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Old 01-20-2017, 09:22 PM   #1
Have Mercy, O my God
 
Israel Meheret's Avatar
 
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الله أبهى

I have been a Bahá'í for almost 4 years now, and I have great love for Bahá'u'lláh. However, recently I've been getting skeptical over some things. Such as payment in order for adultery, Shoghí Effendí saying homosexuality isn't natural or can be cured (which scientifically isn't true) and the laws in the Aqdás, such as if a man were to burn a house intentionally, we should burn him. Forgive me for questioning His authority.

I have found love for Rastafari. I have been baptized Rastafari and believe Haile Selassie I to be the High Preist of the Tribe of Judah that was talked about in the Bible, who was to come after the second coming of Christ. I reject all divinity of Haile Selassie I, believing him to be the elect of God, a representation of the Davidic covenant. I reject all manifestions outside of the Bahá'í ones. In the Kitab-i-Aqdŕ, it states:
"Authority is in the hand of God, the Bearer of the Two Names”

The two names, Ras Tafari and Haile Selassie I. The Bearer of two names refers to one person, THE bearer with two names. Ras Tafari being his birth name, and Haile Selassie as his coronation name.

I love Bahá'u'lláh. I praise God for introducing me to the Bahá'í Faith, however, my struggle continues to go on with these laws and things I can't agree with. May I have some clarification? Forgive me, but these laws seem barbaric. Even if it was done in a Bahá'í theocratic state. Yes, I do accept authority from the Universal House of Justice, even though I sometimes disagree. I also accept (most) Canon law and authority of the one, Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, the true Christian church from the root of Saint Peter, who was the foundation of Christ's church.

Last edited by Israel Meheret; 01-20-2017 at 10:59 PM.
 
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Old 01-21-2017, 04:24 AM   #2
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Greetings Mister !

I am a newly convert to the Faith, and am in the process of declaration to the community. I am therefore a newcomer who needs to learn a lot of things. However, I can relate to what you say, as I (and I think it is the case of many people, and it should be) went through this state of confusion not so long ago. But I think that I have understood quite a few things that may be helping to you.

1. The problems of the Laws

You say :

Quote:
Forgive me, but these laws seem barbaric.
As a preliminary remark, there are not much laws that are barbaric. There are really only two laws that are "critical". Both condemn convicted criminals.

The verse 1:45 of the Book of Aqdas condemns the thieves :

Quote:
Exile and imprisonment are decreed for the thief, and, on the third offense, place ye a mark upon his brow so that, thus identified, he may not be accepted in the cities of God and His countries. Beware lest, through compassion, ye neglect to carry out the statutes of the religion of God; do that which hath been bidden you by Him Who is compassionate and merciful. We school you with the rod of wisdom and laws, like unto the father who educateth his son, and this for naught but the protection of your own selves and the elevation of your stations. By My life, were ye to discover what We have desired for you in revealing Our holy laws, ye would offer up your very souls for this sacred, this mighty, and most exalted Faith.
And the verse 1:62 condemns the murderer and the arsonist :

Quote:
Should anyone intentionally destroy a house by fire, him also shall ye burn; should anyone deliberately take another’s life, him also shall ye put to death. Take ye hold of the precepts of God with all your strength and power, and abandon the ways of the ignorant. Should ye condemn the arsonist and the murderer to life imprisonment, it would be permissible according to the provisions of the Book. He, verily, hath power to ordain whatsoever He pleaseth.
These are the critical verses.

Now, let's have a discussion about how to read the Book.

a. The Book is delivered as a mercy to the people.

It is written in 1:3 :

Quote:
O ye peoples of the world! Know assuredly that My commandments are the lamps of My loving providence among my servants, and the keys of My Mercy for My creatures. Thus hath it been sent down from the heaven of the Will of your Lord, the Lord of Revelation. Were any man to taste the sweetness of the words which the lips of the All-Merciful have willed to utter, he would, though the treasures of the earth be in his possession, renounce them one and all, that he might vindicate the truth of even one of His commandments, shining above the Dayspring of His bountiful care and loving-kindness.
These commandments are meant to protect the peoples of the world. They are designed to create beauty, peace and happiness in the whole world. Therfore, they shall not become objects of saddening.
Baha'u'llah clearly states that these Laws are "sweet" and luminous. They are like "lamps" (visually pleasant), like sweets (pleasant to the taste), and like a sweet-smelling garment (sweet to the nose).

Quote:
Say: From My laws the sweet-smelling savor of My garment can be smelled, and by their aid the standards of Victory will be planted upon the highest peaks. The Tongue of My power hath, from the heaven of My omnipotent glory, addressed to My creation these words: “Observe My commandments, for the love of My beauty.” Happy is the lover that hath inhaled the divine fragrance of his Best-Beloved from these words, laden with the perfume of a grace which no tongue can describe. By My life! He who hath drunk the choice wine of fairness from the hands of My bountiful favour will circle around My commandments that shine above the Dayspring of My creation.
Book of Aqdas 1:4
There is an order in this verse, which to say :
"From My laws the sweet-smelling savor of My garment can be smelled"

In Arabic, there are no capital letters. As I said this out loud, I understood one thing, that "from my laws the sweet-smelling savor of my garment can be smelled".

My laws are the Laws of God when I have adorned my heart with them. They become my inner garment that dress my inner self. It is a garment that emits a sweet-smelling garment.
That is a little mantra that helps the process of dressing oneself with the laws of God.

The Book is clear, you must find the sweetness of the Laws and make them yours. There shall become your laws, and Baha'u'llah explains that this process will make you feel the sweetness of His commandments.

b. Keys of Understanding

Throughout the Book, Baha'u'llah gives us criterions about how to read it. But first and foremost, he creates at least two categories of readers : those who understand, and those who don't. To those who do not, He says :

Quote:
Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, we have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight.
Book of Aqdas 1:5
God warns you. Hear this warning.

The other categories of believers are calls "them that comprehend".

"Thus hath it been decreed in the Book, if ye be of them that comprehend." 1:13

"this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them that understand." 1:75

" better is this for you, if ye be of them that comprehend." 1:77

etc.

Now, what must I do to be one of them that comprehend ?

The Book is explicit : you cannot understand it if you are not in love with Baha'u'llah/God/the Book.

Quote:
Say: God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure; would that ye might perceive it! But for the key, the Treasure would to all eternity have remained concealed; would that ye might believe it! Say: This is the Source of Revelation, the Dawning-place of Splendour, Whose brightness hath illumined the horizons of the world. Would that ye might understand! This is, verily, that fixed Decree through which every irrevocable decree hath been established.
Say it ! "God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure"

Another little mantra. Without the key, you cannot access the Treasure (of the Book). This Treasure consists in pearls of wisdom !

Quote:
Whoso reflecteth upon these verses, and realizeth what hidden pearls have been enshrined within them, will, by the righteousness of God, perceive the fragrance of the All-Merciful wafting from the direction of this Prison and will, with his whole heart, hasten unto Him with such ardent longing that the hosts of earth and heaven would be powerless to deter him.
Book of Aqdas 1:136
Quote:
Should He so desire, He will expound for you that which is revealed therein, and disclose to you the pearls of Divine knowledge and wisdom that lie concealed within the ocean of its words.
Book of Aqdas 1:180
Quote:
Immerse yourselves in the ocean of My words, that ye may unravel its secrets, and discover all the pearls of wisdom that lie hid in its depths.
Book of Aqdas 1:182
You must love God so that you enter the realm of comprehension and consciousness that is necessary to perceive the reality of the Laws. If you do not, you cannot read the Book in your heart.

Quote:
O SON OF MAN! I loved thy creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life.
Hidden Words 1:4
When you have this love, you can attain the level of consciousness that will make you access the Laws.
There are various stages in this process :
1_You must get yourself into the level of consciousness that the Laws are meant to establish. These laws are not mere laws : they affirm a human reality that makes us evolve into an ascending spiritual path. You need to understand that human reality that is underlined when the Law is written.
2_You must apply the Law.
3_You become an Incarnation of the Law.

c. Supernatural help

You ask your Lord to give you the comprehension of the Laws.

Quote:
In the Bayán it had been forbidden you to ask Us questions. The Lord hath now relieved you of this prohibition, that ye may be free to ask what you need to ask, but not such idle questions as those on which the men of former times were wont to dwell. Fear God, and be ye of the righteous! Ask ye that which shall be of profit to you in the Cause of God and His dominion, for the portals of His tender compassion have been opened before all who dwell in heaven and on earth.
Book of Aqdas 1:126
Through the intercession of Baha'u'llah, you can ask to be freed from doubt and confusion thanks to a supernatural help that will enlighten your heart about what you are reading. Comfort may arise from this. I have tried, and it works !

d. What is the Book of Aqdas

So, we have seen that it is a garment adorning the heart of the believer. This makes him go through a spiritual elevation.
We also have seen that it is not a mere code of Laws, but also something that expands your consciousness of human realities.
And also, it is a civilizational chart that protects mankind.

The purpose of the Book, as such, is to create sacredness.

Some of these laws can hardly be applied if you think well. But the fact that they are written in a sacred Text creates a collective feeling of sacredness about things "to do" and "not to do". It also creates useful taboos.

I remember having listened to a conference about the lost of sacredness in the Western world, and one philosopher suggested that death penalty shall not have been removed from the European laws. He was against death penalty, and said that it shall never be applied, but he claimed that it created a "principle" binding people together around the taboo of murder. In that case, he suggested that what was important was for the Law to be written, not to be applied.

2. The verse 1:62

a. What is at goal ?

Obviously, when someone wants to destroy a house, burning it is the easiest, most convenient way to proceed. Few people can afford a bulldozer, and it lacks stealth, whereas arson is stealthy and it's easy to cover up yourself by leaving no marks of your crime.

Now, I think that there are at least 3 factors that made Baha'u'llah reveal this law :

1. In the modern world, there are more and more arsonists.

Pyromania is a modern disease that destroys many houses through forest fires. This plague is becoming more and more alarming each year. Entire forests have perished because of arsonists.

2. In the modern world, inhabitations are more complex.

Many people leave in flats. To burn a council estate for instance means threatening the lives of hundreds, or even thousands of people. They cannot escape the fire, and one arson can kill many, many people. There are testimonies of people who, during a fire, jumped through windows and kill themselves.
Also, people are more dependant on their house than they used to do in the past. They have entered the next stage of sedentary living. Losing a house to the fire creates heavy traumas.

3. Massive destruction.

Technology has permitted the creation of massive destruction weaponry. The law of Aqdas 1:62 condemns the people who have destroyed the cities of Hiroshima, Nagazaki, and even Aleppo. Military officials enable the bombing of entire cities that destroy many a house through fire. This aerial threat is made impossible through the Aqdas. Under the Baha'i law, no bombing is possible.
This law is a remedy to several aspects of warfare.

b. ISIS

This is more of a personnal opinion. When we think of Middle-Ages, one of the first thing that comes to mind is that of witches being burnt at stake. This horrible vision makes us happy of living in our era.

Now, what is happening today in the East is very important. The soldiers of ISIS (remark : ISIS have been clearly prophecized in a hadith from the Prophet of Islam) commit revolting atrocities everyday. They rape, they torture, they kill. We know, thanks to journalists, horrible stories about dead bodies being desecrated by ISIS, or homosexuals being thrown off roofs.
One thing that really shocked people all over the world was when ISIS captured foe soldiers and burned them alive in cages. They recorded it, and broadcast those images/ And it happened several times. These people were covered in gasoline, and burned alive.

I think that these events make the law of Aqdas (to burn people) irremediably inappicable. Humanity is going through a certain process where these kind of images make us more sensitive on this issue. In any case, what is happening there will have an influence on our perception of this verse.

c. A few remarks

There are a few problems raised by the verse 1:62.

1. A logical paradox

Baha'u'llah condemns murder very strongly in the Book of Aqdas.

Quote:
Let none contend with another, and let no soul slay another; this, verily, is that which was forbidden you in a Book that hath lain concealed within the Tabernacle of glory. What! Would ye kill him whom God has quickened, whom He hath endowed with spirit through a breath from Him? Grievous then would be your trespass before His throne!
Aqdas 1:73
Quote:
Ye have been forbidden to commit murder or adulter
Aqdas 1:19
None less than 3 verses condemn murder.

Now, consider how the verse 1:62 is written :

Quote:
should anyone deliberately take another’s life, him also shall ye put to death
Question : isn't death penalty a way to deliberately take another's life ?

This verse begins by creating an interesting paradox. Another paradox is that Baha'u'llah warns us against slaying another soul. Question : isn't death penalty part of this as well ?

2. Violence to ourselves

The problem with inflicting physical chastiment or applying death penalty is that it can really harm ourselves. Many people who have killed people have been traumatized by this. And some who were forced to torture died inside of themselves.
The Laws of God, through millenia of religions, have transformed our consciousness. No longer do we like blood. People are disgusted by death penalty. Some people, when witnessing this, become sick. This is very violent towards ourselves, and I do not think that it is possible to inflict burning or killing without... killing ourselves. It makes us die within.
So, we also shall be careful, because the fruit of the Laws is that we, modern humans, have become more compassionate, and we shall spoil that fruit.

3. Abdu'l Baha

There are two texts I remember I've read about Abdu'l Baha discussing death penalty. In one, he explains :

Quote:
As to the question regarding the soul of a murderer, and what his punishment would be, the answer given was that the murderer must expiate his crime: that is, if they put the murderer to death, his death is his atonement for his crime, and following the death, God in His justice will impose no second penalty upon him, for divine justice would not allow this. – Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 178.
We have more than one life. Death is not that bad, but not atoning for it is terrible. So, we shall always consider that all we do here has consequences on the other world. It's the REAL world that exists beyond death.

I also remember a second text from Abdu'l Baha (I can't find it again, but it does exist) where he notices that death penalty is being discussed and criticized all over the world, and that it today's world, it is not necessary as it used to be in the pre-modern world (we now have prisons, more security, etc. the State is strong and the laws are clear ; in ancient times, death penalty was necessary because there was no prison to put people in), and he seems to suggest that we can do without death penalty.

4. The verse provides prison as an alternative.

It also seems to be more than an alternative. I am confident enough that people in the future will put criminals into prisons, rather than killing or burning them.

3. Homosexuality

The Guardian is not infallible when it comes to scientific matters.
Also, homosexuality is against man's spiritual nature. But it does exist in the animal world, and the animal world exists within ourselves.
Everything can be overcome through the Holy Spirit.

Peace and blessings,

Goaforce

Last edited by GoaForce; 01-21-2017 at 04:28 AM.
 
Old 01-21-2017, 07:16 AM   #3
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As for the law about adultery, it resembles a lot the Quranic law.

The Quranic law punishes sexual relationships outside of marriage by lashing the adulterers. However, in order to prove the adultery, there needs to be 4 witnesses witnessing the adulterers in action. In other words, it was very rare that 4 valuable witnesses caught the adulterers, making this law very hard to apply.

So, what is punished here is not so much the sin than the offense commited against society, because if people know that there was an adultery, it means that it was not concealed.

The verse (1:49) :

Quote:
God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adultress, to be paid to the House of Justice: nine mithqáls of gold, to be doubled if they should repeat the offense. Such is the penalty which He Who is the Lord of Names hath assigned them in this world; and in the world to come He hath ordained for them a humiliating torment. Should anyone be afflicted by a sin, it behoveth him to repent thereof and return unto his Lord. He, verily, granteth forgiveness unto whomsoever He willeth, and none may question that which it pleaseth Him to ordain. He is, in truth, the Ever-Forgiving, the Almighty, the All-Praised.
When two people engage into adultery, they create :
1. a sin ------> the retribution for this sin will happen in the hereafter.
"in the world to come He hath ordained for them a humiliating torment"

2. an offense to the society ------> the retribution for this is to pay a fine.
"nine mithqáls of gold, to be doubled if they should repeat the offense."

Now, this law asks the question : what about the disparity in wealth between the different members of the society ?
I think that there are two things here that needs to be taken into account :

a) the economic ideal of the Baha'i religion is that of eliminating the extremes of wealth and poverty. Bahai's and the peoples of the world must find a way to make people much more equal on the economic level. It would be logical that this law be applied when such conditions are established.

b) there are various ways to pay a fine. One could consist in working for an amount of time economically equivalent to the value of the fine. In any case, this law seems to be about a progressive alienation of the adulterers to the Community rather than the payment of a fine. As the fine doubles every time the offense is repeated, the adulterers put themselves in a situation where society will take a greater and greater control of their lives. (When they can't afford the fine, their goods and time will be administrated by the local house of justice until, through their labor, the sinners have repayed their freedom.) It is a very interesting model that consists in having the society gradually taking the control of people, through economy, who can't prevent themselves from sinning, and from endangering the moral social danger.
 
Old 01-21-2017, 08:21 AM   #4
Have Mercy, O my God
 
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Saying that, "Bahá'u'lláh's laws are merciful" doesn't help. Why does the Aqdás say a three time offending thieve must wear a mark on his forhead?
 
Old 01-21-2017, 08:44 AM   #5
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Quote:
Why does the Aqdás say a three time offending thieve must wear a mark on his forhead?
Why not ?
 
Old 01-21-2017, 09:24 AM   #6
Have Mercy, O my God
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoaForce View Post
Why not ?
Because that's barbaric and doesn't solve anything. The only thing you showed me was that the Aqdás comtradict itself. It says not to kill yet enforces capital punishment.
 
Old 01-21-2017, 09:30 AM   #7
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What I have taken from it is that it's saying there should be an eye for an eye, no?
 
Old 01-21-2017, 03:53 PM   #8
Jcc
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Israel Meheret View Post
Because that's barbaric and doesn't solve anything. The only thing you showed me was that the Aqdás comtradict itself. It says not to kill yet enforces capital punishment.
Actually, the Aqdas does not "enforce capital punishment". For the crime of murder, the punishment could be death or it could be imprisonment. The Universal House of Justice will have to decide on how and when to enforce these laws, and has the authority to only enforce imprisonment, if that is most appropriate for the condition of society at the time.

The Kitab-I-Aqdas says:
"Should anyone intentionally destroy a house by fire, him also shall ye burn; should anyone deliberately take another’s life, him also shall ye put to death. Take ye hold of the precepts of God with all your strength and power, and abandon the ways of the ignorant. Should ye condemn the arsonist and the murderer to life imprisonment, it would be permissible according to the provisions of the Book. He, verily, hath power to ordain whatsoever He pleaseth."
 
Old 01-23-2017, 01:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Israel Meheret View Post
Because that's barbaric and doesn't solve anything.
Really??

I think it is is less barbaric than the current standards.

Currently in the US there are many states with "three-strikes laws", which pretty much state that a three-times thief must receive an extra-harsh punishment. In some places this means the thief gets life imprisonment.

Giving someone excessive, unjust amounts of time in jail doesn't seem ideal to me.

Marking someone as a thief so that their potential victims might be warned seems more just.

Adultery seems to me to be more serious if you consider the full implications. It is a violation of contract law, in most cases, when one person has agreed to be part of a marriage on agreed monogamous terms, so it is on one hand defrauding the partner. On the other hand, it potentially exposes the partner to STDs, so adultery can actually endanger the health and well-being of the partner, without that person's consent.

A (fairly low) fine does not seem unreasonable for that, giving back to society for reckless endangerment and deceitful violation of an agreed contract. If the adulterer, rather than doing the responsible thing and getting a divorce, decides to instead endanger the well-being of their partner, I don't see why that's an unreasonable punishment.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Israel Meheret View Post
The only thing you showed me was that the Aqdás comtradict itself. It says not to kill yet enforces capital punishment.
Not all killing is murder. For example, killing in self defense is permitted, and there are very few people who have problem with that allowance. Killing to carry out justice isn't murder, "the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another", though I personally dislike it.

What the Aqdas does is give two potential punishments for the same crime: Imprisonment or Death.

Consider: There are countries out there, in this world, today, who probably need a death penalty as an option. If you lived in a country that was poor, starving, devoid of most resources, would you rather deprive the poor of your land of resources to sustain a murderer's life in prison indefinitely, or spare the poor and suffering the burden and execute the murderer??

This is not an easy question, I'll admit, and I can understand if you pick either option. What permitting the death penalty does is allow nations that are so woefully impoverished that they simply cannot realistically imprison murderers for life a way to address murder while giving a better way for those nations that can afford to commit people to life sentences.

That's why there are two laws. One, I'd say, is for us, those who are privileged enough that we can afford not executing murderers. But not all people are privileged enough to make that a possibility. There are plenty of poor regions who cannot do such a thing without starving or even killing innocents, their economies stretched way to thin to be able to ask them to support, economically, someone who killed their people.

Is it worth it to starve an innocent person to support the life sentence of a murderer?? Consider if the people of war-ravaged Syria or Iraq were able to overcome ISIS, without any deaths. Would you ask them to give all 4,000 ISIS fighters life imprisonment, knowing how ravaged and impoverished those countries have become, in part because of ISIS?? Would it be fair to the poor and starving in those countries?? These are tough questions.

Giving two possible ways is a mercy to the poor.

Last edited by Walrus; 01-23-2017 at 01:36 PM.
 
Old 01-23-2017, 01:56 PM   #10
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@Walrus

That is a quite enlightening perspective, that make things more clear. I will just make two remarks :
1. Adultery here is every kind of consensuel sex performed outside marriage (including pre-marital sex).
2. Your demonstration about death penalty (I agree with it) exclude the order of "burning" arsonists. At one point I wondered if this was about branding arsonists (that could be a radical way of preventing the crime from being repeated), but there is something to be elucidated here, because quite a few people are "choking" on that verse.
In fact, there are various other questions that we could be asking here :
a. What does this verse mean, actually ? (We know the evident meaning, but that does not mean that we know what this is about.)
b. What is the wisdom behind it ?
c. Why was this verse revealed this way ? Indeed, it tends to disgust most people. And if it's not applied (why burning people ?), then why is it here in the first place ?

This leads me to think (hypothesis) that this verse is about laying down "sacred principles" that create fear and taboos, but that, in a future Baha'i society, only emprisonment will be enforced, but God knows best.

Anyway, there is a reason to the fact that the Baha'i community has no executive or legislative power in any country. We are currently like a fetus (of the future world order), growing the spiritual qualities that are required to fully apply the Baha'i teachings in all their potential of glory. The fact that we are still such as small community seems to show that we are not ready yet.

Keep in mind that these laws cannot be separated from their context, and the current context is that we cannot enforce some of them. There is also a wisdom behind this.

Sorry for being so blunt when it comes to such issues. I do not like when such matters become undiscussed.

Blessings,

GoaForce
 
Old 01-23-2017, 04:04 PM   #11
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Our good friend Sen Mcglinn has a very insightful take on the issue of capital punishment in the Aqdas. He argues that it really should not be understood to favor capital punishment instead of prison at all, but rather the law is stated as it is to emphasize a spiritual principle.

https://senmcglinn.wordpress.com/ema...ishment-aqdas/

This reminds me of the different topic of marriage, where the Aqdas states a man must marry no more than two wives, but it is preferable to have only one. This was interpreted by Abdul-Baha to mean that Baha'is must never marry more than one spouse.

Last edited by Jcc; 01-23-2017 at 04:09 PM.
 
Old 01-24-2017, 06:15 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoaForce View Post
1. Adultery here is every kind of consensuel sex performed outside marriage (including pre-marital sex).
That suffers the same ill effects as the kind I covered does, albeit without the endangerment of the partner. There is still a risk of the transmission of disease, especially in poorer areas of the world where STD epidemics are rampant.

Now today's technology has given us good forms of condoms that can protect against STD transmission, but many people in poorer areas don't have that option, and many people in the first world with easy access to condoms still often choose not to use them. I don't personally understand why, but that's a choice quite a few people make.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GoaForce View Post
2. Your demonstration about death penalty (I agree with it) exclude the order of "burning" arsonists. At one point I wondered if this was about branding arsonists (that could be a radical way of preventing the crime from being repeated), but there is something to be elucidated here, because quite a few people are "choking" on that verse.
In fact, there are various other questions that we could be asking here :
a. What does this verse mean, actually ? (We know the evident meaning, but that does not mean that we know what this is about.)
b. What is the wisdom behind it ?
c. Why was this verse revealed this way ? Indeed, it tends to disgust most people. And if it's not applied (why burning people ?), then why is it here in the first place ?
Hah, yeah. My mind works way to literally. I read the concern about the death penalty for murder and assumed that it was all we were talking about because the other thing wasn't mentioned.

So the death penalty for arson.

First, let's talk about arson. Arson is a ridiculously serious crime, and was treated severely in the Ottoman society where this was revealed. The reason is that Arson doesn't just mean burning down a single house, it probably means, especially in urban environments and even more especially outside the modern first-world, the destruction of many houses, and many people callously murdered by burning. Survivors may be maimed, with their homes and possessions suddenly gone, and vast amounts of whole cities destroyed. Lives and livelihoods ruined and ended. Mass suffering.

An arsonist is willing to let people die by burning, and is even callous enough not to know the specifics of how many will die by his hand. Fires are devastating for developing urban societies. The arsonist is still willing to go through with this terrible crime, though.

Again, I think this could be as a mercy to poorer societies. Especially since the arsonist, by their crime, causes that society to become more impoverished in addition to all the people who must die in a horrible way.

Why burning though?? I have one possible theory. Consider the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 178
As to the question regarding the soul of a murderer, and what his punishment would be, the answer given was that the murderer must expiate his crime: that is, if they put the murderer to death, his death is his atonement for his crime, and following the death, God in His justice will impose no second penalty upon him, for divine justice would not allow this.
Abdu'l-Baha states if one is punished by a death penalty, one is completely atoned for their crime. IE, a murderer sentenced to death is not penalized for their murder in the next life.

But this raises an interesting (yet potentially morbid) question. If a man burns down part of a city killing many by the horrible means of burning, is a clean, painless death a just method of atonement?? Perhaps the standard for instantaneous atonement should be higher for a more grievous crime, as arson undoubtedly is.

Last edited by Walrus; 01-24-2017 at 06:19 AM.
 
Old 01-24-2017, 06:34 AM   #13
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@Walrus

I really enjoy reading your POV.

As I mentionned earlier, this verse is interesting because arson has become extremely widespread because of bombs (think of nuclear weaponry, aerial bombing), and that verse prevents the use of weaponry of mass destruction (greatest danger in the History of mankind). I am getting more and more confident that this is one of the purpose of these laws, to protect us from this craziness, that consists in "burning houses" at a massive scale.
(Do you agree ?)

Quote:
But this raises an interesting (yet potentially morbid) question. If a man burns down part of a city killing many by the horrible means of burning, is a clean, painless death a just method of atonement?? Perhaps the standard for instantaneous atonement should be higher for a more grievous crime, as arson undoubtedly is.
Now, that is indeed very surprizing that the Book of Aqdas, which is outwardly clear, happens to be more complex than it is at first reading, because for instance this law does not contain any precise instruction : it is quite vague in fact.

I also have thought of this passage of Abdu'l Baha, but, as I wrote earlier, there is one problem, which is that this kind of death penalty is harmful to the society in the sense that it makes us do violent things that can lead to traumas, depression, etc. And the only people who could perform it would be sociopathic people with few to no compassion.
Personnally, I would feel unable to practice death penalty, because it would make me desecrate myself, and I know not a single Baha'i who could do it. Which leads me to believe that there is a wisdom here that needs to be unlocked.
 
Old 01-24-2017, 06:48 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GoaForce View Post
@Walrus

I really enjoy reading your POV.

As I mentionned earlier, this verse is interesting because arson has become extremely widespread because of bombs (think of nuclear weaponry, aerial bombing), and that verse prevents the use of weaponry of mass destruction (greatest danger in the History of mankind). I am getting more and more confident that this is one of the purpose of these laws, to protect us from this craziness, that consists in "burning houses" at a massive scale.
(Do you agree ?)
Well my grandma, great uncle, and their parents were part of the refugees at Firebombing of Dresden so... yeah I definitely agree that this verse should prohibit such horrible bombings. I don't think it's possible to hear firsthand accounts of events like that and have a favorable view of dropping bombs on living spaces.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GoaForce View Post
I also have thought of this passage of Abdu'l Baha, but, as I wrote earlier, there is one problem, which is that this kind of death penalty is harmful to the society in the sense that it makes us do violent things that can lead to traumas, depression, etc. And the only people who could perform it would be sociopathic people with few to no compassion.
Or, alternately, someone so in tune with detachment that they are able to perform the function of justice without allowing it to cloud their emotions.

Maybe it's like bigamy. Theoretically permissible if you can find someone who can live up to an incredibly high standard and treat both wives justly. Execution is also theoretically possible, if you find a saintlike person willing to carry out the duty.
 
Old 01-24-2017, 06:58 AM   #15
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Quote:
Maybe it's like bigamy. Theoretically permissible if you can find someone who can live up to an incredibly high standard and treat both wives justly. Execution is also theoretically possible, if you find a saintlike person willing to carry out the duty.
I don't know. But that may be the beginning of an explanation, though I am not sure that human's spiritual nature can allow this.

Regarding the verse about polygamy, I think that you are right, but it also seems to me that this verse redefines polygamy.

As I read the "Beware that ye take not unto yourselves more wives than two. ", I felt that this was still relevant, and that I was warned myself.

Baha'u'llah redefines the institution of marriage. Contrary to the Islamic law, which makes of marriage a mere contract, the Baha'i law of marriage considers that two spouses shall become as "one soul in two bodies". The spouses are meant to remain faithful to one another and united in every world that God has created.

So, I think that this warning says to us that evern in this life, we shall stick to one partner, so that in the hereafter, we find that person again. If we get more that 2 spouses in the course of this life (because of divorce or death), this may create problems in the world awaiting us beyond death. We shall have 1 spouse for all eternity. That is what I read when I came accross that verse. I felt that it was about having two spouses in one's life.
 
Old 01-24-2017, 11:58 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by GoaForce View Post
Greetings Mister !

I am a newly convert to the Faith, and am in the process of declaration to the community. I am therefore a newcomer who needs to learn a lot of things. However, I can relate to what you say, as I (and I think it is the case of many people, and it should be) went through this state of confusion not so long ago. But I think that I have understood quite a few things that may be helping to you.

1. The problems of the Laws

You say :



As a preliminary remark, there are not much laws that are barbaric. There are really only two laws that are "critical". Both condemn convicted criminals.

The verse 1:45 of the Book of Aqdas condemns the thieves :



And the verse 1:62 condemns the murderer and the arsonist :



These are the critical verses.

Now, let's have a discussion about how to read the Book.

a. The Book is delivered as a mercy to the people.

It is written in 1:3 :



These commandments are meant to protect the peoples of the world. They are designed to create beauty, peace and happiness in the whole world. Therfore, they shall not become objects of saddening.
Baha'u'llah clearly states that these Laws are "sweet" and luminous. They are like "lamps" (visually pleasant), like sweets (pleasant to the taste), and like a sweet-smelling garment (sweet to the nose).



There is an order in this verse, which to say :
"From My laws the sweet-smelling savor of My garment can be smelled"

In Arabic, there are no capital letters. As I said this out loud, I understood one thing, that "from my laws the sweet-smelling savor of my garment can be smelled".

My laws are the Laws of God when I have adorned my heart with them. They become my inner garment that dress my inner self. It is a garment that emits a sweet-smelling garment.
That is a little mantra that helps the process of dressing oneself with the laws of God.

The Book is clear, you must find the sweetness of the Laws and make them yours. There shall become your laws, and Baha'u'llah explains that this process will make you feel the sweetness of His commandments.

b. Keys of Understanding

Throughout the Book, Baha'u'llah gives us criterions about how to read it. But first and foremost, he creates at least two categories of readers : those who understand, and those who don't. To those who do not, He says :



God warns you. Hear this warning.

The other categories of believers are calls "them that comprehend".

"Thus hath it been decreed in the Book, if ye be of them that comprehend." 1:13

"this is the very crown of deeds, if ye be of them that understand." 1:75

" better is this for you, if ye be of them that comprehend." 1:77

etc.

Now, what must I do to be one of them that comprehend ?

The Book is explicit : you cannot understand it if you are not in love with Baha'u'llah/God/the Book.



Say it ! "God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure"

Another little mantra. Without the key, you cannot access the Treasure (of the Book). This Treasure consists in pearls of wisdom !







You must love God so that you enter the realm of comprehension and consciousness that is necessary to perceive the reality of the Laws. If you do not, you cannot read the Book in your heart.



When you have this love, you can attain the level of consciousness that will make you access the Laws.
There are various stages in this process :
1_You must get yourself into the level of consciousness that the Laws are meant to establish. These laws are not mere laws : they affirm a human reality that makes us evolve into an ascending spiritual path. You need to understand that human reality that is underlined when the Law is written.
2_You must apply the Law.
3_You become an Incarnation of the Law.

c. Supernatural help

You ask your Lord to give you the comprehension of the Laws.



Through the intercession of Baha'u'llah, you can ask to be freed from doubt and confusion thanks to a supernatural help that will enlighten your heart about what you are reading. Comfort may arise from this. I have tried, and it works !

d. What is the Book of Aqdas

So, we have seen that it is a garment adorning the heart of the believer. This makes him go through a spiritual elevation.
We also have seen that it is not a mere code of Laws, but also something that expands your consciousness of human realities.
And also, it is a civilizational chart that protects mankind.

The purpose of the Book, as such, is to create sacredness.

Some of these laws can hardly be applied if you think well. But the fact that they are written in a sacred Text creates a collective feeling of sacredness about things "to do" and "not to do". It also creates useful taboos.

I remember having listened to a conference about the lost of sacredness in the Western world, and one philosopher suggested that death penalty shall not have been removed from the European laws. He was against death penalty, and said that it shall never be applied, but he claimed that it created a "principle" binding people together around the taboo of murder. In that case, he suggested that what was important was for the Law to be written, not to be applied.

2. The verse 1:62

a. What is at goal ?

Obviously, when someone wants to destroy a house, burning it is the easiest, most convenient way to proceed. Few people can afford a bulldozer, and it lacks stealth, whereas arson is stealthy and it's easy to cover up yourself by leaving no marks of your crime.

Now, I think that there are at least 3 factors that made Baha'u'llah reveal this law :

1. In the modern world, there are more and more arsonists.

Pyromania is a modern disease that destroys many houses through forest fires. This plague is becoming more and more alarming each year. Entire forests have perished because of arsonists.

2. In the modern world, inhabitations are more complex.

Many people leave in flats. To burn a council estate for instance means threatening the lives of hundreds, or even thousands of people. They cannot escape the fire, and one arson can kill many, many people. There are testimonies of people who, during a fire, jumped through windows and kill themselves.
Also, people are more dependant on their house than they used to do in the past. They have entered the next stage of sedentary living. Losing a house to the fire creates heavy traumas.

3. Massive destruction.

Technology has permitted the creation of massive destruction weaponry. The law of Aqdas 1:62 condemns the people who have destroyed the cities of Hiroshima, Nagazaki, and even Aleppo. Military officials enable the bombing of entire cities that destroy many a house through fire. This aerial threat is made impossible through the Aqdas. Under the Baha'i law, no bombing is possible.
This law is a remedy to several aspects of warfare.

b. ISIS

This is more of a personnal opinion. When we think of Middle-Ages, one of the first thing that comes to mind is that of witches being burnt at stake. This horrible vision makes us happy of living in our era.

Now, what is happening today in the East is very important. The soldiers of ISIS (remark : ISIS have been clearly prophecized in a hadith from the Prophet of Islam) commit revolting atrocities everyday. They rape, they torture, they kill. We know, thanks to journalists, horrible stories about dead bodies being desecrated by ISIS, or homosexuals being thrown off roofs.
One thing that really shocked people all over the world was when ISIS captured foe soldiers and burned them alive in cages. They recorded it, and broadcast those images/ And it happened several times. These people were covered in gasoline, and burned alive.

I think that these events make the law of Aqdas (to burn people) irremediably inappicable. Humanity is going through a certain process where these kind of images make us more sensitive on this issue. In any case, what is happening there will have an influence on our perception of this verse.

c. A few remarks

There are a few problems raised by the verse 1:62.

1. A logical paradox

Baha'u'llah condemns murder very strongly in the Book of Aqdas.





None less than 3 verses condemn murder.

Now, consider how the verse 1:62 is written :



Question : isn't death penalty a way to deliberately take another's life ?

This verse begins by creating an interesting paradox. Another paradox is that Baha'u'llah warns us against slaying another soul. Question : isn't death penalty part of this as well ?

2. Violence to ourselves

The problem with inflicting physical chastiment or applying death penalty is that it can really harm ourselves. Many people who have killed people have been traumatized by this. And some who were forced to torture died inside of themselves.
The Laws of God, through millenia of religions, have transformed our consciousness. No longer do we like blood. People are disgusted by death penalty. Some people, when witnessing this, become sick. This is very violent towards ourselves, and I do not think that it is possible to inflict burning or killing without... killing ourselves. It makes us die within.
So, we also shall be careful, because the fruit of the Laws is that we, modern humans, have become more compassionate, and we shall spoil that fruit.

3. Abdu'l Baha

There are two texts I remember I've read about Abdu'l Baha discussing death penalty. In one, he explains :



We have more than one life. Death is not that bad, but not atoning for it is terrible. So, we shall always consider that all we do here has consequences on the other world. It's the REAL world that exists beyond death.

I also remember a second text from Abdu'l Baha (I can't find it again, but it does exist) where he notices that death penalty is being discussed and criticized all over the world, and that it today's world, it is not necessary as it used to be in the pre-modern world (we now have prisons, more security, etc. the State is strong and the laws are clear ; in ancient times, death penalty was necessary because there was no prison to put people in), and he seems to suggest that we can do without death penalty.

4. The verse provides prison as an alternative.

It also seems to be more than an alternative. I am confident enough that people in the future will put criminals into prisons, rather than killing or burning them.

3. Homosexuality

The Guardian is not infallible when it comes to scientific matters.
Also, homosexuality is against man's spiritual nature. But it does exist in the animal world, and the animal world exists within ourselves.
Everything can be overcome through the Holy Spirit.

Peace and blessings,

Goaforce


Thank you!

Loving regards,
Becky
 
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