Women on the UHJ

Mar 2015
259
Bend area, Oregon
Ahanu: Thank you for your comments as they reminded me of Bahá’u’lláh’s words:

“In the past the divines were perplexed over this question, a question which He Who is the Sovereign Truth hath, during the early years of His life, Himself heard them ask repeatedly: ‘What is that Word which the Qá’im will pronounce whereby the leaders of religion are put to flight?’ Say, that Word is now made manifest and ye have fled ere ye heard it uttered, although ye perceive it not. And that blessed, that hidden, that concealed and treasured Word is this: ‘'HE' hath now appeared in the raiment of 'I'. He Who was hidden from mortal eyes exclaimeth: 'Lo! I am the All-Manifest.’ This is the Word which hath caused the limbs of disbelievers to quake. Glorified be God! All the heavenly Scriptures of the past attest to the greatness of this Day, the greatness of this Manifestation, the greatness of His signs, the greatness of His Word, the greatness of His constancy, the greatness of His pre-eminent station. Yet despite all this the people have remained heedless and are shut out as by a veil. Indeed all the Prophets have yearned to attain this Day. . . .” (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, pp. 258 -259)

“This is the Announcement, the greatness of which hath been mentioned in most of the Books of old and of more recent times. This is the Announcement that hath caused the limbs of mankind to quake, except such as God, the Protector, the Helper, the Succorer, hath willed to exempt. Men have indeed with their own eyes witnessed how all men and all things have been thrown into confusion and been sore perplexed, save those whom God hath chosen to exempt. (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 143-144)

It is certainly interesting how profound of an impact only one of Bahá’u’lláh’s principles - the gradual equal opportunity for men and women - can have on some segments of humanity. Perhaps in this we can understand a fraction of the "wisdom" in Bahá’u’lláh’s exemption of women from service on the Universal House of Justice and why He wrote, “Know of a certainty that in every Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation hath been vouchsafed unto men in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity. Consider the sun. How feeble its rays the moment it appeareth above the horizon. How gradually its warmth and potency increase as it approacheth its zenith, enabling meanwhile all created things to adapt themselves to the growing intensity of its light. How steadily it declineth until it reacheth its setting point. Were it, all of a sudden, to manifest the energies latent within it, it would, no doubt, cause injury to all created things. . . In like manner, if the Sun of Truth were suddenly to reveal, at the earliest stages of its manifestation, the full measure of the potencies which the providence of the Almighty hath bestowed upon it, the earth of human understanding would waste away and be consumed; for men’s hearts would neither sustain the intensity of its revelation, nor be able to mirror forth the radiance of its light. Dismayed and overpowered, they would cease to exist.” (Gleanings from the writings of Bahá’u’lláh, XXXVII).

`Abdu'l-Bahá explained, "A thousand years must elapse before Persia can, by the aid of material power, rise to the height of the peoples and governments of Europe. Baha'u'llah, however has illumined that land, and will surely raise her high in the eyes of all the world. That country shall so advance and develop as to excite the envy and admiration of the East and the West.

"The land of Hijaz, though deserted and sterile in its soil and its tribes ignorant and barborous, yet the power of the Cause of God has made of such a spot a Point of Adoration and the Focal-centre of world devotion.

"How foolish are the people of the East to have incarcerated for well-nigh fifty years the like of this glorious personage! But for His chains and prison, Baha'u'llah by this time would have gained absolute ascendancy over the minds and thoughts of the peoples of Europe, would have made of Persia the Garden of Paradise, would have raised its sons in the esteem of mankind, nay He would have made it such that all peoples and governments would seek enlightment from its people.

"Consider and reflect upon the result of my few days stay in London and the profound effect it has had here and in the surrounding regions. Ponder then in your heart, what the coming of Baha'u'llah would have achieved! Had He appeared in Europe, its people would have seized their opportunity, and His Cause, by virtue of the freedom of thought, would by this time have encompassed the earth. But alas! This Cause, though it first appeared in Persia, yet eventually it shall be seen how the peoples of Europe have wrestled it from its hands! Take note of this and remember it in future. Ultimately you shall see how it has come to pass. And yet behold! How the Baha'is are still persecuted by the people of Persia" (A Tablet of Abdu'l-Bahá referred to in a letter dated 12 January 1923 to the NSA of the United States, from Shoghi Effendi)

Take care, and fruitful contemplations. -LR
 
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Apr 2018
25
Ontario
In my own foolish and feeble understand gender striped of our own social biases is the physical manifestation of the active force and that which is it’s recipient. Masculine and Feminine. Woman have a womb and create babies thats not fair to me as a Man! Oh well let God give men a womb in their heart that can bear the Divine Will. This could be necessity for conferred infallibility. Woman grounded to the earth Men grounded to the Heavens.

Or it’s all horse shit, who cares.
 
Mar 2015
259
Bend area, Oregon
ams:

Thank you for your inquiry. My mention of the "wisdom" was written to Ahanu but as relevant to Ian Kluge's December 14th post, number 189 on this thread. `Abdu'l-Bahá did write that "The House of Justice, however, according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom of the Lord God's which will ere long be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon." (Selections from the writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 80) Shoghi Effendi also communicated, “As regards the membership of the International House of Justice, `Abdu'l-Bahá states in a Tablet that it is confined to men, and that the wisdom of it will be revealed as manifest as the sun in the future.” (Letter dated December 14, 1940; also quoted in Dawn of a New Day, p. 86)

I tend to take their words as "gospel" based on what Bahá’u’lláh revealed: “Know assuredly that just as thou firmly believest that the Word of God, exalted be His glory, endureth for ever, thou must, likewise, believe with undoubting faith that its meaning can never be exhausted. They who are its appointed interpreters, they whose hearts are the repositories of its secrets, are, however, the only ones who can comprehend its manifold wisdom." (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, LXXXIX)

I hope this brief response adequately address your question. -LR
 
Apr 2011
1,104
Hyrule
ams:

Thank you for your inquiry. My mention of the "wisdom" was written to Ahanu but as relevant to Ian Kluge's December 14th post, number 189 on this thread. `Abdu'l-Bahá did write that "The House of Justice, however, according to the explicit text of the Law of God, is confined to men; this for a wisdom of the Lord God's which will ere long be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon." (Selections from the writings of `Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 80) Shoghi Effendi also communicated, “As regards the membership of the International House of Justice, `Abdu'l-Bahá states in a Tablet that it is confined to men, and that the wisdom of it will be revealed as manifest as the sun in the future.” (Letter dated December 14, 1940; also quoted in Dawn of a New Day, p. 86)

I tend to take their words as "gospel" based on what Bahá’u’lláh revealed: “Know assuredly that just as thou firmly believest that the Word of God, exalted be His glory, endureth for ever, thou must, likewise, believe with undoubting faith that its meaning can never be exhausted. They who are its appointed interpreters, they whose hearts are the repositories of its secrets, are, however, the only ones who can comprehend its manifold wisdom." (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, LXXXIX)

I hope this brief response adequately address your question. -LR
Some writers have hinted at a doctrine of gradualism. That is, the exclusion of women is only temporary. See the article here.
 
Aug 2015
7
Abbotsfordm British Columbia, Canada
Does anyone have any ideas what I can say to a nonbeliever who thinks that the Baha'i Faith is harmful and anti-human because it excludes women from the UHJ? He says we exclude half the human population from leadership roles but of course he does not understand that women are only excluded from the UHJ because he is in such a huff and he has made up his mind that the Baha'i Faith is no good based upon this one thing. :eek:
 
Aug 2015
7
Abbotsfordm British Columbia, Canada
Does anyone have any ideas what I can say to a nonbeliever who thinks that the Baha'i Faith is harmful and anti-human because it excludes women from the UHJ? He says we exclude half the human population from leadership roles but of course he does not understand that women are only excluded from the UHJ because he is in such a huff and he has made up his mind that the Baha'i Faith is no good based upon this one thing. :eek:
Here is a part of my soon-to-be published article on "Equality and the Baha'i Writings". I do not offer and alternative explanation but I do show that the usual critiques of this teaching contain a number of simple but serious logical errors.

"This paper will not speculate about the underlying reason(s) for this exemption. However, declining to conjecture about the reason for Bahá'u'lláh’s directive does not mean we should not examine the logical validity of the aforementioned criticisms of the Bahá’í teachings on this matter. Indeed, Shoghi Effendi lauds Bahá’ís for “defending its verities, unveiling its truths, demonstrating the character of its institutions and advertising its aims and purposes.”[1] An explication of the logical errors made by the critics is not an alternative explanation of Bahá'u'lláh’s directive. Instead it is a demonstration of the errors in logic and reading made by the critics, errors which negate the explanations they have offered for the exemption. In short, whatever the explanation(s) may be, they are not those offered by the critics.

The Universal House of Justice clearly identifies the false premise on which all of the critiques of the exemptio9n of women are based. In a statement about a controversy regarding scholarship. Speaking of some critics of the Bahá’í model of scholarship, it declares


" [t]hese [critical] efforts have been accompanied by a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the institutions of the Faith as repressive of learning and to introduce into a Bahá'í discourse a fevered debate on individual rights, borrowed from the political environment.
[2] "

Similarly, the critics of the exemption of women from the Universal House of Justice work from the unexamined premise that it is logically possible to import concepts about rights and equality from the “political environment” and impose them on the Bahá’í Faith. However, the essential differences between a free civil and secular society based on social contract theory and a purposive organization based on divine revelation are insurmountable. Transferring and imposing such concepts is akin to comparing apples to catfish. Concepts and standards “borrowed from the political environment” cannot be imposed uncritically on an organization that is intentionally and programmatically non-political and non-partisan; which has its own unique nature and goals; and has purposes and methods essentially different from those in civil society. While both are made up of human beings, the form into which they organize people is utterly different and, as we shall see below, is incompatible. The failure to recognize this vital distinction between two essentially different organizations is the logical error of false equivalence.




‘Abdu’l-Bahá refers to Bahá’ís as a “heavenly army”
[3] and as a spiritual “army of light,”[4] identifying thereby the essential and differentiating attributes of the Bahá’í Faith and other types of social groupings. Unlike secular civil societies, the Bahá’í Faith is founded on revelation and its teachings laws and practices demand religious not secular justification. Its modus vivendi is expansion “through the love of God and the illumination of divine teachings”[5] as well as the care of souls for this earthly life and beyond. All Bahá’ís are volunteers who knowingly and freely accept the terms of service i.e. its beliefs, duties and limitations. As a matter of custom, they all work for a common purpose and are willing to make meaningful personal sacrifices for the good of the whole. Nor must personal goals conflict with the Faith’s goals, thereby disrupting its activities. In short, other words, the key principle is voluntary service, not individual advantage or ambition. Moreover, there is an internal relation of friendship or even familial relationship among members all of whom are committed to recognizing Bahá’u’lláh as God’s latest – but not last – Manifestation and the Universal House of Justice as the only legitimate institution inspired by His will. Obedience to the Universal House of Justice is obligatory because it is tasked with guiding the global advancement of the Faith. All members work for the ultimate goal of unifying humanity into a federal global commonwealth embodying “eternal verities” from all previous dispensations. Hence, membership is not accidental but conditional.



In contrast, crowds, free secular and civil societies and modern nations are, by nature and/or intention, far more compatible with ‘atomic individualism’ than any army – spiritual or not. As a social ethos, ‘atomic individualism’ puts enormous emphasis on individuality and gives primacy to individuals who pursue their own purposes more than the good of the whole. Times of war or other national emergencies are, of course, exceptions to this but such uncommon events are not the usual state of mind. Therefore, citizens are related by external laws without any obligation to form inner spiritual and not merely outwardly conforming relationships set by law or social custom. In addition, competition plays a much greater role in society than service and free personal sacrifice which are among the underlying principles of action for Bahá’ís. This is because Bahá'u'lláh’s “heavenly army” – like any army – is meticulously focussed on its immediate and ultimate purpose than are crowds, free civil societies and even nations except in wartime. Secular societies focus on equality almost entirely in terms of individual power, rights and worldly success instead of conscious service to the whole. They encourage atomic individualism and competition; they do not recognize spiritual values as valid justifications for civil laws; they confine their hierarchy of values and plans to the present world; and they have no historical vision and goals for the future destiny of mankind. These essential difference prohibit any uncritical transfer of social and legal concepts from one to the other.




Most specifically, the issue of power as understood in civil societies is simply not relevant in the assessment of equality in the Bahá’í Faith. This is because in the civil and secular “political environment,” equality and power are strictly correlated. That is why partisan political parties struggle for the power to rule others. Equality is defined in terms of rights and power. Individuals have equal power as expressed in rights which intrinsically is a power relationship: my rights obligate others to do or not do certain things, i.e. they entitle me to make certain demands. This ability to impose obligations is an exercise of power. Those who have no power cannot be equal and those who are not equal cannot have power.
[6]



However, unlike the “political environment,” the Bahá’í Writings distinguish between power and equality and do not measure one in terms of the other. Given its spiritual nature, in the Bahá’í Faith service not power is the standard for ‘measuring’ equality and success. Equality in the spiritual context is based on service, on contributing to the whole and its purpose and on internal states of being such as a willingness to sacrifice, purity of heart and reliance on God. Individuals understand themselves in terms of serving the purpose of the Faith not as individuals accumulating powers, rights and worldly success. Secular world-views and their emphasis on overt legalities, contractualism and the empirical measurement of values and success are intrinsically insensitive to spiritual judgments except in the most superficial way.


The essential and central nature of service is attested in numerous passages from the Writings and the Universal House of Justice. For example, Bahá'u'lláh teaches that “Man's merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches.”
[7] In other words, the value of service exceeds the value of worldly success and recognition. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that “service to mankind is the paramount motive of all existence”[8] and this principle informs Shoghi Effendi’s statement that




"[f]rom the fact that there is no equality of functions between the sexes one should not, however, infer that either sex is inherently superior or inferior to the other, or that they are unequal in their rights.[9]"



Sex does not abrogate anyone’s capacity or right to accumulate spiritual virtues through service – and this is what really matters. What can any worldly sense of ‘getting ahead’ or ‘competing’ or ‘success’ or ‘being in charge’ mean in this religious context? Shoghi Effendi’s assertion of equal rights is made in a Bahá’í spiritual context and not in the context of power as in secular concepts of equality. Consequently, the secular political concepts of equality, rights and power are not applicable in assessing the Bahá’í exemption of women. Treating the Bahá’í Faith as if it were an institution ‘like the others’ is another logical error of making a false equivalence. It is interesting that criticisms based on the “political environment” are equally irrelevant vis-à-vis sports teams, surgical teams, and fire brigades – all of which are based on service to a dominant goal.





[1] Shoghi Effendi, The Citadel of Faith, p. 139.



[2] The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Dec. 10, “Issues related to Study Compilation;” emphasis added.



[3] ‘Abdu’l- Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 35.



[4] ‘Abdul-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 104.



[5] ‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 35.



[6] No contemporary philosopher emphasises power in all human interactions as much as Michel Foucault, for whom even “all will to truth is already a will-to-power.”(J .G.Merquior, Foucault, p. 108.) Foucault claims that to know the truth is also, in effect, a claim to power, i.e. a claim to domination over others and competing truth claims. Foucault’s thought has been especially influential in feminism e.g. Judith Butler and post-colonial studies. See Ian Kluge, “Postmodernism and the Baha’i Writings” in Lights of Irfan, Vol. 9, 2008.



[7] Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138; emphasis added.



[8] ‘Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 369.



[9] From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer July 28, 1936. Also in “Women, A Compilation, p. 9 and Lights of Guidance, p. 613; emphasis added.


 
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Mar 2015
259
Bend area, Oregon
Ahanu wrote in post number 195: “Some writers have hinted at a doctrine of gradualism. That is, the exclusion of women is only temporary. See the article here.”

Minds much abler than mine will need to determine if this “exclusion” is part of the “divine explicit text” revealed by Bahá'u'lláh. However, in the interim we can consider the words of the Guardian of the Cause of God - the divinely appointed interpreter and expounder of the words of God: “As regards your question concerning the membership of the Universal House of Justice, there is a Tablet from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in which He definitely states that the membership of the Universal House is confined to men and that the wisdom of it will be fully revealed in the future. In the local, as well as the National Houses of Justice, however, women have the full right of membership. It is therefore, only to the International House that they cannot be elected. The Bahá’ís should accept this statement of the Master in a spirit of deep faith, confident that there is a divine guidance and wisdom behind it, which will be gradually unfolded to the eyes of the world.” and “Regarding your question, the Master said the wisdom of having no women on the International House of Justice, would become manifest in the future. We have no other indication than this.” and “At present there are women on the International Council, and this will continue as long as it exists, but when the International House of Justice is elected, there will only be men on it, as this is the law of the Aqdas.” (Directives from the Guardian, pp. 79-80)

-LR
 
Mar 2015
259
Bend area, Oregon
Ian:

Regarding your post (number 189) on this thread, thank you sharing a portion of your draft paper and for inviting those who are challenged by Bahá’u’lláh’s exemption of women from service on the Universal House of Justice to examine this matter in another way. As one Bahá'í Forums participant, I am honored by your willingness to contribute here considering your multiple services to the Faith in other areas. Admittedly, I am unqualified to address this topic to any depth, nevertheless I will share some thoughts stimulated by your draft paper, some observations, and provide a response based on personal perspectives developed over time.

I am appreciating you pointing out that the standard for approaching Baháʼí discourse should not be borrowed from secular society and its “political environment”. Given that, I am reminded of Bahá’u’lláh’s words which the approach in your paper appears to reflect; “Say: O leaders of religion! Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring balance established amongst men. In this most perfect balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did ye but know it.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, XCVIII)

In your paper, attention is also drawn to the fact that `Abdu'l-Bahá addressed the matter of exemption of women from service on the Universal House of Justice in several Tablets, and in one of those Tablets you point out that He wrote of “a wisdom (in it) of the Lord God's which will erelong be made manifest as the sun at high noon" (Selections from the Writings of 'Abdul-Bahá, 79-80). Similarly, a letter written on behalf of the Guardian stated the same thing; “As regards the membership of the International House of Justice, `Abdu'l-Bahá states in a Tablet that it is confined to men, and that the wisdom of it will be revealed as manifest as the sun in the future. (Letter dated December 14, 1940; also quoted in Dawn of a New Day, p. 86). I will not attempt to delve too much into the meaning and relevance of the term “wisdom” in the context of the Baháʼí writings and as expressed by `Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi here, but it certainly is an aspect worthy of further elaboration by others learned enough and qualified to address it more fully. In the interest of brevity, I will cite only one source where Bahá’u’lláh, speaking of “tact and prudence” (i.e. wisdom) reveals, “Since most people are feeble and far removed from the purpose of God, therefore one must observe tact and prudence under all conditions, so that nothing might happen that could cause disturbance and dissension or raise clamor among the headless.” (Introduction to The Kitab-i-Aqdas/The Most Holy Book, p. 6) As is evident, we can observe this “disturbance and dissension” and “clamor among the headless” both within and outside the Baháʼí community when addressing Bahá’u’lláh’s exemption of women from serving on the Universal House of Justice, as well as some other sensitive topics. Speaking more broadly of His claims, teachings, principles, and laws He also revealed, “This is the Announcement that hath caused the limbs of mankind to quake, except such as God, the Protector, the Helper, the Succorer, hath willed to exempt. Men have indeed with their own eyes witnessed how all men and all things have been thrown into confusion and been sore perplexed, save those whom God hath chosen to exempt.” (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 143-144) Related, Shoghi Effendi also communicated, “People must just accept the fact that women are not eligible to the International House of Justice. As the Master says the wisdom of this will be known in the future, we can only accept, believing it is right, but not able to give an explanation calculated to silence an ardent feminist!” (Letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, dated July 15, 1947: Women, A Compilation, p. 9)

If I understand you correctly, you indicate that it is “. . . Bahá’u’lláh as God’s latest – but not last – Manifestation and the Universal House of Justice as the only legitimate institution inspired by His will” as the means by which the “wisdom” related to that exclusion will eventually be more fully understood. Again, “if I understand you correctly” when giving focus to the content of that sentence, I then perceive there is not only a “vital” institutional link missing from that sentence, but a covenantal void of unknown proportions existing there as well which is related to the absence of the institution of the Guardianship. Bahá’u’lláh revealed, “The world’s equilibrium hath been upset through the vibrating influence of this most great, this new World Order. Mankind’s ordered life hath been revolutionized through the agency of this unique, this wondrous System—the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed.” (The Kitáb-Aqdas, verse181) In reference to that “System” and its institutions of the Guardianship and the Universal House of Justice, Shoghi Effendi wrote, “To define with accuracy and minuteness the features, and to analyze exhaustively the nature of the relationships which, on the one hand, bind together these two fundamental organs of the Will of `Abdu'l-Bahá and connect, on the other, each of them to the Author of the Faith and the Center of His Covenant is a task which future generations will no doubt adequately fulfill. . . .” (The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh; World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 147) Shoghi Effendi went on to explain in what he called his “clear and unambiguous language” that “(w)ithout such an institution (the Guardianship) the integrity of the Faith would be imperiled, and the stability of the entire fabric would be gravely endangered. Its prestige would suffer, the means required to enable it to take a long, an uninterrupted view over a series of generations would be completely lacking, and the necessary guidance to define the sphere of the legislative action of its elected representatives would be totally withdrawn.” (Ibid, p. 148) Rúhíyyih Khanum wrote that “the two Wills — those of Bahá'u'lláh and the Master — are so strongly constructed and so authentic beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is impossible to divorce the body of the teachings from their provisions. The principle of successor ship, endowed with the right of Divine interpretation, is the very hub of the Cause into which its Doctrines and Laws fit like the spokes of a wheel — tear out the hub and you have to throw away the whole thing. . . .” (Twenty-Five Years of the Guardianship, November 1946, p. 23) Again, and at the height of family Covenant breaking activity, she wrote of the importance that one must “accept fully and comprehendingly the station and function of a Guardian, for it is the Guardian, and the concomitant House of Justice, that ensures the smooth functioning of Bahá'u'lláh's system. Take away this absolute standard and you take away the guarantee that what Bahá'u'lláh brought to the world will fulfill His Promises.” (Teaching Problems, March 18, 1949, p. 6) I believe it is important to point out that the Guardian himself approved and/or had both of these works of Rúhíyyih Khanum’s published at least twice. Consider that Bahá’u’lláh revealed, “Know assuredly that just as thou firmly believest that the Word of God, exalted be His glory, endureth for ever, thou must, likewise, believe with undoubting faith that its meaning can never be exhausted. They who are its appointed interpreters, they whose hearts are the repositories of its secrets, are, however, the only ones who can comprehend its manifold wisdom. (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, LXXXIX) This leads me to the conclusion that should the Bahá'í world have had any hope in more fully understanding Bahá’u’lláh’s exemption of women from serving on the Universal House of Justice, that understanding is lost, or at least dimmed significantly, in the absence of future Guardians of the Cause and the Covenant, them who Shoghi Effendi pointed out as being “the Guardians who are its (the Covenant’s) chosen ministers”, them who are “overshadowed by the unfailing, the unerring protection of Bahá'u'lláh and of the Báb”, them who exercise “the right and obligation to interpret the Bahá'í teachings”, them who have “been specifically endowed with such power as he (they) may need to reveal the purport and disclose the implications of the utterances of Bahá'u'lláh and of `Abdu'l-Bahá”. (See The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 151) I realize this is a very sensitive subject to many, but to imagine that the Cause of God (the Faith and its Administrative Order) is not significantly impacted by the absence of what Bahá’u’lláh Himself referred to as the “appointed interpreters, they whose hearts are the repositories of its (the Word’s) secrets”, (they who) “are . . . the only ones who can comprehend its manifold wisdom”, and what `Abdu'l-Bahá referred to as the “expounder” and “interpreter”, and what the Guardian himself, as the appointed interpreter, emphasized as being “essential” and “vital” leaves room for a more in-depth study of this “wondrous System – the like of which mortal eyes have never witnessed” and the absence of the Guardianship from it. This thread is not the place for it though, as I was only briefly addressing, from my perspective, a “covenantal void” in the sentence (above) connecting Bahá’u’lláh and the Universal House of Justice as related to progressively understanding the “wisdom” in the exemption of women serving on the Universal House of Justice.

Transitioning back to the main theme; in a 1909 letter to an American believer, Corinne True, `Abdu'l-Bahá wrote, “According to the ordinances of the faith of God, women are equals of men in all rights save only that of membership on the Universal House of Justice, for, as hath been stated in the text of the Book, both the head and the members of the House of Justice are men.” Here, `Abdu'l-Bahá clearly mentions a male “head” of the Universal House of Justice as differentiated from the male “membership” of that body. He wrote this letter some 12 years prior to the contents of His Will and Testament being unveiled where in it He described a future time when a Guardian would serve as the irremovable “sacred head” of the Universal House of Justice and participate (as one member) in its legislative processes. `Abdu'l-Bahá emphasized that the Guardian’s presence and participation was of such importance that “(s)hould he not attend in person its deliberations, he must appoint one to represent him.” (Part 1, paragraph 25) Perhaps relevant to this discussion is the Guardian’s proclamation of his “weighty epoch-making decision of (the) formation of first International Baháʼí Council, (the) forerunner of supreme administrative institution destined to emerge in fullness of time within (the) precincts beneath shadow of World Spiritual Center of Faith already established in twin cities of 'Akká and Haifa. . . .” (Cablegram, January 9, 1951; Messages to the Bahá'í World: 1950-1957, p. 7) In March of that same year he began appointing its membership consisting, interestingly enough, of both men and women (4 of each). A couple of years later he wrote, “The International Bahá'í Council, comprising eight members, charged with assisting in the manifold activities attendant upon the rise of the World Administrative Center of the Faith, which must pave the way for the formation of a Bahá'í International Court and the eventual emergence of the Universal House of Justice, the supreme legislative body of the future Bahá'í Commonwealth . . .” (May 4, 1953; Messages to the Bahá'í World: 1950-1957 - A Supplementary Collection, pp. 148 – 149) I do find it interesting, and puzzling as well, that Shoghi Effendi appointed women to that body that was in fact the embryonic Universal House of Justice. It is also interesting that the Guardian appointed Rúhíyyih Khanum (a woman) to act as liaison between him and the International Baháʼí Council. This drew my attention back to `Abdu'l-Bahá’s Will and Testament and His emphasis that “(s)hould he (the Guardian) not attend in person its deliberations, he must appoint one to represent him.” My curiosity prompted me to inquire of an acquaintance of mine who is very well versed in the original Persian and Arabic languages of the Baháʼí Writings if the words “appoint one to represent him” were written in the masculine form or were they gender neutral. He answered, “Hi Larry, the Will and Testament is in Persian. The phrase ‘appoint one to represent him’ is non-gendered. The word ‘one’ itself does not appear but is implied because the word ‘representative’ (vakili) is grammatically indefinite. Best regards, . . .” So from my limited perspective, it appears that had the Guardianship continued, he could have appointed a women to represent him should he be absent from the Universal House of Justice’s legislative deliberations. Shoghi Effendi did make it clear though that "At present there are women on the International Council, and this will continue as long as it exists, but when the International House of Justice is elected, there will only be men on it, as this is the law of the Aqdas." (Directives from the Guardian, pp. 79-80)

So all this seems to leave us with the understanding that the exemption of women from service on the Universal House of Justice has indeed “outwardly been revealed in the Book” (Bahá’u’lláh) and “expressly recorded therein” (`Abdu'l-Bahá), and “is the law of the Aqdas” (Shoghi Effendi). The only room for additional understanding appears to be the development of a better comprehension of the “wisdom” in that exemption.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

-LR
 
Mar 2015
259
Bend area, Oregon
LR Note: Ian Kluge sent this message to me via a personal communications channel, but requested that I post it on his behalf. Below, please find Ian’s response to my post, #199:


Hello Larry,

Thank you for your letter about women on the Universal House of Justice and the Guardianship.

In my understanding, the issue of the Guardianship can be explained the distinction Shoghi Effendi makes between ‘Guardian,’ i.e. a particular person and the often used phrase, “institution of Guardianship.” The two are not the same.

For those who live in a constitutional monarchy (Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Japan, Norway, Denmark, Spain etc) the distinction between the individual occupant of the throne and the institution of monarchy is familiar. Consequently, the notion that there is a continuing institution of Guardianship without a specific individual Guardian is not, in itself, problematic.

As long as distribution of powers and duties is not disturbed, there is no real problem here with the structure of the Faith.

“‘Divorced from the institution of the Guardianship, the World Order of Bahá’u'lláh would be mutilated’, it must be emphasized that although there are no more Guardians after Shoghi Effendi, the institution of the Guardianship will always exist.”
The Baha’i Covenant | The Covenant of Baha’u'llah » Can the Universal House of Justice function properly without a living Guardian?

That this distinction is made in the Writings is illustrated by Baha’u’llah’s preference for constitutional monarchy as found in Britain at the time seems clear to me:

“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, p. 93)

Although a republican form of government profiteth all the peoples of the world, yet the majesty of kingship is one of the signs of God. We do not wish that the countries of the world should remain deprived thereof. If the sagacious combine the two forms into one, great will be their reward in the presence of God.”(Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 28)

In my understanding, as long as the institution of Guardianship exists Shoghi Effendi’s writings will remain infallibly valid in guiding the Universal House of Justice.

If the institution of Guardianship is denied for any reason, or, if the institution is regarded as non-existent because there is no individual Guardian, then Shoghi Effendi’s writings would immediately lose their validity and unshakeable power over the Universal House of Justice. In that legal and constitutional sense we have both the Guardianship and a Guardian. The distribution of powers is not affected.

Also: “Future Guardians are clearly envisaged and referred to in the Writings, but there is nowhere any promise or guarantee that the line of Guardians would endure forever; on the contrary there are clear indications that the line could be broken . . . One of the most striking passages which envisage the possibility of such a break in the line of Guardians is in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas itself:”
The Baha’i Covenant | The Covenant of Baha’u'llah » Can the Universal House of Justice function properly without a living Guardian?

In regards to the specific exemption of women from the Universal House of Justice, I think at this time it is best for me to analyze and critique the negative accusations made against the Faith than to engage in theorizing that only gives the enemies of the Faith an additional opportunity to attack.

It’s like football! I’m not carrying the ball but for now I am a blocker making sure the other team doesn’t get near the ball carrier!

I shall have more to say about this when I start on my projected paper on the Writings and feminist theory.

One more thing: I am having trouble posting this reply on Baha’i Forums # 189. . . . (LR edit not relevant to the post) . . . Could you please post this for me?


Thanks and best wishes,

Ian
 
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