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>>   Essays and short articles Introductory

Monarchy, The Future of:
Warwick Leaflets

by Warwick Bahá'í Bookshop

2002
The Bahá'í Writings have much to say about monarchy, but first this must be put into historical context. The Bahá'í Faith was founded by Bahá'u'lláh, Who was born into a noble family in Persia in 1817. The world in which He lived was largely ruled by hereditary monarchs, who wielded the power of life and death over their subjects.

Bahá'u'lláh had no interest in the exercise of worldly power Himself. When He was young, He was offered the post of minister in the court of the Shah of Persia, but declined that role. As He wrote to the kings and rulers of the day:

"By the Righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men... Whoso followeth his Lord, will renounce the world and all that is therein..."

In 1863 Bahá'u'lláh announced His message of world unity. During the following years He wrote specifically to the kings, emperors and rulers of the time, pointing out the need for a world peace conference to settle boundaries and to limit arms. He put forward the principle of collective security:

"Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice."

He also advised them to rule with justice and to look after the poor, and He warned them of the consequences if they did not do this:

"If ye pay no heed ... Divine chastisement shall assail you from every direction, and the sentence of His justice shall be pronounced against you."

They all rejected His message out of hand, apart from Queen Victoria, who is reported to have remarked that, "If this is of God, it will endure; if not, it can do no harm".

Twenty years later Bahá'u'lláh wrote:

"From two ranks among men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics".

Since then most monarchies have indeed disappeared and been replaced by elected governments. Certainly the ones who received letters from Bahá'u'lláh have all now gone, except for the British throne. The power and influence of the priesthood in the various religions has also declined noticeably.

Hereditary Rule

Monarchy has traditionally meant that power or authority have been transferred to younger members of the same family. Such hereditary monarchy has been largely replaced by republican forms of government, but in practice, although mankind has experimented with many political systems, rule by one family line frequently reappears. Within recent decades, power has been inherited within the family by communist leaders, dictators, prime ministers, and even directly-elected presidents.

Elected Government

Bahá'u'lláh's message concerns the unity of humanity, and He ordained the foundation of an elected world body known as the Universal House of Justice. Its function is to enact laws at a planetary level and its members should regard themselves as "the trustees of all who dwell on earth". Within the Bahá'í community, similar bodies also exist at local and national levels.

Because of this system, it might be thought that Bahá'ís expect monarchy to be replaced at this stage of human social evolution, and yet the opposite is in fact the case.

Constitutional Monarchy

However, a different kind of monarchy is envisaged to that which was current at the time of Bahá'u'lláh:

"One of the signs of the maturity of the world is that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship. Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight. That day will be the day whereon wisdom will be manifested among mankind".

Having sole responsibility for the welfare of an entire nation will be recognised as too much of a burden and the responsibility will need to be shared.

It is also clear from the above quotation that Bahá'u'lláh envisages monarchy of the constitutional type, rather than the historic pattern of absolute monarchy. As he wrote to Queen Victoria:

"We have also heard that thou hast entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people. Thou, indeed, hast done well, for thereby the foundations of the edifice of thine affairs will be strengthened, and the hearts of all that are beneath thy shadow, whether high or low, will be tranquillized."

He also suggested Britain as a working example of a country which had combined representation with monarchy:

"The system of government which the British people have adopted in London appeareth to be good, for it is adorned with the light of both kingship and of the consultation of the people."

Bahá'u'lláh saw advantages to humanity in monarchy as well as an elected government:

"Although a republican form of government profiteth all the peoples of the world, yet the majesty of kingship is one of the signs of God. We do not wish that the countries of the world should remain deprived thereof. If the sagacious combine the two forms into one, great will be their reward in the presence of God."

The Role of the Monarch

As it states in the previous quotation, a monarch is a symbol of the majesty and power of God. As a symbol of God in this sense, the monarch should also reflect the qualities of God by showing a concern for justice, for the poor and the disadvantaged. Bahá'u'lláh addressed one monarch with the following words:

"Thou art God's shadow on earth. Strive, therefore, to act in such a manner as befitteth so eminent, so august a station."

Someone who holds such a respected position could easily fall prey to feelings of superiority. It takes a noble person to remain humble and realise that it is the office which is exalted, not the individual.

This is perhaps why Bahá'u'lláh said, "A just king enjoyeth nearer access unto God than anyone."

A monarch whose duties are performed in the right spirit will be an example of selfless service and dedication and a true representative of the nation which he or she serves.

It is not possible at this stage to foresee exactly how monarchy will develop and integrate with the elected representatives of the people. It may, however, be similar to the British example already mentioned. As mankind as a whole comes of age, we will need new structures and institutions to reflect our new mature status and to ensure the peace and well-being of the entire planet.

The text of all these leaflets remains the copyright of Warwick Bahá'í Bookshop. The Bookshop is happy for people to download individual copies for their own purposes. Printed copies can be purchased from the Warwick Bookshop. Individuals or communities wishing to translate or print these leaflets in other countries please contact the Bookshop for permission.
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