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“Matters of State” or “administrative matters”: the scope of the House of Justice

Posted by Sen on November 5, 2011


[Updated May 2012]
In 2008, I posted an entry about the translation of the Eighth Ishraq, which is the eighth section of one of Baha’u’llah’s shorter works, the Ishraqat or Splendours. The posting explained why I thought that the 1978 translation was incorrect where it says “All matters of State (‘umuur-e siyaasiyyah) should be referred to the House of Justice.” The earlier translation by Ali Kuli Khan, “Administrative affairs are all in charge of the House of Justice, and devotional acts must be observed according as they are revealed in the Book” was, I thought, more accurate, and more consistent with other works by Abdu’l-Baha and Baha’u’llah.

A new archival discovery by Steve Cooney, a Bahai scholar living in New Zealand, has made that posting redundant, for he found a translation of part of the Tablet of Ishraqat, by Shoghi Effendi, published in The Dawn: a monthly Bahai Journal of Burma, Vol. II, No. 7, March, 1925. The relevant section reads:

The eighth Ishraq: This passage, now written by the Pen of Glory, is accounted as part of the Most Holy Book. The men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people in every State. They in truth are the trustees of God amongst His servants, and the manifestation of His authority in His realms. O people of God! The educator of mankind is Justice, for it rests upon the twin pillars of Reward and Punishment – pillar that are the very source of life to the world. Inasmuch as for every day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the house of Justice, that the members thereof may act according to the needs and requirements of the time. They that for the sake of God arise to serve His Cause are recipients of Divine Inspiration. It is incumbent upon all to be obedient unto them. Administrative affairs should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship must be observed according as they are revealed by God in His Book. O peole [people] of Baha! Ye are the manifestations of the love of God and the daysprings of His loving kindness. Defile not your tongue with the cursing and reviling of any soul, and guard your eyes against that which is not seemly. Show forth that which is within you, if it be well received your end is gained, if not to protest is vain. Leave him to himself, and turn unto the Lord, the Protector, the Self-subsisting. Be ye not the cause of grief, much less of discord and strife. The hope is cherished that ye may obtain true education under the shadow of the Tree of Divine Providence, and act in accordance with that which God desireth. Ye are all leaves of one tree, and drops of one ocean.

In addition, Shoghi Effendi’s translation of the parallel text in the Tablet of Bisharat (the 13th Bisharat) reads:

Administrative affairs are all in charge of the House of Justice; but acts of worship must be observed according as they are revealed in the Book.
(The Baha’i World, Volume 11 (1946-1950), page 67)

Shoghi Effendi’s translation will naturally supersede that by Habib Taherzadeh, and the question of whether Baha’u’llah really said that matters of state should be referred to the House of Justice — and what he might have meant by it if he did say this — can be consigned to the dustbin. Nevertheless, I’ve left the version of this entry from April 12, 2008, as amended to 2010, below, for those who wish to trace the reasoning behind the translation options. While Shoghi Effendi’s newly discovered translation matches mine, there is no guarantee that Shoghi Effendi followed the same reasoning as I have.

A word should be said about Shoghi Effendi’s translation “The men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people in every State.” “State” is used in at least two senses: it can refer to a government, or a country. The capitalisation here might make one think that “government” is meant. However when we consider that Baha’u’llah does not refer to national Houses of Justice — which were first mentioned in Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament — it is evident that the meaning must be that the affairs of the people, in whatever country they live, fall under the authority of the Universal House of Justice.

“The people” also requires a note, for in the Bahai Writings and in Shoghi Effendi’s translations, it is used to refer to a religious community or an ethnicity. I have commented in more detail on the meaning of mellat or “people” in 19th century Persian below. Suffice to say that while mellat can mean people, it has the connotation of the members a specific religious community. In this case, it must refer to the Bahai community, for the Bahai community by definition is the one led by the House of Justice. Incidentally, this use of “people” to refer to a religious community casts light on the pair “peoples and nations,” or vice versa, which is so common in the Bahai Writings. In some cases it may be rhetorical parallelism, and in some cases it refers to ethnicities and nationalities, but it may also be a reference to two different aspects of human society, the religious and the political.

~~~~~~~~

The 2008 version, now redundant

In the 1978 translation of Tablets of Baha’u’llah by Habib Taherzadeh “with the assistance of a committee,” the eighth section of the Tablet of Ishraqaat says:

“This passage, now written by the Pen of Glory, is accounted as part of the Most Holy Book: The men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people (‘umuur-e mellat). They, in truth, are the Trustees of God among His servants and the daysprings of authority in His countries.
O people of God! That which traineth the world is Justice, for it is upheld by two pillars, reward and punishment. These two pillars are the sources of life to the world. Inasmuch as for each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the House of Justice that the members thereof may act according to the needs and requirements of the time. They that, for the sake of God, arise to serve His Cause, are the recipients of divine inspiration from the unseen Kingdom. It is incumbent upon all to be obedient unto them. All matters of State (‘umuur-e siyaasiyyah) should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship (`ibaadaat) must be observed according to that which God hath revealed in His Book.” [1]

There is a previous translation by Ali Kuli Khan, made in 1906 or earlier,[2] in which the italicised passages read:

The affairs of the people are in charge of the men of the House of Justice of God … Administrative affairs are all in charge of the House of Justice, and devotional acts must be observed according as they are revealed in the Book.”

Fareed’s more or less contemporaneous translation (published in 1907) says “The affairs of the people demand upon [sic. = devolve?] the men of the House of justice …Administrative affairs are all referable to the House of Justice …”

Ali Kuli Khan’s translation was included in the widely used compilation of Bahai scriptures, Baha’i World Faith (p 200), and was therefore the text used in the English-speaking Bahai communities during the Guardian’s ministry and later, until Tablets of Baha’u’llah was published in 1978. Both Ali Kuli Khan’s translation and Taherzadeh’s are officially endorsed translations, and it must be supposed that the change was regarded as an improvement. For various reasons it appears to me that Ali Kuli Khan’s reading is preferable.

In the first place, there are contextual arguments. How are we to square Taherzadeh’s translation with the context of the Ishraqat itself, in which the “sovereigns of the world” are described as “manifestations of the power of God and the daysprings of His authority.” How could Baha’u’llah place the affairs of the people in the hands of the House of Justice, while making governments responsible for the appointment of officials and charging them to “fully acquaint themselves with the conditions of those they govern?” How could it be squared with the wider context of Baha’u’llah’s writings, which from the early Kitab-e Iqan until Epistle to the Son of the Wolf (See e.g., pages 91-2.) teach that God has granted temporal power to temporal rulers, and reserves human hearts for Himself:

“By the righteousness of God! It is not Our wish to lay hands on your kingdoms. Our mission is to seize and possess the hearts of men.”
(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 49)

“Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. Out of the whole world He hath chosen for Himself the hearts of men — hearts which the hosts of revelation and of utterance can subdue. Thus hath it been ordained by the Fingers of Baha, upon the Tablet of God’s irrevocable decree, by the behest of Him Who is the Supreme Ordainer, the All-Knowing.”
(Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 279)

To support Taherzadeh’s translation we would have to suppose that in the midst of a career, and in the midst of a Tablet, Baha’u’llah changed one of his fundamental beliefs, and then quickly changed back again, for in the ninth Ishraq Baha’u’llah again refers to “the sovereigns and rulers on earth” as “the manifestations of the power of God.”

In the second place, we have some specific translation issues. The first critical phrase is ‘umuur-e mellat. The translation ‘affairs of the people’ is good, if we do not jump to conclusions about the identity of ‘the people.’ In 19th century Persian, Mulk o Mellat is the equivalent of our term ‘Church and State’ (Mulk is state and Mellat is Church; see for example Steingass’s dictionary), while according to Steingass millat on its own means “religion, faith, creed” and also “a nation, or people.” The phrase millati baizā’ means the people of Muhammad, millati masīhīya is the Christian religion. So the word mellat can mean people, but with the connotation of the members a specific religious community (while in other contexts it is used to contrast the people to the government). In modern Arabic and Persian usage, it is also used for the nation-state, and the affairs of a state are naturally those of a government, but the Middle East of Baha’u’llah’s time did not have any nation-states. The word has shifted its meaning in the same way as a ‘nation’ in English has shifted from meaning ‘a people’ to ‘a state’ in the course of the 20th century.

In this passage in the Ishraqat, the affairs of ‘the people’ (singular) are put in the hands of the members of the House of Justice who are “daysprings of authority in His countries” (Bilaadihu, a plural: it can also mean regions). The ‘people’ are therefore found in more than one country, and I think it reasonable to read ‘God’s countries’ as a synonym for the whole of creation. A reader of the time would surely have concluded that ‘the people’ are the Bahais as a worldwide religious community, whose affairs are in the hands of the House of Justice and, by implication, not in the hands of the ulama, as in the case of the Muslim mellat, or of the patriarchs and priests, as in the case of the Greek orthodox mellat, and also not in the hands of any individual: the leadership of the religious community, for this ‘people,’ is to be collective. Baha’u’llah is also rejecting anarchism in religion: some authorised leadership and direction is required.

Taherzadeh’s translation then says “O people of God,” which is unduly general, for the original says yaa hezb-e Allah, ‘O party of God.’ It refers specifically to the Bahais as a community, and is commonly used in this sense in the Bahai writings. The authority of the Houses of Justice that follows – to determine rewards and punishments in accordance with the needs of the time – is an authority within the sphere of the mellat, within the hezb-e Allah, it is authority over the religious affairs of the Bahai community alone.

Taherzadeh’s translation continues: “All matters of State (’umuur-e siyaasiyyah) should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship (`ibaadaat) must be observed according to that which God hath revealed in His Book.” The crux of the matter is whether ‘umuur-e siyaasiyyah means ‘administrative matters’ as Ali Kuli Khan says, or ‘matters of State’ or something like that. There is no reference to a ‘state’ in the original, and the House of Justice at this time existed only at the local level and was envisioned at an international level, so Taherzadeh’s translation as it stands is anachronistic. It was Abdu’l-Baha who concluded that national level Houses of Justice would be required, and so created the possibility for the Baha’is to confuse them with national governments. In Baha’u’llah’s time there was no such possibility. However an argument could be made that siyaasiyyah here means civil politics at any level, as it does in some places in Abdu’l-Baha’s Sermon on the Art of Governance and elsewhere in the Bahai writings. Moreover Ali Kuli Khan’s ‘administrative matters’ seems too broad: it does not reflect either the specific context here, which refers to reward and punishment, nor the normal connotations that siyaasiyyah has from its etymology and use.

Siyaasiyyah can mean leadership and civil governance, but it also refers to sentencing and sanctions. In the latter case it refers specifically to those punishments that are designed to be appropriate to the place and time, in contrast to stipulated punishments that are specified in the Islamic Shariah and may not be changed by the judge or the ruler, such as amputation for theft, stoning for adultery, death for highway robbery, and so on. In English usage, specifying rewards and punishments would normally be regarded as a legislative, rather than administrative, activity: siyaasiyyah is not simply keeping records and collecting funds, but shaping laws to achieve a desired virtuous order. The Arabic word derives from a root referring to the training of horses or camels. The most appropriate short translation, in the context of the Ishraqat appears to me to be ‘wise administration’, or ‘administrative matters,’ or simply a literal translation: ‘matters of policy.’ None of these carry the desired connotation of setting punishments, which the reader must infer from the context.

In this sentence of the eighth Ishraq, matters of siyaasiyyah are contrasted to matters of `ibaadaat, acts of worship. Acts of worship constitute one of the two main categories of Islamic law. They are matters that primarily concern the individual’s relations with God, although congregational prayer, for instance, incidentally involves a relationship between the believer and the prayer leader. The other main category of Islamic law is mu`aamalaat, transactions or social relations. The authority of the House of Justice in matters of policy is thus limited on two sides: it refers to the affairs of the religious community only, and it does not extend to making rulings about acts of worship. This contrasts with the situation in Islam, in which a mufti or mujtahid may issue a fatwa on the legitimacy of a business transaction in one breath, and in the next decide whether a prayer said in a wine shop is acceptable to God. It also contrasts with the situation in Christian churches – even Protestant ones – in which ‘the church’ is at once the body that organises the affairs of faith community, the community at worship, and the body that determines doctrine. In other words the contrast between siyaasiyyah and `ibaadaat here points us towards a unique quality of the Bahai community: the Houses of Justice and Houses of Worship are distinct institutions, neither infringing on the sphere of the other, and neither with any authority in matters of doctrine, which is a third sphere. But that is another story.

The 13th numbered section in the Tablet of Bisharat, which is identical to the text of the eighth Ishraq, provides confirmation that we can read these words as a contrast to the practices of other religions. Baha’u’llah summarises the theme of the Bisharat, at the end, as the abolition of the ordinances of previous religions such as “holy war, destruction of books, the ban on association and companionship with other peoples or on reading certain books.”[3] To this list we could add the abolition of restrictions on clothing and the cut of the beard (abolished in the seventh Bisharat), the abolition of priestly celibacy and confession (eighth and ninth Bisharat), and, in the thirteenth Bisharat and the identical eighth Ishraq, the removal of control over the affairs of the religious community, from the hands of priests and ulama to bodies elected by the believers themselves (for matters of policy and punishment) and to the individual conscience and the individual’s own reading of the sacred texts (in relation to acts of worship). [May 2012: and Shoghi Effendi's translation of the 13th Bisharat reads:]

Administrative affairs are all in charge of the House of Justice; but acts of worship must be observed according as they are revealed in the Book.
(The Baha’i World, Volume 11 (1946-1950), page 67)

Thirdly, there is a translation by Shoghi Effendi of a similar phrase in Baha’u’llah’s Lawh-e Hikmat (Tablet of Wisdom) that seems to have been overlooked by Taherzadeh and others who have worked on these translations. Habib Taherzadeh translates:

Say: The beginning of Wisdom and the origin thereof is to acknowledge whatsoever God hath clearly set forth, for through its potency the foundation of statesmanship, (bunyaan as-siyaasah) which is a shield for the preservation of the body of mankind, hath been firmly established.[4]

Compare that to Shoghi Effendi’s translation:

The beginning and the true foundation of wisdom is to acknowledge that which God hath revealed, for upon this sure basis rests the edifice of wise administration. Verily this is the shield that hath ever protected the body of mankind.(The Baha’i World Vol. 4 (1930-1932) 105 (emphasis added))

Here, Shoghi Effendi agrees with Ali Kuli Khan (and with Fareed’s translation of the Bisharat), and against Taherzadeh. Shoghi Effendi’s translation stops at this point, but Taherzadeh’s translation continues:

Say, every matter related to state affairs (‘amr siyaassii) which ye raise for discussion falls under the shadow of one of the words sent down from the heaven of His glorious and exalted utterance.

The expression here, (‘amr siyaassii ) is a variant of the same term that Shoghi Effendi has just translated “wise administration.” The questioner (Nabil-e Akbar, a Shi’ah scholar, whose biography is in Abdu’l-Baha’s Memorials of the Faithful, page 5) is being told that his remaining questions fall under the shadow of what has already been revealed in the Tablet of Wisdom, which does not include ‘state affairs,’ and there is no reason to think that the remaining questions would have been about state affairs. Therefore Shoghi Effendi’s translation is to be preferred here just as, in the eighth Ishraqat, it is administrative affairs (‘umuur-e siyaasiyyah) and not “matters of state” that are entrusted to the House of Justice

If yet more confirmation were needed, we have what looks like a self-interpretation, by Baha’u’llah, of the eighth Ishraq and thirteenth Bisharat in the Lawh-e Dunya (Lawh-e Dunyaa ). Like Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, this was written in the summer of 1891, and so represents almost Baha’u’llah’s last word on the topic. The date also places it within the context of protests against the tobacco concession in Iran, in which the relationship between religious leaders and politics was a central issue. In the Lawh-e Dunya Baha’u’llah says:

According to the fundamental laws which We have formerly revealed in the Kitab-e Aqdas and other Tablets, all affairs are committed to the care of just kings and presidents and of the Trustees of the House of Justice.

The ‘other tablets’ referred to must include the thirteenth Bisharat and eighth Ishraqat, from the similarity of the wording. This self-interpretation tells us that Baha’u’llah understood the passages in his writings that give authority to the House of Justice and those that give it to the Kings and rulers as complementary, and also that his understanding of the authority given to the House of Justice did not seem to him contradictory to praising the British form of government, with its monarchy, elected parliament, and established church. For him the eighth Ishraq, which puts authority in the hands of the House of Justice, and the Aqdas, which says that political authority in Tehran will fall into the hands of the people, are two aspects of a principle that applies in religion as in politics – that popular self-management through elected and consultative organs is preferable to absolute individual authority, whether of kings, priests or ulama. Another passage that speaks of authority per se, without differentiating between its civil and religious aspects, is in the second of the Words of Paradise:

The Pen of the Most High exhorteth, at this moment, the manifestations of authority and the sources of power, namely the kings, the sovereigns, the presidents, the rulers, the divines and the wise, and enjoineth them to uphold the cause of religion, and to cleave unto it. (Tablets of Baha’u’llah 63)

In the Lawh-e Dunya (and also in the 9th Ishraq), Baha’u’llah goes on to speak of the relationship between religion and government, saying that laws rest on penalties (the state relies on coercion) whereas religion gives us the inner motivation to do good and avoid evil.

From all of this I conclude that the authority in matters of policy and punishment given to the House of Justice in the eighth Ishraq is an authority within the religious sphere, which is exercised through exhortation and by using rewards and sanctions relating to status in the religious community, and is not the authority of governments, who may use physical and monetary rewards and punishments to get their way. In other words, ‘matters of policy and punishment’ are divided up into two spheres, just as Baha’u’llah divides the concept of sovereignty in the Kitab-e Iqan into worldly sovereignty and spiritual sovereignty.

Among numerous later interpretations that indicate that the authority of the House of Justice relates to the religious sphere only, are these from Shoghi Effendi: “Not only with regard to publication, but all matters without any exception whatsoever, regarding the interests of the Cause in that locality … should be referred exclusively to the Spiritual Assembly … unless it be a matter of national interest, in which case it shall be referred to the national body. … By national affairs is not meant matters that are political in their character, for the friends of God the world over are strictly forbidden to meddle with political affairs in any way whatever, but rather things that affect the spiritual activities of the body of the friends in that land.” (Unfolding Destiny 8 ) In Baha’i Administration p.8 the scope of the Administration is defined as “matters pertaining to the Cause.”

Given that those who prepared the 1978 translation of the Ishraqat had Ali Kuli Khan’s translation before them, one has to wonder why they would have chosen a translation in the eighth Ishraqat that is inconsistent with the remainder of that tablet, with Baha’u’llah’s explanation in the Lawh-e Dunya, and with Bahai teachings in general. One possible answer lies in a paragraph of Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament, which Shoghi Effendi translated:

O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon you to be submissive to all monarchs that are just and to show your fidelity to every righteous king. Serve ye the sovereigns of the world with utmost truthfulness and loyalty. Show obedience unto them and be their well-wishers. Without their leave and permission do not meddle with political affairs (‘umuur-e siyaasii), for disloyalty to the just sovereign is disloyalty to God Himself. (Will and Testament 15)

It could be that because Shoghi Effendi translated ‘umuur-e siyaasii as ‘political affairs’ here, the committee translating the Ishraqat and Bisharat felt obliged to give the phrase a similar meaning, if not exactly the same wording. In the Will and Testament, however, ‘political affairs’ are firmly under the control of civil rulers, whereas using the same translation in the new translation of Ishraqat and Bisharat puts political affairs in the hands of the Bahai House of Justice! Consistency in translation here produces inconsistency in teachings. Abdu’l-Baha’s use of siyaasii in the Will and Testament (and frequently in the Sermon on the Art of Governance) is more modern than Baha’u’llah’s usage in the Ishraqat, as the word shifts its meaning to reflect the development of an autonomous political sphere in the formerly patrimonial lands of the Middle East.

The ninth Ishraq, the last numbered section, returns to the role of religion in society:

Religion bestoweth upon man the most precious of all gifts, offereth the cup of prosperity, imparteth eternal life, and showereth imperishable benefits upon mankind. It behoveth the chiefs and rulers of the world, and in particular the Trustees of God’s House of Justice, to endeavour to the utmost of their power to safeguard its position, promote its interests and exalt its station in the eyes of the world. In like manner it is incumbent upon them to enquire into the conditions of their subjects and to acquaint themselves with the affairs and activities of the divers communities in their dominions. We call upon the manifestations of the power of God — the sovereigns and rulers on earth — to bestir themselves and do all in their power that haply they may banish discord from this world and illumine it with the light of concord.

Civil rulers have a general duty to promote the interests of religion, while the “Trustees of God’s House of Justice” have a special duty. The concern of the ‘chiefs’ is not confined to one religious community, they should be aware of the actions and affairs (a`maal wa ‘umuur) of every religious community. Baha’u’llah’s understanding of the role of religion in society takes religious pluralism as a self-evident context.

~~Sen McGlinn~~

http://tinyurl.com/amursiyasiyyeh

Postscript, April 2008:

Roshan Danesh has a paper in the Journal of Law and Religion, volume 24 no 1, 2008, entitled ‘Church and State in the Baha’i Faith: an epistemic approach.’ This discusses this section of the eighth Ishraqat. He has apparently not read the discussion in my book Church and State, and is not aware of Shoghi Effendi’s translation of bunyaan as-siyaasah as “edifice of wise administration” in the Tablet of Wisdom. So on the crucial question of the meaning and translation of the phrase, he makes no progress. However he does make an interesting comment based on what he calls the standard translation (Teherzadeh’s, not Ali Kuli Khan’s):

The statement could imply a vision of the Universal House of Justice as the sole religious and civil authority. But it can also be read in other ways, as saying, for example, that all political (state) matters impacting the community should be addressed by the Universal House of Justice. A review of some of the key writings concerning the Universal House of Justice demonstrates that the institution is certainly discussed and structured like a contemporary political legislative institution. At the same time, however, there are not explicit statements about the Universal House of Justice and civil institutions which necessitate a fully integrationist conclusion. (page 39)

__________

This is adapted from the discussion of the translation of the Ishraqat in Church and State by Sen McGlinn, pages 181-186, available from Amazon Books or Kalimat Press.

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24 Responses to ““Matters of State” or “administrative matters”: the scope of the House of Justice”

  1. Steve Cooney originally posted this translation by Shoghi Effendi on October 15, 2009 (Tarikh).

    Also, your transliteration, parenthetically inserted in Taherzadeh’s translation, should add “kull” for “All” in “All matters of State.” See the Persian text at http://reference.bahai.org/fa/t/b/TB/tb-8.html. And a better transliteration for “matters” would be “umuur” (or “umūr”) rather than “‘amuur.”

    I think it’s a mistake to dichotomize “All matters of state” (Habib Taherzadeh’s translation) and “Administrative affairs” (Shoghi Effendi’s translation). Both are equivalent. Steingass renders siyāsat, inter alia, as “government, administration of justice” (Persian-English Dictionary, p. 712). A contextual reading of the Eighth Ishrāq, in Shoghi Effendi’s 1925 translation, requires semantic equivalences between “affairs of the people in every State” and [affairs of] “Justice” and “such affairs” and “Administrative affairs”:
    * * *
    The eighth Ishraq: This passage, now written by the Pen of Glory, is accounted as part of the Most Holy Book. The men of God´s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people in every State. They in truth are the trustees of God amongst His servants, and the manifestation of His authority in His realms. O people of God! The educator of mankind is Justice, for it rests upon the twin pillars of Reward and Punishment—pillars that are the very source of life to the world. Inasmuch as for each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the [H]ouse of Justice, that the members thereof may act according to the needs and requirements of the time. They that for the sake of God arise to serve His Cause are recipients of Divine Inspiration. It is incumbent upon all to be obedient unto them. Administrative affairs should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship must be observed according as they are revealed by God in His Book.

    – Translated by Shoghi Effendi, “An Extract from the Tablet of Ishraqat,” in The Dawn: A Monthly Bahai Journal of India 2.7 (March 1925): 53.
    * * *
    The very name, “The Universal House of Justice,” implies that this august Institution will, in due course, be increasingly called upon to exercise what Steingass calls “government, administration of justice.”

    Christopher Buck

  2. Sen said

    You said that the name “house of justice” implies that government and/or the administration of justice. That potential misunderstanding is precisely what Abdu’l-baha foresaw, and he decided therefore to change the name to Spiritual Assembly, to emphasize that there was no implication of a government or court. He wrote:

    The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs. … (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas vol. 1, page 5).

    You are right that “affairs of the people in every State” must be equivalent to “administrative affairs,” since both are referred to the House of Justice. As I explained in my posting, “the people” refers to the Bahai community, that is, Baha’u’llah is saying that the affairs of the worldwide Bahai community – in whatever state they may be living – are ultimately subject to the International House of Justice. Baha’u’llah is envisioning one international body, making such rulings as the time may require, so that the pattern of Bahai practice remains consistent right across the world. However he then adds, matters of worship are to be observed as they are set out in the scriptures.

    I recommend a leisurely read through the compilation on church and state on this blog. There are not just one or two endorsements of the principle of separation of church and state, there are hundreds, from Baha’u’llahs Iqan to Abdu’l-Baha’s final words. In three talks he gave in 1911, Abdu’l-Baha included the separation of church and state in his list of basic Bahai teachings. One of these talks is authenticated by Persian notes: it is Bahai scripture. One cannot possibly leave out so fundamental a teaching, and claim to adequately represent or practice the other teachings, for “all things are involved in all things.” The Bahai teachings are an interwoven web, and omitting one element or (God forbid) preaching the reverse, will inevitably lead to a distortion of the other teachings.

  3. Sen:

    `Abdu’l-Bahá’s policy is temporary. You are quite right that the Master wrote:
    * * *
    The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs.

    – Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, p. 6.
    http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/TAB/tab-12.html
    * * *
    Non-involvement in partisan politics is certainly the current policy. So also is the emergence of “public discourse.” A stagewise analysis, however, is required to understand this policy as temporary rather than fixed, as Moojan Momen explains:
    * * *
    It is anticipated that, as Bahai communities grow, spiritual assemblies will take on a wider range of functions, including increasing involvement with the discourse of society and the social and economic development of the area under their jurisdiction. Thus it is envisaged that the role and functions of spiritual assemblies will develop organically. Shoghi Effendi (1968, p. 20; idem, 1991, p. 6) states that, at some future date, the “spiritual assemblies” will evolve into and take on the designation given them by Bahāʾ-Allāh and ʿAbd-al-Bahāʾ, the “houses of justice”.

    – Moojan Momen, “MAḤFEL-E RUḤĀNI: current designation of the Bahai governing councils elected at local and national level.” Encyclopaedia Iranica, http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/mahfel-e-ruhani
    * * *
    Perspectivally, the Universal House of Justice has explained this stagewise approach in its letter, dated 27 April 1995, originally addressed to you:
    * * *
    The gradual process of the evolution of the Baha’i Administrative Order into the World Order of Baha’u’llah has been described by Shoghi Effendi in many of his writings, as in the following excerpt from his letter of 30 April 1953 to the All-America Intercontinental Teaching Conference:

    This present Crusade, on the threshold of which we now stand, will, moreover, by virtue of the dynamic forces it will release and its wide repercussions over the entire surface of the globe, contribute effectually to the acceleration of yet another process of tremendous significance which will carry the steadily evolving Faith of Baha’u’llah through its present stages of obscurity, of repression, of emancipation and of recognition stages one or another of which Baha’i national communities in various parts of the world now find themselves [in] to the stage of establishment, the stage at which the Faith of Baha’u’llah will be recognized by the civil authorities as the State Religion, similar to that which Christianity entered in the years following the death of the Emperor Constantine, a stage which must later be followed by the emergence of the Baha’i state itself, functioning, in all religious and civil matters, in strict accordance with the Laws and Ordinances of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the Most Holy, the Mother Book of the Baha’i Revelation, a stage which, in the fullness of time, will culminate in the establishment of the World Baha’i Commonwealth, functioning in the plenitude of its powers, and which will signalize the long awaited advent of the Christ promised Kingdom of God on earth the Kingdom of Baha’u’llah mirroring however faintly upon this humble handful of dust the glories of the Abha Kingdom.

    – See
    http://bahai-library.com/uhj/theocracy.html. Now published as: The Universal House of Justice, “Separation of Church and State,” Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1986-2001 (Wilmette: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 2009): 427-439. See also: http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/MBW/mbw-71.html.utf8?query=stage&action=highlight#gr9.
    * * *
    Here, Shoghi Effendi describes the seven stages of the development of the Faith:

    1. Obscurity.
    2. Repression.
    3. Emancipation.
    4. Recognition.
    5. State Religion.
    6. Baha’i State.
    7. World Baha’i Commonwealth.

    The first four stages are referred to as “present” — whereas the remaining three are obviously future stages.

    The current separation of church and state will, in time, evolve into an increasing interaction of church and state at the level of reciprocal engagement, and, in the final trajectory, culminating in an ideal, although unprecedented, marriage of church and state — in a form that would be impossible to definitively envisage, except in the broadest of terms. As the Universal House of Justice stated in its 1995 letter to you:
    * * *
    The Administrative Order is certainly the nucleus and pattern of the World Order of Baha’u’llah, but it is in embryonic form, and must undergo major evolutionary developments in the course of time. Certain passages in the writings on this subject establish matters of principle, certain ones describe the ultimate goal of the Most Great Peace, and certain of them relate to stages of development on the way to the attainment of that goal. For example, in this familiar passage in His Will and Testament, `Abdu’l-Baha states:

    This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body must reinforce the executive, the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.
    * * *
    It would appear that the position you continue to maintain is at some variance with the interpretations given by Shoghi Effendi and the elucidations propounded by the Universal House of Justice. Am I wrong on this?

    – Christopher Buck

  4. Sen said

    I think and hope that you are entirely wrong that I maintain a position at variance with the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi and the elucidations of the Universal House of Justice. I put it to you that you should consider your own position in this respect. You allege, for example, that when Abdu’l-Baha says that the House of Justice will not “at any time” interfere with governmental affairs, this is just a temporary ruling. But it is one that Shoghi Effendi specifically endorsed:

    “Theirs is not the purpose,… to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.”
    (The World Order of Baha’u’llah 66.)

    “… By national affairs is not meant matters that are political in their character, for the friends of God the world over are strictly forbidden to meddle with political affairs in any way whatever, but rather things that affect the spiritual activities of the body of the friends in that land.” (Unfolding Destiny 8)

    “The Faith which this order serves, safeguards and promotes is … essentially supernatural, supranational, entirely non-political, non-partisan, and diametrically opposed to any policy or school of thought that seeks to exalt any particular race, class or nation.” (Shoghi Effendi, statement to a UN committee, cited in the Preface to The Promised Day is Come, page vi)

    and, in a letter on his behalf:

    “The Administrative Order is not a governmental or civic body, it is to regulate and guide the internal affairs of the Bahá’í community; consequently it works, according to its own procedure, best suited to its needs. (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to Canada, 276)

    “… the Assembly is a nascent House of Justice and is supposed to administer, according to the Teachings, the affairs of the Community.” (Directives from the Guardian, p. 41)

    Moreover Shoghi Effendi selected and translated numerous passages from Baha’u’llah which endorse civil government and renounce any claim to temporal power, for example:

    The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath ever regarded, and will continue to regard, the hearts of men as His own, His exclusive possession. All else, whether pertaining to land or sea, whether riches or glory, He hath bequeathed unto the Kings and rulers of the earth. … What mankind needeth in this day is obedience unto them that are in authority, and a faithful adherence to the cord of wisdom. The instruments which are essential to the immediate protection, the security and assurance of the human race have been entrusted to the hands, and lie in the grasp, of the governors of human society. This is the wish of God and His decree…. .” (Gleanings, CII 206-7)

    Every nation must have a high regard for the position of its sovereign, …. The sovereigns of the earth have been and are the manifestations of the power, the grandeur and the majesty of God. … Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained, … He Who is the Spirit (Jesus) — may peace be upon Him — was asked: “O Spirit of God! Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?” And He made reply: “Yea, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…”.
    (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 89)

    your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, by virtue of the sovereignty He hath chosen to bestow upon them. He hath refused to reserve for Himself any share whatever of this world’s dominion. … The things He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts, that He may cleanse them from all earthly defilements, and enable them to draw nigh unto the hallowed Spot which the hands of the infidel can never profane.
    (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, 303)

    In the light of this, I think it is bizarre to suggest that Shoghi Effendi was in some way off message with Abdu’l-Baha, when he said “the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs.” I presume you spoke without realising that, in claiming that this principle is temporary, you were also imply that Abdu’l-Baha was putting up a smoke screen, by changing the name of the House of Justice, to hide his real purpose (the one you impute to him) from the government. There is nothing in the life of Abdu’l-Baha, which is extensively documented, to suggest that he would act in such a deceitful manner. If he says that the government need not fear that the Bahai institutions will ever be courts or be connected with political affairs or interfere with government affairs — then that is precisely what he means.

    I would point out that this tablet changing the name of the Assemblies is not an isolated instance in which he endorses and strongly underlines the separation of church and state. Because his enemies were telling Ottoman government officials that he was in secret trying to set up a separate sovereignty, and because Iran in his lifetime was desperately in need of the separation of church and state, this theme comes up repeatedly. He even wrote a book on the theme, which I have translated as the Sermon on the Art of Governance. You are probably not familiar with that, but you should be familiar with texts such as these:

    The Constitutional Government, according to the irrefutable text of the Religion of God, is the cause of the glory and prosperity of the nation and the civilization and freedom of the people. (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, 492)

    Let them willingly subject themselves to every just king, and to every generous ruler be good citizens. Let them obey the government and not meddle in political affairs, but devote themselves to the betterment of character and behaviour, and fix their gaze upon the Light of the world.
    (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, 319)

    My intention, with these words, is not that religion has any business in politics. Religion has no jurisdiction or involvement in political matters, for religion is related to spirits and to ecstasy, while politics relates to the body. Therefore the leaders of religions should not be involved in political matters, but should busy themselves with rectifying the morals of the community. They admonish, and excite the desire and appetite for piety. They sustain the morals of the community. They give spiritual understanding to the souls. They teach the [religious] sciences, but they have no involvement with political matters, for all time. Baha’u’llah has commanded this. In the Gospels it is said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Khatabat-e Abdu’l-Baha 182. My translation)

    … this sect have no worldly object nor any role in political matters. The fulcrum of their motion and rest and the pivot of their cast and conduct is restricted to spiritual things and confined to the doctrine of the unity of the prophets; it has no role to play in the affairs of the government nor any connection to the seat of sovereignty. Its principles are the proclamation of the praises of God, the investigation of signs, the education of souls, the reformation of characters, the purification of hearts, and illumination with the gleams of enlightenment. …
    [the Bahai scriptures] are entirely taken up with the prohibition of sedition, and with upright conduct amongst mankind, obedience, submission, loyalty, obeying the law, the acquisition of laudable qualities, and encouragements to become endowed with praiseworthy accomplishments and characteristics.
    They play absolutely no role in political questions, and do not raise opposition in matters which could cause disturbance or sedition. Under these circumstances the government cannot justly offer excuses, and possesses no pretext [for further persecuting this sect] except [a claim to the right of] interference in thought and conscience, which are the private possessions of the heart and soul. … (A Traveler’s Narrative, 86-88)

    In a talk Abdu’l-Baha gave in London on 3 October 1911, for which there are Persian notes, he says:

    The ninth [teaching of Baha'u'llah]: religion is separated from politics: religion does not enter into political matters, in fact, it is linked with the hearts, not with the world of bodies. The leaders of religion should devote themselves to teaching and training the souls and propagating good morals, and they should not enter into political matters.

    These are Bahai scriptures. Are your views in accordance with them?

    That the Bahai Faith will grow through stages, including that of being the state religion of some countries, the establishment of a Bahai state, and the flowering of a Bahai Commonwealth, does not imply that its fundamental principles will change from age to age. That is what is known as dispensationalism, which Bahais do uphold in the sense that the laws of religion and the form of society change each time a new Manifestation comes, but which — in the form we find it in the Bahai Writings — also means that the fundamental religious laws and principles of any one religion do not change in the course of the one dispensation, for only a new Manifestation has the authority to change them.

    You write, “The gradual process of the evolution of the Baha’i Administrative Order into the World Order of Baha’u’llah has been described by Shoghi Effendi in many of his writings,…” but then you use a quote that does not say that the Administrative Order will evolve into the World Order: rather it says that the Bahai Faith will evolve in this way.

    I have no argument with either Moojan Momen’s exposition, or that from the Universal House of Justice which you have quoted. I think you are reading into both of them, something that is not there, something you think is at variance with the position I have maintained in Church and State and elsewhere. In my previous reply to you, I suggested that you should read the compilation on church and state on this blog. Instead, you have come with speculations about the future. This method is fundamentally untenable. It is only by referring to the Bahai scriptures that one can discover what the Bahai teachings are, and even when one has grasped their principles, there is still no assurance that the future will take the form envisioned in the Bahai scriptures. In the Bahai Faith, the “consensus of the faithful” is not a source of Bahai theology. That means on the one hand that “everyone knows” and “Bahais have always taught” are not valid arguments, but it also means that we have no assurance that what Bahais will believe and will do in the future will necessarily be in conformity with the Bahai teachings. In the light of this, it is futile to attempt to understand Bahai teachings through the lens of speculation about the form a future Bahai society might take. What we can do is turn to the Bahai writings to find out what Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha taught (which is as plain as the nose on your face), and then do our best to make it come true (which is very difficult!).

  5. Sen:

    1. Referring to your statement — “I have no argument with either Moojan Momen’s exposition, or that from the Universal House of Justice which you have quoted.” — are you saying that you agree with the substance of the Universal House of Justice’s 27 April 1995 letter? (See http://bahai-library.com/uhj/theocracy.html.)

    2. Whether `Abdu’l-Bahá’s redesignation of secondary “Houses of Justice” as “Houses of Spirituality” (i.e. “Spiritual Assemblies) was temporary (as Moojan Momen has argued in his Encyclopaedia Iranica article) or permanent, would you agree that He did not change the name, or functions, of the Universal House of Justice?

    3. In His Will and Testament, `Abdu’l-Bahá states: “This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them.” Here, neither a change in name nor function is contemplated. Do you agree with this translation and with this reading?

    4. It is Shoghi Effendi who states that the name change of secondary “Houses of Justice” to “Houses of Spirituality” is temporary, to wit:
    * * *
    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 Baha’u’llah, not merely as one of the recognized religious systems of the world, but as the State Religion of an independent and Sovereign Power. And as the Baha’i Faith permeates the masses of the peoples of East and West, and its truth is embraced by the majority of the peoples of a number of the Sovereign States of the world, will the Universal House of Justice attain the plenitude of its power, and exercise, as the supreme organ of the Baha’i Commonwealth, all the rights, the duties, and responsibilities incumbent upon the world’s future superstate.

    – Shoghi Effendi, Letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States and Canada, dated 27 February 1929.
    * * *
    Do you agree, based on this authoritative text, that “the present day Spiritual Assemblies” will “be styled differently in future”? And that the term “superstate” means some kind of international political system?

    5. There would appear to be what American jurisprudence calls a “separation of powers” in Shoghi Effendi’s distinction between what the Master describes as “This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them.”

    According to Shoghi Effendi, “government” here means “the executive body which will enforce the laws when the Baha’i Faith has reached the point when it is recognized and accepted entirely by any particular nation.” (Letter dated 18 April 1941, written on his behalf, and cited by the House in its 1995 letter to you.)

    I use “separation of powers” purely analogically. I suggest we might be able to establish more “common ground” on the principle of a “separation of powers” analysis, rather than pressing your “separation of Church and State” dichotomy to such a degree that the discussion leads to hermeneutical circles, with no real progress.

    6. There is a helpful hermeneutic suggested by the House in its April 1995 letter to you:

    “The Administrative Order is certainly the nucleus and pattern of the World Order of Baha’u’llah, but it is in embryonic form, and must undergo major evolutionary developments in the course of time. Certain passages in the writings on this subject establish matters of principle, certain ones describe the ultimate goal of the Most Great Peace, and certain of them relate to stages of development on the way to the attainment of that goal.”

    Here, three sets of relevant Bahá’í texts are identified:
    (a) Writings that “establish matters of principle.”
    (b) Writings that describe “the ultimate goal of the Most Great Peace.”
    (c) Writings that “stages of development on the way to the attainment of that goal.”

    Here, Writings in categories (a), (b) and (c) need to be read together — principally, developmentally, and teleologically.

    In your response to me, I think you’ve opposed categories (a) and (c). Correct me if I’m wrong.

    In any case, trading Bahá’í quotes, tit for tat, is not helpful if one Bahá’í text is cited to effectively “trump” another — or if a statement from Bahá’u’lláh or `Abdu’l-Bahá is marshaled for the purpose of negating an interpretation by Shoghi Effendi or an elucidation by the Universal House of Justice.

    Instead, what is needed is an integrative approach, in which all of these texts are seen within the framework of the helpful hermeneutic offered by the House in its April 1995 letter.

    But I am unclear about your position: Which Bahá’í texts you consider to be authoritative?

    7. Shoghi Effendi’s 1925 translation of the Eight Ishráq links the “affairs of the people in every State” with the [affairs of] “Justice” so that “such affairs” are inextricably linked with “Administrative affairs.” Here, “Administrative affairs” refers to what Steingass, in defining the key term, siyāsat, has defined as “government, administration of justice” (Persian-English Dictionary, p. 712). See http://books.google.com/books?id=knA9NptP7xsC&pg=PA712&lpg=PA712&dq=Steingass+%22government,+administration+of+justice%22&source=bl&ots=9FjRlte5h-&sig=oPvYhsdo3DB9EkLFEWK1UHZ1IQM&hl=en&ei=Ovu2Tr-rDPLs2AWVvcizDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false.

    Therefore “Administrative affairs” and “All matters of State” are equivalent translations.

    In any case, pitting your reading of the Guardian’s 1925 translation against the 1978 authorized translation of the Eighth Ishráq would appear to be inconsistent with the guidance of the House of Justice in its April 1995 letter:
    * * *
    Clearly the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth is a “political” enterprise, and the Teachings of the Faith are filled with “political” principles [. . . .] At the same time the Baha’i world community repeatedly and emphatically denies being a “political” organization, and Baha’is are required, on pain of deprivation of their administrative rights, to refrain from becoming involved in “political” matters and from taking sides in “political” disputes. [. . .] The Baha’i Administrative Order is the “nucleus and pattern” of the divinely intended future political system of the world, and undoubtedly non-Baha’i governments will benefit from learning how this system works and from adopting its procedures and principles in overcoming the problems they face.
    * * *
    Can we agree that the Bahá’í Writings establish principles of good governance, and further agree that “undoubtedly non-Baha’i governments will benefit from learning how this system works and from adopting its procedures and principles in overcoming the problems they face”? Isn’t that a more immediate agenda, rather than arguing about the institutional framework of a future world political system — which is quite speculative and of little immediate utility?

    8. The term “theocracy” is admittedly problematic. The Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, campaigned on a platform of “theodemocracy” in Nauvoo, shortly before his assassination in 1844. There is something in the term “theodemocracy” that commends itself as something that might better approximate Bahá’í principles — and future institutions — of governance. Do you agree that “theodemocracy” is a preferable term to “theocracy” in relation to Bahá’í texts on good governance?

    9. I’ll close by saying that I respect the depth of your research, your command of the source languages, your analytical abilities, and the wealth of information that you have produced in your blogs.

    Regarding your synthetic powers, may I ask how you integrate the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, `Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice?

    You wrote: “I think and hope that you are entirely wrong that I maintain a position at variance with the interpretations of Shoghi Effendi and the elucidations of the Universal House of Justice.” Based on this statement, would it then be untrue, unfair, and unjustifiable to say that you have any interpretive disagreements with the House?

    Christopher Buck

  6. Sen said

    thanks for your questions: —
    1. — are you saying that you agree with the substance of the Universal House of Justice’s 27 April 1995 letter?
    Yes. I think it cannot be read as a “position paper” setting out the Bahai view systematically, in the way for example that “The Promise of World Peace” or the BIC’s “Century of Light” aspire to give a relatively authoritative account of the Bahai view on these topics. Rather, it addresses various differences of opinion that had arisen in the Bahai communities in several countries. It was sent to to all the Counselors, and to the National Spiritual Assemblies of Canada, Germany and the United States, with the explanation,

    It is understood that this issue has been a matter of discussion in your countries, and so the Universal House of Justice has instructed us to send you the enclosed copy of the reply sent on its behalf for your information and use when the question arises.

    The House of Justice does not wish to divert the attention of the friends at large to this issue at present, nor to give the impression that it is one of imminent importance. Therefore, although this letter is not a confidential document, we do not wish you to distribute it widely or to give it publicity. It should be used merely when occasion arises.

    From this it will be clear that it was never intended to be a definitive, or even a relatively definitive, statement. It would therefore be unfair for me to criticize the many things that are missing in it, the many relevant texts not cited, and so forth. The letter is fit for purpose, and in that sense I have no argument (God forbid) with it – yet it is not adequate for my purposes, because I seek a more extensive and systematic treatment of the topic. In that respect, I particularly welcome the section of the letter which says,

    The first, which derives from the Covenant, is the principle that the writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá and the Guardian are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh and intimately linked with the Teachings of Bahá’u’lláh Himself. this principle is clearly expounded in two paragraphs from a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer on 19 March 1946:

    Whatever the Master has said is based on the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. He was the perfect Interpreter, had lived with Him all His life; therefore what He says has the same standing, even if a text of Bahá’u’lláh is not available …

    We must take the teachings as a great, balanced whole, not seek out and oppose to each other two strong statements that have different meanings; somewhere in between, there are links uniting the two. …

    That is seems to me looks forward to precisely the project I set myself in _Church and State_: to take the teachings as a whole and, with the assumption that they are coherent and do not contradict one another, to “interpret scripture in the light of scripture,” seeking out the apparent contradictions, moving around these to look from different perspectives until the viewpoint that makes them coherent becomes clear.

    Reading further on, I come across a reference to the Executive and Legislative powers in Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament, followed by the remark “The same relationship between legislature and executive” is expressed by Shoghi Effendi, where he foresees that “A world executive, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature.” I would not have said this is the same relationship, lest it leads readers to think that the Executive and Legislature in the Will and Testament (a two-fold division of social spheres, corresponding to religious and political affairs) are the same as the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature, the three powers of the world government, using western political terminology. The latter is a three-fold division within the political sphere. There’s a short explanation on this blog. But this is a quibble. I would have said it differently, I hope achieving greater clarity, but I would not have said something different. They have also used Habib Taherzadeh’s translation of a passage from the Ishraqat which, as you can see from the blog item we are discussing, should I think be replaced by Shoghi Effendi’s translation of the same passage.

    Next question:

    2. Whether `Abdu’l-Bahá’s redesignation of secondary “Houses of Justice” as “Houses of Spirituality” (i.e. “Spiritual Assemblies) was temporary (as Moojan Momen has argued in his Encyclopaedia Iranica article) or permanent, would you agree that He did not change the name, or functions, of the Universal House of Justice?

    Abdu’l-Baha’s change of name was temporary, as Moojan Momen says in his article, but it did not involve any change in the functions of the local and national Houses of Justice. He explains himself its purpose:

    The signature of that meeting should be the Spiritual Gathering (House of Spirituality) and the wisdom therein is that hereafter the government should not infer from the term “House of Justice” that a court is signified, that it is connected with political affairs, or that at any time it will interfere with governmental affairs. … (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas vol. 1, page 5).

    While he certainly had the authority to change the name of the Universal House of Justice had he wished to do so, there was no need. That institution did not exist, and when it was created in 1963 the Bahai Faith was already well known in government circles in Israel. There was no risk that the government would think that the new institution was a present or future threat to its sovereignty.

    Next question:

    3. In His Will and Testament, `Abdu’l-Bahá states: “This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them.” Here, neither a change in name nor function is contemplated. Do you agree with this translation and with this reading?

    Yes I do. Every translation leaves a great deal out, but I am unable to suggest any better way of translating this. The Bahai Faith is in some respects quite new in the history of religion, and it contains concepts and distinctions which are not adequately captured by any existing terms. Therefore whatever translation we use, and equally for the Persian and Arabic speaking friends who read the texts in the original, we have to realise that terms are not necessarily used in the sense we find them in the dictionary. We have to discover the meaning even of apparently familiar terms, by looking at the specific way they are used in multiple Bahai texts, and finding the meaning which is consistent with all of these uses. You can see an example of this in the comments to UHJ Elucidations on this blog, where “xyz” says ““elucidate” and “interpret” are synonyms according to dictionary? It is therefore illogical to say that the Universal House of Justice cannot interpret the Holy Writ but it can elucidate the Holy Writ. The distinction that Shoghi Effendi makes between the spheres of the Guardianship and the House of Justice, the one authorised to interpret the Bahai scriptures, the other charged among other things with elucidating questions that are obscure, requires that “interpret” must mean something different to “elucidate.” Since xyz was fixated on the meanings defined in Webster’s big dictionary, and did not understand how to read the meanings of words by seeing their use in context, the discussion got nowhere. The same is true of the terms legislative and executive, which in the Bahai writings are used both for two of the three arms of a world government, and for the religious and the political as the two primary organs in society.

    4. Do you agree, based on this authoritative text, that “the present day Spiritual Assemblies” will “be styled differently in future”? And that the term “superstate” means some kind of international political system?

    Yes, absolutely.

    5. Yes, “separation of powers” is a good term, for “powers” is the term that Abdu’l-Baha himself uses, in the Sermon on the Art of Governance, a work entirely devoted to discussing the relations between these two powers. But again, we must read these not through the spectacles of a dictionary, the wikipedia entry, or our knowledge of Montesquieu, for Abdu’l-Baha had probably not read Montesquieu, and the makers of dictionaries and encyclopedias have not read Abdu’l-Baha. To discover the meaning of the term for Abdu’l-Baha, we have to see how he himself explains it and uses it, and he does this most extensively in the Sermon on the Art of Governance:

    … this prohibition and prevention, rules and restraints, leading and impelling, [through which God directs the development of humanity] is divided into two types. The first protector and restrainer is the power of governance that is related to the physical world, a power that guarantees happiness in the external aspects of human existence. It safeguards human life, property and honour, and the exalted quality and refined virtues of the social life of this illustrious race. Just monarchs, accomplished representatives, wise ministers, and intrepid military leaders constitute the executive centre in this power of governance, the axis of the wheel of these divine favours.

    6. Which Bahá’í texts you consider to be authoritative?
    The authoritative Bahai texts are the authenticated writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, and the authoritative interpretations of these scriptures by Shoghi Effendi. Talks given by Abdu’l-Baha are equivalent to his own writings if notes were taken in Persian, and he checked and corrected those notes before publication. The writings of the Bab, the Quran and the Bible are also part of our scriptural heritage, but we read them through the lens of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha’s expositions of their meanings, and with an awareness that we live in another age, when the Will of God for humanity has moved on to another phase. The letters and statements produced by the Universal House of Justice and the Bahai International Community are not authoritative interpretations of the Bahai teachings, and do not claim to be so.

    In the light of that, I can skip forward to your last question: since the House of Justice does not claim any interpretive authority, it is not possible for anyone to be in conflict with its authority in that respect. The House of Justice has authority over the affairs of the Bahai community, including the authority to issue instructions to individuals which must be followed. I respect that authority, and subject myself to it, for Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament says “the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice … are both under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, … Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; …” I don’t see any escape clause here to say it only applies to enrolled Bahais, or Bahais in good standing.

  7. In response to a comment by Sen McGlinn:

    I appreciate your response, particularly how you ended, to wit:

    In the light of that, I can skip forward to your last question: since the House of Justice does not claim any interpretive authority, it is not possible for anyone to be in conflict with its authority in that respect. The House of Justice has authority over the affairs of the Bahai community, including the authority to issue instructions to individuals which must be followed. I respect that authority, and subject myself to it, for Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament says “the Guardian of the Cause of God, as well as the Universal House of Justice … are both under the care and protection of the Abha Beauty, … Whatsoever they decide is of God. Whoso obeyeth him not, neither obeyeth them, hath not obeyed God; whoso rebelleth against him and against them hath rebelled against God; …” I don’t see any escape clause here to say it only applies to enrolled Bahais, or Bahais in good standing.

    [Chris] I honor and respect your public affirmation of fealty to the Universal House of Justice as an adherent with respect to the Baha’i revelation, and to its principles and principals. I also find your work to be as original as it is thoughtful.

    Question 1: Your work recently was criticized for (1) treating Baha’i Texts ahistorically; and (2) using sources selectively. How would you defend the integrity of your work in light of this critique?

    Take, for instance, the Sermon on the Art of Governance (Resāle-ye Sīyasīyyah) by `Abdu’l-Bahā, which you have translated, and for which you have written a respectably historical introduction. Which of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statements should be understood as presuming an Islamic society, and what statements, as a matter of principle, transcend considerations of the immediate historical context in 1892, when this text was written? In other words, which principles of good governance are universally applicable, in your opinion?

    Question 2: In your last reply, you wrote:

    Yes, “separation of powers” is a good term, for “powers” is the term that Abdu’l-Baha himself uses, in the Sermon on the Art of Governance, a work entirely devoted to discussing the relations between these two powers.

    [Chris] I consulted your translation at http://www.h-net.org/~bahai/trans/vol7/govern.htm. Here’s what drew my attention:

    The first protector and restrainer is the power of governance that is related to the physical world, a power that guarantees happiness in the external aspects of human existence. It safeguards human life, property and honour, and the exalted quality and refined virtues of the social life of this illustrious race. Just monarchs, accomplished representatives, wise ministers, and intrepid military leaders constitute the executive centre in this power of governance, the axis of the wheel of these divine favours.

    The second type of educator and governor of the human world is sacred and spiritual power: the heavenly Books that have been sent down, the Prophets of God, and spiritual souls and devout religious leaders. For those in whom revelation descends and divine inspiration arises are the educators of hearts and minds, the correctors of morals. They beautify conduct and encourage the faithful. That is, these holy souls are like spiritual powers.

    – A Sermon on the Art of Governance (Resāle-ye Sīyasīyyah) by `Abdu’l-Bahā, pp. 5–6. Translated by Sen McGlinn.

    [Chris] What Persian terms are used for: (1) “the power of governance that is related to the physical world”; and (2) “sacred and spiritual power”? And what is the term for “executive” here? (I searched and did not find a term for “legislative.” Comment?)

    Question 3: In Shoghi Effendi’s 1925 translation of the Eighth Ishráq (Splendor) is this statement: “The men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people in every State.” Would you please transliterate the Persian original here and comment on what is meant by “the affairs of the people in every State”?

    Question 4: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also states in the Will and Testament:

    “This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body must reinforce the executive, the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.”

    [Chris] How do you understand this passage, and how does your view (1) comport with the House’s April 1995 letter to you; and (2) how does your understanding differ from a “popular” Bahá’í perspective?

    Question 5: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also states in the Will and Testament:

    “O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon you to be submissive to all monarchs that are just and to show your fidelity to every righteous king. Without their leave and permission do not meddle with political affairs, for disloyalty to the just sovereign is disloyalty to God Himself.”

    [Chris] Same question as before: How do you understand this passage, and how does your view (1) comport with the House’s April 1995 letter to you; and (2) how does your understanding differ from a “popular” Bahá’í perspective?

    Question 6: Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh (pp. 275–276), wrote:

    “Some form of a world Super-State must needs be evolved, in whose favor all the nations of the world will have willingly ceded every claim to make war, certain rights to impose taxation and all rights to maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal order within their respective dominions. Such a state will have to include within its orbit an International Executive adequate to enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth; a World Parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments; and a Supreme Tribunal whose judgment will have a binding effect even in such cases where the parties concerned did not voluntarily agree to submit their case to its consideration.”

    [Chris] What relationship do these three institutions — the “International Executive” and “World Parliament” and “Supreme Tribunal” — have with the future Universal House of Justice?

    Question 7: Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh (p. 278), also wrote:

    “The Bahá’í Commonwealth of the future of which this vast Administrative Order is the sole framework, is, both in theory and practice, not only unique in the entire history of political institutions, but can find no parallel in the annals of any of the world’s recognized religious systems. No form of democratic government; no system of autocracy or of dictatorship, whether monarchical or republican; no intermediary scheme of a purely aristocratic order; nor even any of the recognized types of theocracy, whether it be the Hebrew Commonwealth, or the various Christian ecclesiastical organizations, or the Imamate or the Caliphate in Islám—none of these can be identified or be said to conform with the Administrative Order which the master-hand of its perfect Architect has fashioned.”

    [Chris] Is the “Bahá’í Commonwealth of the future” purely religious or is it religiopolitical? If the latter, what conditions would be required for a political implementation?

    Question 8: What is the main aim of your scholarship in this area of inquiry? What do you hope to contribute to Bahá’í self-understanding and to a wider appreciation of Bahá’í sociomoral principles and practices?

    Question 9: How can Bahá’í principles of good governance best be applied to conflict resolution and to promoting world peace today? Does the Bahá’í Faith have any special contributions to make, both by way of its principles (ideas) and principals (institutions)?

    Christopher Buck

  8. Sen said

    I continue to respond to your earlier questions, at number 7, regarding the translation of siyaasat. in Shoghi Effendi’s 1925 translation of the Eight Ishraq it is ‘administrative’, in his translation of the Lawh-e Hikmat it is ‘wise administration’; in Taherzadeh’s translation of the Ishraq it is State, and in his translation of the Lawh-e Hikmat it is ‘statesmanship.’ Why the difference? The underlying meaning is training given by an superior to an inferior, often through punishment but also through rewards, in order to obtain the desired behaviour. How we translate that concept into English depends on who is giving the training, to whom. If it is the leader of a religious community who is responsible for the siyaasat of the flock, we could use ‘govern’ in the sense of church government, or pastoral guidance, or simply the administration of the community. If it is government that is responsible for the siyaasat of the subjects or citizens, then it can be translated as government, government policies, and the like. Shoghi Effendi’s translations are strictly correct, for since the text of the Lawh-e Hikmat does not specify who is governing whom, while in the Ishraqat text it is a religious body, the House of Justice, which is responsible for siyaasat. Taherzadeh has read into the text, what is not there, while Shoghi Effendi has translated strictly what is there.

    You say
    Can we agree that the Bahá’í Writings establish principles of good governance, and further agree that “undoubtedly non-Baha’i governments will benefit from learning how this system works and from adopting its procedures and principles in overcoming the problems they face”? Isn’t that a more immediate agenda, rather than arguing about the institutional framework of a future world political system — which is quite speculative and of little immediate utility?

    I do not engage in speculations about the future — except perhaps in unguarded moments alone. The utility of a better translation of what Baha’u’llah is saying in the Ishraqat is

    1) to protect the Bahai Faith against the charge that it has a hidden theocratic agenda,
    2) because the consistency and integrity of the Bahai scriptures is a great good, not to be surrendered lightly. Taherzadeh’s translation is open to the reading that the affairs of the state should be conducted by the House of Justice. This is inconsistent with numerous writings of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha, and with the statements of Shoghi Effendi that ““Theirs is not the purpose,… to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.” (The World Order of Baha’u’llah 66.) and in a letter written on his behalf, “The Administrative Order is not a governmental or civic body, it is to regulate and guide the internal affairs of the Baha’i community,” (Messages to Canada, 276)
    3) because the idea that Houses of Justice or assemblies are a sort of government in waiting will distort the healthy development of the assemblies themselves, and lead the believers to hold unrealistic and inappropriate expectations of their assemblies and the methods these assemblies will develop. They might for example expect them to adopt best practice as it applies in government, or in a court room. The last letter I quoted goes on to say that the Administrative Order “works, according to its own procedure, best suited to its needs.” We must know what a spiritual assembly is, and what it is not, to understand what procedures are suited to it.

    Regarding question 8: I dislike the term “theodemocracy,” for it promises a contradiction, just as the Iranian constitution does. Either sovereignty rests with the people, or it rests with God through his representatives. Theocracy and democracy are not compatible within one government system, and theocracy is not compatible with a high degree of religious pluralism. Yet democracy is very compatible with a high level of religious commitment and virtue in the society governed, and with religious pluralism. You might like to look at Pluralist Society on this blog, and particularly the discussion with Stella Ramage in the comments section.

    Finally, “may I ask how you integrate the Writings of Baha’u’llah, `Abdu’l-Baha, Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice?.” The first three are entirely consistent, and all have the aim of setting out the Bahai teachings. The Universal House of Justice has no authority or pretension to interpret the Bahai teachings or scriptures. It is not the successor to the others, but a different body with a different purpose. It leads and guides the Bahai community in practice. The way we all integrate the teachings and community life, is by living community life so far as we can in the light of the teachings. We know there is always a gap between our life, and what the teachings hold up as ideal, and between Bahai community life and the ideal of the teachings. That gap is intended: if it were not there, we would know that the “ideal” had been set too low to be ideal.

  9. Sen said

    Question 1: Your work recently was criticized for (1) treating Baha’i Texts ahistorically; and (2) using sources selectively. How would you defend the integrity of your work in light of this critique?

    The critique would only be useful if a specific instance of an ahistorical approach was indicated, or a specific source text referenced. They may exist. The only person I know of who has actually specified a text she thought I should have referenced, is Susan Maneck, who identified two: a letter from Shoghi Effendi, and one written on his behalf. The first she had simply misread: it supports my thesis and I could have cited it: I might do so in a future version, but it does not change the picture we already have from what Abdu’l-Baha wrote about the duty to participate in “the affairs of the republic.” The second is admittedly ambiguous, but also badly formulated. It says for example that “Baha’u’llah clearly states that affairs of state as well as religious questions are to be referred to the House of Justice into which the Assemblies of the Bahais will eventually evolve.” As we have seen, “affairs of state” is a bad translation, and even were it a good one, it does not necessarily mean that all the affairs of the state should be referred to the House of Justice. It could simply mean that any affairs of state that do concern the Bahai community should be conducted by the House of Justice. What is clumsy here is the reference to the House of Justice into which the Assemblies of the Bahais will evolve. It is the local and national assemblies that will evolve into Houses of Justice, but the House of Justice referred to in the Ishraqat is almost certainly the International or Universal House of Justice, for so far as I know, Baha’u’llah never referred to a national House of Justice.

    Take, for instance, the Sermon on the Art of Governance (Resāle-ye Sīyasīyyah) by `Abdu’l-Bahā, which you have translated, and for which you have written a respectably historical introduction. Which of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s statements should be understood as presuming an Islamic society, and what statements, as a matter of principle, transcend considerations of the immediate historical context in 1892, …

    The whole of the sermon is universally applicable, because it is at the level of principle, and it is applicable not only in the Bahai context or the Iranian context: he uses proof texts from the New Testament, the Quran and traditions, and the writings of Baha’u’llah, and he uses historical examples from both Iran and the Ottoman empire. Abdu’l-Baha tried to arrange for its republication in 1907 (the process actually took more than 20 years), describing the work as a treatise that “outlines the sacred rights of government, and the rights of the people that are to be respected, as well as the relationship between the shepherd and the flock, the ties between the governor and the governed, and the necessary relations between the leader and the led.” In the text itself, he says “In these days and times, certain events that are contrary to all religious laws, things that destroy human institutions and undermine the divine edifice, have been brought about by some ignorant, foolish people and by rebels and those who love discord. …. Therefore it has become necessary to briefly clarify the most basic fundamentals of the divine teachings to remind the friends to be alert and watchful.” Any reader who imagines that this work is applicable only to a particular nation or period must explain why, on the face of it, it is specifically written to be universally applicable.

    2. What Persian terms are used for: (1) “the power of governance that is related to the physical world”; and (2) “sacred and spiritual power”? And what is the term for “executive” here? (I searched and did not find a term for “legislative.” Comment?)

    The first phrase is قوّهء سياسيّه است که متعلّق بعالم جسمانی
    Qovveh-ye Siyaasiyyeh … keh mut`alliq beh-`alaam-e jasmaani

    The second is قوّه قدسيّهء روحانيّه
    Qovveh-ye qodsiyyeh-ye ruhaaniyyeh.

    “The executive centre” is مرکز رتق و فتق
    markaz-e ratq-o-fatq-e, literally, the center of loosing and binding.

    The term that Abdu’l-Baha uses in the Will and Testament to refer to the legislative power is tashri`, and it appears in the Sermon on the Art of Governance here:

    “These souls are the fountainhead of the promulgation of God’s commandments, not of implementation.” Why not translate that as “the fountainhead of legislation, not implementation.?” Because of what follows, in which Abdu’l-Baha explains that their role is limited to explaining what God’s commands require, if the government asks their opinion:

    That is, when the government enquires as to the requirements of the Law of God and the realities of the divine ordinances, in principle or in a specific case, they must explain what they have deduced from the commands of God and what is in accordance with the law of God. Apart from this, what awareness do they have of questions of leadership and social development, the administration and control of weighty matters, worldly well-being and happiness, the improvement of procedures and codes of temporal law, or foreign affairs and domestic policy?

    I am sorry that I will not be able to make rapid progress with your questions for now, as I am about to leave on my travels again. This time, I have acquired a notebook computer which may enable me to to do some work as I move around.

  10. Xyz said

    Sen wrote: “We have to discover the meaning even of apparently familiar terms, by looking at the specific way they are used in multiple Bahai texts, and finding the meaning which is consistent with all of these uses.”

    Do you follow this rule for each and every word that you read in the Baha’i writings? Infact it is impossible to “discover” the meaning of a word by reading texts that contains that word. The meaning of words in the Baha’i writings can ONLY be discovered by asking an Interpreter of the Word of God.

  11. The affairs of the [Baha’i] people in every State [civil authority] are under the administrative and governing authority of the Universal House of Justice. That is, no matter what civil law one lives under, for matters of government and justice within the Baha’i Faith, the Universal House of Justice has the power to govern and administer the [Baha’i] people. Thus, if a civil authority says that Baha’is living in its jurisdiction must allow their Baha’i community to submit their religious organization to the authority of the civil authority rather than the Universal House of Justice, the Baha’is will probably have to reject this and continue to look to the Universal House of Justice as the ultimate source of rule and governing decisions about matters such as sanctions and rules within the faith.

    What is a state religion? It’s a religion recognized and in some ways endorsed by a civil authority. For example, in the United States we don’t have established state religions, but the civil authorities do distinguish legitimate religious organizations and grant them a tax-exempt status, and sometimes even special legal protections to allow certain religious rituals or practices that might otherwise be forbidden. I believe that in the United Kingdom recognized religions may receive state subsidies for their religious schools, and there is a considerable segment of the American population that would like a system of public vouchers instituted in the United States so that taxpayer money could go to religious schools. As I understand it, there have been times and places (the Ottoman Empire, I think is one) in which the civil authorities even recognized certain religions and gave their religious courts and clergy the rights to administer certain forms of religious law, especially related to matters of marriage, divorce, burial, inheritance, etc. A state religion could also be one specific religion endorsed as the official religion of the nation-state. What did Shoghi Effendi read about Constantine’s establishment of Christianity as a state religion in imperial Rome? Okay, I know he read Gibbon, and maybe he read the biography of Constantine by Eusebius of Caesarea? I suppose he therefore knew that Constantine legitimatized [a particular type of] Christianity, and made it one of the officially recognized, subsidized, and protected religions of the Roman Empire, but Constantine certainly did not entirely abandon paganism, or even de-legitimize it. Shoghi Effendi was aware of this, right?

    It seems to me most American Baha’is imagine that when Shoghi Effendi referred to a “State Religion of an independent and Sovereign Power” the Guardian was envisioning a secular authority making the Baha’i Faith some sort of official religion to the exclusion of all others, and perhaps handing over certain secular administrative functions to the Baha’i religious administrative order, or integrating the state administrative processes with the work of local spiritual assemblies and the national spiritual assembly / house of justice. That’s one way to look at it, and I suppose some people have the sort of composition where that’s how they are predisposed to understand such a thing. Ian Semple and David Hoffman saw it that way, but I don’t. I think I’m taking an integrative approach when I reach my own conclusion that Shoghi Effendi had in mind something like the state religions of the Roman Empire under Constantine, or in the 19th century Ottoman Empire, or in the United Kingdom today, or even the legally recognized non-profit status of many Baha’i Spiritual Assemblies in the United States today. I seem to be the sort of person composed by God in such a way that this is the way I see things. Other people have been composed in other ways.

    What is a Baha’i State? What is a Christian State or an Islamic State? Is America, for example, a Christian State? Our president is a Christian, and wrote about his Christian faith in his two autobiographical memoirs. The majority of the population in America holds membership in Christian congregations, attends church at least semi-regularly, and responds to surveys about belief indicating agreement with most of the core tenants of Christianity. A Christian holiday on December 25th is a national, state-recognized holiday. All manner of civil society institutions embrace and celebrate Christian imagery, use Christian scripture, and claim some sort of association to Christianity. Even in interfaith civic organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, it is common for leaders to pray with the assumption that everyone in attendance is Christian, and conclude prayers with, “in Jesus’ name we pray” despite the presence of Hindu, Baha’i, Jewish, Moslem, and Buddhist scouts in attendance. For the most part those of us who are in minority religions just go along with it without complaining, because, after all, this is. . . . what? Oh, it’s sort of a Christian State, isn’t it? And, so are Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Italy, etc. etc. In some ways modern Turkey is a secular, non-religious state, but in other ways it is clearly an Islamic state. Egypt has many Coptic Christians, but it’s pretty much an Islamic state. Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, etc. are all in some sense Islamic states. Is Indonesia less of an Islamic state because it has more religious minorities and a more secular government than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Is Saudi Arabia less of an Islamic State because it is dominated by a Wahabbi ideology, which from a Baha’i point-of-view, is pretty far off the mark from the authentic religion inspired by the Revelation of Mohammad? Are Iraq and Iran more or better Islamic states because the “correct” Shi’ite version of Islam is dominant?

    My point is I don’t think anyone can say with much definitive authority what the heck anyone means when they say “a Baha’i State” just as we aren’t sure what we are talking about by terms such as “Christian State” or “Islamic State.” Here again, I’m composed by God in such a way that it seems to me when people are envisioning some sort of future Baha’i state run by spiritual assemblies the way the clerics run Iran today, I am flabbergasted. I have known saintly persons, including some Baha’is, and I have known able administrators and public servants. The personalities and skill sets rarely overlap. In fact, the sort of people who are outstanding at doing the pastoral care and community organizing necessary in faith communities are often quite different in temperament and intellectual inclination from the people who are best at visionary leadership or seeing to efficient allocation of resources to various bodies of a large, bureaucratic human institution.

    I seem to be the sort of person who, when I take what I think is an integrative approach to all the Baha’i teachings and interpretations and elucidations, figure a future Baha’i State would relate to the Baha’i Faith the way the Utah state and local governments relate to the Church of Latter Day Saints. That is, most of the elected officials and government bureaucrats in the secular civil authority would be practicing Baha’is, deeply influenced by the Baha’i Writings, and very loyal to and attentive to the Baha’i Spiritual Assemblies and the House of Justice, but no, they wouldn’t be submitting their budgets to the spiritual assemblies for approval. And no, presidents or prime ministers wouldn’t offer to allow the Universal House of Justice to have some Baha’i governmental-relations office in the World Center appoint national cabinet ministers or write new tax codes.

    A Baha’i World Commonwealth and the promised Kingdom of God on earth is something I too expect to come about. I’m not sure exactly what a “Baha’i World Commonwealth” would actually be, or look like, but I expect whatever form of social organization and institutions are included in that will mostly conform to the sorts of teachings that are repeated again and again, in authenticated writings of Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha.

    Then there is this quotation, which I wish to comment upon:

    This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body must reinforce the executive, the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong,

    Should the excerpt from the Will and Testament be understood to mean:

    “The House of Justice enacteth the [religious and Baha’i-administrative] laws [for the Baha’is], and the [Baha’i administrative order, which functions as the Baha’i] government enforceth them. The [Baha’i] legislative body [which is, for Baha’is, the House of Justice] must reinforce the [Baha’i Faith’s] executive [branch, which is the Guardian, and then after the Guardian such administrative institutions as are established by legislation from the House of Justice], the [Baha’i Faith’s] executive [(which is the Guardian)] must aid and assist the [Baha’i Faith’s] legislative body [(which is the Houses of Justice)] so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice [within the Baha’i administrative order, and then by example and practice spreading out to the rest of the world inspired by the Baha’i revelation whether or not actually identifying as Baha’i] may become firm and strong,…”

    Or, should it mean

    “The House of Justice enacteth the laws [of all types, both those for the Baha’i community and for the rest of the whole world, living under the civil government established and controlled by the religious government of the Baha’is], and the government [of all types, including civil authorities in legislative, executive, judicial, control, public utility, public commercial enterprise, and administrative review functions] enforceth them. The legislative body [which is, for everyone on earth, the House of Justice] must reinforce the executive [which includes all sorts and levels of civil authority], the executive [civil authorities] must aid and assist the legislative body [which is the House of Justice] so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces [being (1) the House of Justices with their legislative function of enacting all forms of law and (2) the civil authorities with their executive functions of carrying out the laws enacted by Houses of Justice], the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong.

    I wonder that anyone can imagine that blending the

    (1) spiritual government of the legislative functions of the House of Justice and Guardianship (and successor institutions following the Guardian, as established by the House of Justice), guided and protected as they are by God,

    and the

    civil courts and bureaucracies that handle the administration of the 30%-60% of national economic activity that is in the public sphere,

    will get us to something that matches what Baha’u’llah, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi described or envisioned.

    When I try to integrate the whole body of Baha’i texts I’m familiar with, I see that religion in general, and especially the specific Baha’i Revelation teachings, ought to become a stronger influence upon the persons in the civil government and public administration and bureaucracies, and that if the generality of humanity becomes more spiritualized and more respectful of the Baha’i Revelation, our societies will improve, our civil governments will improve, and we’ll end up with a very desirable sort of supra-state in which well-meaning and thoughtful people try to get the balance right (ethically and efficiently and sustainably) in protecting individual liberty and prosperity while still adequately meeting the collective needs of wider groups and providing equality in opportunity, life chances, and participation in the public sphere. In such a world I imagine that clergy and spiritual leaders of all religions will have studied Baha’i teachings, embraced most of the essential and core teachings of the Baha’i Revelation, and Baha’is themselves will have grown out of their immaturity and into something very wonderful, so that everyone, including secular legislators in civil governments and religious leaders of various faith communities, will care very much about what the Baha’i Universal House of Justice is telling Baha’is or announcing to the wider world.

    I have not yet been able to integrate the whole body of Baha’i texts I’m familiar with into a form that allows me to imagine that Baha’u’llah, ‘Abdu’l-Baha, or Shoghi Effendi thought the internal religious government of the Baha’is led by our Universal House of Justice would ever mature to a point where humanity would outgrow the need for a distinction between (1) religious institutions that nurture our souls and guide our religious communities and (2) secular institutions that coerce people into behaving well and obeying law through the threat of force.

    A speculative point: Yes, I suppose in the distant future, thousands of generations from now, cultural constraints will have become such a force in natural selection that human nature itself will have changed, and we may outgrow the need for any civil authority or coercive force to help us live together. In the sort of utopian political anarchy that flourishes when people are so good that they no longer need governments, the religious authorities such as the Houses of Justice really will be all that is left of leadership and government. If humans and their evolutionary descendants continue on this planet for a billion years, and then spread out through the universe and hang around until the heat death of this particular universe, then I suppose the hundreds of generations when humans are so primitive as to need secular governments will seem a mere instant in history. The eons when we’re able to spontaneously behave ourselves and coordinate with each other under the guidance only of religious authority will, I suppose, last far longer than this time when we still need the coercive force of secular, civil governments to ensure that we don’t cheat or harm each other. But I’ve never understood that people like Ian Semple or David Hoffman were imagining this sort of distant future. They seemed always to me to be thinking that creatures with minds and personalities much like those we humans generally have today will someday fairly soon no longer need a division between secular civil governments and religious governments.

  12. Sen said

    Yes, I use this method of cross-referencing within the Bahai scriptures all the time. When I am translating the Bahai writings, I use it for every core word (not the prepositions, not the verb “to be”) in every sentence. That’s why it takes a long time. The search includes both other uses of the word in the Bahai writings in Persian and Arabic, and the translations of the word by Shoghi Effendi, so I am both consulting the scriptures and consulting the Interpreter of the Word. I also search thematically, and search out the meanings of related words based on the same Arabic root. For example, if the word is a verb I also look for related nouns, and see how these are used and how Shoghi Effendi translates them.

  13. Sen said

    To return to Chris’s questions above:

    Question 3: In Shoghi Effendi’s 1925 translation of the Eighth Ishráq (Splendor) is this statement: “The men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people in every State.” Would you please transliterate the Persian original here and comment on what is meant by “the affairs of the people in every State”?

    umuur-e mellat mu`alleq ast be-rejaal-e bayt-e adl elahi

    اُمور ملّت معلّق است برجال بيت عدل الهی

    Literally, it says that the affairs of the people/community are dependent on the gentlemen of the divine house of justice. There is no word for “in every state” here; Shoghi Effendi has added it to clarify that the reference is to the Universal House of Justice that has authority over the Bahais in every country, as distinct from the local houses of justice that have authority over the Bahais in a particular territory.

    The use of mellat to refer to the Bahai community is not uncommon in the Bahai writings. For example, in the Will and Testament we read that if a member of the UHJ does wrong, the guardian can expel him and the people mellat) will elect a replacement. Since the Will and Testament says that the House of Justice “must be elected by universal suffrage, that is, by the believers,” clearly it is the believers who are the mellat/people who will elect another member.

    Question 4: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also states in the Will and Testament:

    “This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body must reinforce the executive, the executive must aid and assist the legislative body so that through the close union and harmony of these two forces, the foundation of fairness and justice may become firm and strong, that all the regions of the world may become even as Paradise itself.”

    [Chris] How do you understand this passage, and how does your view (1) comport with the House’s April 1995 letter to you; and (2) how does your understanding differ from a “popular” Bahá’í perspective?

    Some have understood this within the framework of the western political theory of “three powers” within a state – the legislative, executive and judiciary. This is incorrect, it refers to the two primary forces in world society, the religious power(s) and the civil states. The religious power propagates and specifies the religious law (in the broadest sense, religious teachings), while the civil power is the executive force in society. It may be an absolute monarch or a constitutional government. I have discussed this further in “Executive and legislative” on this blog, at http://tinyurl.com/ABWTlegislative

    While the House’s April 1995 letter cites this section of the Will and Testament, it does not offer a reading or elucidation of it.

    Question 5: ‘Abdu’l-Bahá also states in the Will and Testament:

    “O ye beloved of the Lord! It is incumbent upon you to be submissive to all monarchs that are just and to show your fidelity to every righteous king. Without their leave and permission do not meddle with political affairs, for disloyalty to the just sovereign is disloyalty to God Himself.”

    [Chris] Same question as before: How do you understand this passage, and how does your view (1) comport with the House’s April 1995 letter to you; and (2) how does your understanding differ from a “popular” Bahá’í perspective?

    I am not sure of your question here, since I do not see any interpretive crux to discuss. The meaning seems plain, and this is not cited in the House’s 1995 letter to me. All I can do is offer some similar passages, and you can see whether these clarify the reading for you:

    O thou servant of Baha’! Thou hast asked regarding the political affairs. In the United States it is necessary that the citizens shall take part in elections. This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is possible. My object in telling the believers that they should not interfere in the affairs of government is this: That they should not make any trouble and that they should not move against the opinion of the government, but obedience to the laws and the administration of the commonwealth is necessary. Now, as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic.
    (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 342)

    In a talk given in the United States, he is reported to have said:

    The injunction to Bahais has been this: they must not engage in matters of politics which lead to corruption. They must have nothing to do with corruption or sedition but should interest themselves in clean politics. In Persia, at the present time, the Bahais have no part in the movements which have terminated in corruption; but on the other hand a Bahai may be a politician of the right type; even ministers in Persia are Bahais. We have Governor-Generals who are Bahais and there are many other Bahais who take part in politics, but not in corruption. It is evident they must have nothing to do with seditious movements. For example, if the Americans should arise with the intention of reinstating despotism, the Bahais should take no part in it. ( Star of the West, Vol. 4, p. 122. The talk is dated July 23rd 1912. It appears that no Persian notes were taken, so the accuracy of the report cannot be confirmed. )

    Question 6: Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh (pp. 275–276), wrote:

    “Some form of a world Super-State must needs be evolved, … Such a state will have to include within its orbit an International Executive adequate to enforce supreme and unchallengeable authority on every recalcitrant member of the commonwealth; a World Parliament whose members shall be elected by the people in their respective countries and whose election shall be confirmed by their respective governments; and a Supreme Tribunal whose judgment will have a binding effect even in such cases where the parties concerned did not voluntarily agree to submit their case to its consideration.”

    [Chris] What relationship do these three institutions — the “International Executive” and “World Parliament” and “Supreme Tribunal” — have with the future Universal House of Justice?

    These are the three arms of the civil government; together they relate to the Universal House of Justice in ways that will be determined from time to time, within certain limits. One of the limits is included in this passage: the international executive must have no superior, it has supreme and unchallengeable authority. Further details, beyond what we have in the Will and Testament and the writings of Shoghi Effendi, may have to be elucidated by the House of Justice, or may simply become clear over time.

    Question 7: Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh (p. 278), also wrote:

    “The Bahá’í Commonwealth of the future of which this vast Administrative Order is the sole framework, is, both in theory and practice, not only unique in the entire history of political institutions, but can find no parallel in the annals of any of the world’s recognized religious systems. No form of democratic government; no system of autocracy or of dictatorship, whether monarchical or republican; no intermediary scheme of a purely aristocratic order; nor even any of the recognized types of theocracy, whether it be the Hebrew Commonwealth, or the various Christian ecclesiastical organizations, or the Imamate or the Caliphate in Islám—none of these can be identified or be said to conform with the Administrative Order which the master-hand of its perfect Architect has fashioned.”

    [Chris] Is the “Bahá’í Commonwealth of the future” purely religious or is it religiopolitical? If the latter, what conditions would be required for a political implementation?

    The Bahai Commonwealth is a religious community and organisation, which naturally engages with the world in ways that have political effects, if we consider politics in its broadest sense. It is not a political body itself, but relates to a partner institution, the commonwealth of nations. I have gathered the quotes and links on this blog in “Two Commonwealths.” Shoghi Effendi says in several places that the Bahai Faith is entirely or essentially non-political, so a political dimension to the Bahai Commonwealth is out of the question.

    Question 8: What is the main aim of your scholarship in this area of inquiry? What do you hope to contribute to Bahá’í self-understanding and to a wider appreciation of Bahá’í sociomoral principles and practices?

    Most urgently, to protect the Bahai community against the charge that it is seditious in intent, that the Bahai Administrative Order is an alternative civil government, or a government in waiting. Further, by clarifying what the Administrative order is not, to make it easier to understand what it is. Thirdly, church and state is just one of several complementary pairings in the Bahai teachings: science and religion is another, but it is not so clearly and frequently explained as the church-state issue is. By understanding church and state, we also understand something about organic unity and oneness-in-twoness. Fourthly, a better understanding of all three of these aspects of the Bahai teachings will enable us to present the Bahai Faith in ways that are attractive to thinking people today.

    Question 9: How can Bahá’í principles of good governance best be applied to conflict resolution and to promoting world peace today? Does the Bahá’í Faith have any special contributions to make, both by way of its principles (ideas) and principals (institutions)?

    Yes, the Bahai teachings have something to offer, in many areas. I hope that the teachings in the area of church and state might be adoptable and adaptable in other religious communities, and help the religious system as a whole to play a constructive part in the postmodern world order. See further “A Common Language for Postmodern Political Theologies,” and “The future of religions” — the latter is not specific to church and state, but describes a dynamic of relationship between the new religion and older religions which is valuable for both.

  14. Xyz said

    Your rule that I have quoted in post 10 was in response to this sentence from the Will of Abdul-Baha: “This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them.”

    The meaning of words in this sentence can only be discovered by asking an Interpreter of the Word of God. For example Abdul-Baha uses the word “government” in other sentences in His Will and also in other writings. Does the word “government” in all these sentences mean the same thing or does it have different meaning in different sentences? Only an Interpreter of the Word of God can answer this question. It is not necessary that the word “government” mean the same thing in all Baha’i writings. Its meaning can be different in different context.

  15. Sen said

    True, a word can have different meanings in different contexts. One has to check and be careful. Fortunately we have the Computer Translation Aid prepared by the Bahai World Centre to help, and the Bahai Reference Library has a search function for the Persian and Arabic texts in the library.

    The word translated as “government” in this passage is hokumat / حکومت , which appears seven times in the Will and Testament. Shoghi Effendi translates it: with government, and in one case “his majesty’s government.”

    The only place I know of where it has a broader meaning is this:

    “The instruments which are essential to the immediate protection, the security and assurance of the human race have been entrusted to the hands, and lie in the grasp, of the governors (hokumat) of human society. This is the wish of God and His decree…. We cherish the hope that one of the kings of the earth…”
    (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 206)

    ~~ Sen

  16. Xyz said

    “This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them.”

    It is clear from this sentence that the institution that enforces the laws of the House of Justice is one body as Abdul-Baha uses the word “government” and not “governments”. It seems to me that the “government” in this sentence is a Baha’i institution unlike “his majesty’s government” which is a non-Baha’i institution. Why would a non-Baha’i institution care about enforcing the laws of the UHJ?

  17. Sen said

    A letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi explains,

    By ‘Government’, on page 210 of the ‘Bahá’í World’ Vol. VI, is meant the executive body which will enforce the laws when the Bahá’í Faith has reached the point when it is recognized and accepted entirely by any particular nation…. (From a letter dated April 18, 1941 written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer: the UHJ has clarified, in a letter to me, that the reference is to The Will and Testament, pp. 14-15)

    Yes, this would be a Bahai institution, but obviously, not the House of Justice. Rather, it is a Bahai civil government, in an country that is entirely Bahai. Another letter on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf states that:

    “Institutions that are entirely managed by Bahá’ís are, for reasons that are only too obvious, under the obligation of enforcing all the laws and ordinances of the Faith, especially those whose observance constitutes a matter of conscience. There is no reason, no justification whatsoever, that they should act otherwise. . . .”
    (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, October 2, 1935,

  18. Xyz said

    I don’t think the “government” means a Baha’i civil government in every nation that accepts the Baha’i Faith. It refers to one body for all nations. The elucidation by Shoghi Effendi does not say it is a “national executive body” but “executive body”. Also Abdul-Baha uses the word “government” and not “governments”.

    Conerning the second letter of Shoghi Effendi that you quote, I think that “Institutions” refer to NSA and LSA and the “laws and ordinances of the Faith” refers to those laws of the Aqdas that are applicable at the time. I don’t think LSA or NSA will have the right to enforce laws of the UHJ as that power belongs to the “government”.

  19. Sen said

    Yet the letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi refers to “any particular nation…” I can readily believe that the Will and Testament is referring to national governments, in the first place because Persian is not so fussy about marking the singular and plural of nouns, or verbs, and “government” can refer to a particular government (the government, in English) or to government as a human enterprise, like science or art. Persian does not mark the definite article, “the.” Secondly, as I understand it the national governments remain the locus of authority and sovereignty, as Baha’u’llah says:

    “your Lord hath committed the world and the cities thereof to the care of the kings of the earth, and made them the emblems of His own power, by virtue of the sovereignty He hath chosen to bestow upon them.
    (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 303)

    He does not refer in this way to the world executive, parliament or judiciary: these are rather institutions established by the sovereign nations, who cede some of the powers that belong in the first place to the nation:

    “Some form of a world super-state must needs be evolved, in whose favor all the nations of the world will have willingly ceded every claim to make war, certain rights to impose taxation and all rights to maintain armaments, except for purposes of maintaining internal order within their respective dominions.”
    (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 40)

    So I can well believe that there is intended to be a direct partnership between the national governments, especially where many of their citizens are Bahais, and the Universal House of Justice.

  20. Sen, what you are reffering to earlier is the seperation of archy and kratos that the Church and the State had respectively during the Middle Ages. Are you familiar with Brian Patrick Mitchell?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Patrick_Mitchell

    http://entelechy.newsvine.com/_news/2007/06/05/757978-political-charts-where-do-you-fit

    In his book he explains it in detail.

    Brian Patrick Mitchell himself belongs to the Paleoconservative Constitutional Republicanism camp of the spectrum.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_right_of_kings

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphonia_%28theology%29

    Note: This church-state balancing act has had problems. One, the church could become the state like in a theocracy. The state could also use the church as a rubber stamp as in the divine right quoted below:

    However, this overlooks those parts of Scripture which provide for the doctrine of the “Two Swords” and for the medieval Roman Catholic concept of the powers, rights and duties of kings to protect the Christian Constitution of states, to defend and extend the boundaries of Christendom by lawful means only, to protect and defend the innocent, the weak, the poor and vulnerable, and to protect the Church and the Papacy with the king’s own life, if necessary. The emperor was the first knight of Christendom and the other Christian kings his brother-knights sworn to Christian chivalry with all its manifold obligations to justice and charity.

    This concept partly lived on in the divine right of kings but was much undermined and attenuated by the cutting away of the spiritual arm, turning it into a mere department of state, subsidiary to the king. The result was that this then appeared to say that any attempt by his subjects to hold the king to his historic obligations would be contrary to the will of God and any person so acting would be damned.

    Basically, religion has a soft power over its followers minds and hearts. It becomes a hard power in theocracies. If the people are all devoutly religious, even if the state is officially secular, you have a devout society. This does require the distinction between state and society.

    Where do most Baha’is fit politically? Susan Maneck usually tries to advertise the Baha’i Faith as completely in the Progressive Progressive Demiocracy camp. But, Abdul-Baha refute the anti-archy sentiments of that camp actually when he was talking to socialists. It’s unclear whether ambivalence or pro-archy is the stance identified in that statement. It’s an issue of Communitarian hybrid of Progressive Democracy and Plutocractic Nationalism or Neoconcservative Plutocratic Nationalism.

  21. Sen said

    I don’t find Brian Mitchell’s categories at all useful, in fact I wonder if he believes them himself or has proposed them tendentiously, as a way of putting those he disagrees with in a black-painted box? So he can categorize democratic progessives as pro-kratos, favouring the use of force. It’s nonsense: which progressives, and in which situation, were in favour or against the use of force is a meaningful question, the generalization tells us only about the generalizer.

    I would say that Abdu’l-Baha regarded both rank and the use of force as necessary: he is niether pro- nor anti-, nor a head-in-the-clouds theorist, he is a realist.

  22. I generally find it useful, though I do prefer the Nolan Chart or the Political Compass as well as any of their derivative spin-offs more.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/woods/woods60.html

    My views on it are like those of Thomas E. Woods, Junior in his review.

    Also, why do you single out progressives as being mistreated by the pro-kratos label any more than Communitarians or Neo-Conservatives?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non-aggression_principle

    Generally, belief in, ambivalence towards, or disbelief in the NAP above is what defines a person’s relations to kratos. Even if a person is anti-kratos, they will believe in the use of force to counter the use of force.

    Also, why is the Progressive camp the only camp you complained about their category? There are eight other categories you could have complained about as well.

    It’d be one thing if you actually read his book all the way through before making a review of his views, but you just read his Wikipedia page. Tell me what you think of the book once you read it! Also, you missed the point of the post. He did also have a summary of the history of the Middle Ages, church-state relationships, their impact on the modern West, and their impact on politics.

  23. Isa said

    “`Abdu’l-Bahá’s policy is temporary.”

    Sir, Mr. Buck, how do you get that the policy is temporary from the statement, “or that at ANY TIME it will interfere with governmental affairs.”

    Best Regards

  24. Larry Roofener said

    Sen: Recognizing that considerable time has lapsed since replies have been posted on this topic, I nevertheless would like to share some content I have come across in my reading of the administrative order section of the Dispensation of Baha’u’llah which may be relevant to the versions of translation using the words “administrative affairs” or “matters of state”.

    Shoghi Effendi states “that this Administrative Order is fundamentally different from anything that any Prophet has previously established, … No where in the sacred scriptures of any of the world’s religious systems, nor even in the writings of the Inaugurator of the Bábí Dispensation, do we find any provisions establishing a covenant or providing for an administrative order that can compare in scope and authority with those that lie at the very basis of the Bahá’í Dispensation. Has either Christianity or Islám, to take as an instance two of the most widely diffused and outstanding among the world’s recognized religions, anything to offer that can measure with, or be regarded as equivalent to, either the Book of Bahá’u’lláh’s Covenant or to the Will and Testament of `Abdu’l-Bahá? Does the text of either the Gospel or the Qur’án confer sufficient authority upon those leaders and councils that have claimed the right and assumed the function of interpreting the provisions of their sacred scriptures and of administering the affairs of their respective communities?” The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p.145

    i.e. “Administrative affairs should be referred to the House of Justice …”

    Larry Roofener
    .

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