Huququ'llah, Obedience to Government, Supreme Tribunal
27-WT O friends of 'Abdu'l-Bahá! The Lord, as a sign of His
infinite bounties, hath graciously favoured His servants by providing
for a fixed money offering (Huquq), to be dutifully presented
unto Him, though He, the True One, and His servants have been
at all times independent of all created things, and God verily is
the All-Possessing, exalted above the need of any gift from His
creatures. This fixed money offering, however, causeth the people
to become firm and steadfast and draweth Divine increase upon
them. It is to be offered through the guardian of the Cause of God,
that it may be expended for the diffusion of the Fragrances of
God and the exaltation of His Word, for benevolent pursuits and
for the common weal.
In the Kitab-i-Aqdas (the Most Holy Book), Bahá'u'lláh revealed the law of Huququ'llah (the Right of God). It applies to those whose possessions reach a certain value, beyond which they are bidden by God to pay 19 per cent of that value to the Centre of the Cause. In one of His Tablets, revealed in the words of His amanuensis, Bahá'u'lláh states that when the full text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas was completed He did not order its release for some time because it contained the law of Huquq, which was given by God as a sign of His mercy and loving-kindness unto His servants. He explains that the reason for withholding the Book temporarily was His apprehension lest some of the believers might not carry out this commandment or might come to wrong conclusions. The mere contemplation of this, He says, is unworthy of the Day of God.
The very thought that some, in their immaturity, might have assumed that the Huquq was intended for Bahá'u'lláh's personal use must have been extremely painful to Him. The most cursory study of His life and teachings amply demonstrates that He constantly exhorted His followers to detach themselves from earthly possessions and not to place their affections on the things of this world. In His
Tablet to Napoleon III, Bahá'u'lláh admonishes the emperor in these words, which clearly demonstrate the worthlessness of this material world in His sight:
Exultest thou over the treasures thou dost possess, knowing they
shall perish? Rejoicest thou in that thou rulest a span of earth,
when the whole world, in the estimation of the people of Baha, is
worth as much as the black in the eye of a dead ant?
[334 Bahá'u'lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 56.]
And in another Tablet He makes a similar statement:
By the righteousness of God! The world, its vanities and its glory,
and whatever delights it can offer, are all, in the sight of God, as
worthless as, nay even more contemptible than, dust and ashes.
Would that the hearts of men could comprehend it. Wash yourselves
thoroughly, O people of Baha, from the defilement of the
world, and of all that pertaineth unto it.
[335 Bahá'u'lláh, quoted in Shoghi Effendi, Advent of Divine Justice, pp. 30-1.]
During the days of Bahá'u'lláh, the majority of the believers in Persia were poor and some were needy. But when Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Amin[*] visited them, they had, through sacrifice, set aside small sums of money and were able to offer them to the Cause of God. It must be made clear that under Bahá'u'lláh's supervision the funds were spent for the promotion of the Cause and very little, if any, for His own expenses or those of His companions. The history of the life of Bahá'u'lláh bears ample testimony to this fact, for during most of the 40 years of His ministry He lived in the utmost poverty. There were days when a mere loaf of bread was not available to Him and the garments He wore were the only clothes He had. There were many occasions when He was in great need but He did not accept financial help from the friends. The last few years of His earthly life, although relatively more comfortable, were nevertheless greatly influenced by the austerity that had characterized His life from the days of the Siyah-Chal in Tihran, when all His possessions had been confiscated and He had been deprived of the means to support Himself and His family.
[* Trustee of Huquq appointed by Bahá'u'lláh. See Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, vol. 3, chapter 4.]
Desire for wealth is nonexistent in the person of the Manifestation of God. He abides in a realm that is independent of all creation and He is detached from all earthly things. Bahá'u'lláh stated in many of His Tablets that this mortal world is only a handful of dust and as utter nothingness in His sight. In His Will and Testament, the Kitab-i'Ahd, He left us these exalted words:
Although the Realm of Glory hath none of the vanities of the
world, yet within the treasury of trust and resignation We have
bequeathed to Our heirs an excellent and priceless heritage.
Earthly treasures We have not bequeathed, nor have We added
such cares as they entail. By God! In earthly riches fear is hidden
and peril is concealed. Consider ye and call to mind that which the
All-Merciful hath revealed in the Qur'an: 'Woe betide every
slanderer and defamer, him that layeth up riches and counteth
them.' Fleeting are the riches of the world; all that perisheth and
changeth is not, and hath never been, worthy of attention, except
to a recognized measure.
[336 Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, p. 219.]
The same attitude of detachment from earthly things so permeated the souls of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi, the two successive Centres of the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh, that it was against their nature to turn their affection to the things of this world. They both followed the example of Bahá'u'lláh and lived austere lives. Although they received large contributions from the friends, they authorized their spending strictly for the promotion of the Cause of God and did not have the slightest inclination to spend the funds for their own personal ends. Like Bahá'u'lláh, neither of them had any personal assets, whether monetary or of any other type.
When 'Abdu'l-Bahá travelled to the West to spread the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh and diffuse the divine fragrances in Europe and America, He had to use some of the funds which the Persian friends had contributed to Haji Amin as Huququ'llah. But He observed such care in spending the absolute minimum for Himself that His companions sometimes felt concerned about the lack of comfort that often resulted.
The renowned chronicler of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's journeys to the West, Mirza Mahmud-i-Zarqani, His devoted secretary and companion, has recorded in his diary (Badayi'u'l-Athar) that when 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His party were travelling across the United States, the train journey proved to be tiring — especially for 'Abdu'l-Bahá, who was nearly 70 years of age. Yet in spite of this, He frequently declined to pay the extra small sum of money for sleeping accommodation on the train. Instead He would sit up all night on the hard wooden seats and close His eyes to rest. But, as demonstrated on that journey, He opened His purse and generously placed coins of silver and gold in the palms of the poor and needy wherever He found them. How different are the ways of God and man!
During those same epoch-making journeys 'Abdu'l-Bahá demonstrated a magnanimity and detachment characteristic of God's chosen ones by declining with graciousness all offers of funds and gifts from
friends and strangers. In his diary Mirza Mahmud recounts a story of 'Abdu'l-Bahá when He was in New York shortly before His departure from the United States:
Today some of the friends offered money to the Master but He
would not accept it despite their pleading. Instead He told them,
'Distribute it among the poor on my behalf. It will be as though
I have given it to them. But the most acceptable gift to me is the
unity of the believers, service to the Cause of God, diffusion of the
divine fragrances and adherence to the counsels of the Abha
The believers were saddened because He did not accept their
gifts. However, since these were the last days of His visit and He
was about to leave, the New York Bahá'ís collected several gifts for
the women of the holy household and for the Greatest Holy Leaf.
Some of the believers agreed among themselves to go to
'Abdu'l-Bahá and cling to His robe until He accepted their gifts.
They came and begged He accept their offerings. The Master
called them, saying:
I am most grateful for your services; in truth you have served
me. You have extended hospitality. Night and day you have
been ready to serve and to diffuse the divine fragrances. I
shall never forget your services, for you have no purpose
but the will of God and you desire no station but entry into
the Kingdom of God. Now you have brought presents for the
members of my family. They are most acceptable and excellent
but better than all these are the gifts of the love of God which
remain preserved in the treasuries of the heart. These gifts
are evanescent but those are eternal; these jewels must be
kept in boxes and vaults and they will eventually perish but
those jewels remain in the treasuries of the heart and will
remain throughout the world of God for eternity. Thus I
will take to them your love, which is the greatest of all gifts.
In our house they do not wear diamond rings nor do they
keep rubies. That house is sanctified above such adornments.
I, however, have accepted your gifts; but I entrust them
to you for you to sell and send the proceeds to the fund for
the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar in Chicago.
When the friends continued to plead with Him, He said: 'I want
to take from you a present which will endure in the eternal world
and a jewel which belongs to the treasuries of the heart. This is
No matter how much the friends supplicated and pleaded, He
would not accept their gifts and instead asked them all to contribute
towards the Mashriqu'l-Adhkar fund. He did this everywhere
[337 Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mahmud's Diary, pp. 414-15.]
Returning to the subject of Huququ'llah, Bahá'u'lláh ordains this institution in the following passage of the Kitab-i-Aqdas:
Should anyone acquire one hundred mithqals[*] of gold, nineteen
mithqals thereof are God's and to be rendered unto Him, the
Fashioner of earth and heaven. Take heed, O people, lest ye
deprive yourselves of so great a bounty. This We have commanded
you, though We are well able to dispense with you and with all who
are in the heavens and on earth; in it there are benefits and
wisdoms beyond the ken of anyone but God, the Omniscient, the
All-Informed. Say: By this means He hath desired to purify what
ye possess and to enable you to draw nigh unto such stations as
none can comprehend save those whom God hath willed. He, in
truth, is the Beneficent, the Gracious, the Bountiful. O people!
Deal not faithlessly with the Right of God, nor, without His leave,
make free with its disposal. Thus hath His commandment been
established in the holy Tablets, and in this exalted Book. He who
dealeth faithlessly with God shall in justice meet with faithlessness
himself he, however, who acteth in accordance with God's bidding
shall receive a blessing from the heaven of the bounty of his Lord,
the Gracious, the Bestower, the Generous, the Ancient of Days. 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. Thus admonisheth you He in Whose possession is the
[* Each mithqal is equal to 3.6416666 grams.]
[338 Bahá'u'lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, para. 97.]
The minimum amount subject to Huququ'llah is reached when
one's possessions are worth the number of Vahid (19); that is,
whenever one owneth 19 mithqals of gold, or acquireth possessions
attaining this value, after having deducted therefrom the yearly
expenses, the Huquq becometh applicable and its payment is
[339 Bahá'u'lláh, in Huququ'llah, no. 18.]
With regard to the application of the law of Huququ'llah, Shoghi Effendi has stated through his secretary:
Regarding the Huququ'llah ... this is applied to one's merchandise,
property and income. After deducting the necessary expenses,
whatever is left as profit, and is an addition to one's capital, such
a sum is subject to Huquq. When one has paid Huquq once on a
particular sum, that sum is no longer subject to Huquq, unless it
should pass from one person to another. One's residence, and the
household furnishings are exempt from Huquq... Huququ'llah
is paid to the Centre of the Cause.
[340 From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 4 April-3 May 1927, in ibid. no. 80. (Huququ'llah.)]
Bahá'u'lláh was very anxious that no one should ever feel forced to pay the Huquq. He instructed Haji Abu'l-Hasan-i-Amin, the Trustee of the Huquq, and other eminent Bahá'ís not to accept money from anyone unless they were sure that the individual wished to give with the utmost joy and devotion. In many of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh forbade the soliciting of Huquq by the Trustees, as seen in this part of a Tablet revealed in honour of His Trustee Haji Amin:
O Abu'l Hasan:
May my Glory rest upon thee! Fix thy gaze upon the glory of
the Cause. Speak forth that which will attract the hearts and the
minds. To demand the Huquq is in no wise permissible. This
command was revealed in the Book of God for various necessary
matters ordained by God to be dependent upon material means.
Therefore, if someone, with utmost pleasure and gladness, nay with
insistence, wisheth to partake of this blessing thou mayest accept.
Otherwise, acceptance is not permissible.
[341 Bahá'u'lláh, in ibid. no. 9. (Huququ'llah.)]
The concept that a portion of one's possessions is the right of God and belongs to Him may be better appreciated through observation of nature and examination of certain physical laws. As previously stated, laws that exist in the physical world are also present in the spiritual worlds of God and religious teachings are the spiritual counterparts of physical laws. The law of Huququ'llah, for example, finds its parallel in the growth of a tree, where the blossoms, the flowers and the fruits do not originate from the tree but are the hidden properties of the soil, which the tree brings out. Thus the entire substance of the tree comes from the earth, which produces the root, the trunk, the branches, the leaves and the fruits and provides all the nourishment for the tree's growth and fruition.
When the tree sheds its leaves upon the earth each year, it gives back to its creator, as a matter of course, a portion of its wealth. But the fallen leaves do not benefit the earth; they act as a fertilizer and therefore their benefit reverts to the tree itself. This physical process is similar to the effects of the law of Huququ'llah and, as Bahá'u'lláh has stated, 'The benefit of such deeds [payment of the Huquq] reverteth unto the individuals themselves.'
[342 ibid. no. 27. (Bahá'u'lláh, in Huququ'llah.)]
During Bahá'u'lláh's ministry the law of Huquq was applicable only to a very small number of Bahá'ís. The great majority of the community members were poor and not liable to pay the Huquq. Often the Trustee of Bahá'u'lláh was unable to fully cover the expenses of the Bahá'í teachers and those in need. Of course, Haji Amin, the Trustee, was not pleased about this. In one of His Tablets Bahá'u'lláh makes a sweet and humorous remark about His Trustee. He says:
We must impose a fine upon Jinab-i-Amin! We have one treasurer
and he is bankrupt! Gracious God, there is one treasury belonging
to God and that is empty of funds. Indeed, by virtue of its exalted
station, such a treasury ought to be freed and sanctified from
earthly things and not be confused with the treasuries of the
[343 Unpublished, Iran National Bahá'í Archives, no. 27, pp. 206-7.]
The law of Huquq was observed only by the Bahá'ís of the East until 1992, when the Universal House of Justice made it universally applicable. Before taking this step, the Universal House of Justice ensured that, over the period of a few years, the believers became fully familiar with the law and its application.
The Huquq should not be confused with the contributions of a believer to the International Funds. Although both are donated to the Centre of the Cause — today to the Universal House of Justice — there is a great difference between the two. In reality, the Huquq does not belong to the individual, as it is the right of God, whereas ordinary donations are given by the believer from his own resources and are motivated by a heartfelt desire to give of one's own substance for the promotion of the Cause of God.
Obedience to Government
28-9-WT O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon you
to be submissive to all monarchs that are just and to show your
fidelity to every righteous king; Serve ye the sovereigns of the
world with utmost truthfulness and loyalty. Show obedience unto
them and be their well-wishers. Without their leave and permission
do not meddle with political affairs, for disloyalty to the just
sovereign is disloyalty to God Himself.
This is my counsel and the commandment of God unto you.
Well is it with them that act accordingly.
One of the fundamental teachings of the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh is obedience to one's government, as seen in these words of Bahá'u'lláh revealed in the Tablet of Bisharat:
In every country where any of this people reside, they must behave
towards the government of that country with loyalty, honesty and
truthfulness. This is that which hath been revealed at the behest
of Him Who is the Ordainer, the Ancient of Days.
[344 Bahá'u'lláh, Tablets, pp. 22-3.]
In another Tablet Bahá'u'lláh writes:
The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath bestowed the government
of the earth upon the kings. To none is given the right to act
in any manner that would run counter to the considered views of
them who are in authority.
[345 Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings, p. 241.]
In many of His Tablets 'Abdu'l-Bahá also exhorts the believers to be obedient and faithful to their governments, as the following passage reveals:
Furthermore each and every one is required to show obedience,
submission and loyalty towards his own government. Today no
state in the world is in a condition of peace or tranquillity, for
security and trust have vanished from among the people. Both the
governed and the governors are alike in danger. The only group
of people which today submitteth peacefully and loyally to the laws
and ordinances of government and dealeth honestly and frankly
with the people, is none other than this wronged community. For
while all sects and races in Persia and Turkestan are absorbed in
promoting their own interests and only obey their governments
either with the hope of reward or from fear of punishment, the
Bahá'ís are the well-wishers of the government, obedient to its laws
and bearing love towards all peoples.
Such obedience and submission is made incumbent and obligatory
upon all by the clear Text of the Abha Beauty. Therefore
the believers, in obedience to the command of the True One,
show the utmost sincerity and goodwill towards all nations; and
should any soul act contrary to the laws of the government he
would consider himself responsible before God, deserving divine
wrath and chastisement for his sin and wrongdoing.
[346 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, pp. 293.]
Bahá'ís obey the government on those matters which do not violate the spiritual principles of their Faith. However, should any government require Bahá'ís to deny their Faith or take an action which would violate one its spiritual principles, they will refuse to obey, even if the penalty is death.
Speaking about the future state of affairs in the world, 'Abdu'l-Bahá in His Will and Testament, writes:
22-WT ...that contention and conflict amidst peoples, kindreds,
nations and governments may disappear, that all the dwellers on
earth may become one people and one race, that the world may
become even as one home. Should differences arise they shall
be amicably and conclusively settled by the Supreme Tribunal,
that shall include members from all the governments and peoples
of the world.
The establishment of a Supreme Tribunal is one of the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh. In a Tablet addressed to the Central Organization for a Durable Peace, in the Hague, 'Abdu'l-Bahá wrote in 1919:
For example, the question of universal peace, about which Bahá'u'lláh
says that the Supreme Tribunal must be established: although
the League of Nations has been brought into existence, yet it is
incapable of establishing universal peace. But the Supreme Tribunal
which Bahá'u'lláh has described will fulfil this sacred task with
the utmost might and power. And His plan is this: that the national
assemblies of each country and nation — that is to say parliaments
— should elect two or three persons who are the choicest men of
that nation, and are well informed concerning international laws
and the relations between governments and aware of the essential
needs of the world of humanity in this day. The number of these
representatives should be in proportion to the number of inhabitants
of that country. The election of these souls who are chosen
by the national assembly, that is, the parliament, must be confirmed
by the upper house, the congress and the cabinet and also
by the president or monarch so these persons may be the elected
ones of all the nation and the government. From among these
people the members of the Supreme Tribunal will be elected, and
all mankind will thus have a share therein, for every one of these
delegates is fully representative of his nation. When the Supreme
Tribunal gives a ruling on any international question, either
unanimously or by majority rule, there will no longer be, any
pretext for the plaintiff or ground of objection for the defendant.
In case any of the governments or nations, in the execution of the
irrefutable decision of the Supreme Tribunal, be negligent or
dilatory, the rest of the nations will rise up against it, because all
the governments and nations of the world are the supporters of
this Supreme Tribunal. Consider what a firm foundation this is!
But by a limited and restricted League the purpose will not be
realized as it ought and should. This is the truth about the situation,
which has been stated...
[347 ibid. ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections, pp. 306-7.)]
The Guardian further elaborates on this subject:
Some form of a world Super-State must needs be evolved, in whose
favour all the nations of the world will have willingly ceded every
claim to make war, certain rights to impose taxation and all rights
to maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal
order within their respective dominions. Such a state will have to
include within its orbit an International Executive adequate to
enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant
member of the commonwealth; a World Parliament whose
members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries
and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments;
and a Supreme Tribunal whose judgement will have a
binding effect even in such cases where the parties concerned did
not voluntarily agree to submit their case to its consideration. A
world community in which all economic barriers will have been
permanently demolished and the interdependence of Capital and
Labour definitely recognized; in which the clamour of religious
fanaticism and strife will have been forever stilled; in which the
flame of racial animosity will have been finally extinguished; in
which a single code of international law — the product of the
considered judgement of the world's federated representatives — shall
have as its sanction the instant and coercive intervention of
the combined forces of the federated units; and finally a world
community in which the fury of a capricious and militant nationalism
will have been transmuted into an abiding consciousness of
world citizenship — such indeed, appears, in its broadest outline,
the Order anticipated by Bahá'u'lláh, an Order that shall come to
be regarded as the fairest fruit of a slowly maturing age.
[348 Shoghi Effendi, World Order, p. 40-1.]
And in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is stated:
The Universal Court of Arbitration and the International Tribunal
are the same. When the Bahá'í State will be established they will
be merged in the Universal House of Justice.
[349 From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 17 June 1933.]