The purpose of this paper is to give a brief introduction to one of the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh which some call it "A Voluntry Tax on Wealth" and others call it "Another Way of Contributing to the Works of the Faith". However, it demonstrates that the Law of Huququ'llah is a spiritual law of Bahá'u'lláh, the main purpose of which is to promote the dignity and honour of humankind, to elevate its station and cause the progress of its soul in this world and the worlds to come.
About Huququ'llah Bahá'u'lláh has written:
"By God! Were the people to know what hath been concealed from their eyes and become fully aware of the ocean of grace which lieth hid within this divine command, all the people of the world would offer everything they possess in order to be mentioned by Him."
Why Huququ'llah is so important?
Can we fully understand its significance? Apparently not, because on another occasion He says:
"He, verily, hath willed for you that which is yet beyond your knowledge, but which shall be known to you when, after this fleeting life, your souls soar heavenwards and the trappings of your earthly joys are folded up."
In light of the above statement of Bahá'u'lláh, it is obvious that we will never be able to understand the full wisdom and benefits of this law. However, this does not mean that we should not strive to capture, as much as possible, glimpses of its import and significance. Huququ'llah, like few other laws of Bahá'u'lláh, will challenge the faith, the constancy, the comprehension and other faculties of mankind for centuries to come to fathom its wisdom.
With this in mind, this paper makes an effort to:
- set out briefly the Law of Huququ'llah;
- explore its spiritual effect on the individual;
- explore its effect on the social/economic fabric of the society.
Huququ'llah comprises two words "Huquq" and "Allah". These words are Arabic and mean Right of God. Huquq is Right and Allah, of course, means God!
The principles underlying the Law of Huququ'llah are:
- 19% of what one owns, with few exceptions, belongs to God and can be disposed of only by "the authority in the Cause to whom all must turn". Since its establishment in 1963, this authority is vested in the Universal House of Justice.
- One's needful expenses, residence, and household and professional equipment are exempt. In other words, it is based on one's wealth, not income.
- Determination of what is needful is left to the conscience of the individual believer.
- There is a threshold below which Huququ'llah does not apply to one's wealth. When one's wealth, excluding the exempt items, reaches to the value of 19 mithqals (2.2345 ounces) of gold (about $1,200.00) or more, then it becomes subject to Huququ'llah.
- Once Huquq has been paid for a sum of money (say $10,000), no more Huquq needs to be paid for that sum. However, if later, due to investment etc., this amount increases (say, to $15,000.00), then Huquq applies to the additional wealth, (that is $5,000.00).
- When the sum for which Huquq has been paid changes hand, through bequest, gift etc., "the Huquq is again payable as it was the first time".
- It is at the sole discretion of the Universal House of Justice to spend Huquq for whatever purpose that authority decides.
- Some of the usages mentioned in the writings are: "the relief of the poor, the disabled, the needy, and the orphans, and for other vital needs of the Cause of God".
- It is, and always will be, absolutely voluntary.
- No one should demand the payment of Huququ'llah.
- Acceptance of Huquq is permissible if it is given in the spirit of joy, fellowship, perfect humility and lowliness.
- It must be "tendered with profound love and devotion".
- It must be an expression of love, not in expectation of reward.
- It is conducive to one's spiritual growth.
- It is an instrument for the suppression of self and submission to the will of God.
THE EFFECT OF HUQUQU'LLAH ON SPIRITUAL GROWTH OF INDIVIDUAL
From the outset it should be emphasised that the Law of Huququ'llah is a spiritual law and most of the writings about Huquq are about the spiritual benefits which an individual or society will reap by observing this sacred law.
These are just a few extracts from the writings of Bahá'u'lláh and Abdu'l-Bahá about the spiritual benefits of Huququ'llah.
Some of the aspects of Huququ'llah which are conducive to dignity and honour and to exaltation of the station of mankind are the voluntary nature of the payment of Huququ'llah and the fact that its operation and implementation are left to our conscience.
Bahá'u'lláh has emphatically "written and commanded that no one should solicit such payment".(32) He has set the threshold, has defined the exempted items, and has ordained the amount which should be paid as Huquq, but He has left the friends free to "honour their Huququ'llah obligation according to their own judgment and the promptings of their own conscience".(112)
In other words in the operation of Huququ'llah there are:
No checks and balances;
No "Huquq Return".
We and our conscience are in charge. It is based on trust, on mutual respect, on self discipline, on self esteem and on love.
In this way Bahá'u'lláh is telling us that we are now mature people and is treating us as mature people. He urges us to leave behind the stages of childhood and adolescence and to enter the lofty station of adulthood and responsibility.
"We exhort you, O people of the world, to observe that which will elevate your station." (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Ahd; emphasis added)
He does not just exhort us, but he also trusts us and treats us as He expects us to be.
This is one of the ways which Huquq helps our spiritual growth, spiritual maturity and restoration of human dignity.
The other spiritual lessons which the Law of Huququ'llah teaches us are humility, submission to the will of God and suppression of self and ego. It trains us to do what we beg God to do in our daily obligatory prayer, that is, "Behold me standing ready to do Thy will and Thy desire, and wishing naught else except Thy good pleasure."
When we make contributions to other funds of the Faith or for charity or other humanitarian purposes, we do what we want to do; we decide how much we want to pay and for what purpose, we are exercising our free will.
But when we pay Huquq, we do not pay as much as we want, we pay just the amount Bahá'u'lláh has asked us to pay, that is 19% of what we own. We do not pay regardless of our condition, we pay when our wealth has reached the threshold He has set. We do not pay for a particular fund such as Local or National Funds or a particular activity such as Teaching or the Arc project, we pay without any strings attached.
We pay because He told us to pay. We submit completely to His will. We empty ourselves of our ego, our self, our desires and as a hollow reed, we become ready to vibrate to His will and His wish. The hollower the reed becomes, the more beautiful will be the melodies breathed into it.
This is how one dies from self and lives in God. "He seeth in himself neither name nor fame nor rank, but findeth his own praise in praising God. He beholdeth in his own name the name of God; to him, 'all songs are from the King,' and every melody from Him." (Bahá'u'lláh, Seven Valleys)
This is what religions are all about, and this is what Huququ'llah is all about - "...submission unto His command, and contentment with His holy will and pleasure." This is the essence of religion, this is the source of all good.
And this is how Huququ'llah will make us "firm and steadfast"; this is how it will cause us "to attain everlasting life"; and this is why "its goodly results and the fruits thereof will last as long as the kingdom of earth and heaven will endure".
No matter how hard we try, nor how deeply we immerse ourselves in His writings, we will never be able to reach the depth of the wisdom hidden in it.
"In it there are benefits and wisdoms beyond the ken of anyone but God, the Omniscient, the All-Informed." (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas)
THE EFFECT OF HUQUQU'LLAH ON THE SOCIAL/ECONOMIC FABRIC OF SOCIETY
The effects of Huququ'llah on the social/economic fabric of society are secondary. The spiritual significance of Huququ'llah far overshadows these effects. It will be the negation of the purpose of Huququ'llah if one observes this Law because of these effects. Nevertheless, they are of interest as secondary benefits.
EXEMPTION OF NEEDFUL EXPENSES AND FACILITIES
The existence of a threshold the exemption of one's residence, needful furnishings and expenses, and the fact that Huquq is payable on the sum which changes hands even though Huquq has already been paid for that sum, are some of the aspects of Huququ'llah which will materially affect the social/economic life of the society. It clearly shows that Huquq aims to eliminate the extremes of wealth. Considering some of the usages of the Huquq fund mentioned in the writings, it could be said that Huquq is another instrument which will help the distribution of wealth and the elimination of poverty.
In view of the principle that the Universal House of Justice has sole authority over Huququ'llah, and the fact that part of its mission as stated in its Constitution is the "advancement and betterment of the world, preservation of human honour, development of countries and the stability of states", one can imagine the impact that such use of the wealth generated through the Law of Huququ'llah, will have on the poor communities and on the under developed nations of the world, as the Faith progresses and this fund grows.
WHAT IS NEEDFUL IS LEFT TO THE CONSCIENCE
Some of the consequences of the application of this principle are:
- In order to decide if what we are spending on is a necessary item,(*) it makes us think before we spend.
- Again our conscience is in charge, not our neighbours, not the advertisers, not the consumer society pressures.
- It discourages waste and greed, and increases savings with its effect on interest rates, inflation and balance of payment (some of the problems which plague the economies of the world these days).
- It encourages budgeting and planning.
- It make us responsible persons. It makes us think and try to foresee the consequences of our actions, with its flow-on effects on environment and health areas.
These aspects could be, and should be, expanded, but we should not let them divert us from the main reason for our observance of the Law of Huququ'llah, which is:
"Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty." (Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas)
* Of course this does not mean that we cannot spend our money on luxurious items. What it means is that if we feel what we are buying is not a needful item, we should buy it from our own 81%. In other words, we have to put 19% of the amount we want to spend aside for Huquq and purchase the item from the remaining 81%.