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Lights of Guidance (second part):
A Bahá'í Reference File

by Bahá'u'lláh, Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and Universal House of Justice

compiled by Helen Hornby.
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Chapter 3

Page 400

1329. Parties May Withdraw Their Application for Divorce at Any Time During the Year of Waiting

"It is not within the discretion of the parties to a Bahá'í divorce to extend the year of waiting and ask for the Bahá'í divorce 'at whatever time they feel so inclined.' If there has been no reconciliation of the parties in the meantime, the Bahá'í divorce becomes final at the end of the year of waiting unless the granting of the civil divorce is delayed beyond that time.

"The parties may, however, withdraw their application for Bahá'í divorce at any time during the year of waiting. Should they later desire to apply for divorce, a new year of waiting would have to be commenced."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, November 4, 1974)

1330. Assembly Should Not Interfere into Marital Affairs Until Believers Bring Their Problems to the Assembly

"...There should be no intervention into the marital affairs of individuals in a Bahá'í community unless and until the parties themselves bring a problem to the Assembly. Prior to that it is not the business of the Assembly to counsel the parties. These are but two or three instances illustrating that the commentary should not be added to the quotations."

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, March 22, 1968)

1331. There is No Law to Remove Voting Rights for Obtaining Civil Divorce Before the Year of Waiting Terminates

"...There is no Bahá'í law requiring the removal of voting rights for obtaining a civil divorce before the end of the year of waiting. It is, of course, preferred that civil divorce action be not instituted or completed before the end of the year unless there are special circumstances justifying such action. If a Bahá'í should marry another prior to the end of the year of waiting however, voting rights should be suspended as, under Bahá'í law, he is still regarded as married whether or not the civil divorce has been granted. On the other hand, if a non-Bahá'í partner, having obtained a civil divorce, marries during the year of waiting, the Bahá'í partner is released from the need to wait further."

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, August 20, 1974)

1332. Annulment or Divorce

"...a divorce or annulment is called for only when the Bahá'í partner has denied his faith.

"When reinstatement calls for a divorce or annulment of an improperly contracted marriage, no year of waiting is necessary because Bahá'í divorce is not involved. The purpose of the year of waiting is to attempt the saving of a marital relationship which was originally accepted as valid in the eyes of Bahá'ís, and is now in jeopardy. A delayed Bahá'í marriage, conducted for reasons of fulfilment of Bahá'í law and in the full spirit of the Bahá'í ceremony, should not be viewed as a mockery but as the confirmation of a union contracted outside Bahá'í law."

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, January 27, 1969)

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1333. Refund of Marriage Expenses

"Concerning ... divorce: He has no right to demand from his wife a refund of the marriage expenses he incurred. In the Aqdas it is quite clear that the husband must not only give the dowry but must support his wife until the time when the divorce is completed. In view of this she is not required to repay expenses of the marriage, etc."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of India: Dawn of a New Day, p. 118)

1334. Not Wise to Announce New Marriage Plans Before Divorce is Final

"It is not within the spirit of Bahá'í law for one to become involved in the announcement of new marriage plans while he or she is still legally married to another. There is no objection to urging the friends not to go so far as to seek consent of parents before the divorce becomes final in all respects, but no sanctions should be applied to enforce such exhortation."

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia, January 17, 1971: Australian Bahá'í Bulletin, No. 198, February 1971, p. 8)

1335. Guidance Regarding Financial Support in Divorce Cases

"The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 9 December 1982 requesting guidance on the responsibility of Bahá'í Spiritual Assemblies in the matter of financial support in divorce cases. It has instructed us to send you the following reply.

"In some cases, usually those of Iranian believers whose marriage is not recognized in civil law and who, therefore, do not need and cannot have a civil divorce, the divorce must be entirely adjudicated by the Spiritual Assembly. We enclose a summary of points written on behalf of the House of Justice in answer to questions on this matter, which should be of assistance should such a case occur in Canada.

"In general, however, a Bahá'í couple in Canada who are obtaining a divorce must, in addition to the Bahá'í divorce, obtain a civil divorce, and the civil divorce decree will usually cover all such matters as division of property, provision of support and custody of children. The function of the Spiritual Assembly in such ancillary aspects of the divorce is thus advisory rather than judicatory. In order to prevent, if possible, a public dispute between Bahá'ís in front of the law courts, the Assembly should attempt to bring the couple to an amicable arrangement about all such questions, which can then be submitted to the court for its endorsement. If the efforts of the Assembly are of no avail, then the matter must be left to the civil court to decide.

"Once the divorce decree with its related provisions has been handed down by the court, it is the obligation of both parties, as good Bahá'ís, to obey it and, if either is lax in so doing, the Assembly should advise him or her about his or her duties and press for their fulfilment. The wronged party, however, should at the same time be left free to apply to the civil authorities for the enforcement of the decision. Unfortunately such enforcement is notoriously difficult, especially when the parties subsequently reside in different countries. It is here that the action of the Spiritual Assembly, reinforcing the decision of the civil courts, can often be of help. Except in circumstances of unusual gravity or cases where the responsible party fails to obey

Page 402

a court decision to provide support for the children, an Assembly should not contemplate imposing sanctions for lack of compliance in these matters. Actual enforcement should normally be left to the action of the civil courts.

"The House of Justice believes that the above should provide all the guidance you require in your collaboration with the National Spiritual Assembly of ... over the divorce of ... and .... In the case of ... and ... you state that there is unlikely to be a civil judgement covering the question of financial support of the wife by the husband following the divorce. The House of Justice states that there is no general requirement in Bahá'í law for a husband to continue to support his former wife beyond the ending of the year of waiting and the granting of the divorce. Therefore, in the absence of a ruling by the civil court or of an agreement between the couple registered with the Spiritual Assembly, there is nothing further for your Assembly to do in this case."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, January 13, 1983)

1336. It is Preferable that Couple Should Amicably Agree on the Custody of the Children--The Husband is Obligated to Support Wife and Children Until Divorce is Granted and He Has Continuing Obligation to Support His Children

"The following points are summarized from guidance of the Universal House of Justice given to Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers so that they may arrive at decisions in accordance with the spirit of Bahá'í Law either in coming to an amicable agreement to present to the civil courts, or in making a decision when no civil divorce decree is involved.

1. The decisions in each case must be made in light of the particular conditions of that case. The guidelines given below are general in nature and should be applied as far as possible unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary.

2. Custody of Children

2.1 It is preferable that the couple amicably agree on the custody of the children and submit their agreement to the Assembly for endorsement. Normally in the case of very young children custody is given to the mother unless there are compelling reasons which make this inadvisable.

2.2 Regardless of which parent is given custody, the children should be so educated that they may develop a proper Bahá'í attitude towards, and due regard for, both parents. Fair and practical arrangements should be made to protect the rights of the parent not having custody to associate with the children and spend time with them.

2.3 Usually custody arrangements continue until the child comes of age unless, of course, new circumstances transpire during this period which call for a review of the arrangements.

3. Financial Support

3.1 The husband is obligated to support the wife and children until the granting of the Bahá'í divorce. This normally takes place at the end of the year of waiting unless it has to be postponed pending the granting of a civil divorce.

Page 403

3.2 Following the granting of the divorce the father continues to be under the obligation of providing the necessary funds for the support of the children, but he has no continuing obligation to support his former wife."

(The Universal House of Justice: Considerations Affecting Custody of Children and Provision of Financial Support in Cases Not Adjudicated in Civil Law, a summary, January 5, 1983)

1337. Wife Support During Year of Patience and After Divorce--Assembly Should Encourage Husband to Honor His Responsibilities in Paying Required Support Money

"The House of Justice wrote to another National Spiritual Assembly on 5 April 1970 as follows:

'The only provision in Bahá'í law regarding the support of the wife is that which makes the husband responsible for her support during the year of waiting. This does not mean, however, that further support is prohibited; all such matters will require legislation in the future. At the present time it is the responsibility of the Assembly to arrange an amicable and just financial settlement between the couple, and any such arrangement must, obviously, take into consideration the financial situation of both parties and their relative responsibilities.'

"While it is obvious that the Assembly should encourage the husband to honour his Bahá'í responsibilities in paying the required support money, matters of support may be covered by the civil courts when a civil divorce is applied for and, in such a case, the wife would, of course, be able to invoke whatever civil remedy is available. In any case, at the present time National Spiritual Assemblies should not normally apply sanctions in cases of failure to comply with support requirements."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada, February 6, 1978)

1338. No Husband Should Batter His Wife

"It is clear from Bahá'í teachings that no husband should batter his wife. As to divorce, while it is permitted by Bahá'u'lláh, it is heavily discouraged and the greatest efforts must be made to avoid it. In Bahá'í society the only grounds for divorce are an irreconcilable antipathy between the parties."

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, October 27, 1986)

Page 404


1339. The Best Remedy for Hate is Love, as Hate is the Absence of Love

"The best remedy for hate is love, as hate is the absence of love! In this respect you must show forth the love of God to others, Bahá'ís and non-Bahá'ís alike, and thus do your part to dispel the darkness in this world. This is what the beloved Master expects of His servants."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 12, 1949)

1340. The Standard which Must Govern the Conduct of Believers Toward Each Other is Love

"...If between the friends true love--based on the love of God--could become manifest, the Cause would spread very rapidly. Love is the standard which must govern the conduct of one believer towards another. The administrative order does not change this, but unfortunately sometimes the friends confuse the two, and try to be a whole spiritual assembly,--with the discipline and justice and impartiality that body must show,--to each other, instead of being forgiving, loving and patient to each other as individuals."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 18, 1950)

1341. We Must Love God and Thus Love for All Men Becomes Possible

"We must never take one sentence in the Teachings and isolate it from the rest: it does not mean we must not love, but we must reach a spiritual plane where God comes first and great human passions are unable to turn us away from Him. All the time we see people who either through the force of hate or the passionate attachment they have to another person, sacrifice principle or bar themselves from the Path of God.

"We know absence of light is darkness, but no one would assert darkness was not a fact. It exists even though it is only the absence of something else. So evil exists too, and we cannot close our eyes to it, even though it is a negative existence. We must seek to supplant it by good, and if we see an evil person is not influenceable by us, then we should shun his company for it is unhealthy.

"We must love God, and in this state, a general love for all men becomes possible. We cannot love each human being for himself but our feeling towards humanity should be motivated by our love for the Father who created all men.

"The Bahá'í Faith teaches man was always potentially man, even when passing through lower stages of evolution. Because he has more powers, and subtler powers than the animal, when he turns towards evil he becomes more vicious than an animal because of these very powers."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 4, 1950)

1342. The Kind of Love Every Believer Should Cultivate

"You mention the fact that at times you feel strongly attracted to people whom

Page 405

you have never known before; this is surely the kind of love which every Bahá'í should cultivate. For we Bahá'ís should come to love all human beings, whether believers or not, alien or friendly. The love which Bahá'u'lláh wishes us to acquire is a love that embraces the whole mankind. The reason why one feels attracted is due to such gifts and qualities with which the soul is endowed and which exert a powerful and latent influence."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, November 20, 1937)

1343. Abdu'l-Bahá Explained the Meaning of Bahá'u'lláh's Words Regarding Love of Humanity

"As regards the meaning of Bahá'u'lláh's words regarding love of humanity, the Master often explained it to mean that man should love his family, then his native town, then his province, then his nation, but should not stop there and acquire a narrow nationalism, but grow to love the whole-wide world and mankind at large. Bahá'ís love their country but should also love the world, that is, other peoples."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 5, 1950)

1344. Spiritual Relationships Are Far More Important Than Rules and Regulations

"He urges you to do all you can to promote unity and love amongst the members of the Community there, as this seems to be their greatest need.

"So often young communities, in their desire to administer the Cause, lose sight of the fact that these spiritual relationships are far more important and fundamental than the rules and regulations which must govern the conduct of Community affairs."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 4, 1950)

1345. The People of the World Need to See the Love Engendered by the Faith in the Hearts of the Believers

"The people of the world not only need the laws and principles of the Bahá'í Faith--they desperately need to see the love that is engendered by it in the hearts of its followers, and to partake of that atmosphere of tolerance, understanding, forbearance and active kindness which should be the hall-mark of a Bahá'í Community."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 5, 1942)

1346. The Morbid and Turbulent Influence of the Dark Forces of the World is Felt by All

"The believers, to better understand their own internal condition, should realize that the forces of darkness in the world are so prevalent and strong that their morbid and turbulent influence is felt by all. They should therefore consciously strive to be more loving, more united, more dedicated and prayerful than ever before, in order to fight against the atmosphere of present day society which is unloving, disunited, careless of right and wrong, and heedless of God."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, March 20, 1946)

1347. We Must Pray to be Protected from the Contamination of Society

"The friends must, at all times, bear in mind that they are, in a way, like soldiers

Page 406

under attack. The world is at present in an exceedingly dark condition spiritually; hatred and prejudice, of every sort, are literally tearing it to pieces. We, on the other hand, are the custodians of the opposite forces, the forces of love, of unity, of peace and integration, and we must constantly be on our guard, whether as individuals or as an Assembly or Community, lest through us these destructive, negative forces enter into our midst. In other words, we must beware lest the darkness of society become reflected in our acts and attitudes, perhaps all unconsciously. Love for each other, the deep sense that we are a new organism, the dawn-breakers of a New World Order, must constantly animate our Bahá'í lives, and we must pray to be protected from the contamination of society which is so diseased with prejudice."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Spiritual Assembly of Atlanta, February 5, 1947)

1348. Heroism is Needed by the Believers

"These, indeed, are the days when heroism is needed on the part of the believers. Self-sacrifice, courage, indomitable hope and confidence are the characteristics they should show forth, because these very attributes cannot but fix the attention of the public and leads them to enquire what, in a world so hopelessly chaotic and bewildered, leads these people to be so assured, so confident, so full of devotion? Increasingly, as time goes by, the characteristics of the Bahá'ís will be that which captures the attention of their fellow-citizens. They must show their aloofness from the hatreds and recriminations which are tearing at the heart of humanity, and demonstrate by deed and word their profound belief in the future peaceful unification of the entire human race."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, October 26, 1941)

1349. God's Ways Do Not Necessarily Coincide with Human Devices and Policies

"...God's ways and methods do not coincide necessarily with human devices and man-made policies. We should certainly exert our utmost in order that God's Faith may be widely proclaimed and firmly established. But we should under no circumstances be led to think that such a triumph depends solely or even mainly on our own efforts, however effective, united and fruitful they may be. We are but instruments in the hands of the Almighty and it would be certainly a sign of shortsightedness on our part to believe that we are the controlling agents of the divine machinery of the Cause."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 10, 1934)

1350. If Divided, Both Sides to a Difference Are Wrong; If United, They Are Both Right

"During the days of Bahá'u'lláh some of the prominent teachers of the Cause in Persia were divided as to the station of Bahá'u'lláh and at last wrote to Him for arbitration. In answer Bahá'u'lláh said that if they were united both sides were right and if they were divided both were wrong. The Master often denied Himself any station just to maintain the unity of the friends for that was His primary object."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the Spiritual Assembly of Yonkers, April 20, 1931)

Page 407


1351. Bahá'ís Cannot Voluntarily Enlist Where Subject to Taking Human Life

"Bahá'ís cannot voluntarily enlist in any branch of the Armed Forces where they would be subject to orders to engage in the taking of human life."

(From a letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Fiji Islands, August 2, 1971)

1352. Bahá'ís Are Not Conscientious Objectors

"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."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July 15, 1952)

1353. There Are Many Avenues Through which the Believers Can Assist in Time of War

"It is still his firm conviction that the believers, while expressing their readiness to unreservedly obey any directions that the authorities may issue concerning national service in time of war, should also, and while there is yet no outbreak of hostilities, appeal to the government for exemption from active military service in a combatant capacity, stressing the fact that in doing so they are not prompted by any selfish considerations, but by the sole and supreme motive of upholding the Teachings of their Faith, which make it a moral obligation for them to desist from any act that would involve them into direct warfare with their fellow-humans of any other race or nation.

"The Bahá'í Teachings, indeed, condemn, emphatically and unequivocally, any form of physical violence, and warfare in the battlefield is obviously a form, and perhaps the worst form, which such violence can assume.

"There are many other avenues through which the believers can assist in times of war by enlisting in services of a non-combatant nature--services that do not involve the direct shedding of blood--such as ambulance work, anti-air raid precaution service, office and administrative works, and it is for such types of national service that they should volunteer.

"It is immaterial whether such activities would still expose them to dangers, either at home or in the front, since their desire is not to protect their lives, but to desist from any acts of wilful murder.

"The friends should consider it their conscientious duty, as loyal members of the Faith, to apply for such exemption, even though there may be slight prospect of their obtaining the consent and approval of the authorities to their petition. It is most

Page 408

essential that in times of such national excitement and emergency as those through which so many countries in the world are now passing that the believers should not allow themselves to be carried away by the passions agitating the masses, and act in a manner that would make them deviate from the path of wisdom and moderation, and lead them to violate, however reluctantly and indirectly, the spirit as well as the letter of the Teachings."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, June 4, 1939)

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