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
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:
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..."
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:
any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for
this is naught but manifest justice."
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:
pay no heed ... Divine chastisement shall assail you from every direction, and the
sentence of His justice shall be pronounced against you."
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
years later Bahá'u'lláh wrote:
two ranks among men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics".
most monarchies have indeed disappeared and been replaced by elected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.
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
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.
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.
different kind of monarchy is envisaged to that which was current at the time 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
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:
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."
suggested Britain as a working example of a country which had combined
representation with monarchy:
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
"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."
Role of the Monarch
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:
art God's shadow on earth. Strive, therefore, to act in such a manner as
befitteth so eminent, so august a station."
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.
perhaps why Bahá'u'lláh said, "A just king enjoyeth nearer access unto God
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
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.
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