This is an allusion to the story of Joseph in the Qur’án and the Old Testament, in which Joseph’s garment, brought by his brothers to Jacob, their father, enabled Jacob to identify his beloved long-lost son. The metaphor of the fragrant “garment” is frequently used in the Bahá’í Writings to refer to the recognition of the Manifestation of God and His Revelation.
Bahá’u’lláh, in one of His Tablets, describes Himself as the “Divine Joseph” Who has been “bartered away” by the heedless “for the most paltry of prices”. The Báb, in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá, identifies Bahá’u’lláh as the “true Joseph” and forecasts the ordeals that He would endure at the hands of His treacherous brother (see note 190). Likewise, Shoghi Effendi draws a parallel between the intense jealousy which the preeminence of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had aroused in His half-brother, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, and the deadly envy “which the superior excellence of Joseph had kindled in the hearts of his brothers”.
Reference to the use of “wine” in an allegorical sense—such as being the cause of spiritual ecstasy—is found, not only in the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, but in the Bible, in the Qur’án, and in ancient Hindu traditions.
For example, in the Qur’án the righteous are promised that they will be given to drink of the “choice sealed wine”. In His Tablets, Bahá’u’lláh identifies the “choice Wine” with His Revelation whose “musk-laden fragrance” has been wafted “upon all created things”. He states that He has “unsealed” this “Wine”, thereby disclosing spiritual truths that were hitherto unknown, and enabling those who quaff thereof to “discern the splendours of the light of divine unity” and to “grasp the essential purpose underlying the Scriptures of God”.
In one of His meditations, Bahá’u’lláh entreats God to supply the believers with “the choice Wine of Thy mercy, that it may cause them to be forgetful of any one except Thee, and to arise to serve Thy Cause, and to be steadfast in their love for Thee”.
In Arabic, there are several words for prayer. The word “salát”, which appears here in the original, refers to a particular category of prayers, the recitation of which at specific times of the day is enjoined on the believers. To differentiate this category of prayers from other kinds, the word has been translated as “obligatory prayer”.
Bahá’u’lláh states that “obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God” (Q and A 93). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá affirms that such prayers are “conducive to humility and submissiveness, to setting one’s face towards God and expressing devotion to Him”, and that through these prayers “man holdeth communion with God, seeketh to draw near unto Him, converseth with the true Beloved of his heart, and attaineth spiritual stations”.
The Obligatory Prayer (see note 9) referred to in this verse has been superseded by the three Obligatory Prayers later revealed by Bahá’u’lláh (Q and A 63). The texts of the three prayers currently in use, together with instructions regarding their recital, are to be found in this volume in Some Texts Supplementary to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
A number of the items in Questions and Answers deal with aspects of the three new Obligatory Prayers. Bahá’u’lláh clarifies that the individual is permitted to choose any one of the three Obligatory Prayers (Q and A 65). Other provisions are elucidated in Questions and Answers, numbers 66, 67, 81, and 82.
The details of the law concerning obligatory prayer are summarized in section IV.A.1.-17. of the Synopsis and Codification.
A rak’áh is the recitation of specifically revealed verses accompanied by a prescribed set of genuflections and other movements.
The Obligatory Prayer originally enjoined by Bahá’u’lláh upon His followers consisted of nine rak’áhs. The precise nature of this prayer and the specific instructions for its recitation are unknown, as the prayer has been lost. (See note 9.)
In a Tablet commenting on the presently-binding Obligatory Prayers, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indicates that “in every word and movement of the Obligatory Prayer there are allusions, mysteries and a wisdom that man is unable to comprehend, and letters and scrolls cannot contain”.
Shoghi Effendi explains that the few simple directions given by Bahá’u’lláh for the recital of certain prayers not only have a spiritual significance but that they also help the individual “to fully concentrate when praying and meditating”.
Regarding the definition of the words “morning”, “noon” and “evening”, at which times the currently binding medium Obligatory Prayer is to be recited, Bahá’u’lláh has stated that these coincide with “sunrise, noon and sunset” (Q and A 83). He specifies that the “allowable times for Obligatory Prayers are from morning till noon, from noon till sunset, and from sunset till two hours thereafter”. Further, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated that the morning Obligatory Prayer may be said as early as dawn.
The definition of “noon” as the period “from noon till sunset” applies to the recitation of the short Obligatory Prayer as well as the medium one.
The requirements for obligatory prayer called for in the Bábí and Islamic Dispensations were more demanding than those for the performance of the Obligatory Prayer consisting of nine rak’áhs that was prescribed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (see note 4).
In the Bayán, the Báb prescribed an Obligatory Prayer consisting of nineteen rak’áhs which was to be performed once in a twenty-four-hour period—from noon of one day to noon of the next.
The Muslim prayer is recited five times a day, namely, in the early morning, at midday, in the afternoon and evening, and at night. While the number of rak’áhs varies according to the time of recitation, a total of seventeen rak’áhs are offered in the course of a day.
7. WHEN YE DESIRE TO PERFORM THIS PRAYER, TURN YE TOWARDS THE COURT OF MY MOST HOLY PRESENCE, THIS HALLOWED SPOT THAT GOD HATH … DECREED TO BE THE POINT OF ADORATION FOR THE DENIZENS OF THE CITIES OF ETERNITY (paragraph 6)
The “Point of Adoration”, that is, the point to which the worshipper should turn when offering obligatory prayer, is called the Qiblih. The concept of Qiblih has existed in previous religions. Jerusalem in the past had been fixed for this purpose. Muḥammad changed the Qiblih to Mecca. The Báb’s instructions in the Arabic Bayán were:
- The Qiblih is indeed He Whom God will make manifest; whenever He moveth, it moveth, until He shall come to rest.
This passage is quoted by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (#137) and confirmed by Him in the above-noted verse. He has also indicated that facing in the direction of the Qiblih is a “fixed requirement for the recitation of obligatory prayer” (Q and A 14 and 67). However, for other prayers and devotions the individual may face in any direction.
Bahá’u’lláh ordains His resting-place as the Qiblih after His passing. The Most Holy Tomb is at Bahjí, ‘Akká. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá describes that Spot as the “luminous Shrine”, “the place around which circumambulate the Concourse on High”.
In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi uses the analogy of the plant turning in the direction of the sun to explain the spiritual significance of turning towards the Qiblih:
- …just as the plant stretches out to the sunlight—from which it receives life and growth—so we turn our hearts to the Manifestation of God, Bahá’u’lláh, when we pray; … we turn our faces … to where His dust lies on this earth as a symbol of the inner act.
The original Obligatory Prayer had “for reasons of wisdom” been revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in a separate Tablet (Q and A 63). It was not released to the believers in His lifetime, having been superseded by the three Obligatory Prayers now in use.
Shortly after the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, the text of this prayer, along with a number of other Tablets, was stolen by Muḥammad-‘Alí, the Arch-breaker of His Covenant.
The Prayer for the Dead (see Some Texts Supplementary to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas) is the only Bahá’í obligatory prayer which is to be recited in congregation; it is to be recited by one believer while all present stand in silence (see note 19). Bahá’u’lláh has clarified that the Prayer for the Dead is required only when the deceased is an adult (Q and A 70), that the recital should precede the interment of the deceased, and that there is no requirement to face the Qiblih when saying this prayer (Q and A 85).
Further details concerning the Prayer for the Dead are summarized in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.A. 13.-14.
The passages that form part of the Prayer for the Dead comprise the repetition of the greeting “Alláh-u-Abhá” (God is the All-Glorious) six times, each followed by nineteen repetitions of one of six specifically revealed verses. These verses are identical with those in the Prayer for the Dead revealed by the Báb in the Bayán. Bahá’u’lláh added a supplication to precede these passages.
12. HAIR DOTH NOT INVALIDATE YOUR PRAYER, NOR AUGHT FROM WHICH THE SPIRIT HATH DEPARTED, SUCH AS BONES AND THE LIKE. YE ARE FREE TO WEAR THE FUR OF THE SABLE AS YE WOULD THAT OF THE BEAVER, THE SQUIRREL, AND OTHER ANIMALS (paragraph 9)
In some earlier religious Dispensations, the wearing of the hair of certain animals or having certain other objects on one’s person was held to invalidate one’s prayer. Bahá’u’lláh here confirms the Báb’s pronouncement in the Arabic Bayán that such things do not invalidate one’s prayer.
The exemption of those who are weak due to illness or advanced age from offering the Obligatory Prayers and from fasting is explained in Questions and Answers. Bahá’u’lláh indicates that in “time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations” (Q and A 93). He defines old age, in this context, as being from seventy (Q and A 74). In answer to a question, Shoghi Effendi has clarified that people who attain the age of seventy are exempt, whether or not they are weak.
The requirements of prayer in previous Dispensations have often included prostration. In the Arabic Bayán the Báb called upon the believers to lay their foreheads on surfaces of crystal when prostrating. Similarly, in Islám, certain restrictions are imposed with regard to the surface on which Muslims are permitted to prostrate. Bahá’u’lláh abrogates such restrictions and simply specifies “any surface that is clean”.
Ablutions are to be performed by the believer in preparation for the offering of obligatory prayer. They consist of washing the hands and face. If water is unavailable, the repetition five times of the specifically revealed verse is prescribed. See note 34 for a general discussion of ablutions.
Antecedents in earlier Dispensations for the provision of substitute procedures to be followed when no water is available are found in the Qur’án and in the Arabic Bayán.
The Prayer of the Signs is a special form of Muslim obligatory prayer that was ordained to be said in times of natural events, like earthquakes, eclipses, and other such phenomena, which may cause fear and are taken to be signs or acts of God. The requirement of performing this prayer has been annulled. In its place a Bahá’í may say, “Dominion is God’s, the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of creation,” but this is not obligatory (Q and A 52).
Congregational prayer, in the sense of formal obligatory prayer which is to be recited in accordance with a prescribed ritual as, for example, is the custom in Islám where Friday prayer in the mosque is led by an imám, has been annulled in the Bahá’í Dispensation. The Prayer for the Dead (see note 10) is the only congregational prayer prescribed by Bahá’í law. It is to be recited by one of those present while the remainder of the party stands in silence; the reader has no special status. The congregation is not required to face the Qiblih (Q and A 85).
The three daily Obligatory Prayers are to be recited individually, not in congregation.
There is no prescribed way for the recital of the many other Bahá’í prayers, and all are free to use such non-obligatory prayers in gatherings or individually as they please. In this regard, Shoghi Effendi states that
|“||…although the friends are thus left to follow their own inclination, … they should take the utmost care that any manner they practise should not acquire too rigid a character, and thus develop into an institution. This is a point which the friends should always bear in mind, lest they deviate from the clear path indicated in the||”|
Exemption from obligatory prayer and fasting is granted to women who are menstruating; they should, instead, perform their ablutions (see note 34) and repeat 95 times a day between one noon and the next, the verse “Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendour and Beauty”. This provision has its antecedent in the Arabic Bayán, where a similar dispensation was granted.
In some earlier religious Dispensations, women in their courses were considered ritually unclean and were forbidden to observe the duties of prayer and fasting. The concept of ritual uncleanness has been abolished by Bahá’u’lláh (see note 106).
The Universal House of Justice has clarified that the provisions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas granting exemptions from certain duties and responsibilities are, as the word indicates, exemptions and not prohibitions. Any believer is, therefore, free to avail himself or herself of an applicable exemption if he or she so wishes. However, the House of Justice counsels that, in deciding whether to do so or not, the believer should use wisdom and realize that Bahá’u’lláh has granted these exemptions for good reason.
The prescribed exemption from obligatory prayer, originally related to the Obligatory Prayer consisting of nine rak’áhs, is now applicable to the three Obligatory Prayers which superseded it.
Exemption from obligatory prayer is granted to those who find themselves in such a condition of insecurity that the saying of the Obligatory Prayers is not possible. The exemption applies whether one is travelling or at home, and it provides a means whereby Obligatory Prayers which have remained unsaid on account of these insecure circumstances may be compensated for.
Bahá’u’lláh has made it clear that obligatory prayer “is not suspended during travel” so long as one can find a “safe spot” in which to perform it (Q and A 58).
The Arabic expression “haykalu’t-tawhíd”, translated here as “cross-legged”, means the “posture of unity”. It has traditionally signified a cross-legged position.
There is a well-known Islamic tradition concerning God and His creation:
|“||I was a Hidden Treasure. I wished to be made known, and thus I called creation into being in order that I might be known.||”|
References and allusions to this tradition are found throughout the Bahá’í Writings. For example, in one of His prayers, Bahá’u’lláh reveals:
|“||Lauded be Thy name, O Lord my God! I testify that Thou wast a hidden Treasure wrapped within Thine immemorial Being and an impenetrable Mystery enshrined in Thine own Essence. Wishing to reveal Thyself, Thou didst call into being the Greater and the Lesser Worlds, and didst choose Man above all Thy creatures, and didst make Him a sign of both of these worlds, O Thou Who art our Lord, the Most Compassionate! Thou didst raise Him up to occupy Thy throne before all the people of Thy creation. Thou didst enable Him to unravel Thy mysteries, and to shine with the lights of Thine inspiration and Thy Revelation, and to manifest Thy names and Thine attributes. Through Him Thou didst adorn the preamble of the book of Thy creation, O Thou Who art the Ruler of the universe Thou hast fashioned! (Prayers and Meditations by Likewise, in the Hidden Words, He states:
O Son of Man! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His commentary on the above-cited tradition, wrote:
O wayfarer in the path of the Beloved! Know thou that the main purpose of this holy tradition is to make mention of the stages of God’s concealment and manifestation within the Embodiments of Truth, They who are the Dawning-places of His All-Glorious Being. For example, before the flame of the undying Fire is lit and manifest, it existeth by itself within itself in the hidden identity of the universal Manifestations, and this is the stage of the “Hidden Treasure”. And when the blessed Tree is kindled by itself within itself, and that Divine Fire burneth by its essence within its essence, this is the stage of “I wished to be made known”. And when it shineth forth from the Horizon of the universe with infinite Divine Names and Attributes upon the contingent and placeless worlds, this constituteth the emergence of a new and wondrous creation which correspondeth to the stage of “Thus I called creation into being”. And when the sanctified souls rend asunder the veils of all earthly attachments and worldly conditions, and hasten to the stage of gazing on the beauty of the Divine Presence and are honoured by recognizing the Manifestation and are able to witness the splendour of God’s Most Great Sign in their hearts, then will the purpose of creation, which is the knowledge of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, become manifest.
“Pen of the Most High”, “the Supreme Pen” and “the Most Exalted Pen” are references to Bahá’u’lláh, illustrating His function as Revealer of the Word of God.
Fasting and obligatory prayer constitute the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. Bahá’u’lláh in one of His Tablets affirms that He has revealed the laws of obligatory prayer and fasting so that through them the believers may draw nigh unto God.
Shoghi Effendi indicates that the fasting period, which involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset, is
|“||…essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.||”|
Fasting is enjoined on all the believers once they attain the age of 15 and until they reach the age of 70 years.
A summary of the detailed provisions concerning the law of fasting and of the exemptions granted to certain categories of people is contained in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.B.1.-6. For a discussion of the exemptions from fasting see notes 14, 20, 30 and 31.
The nineteen-day period of fasting coincides with the Bahá’í month of ‘Alá, usually 2–20 March, immediately after the termination of the Intercalary Days (see notes 27 and 147), and is followed by the feast of Naw-Rúz (see note 26).
The Báb introduced a new calendar, known now as the Badí or Bahá’í calendar (see notes 27 and 147). According to this calendar, a day is the period from sunset to sunset. In the Bayán, the Báb ordained the month of ‘Alá to be the month of fasting, decreed that the day of Naw-Rúz should mark the termination of that period, and designated Naw-Rúz as the Day of God. Bahá’u’lláh confirms the Badí calendar wherein Naw-Rúz is designated as a feast.
Naw-Rúz is the first day of the new year. It coincides with the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, which usually occurs on 21 March. Bahá’u’lláh explains that this feast day is to be celebrated on whatever day the sun passes into the constellation of Aries (i.e. the vernal equinox), even should this occur one minute before sunset (Q and A 35). Hence Naw-Rúz could fall on 20, 21, or 22 March, depending on the time of the equinox.
Bahá’u’lláh has left the details of many laws to be filled in by the Universal House of Justice. Among these are a number of matters affecting the Bahá’í calendar. The Guardian has stated that the implementation, worldwide, of the law concerning the timing of Naw-Rúz will require the choice of a particular spot on earth which will serve as the standard for the fixing of the time of the spring equinox. He also indicated that the choice of this spot has been left to the decision of the Universal House of Justice.
The Badí calendar is based on the solar year of 365 days, 5 hours, and 50 odd minutes. The year consists of 19 months of 19 days each (i.e. 361 days), with the addition of four extra days (five in a leap year). The Báb did not specifically define the place for the intercalary days in the new calendar. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas resolves this question by assigning the “excess” days a fixed position in the calendar immediately preceding the month of ‘Alá, the period of fasting. For further details see the section on the Bahá’í calendar in The Bahá’í World, volume XVIII.
Known as the Ayyám-i-Há (the Days of Há), the Intercalary Days have the distinction of being associated with “the letter Há”. The abjad numerical value of this Arabic letter is five, which corresponds to the potential number of intercalary days.
The letter “Há” has been given several spiritual meanings in the Holy Writings, among which is as a symbol of the Essence of God.
Bahá’u’lláh enjoined upon His followers to devote these days to feasting, rejoicing and charity. In a letter written on 179 Shoghi Effendi’s behalf it is explained that “the intercalary days are specially set aside for hospitality, the giving of gifts, etc.”.
The minimum duration of a journey which exempts the believer from fasting is defined by Bahá’u’lláh (Q and A 22 and 75). The details of this provision are summarized in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.B.5.a.i.-v.
Shoghi Effendi has clarified that while travellers are exempt from fasting, they are free to fast if they so wish. He also indicated that the exemption applies during the whole period of one’s travel, not just the hours one is in a train or car, etc.
Exemption from fasting is granted to those who are ill or of advanced age (see note 14), women in their courses (see note 20), travellers (see note 30) and to women who are pregnant and those who are nursing. This exemption is also extended to people who are engaged in heavy labour, who, at the same time, are advised “to show respect to the law of God and for the exalted station of the Fast” by eating “with frugality and in private” (Q and A 76). Shoghi Effendi has indicated that the types of work which would exempt people from the Fast will be defined by the Universal House of Justice.
This relates to the period of fasting. In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, after stating that fasting consists of abstinence from food and drink, further indicates that smoking is a form of “drink”. In Arabic the verb “drink” applies equally to smoking.
“Alláh-u-Abhá” is an Arabic phrase meaning “God the All-Glorious”. It is a form of the Greatest Name of God (see note 137). In Islám there is a tradition that among the many names of God, one was the greatest; however, the identity of this Greatest Name was hidden. Bahá’u’lláh has confirmed that the Greatest Name is “Bahá”.
The various derivatives of the word “Bahá” are also regarded as the Greatest Name. Shoghi Effendi’s secretary writing on his behalf explains that
|“||The Greatest Name is the Name of Bahá’u’lláh. “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá” is an invocation meaning: “O Thou Glory of Glories!”. “Alláh-u-Abhá” is a greeting which means: “God the All-Glorious”. Both refer to Bahá’u’lláh. By Greatest Name is meant that Bahá’u’lláh has appeared in God’s Greatest Name, in other words, that He is the supreme Manifestation of God.||”|
The greeting “Alláh-u-Abhá” was adopted during the period of Bahá’u’lláh’s exile in Adrianople.
The repetition of “Alláh-u-Abhá” ninety-five times is to be preceded by the performance of ablutions (see note 34).
Ablutions are specifically associated with certain prayers. They must precede the offering of the three Obligatory Prayers, the daily recitation of “Alláh-u-Abhá” ninety-five times, and the recital of the verse prescribed as an alternative to obligatory prayer and fasting for women in their courses (see note 20).
The prescribed ablutions consist of washing the hands and the face in preparation for prayer. In the case of the medium Obligatory Prayer, this is accompanied by the recitation of certain verses (see Some Texts Revealed by Bahá’u’lláh Supplementary to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas).
That ablutions have a significance beyond washing may be seen from the fact that even should one have bathed oneself immediately before reciting the Obligatory Prayer, it would still be necessary to perform ablutions (Q and A 18).
When no water is available for ablutions, a prescribed verse is to be repeated five times (see note 16), and this provision is extended to those for whom the use of water would be physically harmful (Q and A 51).
The prohibition against taking another’s life is repeated by Bahá’u’lláh in paragraph 73 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Penalties are prescribed for premeditated murder (see note 86). In the case of manslaughter, it is necessary to pay a specified indemnity to the family of the deceased (see Kitáb-i-Aqdas, #188).
The Arabic word “ziná”, 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 “ziná” 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.
Backbiting, slander and dwelling on the faults of others have been repeatedly condemned by Bahá’u’lláh. In the Hidden Words, He clearly states: “O Son of Being! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.” And again: “O Son of Man! Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.” This strong admonition is further reiterated in His last work, “the Book of My Covenant”: “Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men.”
The Bahá’í laws of inheritance apply only in case of intestacy, that is, when the individual dies without leaving a will. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (# 109), Bahá’u’lláh instructs every believer to write a will. He elsewhere clearly states that the individual has full jurisdiction over his property and is free to determine the manner in which his or her estate is to be divided and to designate, in the will, those, whether Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í, who should inherit (Q and A 69). In this connection, a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi explains that:
|“||…even though a Bahá’í is permitted in his will to dispose of his wealth in the way he wishes, yet he is morally and conscientiously bound to always bear in mind, while writing his will, the necessity of his upholding the principle of Bahá’u’lláh regarding the social function of wealth, and the consequent necessity of avoiding its over-accumulation and concentration in a few individuals or groups of individuals.||”|
This verse of the Aqdas introduces a lengthy passage in which Bahá’u’lláh elaborates the Bahá’í law of inheritance. 183 In reading this passage one should bear in mind that the law is formulated with the presumption that the deceased is a man; its provisions apply, mutatis mutandis, when the deceased is a woman.
The system of inheritance which provides for distribution of the deceased’s estate among seven categories of heirs (children, spouse, father, mother, brothers, sisters, and teachers) is based on the provisions set out by the Báb in the Bayán. The major features of the Bahá’í laws of inheritance in the case of intestacy are:
- If the deceased is a father and his estate includes a personal residence, such residence passes to the eldest son (Q and A 34).
- If the deceased has no male descendants, two thirds of the residence pass to his female descendants and the remaining third passes to the House of Justice (Q and A 41, 72). See note 42 concerning the levels of the institution of the House of Justice to which this law applies. (See also note 44.)
- The remainder of the estate is divided among the seven categories of heirs. For details of the number of shares to be received by each group, see Questions and Answers, number 5, and Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.3.a.
- In case there is more than one heir in any category the share allotted to that class should be divided between them equally, be they male or female.
- In cases where there is no issue, the share of the children reverts to the House of Justice (Q and A 7, 41).
- Should one leave offspring, but either part or all of the other categories of heirs be non-existent, two thirds of their shares revert to the offspring and one third to the House of Justice (Q and A 7).
- Should none of the specified categories exist, two 184 thirds of the estate revert to the nephews and nieces of the deceased. If these do not exist, the same shares revert to the aunts and uncles; lacking these, to their sons and daughters. In any case the remaining third reverts to the House of Justice.
- Should one leave none of the aforementioned heirs, the entire estate reverts to the House of Justice.
- Bahá’u’lláh states that non-Bahá’ís have no right to inherit from their Bahá’í parents or relatives (Q and A 34). Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf indicates that this restriction applies “only to such cases when a Bahá’í dies without leaving a will and when, therefore, his property will have to be divided in accordance with the rules set forth in the Aqdas. Otherwise, a Bahá’í is free to bequeath his property to any person, irrespective of religion, provided however he leaves a will, specifying his wishes.” It is always possible, therefore, for a Bahá’í to provide for his or her non-Bahá’í partner, children or relatives by leaving a will.
Additional details of the laws of inheritance are summarized in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.3.a.-o.
Questions and Answers amplifies the provisions of the law as it relates to the shares of the inheritance allocated to the brothers and sisters of the deceased. If the brother or sister is from the same father as the deceased, he or she will inherit his or her full allotted share. If, however, the brother or sister is from another father he or she will inherit only two thirds of the allotted share, the remaining one third reverting to the House of Justice (Q and A 6). Further, in the case where the deceased has full brothers or full sisters among his heirs, half-brothers and half-sisters from the mother’s side do not inherit (Q and A 53). The half-brothers and half-sisters will, of course, be due to receive inheritance from their own father’s estate.
In a Tablet, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá compares teachers who are involved with the spiritual education of the child to the “spiritual father” who “endoweth his child with everlasting life”. He explains that this is the reason that “teachers are listed among the heirs” in the “Law of God”.
Bahá’u’lláh specifies the conditions under which the teacher inherits and the share he or she receives ([[Kitáb-i-Aqdas/Questions_and_Answers#33|Q and A 33).
In the Báb’s laws of inheritance the children of the deceased were allotted nine parts consisting of 540 shares. This allocation constituted less than a quarter of the whole estate. Bahá’u’lláh doubled their portion to 1,080 shares and reduced those allotted to the other six categories of heirs. He also outlines the precise intention of this verse and its implications for the distribution of the inheritance (Q and A 5).
In referring to the House of Justice in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh does not always explicitly distinguish between the Universal House of Justice and the Local House of Justice, both of which institutions are ordained in that Book. He usually refers simply to “the House of Justice”, leaving open for later clarification the level or levels of the whole institution to which each law would apply.
In a Tablet enumerating the revenues of the local treasury, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá includes those inheritances for which there are no heirs, thus indicating that the House of Justice referred to in these passages of the Aqdas relating to inheritance is the local one.
Bahá’u’lláh clarifies that “This ruling hath both general and specific application, which is to say that whenever any category of this latter class of heirs is absent, two thirds of their inheritance pass to the offspring and the remaining third to the House of Justice” (Q and A 7).
In a Tablet, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá indicates that the residence and personal clothing of a deceased man remain in the male line. They pass to the eldest son and in the absence of the eldest son, they pass to the second-eldest son, and so on. He explains that this provision is an expression of the law of primogeniture, which has invariably been upheld by the Law of God. In a Tablet to a follower of the Faith in Persia He wrote: “In all the Divine Dispensations the eldest son hath been given extraordinary distinctions. Even the station of prophethood hath been his birthright.” With the distinctions given to the eldest son, however, go concomitant duties. For example, he has the moral responsibility, for the sake of God, to care for his mother and also to consider the needs of the other heirs.
Bahá’u’lláh clarifies various aspects of this part of the law of inheritance. He specifies that if there be more than one residence, the principal and most important one passes to the male offspring. The remaining residences will, together with the other possessions of the deceased, have to be divided among the heirs (Q and A 34), and He indicates that in the absence of male offspring, two thirds of the 187 principal residence and the personal clothing of the deceased father will revert to the female issue and one third to the House of Justice (Q and A 72). Further, when the deceased is a woman, Bahá’u’lláh states that all her used clothing is to be equally divided amongst her daughters. Her unworn clothing, jewels and property must be divided among her heirs, as well as her used clothing if she leaves no daughter (Q and A 37).
This aspect of the law applies only in the case of the son who predeceases his father or mother. If the daughter of the deceased be dead and leave issue, her share will have to be divided according to the seven categories specified in the Most Holy Book (Q and A 54).
The word “amín”, translated in this paragraph as “reliable individual” and “trustee”, conveys in Arabic a wide range of meanings connected principally with the idea of trustworthiness, but signifying also such qualities as reliability, loyalty, faithfulness, uprightness, honesty, and so forth. Used in legal parlance “amín” denotes, among other things, a trustee, guarantor, custodian, guardian, and keeper.
Bahá’u’lláh specifies that the order of precedence for payment of these expenses is first the funeral and burial expenses, then the debts of the deceased, then the Ḥuqúqu’lláh (see note 125) (Q and A 9). He also specifies that when applying the estate to these, payment must first be made out of the residue of the estate and then, if this is insufficient, out of the residence and personal clothing of the deceased (Q and A 80).
In the Arabic Bayán the Báb described His inheritance law as being “in accordance with a hidden knowledge in the Book of God—a knowledge that shall never change or be replaced”. He also stated that the numbers by which the division of the inheritance was expressed had been invested with a significance intended to aid in the recognition of Him Whom God will make manifest.
The “nine” mentioned here is represented in the Arabic text by the letter “Tá”, which is its equivalent in the abjad notation (see Glossary). It is the first element of the Báb’s division of inheritance, where He designates “nine parts” as the share of the children. The significance of nine lies in its being the numerical equivalent of the Greatest Name “Bahá”, alluded to in the next part of this verse as “the concealed and manifest, the inviolable and unapproachably exalted Name”. (See also note 33.)
The institution of the House of Justice consists of elected councils which operate at the local, national and international levels of society. Bahá’u’lláh ordains both the Universal House of Justice and the Local Houses of Justice in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, provides for the Secondary (National or Regional) Houses of Justice and outlines the method to be pursued for the election of the Universal House of Justice.
In the verse cited above, the reference is to the Local House of Justice, an institution which is to be elected in a locality whenever there are nine or more resident adult Bahá’ís. For this purpose, the definition of adult was temporarily fixed at the age of 21 years by the Guardian, who indicated it was open to change by the Universal House of Justice in the future.
Local and Secondary Houses of Justice are, for the present, known as Local Spiritual Assemblies and National Spiritual Assemblies. Shoghi Effendi has indicated that this is a “temporary appellation” which,
|“||…as the position and aims of the Bahá’í Faith are better understood and more fully recognized, will gradually be superseded by the permanent and more appropriate designation of House of Justice. Not only will the present-day Spiritual Assemblies be styled differently in future, but they will be enabled also to add to their present functions those powers, duties, and prerogatives necessitated by the recognition of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, not merely as one of the recognized religious systems of the world, but as the State Religion of an independent and Sovereign Power.||”|
The abjad numerical equivalent of “Bahá” is nine. The Universal House of Justice and the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies currently have nine members each, the minimum number prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh.
The general powers and duties of the Universal House of Justice, the National Spiritual Assemblies and the Local Spiritual Assemblies and the qualifications for membership are set forth in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in the letters of Shoghi Effendi, and in the elucidations of the Universal House of Justice. The major functions of these institutions are outlined in the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice, and in those of the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies.
Bahá’u’lláh has established consultation as one of the fundamental principles of His Faith and has exhorted the believers to “take counsel together in all matters”. He describes consultation as “the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way” and as “the bestower of understanding”. Shoghi Effendi states that the “principle of consultation … constitutes one of the basic laws” of the Bahá’í Administrative Order.
In Questions and Answers, number 99, Bahá’u’lláh outlines an approach to consultation and stresses the importance of achieving unanimity in decision-making, failing which the majority decision must prevail. The Universal House of Justice has clarified that this guidance concerning consultation was revealed before Spiritual Assemblies had been established and was in answer to a question about the Bahá’í teachings on consultation. The House of Justice affirms that the emergence of Spiritual Assemblies, to which the friends may always turn for assistance, in no way prohibits them from following the procedure outlined in Questions and Answers. This approach may be used by the friends, should they wish, when they desire to consult on their personal problems.
The Bahá’í House of Worship is dedicated to the praise of God. The House of Worship forms the central edifice of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár (the Dawning-place of the Praise of God), a complex which, as it unfolds in the future, will comprise in addition to the House of Worship a number of dependencies dedicated to social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific pursuits. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá describes the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár as “one of the most vital institutions in the world”, and Shoghi Effendi indicates that it exemplifies in tangible form the integration of “Bahá’í worship and service”. Anticipating the future development of this institution, Shoghi Effendi envisages that the House of Worship and its dependencies “shall afford relief to the suffering, sustenance to the poor, shelter to the wayfarer, solace to the bereaved, and education to the ignorant”. In the future, Bahá’í Houses of Worship will be constructed in every town and village.
Two sacred Houses are covered by this ordinance, the House of the Báb in Shíráz and the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdád. Bahá’u’lláh has specified that pilgrimage to either of these two Houses fulfils the requirement of this passage (Q and A 25, 29). In two separate Tablets, known as Súriy-i-Hájj (Q and A 10), Bahá’u’lláh has prescribed specific rites for each of these pilgrimages. In this sense, the performance of a pilgrimage is more than simply visiting these two Houses.
After the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahjí as a place of pilgrimage. In a Tablet, He indicates that the “Most Holy Shrine, the Blessed House in Baghdád and the venerated House of the Báb in Shíráz” are “consecrated to pilgrimage”, and that it is “obligatory” to visit these places “if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one’s way”. No rites have been prescribed for pilgrimage to the Most Holy Shrine.
In the Bayán, the Báb enjoined the ordinance of pilgrimage once in a lifetime upon those of His followers who were financially able to undertake the journey. He stated that the obligation was not binding on women in order to spare them the rigours of travel.
Bahá’u’lláh likewise exempts women from His pilgrimage requirements. The Universal House of Justice has clarified that this exemption is not a prohibition, and that women are free to perform the pilgrimage.
It is obligatory for men and women to engage in a trade or profession. Bahá’u’lláh exalts “engagement in such work” to the “rank of worship” of God. The spiritual and practical significance of this law, and the mutual responsibility of the individual and society for its implementation are explained in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi:
|“||With reference to Bahá’u’lláh’s command concerning the engagement of the believers in some sort of profession: the Teachings are most emphatic on this matter, particularly the statement in the Aqdas to this effect which makes it quite clear that idle people who lack the desire to work can have no place in the new World Order. As a corollary of this principle, Bahá’u’lláh further states that mendicity should not only be discouraged but entirely wiped out from the face of society. It is the duty of those who are in charge of the organization of society to give every individual the opportunity of acquiring the necessary talent in some kind of profession, and also the means of utilizing such a talent, both for its own sake and for the sake of earning the means of his livelihood. Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession, for work, especially when performed in the spirit of service, is according to Bahá’u’lláh a form of worship. It has not only a utilitarian purpose, but has a value in itself, because it draws us nearer to God, and enables us to better grasp His purpose for us in this world. It is obvious, therefore, that the inheritance of wealth cannot make anyone immune from daily work.||”|
In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that “if a person is incapable of earning a living, is stricken by dire poverty or becometh helpless, then it is incumbent on the wealthy or the Deputies to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence…. By ‘Deputies’ is meant the representatives of the people, that is to say the members of the House of Justice.” (See also note 162 on mendicancy.)
In response to a question concerning whether Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction requires a wife and mother, as well as her husband, to work for a livelihood, the Universal House of Justice has explained that Bahá’u’lláh’s directive is for the friends to be engaged in an occupation which will profit themselves and others, and that homemaking is a highly honourable and responsible work of fundamental importance to society.
Concerning the retirement from work for individuals who have reached a certain age, Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf stated that “this is a matter on which the International House of Justice will have to legislate as there are no provisions in the Aqdas concerning it”.
In a number of earlier religious Dispensations and in certain cultures the kissing of the hand of a religious figure or of a prominent person was expected as a mark of reverence and deference to such persons and as a token of submission to their authority. Bahá’u’lláh prohibits the kissing of hands and, in His Tablets, He also condemns such practices as prostrating oneself before another person and other forms of behaviour that abase one individual in relation to another. (See note 58.)
Bahá’u’lláh prohibits confession to, and seeking absolution of one’s sins from, a human being. Instead one should beg forgiveness from God. In the Tablet of Bishárát, He states that “such confession before people results in one’s humiliation and abasement”, and He affirms that God “wisheth not the humiliation of His servants”.
Shoghi Effendi sets the prohibition into context. His secretary has written on his behalf that we
|“||…are forbidden to confess to any person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person’s forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so.||”|
The Universal House of Justice has also clarified that Bahá’u’lláh’s prohibition concerning the confession of sins does not prevent an individual from admitting transgressions in the course of consultations held under the aegis of Bahá’í institutions. Likewise, it does not preclude the possibility of seeking advice from a close friend or of a professional counsellor regarding such matters.
Traditionally in the East it has been the practice to remove sandals and shoes before entering a gathering. The part of a room farthest from the entrance is regarded as the head of the room and a place of honour where the most prominent among those present are seated. Others sit in descending order towards the door, by which the shoes and sandals have been left and where the most lowly would sit.
This is a reference to people who claim access to esoteric knowledge and whose attachment to such knowledge veils them from the Revelation of the Manifestation of God. Elsewhere Bahá’u’lláh affirms: “They that are the worshippers of the idol which their imaginations have carved, and who call it Inner Reality, such men are in truth accounted among the heathen.”
These verses constitute the prohibition of monasticism and asceticism. See the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.D. 1.y.iii.-iv. In the Words of Paradise Bahá’u’lláh amplifies these provisions. He states: “Living in seclusion or practising asceticism is not acceptable in the presence of God,” and He calls upon those involved to “observe that which will cause joy and radiance”. He instructs those who have taken up “their abodes in the caves of the mountains” or who have “repaired to graveyards at night” to abandon these practices, and He enjoins them not to deprive themselves of the “bounties” of this world which have been created by God for humankind. And in the Tablet of Bishárát, while acknowledging the “pious deeds” of monks and priests, Bahá’u’lláh calls upon them to “give up the life of seclusion and direct their steps towards the open world and busy themselves with that which will profit themselves and others”. He also grants them leave “to enter into wedlock that they may bring forth one who will make mention of God”.
The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh will last until the coming of the next Manifestation of God, Whose advent will not take place before at least “a full thousand years” will have elapsed. Bahá’u’lláh cautions against ascribing to “this verse” anything other than its “obvious meaning”, and in one of His Tablets, He specifies that “each year” of this thousand year period consists of “twelve months according to the Qur’án, and of nineteen months of nineteen days each, according to the Bayán”.
The intimation of His Revelation to Bahá’u’lláh in the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán, in October 1852, marks the birth of His Prophetic Mission and hence the commencement of the one thousand years or more that must elapse before the appearance of the next Manifestation of God.
The “Land of Mystery” refers to Adrianople, and “this Resplendent Spot” is a reference to ‘Akká.
In the East, the practice has been for followers of a religious leader, out of deference, to walk a pace or two behind him.
The Nimrod referred to in this verse is, in both Jewish and Islamic traditions, a King who persecuted Abraham and whose name became symbolic of great pride.
“Aghsán” (plural of Ghusn) is the Arabic word for “Branches”. This term is used by Bahá’u’lláh to designate His male descendants. It has particular implications not only for the disposition of endowments but also for the succession of authority following the passing of Bahá’u’lláh (see note 145) and of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Bahá’u’lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, appointed ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His eldest son, as the Centre of His Covenant and the Head of the Faith. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His Will and Testament, appointed Shoghi Effendi, His eldest grandson, as the Guardian and Head of the Faith.
This passage of the Aqdas, therefore, anticipates the succession of chosen Aghsán and thus the institution of the Guardianship and envisages the possibility of a break in their line. The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very situation provided for in this passage, in that the line of Aghsán ended before the Universal House of Justice had been established (see note 67).
Bahá’u’lláh provides for the possibility that the line of Aghsán would terminate prior to the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. He designated that in such a situation “endowments shall revert to the people of Bahá”. The term “people of Bahá” is used with a number of different meanings in the Bahá’í Writings. In this instance, they are described as those “who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet”. Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the Hands of the Cause of God directed the affairs of the Cause until the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963 (see note 183).
In some religious traditions it is considered desirable to shave one’s head. The shaving of the head is forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and He makes it clear that the provision contained in His Súriy-i-Hájj requiring pilgrims to the Holy House in Shíráz to shave their heads has been superseded through this verse of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Q and A 10).
Shoghi Effendi has made clear that, unlike the prohibition on shaving the head, this law forbidding the growing of the hair beyond the lobe of the ear pertains only to men. The application of this law will require clarification by the Universal House of Justice.
Bahá’u’lláh states that the determination of the degree of penalty, in accordance with the seriousness of the offence, rests with the House of Justice (Q and A 49). The punishments for theft are intended for a future condition of society, when they will be supplemented and applied by the Universal House of Justice.
The mark to be placed on the thief’s forehead serves the purpose of warning people of his proclivities. All details concerning the nature of the mark, how the mark is to be applied, how long it must be worn, on what conditions it may be removed, as well as the seriousness of various degrees of theft have been left by Bahá’u’lláh for the Universal House of Justice to determine when the law is applied.
In the Bayán the Báb allowed the use of gold and silver utensils, thus abrogating the Islamic condemnation of their use which stems not from an explicit injunction of the Qur’án but from Muslim traditions. Bahá’u’lláh here confirms the Báb’s ruling.
This prohibition was defined by Shoghi Effendi as “plunging one’s hand in food”. In many parts of the world it has been customary to eat with the hands from a communal bowl.
This is the first of several passages referring to the importance of refinement and cleanliness. The original Arabic word “látafah”, rendered here as “refinement”, has a wide range of meanings with both spiritual and physical implications, such as elegance, gracefulness, cleanliness, civility, politeness, gentleness, delicacy and graciousness, as well as being subtle, refined, sanctified and pure. In accordance with the context of the various passages where it occurs in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, it has been translated either as “refinement” or “cleanliness”.
In the Tablet of Ishráqát, Bahá’u’lláh affirms that the Most Great Infallibility is confined to the Manifestations of God.
Chapter 45 in Some Answered Questions is devoted to an explanation by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá of this verse of the Aqdas. In this chapter He stresses, among other things, the inseparability of essential “infallibility” from the Manifestations of God, and asserts that “whatever emanates from Them is identical with the truth, and conformable to reality”, that “They are not under the shadow of the former laws”, and “Whatever They say is the word of God, and whatever They perform is an upright action”.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in His Tablets, not only calls attention to the responsibility of parents to educate all their children, but He also clearly specifies that the “training and culture of daughters is more necessary than that of sons”, for girls will one day be mothers, and mothers are the first educators of the new generation. If it is not possible, therefore, for a family to educate all the children, preference is to be accorded to daughters since, through educated mothers, the benefits of knowledge can be most effectively and rapidly diffused throughout society.
Although the term translated here as adultery refers, in its broadest sense, to unlawful sexual intercourse between either married or unmarried individuals (see note 36 for a definition of the term), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has specified that the punishment here prescribed is for sexual intercourse between persons who are unmarried. He indicates that it remains for the Universal House of Justice to determine the penalty for adultery committed by a married individual. (See also Q and A 49.)
In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to some of the spiritual and social implications of the violation of the laws of morality and, concerning the penalty here described, He indicates that the aim of this law is to make clear to all that such an action is shameful in the eyes of God and that, in the event that the offence can be established and the fine imposed, the principal purpose is the exposure of the offenders—that they are shamed and disgraced in the eyes of society. He affirms that such exposure is in itself the greatest punishment.
The House of Justice referred to in this verse is presumably the Local House of Justice, currently known as the Local Spiritual Assembly.
A mithqál is a unit of weight. The weight of the traditional mithqál used in the Middle East is equivalent to 24 nákhuds. However, the mithqál used by the Bahá’ís consists of 19 nákhuds, “in accordance with the specification of the Bayán” (Q and A 23). The weight of nine of these mithqáls equals 32.775 grammes or 1.05374 troy ounces.
In relation to the application of the fine, Bahá’u’lláh clearly specifies that each succeeding fine is double the preceding one (Q and A 23); thus the fine imposed increases in geometrical progression. The imposition of this fine is intended for a future condition of society, at which time the law will be supplemented and applied by the Universal House of Justice.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written that “Among certain nations of the East, music was considered reprehensible”. Though the Qur’án contains no specific guidance on the subject, some Muslims consider listening to music as unlawful, while others tolerate music within certain bounds and subject to particular conditions.
There are a number of passages in the Bahá’í Writings in praise of music. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, for example, asserts that “music, sung or played, is spiritual food for soul and heart”.
It has been elucidated in the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi that, while the membership of the Universal House of Justice is confined to men, both women and men are eligible for election to Secondary and Local Houses of Justice (currently designated as National and Local Spiritual Assemblies).
While Bahá’u’lláh specified that the extent of the penalty depends upon “the severity of the injury”, there is no record of His having set out the details of the size of the indemnity with regard to each degree of offence. The responsibility to determine these devolves upon the Universal House of Justice.
This injunction has become the basis for the holding of monthly Bahá’í festivities and as such constitutes the ordination of the Nineteen Day Feast. In the Arabic Bayán the Báb called upon His followers to gather together once every nineteen days to show hospitality and fellowship. Bahá’u’lláh here confirms this and notes the unifying role of such occasions.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi after Him have gradually unfolded the institutional significance of this injunction. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá emphasized the importance of the spiritual and devotional character of these gatherings. Shoghi Effendi, besides further elaborating the devotional and social aspects of the Feast, has developed the administrative element of such gatherings and, in systematically instituting the Feast, has provided for a period of consultation on the affairs of the Bahá’í community, including the sharing of news and messages.
In answer to a question as to whether this injunction is obligatory, Bahá’u’lláh stated it was not (Q and A 48). Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf further comments:
|“||Attendance at Nineteen Day Feasts is not obligatory but very important, and every believer should consider it a duty and privilege to be present on such occasions.||”|
83. IF YE SHOULD HUNT WITH BEASTS OR BIRDS OF PREY, INVOKE YE THE NAME OF GOD WHEN YE SEND THEM TO PURSUE THEIR QUARRY; FOR THEN WHATEVER THEY CATCH SHALL BE LAWFUL UNTO YOU, EVEN SHOULD YE FIND IT TO HAVE DIED. (paragraph 60)
By this law, Bahá’u’lláh greatly simplifies practices and religious regulations of the past relating to hunting. He has also stated that hunting with such weapons as bows and arrows, guns, and the like, is included in this ruling, but that the consumption of game if it is found dead in a trap or a net is prohibited (Q and A 24).
While hunting is not forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, He warns against excessive hunting. The Universal House of Justice will, in due course, have to consider what constitutes an excess in hunting.
The injunction to show kindness to Bahá’u’lláh’s kindred does not give them a share in the property of others. This is in contrast to Shí’ih Muslim practice, in which lineal descendants of Muḥammad are entitled to receive a share of a certain tax.
The law of Bahá’u’lláh prescribes the death penalty for murder and arson, with the alternative of life imprisonment (see note 87).
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.
With regard to this provision, Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf gives the following explanation:
|“||In the Aqdas Bahá’u’lláh has given death as the penalty for murder. However, He has permitted life imprisonment as an alternative. Both practices would be in accordance with His Laws. Some of us may not be able to grasp the wisdom of this when it disagrees with our own limited vision; but we must accept it, knowing His Wisdom, His Mercy and His Justice are perfect and for the salvation of the entire world. If a man were falsely condemned to die, can we not believe Almighty God would compensate him a thousandfold, in the next world, for this human injustice? You cannot give up a salutary law just because on rare occasions the innocent may be punished.||”|
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.
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 children.
Shoghi Effendi, in response to a question about this verse of the Aqdas, affirmed that while capital punishment is permitted, an alternative, “life imprisonment”, has been provided “whereby the rigours of such a condemnation can be seriously mitigated”. He states that “Bahá’u’lláh has given us a choice and has, therefore, left us free to use our own discretion within certain limitations imposed by His law”. In the absence of specific guidance concerning the application of this aspect of Bahá’í law, it remains for the Universal House of Justice to legislate on the matter in the future.
Bahá’u’lláh, in one of His Tablets, states that God, in establishing this law, has made marriage “a fortress for well-being and salvation”.
The Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.1.a.-o., summarizes and synthesizes the provisions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and Questions and Answers concerning marriage and the conditions under which it is permitted (Q and A 3, 13, 46, 50, 84, and 92), the law of betrothal (Q and A 43), the payment of the dowry (Q and A 12, 26, 39, 47, 87, and 88), the procedures to be adopted in the event of the prolonged absence of a spouse (Q and A 4 and 27), and sundry other circumstances (Q and A 12 and 47). (See also notes 89–99.)
89. 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 TRANQUILLITY. (paragraph 63)
While the text of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas appears to permit bigamy, Bahá’u’lláh counsels that tranquillity and contentment derive from monogamy. In another Tablet, He underlines the importance of the individual’s acting in such a way as to “bring comfort to himself and to his partner”. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the authorized Interpreter of the Bahá’í Writings, states that in the text of the Aqdas monogamy is in effect enjoined. He elaborates this theme in a number of Tablets, including the following:
|“||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.||”|
Polygamy is a very ancient practice among the majority of humanity. The introduction of monogamy has been only gradually accomplished by the Manifestations of God. Jesus, for example, did not prohibit polygamy, but abolished divorce except in the case of fornication; Muḥammad limited the number of wives to four, but making plurality of wives contingent on justice, and reintroducing permission for divorce; Bahá’u’lláh, Who was revealing His Teachings in the milieu of a Muslim society, introduced the question of monogamy gradually in accordance with the principles of wisdom and the progressive unfoldment of His purpose. The fact that He left His followers with an infallible Interpreter of His Writings enabled Him to outwardly permit two wives in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas but uphold a condition that enabled ‘Abdu’l-Bahá to elucidate later that the intention of the law was to enforce monogamy.
Bahá’u’lláh states that a man may employ a maiden for domestic service. This was not permissible under Shí’ih Muslim practice unless the employer entered into a marriage contract with her. Bahá’u’lláh emphasizes that the “service” referred to in this verse is solely “such as is performed by any other class of servants, be they young or old, in exchange for wages” (Q and A 30). An employer has no sexual rights over his maid. She is “free to choose a husband at whatever time she pleaseth”, for the purchase of women is forbidden (Q and A 30).
While marriage is enjoined in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh clarifies that it is not obligatory (Q and A 46). Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, also declared that “marriage is by no means an obligation”, and he affirmed that “in the last resort, it is for the individual to decide whether he wishes to lead a family life or live in a state of celibacy”. If a person has to wait a considerable period of time before finding a spouse, or ultimately must remain single, it does not mean that the individual is thereby unable to fulfil his or her life’s purpose, which is fundamentally spiritual.
In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi has commented on this provision of the law:
|“||Bahá’u’lláh has clearly stated the consent of all living parents is required for a Bahá’í marriage. This applies whether the parents are Bahá’ís or non-Bahá’ís, divorced for years or not. This great law He has laid down to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of the children for those who have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator.||”|
The Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.1.j.i.-v., summarizes the main provisions concerning the dowry. These provisions have their antecedents in the Bayán.
The dowry is to be paid by the bridegroom to the bride. It is fixed at 19 mithqáls of pure gold for city-dwellers, and 19 mithqáls of silver for village-dwellers (see note 94). Bahá’u’lláh indicates that, if, at the time of the wedding, the bridegroom is unable to pay the dowry in full, it is permissible for him to issue a promissory note to the bride (Q and A 39).
With the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh many familiar concepts, customs and institutions are redefined and take on new meaning. One of these is the dowry. The institution of dowry is a very ancient practice in many cultures and takes many forms. In some countries it is a payment made by the parents of the bride to the bridegroom; in others it is a payment made by the bridegroom to the parents of the bride, called a “bride-price”. In both such cases the amount is often quite considerable. The law of Bahá’u’lláh abolishes all such variants and converts the dowry into a symbolic act whereby the bridegroom presents a gift of a certain limited value to the bride.
95. WHOSO WISHETH TO INCREASE THIS SUM, IT IS FORBIDDEN HIM TO EXCEED THE LIMIT OF NINETY-FIVE MITHQÁLS… IF HE CONTENT HIMSELF, HOWEVER, WITH A PAYMENT OF THE LOWEST LEVEL, IT SHALL BE BETTER FOR HIM ACCORDING TO THE BOOK. (paragraph 66)
In answer to a question about the dowry, Bahá’u’lláh stated:
|“||Whatever is revealed in the Bayán, in respect to those residing in cities and villages, is approved and should be carried out. However, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas mention is made of the lowest level. The intention is nineteen mithqáls of silver, specified in the Bayán for village-dwellers. This is more pleasing unto God, provided the two parties agree. The purpose is to promote the comfort of all, and to bring about concord and union among the people. Therefore, the greater the consideration shown in these matters the better it will be… The people of Bahá must associate and deal with each other with the utmost love and sincerity. They should be mindful of the interests of all, especially the friends of God.||”|
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in one of His Tablets, summarized some of the provisions for determining the level of the dowry. The unit of payment mentioned in the extract, cited below, is the “váhid”. One váhid is equivalent to nineteen mithqáls. He stated:
|“||City-dwellers must pay in gold and village-dwellers in silver. It dependeth on the financial means at the disposal of the groom. If he is poor, he payeth one váhid; if of modest means, he payeth two váhids; if well-to-do, three váhids; if wealthy, four váhids; and if very rich, he giveth five váhids. It is, in truth, a matter for agreement between the bridegroom, the bride, and their parents. Whatever agreement is reached should be carried out.||”|
In this same Tablet, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged the believers to refer questions concerning the application of this law to the Universal House of Justice, which has “the authority to legislate”. He stressed that “it is this body which will enact laws and legislate upon secondary matters which are not explicit in the Holy Text”.
If the husband leaves without informing his wife of the date of his return, and no news of him reaches her and all trace of him is lost, Bahá’u’lláh has stated that, should the husband have been aware of the law prescribed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the wife may remarry after waiting a full year. If, however, the husband was unaware of the law, the wife must wait until news of her husband reaches her (Q and A 4).
In the event of the husband’s failure, either to return at the end of the specified period of time or to notify his wife of a delay, the wife must wait nine months, after which she is free to remarry, though it is preferable for her to wait longer (see note 147 for the Bahá’í calendar).
Bahá’u’lláh states that, in such circumstances, should news reach the wife of “her husband’s death or murder”, she must also wait nine months, prior to remarrying (Q and A 27). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in a Tablet, has further clarified that the nine months’ waiting period following news of the husband’s death applies only if the husband had been away at the time of his death, and not if he dies while at home.
Bahá’u’lláh defines “the course that is praiseworthy” as “the exercise of patience” (Q and A 4).
Bahá’u’lláh sets out “the criterion of justness” in relation to witnesses as “a good reputation among the people”. He states that it is not necessary that the witnesses should be Bahá’ís since “The testimony of all God’s servants, of whatever faith or creed, is acceptable before His Throne” (Q and A 79).
Divorce is strongly condemned in the Bahá’í Teachings. If, however, antipathy or resentment develop between the marriage partners, divorce is permissible after the lapse of one full year. During this year of patience, the husband is obliged to provide for the financial support of his wife and children, and the couple is urged to strive to reconcile their differences. Shoghi Effendi affirms that both the husband and wife “have equal right to ask for divorce” whenever either partner “feels it absolutely essential to do so”.
In Questions and Answers, Bahá’u’lláh elaborates a number of issues concerning the year of patience, its observance (Q and A 12), establishing the date of its beginning (Q and A 19 and 40), the conditions for reconciliation (Q and A 38), and the role of witnesses and the Local House of Justice (Q and A 73 and 98). In relation to the witnesses, the Universal House of Justice has clarified that in these days the duties of the witnesses in cases of divorce are performed by the Spiritual Assemblies.
The detailed provisions of the Bahá’í laws on divorce are summarized in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.2.a.-i.
This relates to a law of Islám set out in the Qur’án which decreed that under certain conditions a man could not remarry his divorced wife unless she had married and been divorced by another man. Bahá’u’lláh affirms that this is the practice which has been prohibited in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Q and A 31).
102. HE WHO HATH DIVORCED HIS WIFE MAY CHOOSE, UPON THE PASSING OF EACH MONTH, TO REMARRY HER WHEN THERE IS MUTUAL AFFECTION AND CONSENT, SO LONG AS SHE HATH NOT TAKEN ANOTHER HUSBAND … UNLESS, CLEARLY, HER CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE. (paragraph 68)
Shoghi Effendi states, in a letter written on his behalf, that the intention of “the passing of each month” is not to impose a limitation, and that it is possible for a divorced couple to remarry at any time after their divorce, so long as neither party is currently married to another person.
In a number of religious traditions and in Shí’ih Muslim practice semen has been declared ritually unclean. Bahá’u’lláh has here dispelled this concept. See also note 106 below.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to the effect of “purity and holiness, cleanliness and refinement” on the exaltation of “the human condition” and “the development of man’s inner reality”. He states: “The fact of having a pure and spotless body exercises an influence upon the spirit of man.” (See also note 74.)
The “three respects” referred to in this verse are changes in the colour, taste or smell of the water. Bahá’u’lláh provides additional guidance concerning pure water and the point at which it is considered unsuitable for use (Q and A 91).
The concept of ritual “uncleanness”, as understood and practised in some tribal societies and in the religious communities of certain earlier Dispensations, has been abolished by Bahá’u’lláh. He states that through His Revelation “all created things were immersed in the sea of purification”. (See also notes 12, 20, and 103.)
This is a reference to the arrival of Bahá’u’lláh and His companions in the Najíbíyyih Garden outside the city of Baghdád, subsequently referred to by the Bahá’ís as the Garden of Riḍván. This event, which took place thirty-one days after Naw-Rúz, in April 1863, signalized the commencement of the period during which Bahá’u’lláh declared His Mission to His companions. In a Tablet, He refers to His Declaration as “the Day of supreme felicity” and He describes the Garden of Riḍván as “the Spot from which He shed upon the whole of creation the splendours of His Name, the All-Merciful”. Bahá’u’lláh spent twelve days in this Garden prior to departing for Istanbul, the place to which He had been banished.
The Declaration of Bahá’u’lláh is celebrated annually by the twelve-day Riḍván Festival, described by Shoghi Effendi as “the holiest and most significant of all Bahá’í festivals” (see notes 138 and 140).
The Bayán, the Mother Book of the Bábí Dispensation, is the title given by the Báb to His Book of Laws, and it is also applied to the entire body of His Writings. The Persian Bayán is the major doctrinal work and principal repository of the laws ordained by the Báb. The Arabic Bayán is parallel in content but smaller and less weighty. When describing the Persian Bayán in God Passes By Shoghi Effendi indicated that it should be regarded “primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than as a code of laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future generations”.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written: “The Bayán hath been superseded by the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, except in respect of such laws as have been confirmed and mentioned in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.”
In the Tablet of Ishráqát Bahá’u’lláh, referring to the fact that the Báb had made the laws of the Bayán subject to His sanction, states that He put some of the Báb’s laws into effect “by embodying them in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in different words”, while others He set aside.
With regard to the destruction of books, the Bayán commanded the Báb’s followers to destroy all books except those that were written in vindication of the Cause and Religion of God. Bahá’u’lláh abrogates this specific law of the Bayán.
As to the nature and severity of the laws of the Bayán, Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf provides the following comment:
|“||The severe laws and injunctions revealed by the Báb can be properly appreciated and understood only when interpreted in the light of His own statements regarding the nature, purpose and character of His own Dispensation. As these statements clearly reveal, the Bábí Dispensation was essentially in the nature of a religious and indeed social revolution, and its duration had therefore to be short, but full of tragic events, of sweeping and drastic reforms. Those drastic measures enforced by the Báb and His followers were taken with the view of undermining the very foundations of Shí’ih orthodoxy, and thus paving the way for the coming of Bahá’u’lláh. To assert the independence of the new Dispensation, and to prepare also the ground for the approaching Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, the Báb had therefore to reveal very severe laws, even though most of them were never enforced. But the mere fact that He revealed them was in itself a proof of the independent character of His Dispensation and was sufficient to create such widespread agitation, and excite such opposition on the part of the clergy that led them to cause His eventual martyrdom.||”|
The Bahá’í Writings enjoin the acquisition of knowledge and the study of the arts and sciences. Bahá’ís are admonished to respect people of learning and accomplishment, and are warned against the pursuit of studies that are productive only of futile wrangling.
In His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh counsels the believers to study such sciences and arts as are “useful” and would further “the progress and advancement” of society, and He cautions against sciences which “begin with words and end with words”, the pursuit of which leads to “idle disputation”. Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, likened sciences that “begin with words and end with words” to “fruitless excursions into metaphysical hair-splittings”, and, in another letter, he explained that what Bahá’u’lláh primarily intended by such “sciences” are “those theological treatises and commentaries that encumber the human mind rather than help it to attain the truth”.
This is a traditional Jewish and Islamic title of Moses. Bahá’u’lláh states that with the coming of His Revelation “human ears have been privileged to hear what He Who conversed with God heard upon Sinai”.
The mountain where the Law was revealed by God to Moses.
This is one of the titles used in the Islamic and Bahá’í Writings to designate Jesus Christ.
Carmel, the “Vineyard of God”, is the mountain in the Holy Land where the Shrine of the Báb and the seat of the world administrative centre of the Faith are situated.
Zion is a hill in Jerusalem, the traditional site of the tomb of King David, and is symbolic of Jerusalem as a Holy City.
The “Crimson Ark” refers to the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh. His followers are designated as the “companions of the Crimson Ark”, lauded by the Báb in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá.
Francis Joseph (Franz Josef, 1830–1916), Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1869. While in the Holy Land he failed to take the opportunity to inquire about Bahá’u’lláh Who at that time was a prisoner in ‘Akká (Acre).
The Aqsá Mosque, literally, the “Most Distant” Mosque, is referred to in the Qur’án, and has become identified with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Kaiser William I (Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig, 1797–1888), the seventh king of Prussia, was acclaimed first Emperor of Germany in January 1871 at Versailles in France, following the victory of Germany over France in the Franco-Prussian War.
This is a reference to Napoleon III (1808–1873), the Emperor of the French, who was regarded by many historians as the most outstanding monarch of his day in the West.
Bahá’u’lláh addressed two Tablets to Napoleon III, in the second of which He clearly prophesied that Napoleon’s kingdom would be “thrown into confusion”, that his “empire shall pass” from his hands, and that his people would experience great “commotions”.
Within a year, Napoleon III suffered a resounding defeat, at the hands of Kaiser William I, at the Battle of Sedan in 1870. He went in exile to England, where he died three years later.
The word here translated as “Constantinople” is, in the original, “Ar-Rúm” or “Rome”. This term has generally been used in the Middle East to designate Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire, then the city of Byzantium and its empire, and later the Ottoman Empire.
This is a reference to Constantinople, now called Istanbul. Located on the Bosphorus, a strait about 31 kilometres long which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, it is the largest city and seaport of Turkey.
Constantinople was the capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1453 until 1922. During Bahá’u’lláh’s sojourn in this city, the tyrannical Sultan ‘Abdu’l-‘Azíz occupied the throne. The Ottoman Sultans were also the Caliphs, the leaders of Sunní Islám. Bahá’u’lláh anticipated the fall of the Caliphate, which was abolished in 1924.
In one of His Tablets written before the First World War (1914–1918), ‘Abdu’l-Bahá explained that Bahá’u’lláh’s reference to having seen the banks of the Rhine “covered with gore” related to the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871), and that there was more suffering to come.
In God Passes By Shoghi Effendi states that the “oppressively severe treaty” that was imposed on Germany following its defeat in the First World War “provoked ‘the lamentations’” of Berlin “which half a century before, had been ominously prophesied”.
“Tá” is the initial letter of Ṭihrán, the capital of Iran. Bahá’u’lláh has often chosen to represent certain place names by reference to their initial letter. According to the abjad system of reckoning, the numerical value of Tá is nine, which equals the numerical value of the name Bahá.
This is a reference to the birth of Bahá’u’lláh in Ṭihrán on 12 November 1817.
A reference to the Iranian province of Khurásán and neighbouring areas, which include the city of Ishqábád (Ashkhabad).
This verse establishes Ḥuqúqu’lláh, the Right of God, the offering of a fixed portion of the value of the believer’s possessions. This offering was made to Bahá’u’lláh as the Manifestation of God and then, following His Ascension, to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as the Centre of the Covenant. In His Will and Testament, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá provided that the Ḥuqúqu’lláh was to be offered “through the Guardian of the Cause of God”. There now being no Guardian, it is offered through the Universal House of Justice as the Head of the Faith. This fund is used for the promotion of the Faith of God and its interests as well as for various philanthropic purposes. The offering of the Ḥuqúqu’lláh is a spiritual obligation, the fulfilment of which has been left to the conscience of each Bahá’í. While the community is reminded of the requirements of the law of Ḥuqúq, no believer may be approached individually to pay it.
A number of items in Questions and Answers further elaborate this law. The payment of Ḥuqúqu’lláh is based on the calculation of the value of the individual’s possessions. If a person has possessions equal in value to at least nineteen mithqáls of gold (Q and A 8), it is a spiritual obligation to pay nineteen percent of the total amount, once only, as Ḥuqúqu’lláh (Q and A 89). Thereafter, whenever one’s income, after all expenses have been paid, increases the value of one’s possessions by the amount of at least nineteen mithqáls of gold, one is to pay nineteen percent of this increase, and so on for each further increase (Q and A 8, 90).
Certain categories of possessions, such as one’s residence, are exempt from the payment of Ḥuqúqu’lláh (Q and A 8, 42, 95), and specific provisions are outlined to cover cases of financial loss (Q and A 44, 45), the failure of investments to yield a profit (Q and A 102) and for the payment of Ḥuqúq in the event of the person’s death (Q and A 9, 69, 80). (In this latter case, see note 47.)
Extensive extracts from Tablets, Questions and Answers, and other Writings concerning the spiritual significance of Ḥuqúqu’lláh and the details of its application have been published in a compilation entitled Ḥuqúqu’lláh.
126. VARIOUS PETITIONS HAVE COME BEFORE OUR THRONE FROM THE BELIEVERS, CONCERNING LAWS FROM GOD… WE HAVE, IN CONSEQUENCE, REVEALED THIS HOLY TABLET AND ARRAYED IT WITH THE MANTLE OF HIS LAW THAT HAPLY THE PEOPLE MAY KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF THEIR LORD. (paragraph 98)
“For a number of years”, Bahá’u’lláh states in one of His Tablets, “petitions reached the Most Holy Presence from various lands begging for the laws of God, but We held back the Pen ere the appointed time had come.” Not until twenty years from the birth of His Prophetic Mission in the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán had elapsed did Bahá’u’lláh reveal the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the Repository of the laws of His Dispensation. Even after its revelation the Aqdas was withheld by Him for some time before it was sent to the friends in Persia. This divinely purposed delay in the revelation of the basic laws of God for this age, and the subsequent gradual implementation of their provisions, illustrate the principle of progressive revelation which applies even within the ministry of each Prophet.
This is a reference to the prison-city of ‘Akká. In the Bahá’í Writings the word “crimson” is used in several allegorical and symbolic senses. (See also note 115.)
Literally “the furthermost Lote-Tree”, translated by Shoghi Effendi as “the Tree beyond which there is no passing”. This is used as a symbol in Islám, for example in the accounts of Muḥammad’s Night Journey, to mark the point in the heavens beyond which neither men nor angels can pass in their approach to God, and thus to delimit the bounds of divine knowledge as revealed to mankind. Hence it is often used in the Bahá’í Writings to designate the Manifestation of God Himself. (See also note 164.)
The term “Mother Book” is generally used to designate the central Book of a religious Dispensation. In the Qur’án and Islamic Hadíth, the term is used to describe the Qur’án itself. In the Bábí Dispensation, the Bayán is the Mother Book, and the Kitáb-i-Aqdas is the Mother Book of the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh. Further, the Guardian in a letter written on his behalf has stated that this concept can also be used as a “collective term indicating the body of the Teachings revealed by Bahá’u’lláh”. This term is also used in a broader sense to signify the Divine Repository of Revelation.
In several of His Tablets, Bahá’u’lláh affirms the distinction between allegorical verses, which are susceptible to interpretation, and those verses that relate to such subjects as the laws and ordinances, worship and religious observances, whose meanings are evident and which demand compliance on the part of the believers.
As explained in notes 145 and 184, Bahá’u’lláh designated ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His eldest Son, as His Successor and the Interpreter of His Teachings. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His turn appointed His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi, to succeed Him as interpreter of the holy Writ and Guardian of the Cause. The interpretations of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi are considered divinely guided and are binding on the Bahá’ís.
The existence of authoritative interpretations does not preclude the individual from engaging in the study of the Teachings and thereby arriving at a personal interpretation or understanding. A clear distinction is, however, drawn in the Bahá’í Writings between authoritative interpretation and the understanding that each individual arrives at from a study of its Teachings. Individual interpretations based on a person’s understanding of the Teachings constitute the fruit of man’s rational power and may well contribute to a greater comprehension of the Faith. Such views, nevertheless, lack authority. In presenting their personal ideas, individuals are cautioned not to discard the authority of the revealed words, not to deny or contend with the authoritative interpretation, and not to engage in controversy; rather they should offer their thoughts as a contribution to knowledge, making it clear that their views are merely their own.
Bahá’u’lláh prohibits the use of the pools found in the traditional public bath-houses of Persia. In these baths it was the custom for many people to wash themselves in the same pool and for the water to be changed at infrequent intervals. Consequently, the water was discoloured, befouled and unhygienic, and had a highly offensive stench.
Most houses in Persia used to have a pool in their courtyard which served as a reservoir for water used for cleaning, washing and other domestic purposes. Since the water in the pool was stagnant and was not usually changed for weeks at a time, it tended to develop a very unpleasant odour.
Marriage with one’s stepmother is here explicitly prohibited. This prohibition also applies to marrying one’s stepfather. Where Bahá’u’lláh has expressed a law between a man and a woman it applies mutatis mutandis as between a woman and a man unless the context should make this impossible.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi confirmed that, while stepmothers are the only category of relatives mentioned in the text, this does not mean that all other unions within a family are permissible. Bahá’u’lláh states that it devolves upon the House of Justice to legislate “concerning the legitimacy or otherwise of marrying one’s relatives” (Q and A 50). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written that the more distant the blood-relationship between the couple the better, since such marriages provide the basis for the physical well-being of humanity and are conducive to fellowship among mankind.
The word translated here as “boys” has, in this context, in the Arabic original, the implication of paederasty. Shoghi Effendi has interpreted this reference as a prohibition on all homosexual relations.
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.
In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi it is stated:
|“||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. To be afflicted this way is a great burden to a conscientious soul. But through the advice and help of doctors, through a strong and determined effort, and through prayer, a soul can overcome this handicap.||”|
Bahá’u’lláh makes provision for the Universal House of Justice to determine, according to the degree of the offence, penalties for adultery and sodomy (Q and A 49).
This is an allusion to the practice of certain clerics and religious leaders of earlier Dispensations who, out of hypocrisy and affectation, and in order to win the praise of their followers, would ostentatiously mutter prayers in public places as a demonstration of their piety. Bahá’u’lláh forbids such behaviour and stresses the importance of humility and genuine devotion to God.
According to the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, the individual has a duty to write a will and testament, and is free to dispose of his estate in whatever manner he chooses (see note 38).
Bahá’u’lláh affirms that in drawing up his will “a person hath full jurisdiction over his property”, since God has permitted the individual “to deal with that which He hath bestowed upon him in whatever manner he may desire” (Q and A 69). Provisions are set out in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas for the distribution of inheritance in the case of intestacy. (See notes 38–48.)
As explained in note 33, the Greatest Name of God can take various forms, all based on the word “Bahá”. The Bahá’ís in the East have implemented this injunction of the Aqdas by heading their wills with such phrases as “O Thou Glory of the All-Glorious”, “In the name of God, the All-Glorious” or “He is the All-Glorious” and the like.
This passage establishes four great festivals of the Bahá’í year. The two designated by Bahá’u’lláh as “the two Most Great Festivals” are, first, the Festival of Riḍván, which commemorates Bahá’u’lláh’s Declaration of His Prophetic Mission in the Garden of Riḍván in Baghdád during twelve days in April/May 1863 and is referred to by Him as “the King of Festivals” and, second, the Báb’s Declaration, which occurred in May 1844 in Shíráz. The first, ninth and twelfth days of the Festival of Riḍván are Holy Days (Q and A 1), as is the day of the Declaration of the Báb.
The “two other Festivals” are the anniversaries of the births of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. In the Muslim lunar calendar these fall on consecutive days, the birth of Bahá’u’lláh on the second day of the month of Muharram 1233 A.H. (12 November 1817), and the birth of the Báb on the first day of the same month 1235 A.H. (20 October 1819), respectively. They are thus referred to as the “Twin Birthdays” and Bahá’u’lláh states that these two days are accounted as one in the sight of God (Q and A 2). He states that, should they fall within the month of fasting, the command to fast shall not apply on those days (Q and A 36). Given that the Bahá’í calendar (see notes 26 and 147) is a solar calendar, it remains for the Universal House of Justice to determine whether the Twin Holy Birthdays are to be celebrated on a solar or lunar basis.
In the Bahá’í calendar the first month of the year and the first day of each month are given the name “Bahá”. The day of Bahá of the month of Bahá is thus the Bahá’í New Year, Naw-Rúz, which was ordained by the Báb as a festival and is here confirmed by Bahá’u’lláh (see notes 26 and 147).
In addition to the seven Holy Days ordained in these passages of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Báb was also commemorated as a Holy Day in the lifetime of Bahá’u’lláh and, as a corollary to this, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá added the observance of the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, making nine Holy Days in all. Two other anniversaries which are observed, but on which work is not suspended, are the Day of the Covenant and the anniversary of the Passing of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. See the section on the Bahá’í calendar in The Bahá’í World, volume XVIII.
141. GOD HAD FORMERLY LAID UPON EACH ONE OF THE BELIEVERS THE DUTY OF OFFERING BEFORE OUR THRONE PRICELESS GIFTS FROM AMONG HIS POSSESSIONS. NOW … WE HAVE ABSOLVED THEM OF THIS OBLIGATION. (paragraph 114)
This passage abrogates a provision of the Bayán which decreed that all objects unparalleled of their kind should, upon the appearance of Him Whom God will make manifest, be rendered unto Him. The Báb explained that, since the Manifestation of God is beyond compare, whatever is peerless in its kind should rightfully be reserved for Him, unless He decrees otherwise.
With reference to attending dawn prayers in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, the Bahá’í House of Worship, Bahá’u’lláh has explained that, although the actual time specified in the Book of God is “the hour of dawn”, it is acceptable at any time from “the earliest dawn of day, between dawn and sunrise, or even up to two hours after sunrise” (Q and A 15).
Bahá’u’lláh repeatedly affirms the absolute integrity of His Writings as the Word of God. Some of His Tablets also bear the mark of one of His seals. The Bahá’í World, volume V, p. 4, contains a photograph of a number of Bahá’u’lláh’s seals.
There are many references in the Bahá’í Writings which prohibit the use of wine and other intoxicating drinks and which describe the deleterious effect of such intoxicants on the individual. In one of His Tablets, Bahá’u’lláh states:
|“||Beware lest ye exchange the Wine of God for your own wine, for it will stupefy your minds, and turn your faces away from the Countenance of God, the All-Glorious, the Peerless, the Inaccessible. Approach it not, for it hath been forbidden unto you by the behest of God, the Exalted, the Almighty.||”|
‘Abdu’l-Bahá explains that the Aqdas prohibits “both light and strong drinks”, and He states that the reason for prohibiting the use of alcoholic drinks is because “alcohol leadeth the mind astray and causeth the weakening of the body”.
Shoghi Effendi, in letters written on his behalf, states that this prohibition includes not only the consumption of wine but of “everything that deranges the mind”, and he clarifies that the use of alcohol is permitted only when it constitutes part of a medical treatment which is implemented “under the advice of a competent and conscientious physician, who may have to prescribe it for the cure of some special ailment”.
Bahá’u’lláh here alludes to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as His Successor and calls upon the believers to turn towards Him. In the Book of the Covenant, His Will and Testament, Bahá’u’lláh discloses the intention of this verse. He states: “The object of this sacred verse is none other except the Most Mighty Branch.” The “Most Mighty Branch” is one of the titles conferred by Bahá’u’lláh on ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. (See also notes 66 and 184.)
The Báb forbade His followers to ask questions of Him Whom God will make manifest (Bahá’u’lláh), unless their questions were submitted in writing and pertained to subjects worthy of His lofty station. See Selections from the Writings of the Báb.
Bahá’u’lláh removes this prohibition of the Báb. He invites the believers to ask such questions as they “need to ask”, and He cautions them to refrain from posing “idle questions” of the kind which preoccupied “the men of former times”.
The Bahá’í year, in accordance with the Badí calendar, consists of nineteen months of nineteen days each, with the addition of certain intercalary days (four in an ordinary year and five in a leap year) between the eighteenth and nineteenth months in order to adjust the calendar to the solar year. The Báb named the months after certain attributes of God. The Bahá’í New Year, Naw-Rúz, is astronomically fixed, coinciding with the March equinox (see note 26). For further details, including the names of the days of the week and the months, see the section on the Bahá’í calendar in The Bahá’í World, volume XVIII.
In the Persian Bayán, the Báb bestowed the name “Bahá” on the first month of the year (see note 139).
In the Bayán, the Báb prescribed that the deceased should be interred in a coffin made of crystal or polished stone. Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written on his behalf, explained that the significance of this provision was to show respect for the human body which “was once exalted by the immortal soul of man”.
In brief, the Bahá’í law for the burial of the dead states that it is forbidden to carry the body for more than one hour’s journey from the place of death; that the body should be wrapped in a shroud of silk or cotton, and on its finger should be placed a ring bearing the inscription “I came forth from God, and return unto Him, detached from all save Him, holding fast to His Name, the Merciful, the Compassionate”; and that the coffin should be of crystal, stone or hard fine wood. A specific Prayer for the Dead (see note 10) is ordained, to be said before interment. As affirmed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian, this law precludes cremation of the dead. The formal prayer and the ring are meant to be used for those who have attained the age of maturity, i.e. 15 years of age (Q and A 70).
With regard to the material from which the coffin is to be made, the spirit of the law is that coffins should be of as durable a material as possible. Hence, the Universal House of Justice has explained that, in addition to the materials specified in the Aqdas, there is no objection to using the hardest wood available or concrete for the casket. For the present, the Bahá’ís are left free to make their own choices in this matter.
The “Point of the Bayán” is one of the titles by which the Báb referred to Himself.
In the Bayán, the Báb specified that the body of the deceased should be wrapped in five sheets of silk or cotton. Bahá’u’lláh confirmed this provision and added the stipulation that for “those whose means are limited a single sheet of either fabric will suffice”.
When asked whether the “five sheets” mentioned in the law referred to “five full-length shrouds” or “five cloths which were hitherto customarily used”, Bahá’u’lláh responded that the intention is the “use of five cloths” (Q and A 56).
Concerning the way in which the body should be wrapped, there is nothing in the Bahá’í Writings to define how the wrapping of the body is to be done, either when “five cloths” are used or only “a single sheet”. At present, the Bahá’ís are free to use their judgement in the matter.
The intention of this command is to limit the duration of the journey to one hour’s time, irrespective of the means of transport that are chosen to carry the body to the burial site. Bahá’u’lláh affirms that the sooner the burial takes place, “the more fitting and acceptable will it be” (Q and A 16).
The place of death may be taken to encompass the city or town in which the person passes away, and therefore the one hour’s journey may be calculated from the city limits to the place of burial. The spirit of Bahá’u’lláh’s law is for the deceased to be buried near where he or she dies.
The Báb decreed certain restrictions on travel which were to remain in force until the advent of the Promised One of the Bayán, at which time the believers were instructed to set out, even if on foot, to meet Him, since the attainment of His presence was the fruit and purpose of their very existence.
Bahá’u’lláh identifies the “two Houses” as His House in Baghdád, designated by Him as the “Most Great House”, and the House of the Báb in Shíráz, both of which have been ordained by Him as sites of pilgrimage. (See Q and A 29, 32 and note 54.)
Shoghi Effendi explained that “the other sites wherein the throne of your Lord … hath been established” refers to those places where the Person of the Manifestation of God has resided. Bahá’u’lláh states that “the people of the areas where these are situated may choose to preserve either each house” wherein He resided, “or one of them” (Q and A 32). Bahá’í institutions have identified, documented, and where possible, acquired and restored a number of the historical sites associated with the Twin Manifestations.
The “Book” is the record of the revealed Word of the Manifestations of God. The “Living Book” is a reference to the Person of the Manifestation.
These words contain an allusion to a statement of the Báb in the Persian Bayán about the “Living Book”, which He identifies as Him Whom God will make manifest. In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh Himself states: “The Book of God hath been sent down in the form of this Youth.”
In this verse of the Aqdas, and again in paragraph 168 of the Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh refers to Himself as the “Living Book”. He cautions the “followers of every other Faith” against seeking “reasons in their Holy Books” for refuting the utterances of the “Living Book”. He admonishes the people not to allow what has been recorded in the “Book” to prevent them from recognising His Station and from holding fast to what is in this new Revelation.
The “tribute” that Bahá’u’lláh quotes in this passage is from the Arabic Bayán.
158. IT IS UNLAWFUL TO ENTER INTO MARRIAGE SAVE WITH A BELIEVER IN THE BAYÁN. SHOULD ONLY ONE PARTY TO A MARRIAGE EMBRACE THIS CAUSE, HIS OR HER POSSESSIONS WILL BECOME UNLAWFUL TO THE OTHER (paragraph 139)
The passage of the Bayán which Bahá’u’lláh here quotes draws the attention of the believers to the imminence of the coming of “Him Whom God will make manifest”. Its prohibition of marriage with a non-Bábí and its provision that the property of a husband or wife who embraced the Faith could not lawfully pass to the non-Bábí spouse were explicitly held in abeyance by the Báb, and were subsequently annulled by Bahá’u’lláh before they could come into effect. Bahá’u’lláh, in quoting this law, points to the fact that, in revealing it, the Báb had clearly anticipated the possibility that the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh would rise to prominence before that of the Báb Himself.
In God Passes By Shoghi Effendi points out that the Bayán “should be regarded primarily as a eulogy of the Promised One rather than a code of laws and ordinances designed to be a permanent guide to future generations”. “Designedly severe in the rules and regulations it imposed,” he continues, “revolutionizing in the principles it instilled, calculated to awaken from their age-long torpor the clergy and the people, and to administer a sudden and fatal blow to obsolete and corrupt institutions, it proclaimed, through its drastic provisions, the advent of the anticipated Day, the Day when ‘the Summoner shall summon to a stern business’, when He will ‘demolish whatever hath been before Him, even as the Apostle of God demolished the ways of those that preceded Him’” (see also note 109).
One of the titles of the Báb.
The Bahá’í Writings contain many passages that elucidate the nature of the Manifestation and His relationship to God. Bahá’u’lláh underlines the unique and transcendent nature of the Godhead. He explains that “since there can be no tie of direct intercourse to bind the one true God with His creation” God ordains that “in every age and dispensation a pure and stainless Soul be made manifest in the kingdoms of earth and heaven”. This “mysterious and ethereal Being”, the Manifestation of God, has a human nature which pertains to “the world of matter” and a spiritual nature “born of the substance of God Himself”. He is also endowed with a “double station”:
|“||The first station, which is related to His innermost reality, representeth Him as One Whose voice is the voice of God Himself… The second station is the human station, exemplified by the following verses: “I am but a man like you.” “Say, praise be to my Lord! Am I more than a man, an apostle?”||”|
Bahá’u’lláh also affirms that, in the spiritual realm, there is an “essential unity” between all the Manifestations of God. They all reveal the “Beauty of God”, manifest His names and attributes, and give utterance to His Revelation. In this regard, He states:
|“||Were any of the all-embracing Manifestations of God to declare: “I am God”, He, verily, speaketh the truth, and no doubt attacheth thereto. For it hath been repeatedly demonstrated that through their Revelation, their attributes and names, the Revelation of God, His names and His attributes, are made manifest in the world…||”|
While the Manifestations reveal the names and attributes of God and are the means by which humanity has access to the knowledge of God and His Revelation, Shoghi Effendi states that the Manifestations should “never … be identified with that invisible Reality, the Essence of Divinity itself”. In relation to Bahá’u’lláh, the Guardian wrote that the “human temple that has been the vehicle of so overpowering a Revelation” is not to be identified with the “Reality” of God.
Concerning the uniqueness of Bahá’u’lláh’s station and the greatness of His Revelation, Shoghi Effendi affirms that the prophetic statements concerning the “Day of God”, found in the Sacred Scriptures of past Dispensations, are fulfilled by the advent of Bahá’u’lláh:
|“||To Israel He was neither more nor less than the incarnation of the “Everlasting Father”, the “Lord of Hosts” come down “with ten thousands of saints”; to Christendom Christ returned “in the glory of the Father”; to Shí’ah Islám the return of the Imám Ḥusayn; to Sunní Islám the descent of the “Spirit of God” (Jesus Christ); to the Zoroastrians the promised Sháh-Bahrám; to the Hindus the reincarnation of Krishna; to the Buddhists the fifth Buddha.||”|
Bahá’u’lláh describes the station of “Divinity” which He shares with all the Manifestations of God as
|“||…the station in which one dieth to himself and liveth in God. Divinity, whenever I mention it, indicateth My complete and absolute self-effacement. This is the station in which I have no control over mine own weal or woe nor over my life nor over my resurrection.||”|
And, regarding His own relationship to God, He testifies:
|“||When I contemplate, O my God, the relationship that bindeth me to Thee, I am moved to proclaim to all created things “verily I am God”; and when I consider my own self, lo, I find it coarser than clay!||”|
Zakát is referred to in the Qur’án as a regular charity binding upon Muslims. In due course the concept evolved into a form of alms-tax which imposed the obligation to give a fixed portion of certain categories of income, beyond specified limits, for the relief of the poor, for various charitable purposes, and to aid the Faith of God. The limit 235 of exemption varied for different commodities, as did the percentage payable on the portion assessable.
Bahá’u’lláh states that the Bahá’í law of Zakát follows “what hath been revealed in the Qur’án” (Q and A 107). Since such issues as the limits for exemption, the categories of income concerned, the frequency of payments, and the scale of rates for the various categories of Zakát are not mentioned in the Qur’án, these matters will have to be set forth in the future by the Universal House of Justice. Shoghi Effendi has indicated that pending such legislation the believers should, according to their means and possibilities, make regular contributions to the Bahá’í Fund.
In a Tablet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá expounds the meaning of this verse. He states that “mendicancy is forbidden and that giving charity to people who take up begging as their profession is also prohibited”. He further points out in that same Tablet: “The object is to uproot mendicancy altogether. However, if a person is incapable of earning a living, is stricken by dire poverty or becometh helpless, then it is incumbent on the wealthy or the Deputies to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence… By ‘Deputies’ is meant the representatives of the people, that is to say the members of the House of Justice.”
The prohibition against giving charity to people who beg does not preclude individuals and Spiritual Assemblies from extending financial assistance to the poor and needy or from providing them with opportunities to acquire such skills as would enable them to earn a livelihood (see note 56).
Bahá’u’lláh abrogates the law of the Persian Bayán concerning the payment of a fine in reparation for causing sadness to one’s neighbour.
The “sacred Lote-Tree” is a reference to the Sadratu’l-Muntahá, the “Tree beyond which there is no passing” (see note 128). It is used here symbolically to designate Bahá’u’lláh.
Bahá’u’lláh states that the essential “requisite” for reciting “the verses of God” is the “eagerness and love” of the believers to “read the Word of God” (Q and A 68).
With regard to the definition of “verses of God”, Bahá’u’lláh states that it refers to “all that hath been sent down from the Heaven of Divine Utterance”. Shoghi Effendi, in a letter written to one of the believers in the East, has clarified that the term “verses of God” does not include the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; he has likewise indicated that this term does not apply to his own writings.
Bahá’u’lláh confirms the injunction in the Arabic Bayán regarding the renewal, every nineteen years, of the furnishings of one’s home, provided one is able to do so. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá relates this ordinance to the promotion of refinement and cleanliness. He explains that the purpose of the law is that one should change those furnishings that become old, lose their lustre and provoke repugnance. It does not apply to such things as rare or treasured articles, antiques or jewellery.
The believers are exhorted in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas to bathe regularly, to wear clean clothes and generally to be the essence of cleanliness and refinement. The Synopsis and Codification, section IV.D.3.y.i.-vii., summarizes the relevant provisions. In relation to the washing of the feet, Bahá’u’lláh states that it is preferable to use warm water; however, washing in cold water is also permissible (Q and A 97).
These provisions have their antecedent in the Persian Bayán. The Báb forbade the use of pulpits for the delivery of sermons and the reading of the Text. He specified, instead, that to enable all to hear the Word of God clearly, a chair for the speaker should be placed upon a platform.
In comments on this law, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi have made it clear that in the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár (where sermons are prohibited and only the words of Holy Scripture may be read) the reader may stand or sit, and if necessary to be better heard, may use a low moveable platform, but that no pulpit is permitted. In the case of meetings in places other than the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, it is also permissible for the reader or speaker to sit or stand, and to use a platform. In one of His Tablets, when reiterating the prohibition of the use of pulpits in any location, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stressed that when Bahá’ís deliver their speeches in gatherings, they are to do so in an attitude of utmost humility and self-abnegation.
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.
This prohibition of the use of opium is reiterated by Bahá’u’lláh in the final paragraph of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. In this connection, Shoghi Effendi stated that one of the requirements for “a chaste and holy life” is “total abstinence … from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs”. Heroin, hashish and other derivatives of cannabis such as marijuana, as well as hallucinogenic agents such as LSD, peyote and similar substances, are regarded as falling under this prohibition.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written:
|“||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. No greater harm can be conceived than that which opium inflicteth. Fortunate are they who never even speak the name of it; then think how wretched is the user.
O ye lovers of God! In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force, constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned. It is, however, mandatory that the use of opium be prevented by any means whatsoever, that perchance the human race may be delivered from this most powerful of plagues. And otherwise, woe and misery to whoso falleth short of his duty to his Lord.
In one of His Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated concerning opium: “the user, the buyer and the seller are all deprived of the bounty and grace of God”.
In yet another Tablet, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has written:
|“||Regarding hashish you have pointed out that some Persians have become habituated to its use. Gracious God! This is the worst of all intoxicants, and its prohibition is explicitly revealed. Its use causeth the disintegration of thought and the complete torpor of the soul. How could anyone seek the fruit of the infernal tree, and by partaking of it, be led to exemplify the qualities of a monster? How could one use this forbidden drug, and thus deprive himself of the blessings of the All-Merciful? Alcohol consumeth the mind and causeth man to commit acts of absurdity, but this opium, this foul fruit of the infernal tree, and this wicked hashish extinguish the mind, freeze the spirit, petrify the soul, waste the body and leave man frustrated and lost.||”|
It should be noted that the above prohibition against taking certain classes of drugs does not forbid their use when prescribed by qualified physicians as part of a medical treatment.
Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í (1753–1831), who was the founder of the Shaykhí School and the first of the “twin luminaries that heralded the advent of the Faith of the Báb”, prophesied that at the appearance of the Promised One all things would be reversed, the last would be first, the first last. Bahá’u’lláh in one of His Tablets refers to the “symbol and allusion” of the “mystery of the Great Reversal in the Sign of the Sovereign”. He states: “Through this reversal He hath caused the exalted to be abased and the abased to be exalted”, and He recalls that “in the days of Jesus, it was those who were distinguished for their learning, the men of letters and religion, who denied Him, whilst humble fishermen made haste to gain admittance into the Kingdom” (see also note 172). For additional information about Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í see The Dawn-Breakers, chapters 1 and 10.
In his writings, Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í placed great emphasis on the Arabic letter “Váv”. In The Dawn-Breakers, Nabíl states that this letter “symbolized for the Báb the advent of a new cycle of Divine Revelation, and has since been alluded to by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in such passages as ‘the mystery of the Great Reversal’ and ‘the Sign of the Sovereign’”.
The name for the letter “Váv” consists of three letters: Váv, Alif, Váv. According to the abjad reckoning, the numerical value of each of these letters is 6, 1 and 6 respectively. Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf to one of the believers in the East provides an interpretation of this verse of the Aqdas. He states that the “Upright Alif” refers to the advent of the Báb. The first letter with its value of six, which comes before the Alif, is a symbol of earlier Dispensations and Manifestations which predate the Báb, while the third letter, which also has a numerical value of six, stands for Bahá’u’lláh’s supreme Revelation which was made manifest after the Alif.
Bahá’u’lláh confirms an injunction contained in the Bayán which makes it unlawful to carry arms, unless it is necessary to do so. With regard to circumstances under which the bearing of arms might be “essential” for an individual, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gives permission to a believer for self-protection in a dangerous environment. 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. There are a number of other situations in which weapons are needed and can be legitimately used; for instance, in countries where people hunt for their food and clothing, and in such sports as archery, marksmanship, and fencing.
On the societal level, the principle of collective security enunciated by Bahá’u’lláh (see Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, CXVII) and elaborated by Shoghi Effendi (see the Guardian’s letters in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh) does not presuppose the abolition of the use of force, but prescribes “a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice”, and which provides for the existence of an international peace-keeping force that “will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth”. In the Tablet of Bishárát, Bahá’u’lláh expresses the hope that “weapons of war throughout the world may be converted into instruments of reconstruction and that strife and conflict may be removed from the midst of men”.
In another Tablet Bahá’u’lláh stresses the importance of fellowship with the followers of all religions; He also states that “the law of holy war hath been blotted out from the Book”.
According to Islamic practice, the wearing of silk by men was generally forbidden, except in times of holy war. This prohibition, which was not based on the verses of the Qur’án, was abrogated by the Báb.
Many rules about dress had their origins in the laws and traditional practices of the world’s religions. For example, the Shí’ih clergy adopted for themselves a distinctive headdress and robes and, at one time, forbade the people to adopt European attire. Muslim practice, in its desire to emulate the custom of the Prophet, also introduced a number of restrictions with regard to the trim of the moustache and the length of the beard.
Bahá’u’lláh removed such limitations on one’s apparel and beard. He leaves such matters to the “discretion” of the individual, and at the same time calls upon the believers not to transgress the bounds of propriety and to exercise moderation in all that pertains to dress.
Káf and Rá are the first two consonants of Kirmán, the name of a city and province of Iran.
This passage is a reference to the intrigues of a group of Azalís, followers of Mírzá Yaḥyá (see note 190), associated with the city of Kirmán. They include Mullá Ja’far, his son Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Rúhí and Mírzá Áqá Khán-i-Kirmání (both sons-in-law of Mírzá Yaḥyá), as well as Mírzá Aḥmad-i-Kirmání. They not only sought to undermine the Faith, but involved themselves in political intrigues which culminated in the assassination of Náṣiri’d-Dín Sháh.
Shaykh Muḥammad-?asan, one of the leading exponents of Shí’ih Islám, rejected the Báb. The author of voluminous writings on Shí’ih jurisprudence, he is reported to have died around 1850.
Nabíl, in The Dawn-Breakers, describes the encounter that took place in Najaf between Mullá ‘Alíy-i-Bastamí, one of the Letters of the Living, and Shaykh Muḥammad-?asan. During the meeting, Mullá ‘Alí announced the manifestation of the Báb and extolled the potency of His Revelation. At the instigation of the shaykh, Mullá ‘Alí was forthwith pronounced a heretic and expelled from the assembly. He was put on trial, transported to Istanbul, and condemned to hard labour.
This is an allusion to Mullá Muḥammad Ja’far Gandum-Pák-Kun, the first person in Iṣfahán to accept the Faith of the Báb. He is mentioned in the Persian Bayán and praised as one who “donned the robe of discipleship”. In The Dawn-Breakers, Nabíl describes the unreserved acceptance of the Message by the “sifter of wheat” and his zealous advocacy of the new Revelation. He joined the company of the defenders of the Fort of Shaykh Tabarsí and perished during that siege.
Bahá’u’lláh cautions people “of insight” not to allow their interpretations of the Holy Scriptures to prevent them from recognizing the Manifestation of God. Followers of each religion have tended to allow their devotion to its Founder to cause them to perceive His Revelation as the final Word of God and to deny the possibility of the appearance of any subsequent Prophet. This has been the case of Judaism, Christianity and Islám. Bahá’u’lláh denies the validity of this concept of finality both in relation to past Dispensations and to His own. With regard to Muslims, He wrote in the Kitáb-i-Íqán that the “people of the Qur’án … have allowed the words ‘Seal of the Prophets’ to veil their eyes”, “to obscure their understanding, and deprive them of the grace of all His manifold bounties”. He affirms that “this theme hath … been a sore test unto all mankind”, and laments the fate of “those who, clinging unto these words, have disbelieved in Him Who is their true Revealer”. The Báb refers to this same theme when He warns: “Let not names shut you out as by a veil from Him Who is their Lord, even the name Prophet, for such a name is but a creation of His utterance.”
The word here translated “Vicegerency” is, in the original Arabic, “viláyat”, which has a range of meanings including “vicegerency”, “guardianship”, “protectorship” and “successorship”. It is used in relation to God Himself, to His Manifestation, or to those who are the appointed Successors of a Manifestation.
In this verse of the Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh warns against allowing such concepts to blind one to the “sovereignty” of the new Divine Manifestation, the true “Vicegerent of God”.
Ḥájí Mírzá Muḥammad Karím Khán-i-Kirmání (1810- circa 1873) was the self-appointed leader of the Shaykhí community after the death of Siyyid Kázim, who was the appointed successor to Shaykh Aḥmad-i-Ahsá’í (see notes 171 and 172). He dedicated himself to the promotion of the teachings of Shaykh Aḥmad. The opinions he expressed became the subject of controversy among his supporters and opponents alike.
Regarded as one of the leading savants and prolific authors of his age, he composed numerous books and epistles in the various fields of learning that were cultivated in those times. He actively opposed both the Báb and Bahá’u’lláh, and used his treatises to attack the Báb and His Teachings. In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, Bahá’u’lláh condemns the tone and content of his writings and singles out for criticism one of his works which contains negative allusions to the Báb. Shoghi Effendi describes him as “inordinately ambitious and hypocritical” and describes how he “at the special request of the Sháh had in a treatise viciously attacked the new Faith and its doctrines”.
Bahá’u’lláh eulogizes the learned among His followers. In the Book of His Covenant, He wrote: “Blessed are the rulers and learned among the people of Bahá.” Referring to this statement, Shoghi Effendi has written:
|“||In this holy cycle the “learned” are, on the one hand, the Hands of the Cause of God, and, on the other, the teachers and diffusers of His Teachings who do not rank as Hands, but who have attained an eminent position in the teaching work. As to the “rulers” they refer to the members of the Local, National and International Houses of Justice. The duties of each of these souls will be determined in the future.||”|
The Hands of the Cause of God were individuals appointed by Bahá’u’lláh and charged with various duties, especially those of protecting and propagating His Faith. In Memorials of the Faithful ‘Abdu’l-Bahá referred to other outstanding believers as Hands of the Cause, and in His Will and Testament He included a provision calling upon the Guardian of the Faith to appoint Hands of the Cause at his discretion. Shoghi Effendi first raised posthumously a number of the believers to the rank of Hands of the Cause, and during the latter years of his life appointed a total of 32 believers from all continents to this position. In the period between the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 and the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963, the Hands of the Cause directed the affairs of the Faith in their capacity as Chief Stewards of Bahá’u’lláh’s embryonic World Commonwealth (see note 67). In November 1964, the Universal House of Justice determined that it could not legislate to make it possible to appoint Hands of the Cause. Instead, by a decision of the House of Justice in 1968, the functions of the Hands of the Cause in relation to protecting and propagating the Faith were extended into the future by the creation of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, and in 1973 through the establishment of the International Teaching Centre, which has its seat in the Holy Land.
The Universal House of Justice appoints the Counsellor members of the International Teaching Centre and the Continental Counsellors. Members of Auxiliary Boards are appointed by the Continental Counsellors. All these individuals fall within the definition of the “learned” given by Shoghi Effendi in the statement quoted above.
Bahá’u’lláh invests ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with the right of interpreting His holy Writ (see also note 145).
In this verse and the ones which immediately follow it, Bahá’u’lláh confronts one of the reasons some of the Bábís rejected His claim to be the Promised One of the Bayán. Their rejection was based on a Tablet addressed by the Báb to “Him Who will be made manifest” on the reverse side of which the Báb had written: “May the glances of Him Whom God shall make manifest illumine this letter at the primary school.” This Tablet is published in Selections from the Writings of the Báb.
These Bábís maintained that, since Bahá’u’lláh was two years older than the Báb, it was not possible for Him to receive this Tablet “at the primary school”.
Bahá’u’lláh here explains that the reference is to events transpiring in the spiritual worlds beyond this plane of existence.
In His Tablet addressed to “Him Who will be made manifest”, the Báb characterizes the Bayán as an offering from Him to Bahá’u’lláh. See Selections from the Writings of the Báb.
Reference to the followers of the Báb.
Shoghi Effendi, in letters written on his behalf, has explained the significance of the “letters B and E”. They constitute the word “Be”, which, he states, “means the creative Power of God Who through His command causes all things to come into being” and “the power of the Manifestation of God, His great spiritual creative force”.
The imperative “Be” in the original Arabic is the word “kun”, consisting of the two letters “káf” and “nún”. They have been translated by Shoghi Effendi in the above manner. This word has been used in the Qur’án as God’s bidding calling creation into being.
In the Persian Bayán, the Báb stated: “Well is it with him who fixeth his gaze upon the Order of Bahá’u’lláh, and rendereth thanks unto his Lord. For He will assuredly be made manifest. God hath indeed irrevocably ordained it in the Bayán.” Shoghi Effendi identifies this “Order” with the System Bahá’u’lláh envisages in the Aqdas, in which He testifies to its revolutionizing effect on the life of humanity and reveals the laws and principles which govern its operation.
The features of the “new World Order” are delineated in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and in the letters of Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. The institutions of the present-day Bahá’í Administrative Order, which constitute the “structural basis” of Bahá’u’lláh’s World Order, will mature and evolve into the Bahá’í World Commonwealth. In this regard, Shoghi Effendi affirms that the Administrative Order “will, as its component parts, its organic institutions, begin to function with efficiency and vigour, assert its claim and demonstrate its capacity to be regarded not only as the nucleus but the very pattern of the New World Order destined to embrace in the fullness of time the whole of mankind”.
For additional information on the evolution of this new World Order, see, for example, the letters of Shoghi Effendi published in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh.
This is a reference to Mírzá Yaḥyá, known as Subh-i-Azal (Morning of Eternity), a younger half-brother of Bahá’u’lláh, who arose against Him and opposed His Cause. Mírzá Yaḥyá was nominated by the Báb to serve as a figure-head for the Bábí community pending the imminent manifestation of the Promised One. At the instigation of Siyyid Muḥammad-i-Iṣfahání (see note 192), Mírzá Yaḥyá betrayed the trust of the Báb, claimed to be His successor, and intrigued against Bahá’u’lláh, even attempting to have Him murdered. When Bahá’u’lláh formally declared His Mission to him in Adrianople, Mírzá Yaḥyá responded by going to the length of putting forward his own claim to be the recipient of an independent Revelation. His pretensions were eventually rejected by all but a few, who became known as Azalís (see note 177). He is described by Shoghi Effendi as the “Arch-Breaker of the Covenant of the Báb” (see God Passes By, chapter X).
In God Passes By, Shoghi Effendi refers to the fact that Bahá’u’lláh, Who was thirteen years older than Mírzá Yaḥyá, had counselled him and watched over his early youth and manhood.
A reference to Siyyid Muḥammad-i-Iṣfahání, who is described by Shoghi Effendi as the “Antichrist of the Bahá’í Revelation”. He was a man of corrupt character and great personal ambition who induced Mírzá Yaḥyá to oppose Bahá’u’lláh and to claim prophethood for himself (see note 190). Although he was an adherent of Mírzá Yaḥyá, Siyyid Muḥammad was exiled with Bahá’u’lláh to ‘Akká. He continued to agitate and plot against Bahá’u’lláh. In describing the circumstances of his death, Shoghi Effendi has written in God Passes By:
|“||A fresh danger now clearly threatened the life of Bahá’u’lláh. Though He Himself had stringently forbidden His followers, on several occasions, both verbally and in writing, any retaliatory acts against their tormentors, and had even sent back to Beirut an irresponsible Arab convert, who had meditated avenging the wrongs suffered by his beloved Leader, seven of the companions clandestinely sought out and slew three of their persecutors, among whom were Siyyid Muḥammad and Áqá Ján.
The consternation that seized an already oppressed community was indescribable. Bahá’u’lláh’s indignation knew no bounds. “Were We”, He thus voices His emotions, in a Tablet revealed shortly after this act had been committed, “to make mention of what befell Us, the heavens would be rent asunder and the mountains would crumble.” “My captivity”, He wrote on another occasion, “cannot harm Me. That which can harm Me is the conduct of those who love Me, who claim to be related to Me, and yet perpetrate what causeth My heart and My pen to groan.”
Bahá’u’lláh enjoins the adoption of a universal language and script. His Writings envisage two stages in this process. The first stage is to consist of the selection of an existing language or an invented one which would then be taught in all the schools of the world as an auxiliary to the mother tongues. The governments of the world through their parliaments are called upon to effect this momentous enactment. The second stage, in the distant future, would be the eventual adoption of one single language and common script for all on earth.
The first sign of the coming of age of humanity referred to in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh is the emergence of a science which is described as that “divine philosophy” which will include the discovery of a radical approach to the transmutation of elements. This is an indication of the splendours of the future stupendous expansion of knowledge.
Concerning the “second” sign which Bahá’u’lláh indicates to have been revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Shoghi Effendi states that Bahá’u’lláh, “…in His Most Holy Book, has enjoined the selection of a single language and the adoption of a common script for all on earth to use, an injunction which, when carried out, would, as He Himself affirms in that Book, be one of the signs of the ‘coming of age of the human race’”.
Further insight into this process of mankind’s coming of age and proceeding to maturity is provided by the following statement of Bahá’u’lláh:
|“||One of the signs of the maturity of the world is that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship. Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight. That day will be the day whereon wisdom will be manifested among mankind.||”|
The coming of age of the human race has been associated by Shoghi Effendi with the unification of the whole of mankind, the establishment of a world commonwealth, and an unprecedented stimulus to “the intellectual, the moral and spiritual life of the entire human race”.