Answers to questions submitted in preparation for a source book in religious ethics for a college course at Hofstra University, New York, fall 2001.
Compiled and edited by Jonah Winters from answers and quotations provided by Dianne Bradford and Fiona Missaghian, with input from Bill Garlington, Jason Sandlin, Robert Stauffer, Robert Stockman. Prefaced with introduction by Udo Schaefer
Answers to 55 Questions Submitted by Arthur Dobrin
compiled by Jonah Winters
published in Religious Ethics: A Sourcebook
, Arthur D. Dobrin, ed.
Hindi Granth Karyalay, 2004
first written or published 2001
Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921): Eldest surviving son of
Bahá'u'lláh and his designated successor; regarded as being the
perfect "Exemplar" of the Bahá'í Faith and the first of two
infallible interpreters of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.
Some prefatory comments:
Báb, The (1819-1850): The Prophet-Forerunner of the
Bahá'í Faith; seen as a "bridge" of sorts between the Islamic
revelation and the Bahá'í revelation.
Bahá'í: lit. "Of Bahá," i.e.
Bahá'u'lláh. A follower of the religion revealed by
Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892): lit. "Glory of God." The
Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith and the Manifestation of God
for this era; the author/revealer of the core teachings of the
Guardian, The: honorific of Shoghi Effendi
Manifestation: A Prophet of God in any age, e.g. Christ, Buddha,
Muhammad, and The Báb. "Minor" prophets such as Isaiah or Amos are not
manifestations. The Manifestations are not God descended to earth, but rather
perfect human reflections of the divine, such that the face of God as reflected
in the Manifestations can be regarded as God Himself.
Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957): Grandson of Abdu'l-Bahá. Protector
and "Guardian" of the Bahá'í Faith, and second of two infallible
interpreters of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.
The Universal House of Justice: Supreme elected administrative body of
the Bahá'í Faith, consisting of a nine-member committee acting as
a single executive voice. First elected in 1963, its seat is in the
Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.
- All writings and texts quoted below can be found online at the
Bahá'í Academics Resource Library, http://bahai-library.com.
- By common Bahá'í convention, extracts from the writings of the
Bahá'í Faith's primary figures (The Báb, Bahá'u'lláh,
Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi) have been italicized. Extracts from the
writings of the Universal House of Justice and their agencies (including the
Notes to the Kitab-i-Aqdas where quoted below) have not been
- A few respondents expressed their concern that the following 55
ethics questions might not be neatly answerable in a Bahá'í
context. Reasons for this vary, but some primary objections have been:
- From a Bahá'í perspective, many of the answers to these
questions would require a degree of contextualization rather than a blanket
'yes or no,' 'this or that' answer. This is best expressed in a letter from the
Universal House of Justice dated June 1988:
The Universal House of Justice does not feel that the time has come
for it to provide detailed legislation on subjects such as abortion,
homosexuality and other moral issues.... [I]n most areas of human behaviour
there are acts which are clearly contrary to the law of God and others which
are clearly approved or permissible; between these there is often a grey area
where it is not immediately apparent what should be done. It has been a human
tendency to wish to eliminate these grey areas so that every aspect of life is
clearly prescribed. A result of this tendency has been the tremendous accretion
of interpretation and subsidiary legislation which has smothered the spirit of
certain of the older religions.
While the same could be said of other religions, in the
Bahá'í Faith context is also informative in light of the Faith's
fundamental tenet that certain religious truth itself is relative. This is
expressed in the Faith's teaching of the "Progressive Revelation" of certain
religious truth; God sends his Manifestations to each people and each time as
they are needed, and no Revelation is final. The Revelations thus differ in
many points of context and cultural relevance. The core spiritual teachings of
all religions, though, are universal and unchanging. (For more on the Faith's
relativism, see http://bahai-library.com/articles/relativism.html.) Future
Bahá'í law, when universalized and globalized, may thus sometimes
have to focus on the spirit of the law rather than its letter.
On behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 5 June
However, the Bahá'í Faith also teaches that ethical conduct can
be universalized. Certain beliefs and actions are considered as wrong and
immoral regardless of the historical context. But individuals are not
necessarily capable of determining on their own which laws have contextual
versus universal application. Bahá'ís are thus very conscientious
about adhering as closely as possible to the written word of the
Bahá'í Faith, its extensive body of sacred text left for the
community by the Faith's Central Figures.
In a certain sense, making ethical determinations is a requirement for and mark
of maturity. The human race is slowly but presently coming of age, the
Bahá'í Faith teaches, and the capacity to discern ethical
behavior is becoming a capability and responsibility of all believers. As the
Universal House of Justice continued in the above letter, there are
...area[s] of the application of the laws [which are] intentionally left to the
conscience of each individual believer. This is the age in which mankind must
attain maturity, and one aspect of this is the assumption by individuals of the
responsibility for deciding, with the assistance of consultation, their own
course of action in areas which are left open by the law of God.
- Besides the relativity of religious truth, the Bahá'í Faith
also contains a certain relativity of historic truth. Authorized teachings of
the Bahá'í Faith go back to the advent of the revelation of the
Báb, 1844. Authorized interpretations of Bahá'í Teachings
then extend to the death of Shoghi Effendi, 1957, and still inform present-day
legislation of the Universal House of Justice. In that 150 years
Bahá'í history has spanned place as well as time, with its
Manifestations [prophets; see definition above] living in and revealing from
Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Palestine/Israel, and its authorized interpreters
living in or speaking in England, Egypt, continental Europe, North America, and
Israel. Some Bahá'í texts might have contextual but not universal
relevance. Descriptions of specific ethical teachings must sometimes be
described contextually and could be misleading when generalized. Examples
include teachings on war, the treatment of apostates, martyrdom and suicide,
genetic engineering, and bigamy.
- The Bahá'í Faith is a very text-centered religion, in no small
part because the tens of thousands of extant writings from its five central
authorities (The Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, Abdu'l-Bahá,
Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice) contain guidance on
thousands of topics. A corollary of this is that the three latter authorities
were/are very careful only to interpret or legislate within the sphere of
teachings left by their respective predecessors. By extension, present-day
Bahá'ís and the Universal House of Justice refrain from
extrapolating from precedents and hence avoid ruling on or offering
interpretations about issues not previously addressed. Therefore, if any of the
following answers lack clearly supporting quotations, they should be considered
individual interpretation only and might or might not accurately represent
From Dr. Udo Schaefer, "On the Difficulty of Dealing with Ethical
Questions," a chapter from "In A Blue Haze: Smoking and Bahá'í
" (Prague: Zero Palm Press, 1997), online at
The question of whether a certain behaviour is permitted or
prohibited, good, evil, or neutral, is a question of ethics. A
Bahá'í who wants to know how to act in a given situation, will
begin by turning to his conscience, and since this has been formed by the
revealed Word, to the Scripture, i.e. the sum of the Writings of
Bahá'u'lláh and the authoritative interpretations of
'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. What might appear to be self-evident
for every religious person is not necessarily so, as we shall shortly see.
Today the presentation of concrete ethical standards has become problematic in
our society. Certainly, the highest ethical values in the Bahá'í
Revelation, the love of one's neighbour and of all humanity, or the cardinal
virtue of justice, are sure to meet with approval. One can agree to these
highly abstract values without having to commit oneself to changing any
patterns of everyday life. However, when it comes to assessing actual everyday
behaviour affecting one's own self, especially when it comes to prohibitions,
irritation can set in quickly.
The Bahá'ís are living in this society and are influenced by the
prevalent ways of thinking whether they want to be or not, and in this society,
thinking in moral categories is becoming more and more unfashionable. Many
people are unaccustomed to it. To many it seems increasingly questionable that
there should be such things as rigid norms and unalterable duties which
unequivocally state what should or should not be done. This is concomitant with
the decay of religion and the resulting erosion of the Christian value
In many parts of the world morality, called an "honourable form of stupidity"
by Friedrich Nietzsche, has not only lost its general binding force but also
its self-evident importance and is actually seen by many as a kind of
stupidity. It has largely disappeared from everyday speech and is almost only
used with an ironical undertone. A person who maintains moral points of view is
considered a "morality apostle", with whom no one wants any interaction. This
is evident in political discussions or in talk shows on television where
interlocutors are admonished, for God's sake not to moralise. Especially in
regard to so-called "social fringe groups" (criminals, social outcasts,
prostitutes, drug addicts, homosexuals) or on the issue of abortion one should
kindly refrain from any moral approach whatsoever. Persons who fail to do so
disqualify themselves, exposing themselves as Pharisees and die-hard
reactionaries. This process of "demoralisation" began with sociology; how far
it has already spread can be seen by the semantic cleansing of our language,
which bans the use of all terms that might hold any moral reproach.
Of course, Bahá'ís do not think that way. Experience with these
issues shows, however, that they often have similar feelings, which is not
surprising in this social climate. Therefore, a person presenting ethical
demands and thus drawing an ideal of humanity "in light of which one's own
everyday existence fails a thousandfold", is easily suspected of affectations
or insincerity by being a moralist, a hell-and-brimstone preacher, as well as
by violating the cardinal norm that prohibits self-righteousness.
Self-righteousness is a distorted form of righteousness. According to Confucius
the self-righteous are "the spoilers of morals." They were frequently and
uncompromisingly rebuked by Bahá'u'lláh even as He praised the
truly righteous, "well is it with the righteous that mock not the sinful, but
rather conceal their misdeeds". When someone uses the pretext of moral
responsibility to scrutinize commonly accepted social norms of behaviour, isn't
that person preoccupied with the faults and sins of others? In the end, doesn't
such a person violate the imperatives of his or her own ethics?
If this were the case, it would actually be totally inadmissible to be
concerned with Bahá'í ethics, which as in all religions do make
up a substantial part of our theology. However, we are not dealing here with a
specific individual's unique and personal behaviour, but rather with abstract
human behaviour. And to judge this behaviour in the abstract is not only
permissible, but imperative, since God's Book is the "unerring Balance" "in
which all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth are weighed",
through which "truth shall be distinguished from error". At a time "when no man
knoweth how to discern light and darkness or to distinguish guidance from
error", we are challenged to reflect what our duties are, whether certain ways
of acting, accepted or disputed in society, are permitted or prohibited. How
else could we then accomplish the task which 'Abdu'l-Bahá defined in a
prayer: "to refute what is vain and false" and "to establish the truth"?
THE 55 QUESTIONS
1. What does it mean to be a good person?
Submission under God's command is considered "good", but it needs to be pointed
out also that this implies to follow (the most recent of) God's Messengers,
Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'u'lláh says:
The source of all good is trust in God, submission unto His command, and
contentment with His holy will and pleasure.
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Words of Wisdom, pp.
Our duty to the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh is first recognize the
Manifestations of God and follow their teachings, from which goodness
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him
Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who
representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of
creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is
deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous
deed. It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit
of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of
the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
Some Bahá'ís believe that striving towards social good would also
define what a good person is, and many Bahá'ís have dedicated
themselves to social improvement. Ultimately, according to Bahá'í
teachings, only God and His Messengers know what is the right and good thing to
do, since only God has the "complete picture," hence the command to submission.
God demands that His people strive towards the social good.
Bahá'ís also believe that being good or being an ethical person
has consequences for this world and the world beyond, so the ethical teachings
of the Bahá'í Faith have a spiritual and "other-worldly"
dimension as well. One needs to keep this in mind when asking why one should be
good etc. Being an ethical person is strongly connected with the purpose of
existence: know God through His Messengers and follow the laws.
2. Why be good?
1) By divine command. Bahá'u'lláh says:
... Live ye one with another, O people, in radiance and joy. By My life! All
that are on earth shall pass away, while good deeds alone shall endure; to the
truth of My words God doth Himself bear witness....
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 70, pp. 44-45
Other reasons include:
2) Universal Eschatology: Because God knows what is good for His people and He
only wants them to be happy, content and to live a life in peace.
3) Individual Eschatology: Because everyone's station after death will depend
on one's goodness in this world (and of course God's acceptance
4) Purely for Love for God (Ultimate and most selfless reason).
'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's appointed Successor and
authorized Interpreter of His words, says:
... And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he
among all the world's multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any
larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within
himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the
cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men?
No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete
Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 2-3
3. Is it possible to be a good person and not be a member of your
Yes, especially if one is a member of another of God's religions, which the
Bahá'í Faith regard as all authentic; "The holy Manifestations
Who have been the Sources or Founders of the various religious systems were
united and agreed in purpose and teaching" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, The
Promulgation of Universal Peace
Abdu'l-Bahá even encouraged people to become "true
Thou didst begin thy letter with a blessed phrase, saying: 'I am a
Christian.' O would that all were truly Christian! It is easy to be a Christian
on the tongue, but hard to be a true one. Today some five hundred million souls
are Christian, but the real Christian is very rare: he is that soul from whose
comely face there shineth the splendour of Christ, and who showeth forth the
perfections of the Kingdom; this is a matter of great moment, for to be a
Christian is to embody every excellence there is. I hope that thou, too, shalt
become a true Christian.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
While one can be good without being a Bahá'í, there is a great
advantage to recognizing the truth of Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings.
For example, say there existed a book series, and the first book in the series
with all of its sequels contained the answers to all of the questions you could
ever have. Now say you find one of these books. It could be one of these books
that was already owned by a family member or one you came across unexpectedly.
You read the book and realize what a treasure it is. You might even seek out
and read some of the earlier books in this series because this one is so
exciting and you hope for more sequels as well. But either because you don't
know that there exists another sequel in this wonderful series of books or
because you have been convinced by others that this book which you read is the
last book of the series, you don't even look for any other sequels.
Now, since each sequel in the series summarizes or restates the answers found
in all of the previous books, not going back to read any of the previous books
in the series may not hurt you; although you would miss out on the beauty and
excitement of these books by not reading them. However, since each book
contains more of these answers than any of the ones previously written, not
reading these sequels means that there are answers on which you are missing
The Revelation of God is like that series of books. As humanity matured as a
race, a greater measure of God's Revelation was revealed through each
succeeding Manifestation. To reveal too much too early would be to give the
people more than they could handle. Therefore the Revelation of God's Will and
mysteries was revealed slowly and progressively according to the capacity of
the people of the time to receive it. Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation
contains the fullest measure of God's Revelation thus far given to humanity.
Therefore, to miss out on Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings is to keep
yourself from knowing as much as you can about the mysteries of God, God's Will
for humanity, and the solutions for the world's problems--solutions given by
God Himself through Bahá'u'lláh. In addition,
Bahá'u'lláh has clearly written that He is not the last of God's
Manifestations/Messengers either. So, in a few centuries we can expect another
sequel to the Books of the Revelation of God.
Ultimately, though only God can decide who is "good" and who is not. Until we
face Him nobody can say for sure if He accepts our acts, even if we think they
are good and even if they are in accordance with Bahá'í law.
4. Is it possible to be a good person and no longer believe in your
religion? I.e., can an apostate be a good person?
Yes, but one does not fulfill the purpose of one's creation. As earlier quoted
from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas,
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him
Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws.... Whoso
achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof
hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 1, p. 19
However, the Bahá'í teachings also emphasize that "One's beliefs
are an internal and personal matter; no person or institution has the right to
exert compulsion in matters of belief." (Universal House of Justice, private
correspondence April 4 2001). As explained by Abdu'l-Bahá, "The Cause
of God hath never had any place for denouncing others as infidel or profligate,
nor hath it allowed anyone to humiliate or belittle another.
5. Is there a difference between religious requirements and
God is the source of all good and His commandments help distinguish between
right or wrong. The standards of morality are established by Religion and they
are renewed with the appearance of each Manifestation of God. Therefore, what
religions require of their followers is the utmost in morality .
The real bond of integrity is religious in character, for religion indicates
the oneness of the world of humanity. Religion serves the world of morality.
Religion purifies the hearts. Religion impels men to achieve praiseworthy
deeds. Religion becomes the cause of love in human hearts, for religion is a
divine foundation, the foundation ever conducive to life. The teachings of God
are the source of illumination to the people of the world. Religion is ever
constructive not destructive. Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p.
6. What is the source of ethics?
God, as announced through God's Messenger for this Age. 'Abdu'l-Bahá
... The divine religions embody two kinds of ordinances. First, there are
those which constitute essential, or spiritual, teachings of the Word of God.
These are faith in God, the acquirement of the virtues which characterize
perfect manhood, praiseworthy moralities, the acquisition of the bestowals and
bounties emanating from the divine effulgences - in brief, the ordinances which
concern the realm of morals and ethics. This is the fundamental aspect of the
religion of God, and this is of the highest importance because knowledge of God
is the fundamental requirement of man. Man must comprehend the oneness of
Divinity. He must come to know and acknowledge the precepts of God and realize
for a certainty that the ethical development of humanity is dependent upon
religion. He must get rid of all defects and seek the attainment of heavenly
virtues in order that he may prove to be the image and likeness of God... As
God is loving and kind to all men, man must likewise manifest loving-kindness
to all humanity. As God is loyal and truthful, man must show forth the same
attributes in the human world. Even as God exercises mercy toward all, man must
prove himself to be the manifestation of mercy. In a word, the image and
likeness of God constitute the virtues of God, and man is intended to become
the recipient of the effulgences of divine attributes.'
Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 403-404
7. Can someone be a good person and be an atheist?
Yes, since the morality brought by God's Messengers eventually
becomes the standard for society. However, they are depriving themselves of
attaining the purpose of their creation "to know and worship God." Someone who
does the same thing as a religious person would do, but just does not believe
in God, may be a good person in that he or she produces good for this world,
but the purpose of his or her creation was not fully fulfilled.
The short obligatory prayer of Bahá'u'lláh, which many
Bahá'ís recite daily, says:
I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to
worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might,
to my poverty and to Thy wealth.
There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the
Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh, #
Further, it is possible that religion may at times be itself bad and immoral
(however, presumably the following quote doesn't contrast religion with
i.e. actual disbelief in God):
Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from
the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to
each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it
were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a
truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure;
but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left
alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion. All
the holy prophets were as doctors to the soul; they gave prescriptions for the
healing of mankind; thus any remedy that causes disease does not come from the
great and supreme Physician.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,
8. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong?
By the standards of religion. As it has ever been, God tells humanity what is
right and what is wrong through His Manifestations, teachings which we learn
and internalize largely through prayer and meditation. It is no different with
Bahá'u'lláh. He, Himself, affirms:
We have, under all circumstances, enjoined on men what is right, and
forbidden what is wrong. He Who is the Lord of Being is witness that this
Wronged One hath besought from God for His creatures whatever is conducive to
unity and harmony, fellowship and concord. By the righteousness of God! This
Wronged One is not capable of dissimulation. He, verily, hath revealed that
which He desired; He, truly, is the Lord of strength, the Unrestrained.
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 38-39
About the Laws which He has revealed at God's bidding,
Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather,
We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this
beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon
this, O men of insight!
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 5, p. 21
In addition, a certain amount of testing is also a part of each Revelation.
Again turning to Bahá'u'lláh's Writings, we read:
... from time immemorial even unto eternity the Almighty hath tried, and
will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from
darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error,
happiness from misery, and roses from thorns...
The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 8
9. Why do bad things happen to good people?
The Bahá'í Faith offers a number of responses to this question.
These include that suffering produces personal growth; that suffering need not
prevent happiness, for one can be joyous in the midst of severity; that some
people bring suffering upon themselves through their neglecting to follow the
teachings of the Prophets; and finally that the reason for some suffering might
only be known to God.
Tests and trials make us stronger.
Not until man is tried doth the pure gold distinctly separate from the
dross. Torment is the fire of test wherein the pure gold shineth resplendently
and the impurity is burned and blackened. At present thou art, praise be to
God, firm and steadfast in tests and trials and art not shaken by them.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
Shoghi Effendi, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's appointed successor and Guardian of the
Bahá'í Faith, wrote:
... As long as there will be life on earth, there will be also suffering,
in various forms and degrees. But suffering, although an inescapable reality,
can nevertheless be utilised as a means for the attainment of happiness. This
is the interpretation given to it by all the prophets and saints who, in the
midst of severe tests and trials, felt happy and joyous and experienced what is
best and holiest in life. Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It
stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and
thus leads the way to self improvement. In every suffering one can find a
meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that
wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become
aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a
cause of infinite blessings..
Unfolding Destiny, p. 434.
The Guardian also wrote:
...the world is full of suffering. Bahá'u'lláh tells us that
the deeper are the furrows it digs into our very being, the greater will be the
fruit of our life and the more enhanced our spiritual development. All the
Saints that shine in the history of society had to pass through tribulations.
Their form was various but their effect has always been the same, namely, the
purification of our heart and soul for receiving the light of God.
Quoted in Lights of Guidance, No. 678, p. 204.
10. Is there a difference between a religious offence and a moral/secular
Since we learn what is moral from religion, the two are inextricably entwined,
and an offense in one is also reflected in the other. However, the
Bahá'í Faith does recognize a distinction between certain public
and private ethical behavior; if a Bahá'í drinks at home he has
only God to judge, but if he drinks in public he harms the Faith. Similarly,
the Faith recognizes that non-Bahá'ís do not and are not expected
to follow all Bahá'í laws. Again with the case of drinking, the
Faith does not chastise or judge the consumption of alcohol by those who do not
It is always most unfortunate when Bahá'ís of long standing, and even members
of institutions at the national level, partake of alcoholic beverages, thus
damaging themselves, harming the good name of the Faith in the eyes of
non-Bahá'ís, and setting a bad example for the rank and file of the
Of course, the Assemblies should not pry into the lives of individual
believers; but in the case of any Bahá'í who blatantly violates the law, he
should be counselled
11. Who enforces the moral rules of your religion?
The individual is responsible to enforce the rules of his/her own personal
religious laws (prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, charity), and the observance or
non-observance of these laws is between the individual and God. As for the
other social laws which protect and guide the community at large,
Bahá'u'lláh has established the institution of the House of
Justice as follows:
The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be
established... It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among
men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that
dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have
regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they
regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 30, p. 29
Bahá'u'lláh has also set forth ordinances which helps to provide
the Houses of Justice with the funds they will need to care for those under
their jurisdictions. Of these Houses of Justice Bahá'u'lláh also
...Verily have We made [them] a shelter for the poor and needy...
, Par. 48, p. 37)
At present there is only one House of Justice established in the world, the
Universal House of Justice, which deals with the world-wide affairs of the
Bahá'í Faith, and has made itself available to world leaders for
consultation as well. Indeed, several of the leaders and governments in the
world have already availed themselves of this priceless guidance based upon
Bahá'u'lláh's teachings offered by the Universal House of
Justice. National and local Houses of Justice at the present time go by the
name of Spiritual Assemblies. (see further explanation in Tablets of
Abdu'l-Bahá vol. 1
p. 6; also Robert Stockman's
Bahá'í Faith in America vol. 2
note 139, p.448)
These "Local Spiritual Assemblies" and "National Spiritual Assemblies" run the
affairs of the community and enforce moral behaviour in the rare cases that
such enforcement is necessary (e.g., by repeated and egregious public
behavioral offenses). Enforcement comes first in the form of patient
counselling to make sure the individual is familiar with Bahá'í
law, and in the most egregious cases culminates in the retraction of the
believer's voting rights and other aspects of community participation.
The Universal House of Justice explains the process:
The Universal House of Justice feels that it is vital, for the sound
development of the Cause of God in those communities where there remains any
doubt among the friends as to the importance of obedience to
[Bahá'í] law, that the National Spiritual Assemblies ensure that
all believers are clearly informed of it. Of course, the Assemblies should not
pry into the lives of individual believers; but in the case of any Bahá'í who
blatantly violates the law, he should be counselled, assisted to overcome the
habit, warned repeatedly of the consequences of continued disobedience, and
ultimately, if he does not respond positively, be deprived of his
online at http://bahai-library.com/uhj/alcohol.html
12. Should the moral rules of your religion apply to everyone?
When Bahá'u'lláh wrote His books with laws and teachings He did
not think that they will only benefit His followers, but the whole planet, that
they in fact have the purpose to unite the whole world and enable it to live in
peace. But of course everybody has the freedom to choose.
Since the morality brought by God's Messengers eventually becomes the standard
for society, they will inevitably apply to everyone eventually. About the Laws
which He has revealed, Bahá'u'lláh says:
They whom God hath endued with insight will readily recognize that the
precepts laid down by God constitute the highest means for the maintenance of
order in the world and the security of its peoples. He that turneth away from
them is accounted among the abject and foolish. We, verily, have commanded you
to refuse the dictates of your evil passions and corrupt desires, and not to
transgress the bounds which the Pen of the Most High hath fixed, for these are
the breath of life unto all created things. The seas of Divine wisdom and
Divine utterance have risen under the breath of the breeze of the All-Merciful.
Hasten to drink your fill, O men of understanding! They that have violated the
Covenant of God by breaking His commandments, and have turned back on their
heels, these have erred grievously in the sight of God, the All-Possessing, the
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 2, pp. 19-20.
13. What role should religion play in secular society?
Religion should serve the spiritual and social needs of all those willing to
accept such help and where it is allowed by secular laws. It is an
indispensible part of society. Again we turn to the Writings of
'Abdu'l-Bahá for clarification of the role and importance of religion to
... Religion is the light of the world, and the progress, achievement, and
happiness of man result from obedience to the laws set down in the holy Books.
Briefly, it is demonstrable that in this life, both outwardly and inwardly the
mightiest of structures, the most solidly established, the most enduring,
standing guard over the world, assuring both the spiritual and the material
perfections of mankind, and protecting the happiness and the civilization of
society - is religion.
'Abdu'l-Bahá: Secret of Divine Civilization, pp.
Use of Force
14. Is killing ever justified?
Yes, if justice warrants it, such as in cases of self-defense and criminal
justice. In the endnotes added to the English translation of the
Kitáb-i-Aqdas, where further explanation and clarification can be found
regarding some of its passages, is written:
... Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf has also indicated
that, in an emergency, when there is no legal force at hand to appeal to, a
Bahá'í is justified in defending his life...
Anonymous, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes Section, Note 173, p.
Abdu'l-Bahá explains in more depth:
There are two sorts of retributory punishments. One is vengeance, the other,
chastisement. Man has not the right to take vengeance, but the community has
the right to punish the criminal; and this punishment is intended to warn and
to prevent so that no other person will dare to commit a like crime. This
punishment is for the protection of man's rights, but it is not vengeance;
vengeance appeases the anger of the heart by opposing one evil to another. This
is not allowable, for man has not the right to take vengeance. But if criminals
were entirely forgiven, the order of the world would be upset...
The communities must punish the oppressor, the murderer, the malefactor, so
as to warn and restrain others from committing like crimes. But the most
essential thing is that the people must be educated in such a way that no
crimes will be committed; for it is possible to educate the masses so
effectively that they will avoid and shrink from perpetrating crimes, so that
the crime itself will appear to them as the greatest chastisement, the utmost
condemnation and torment. Therefore, no crimes which require punishment will be
Some Answered Questions, #77
There is no explicit statement on euthanasia yet. The Universal House of
Justice has said that it is "a matter which the Universal House of Justice
will have to legislate.
" Until they do, "decisions [in these matters]
must be left to the consciences of those responsible.'"
, pp. 291-292)
15. Is war ever justified?
Yes, if in defense of the innocent. Where one state rises against another, all
other states are to rise to defend the attacked. Bahá'u'lláh
"Should one king rise up against another, all the other kings must arise to
deter him. Arms and armaments will, then, be no more needed beyond that which
is necessary to insure the internal security of their respective countries.
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 31
Peace is of course preferable. Bahá'u'lláh
"... They must put away the weapons of war, and turn to the instruments of
universal reconstruction. Should one king rise up against another, all the
other kings must arise to deter him. Arms and armaments will, then, be no more
needed beyond that which is necessary to insure the internal security of their
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 30-31
Abdu'l-Bahá summarizes how to avoid war:
To remedy this condition there must be universal peace. To bring
this about, a Supreme Tribunal must be established, representative of all
governments and peoples; questions both national and international must be
referred thereto, and all must carry out the decrees of this Tribunal. Should
any government or people disobey, let the whole world arise against that
government or people.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
16. Is violence against innocent people justifiable?
No. The Universal House of Justice has written:
'The use of force by the physically strong against the weak, as a means of
imposing one's will and fulfilling one's desires, is a flagrant transgression
of the Bahá'í Teachings. There can be no justification for anyone
compelling another, through the use of force or through the threat of violence,
to do that which the other person is not inclined.
'Abdu'l-Bahá has written:
O ye lovers of God! In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force,
constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned.
Quoted in letter from the Universal House of Justice, reprinted in
The American Bahá'í, November 23, 1993, pp.
17. Can someone be a conscientious objector?
In our faith it is not allowed, though we can seek to serve in a non-combatant
role. We are to obey just governments. Shoghi Effendi states:
Our position as Bahá'ís is not that we won't obey our
Government or support the country if attacked, it is that we do not believe in,
or wish to take part in, killing our fellow-men. We are not conscientious
objectors at all; we will serve, but wish, as there is a provision in the law
in the U.S.A. covering our attitude, to be classified as non-combatants. If you
need to consult on this matter, you should refer to the N.S.A., as this
question continually arises, and they can give you advice which will be the
most accurate and applicable to present conditions.
Lights of Guidance, No. 1352, p. 407
18. Is force justifiable against children?
Regarding the disciplining of children, 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
... Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise
and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait
should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means
based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary. It
is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child's
character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, No. 95, p.
The Universal House of Justice emphasizes just how important this
Among the signs of moral downfall in the declining moral order are the high
incidence of violence within the family, the increase of degrading and cruel
treatment of spouses and children, and the spread of sexual abuse. It is
essential that the members of the community of the Greatest Name take the
utmost care not to be drawn into acceptance of such practices because of their
prevalence. They must be ever mindful of their obligations to exemplify a new
way of life distinguished by its respect for the dignity and rights of all
people, by its exalted moral tone, and by its freedom from oppression and from
all forms of abuse.
From a letter online at
19. Is force justifiable against a spouse?
Again, this depends on the circumstances. A wife defending herself against an
abusive husband would be allowable if such force is in self-defense and no
other options exist.
The Universal House of Justice has written:
For a man to use force to impose his will on a woman is a serious transgression
of the Bahá'í Teachings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has stated that:
'The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over
woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities of body and mind.
But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental
alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which
woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy.
Bahá'í men have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world
around them a new approach to the relationship between the sexes, where
aggression and the use of force are eliminated and replaced by cooperation and
consultation. The Universal House of Justice has pointed out in response to
questions addressed to it that, in a marriage relationship, neither husband nor
wife should ever unjustly dominate the other, and that there are times when the
husband and the wife should defer to the wishes of the other. If agreement
cannot be reached through consultation, the couple should determine exactly
under what circumstances such deference is to take place.
'From the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh Himself has come the following
statement on the subject of the treatment of women:...
'No Bahá'í husband should ever beat his wife, or subject her
to any form of cruel treatment; to do so would be an unacceptable abuse of the
marriage relationship and contrary to the Teachings of
From a letter online at
20. Is suicide ever justifiable?
Our religion forbids suicide, but there have been many Bahá'í
martyrs who knowingly went to their deaths.
One reason not to commit suicide is because of the harm it can do to the
spirit. Shoghi Effendi says that
'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.... '
Lights of Guidance, No. 677, p. 204
There was one prominent Bahá'í, Nabil, who drowned himself
shortly after the death of Bahá'u'lláh in 1892. However, his
action is neither condemned nor viewed as a role model. Shoghi Effendi
explained that "Nabil's suicide was not insanity but love. He loved
Bahá'u'lláh too much to go on in a world that no longer held
Him." (Unfolding Destiny,
21. To what extent is martyrdom acceptable?
Martyrdom is permitted if it is not done at one's own hands and is inflicted
solely by others without solicitation, when, solely on account of our religious
beliefs, others put us to death. We are to try to prevent this from happening,
but we should not seek to save our life by denying our faith.
Martyrdom is one of the highest stations to which we can attain.
This is a Revelation, under which, if a man shed for its sake one drop of
blood, myriads of oceans will be his recompense. Take heed, O friends, that ye
forfeit not so inestimable a benefit, or disregard its transcendent station.
Consider the multitude of lives that have been, and are still being, sacrificed
in a world deluded by a mere phantom which the vain imaginations of its peoples
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, sect. III,
However, martyrdom does not necessarily mean literally being killed for one's
Faith. Those who sacrifice themselves by devoting their lives to teaching the
Faith are equally martyrs. Martyrdom is also characterized by the high degree
of detachment and sacrifice shown by the martyr. We have been told by the
Universal House of Justice that what the Cause of God needs at this time are
living martyrs. Even as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has stated:
... Martyrdom is the supreme test of belief. Great martyrs will arise in
this Cause in the years to come. A believer is sometimes called upon to suffer
a living martyrdom.
Quoted in Ten Days in the Light of Akka, Julia Grundy, p.
The meanings of early Bahá'í martyrdom are discussed in
depth in Jonah Winters' thesis "Dying for God: Martyrdom in the
Shí'í and Bábí Religions," at
22. Is it right to kill an innocent person in order to save the life of
This is not allowable in most circumstances. It might be permissible in the
case of an abortion of a fetus which endangers the life of the mother or in
cases at times of tragedy when a choice must be made who receives medical
attention first, etc. The Universal House of Justice says:
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
Lights of Guidance, No. 1155, p. 345
23. Is capital punishment acceptable; if so, for what offenses?
As an act of justice, capital punishment for murder is permitted, though life
imprisonment is an acceptable alternative: "The law of
Bahá'u'lláh prescribes the death penalty for murder and arson,
with the alternative of life imprisonment." (Anonymous: The
, note 86, page 203-204).
The reason for such punishment must be understood to be corrective, not
retributive. It is understood to have a cathartic result on the soul of the
criminal and in taking away his life he will not have to pay for his crime in
the next world. The above note continues:
In His Tablets Abdu'l-Bahá explains the difference between
revenge and punishment. He affirms that individuals do not have the right to
take revenge, that revenge is despised in the eyes of God, and that the motive
for punishment is not vengeance, but the imposition of a penalty for the
committed offence. In Some Answered Questions, He confirms that it is
the right of society to impose punishments on criminals for the purpose of
protecting its members and defending its existence."
Having said this, capital punishment will only be enforced in a future
Bahá'í society when humanity has "reached a much higher point of
evolution," not in the society that we are living in now. It cannot be said in
advance how a future Bahá'í society will apply which punishments
to which types of offenses:
The details of the Bahá'í law of punishment for murder and arson, a law
designed for a future state of society, were not specified by Bahá'u'lláh. The
various details of the law, such as degrees of offence, whether extenuating
circumstances are to be taken into account, and which of the two prescribed
punishments is to be the norm are left to the Universal House of Justice to
decide in light of prevailing conditions when the law is to be in operation.
The manner in which the punishment is to be carried out is also left to the
Universal House of Justice to decide.
Finally, arson in the above is not necessarily meant as an offense resulting in
In relation to arson, this depends on what "house" is burned. There is
obviously a tremendous difference in the degree of offence between the person
who burns down an empty warehouse and one who sets fire to a school full of
Science and Medicine
24. Under what circumstances, if any, is abortion allowable?
Abortion is considered morally wrong if it is done only to take the life of the
unborn and not to save another life; abortion might be permitted in cases where
the doctor and family involved decides it is necessary to save the life of the
mother, in which case it is left to them to decide.
The Universal House of Justice says:
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.
Lights of Guidance, No. 1155, p. 345
Regarding the case of rape, the Universal House of Justice says:
One of the most heinous of sexual offenses is the crime of rape. When a
believer is a victim, she is entitled to the loving aid and support of the
members of her community, and is free to initiate action against the
perpetrator under the law of the land should she wish to do so. If she becomes
pregnant as a consequence of this assault, no pressure should be brought upon
her by the Bahá'í institutions to marry. As to whether she should
continue or terminate the pregnancy, it is left to her to decide on the course
of action she should follow, taking into consideration medical and other
relevant factors, and in the light of the Bahá'í Teachings ...
Quoted in The American Bahá'í, November 23, 1993, pp.
25. Are autopsies allowable; if so, under what circumstances?
Autopsies are not forbidden, but proper respect to the body must be given and
the autoposy must be followed by a proper burial according to religious law.
The Báb explains the importance of treating the dead body with respect:
As this physical frame is the throne of the inner temple, whatever occurs to
the former is felt by the latter. In reality that which takes delight in joy or
is saddened by pain is the inner temple of the body, not the body itself. Since
this physical body is the throne whereon the inner temple is established, God
hath ordained that the body be preserved to the extent possible, so that
nothing that causeth repugnance may be experienced. The inner temple beholdeth
its physical frame, which is its throne. Thus, if the latter is accorded
respect, it is as if the former is the recipient. The converse is likewise
Therefore, it hath been ordained that the dead body should be treated with
the utmost honour and respect.."
Selections from the Writings of the Bab, The Persian Bayan, V, 12, p.
26. Are there rules about body modification e.g. tattoos, cosmetic
surgery or amputations?
There are no specific injunctions against them, but moderation should be
observed. One is not to become a cause of displeasure to others, as pertains to
one's dress and appearance.
On a similar subject, the Guardian has written:
Regarding Bahá'í women using facial make-up: individuals are
entirely free to do as they please in such purely personal matters. As
Bahá'ís are enjoined to use moderation in all things, and to seek
the Golden mean, the National Spiritual Assembly can, if it deems it necessary
or advisable, counsel the believers to use moderation in this respect
Shoghi Effendi: Dawn of a New Day, p. 193
Most especially, nothing should be done that would be harmful to one's body.
... Beware of using any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor in
the human temple and inflicteth harm upon the body. We, verily, desire for you
naught save what shall profit you, and to this bear witness all created things,
had ye but ears to hear.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 155, p. 75
27. Are transfusions allowed?
Transfusions are not prohibited. Indeed, we are instructed to seek and follow
the advice of a competent physician when healing is needed. 'Abdu'l-Bahá
According to the explicit decree of Bahá'u'lláh one must not
turn aside from the advice of a competent doctor. It is imperative to consult
one even if the patient himself be a well-known and eminent physician. In
short, the point is that you should maintain your health by consulting a
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, No. 135,
28. Should extraordinary means be used to prolong life?
29. Should family and/or patients have the right to end suffering?
Extraordinary means to extend a life may be permissible with a doctor's advice
and if it is not a cause of injustice. Regarding euthanasia, the Universal
House of Justice has written:
We have received your letter of March 18, 1974 in which you ask for the
Bahá'í viewpoint on euthanasia and on the removal of life support
in medical cases where physiological interventions prolong life in disabling
illnesses. In general our teachings indicate that God, the Giver of life, can
alone dispose of it as He deems best, and we have found nothing in the Sacred
Text on these matters specifically but in a letter to an individual written on
behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary regarding mercy killings, or
legalized euthanasia, it is stated:
"...this is also a matter which the Universal House of Justice will have to
Until such time as the Universal House of Justice considers legislation on
euthanasia, decisions in the matters to which you refer must be left to the
consciences of those responsible.
Lights of Guidance, pp. 291-292
30. Does anyone have the right to hasten death?
As a general principle, individuals are not to arrogate to themselves the
responsibility for determining who may live. The Universal House of Justice
has written: '... In general our teachings indicate that God, the Giver of
life, can alone dispose of it as He deems best ... (Lights of Guidance
There are, of course, some exceptions: e.g. when abortion is necessary to save
the life of the mother, or in the case where a criminal has incurred the death
penalty. However, appropriate action in both cases must be decided by competent
doctors and courts, respectively. Any other exceptions will have to be
legislated by the Universal House of Justice as the issues arise.
31. In the case of conjoined twins when both will die if nothing is done
to separate them but only one will live (and the other die) if the operation
takes place, is the killing of one acceptable in order to save the life of the
The Bahá'í Faith has no explicit statement on this. The principle
of preservation of life above all else would certainly apply, but how it would
be applied would depend on the situation.
32. Is genetic engineering permissible?
There is no broad statement on this in the Bahá'í writings or
legislation. The Universal House of Justice has written:
The House of Justice has not found anything specific in the
Bahá'í writings concerning the ethics of genetic engineering on
human tissue, including foetal tissue, and on possible means of biologically
creating replacement limbs and organs for human beings. It regards it as
premature to give consideration to these matters and to their spiritual
consequences. For the present, believers confronted with such issues are free
to come to their own conclusions, based on their knowledge of the pertinent
online at http://bahai-library.com/uhj/reproduction.html
The ethics of certain aspects of genetic engineering are thus left up to the
individual. As the House recently clarified in response to a question about
For the present, believers faced with questions about them are free to come to
their own conclusions based on their knowledge of the Bahá' i teachings
on the nature and purpose of life.
online at http://bahai-library.com/uhj/stem.cells.html
33. Is the theory of evolution compatible with your religion?
Yes, in its broad strokes the Bahá'í Faith accepts the theory of
evolution. This fits in with the principle that science and religion each have
their sphere of truth, and neither sphere can overrule the other sphere's
authority. If a religion issues a teaching or ruling on a purely scientific
fact which is contrary to the informed contemporary scientific consensus, then
Bahá'ís are to accept the scientific explanation.
Speaking specifically about evolution, Abdu'l-Bahá
[M]an, in the beginning of his existence and in the womb of the earth, like
the embryo in the womb of the mother, gradually grew and developed, and passed
from one form to another, from one shape to another, until he appeared with
this beauty and perfection, this force and this power. It is certain that in
the beginning he had not this loveliness and grace and elegance, and that he
only by degrees attained this shape, this form, this beauty and this grace.
There is no doubt that the human embryo did not at once appear in this form...
Gradually it passed through various conditions and different shapes, until it
attained this form and beauty, this perfection, grace and loveliness.
Some Answered Questions, section 47
Having said that, the Bahá'í Faith does not accept certain
metaphysical extrapolations of evolutionary theory. For example,
Abdu'l-Bahá explains that, though changing in outward form, the human
identity has remained distinct from that of the animal.
[Man's] aspect, his form, his appearance and color change; he passes from
one form to another, and from one appearance to another. Nevertheless, from the
beginning of the embryonic period he is of the species of man--that is to say,
an embryo of a man and not of an animal; but this is not at first apparent, but
later it becomes visible and evident. For example, let us suppose that man once
resembled the animal, and that now he has progressed and changed. Supposing
this to be true, it is still not a proof of the change of species. No, as
before mentioned, it is merely like the change and alteration of the embryo of
man until it reaches the degree of reason and perfection. We will state it more
clearly. Let us suppose that there was a time when man walked on his hands and
feet, or had a tail; this change and alteration is like that of the fetus in
the womb of the mother. Although it changes in all ways, and grows and develops
until it reaches the perfect form, from the beginning it is a special
Some Answered Questions, p. 193
Shoghi Effendi offers a bit of clarification:
We cannot prove man was always man for this is a fundamental doctrine, but
it is based on the assertion that nothing can exceed its own potentialities,
that everything, a stone, a tree, an animal and a human being existed in plan,
potentially, from the very "beginning" of creation. We don't believe man has
always had the form of man, but rather that from the outset he was going to
evolve into the human form and species and not be a haphazard branch of the ape
Arohanui: Letters to New Zealand, No. 75, p. 85
34. Are environmental concerns part of your religious ethic?
Yes, the Bahá'í Faith believes not only that this world is
important for our development, but also that it has been entrusted to our
stewardship. Therefore, care must be taken to preserve and better our physical
environment. Shoghi Effendi says:
... For it is only through such divine precepts that the world can obtain
peace and tranquility, and become an environment within which man can
spiritually progress and attain his noble destiny.
Shoghi Effendi: Light of Divine Guidance Vol.1, No. p.
Moderation is again a key principle to achieving this end. Plant and animal
species, many of which are important to our physical health and well-being,
will not become endangered or extinct if moderation is exercised in how we use
them and their environment. For example, regarding hunting,
... Take heed, however, that ye hunt not to excess. Tread ye the path of
justice and equity in all things. Thus biddeth you He Who is the Dawning-place
of Revelation, would that ye might comprehend.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 60, pp. 40-41
35. Do animals have any moral standing?
No, but Bahá'ís are exhorted to treat animals with the utmost
respect. Bahá'u'lláh writes: "Burden not an animal with more
than it can bear. We, truly, have prohibited such treatment through a most
binding interdiction in the Book"
However, animals lack spiritual susceptibilities, are ignorant of divine
religion, and have no knowledge of God. They thus do not have their own
morality. This is discussed more fully online in Arthur Dahl's "The
Bahá'í Attitude towards Animals" at
Though hunting is permitted, Bahá'u'lláh gives this warning:
... Take heed, however, that ye hunt not to excess. Tread ye the path of
justice and equity in all things. Thus biddeth you He Who is the Dawning-place
of Revelation, would that ye might comprehend.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 60, pp. 40-41
Bahá'ís are also not required to be vegetarians. However,
Abdu'l-Bahá did state that humanity would gradually turn away from a
meat-based diet and begin to rely much more heavily on fruits and grains. When
asked "What will be the diet of the future?" Abdu'l-Bahá
Fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be
eaten. Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our
natural diet is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually
develop up to the condition of this natural food."
Ten Days in the Light of Akka, online at
Abdu'l-Bahá explains that we should regard harmful animals, not as
ethically impure, but as pragmatically harmful; justice then requires that we
treat harmful animals with less tolerance but be fully loving to the peaceful
Most human beings are sinners, but the beasts are innocent. Surely those
without sin should receive the most kindness and love - all except animals
which are harmful, such as bloodthirsty wolves, such as poisonous snakes, and
similar pernicious creatures, the reason being that kindness to these is an
injustice to human beings and to other animals as well. If, for example, ye be
tender-hearted toward a wolf, this is but tyranny to a sheep, for a wolf will
destroy a whole flock of sheep. A rabid dog, if given the chance, can kill a
thousand animals and men. Therefore, compassion shown to wild and ravening
beasts is cruelty to the peaceful ones - and so the harmful must be dealt with.
But to blessed animals the utmost kindness must be shown, the more the better.
Tenderness and loving-kindness are basic principles of God's heavenly Kingdom.
Ye should most carefully bear this matter in mind.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, No. 138, pp.
36. Does your religion predict an end of time? If so, when will that be
and what will the world be like for humans?
This question could refer to three different issues: (a) the Big Bang; (b) a
metaphysical beginning and ending to temporality itself, or (c) the Day of
Judgment. The Bahá'í Faith affirms (a) via its emphasis on the
primacy of science to solve scientific questions; it teaches that the
metaphysics of (b) has no clear scientific answer; and it affirms the reality
of and explains (c), the Day of Judgment. I'll explain further:
A) Big Bang:
Little need be said about this. The scientific consensus on the reality of the
Big Bang and subsequent cosmology/planetary genesis is so broad and detailed
that Bahá'ís accept it as scientific fact. However, this does not
mean that Bahá'ís necessarily accept all metaphysical meanings
physicists might express about their theories.
B) Beginning and ending of time itself:
There will not be an end of time. 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
... For example, by present consideration we say that God is the creator.
Then there must always have been a creation.... Therefore, God has no beginning
and no ending; nor is His creation limited ever as to degree. Limitations of
time and degree pertain to things created, never to the creation as a whole.
They pertain to the forms of things, not to their realities. The effulgence of
God cannot be suspended.
Foundations of World Unity, p. 53
Having said that, Bahá'í metaphysics also recognize that concepts
such as the finiteness or infiniteness of time are just that -- metaphysical
concepts only. In the "Tablet of Wisdom," Bahá'u'lláh
As regards thine assertions about the beginning of creation, this is a
matter on which conceptions vary by reason of the divergences in men's thoughts
and opinions. Wert thou to assert that it hath ever existed and shall continue
to exist, it would be true; or wert thou to affirm the same concept as is
mentioned in the sacred Scriptures, [i.e., that time had a beginning in
Creation] no doubt would there be about it, for it hath been revealed by
That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form
thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat
generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its
recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different. Thus doth the Great
Announcement inform thee about this glorious structure."
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, online at
C) Day of Judgment:
As for what many believe to be the Day of Judgement, the Day of God, or the
Day of Resurrection, Shoghi Effendi says:
'Concerning the meaning of "Resurrection": although this term is often used
by Bahá'u'lláh in His Writings, as in the passage quoted in your
letter, its meaning is figurative. The tomb mentioned is also allegorical, i.e.
the tomb of unbelief. The Day of Resurrection, according to
Bahá'í interpretation, is the Judgement Day, the Day when
unbelievers will be called upon to give account of their actions, and whether
the world has prevented them from acknowledging the new Revelation.
'The passage in Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet in which He explains the
Sura of "The Sun" should not be interpreted literally. It does not mean that
after the Day of Resurrection praise and peace will cease to be vouchsafed to
the Prophet. Rather it means to the end of time, i.e. indefinitely and for all
Dawn of a New Day, pp. 79-80
Indeed, this Day of God comes whenever a new Manifestation appears in the
world. Bahá'u'lláh says:
It is evident that every age in which a Manifestation of God hath lived is
divinely ordained, and may, in a sense, be characterized as God's appointed
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Sect. XXV, p.
However, the appearance of the next Manifestation of God, and therefore the
next Day of God, is not for many years to come. Bahá'u'lláh says:
" Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of
a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor. ...
, Par. 37, p.32)
As for humanity's immediate future: following the periods of test and travail
that invariably precede paradigm-shifting growth, Shoghi Effendi quotes
' "The winds of despair," writes Bahá'u'lláh, as He surveys
the immediate destinies of mankind, "are, alas, blowing from every direction,
and the strife that divides and afflicts the human race is daily increasing.
The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as
the prevailing order appears to be lamentably defective." "Such shall be its
plight," He, in another connection, has declared, "that to disclose it now
would not be meet and seemly." "These fruitless strifes," He, on the other
hand, contemplating the future of mankind, has emphatically prophesied, in the
course of His memorable interview with the Persian Orientalist, Edward G.
Browne, "these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall
come.... These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men
be as one kindred and one family." "Soon," He predicts,"will the present-day
order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead." "After a time," He
also has written, "all the governments on earth will change. Oppression will
envelop the world. And following a universal convulsion, the sun of justice
will rise from the horizon of the unseen realm." "The whole earth," He,
moreover, has stated, "is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching
when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung
forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly
blessings." "All nations and kindreds," Abdu'l-Bahá likewise has
written, "...will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism,
the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations, will be
approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will
have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most
heavenly blessings." "All nations and kindreds," Abdu'l-Bahá likewise
has written, "...will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian
antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations,
will be eliminated. All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common
faith, will be blended into one race, and become a single people. All will
dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself."
Shoghi Effendi: The Promised Day is Come, pp. 116-117
37. Is sex outside marriage permissible?
Bahá'u'lláh forbids adultery in
His Book of Laws:
"Ye have been forbidden to commit murder or adultery, or to engage in
backbiting or calumny; shun ye, then, what hath been prohibited in the holy
Books and Tablets." (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 19, p. 26)
He then sets the penalty for it:
God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adulteress, to be paid to the
House of Justice: nine mithqals of gold, to be doubled if they should repeat
the offence. Such is the penalty which He Who is the Lord of Names hath
assigned them in this world; and in the world to come He hath ordained for them
a humiliating torment. Should anyone be afflicted by a sin, it behoveth him to
repent thereof and return unto his Lord. He, verily, granteth forgiveness unto
whomsoever He willeth, and none may question that which it pleaseth Him to
ordain. He is, in truth, the Ever-Forgiving, the Almighty, the
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 49, p.
In the endnotes section of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas
, it is written:
'The Arabic word "zina", here translated as "adultery", signifies both
fornication and adultery. It applies not only to sexual relations between a
married person and someone who is not his or her spouse, but also to
extramarital sexual intercourse in general. One form of "zina" is rape.
The only penalty prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh is for those who
commit fornication (see note 77); penalties for other kinds of sexual offence
are left to the Universal House of Justice to determine.'
Anonymous, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes Section, Note 36,
38. Is sex only for procreation?
No, though procreation is one major reason for sex within marriage.
... Enter into wedlock, O people, that ye may bring forth one who will make
mention of Me amid My servants. This is My bidding unto you; hold fast to it as
an assistance to yourselves.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 63, p. 41.
However, the Bahá'í Faith also recognizes the sex impulse, and
that there is a place for that in the lives of the individual. The Universal
House of Justice quotes the Guardian as follows:
'The Guardian has clarified, in letters written on his behalf, that "The
Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse," and that
"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
The Universal House of Justice, from a Message dated January 24, 1993,
reprinted in The American Bahá'í, November 23, 1993, pp.
39. Is masturbation allowed?
It is discouraged. Shoghi Effendi wrote:
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.
Lights of Guidance, No. 1156, p. 345.
However, it is also a matter Bahá'ís are encouraged not to dwell
unduly on. The Universal House of Justice says,
You should remember, however, that [masturbation] 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-emphasizing its importance.... 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."
Lights of Guidance, No. 1220
40. Is genital sex the only morally permissible type?
The Bahá'í Faith has no explicit statement on this.
Bahá'u'lláh did expressly forbid liwat,
but there is some
disagreement on the exact meaning of this Arabic word. It almost exactly
translates as Sodomy, in that the word liwat
means "the crime of Lot,"
i.e. the escapee from Sodom. However, just as the English word "sodomy" has
multiple legal meanings, so did liwat.
Its application to the
Bahá'í context has yet to be clarified by the Universal House of
Justice. More detail is found at
Shoghi Effendi provides some general principles:
On the question of sex the Bahá'ís are, in most of their
fundamental views, in full agreement with the upholders of traditional
morality. Bahá'u'lláh, like all the other Prophets and Messengers
of God, preaches abstinence, and condemns, in vehement language, all forms of
sexual laxity, unbridled licence and lust. The Bahá'í standard of
sex morality is thus very high, but it is by no means unreasonably rigid. While
free love is condemned, yet marriage is though not forced, to perform. Sex
instinct, like all other human instincts, is not necessarily evil. It is a
power which, if properly directed, can bring joy and satisfaction to the
individual. If misused or abused it brings, of course, incalculable harm not
only to the individual but also to the society in which he lives. " 6 April
Unfolding Destiny, pp. 434-435
41. Are there moral codes regarding dress and hairstyles?
Moderation and courtesy in dress and appearance must be practiced, so as not to
offend. Regarding the hair, Bahá'u'lláh says:
Shave not your heads; God hath adorned them with hair, and in this there are
signs from the Lord of creation to those who reflect upon the requirements of
nature. He, verily, is the God of strength and wisdom. Notwithstanding, it is
not seemly to let the hair pass beyond the limit of the ears. Thus hath it been
decreed by Him Who is the Lord of all worlds.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, par. 44, p. 35.
The exact meaning of these statements has not yet been defined, e.g. what it
means for hair to "pass beyond the limit of the ears."
42. Is transvestism immoral?
43. Is homosexuality immoral?
44. Should gay marriages be recognized by the state?
While there is no statement on transvestitism (wearing gender-alternate clothing), regarding transsexuality (gender dysphoria) the Universal House of Justice considers the change of sex to be "a medical question on which the advice of medical experts should be sought." See bahai-library.com/uhj_transsexuality
Homosexuality is considered
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.
From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian, March 26,
In practice, though, it's regarded more as a handicap than a moral failing,
especially if it's the result of a treatable psychological
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
From a letter of the Universal House of Justice, cited in Messages from The
Universal House of Justice 1968-1973, p. 110-111
Part of the reason for this emphasis on "normal" sexuality is given as an
endnote to the English translation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas,
also explains why the state must not recognize gay marriage:
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.
Anonymous, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes Section, Note 134, p.
45. Should all people have equal rights under the law even if they engage
in immoral behavior?
If the immoral behavior is determined to be criminal by secular law, then those
convicted of such should lose some or all of their rights. But as long as
behaviour is not criminal or harmful to society, justice is the right of every
individual, without prejudice of any kind. However, if the immoral behaviour is
itself considered a crime, then the individual is then subject to the penalties
set for that crime if convicted, just as every other individual is subject to
the same laws and incurs the penalties for breaking a law.
46. Is it immoral to have more than one spouse at time?
Bahá'u'lláh officially limited the number of wives a man might
have from four -- the prevailing Muslim standard as prescribed by Muhammad --
to two but encouraged only one. He states:
God hath prescribed matrimony unto you. Beware that ye take not unto
yourselves more wives than two. Whoso contenteth himself with a single partner
from among the maidservants of God, both he and she shall live in
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 63, p.
However, Abdu'l-Bahá clarified that, by conditioning bigamy upon
justice, Bahá'u'lláh was in practice allowing only one wife;
fully equal justice would not be possible in a marriage of two women to one
man. An endnote to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas quotes Abdu'l-Bahá:
'Know thou that polygamy is not permitted under the law of God, for
contentment with one wife hath been clearly stipulated. Taking a second wife is
made dependent upon equity and justice being upheld between the two wives,
under all conditions. However, observance of justice and equity towards two
wives is utterly impossible. The fact that bigamy has been made dependent upon
an impossible condition is clear proof of its absolute prohibition. Therefore
it is not permissible for a man to have more than one wife.'
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Note 89, pp. 205-206
47. Is divorce acceptable?
Divorce is provided for in Bahá'í law, but is highly discouraged
except in cases where reconciliation is impossible. Bahá'u'lláh
Should resentment or antipathy arise between husband and wife, he is not to
divorce her but to bide in patience throughout the course of one whole year,
that perchance the fragrance of affection may be renewed between them. If, upon
the completion of this period, their love hath not returned, it is permissible
for divorce to take place. God's wisdom, verily, hath encompassed all
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 68, pp. 43-44
However, it must be observed that divorce was seen as only a last-resort
option. In the next paragraph, Bahá'u'lláh continued:
Truly, the Lord loveth union and harmony and abhorreth separation and
divorce. Live ye one with another, O people, in radiance and joy. By My life!
All that are on earth shall pass away, while good deeds alone shall endure; to
the truth of My words God doth Himself bear witness. Compose your differences,
O My servants; then heed ye the admonition of Our Pen of Glory and follow not
the arrogant and wayward.
ibid, p. 44, #70
Regarding its prevalent practice in Western society, Shoghi Effendi
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.
Lights of Guidance #1309
48. Are the roles played by men and women a moral issue?
Their roles are largely a consequence of nature, but their
equality is an indisputable religious, and therefore moral, fact.
'In this divine age the bounties of God have encompassed the world of women.
Equality of men and women, except in some negligible instances, has been fully
and categorically announced. Distinctions have been utterly removed.' That men
and women differ from one another in certain characteristics and functions is
an inescapable fact of nature; the important thing is that He regards such
inequalities as remain between the sexes as being 'negligible'.
Quoted in a "Women, A Compilation"; Lights of Guidance, No. 2102,
49. Are men and women separate but equal?
Yes, though Abdu'l-Bahá explains that women excel men in some categories
and men excel women in other categories.
In the Introduction to The Kitáb-i-Aqdas
is found this statement:
... That men and women differ from one another in certain characteristics
and functions is an inescapable fact of nature and makes possible their
complementary roles in certain areas of the life of society; but it is
significant that Abdu'l-Bahá has stated that in this Dispensation
"Equality of men and women, except in some negligible instances, has been fully
and categorically announced.
Anonymous, introduction to The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p.
However, Abdu'l-Bahá also explains that the world's gradual equalizing
of male and female roles will give the impression of a femininization of
society, as the once-underrepresented feminine ideals and attitutes take equal
place with masculine ones.
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over
woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and
mind. But the balance is already shifting--force is losing its weight and
mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service,
in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an
age less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals--or, to speak
more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of
civilization will be more evenly balanced.
Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Bahá'u'lláh and the New
Era, 1976 U.S. edition, p. 156
50. Is the use of drugs and/or alcohol allowable?
No, unless proscribed by a competent doctor. A letter from the Universal House
of Justice writes:
...One of these ordinances is the clear prohibition in the Writings of
Bahá'u'lláh of the consumption of alcoholic drinks. This has been
explicitly revealed in His Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. He states,
"It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should
consume that which stealeth it away. Nay, rather it behooveth him to comport
himself in a manner worthy of the human station, and not in accordance with the
misdeeds of every heedless and wavering soul.
Abdu'l-Bahá explains the harmful effects of drugs:
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.
Shoghi Effendi explains that these prohibitions apply to all
[The Bahá'í Faith] requires total abstinence from all
alcoholic drinks, from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs.
51. Should prayers be allowed in public schools?
There is no statement on this, nor a clear principle I can think of that would
shed light on this. There is the statement that "spiritual education is the
light of the world of humanity and that its absence in the world is darkness
itself," but extending this to cover prayer in school would be a stretch. The
Bahá'í Faith does support the current separation of church and
52. Should the state subsidize religious schools or programs?
The state is not obligated to do so. However, it would be in the best interests
of the state to do everything possible to see that all receive not only
education that trains the mind, but also the spiritual education, which
includes morals, that religion is so ideal for teaching. About the importance
of religious and moral education, 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that "spiritual
education is the light of the world of humanity and that its absence in the
world is darkness itself."
(Promulgation of Universal Peace
'Abdu'l-Bahá also comments on the education of children and the
importance which their training in morals has to society:
Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book
learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved -
even though he be ignorant - is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed,
ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the sciences and arts. The
reason for this is that the child who conducts himself well, even though he be
ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is
corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If, however, the
child be trained to be both learned and good, the result is light upon light.
"Children are even as a branch that is fresh and green; they will grow up
in whatever way ye train them. Take the utmost care to give them high ideals
and goals, so that once they come of age, they will cast their beams like
brilliant candles on the world, and will not be defiled by lusts and passions
in the way of animals, heedless and unaware, but instead will set their hearts
on achieving everlasting honour and acquiring all the excellences of
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, No. 110, pp.
However, any state-subsidized religious school would not be able to
indoctrinate into politics:
Politics are occupied with the material things of life. Religious teachers
should not invade the realm of politics; they should concern themselves with
the spiritual education of the people; they should ever give good counsel to
men, trying to serve God and human kind; they should endeavour to awaken
spiritual aspiration, and strive to enlarge the understanding and knowledge of
humanity, to improve morals, and to increase the love for justice.
This is in accordance with the Teaching of Bahá'u'lláh. In the
Gospel also it is written, 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's,
and unto God the things which are God's '.
'Abdu'l-Bahá: Paris Talks, pp. 158-159
53. Is the food a person eats a religious and/or moral concern?
We are taught to respect the gift of the body we have been given by the
Creator. However, there are few restrictions regarding one's diet: alcohol is
forbidden, as are the results of some hunting practices. Regarding the latter,
in the Questions and Answers Section of The Kitáb-i-Aqdas,
Bahá'u'lláh clarifies the passage regarding hunting as follows:
[Concerning hunting] He saith, exalted be He: "If ye should hunt with beasts
or birds of prey" and so forth. Other means, such as bows and arrows, guns, and
similar equipment employed in hunting, are also included. If, however, traps or
snares are used, and the game dieth before it can be reached, it is unlawful
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Questions and
Answers Section, No. 24, p. 115
As to the food of the future, when asked what this would be,
Fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten.
Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural diet
is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to
the condition of this natural food.
quoted in Ten Days in the Light of Akka, Julia Grundy, pp.
Food does become a religious matter during the period of the Fast. This is
March 1 - March 20 each year, during which time Bahá'ís refrain
from all food and water from sunrise to sunset and are to use their hunger to
help meditate on the meaning of the body and of the spirit.
54. Is gambling allowed?
No, Bahá'u'lláh forbids gambling in the following paragraph from
His Book of Laws: "Gambling and the use of opium have been forbidden unto
you. Eschew them both, O people, and be not of those who transgress.
Par. 155, p. 75)
This is elaborated in the endnotes to the Aqdas:
The activities that are included in this prohibition have not been outlined in
the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. As both 'Abdu'l-Bahá and
Shoghi Effendi have indicated, it is left to the Universal House of Justice to
specify the details of this prohibition. In response to questions about whether
lotteries, betting on such things as horse races and football games, bingo, and
the like, are included under the prohibition of gambling, the Universal House
of Justice has indicated that this is a matter that will be considered in
detail in the future. In the meantime, the Assemblies and individuals are
counselled not to make an issue of these matters and to leave it to the
conscience of the individual believers.
The House of Justice has ruled that it is not appropriate for funds for the
Faith to be raised through lotteries, raffles, and games of chance.
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, endnote
55. Is smoking allowed?
Yes, though tobacco only, and yet it is highly discouraged. 'Abdu'l-Bahá
But there are other forbidden things which do not cause immediate harm, and
the injurious effects of which are only gradually produced: such acts are also
repugnant to the Lord, and blameworthy in His sight, and repellent. The
absolute unlawfulness of these, however, hath not been expressly set forth in
the Text, but their avoidance is necessary to purity, cleanliness, the
preservation of health, and freedom from addiction.
Among these latter is smoking tobacco, which is dirty, smelly, offensive -
an evil habit, and one the harmfulness of which gradually becometh apparent to
all. Every qualified physician hath ruled - and this hath also been proven by
tests - that one of the components of tobacco is a deadly poison, and that the
smoker is vulnerable to many and various diseases. This is why smoking hath
been plainly set forth as repugnant from the standpoint of hygiene... [I]n the
sight of God, smoking tobacco is deprecated, abhorrent, filthy in the extreme;
and, albeit by degrees, highly injurious to health. It is also a waste of money
and time, and maketh the user a prey to a noxious addiction. To those who stand
firm in the Covenant, this habit is therefore censured both by reason and
experience, and renouncing it will bring relief and peace of mind to all men.
Furthermore, this will make it possible to have a fresh mouth and unstained
fingers, and hair that is free of a foul and repellent smell. On receipt of
this missive, the friends will surely, by whatever means and even over a period
of time, forsake this pernicious habit. Such is my hope.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, pp.
For an entire monograph on the ethics of smoking, see "In A Blue Haze:
Smoking and Bahá'í Ethics