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                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Compilation on Church and State

A brief compilation on Church and State in the Bahai Writings, in no particular order. The quotes I use most often are in the first section. After the first section, you can search downwards using the following topic headings (or search with the * — which I use to mark section headings):

*God decrees separation
*Shoghi Effendi’s compilation on kingship
*The duties of kings and rulers (includes, forms and ethics of government)
*Spiritual Sovereignty
*Civil Obedience
*Religious institutions should be non-political
*Duties of Bahais in a democracy
*Harmony of the political and religious orders
*Church and State in Babism
And a compilation on the promulgation and application of religious law by civil governments, which is in the comments section because I have not yet formatted it.

If you have a quote that should be here, feel free to add it through the comments section.
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“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.”
(Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Baha’u’llah 66.)

Abdu’l-Baha wrote:

“Should they place in the arena the crown of the government of the whole world, and invite each one of us to accept it, undoubtedly we shall not condescend, and shall refuse to accept it.” ( Tablets of the Divine Plan 51)

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).

One of their many calumnies was that this servant had raised aloft a banner in this city, had summoned the people together under it, had established a new sovereignty for himself, … and, God forbid, had purposed to cause the gravest breach in the mighty power of the Crown.

May the Lord protect us from such atrocious falsehoods! According to the direct and sacred command of God … We must obey and be the well-wishers of the governments of the land, regard disloyalty unto a just king as disloyalty to God Himself and wishing evil to the government a transgression of the Cause of God. With these final and decisive words, how can it be that these imprisoned ones should indulge in such vain fancies; incarcerated, how could they show forth such disloyalty!” (Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, pages 7-8)

Baha’u’llah writes:

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. From the beginning that hath no beginning the ensign proclaiming the words “He doeth whatsoever He willeth” hath been unfurled in all its splendor before His Manifestation. 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, must be submissive unto him, must carry out his behests, and hold fast his authority. The sovereigns of the earth have been and are the manifestations of the power, the grandeur and the majesty of God. This Wronged One hath at no time dealt deceitfully with anyone. Every one is well aware of this, and beareth witness unto it. Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained, as is clearly attested by the words of the Prophets of God and His chosen ones. 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 and to God the things that are God’s.” He forbade it not. These two sayings are, in the estimation of men of insight, one and the same, for if that which belonged to Caesar had not come from God, He would have forbidden it. And likewise in the sacred verse: “Obey God and obey the Apostle, and those among you invested with authority.” By “those invested with authority” is meant primarily and more especially the Imams — the blessings of God rest upon them! They, verily, are the manifestations of the power of God, and the sources of His authority, and the repositories of His knowledge, and the daysprings of His commandments. Secondarily these words refer unto the kings and rulers — those through the brightness of whose justice the horizons of the world are resplendent and luminous. We fain would hope that His Majesty the Shah will shine forth with a light of justice whose radiance will envelop all the kindreds of the earth. It is incumbent upon every one to beseech the one true God on his behalf for that which is meet and seemly in this day.
(Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 89)

Know thou that We have annulled the rule of the sword, as an aid to Our Cause, and substituted for it the power born of the utterance of men. Thus have We irrevocably decreed, by virtue of Our grace. Say: O people! Sow not the seeds of discord among men, and refrain from contending with your neighbor, for 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. To this He Who is Himself the Eternal Truth will testify. 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)


*God decrees separation
From the Writings of Baha’u’llah

In the Epistle to the Romans Saint Paul hath written: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” And further: “For he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” He saith that the appearance of the kings, and their majesty and power are of God.
(Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 91)

… God, …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. … 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)

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, 279)

Forbear ye from concerning yourselves with the affairs of this world and all that pertaineth unto it, or from meddling with the activities of those who are its outward leaders. The one true God, exalted be His glory, hath bestowed the government of the earth upon the kings. To none is given the right to act in any manner that would run counter to the considered views of them who are in authority. That which He hath reserved for Himself are the cities of men’s hearts; and of these the loved ones of Him Who is the Sovereign Truth are, in this Day, as the keys. Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, 241

From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

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)

*Shoghi Effendi’s compilation on kingship:

No wonder that Bahá’u’lláh, in view of the treatment meted out to Him by the sovereigns of the earth, should, as already quoted, have written these words: “From two ranks amongst men power hath been seized: kings and ecclesiastics.” Indeed, He even goes further, and states in His Tablet addressed to Shaykh Salman: “One of the signs of the maturity of the world is that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship. Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight. … .”
Let none, however, mistake or unwittingly misrepresent the purpose of Baha’u’llah. … His teachings embody no principle that can, in any way, be construed as a repudiation, or even a disparagement, however veiled, of the institution of kingship. … Indeed if we delve into the writings of the Author of the Baha’i Faith, we cannot fail to discover unnumbered passages in which, in terms that none can misrepresent, the principle of kingship is eulogized, the rank and conduct of just and fair-minded kings is extolled, the rise of monarchs, ruling with justice and even professing His Faith, is envisaged, and the solemn duty to arise and ensure the triumph of Baha’i sovereigns is inculcated. To conclude from the above quoted words …. that His followers either advocate or anticipate the definite extinction of the institution of kingship, would indeed be tantamount to a distortion of His teaching.

I can do no better than quote some of Baha’u’llah’s Own testimonies, leaving the reader to shape his own judgment as to the falsity of such a deduction. In His Epistle to the Son of the Wolf He indicates the true source of kingship: “Regard for the rank of sovereigns is divinely ordained, as is clearly attested by the words of the Prophets of God and His chosen ones. 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, and to God the things that are God’s.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 72)

… this process of disintegration, associated with the declining fortunes of a superannuated, though divinely revealed Law, … has, more recently, been responsible for the dissociation of the System envisaged in the Kitab-i-Aqdas from the Sunni ecclesiastical Law in Egypt, has paved the way for the recognition of that System in the Holy Land itself, and is destined to culminate in the secularization of the Muslim states, and in the universal recognition of the Law of Baha’u’llah by all the nations, and its enthronement in the hearts of all the peoples, of the Muslim world.
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 33)

…in the slow and hidden process of secularisation invading many a Government department under the courageous guidance of the Governors of outlying provinces — in all of these a discerning eye can easily discover the symptoms that augur well for a future that is sure to witness the formal and complete separation of Church and State.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, 76)

*The duties of kings and rulers
The Writings of Baha’u’llah

For is it not your clear duty to restrain the tyranny of the oppressor, and to deal equitably with your subjects, that your high sense of justice may be fully demonstrated to all mankind? God hath committed into your hands the reins of the government of the people, that ye may rule with justice over them, safeguard the rights of the down-trodden, and punish the wrong-doers. (Suriy-ye Muluk, in Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, CXVI 247)

Hearken ye, O Rulers of America and the Presidents of the Republics therein, unto that which the Dove is warbling on the Branch of Eternity: “There is none other God but Me, the Ever-Abiding, the Forgiving, the All-Bountiful.” Adorn ye the temple of dominion with the ornament of justice and of the fear of God, and its head with the crown of the remembrance of your Lord,
(The Kitab-i-Aqdas, 52, para 88)

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. From the beginning that hath no beginning the ensign proclaiming the words “He doeth whatsoever He willeth” hath been unfurled in all its splendor before His Manifestation. 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…. . (The Lawh-e Ashraf, in Gleanings, CII 206-7.)

The Second Ishraq
We have enjoined upon all mankind to establish the Most Great Peace — the surest of all means for the protection of humanity. The sovereigns of the world should, with one accord, hold fast thereunto, for this is the supreme instrument that can ensure the security and welfare of all peoples and nations. They, verily, are the manifestations of the power of God and the daysprings of His authority.
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, 125)

Be united, O kings of the earth, for thereby will the tempest of discord be stilled amongst you, and your peoples find rest,… Should any one among you take up arms against another, rise ye all against him, for this is naught but manifest justice. … Should anyone seek refuge with you, extend unto him your protection and betray him not. (Tablet to Queen Victoria, in Summons of the Lord of Hosts, 90

We have also heard that thou hast entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people. Thou, indeed, hast done well, … It behoveth them, however, to be trustworthy among His servants, and to regard themselves as the representatives of all that dwell on earth. (Tablet to Queen Victoria, in Summons of the Lord of Hosts, 90

“…gather not around thee such ministers as follow the desires of a corrupt inclination, … Gather around thee those ministers from whom thou canst perceive the fragrance of faith and of justice, and take thou counsel with them, … Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful. … He that acteth treacherously towards God will, also, act treacherously towards his king. Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbour, nothing can induce him to walk uprightly.
(The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, 209)

The Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

True civilization will unfurl its banner … whenever a certain number of its distinguished and high-minded sovereigns … [shall arise] … to establish the Cause of Universal Peace. They must make the Cause of Peace the object of general consultation, and seek by every means in their power to establish a Union of the nations of the world. They must conclude a binding treaty and establish a covenant, the provisions of which shall be sound, inviolable and definite. They must proclaim it to all the world and obtain for it the sanction of all the human race. … In this all-embracing Pact the limits and frontiers of each and every nation should be clearly fixed, the principles underlying the relations of governments towards one another definitely laid down, and all international agreements and obligations ascertained. … (The Secret of Divine Civilization 64-5

Should differences arise, they shall be amicably and conclusively settled by the Supreme Tribunal, that shall include members from all the governments and peoples of the world. (Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha, 13)

For example, the question of universal peace, about which Baha’u’llah says that the Supreme Tribunal must be established … His plan is this: that the national assemblies of each country and nation — that is to say parliaments — should elect two or three persons who are the choicest men of that nation, and are well informed concerning international laws and the relations between governments … The number of these representatives should be in proportion to the number of inhabitants of that country. The election of these souls who are chosen by the national assembly … must be confirmed by the upper house, the congress and the cabinet and also by the president or monarch so these persons may be the elected ones of all the nation and the government. From among these people the members of the Supreme Tribunal will be elected, and all mankind will thus have a share therein, for every one of these delegates is fully representative of his nation. When the Supreme Tribunal gives a ruling on any international question … there will no longer be any pretext for the plaintiff or ground of objection for the defendant. In case any of the governments or nations, in the execution of the irrefutable decision of the Supreme Tribunal, be negligent or dilatory, the rest of the nations will rise up against it, because all the governments and nations of the world are the supporters of this Supreme Tribunal.
(Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, 306-7)

The writings of Shoghi Effendi:

“…The unity of the human race, as envisaged by Baha’u’llah, implies the establishment of a world commonwealth in which all nations, races, creeds and classes are closely and permanently united, and in which the autonomy of its state members and the personal freedom and initiative of the individuals that compose them are definitely and completely safeguarded. This commonwealth must, as far as we can visualize it, consist of a world legislature, whose members will, as the trustees of the whole of mankind, ultimately control the entire resources of all the component nations, and will enact such laws as shall be required to regulate the life, satisfy the needs and adjust the relationships of all races and peoples. A world executive, backed by an international Force, will carry out the decisions arrived at, and apply the laws enacted by, this world legislature, and will safeguard the organic unity of the whole commonwealth. A world tribunal will adjudicate and deliver its compulsory and final verdict in all and any disputes that may arise between the various elements constituting this universal system.
… A world federal system, ruling the whole earth and exercising unchallengeable authority over its unimaginably vast resources, blending and embodying the ideals of both the East and the West … a system in which Force is made the servant of Justice, whose life is sustained by its universal recognition of one God and by its allegiance to one common Revelation ? such is the goal towards which humanity, impelled by the unifying forces of life, is moving.”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, 202-4)

The establishment of a constitutional form of government, in which the ideals
of republicanism and the majesty of kingship, characterized by Him as “one of the signs of God,” are combined, He recommends as a meritorious achievement ….
God Passes By, 218-219

*Spiritual Sovereignty:
in the Writings of Baha’u’llah

He Who is the Day-star of Truth and Revealer of the Supreme Being holdeth, for all time, undisputed sovereignty over all that is in heaven and on earth, though no man be found on earth to obey Him. He verily is independent of all earthly dominion, though He be utterly destitute.
(The Kitab-e Iqan, 93)

Yea, the sovereignty attributed to the Qa’im and spoken of in the scriptures, is a reality, the truth of which none can doubt. This sovereignty, however, is not the sovereignty which the minds of men have falsely imagined.
… by sovereignty is meant the all-encompassing, all-pervading power which is inherently exercised by the Qa’im whether or not He appear to the world clothed in the majesty of earthly dominion. … You will readily recognize that the terms sovereignty, wealth, life, death, judgment and resurrection, spoken of by the scriptures of old, are not what this generation hath conceived and vainly imagined. Nay, by sovereignty is meant that sovereignty which in every dispensation resideth within, and is exercised by, the person of the Manifestation, the Day-star of Truth. That sovereignty is the spiritual ascendancy which He exerciseth to the fullest degree over all that is in heaven and on earth, and which in due time revealeth itself to the world in direct proportion to its capacity and spiritual receptiveness, … (Kitab-e Iqan 106-8)

… how many are the Sovereigns who bow the knee before His name! How numerous the nations and kingdoms who have sought the shelter of His shadow, who bear allegiance to His Faith, and pride themselves therein! … Such is His earthly sovereignty, the evidences of which thou dost on every side behold. This sovereignty must needs be revealed and established either in the lifetime of every Manifestation of God or after His ascension unto His true habitation in the realms above. … That spiritual ascendency, however, which is primarily intended, resideth within, and revolveth around Them from eternity even unto eternity. It can never for a moment be divorced from Them. Its dominion hath encompassed all that is in heaven and on earth. (Kitab-e Iqan 110-111)

Our purpose in setting forth these truths hath been to demonstrate the sovereignty of Him Who is the King of kings. Be fair: Is this sovereignty which, through the utterance of one Word, hath manifested such pervading influence, ascendancy, and awful majesty, is this sovereignty superior, or is the worldly dominion of these kings of the earth who, despite their solicitude for their subjects and their help of the poor, are assured only of an outward and fleeting allegiance, while in the hearts of men they inspire neither affection nor respect? Hath not that sovereignty, through the potency of one word, subdued, quickened, and revitalized the whole world? What! Can the lowly dust compare with Him Who is the Lord of Lords? What tongue dare utter the immensity of difference that lieth between them? (Kitab-e Iqan 123-4)

Were sovereignty to mean earthly sovereignty and worldly dominion, were it to imply the subjection and external allegiance of all the peoples and kindreds of the earth – whereby His loved ones should be exalted and be made to live in peace, and His enemies be abased and tormented – such form of sovereignty would not be true of God Himself, the Source of all dominion, Whose majesty and power all things testify. For, dost thou not witness how the generality of mankind is under the sway of His enemies? Have they not all turned away from the path of His good-pleasure? Have they not done that which He hath forbidden, and left undone, nay repudiated and opposed, those things which He hath commanded? Have not His friends ever been the victims of the tyranny of His foes? All these things are more obvious than even the splendour of the noon-tide sun (Kitab-e Iqan 125)

Were the verse “And verily Our host shall conquer” to be literally interpreted, it is evident that it would in no wise be applicable to the chosen Ones of God and His hosts, inasmuch as Husayn, whose heroism was manifest as the sun, crushed and subjugated, quaffed at last the cup of martyrdom in Karbila …

… the purpose of these verses is not what they have imagined. Nay, the terms “ascendancy,” “power,” and “authority” imply a totally different station and meaning. For instance, consider the pervading power of those drops of the blood of Husayn which besprinkled the earth. What ascendancy and influence hath the dust itself, through the sacredness and potency of that blood, exercised over the bodies and souls of men! So much so, that he who sought deliverance from his ills, was healed by touching the dust of that holy ground, and whosoever, wishing to protect his property, treasured with absolute faith and understanding, a little of that holy earth within his house, safeguarded all his possessions. These are the outward manifestations of its potency. … Furthermore, call to mind the shameful circumstances that have attended the martyrdom of Husayn. … And yet, behold how numerous, in this day, are those who from the uttermost corners of the earth don the garb of pilgrimage, seeking the site of his martyrdom, that there they may lay their heads upon the threshold of his shrine! Such is the ascendancy and power of God! Such is the glory of His dominion and majesty! (Kitab-e Iqan 126-9)

We, of a certainty, have had no purpose in this earthly realm save to make God manifest and to reveal His sovereignty; sufficient unto Me is God for a witness.
(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 82)

Thereupon Jesus lifted up His head and said: “Beholdest thou not the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power and might?” These were His words, and yet consider how to outward seeming He was devoid of all power except that inner power which was of God and which had encompassed all that is in heaven and on earth.
(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 132)

Certain of the Jews, standing by, protested saying: “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” And immediately He perceived their thoughts, Jesus answering said unto them: “Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, arise, and take up thy bed, and walk; or to say, thy sins are forgiven thee? that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins.”[1] This is the real sovereignty, and such is the power of God’s chosen Ones! All these things which We have repeatedly mentioned, and the details which We have cited from divers sources, have no other purpose but to enable thee to grasp the meaning of the allusions in the utterances of the chosen Ones of God,
(Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 132)

Amongst mankind are some who say this servant desireth the world for himself … Doth he who regardeth not his life (as assured) for less than a moment, desire the world? … They shall be questioned as to that which they have said; on that day they shall not find for themselves any protector nor any helper. (Tablet to Nasir-e Din Shah, tr. Shoghi Effendi, published in The Baha’i World, Vol. 4, 1930-1932, 103)

*Civil Obedience:

The Writings of Baha’u’llah

None must contend with those who wield authority over the people; leave unto them that which is theirs, and direct your attention to men’s hearts. (The Kitab-e Aqdas, 54, paragraph 95)

The Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

The just king is the shadow of God in the earth; all should take refuge under the shadow of his justice and rest in the shade of his favor.
(A Traveller’s Narrative, 65)

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)

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

*Religious institutions should be non-political

The Writings of Baha’u’llah

O Supreme Pontiff! … Sell all the embellished ornaments thou dost possess, and expend them in the path of God, … Abandon thy kingdom unto the kings, … Exhort thou the kings and say: “Deal equitably with men. Beware lest ye transgress the bounds fixed in the Book.” This indeed becometh thee. Beware lest thou appropriate unto thyself the things of the world and the riches thereof.
(The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, 61)

The Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

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. Hereafter, enemies will be many. They would use this subject as a cause for disturbing the mind of the government and confusing the thoughts of the public. (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas vol. 1, page 5).

During the conference no hint must be entertained regarding political affairs. All conferences must be regarding the matters of benefit, … If any person wishes to speak of government affairs, or to interfere with the order of Governors, the others must not combine with him because the Cause of God is withdrawn entirely from political affairs; the political realm pertains only to the Rulers of those matters: it has nothing to do with the souls who are exerting their utmost energy to harmonizing affairs, helping character and inciting (the people) to strive for perfections. Therefore no soul is allowed to interfere with (political) matters, but only in that which is commanded.
(National Bahai Archives (US), unpublished Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, printed in Baha’i World Faith, 407)

If you refer to history, you would find countless examples of this [negative] sort, all based on the involvement of religious leaders in political matters. These souls are the fountainhead of the interpretation of God’s commandments (tashrii`), not of implementation (tanfiidh). That is, when the government requests an explanation concerning the requirements of the Law of God and the realities of the divine ordinances … they must explain what has been deduced of 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, the welfare and prosperity of the kingdom, the improvement of procedures and codes of law, or foreign affairs and domestic policy? (Abdu’l-Baha, Sermon on the Art of Governance) [The translation has since been retitled The Art of Governance]

This House of Justice enacteth the laws and the government enforceth them. The legislative body (tashrii`) must reinforce the executive (tanfidh), 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 . . .(Will and testament 14-15)

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.

Shoghi Effendi
“Theirs is not the purpose, while endeavoring to conduct and perfect the administrative affairs of their Faith, 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.”
(Shoghi Effendi, in The World Order of Baha’u’llah 66.)

“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.” (Shoghi Effendi, in 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)

“…the World Council, to be designated as the Universal House of Justice, which in conjunction with me, as its appointed Head and authorized interpreter of the Baha’i teachings, must coordinate and direct the affairs of the Baha’i community,
(Summary Statement – 1947, to the Special UN Committee on Palestine)

“I would warn [the Bahais] to be on their guard lest the impression be given to the outside world that the Baha’is are political in their aims and pursuits or interfere in matters that pertain to the political activities of their respective governments. The Cause, still in its state of infancy, should be adequately protected from this particular danger….”
(13 November 1931 to an individual believer, cited in The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 420)

On behalf of Shoghi Effendi
“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.” (Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 41)

“We must build up our Bahá’í system, and leave the faulty systems of the world to go their own way. We cannot change them through becoming involved in them, on the contrary they will destroy us.

“The Guardian does not think any part of this statement of his is suitable for publication in the Press. The less ‘politics’ is associated in any way with the name Baha’i, the better. It should always be made clear that we are a religious non-political community working for humanitarian ends.”
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Teaching Committee for Central America, July 3, 1948)

From the model bylaws for national and local Spiritual Assemblies, approved by Shoghi Effendi:

“It [the local Spiritual Assembly] shall rigorously abstain from any action or influence, direct or indirect, that savours of intervention on the part of a Baha’i body in matters of public politics and civil jurisdiction.” (most recently published in Bahai World, Volume 18, p. 564, also in a 1972 booklet format, Declaration of Trust: Bylaws...)

*Duties of Bahais in a democracy

… 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 (Letter to Thornton Chase, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha Abbas, 342-43)

“The Baha’is will be called upon to assume the reins of government when they will come to constitute the majority of the population in a given country, and even then their participation in political affairs is bound to be limited in scope unless they obtain a similar majority in some other countries as well.” (Letter on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 19 November 1939)

*Harmony of the political and religious orders:
The Writings of Baha’u’llah

Every Prophet… hath been entrusted with a Message, and charged to act in a manner that would best meet the requirements of the age in which He appeared. God’s purpose in sending His Prophets unto men is twofold. The first is to liberate the children of men from the darkness of ignorance, and guide them to the light of true understanding. The second is to ensure the peace and tranquillity of mankind, and provide all the means by which they can be established. (Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, 79)

The divines must needs unite with His Majesty, … and cleave unto that which will insure the protection, the security, the welfare and prosperity of men. A just king enjoyeth nearer access unto God than anyone.
(Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, 91)

Our hope is that the world’s religious leaders and the rulers thereof will unitedly arise for the reformation of this age … Let them … take counsel together and, through anxious and full deliberation, administer to a diseased and sorely-afflicted world the remedy it requireth (Lawh-e Maqsuud, in Tablets of Baha’u’llah 168)

According to the fundamental laws which We have formerly revealed in the Kitáb-i-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 system of government which the British people have adopted in London appeareth to be good, for it is adorned with the light of both kingship and of the consultation of the people.
(Tablets of Baha’u’llah, 92)

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)

The Writings of Abdu’l-Baha

Two calls to success and prosperity are being raised from the heights of the happiness of mankind, … The one is the call of civilization, of the progress of the material world. This pertaineth to the world of phenomena, promoteth the principles of material achievement, and is the trainer for the physical accomplishments of mankind. It compriseth the laws, regulations, arts and sciences through which the world of humanity hath developed; laws and regulations which are the outcome of lofty ideals and the result of sound minds, and which have stepped forth into the arena of existence through the efforts of the wise and cultured in past and subsequent ages. The propagator and executive power of this call is just government.

The other is the soul-stirring call of God, Whose spiritual teachings are safeguards of the everlasting glory, the eternal happiness and illumination of the world of humanity, and cause attributes of mercy to be revealed in the human world and the life beyond. This second call is founded upon the instructions and exhortations of the Lord and the admonitions and altruistic emotions belonging to the realm of morality which, like unto a brilliant light, brighten and illumine the lamp of the realities of mankind. Its penetrative power is the Word of God.

However, until material achievements, physical accomplishments and human virtues are reinforced by spiritual perfections, luminous qualities and characteristics of mercy, no fruit or result shall issue therefrom, nor will the happiness of the world of humanity, which is the ultimate aim, be attained. …

Consider now, that the most advanced and civilized countries of the world have been turned into arsenals of explosives, … Therefore, this civilization and material progress should be combined with the Most Great Guidance … (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, 283-4)

“… two simultaneous processes … each clearly defined, each distinctly separate, yet closely related and destined to culminate, in the fullness of time, in a single glorious consummation.

One of these processes is associated with the mission of the American Baha’i Community, the other with the destiny of the American nation. The one serves directly the interests of the Administrative Order of the Faith of Baha’u’llah, the other promotes indirectly the institutions that are to be associated with the establishment of His World Order.

[This other] … assumed a definite outline through the birth of the United Nations at the San Francisco Conference. … It must … lead, through a series of victories and reverses, to the political unification of the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, to the emergence of a world government and the establishment of the Lesser Peace, as foretold by Baha’u’llah and foreshadowed by the Prophet Isaiah. It must, in the end, culminate in the unfurling of the banner of the Most Great Peace, in the Golden Age of the Dispensation of Baha’u’llah.” (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, 32-33)

An unusual source that gives an insight in Shoghi Effendi’s thinking is a paper he delivered in February 1921 to the Asiatic Society at Oxford, during his time as a student. It is published in Riaz Khadem’s book Prelude to the Guardianship, published by George Ronald. The relevant piece is pp 237-8:

“Another express provision in the teachings of the Movement is the institution of the House of Justice called the ‘Baytu’l-Adl’. Although the details touching its structure and operation have not yet been fully laid down yet the broad principles guiding its future activities has [sic] been established. Its duties are religious, educational, economic and political. Its different spheres of activity will be departmental, national and international. It is broadly speaking the nucleus of the Bahai State. Church and State thus far from being divorced from one another are harmonized, their interests are reconciled, are brought to co-operate for the same end, yet for each is reserved its special and definite sphere of activity. Indeed if one glances at the outstanding precepts of the Movement comprehensive and practical as they are, as the suppression of all dogmas, superstitions, religious organisations, rituals and verbal traditions, the abolition of priesthood, the discouragement of celibacy, the emphasis laid on deeds rather than words, the conception of labour as an act of worship, the belief that the criterion of every true living religion must be its conformity with reason and science and its aiming at the betterment of mankind, the body of its social and economic teachings which while denouncing force and violence and retaining the institution of private property seeks on one hand to infuse by its spirit a sense of justice and goodwill in both employer and workman alike and on the other provides the means whereby the status of the wage-earning class will be raised, — the details governing the institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar — all these teachings go to show that religion far from being excluded from man’s social life should on the contrary quite stablize and protect it.”

*Church and State in Babism

But the Babi chiefs composed treatises … they regarded interpretation as the truth of revelation and the essence of true exegesis: thus, for instance, they interpreted the sovereignty of the Qa’im as a mystical sovereignty, and His conquests as conquests of the cities of hearts, adducing in support of this the meekness and defeat of the Chief of Martyrs (may the life of all being be a sacrifice for him). For he was the true manifestation of the blessed verse “And verily our host shall overcome for them,” yet, notwithstanding this, he quaffed the cup of martyrdom with perfect meekness, and, at the very moment of uttermost defeat, triumphed over his enemies and became the most mighty of the troops of the Supreme Host.
(Abdu’l-Baha, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 17)

Mulla Husayn pleaded with the Prince, and the formal assurance he gave him, disclaiming, in no uncertain terms, any intention on his part or that of his fellow-disciples of usurping the authority of the Shah
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 39)

… a similar categorical repudiation, on the part of the Babis, of any intention of interfering with the civil jurisdiction of the realm, or of undermining the legitimate authority of its sovereign.
(Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, 43)

Baha’u’llah, Who Himself was an active figure in those days and was regarded one of the leading exponents of the Faith of the Bab, states clearly His views in the Iqan that His conception of the sovereignty of the Promised Qa’im was purely a spiritual one, and not a material or political one…
(Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, 425)

In the Writings of the Bab

God, verily, hath prescribed to thee to submit unto Him Who is His Remembrance, and unto His Cause, and to subdue, with the truth and by His leave, the countries, for in this world thou hast been mercifully invested with sovereignty, and wilt, in the next, dwell, nigh unto the Seat of Holiness, with the inmates of the Paradise of His good-pleasure…
(Selections from the Writings of the Bab, 42)

I have no desire to seize thy property, even to the extent of a grain of mustard, nor do I wish to occupy thy position.
(Selections from the Writings of the Bab, letter to Muhammad Shah, 26)

One Response to “Compilation on Church and State”

  1. Sen said

    Please feel free to add any texts you think relevant as comments. I will insert them with the links to online sources when I can.

    A friend on a discussion list contributed the following compilation on the application of religious laws by governments: I do not have time at the moment to create the links so it remains in the comments:

    Thou shouldst, moreover, arise to enforce the law of God amongst them,
    that thou mayest be of those who are firmly established in His law.
    (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 234)

    “To enforce the laws of God is naught but justice, and is the source of
    universal content. Nay more, the divine statutes have always been, and
    will ever remain, the cause and instrument of the preservation of mankind,
    as witnessed by His exalted words: “In punishment will ye find life, O men
    of insight!” (Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 120)

    We earnestly beseech God — exalted be His glory — to aid the rulers and
    sovereigns, who are the exponents of power and the daysprings of glory, to
    enforce His laws and ordinances. (Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 28)

    [O Kings of the earth] Nowhere doth your true and abiding glory reside
    except in your firm adherence unto the precepts of God, your wholehearted
    observance of His laws, your resolution to see that they do not remain
    unenforced, and to pursue steadfastly the right course. (Bahá’u’lláh, The
    Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 190)

    “Up to now the religious law has not been given a decisive role in our
    courts, because each of the ulama has been handing down decrees as he saw
    fit, based on his arbitrary interpretation and personal opinion. For
    example, two men will go to law, and one of the ulama will find for the
    plaintiff and another for the defendant. It may even happen that in one
    and the same case two conflicting decisions will be handed down by the
    same mujtahid, on the grounds that he was inspired first in one direction
    and then in the other. There can be no doubt that this state of affairs
    has confused every important issue and must jeopardize the very
    foundations of society. For neither the plaintiff nor the defendant ever
    loses hope of eventual success, and each in turn will waste his life in
    the attempt to secure a later verdict which would reverse the previous
    one. Their entire time is thus given over to litigation, with the result
    that their life instead of being devoted to beneficial undertakings and
    necessary personal affairs, is completely involved with the dispute.
    Indeed, these two litigants might just as well be dead, for they can serve
    their government and community not a particle. If, however, a definite and
    final verdict were forthcoming, the duly convicted party would perforce
    give up all hope of reopening the case, and would then be relieved on that
    score and would go back to looking after his own concerns and those of
    others. Since the primary means for securing the peace and tranquillity of
    the people, and the most effective agency for the advancement of high and
    low alike, is this all-important matter, it is incumbent on those learned
    members of the great consultative assembly who are thoroughly versed in
    the Divine law to evolve a single, direct and definite procedure for the
    settlement of litigations. This instrument should then be published
    throughout the country by order of the king, and its provisions should be
    strictly adhered to. This all-important question requires the most urgent
    attention.” (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 37)

    “Likewise in this marvelous cycle the earth will be transformed, and the
    world of humanity arrayed in tranquillity and beauty. Disputes, quarrels
    and murders will be replaced by peace, truth and concord; among the
    nations, peoples, races and countries, love and amity will appear.
    Cooperation and union will be established, and finally war will be
    entirely suppressed. When the laws of the Most Holy Book are enforced,
    contentions and disputes will find a final sentence of absolute justice
    before a general tribunal of the nations and kingdoms, and the
    difficulties that appear will be solved. The five continents of the world
    will form but one, the numerous nations will become one, the surface of
    the earth will become one land, and mankind will be a single community.
    The relations between the countries — the mingling, union and friendship
    of the peoples and communities — will reach to such a degree that the
    human race will be like one family and kindred. The light of heavenly love
    will shine, and the darkness of enmity and hatred will be dispelled from
    the world. Universal peace will raise its tent in the center of the earth,
    and the blessed Tree of Life will grow and spread to such an extent that
    it will overshadow the East and the West. Strong and weak, rich and poor,
    antagonistic sects and hostile nations — which are like the wolf and the
    lamb, the leopard and kid, the lion and the calf — will act toward each
    other with the most complete love, friendship, justice and equity. The
    world will be filled with science, with the knowledge of the reality of
    the mysteries of beings, and with the knowledge of God.” (Abdu’l-Bahá,
    Some Answered Questions, p. 62)

    “They whom God hath endued with insight will
    readily recognize that the precepts laid down by God
    constitute the highest means for the maintenance of
    order in the world and the security of its peoples.”
    (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 19, paragraph 2)

    “Hearken ye, O Rulers of America and the
    Presidents of the Republics therein, unto that which
    the Dove is warbling on the Branch of Eternity: “There
    is none other God but Me, the Ever-Abiding, the
    Forgiving, the All-Bountiful.” Adorn ye the temple of
    dominion with the ornament of justice and of the fear
    of God, and its head with the crown of the
    remembrance of your Lord, the Creator of the heavens.”
    (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 52, paragraph 88)
    [That is: He shows that “dominion” should be adorned with “the fear of
    God” and “the remembrance of your Lord”]

    “O Most Mighty Ocean! Sprinkle upon the nations
    that with which Thou hast been charged by Him Who
    is the Sovereign of Eternity, and adorn the temples of
    all the dwellers of the earth with the vesture of His laws
    through which all hearts will rejoice and all eyes be
    brightened.”(Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 54)

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