people of the world' to hold fast to that which will `elevate' their `station'; announces to them that `God hath forgiven what is past'; stresses the sublimity of man's station; discloses the primary aim of the Faith of God; directs the faithful to pray for the welfare of the kings of the earth, `the manifestations of the power, and the daysprings of the might and riches, of God; invests them with the rulership of the earth; singles out as His special domain the hearts of men, forbids categorically strife and contention; commands His followers to aid those rulers who are `adorned with the ornament of equity and justice'; and directs, in particular, the Aghsán (His sons) to ponder the `mighty force and the consummate power that lieth concealed in the world of being'. He bids them, moreover, together with the Afnán (the Báb's kindred) and His own relatives. to `turn, one and all, unto the Most Great Branch (`Abdu'l-Bahá); identifies Him with `the one Whom God hath purposed', `Who hath branched from this pre-existent Root', referred to in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas; ordains the station of the `Greater Branch' (Mirza Muhammad-'Alí) to be beneath that of the `Most Great Branch' (`Abdu'l-Bahá); exhorts the believers to treat the Aghsán with consideration and affection; counsels them to respect His family and relatives, as well as the kindred of the Báb; denies His sons `any right to the property of others'; enjoins on them, on His kindred and on that of the Báb to `fear God, to do that which is meet and seemly' and to follow the things that will `exalt' their station; warns all men not to allow `the means of order to be made the cause of confusion, and the instrument of union an occasion for discord'; and concludes with an exhortation calling upon the faithful to `serve all nations' and to strive for the `betterment of the world.'" (God Passes By 239-240) The entire passage, which contains the reference to the Covenant as possessing "force" and "power" is as follows: "A mighty force, a consummate power lieth concealed in the world of being. Fix your gaze upon it and upon its unifying influence, and not upon the differences which appear from it" (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh 221). In this passage Bahá'u'lláh admits that God's Covenant will provoke "differences", however, as Bahá'í history eloquently and repeatedly has demonstrated, these "differences" never led to a rift or cleavage in the ranks of the faithful. Shoghi Effendi has assured us that any temporary "setbacks and reverses" caused by the external and internal enemies of the Faith, have never, and could never "impair its unity" and will always fail "to arrest its march" The "unifying influence" of the Covenant has always prevailed. (God Passes By 61

`Abdu'l-Bahá has emphatically declared that God's Covenant in this Dispensation is "firm and mighty", that "no religious Dispensation has produced its like", and that the "pivot of the oneness of mankind is nothing else but the power of the Covenant"(God Passes By 238). Furthermore He has stated that the "lamp of the Covenant is the light of the world", that its power is "as the heat of the sun which quickeneth and promoteth the development of all created things on earth", and that it is the "Magnet of God's grace". (God Passes By 234-235) Shoghi Effendi has further developed this vital theme by stating that the Bahá'í Covenant has been "bequeathed to posterity" (God Passes By 239), that it is endowed with an "invincible" and an "indomitable strength", that it has an "energizing power", and has the "ability to safeguard the unity and integrity of the Faith" (God Passes By 239). Viewed in their proper perspective, the crises it engenders are but "inevitable manifestations of the mysterious evolution" of the Faith, and an agency "for the purification and revitalization of the life of the community". Therefore, each of these crises could "confidently be pronounced as a blessing in disguise, affording a providential means for a fresh outpouring of celestial strength" (God Passes By 61). Indeed, Shoghi Effendi has clearly declared that the statement made by Bahá'u'lláh that His Dispensation is "the Day which shall not be followed by night", should be regarded as His testimony that it is on account of His Lesser Covenant that His glorious "Day" shall not be followed by "night" (God Passes By 245).

It was undoubtedly by virtue of the potency and power of the Covenant vested in Him by Bahá'u'lláh that 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote His fourteen Tablets which constitute His Divine Plan for the spiritual conquest of the planet, and that Shoghi Effendi was moved to devise the Teaching Plans assigned by him to various National Spiritual Assemblies of the world, thus paving the way for the launching of his World Crusade. It is this self-same driving force, we must be confident, which today prompts the Universal House of Justice to formulate the objectives of its series of Teaching and Consolidation Plans for the Bahá'í World Community and to take the necessary steps for their execution.

Questions related:

Q. Do you advise us to read books that oppose the Faith, such as books of Covenant-breakers to prepare ourselves to better defend the Faith?

A. It is useful to know what claims or arguments the enemies of the Faith are advancing, in order to disprove their misrepresentations. The purpose of courses such as the one we are engaged in is precisely for this purpose. However, those who oppose the Faith usually put forward their provocative statements with such venom, that reading the full text is like exposing our otherwise healthy souls to the breath of a consumptive person. Nevertheless, the reading of such books is not forbidden in our teachings, but a clear warning is given. Furthermore, as the Faith will be encountering wave after wave of opposition, and undoubtedly more fierce and relentless than those of the past, if Bahá'ís would choose to read intensively all articles and books written by enemies of the Faith and by Covenant-breakers, they would be spending their time doing almost nothing but reading this type of poisonous material. By studying the deeper teachings of the Faith, and as Bahá'u'lláh has advised us, by reading the Writings with the aim of knowing "what hath been purposed in the Books of God" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶36), we will immediately be able to discover what is being misrepresented by our enemies, whether internal or external, and refute their false arguments.

Q. The Báb appointed Mírzá Ya yá as the leader of the community after His death. This was done upon Bahá'u'lláh's suggestion. Do we have copies of the correspondence between the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh? Was Bahá'u'lláh aware of His Divine Mission prior to His experience in the Síyáh-Ch ál?

A. In the Bayan, the Báb states that He has not appointed any Successor within His Dispensation. This is confirmed by Shoghi Effendi: "A successor or viceregent the Báb never named, an interpreter of His teachings He refrained from appointing" (God Passes By 28). He, of course, knew that His Dispensation would be a brief one. Shoghi Effendi has further explained that all that the Báb did was "to nominate, on the advice of Bahá'u'lláh and of another disciple, Mírzá Ya yá, [he was a teenager at that time] who would act solely as a figure-head pending the manifestation of the Promised One, thus enabling Bahá'u'lláh to promote in relative security, the Cause [of the Báb] so dear to His heart" (God Passes By 28-29).

Until now, as far as I know, the correspondence between Bahá'u'lláh and the Báb has not been found. As to whether Bahá'u'lláh was conscious of His Mission prior to His experience in the Síyáh-Ch ál, we have the words of `Abdu'l-Bahá about this general subject concerning all Divine Messengers, as follows: "Verily, from the beginning that Holy Reality [God's Manifestation] is conscious of the secret of existence, and from the age of childhood signs of greatness appear and are visible in Him. Therefore, how can it be that with all these bounties and perfections He should have no consciousness?" (Some Answered Questions 155).

Q. As President of the Universal House of Justice, why did Shoghi Effendi comment in his "Dispensation" about his relationship to that Institution, apparently assuming that he would co-exist with the Universal House of Justice?

A. Shoghi Effendi was not appointed as the "President" of the Universal House of Justice. This was a mistake made by Mason Remey and those who followed him. The Guardian was appointed as the "sacred head" (Will and Testament 14) of that Body. Indeed, when in 1952 Shoghi Effendi announced the members as well as the officers of the International Bahá'í Council – the "embryonic" stage and "forerunner" (Messages to the Bahá'í World 7) of the Universal House of Justice – he made a clear distinction between the position to be occupied by Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyíh Khánum, as his "chosen liaison" with the Council, and the lower position of "president" which was assumed by Mason Remey (Messages to the Bahá'í World 22).

As to whether a Guardian as a male descendent of Bahá'u'lláh is to coexist with the Universal House of Justice, this matter has been discussed in the second chapter of this book. Briefly stated, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas does not envisage such a co-existence. In `Abdu'l-Bahá's Will, however, while co-existence is envisaged only in the first part of the Document, its provisions unequivocally declare that the Universal House of Justice's divine guidance does not depend upon the membership or participation of a Guardian. This is one of the "mysteries" deposited in the contents of the Master's Will, which Shoghi Effendi kept referring to in the course of his Ministry. Beyond any doubt this act on the part of `Abdu'l-Bahá must have its own wisdom, specially as Shoghi Effendi emphatically wrote that the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and the Will and Testament are not "incompatible and contradictory in spirit" (World Order 4).

Q. In the former Pilgrim House by the Shrine of the Báb, there is a room that has pictures of the Hands of the Cause, which include that of Mason Remey. Why was this done? Shouldn't we also have a picture of Muhammad-Alí, for example, in the Mansion?

A. A list of the Hands of the Cause of God would normally include the name of Mason Remey. Likewise a room which portrays all the Hands, should include Mason Remey as well, as this is a historical fact. Of course it would be out of place to put a picture of Muhammad-Alí in the Mansion. However his calligraphic rendering of the Most Great Name was placed by Shoghi Effendi on the southern wall of the main hall of the Mansion. Likewise, we admit that the architect of the Kampala and Sydney Houses of Worship, as well as of the Archives Building and the future House of Worship on Mount Carmel was Mason Remey. We cannot meddle with historic events.

Q. What answer can we give to the allegation that Shoghi Effendi interpreted the Will and Testament of `Abdu'l-Bahá in a manner which would favour his own station?

A. Your question would be relevant if Shoghi Effendi had been a political leader. But he was not a secular leader. He was formally appointed by the Centre of Bahá'u'lláh's Covenant as Guardian of the Cause of God, and authorized Interpreter of the Writings of the Faith. The self-same Pen of `Abdu'l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, referred to Shoghi Effendi as the Sign of God, chosen to be the Inspired Authority in the Cause to which the faithful must turn, and "the Light that after My passing shineth from the Dayspring of Divine Guidance" (Will and Testament 3).

BULLET POINTS FOR THE FOLLOWING SIX TALKS

    Day One- The Lesser Peace and the Most Great Peace

  •       Two processes of integration and disintegration characterize the world today.

    -The integration process refers to the expansion of the Faith.

    -The disintegration process is the dismantling of the old world order that has existed up till now.

    -A third process of integration follows the advancement of the world in general towards the Most Great Peace, independent of the direct influence of the Bahá'í community.

  •       One of the consequences of the third integration process will be the Lesser Peace. Distinctive features of the Lesser Peace:

    -It will be established by the nations of the world of their own accord.

          -It will be a secular peace, not a religious one.

    -It will include a form of world government, comprising "a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men," topped by an "international executive."

          -It will involve the underlying recognition that the world is one.

    -It is not dependant on the direct efforts of the Bahá'í community.

  •       Abdul-Baha sets out Seven Candles of Unity, five of which are preliminary steps to the establishment of the Lesser Peace:

    -Unity in the political realm (League of Nations, UN)

    -Unity of thought in world undertakings (international initiatives)

    -Unity in freedom (end of communism, colonialism, etc)

    -Unity of nations (the idea of the world as common fatherland)

    -Unity of language

          Those that will be established by the Most Great Peace are:

    -Unity of race

    -Unity of religion

  •       Bahá'u'lláh uses three terms (Sulh-i-Asghar, Sulh-i-Akbar, Sulh-i-A'zam) to refer to the levels of unification of the world.

    -Whenever reference is made simply to reducing armaments, peace in the political sphere, etc, Shoghi Effendi translates this as Lesser Peace.

    -Whenever the context is broader and includes the idea of mass conversion, Shoghi Effendi translates it as Most Great Peace.

    -Whenever the context points to an intermediate stage between the two, Shoghi Effendi calls this the Greater Peace or the Great Peace.

  •       Distinctive features of the Greater Peace:

    -It is a period of gradual evolution towards a truly spiritual civilization.

    -It includes the creation of a world "super-state," which has binding power on a world federation of nations (as opposed to simply an advisory system like the UN.)

    -This super-state will be secular in form.

    -The secular world polity and the Bahá'í system will develop

    separately and in parallel.

  •       Shoghi Effendi lists 'seven stages' the Bahá'í faith will pass through in the nations of the world before the Most Great Peace can be established. Some countries may skip certain stages altogether. So far stage 4 has been the highest stage attained by the Bahá'í's in any country.

    1) Obscurity. During this stage the Faith is unknown in the country.

    2) Repression. We see clear examples of this in Iran.

    3) Emancipation. Freedom from oppression by religious orthodoxy.

    4) Recognition. Official status in a country as a recognized religious organization, empowered to perform its own marriages, etc.

    5) State religion. Official acceptance of the Bahá'í Faith as the state religion of a country, if the population has become majority Bahá'í.

    6) The Bahá'í State. A merger between the civil system and the Bahá'í administration of a particular country (if majority Bahá'í.)

    7) Bahá'í Commonwealth. All Bahá'í states join in the initial stages of the Most Great Peace.

    Day Two- The Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice under the provisions of the Kitab-i-Aqdas and Abdul-Baha's Will and Testament.

  •       The basis for the institution of Guardianship and the provisions for the succession of headship in the Faith is first made by Bahá'u'lláh in the Kitab-i-Aqdas:

    "Endowments dedicated to charity revert to God... None hath the right to dispose of them without leave from Him Who the Dawning-place of Revelation. After Him this authority shall pass to the Aghsáns [male heirs of Bahá'u'lláh] and after them to the House of Justice-should it be established in the world by them..."

  •       Functions of the Guardian:

    -Headship of the Faith

    -Authoritative interpretation of the sacred texts

    -Protection and propagation of the Faith (in which he is aided by Hands of the Cause.)

  •       In His Will and Testament, Abdul-Baha stipulated the conditions for the appointment of a new Guardian:

    -The Guardian must appoint his successor within his lifetime.

    -The choice must be approved by the nine elected Hands of the Cause of God in Haifa.

    - In addition to being an Aghsan, the future Guardian must be "he whom God would indicate," ie possessing a good character, not a covenant breaker.

  •       Bahá'u'lláh also makes provision in the same passage from the Kitab-i-Aqdas for the time when there will be no more appointed Aghsans, and the headship of the Faith will pass on to the House of Justice:

    "...After Him this authority shall pass to the Aghsans and after them to the House of Justice-should it be established in the world by them..."

  •       In the Will and Testament, Abdul-Baha states that "unto the Most Holy Book [the Kitab-i-Aqdas] every one must turn, and all that is not expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice..." In a Tablet to one of the relatives of the Bab in Iran, Abdul-Baha gave instructions that if he died while Shoghi Effendi was too young to succeed to the Guardianship, the Universal House of Justice should be elected. This set the groundwork for succession should there be no appointed Guardian.

  •       The clear succession of headship is a function of the unique written Covenant of the Bahá'í Faith, as set out by Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul-Baha.

  •       Functions of the Universal House of Justice:

    -Headship of the Faith

    -Legislation to cover issues not specifically covered in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and the timing and application of all laws

    -Elucidation of obscure questions in the Writings (NOT interpretation.)

    -Protection, propagation and administration

    -Ensuring integrity, flexibility and unity of Faith.

  •       Infallibility. Abdul-Baha speaks specifically about the House of Justice in the Will and Testament:

    "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."

  •       Shoghi Effendi likens the two institutions of the Guardianship and the House of Justice to pillars in the structure of the Administrative Order, and makes it clear that one cannot function without the other. Thirty-six years of Shoghi Effendi's ministry now provide lasting guidance in the form of his authoritative interpretations.

  •       Why the Guardian left no Will. This was a conscious decision on Shoghi-Effendi's part, not an accident. The Guardian's primary concern was the protection of the Faith, and its future development. The House of Justice later wrote:"in his very silence there is a wisdom and a sign of his infallible guidance."

    Day Three- The Constitution of the Universal House of Justice

  •       All claims to power, authority and responsibility the Universal House of Justice set out in this document were exhaustively researched in the texts of Bahá'u'lláh, of Abdul-Baha and of Shoghi Effendi. The content of the Declaration is, without any exception, based on these texts.

  •       THE DECLARATION OF TRUST deals with the following points:

    -The authority of Bahá'u'lláh as Manifestation of God for this age.

    -The vital function of the Covenant in canalizing the forces of the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh.

    -The station of the Universal House of Justice as one of the two successors of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul-Baha, under that same Covenant.

    - The precepts and principles at the core of the Bahá'í Faith, and its fundamental purpose. This is "to safeguard and promote the unity of the human race" and "foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men."

    -The sphere of responsibility of the Universal House of Justice, namely to decide on "all that is not expressly recorded" in the Most Holy Book, and the Body to which "everyone must turn."

    -The foundation of the Universal House of Justice on "the revealed Word of Bahá'u'lláh" and "the interpretations and expositions" recorded by Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

    -Limiting the authority for interpretation of Bahá'í scripture solely to Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

    -The authority of these Texts is absolute until the advent of the new Manifestation in one thousand years.

    -With the passing of Shoghi Effendi, The Universal House of Justice is now Head of the Faith and Its Supreme Institution.

  •       Shoghi Effendi gives an important description of the NATURE OF THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE:

             -The members of the House are not responsible to those they represent. They are to "follow, in a prayerful attitude, the dictates and promptings of their own conscience."

             -The House members, to counter-balance to the first point, have the duty to "acquaint themselves with the conditions prevailing among the community."

             -It is the Universal House of Justice, not those who elect it, is the recipient of divine guidance.

  •       In the future, the legislative, executive and judiciary functions of theHouse of Justice will be separated into three distinct arms.

    Day Four- The Bahá'í Administrative Order in contrast to other religious and secular systems.

    What is new about the Baha'I Faith? What can stop its administration from succumbing to the same evils that corrupted religious organizations in the past?

  •       The Bahá'í Administrative Order is unique and innovative. Unlike past religious organizations, it is protected from schism by a written Covenant. No previous Manifestation left such explicit written instructions as to the succession of headship and administration. Shoghi Effendi writes: "No Prophet before Bahá'u'lláh... has established, authoritatively and in writing, anything comparable to the Administrative Order..."

  •       The three main types of political organization- democracy, autocracy and aristocracy- are all present in the workings of the Administrative Order. Good aspects of one system balance out the undesirable aspects of the others. The various political forms are often incorporated as principles of function, rather than actual positions of power (for example, there is no autocratic position of papacy, but there is the absolute authority of the revealed texts.)

  •       The Bahá'í administration is evolutionary in nature, and will change and develop as need arises. For example:

    Shoghi Effendi points out that the way the Administrative Order functions makes it "inclined to democratic methods." But with a living Guardian at the Head of the Faith, and the absolute powers he wields, it is possible that the Faith would be inclined to autocratic methods. In light of this, Abdul-Baha may have envisaged two stages in the development of the Administrative Order after Him:

    -A temporary stage, with the Guardian as living Head of the Faith, and autocracy as its dominant characteristic;

    -A subsequent stage, with the Universal House of Justice as Supreme Organ, and democracy as the dominant characteristic.

  •       DEMOCRATIC ASPECTS of the Bahá'í Administrative Order.

    -The Bahá'í electoral system determining the membership of the local, national and international administrative bodies.

    -The feature of parliamentary debate incorporated into Bahá'í consultation.

    -The degree of autonomy provided to elected councils at the local and national levels.

    Dissimilarities: under the Bahá'í system the elected are not responsible to those who elect them, but must follow the dictates of their own conscience. Partisanship and campaigning for office are likewise forbidden.

  •       ARISTOCRATIC ASPECTS of the Bahá'í Administrative Order.

    -The appointed branch of the administration, comprising the institution of the Counsellors on the international and continental levels, and the Auxiliary Board members and their Assistants.

    -The principle of freedom from outside control that governs the functioning of the Universal House of Justice.

    Dissimilarities: The Counsellors and Auxiliary Board Members are not appointed for life, but for a fixed term. They also do not possess decision-making authority, as this power is vested in the elected branch. No position now existing in the Administrative Order is based on birth and its inherited privileges.

  •       AUTOCRATIC ASPECTS of the Bahá'í Administrative Order.

    -The absolute and binding authority given to the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, and his two authorized Interpreters, Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.

    Dissimilarities: Flexibility is guaranteed by the fact that there is an unlimited field of legislation to implement, and supplement in subsidiary matters, the Laws revealed by Bahá'u'lláh. This responsibility is discharged by an elected body, the Universal House of Justice.

    Day Five- The role of the American Bahá'í community in the emergence of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh.

  •       Geographical definitions used in the Writings. The West: Europe and North America. The Americas, American continent, or Western Hemisphere: North and South American continents and Carribean. North America: United States and Canada. America: United States.

  •       Baha'ullah addresses the "Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein" specifically in the Kitab-i-Aqdas. "Bind ye the broken with the hands of justice, and crush the oppressor who flourisheth with the rod of the commandments of your Lord." He identifies three obligations for the West:

    -Protecting the persecuted.

    -Opposing the oppressor.

    -Championing the Faith.

  •       THE DESTINY OF THE AMERICAN BAHA'I COMMUNITY

    The Tablets of the Divine Plan invested the North American Bahá'í community with a unique spiritual primacy. This was in contrast to the patent evils present in the society around it. (The same principle of contrast governed the Faith's appearance in Persia in the 19th century.) Shoghi Effendi identifies the evils of Western society in general as:

    -Immersion in a sea of materialism.

    -Being prey to one of the most virulent and long-standing forms of racial prejudice.

    -Being a victim of political corruption, lawlessness and laxity in moral standards.

  •       A historical overview of Shoghi Effendi's ministry, and the first three epochs of the Formative Age of the Faith (1921-1963) show how the plans for developing the administrative order in America became a blueprint for its development elsewhere. 1921 to 1937: the Guardian consolidated the Administrative Order, concentrating on North America. 1937-1944: the first Seven Year Plan of the North American community. 1944/45 other teaching plans develop around the world, including a second Seven Year Plan in America. 1953: the Ten Year Crusade, where lion share of goals go to North American community.

  •       THE DESTINY OF THE AMERICAN NATION IN GENERAL

    Abdul-Baha states: "May this American democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace."

  •       Principle of Federalism in American republics applied to the world. Abdul-Baha answered an official in the US government, who had asked Him how best he could serve his country, by saying: "You can best serve your country, if you strive, in your capacity as citizen of the world, to assist in the eventual application of the principle of federalism underlying the government of your own country to the relationships now existing between the peoples and nations of the world." This shows two things:

    -The structure of federalism, as conceived and practiced in the United States, with autonomy given to the federated states of the country, is, in Abdul-Baha's estimation, an acceptable system of organisation for the world.

    -The best way to promote the interests of the part is for that part to uphold the interests of the whole.

  •       Shoghi Effendi goes on to expand on the welfare of the part affecting the welfare of the whole: "The world is contracting into a neighbourhood. America, willingly or unwillingly, must face and grapple with this new situation. For purposes of national security, let alone any humanitarian motive, she must assume the obligations imposed by this newly created neighbourhood."

  •       Conditions of destiny. Shoghi Effendi confidently assures us that America will: "raise its voice in the councils of the nations, itself lay the cornerstone of a universal and enduring peace, proclaim the solidarity, the unity, and maturity of mankind, and assist in the establishment of the promised reign of righteousness on earth." After enumerating the above conditions, he adds: "Then, and only then, will the American nation... be able to fulfil the unspeakably glorious destiny ordained for it by the Almighty."

    Day Six- The Evolution of the Bahá'í Administrative Order- its spirit and form (the Rulers and the Learned.)

  •       The Heroic Age (1844-1921.) During the Bab, Bahá'u'lláh and Abdul-Baha's ministries, the embryonic Administrative Order incorporated the following elements:

    -The establishment of the first Spiritual Assemblies

    -The institution of the Hands of the Cause.

    -The Bahá'í Fund.

    -The Bahá'í Temple Unity in the US and the purchase of property dedicated to the Faith and its future institutions.

    -The founding of publishing houses for printing of Baha'I literature.

    -The construction of the Bab's mausoleum.

    -The institution of hostels for itinerant teachers and pilgrims.

  •       The Formative Age (1921-today.) Under the guidance of the Guardian, the fledgling institutions of the Faith were nurtured and developed in preparation for the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. The Guardian had two over-riding objectives:

    -To strengthen the administrative structure of the Faith, through the establishment of Local Assemblies, its "foundation", through to National Assemblies, the "columns" of the administrative structure, leading up to the creation of the "dome", the Universal House of Justice.

    -To use these administrative institutions to promote the teaching work of the Faith in a united and systematic manner, using the Tablets of the Divine Plan.

  •       The Embryonic World Order. For the first sixteen years of his ministry, Shoghi Effendi termed it the Bahá'í administration. After that, he called it the Administrative Order. Only later will this develop inot the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh. The main objective of the Faith is the Most Great Peace, and the birth of Bahá'í Civilization. The Administrative Order is only a preliminary stage in this process. Shoghi Effendi described the Administrative Order as being the embryonic form of the World Order. Signs of incongruity and imperfection are only natural to this stage of development.

  •       The Spirit of the Institutions. The Guardian set out the spiritual obligations of the elected representatives as follows:

    -They should not dictate, but consult.

    -They should never think of themselves as "central ornaments"

    -They should approach their task with extreme humility, open-mindedness, a high sense of justice and duty, candour, modesty, and devotion.

    -They must win the genuine support of those they serve.

    -They must rid themselves of the spirit of exclusiveness, the atmosphere of secrecy, or a domineering attitude.

    -They must banish all forms of prejudice and passion from their deliberations.

    -They should, within the limits of discretion, take the friends into their confidence.

    -When they must make a decision they should, "after dispassionate, anxious and cordial consultation, turn to God in prayer."

  •       The Rulers and the Learned. Bahá'u'lláh, in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, writes: "Blessed are the rulers and the learned among the people of Baha."

    - Shoghi Effendi explains that the Learned are the Hands of the Cause, the Counsellors, Auxiliary Board members and their assistants, while the Rulers are the Local, National and International Houses of Justice.

    -The House of Justice states, "the proper functioning of human society requires the preservation of ranks and classes."

    -There is a safeguard in the Bahá'í Faith against the rigidity of academia and the abuse of priests. Shoghi Effendi writes: "the Pen of Glory has done away with the unyielding and dictatorial views of the learned and the wise... and ordained that all matters be referred to authorized centers and specific Assemblies."

    -There is a difference between being appointed to a rank, and seeking to be so appointed. Bahá'u'lláh writes: "Ever since the seeking of preference and distinction came into play, the world hath been laid waste."

    -The House also writes: "The true spiritual station of any soul is known only to God. This is quite a different thing from the ranks and stations that men and women occupy in the various sectors of society."

single page chapter 1 next chapter
Back to:   Notable Talks Study Guides
Home Site Map Forum Links Copyright About Contact
 
.
. .