The Baha'i Faith & Religious Freedom of Conscience

From: <>
Subject: Re: Obedience, humanism, etc
Date: Saturday, April 24, 1999 7:54 PM

Dear Adelard:
It is very bad for the Baha'i community to capitulate to the sort of
unthinking infallibilism you have proposed.  It leads to rigidity and
stagnation, and it places an unfair and impossible burden on our
ordinary, every-day human brothers in the faith, the members of the House of
Justice, who cannot possibly live up to those sorts of expectations and should
not have to try.
I have to say that there was a time I was really angry with them because they
bungled the advent of Baha'i cyberspace and the advent of Baha'i academia. 
But on mature reflection I see that it was unreasonable for me to expect them
to deal unerringly with these new and unfamiliar phenomena, especially since
they were outside both the expertise of the individual members and the
purview of the House's sphere of authority.  Let's not ask so much of them,
let's not be so inhumane.
Baha'u'llah most assuredly never called the Universal House of Justice
"infallible."  There is a difference between being generally fortified by
inspiration and never being wrong. Moreover, he did not give its members the
charge of doing any blessed thing that comes into their heads.  In the 8th
Ishraq it is written:
"Inasmuch as for each day there is a new problem and for every problem an
expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the House of Justice
that the members thereof may act according to the needs and requirements of
the time. They that, for the sake of God, arise to serve His Cause, are the
recipients of divine inspiration from the unseen Kingdom. It is incumbent
upon all to be obedient unto them. All matters of [leadership (siyasat)]
should be referred to the House of Justice, but acts of worship (`ibadat)
must be observed according to that which God hath revealed in His Book."
He said they were solely in charge of matters of *siyasat,* not of matters of
`ibadat (Ishraq 8).  Now, siyasat has two main meanings in 19th century
Persian, leadership and imposing sanctions on wrong-doers.  It doesn't have
anything to do with a fatuous phrase (and gross mistranslation) like 'affairs
of state,' for heaven's sake.  `Ibadat, on the other hand, refers to matters
of *worship*, which I take to be rituals, prayer, theology and other
faith-related things. There is no point in Baha'u'llah's going to the trouble
of saying the House of Justice has charge of one thing but not the other if
Baha'is are going to turn around and put it in charge of *everything*.	That
clearly was not the Prophet-Founder's intent, or He would have said so.  He
delineated a legitimate sphere of authority for the House of Justice, viz.,
siyasat (leadership or enacting laws punishing wrongdoing).  Since there is
no longer a Guardian who can keep them on the straight and narrow, they may
sometimes stray into matters of `ibadat/worship, like individuals'
theological views, but when they do it should be firmly and politely pointed
out to them.
In World Order of Baha'u'llah (147-50) Shoghi Effendi is very straightforward
that the House of Justice has had limitations placed upon it as to its
"Severally, each [the Guardianship and the House of Justice] operates within
a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own
attendant institutions--instruments designed for the effective discharge of
its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the
limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and
prerogatives."	WOB
He then goes on to spell out what the House of Justice cannot do:
"From these statements it is made indubitably clear and evident that the
Guardian of the Faith has been made the Interpreter of the Word and that the
Universal House of Justice has been invested with the function of legislating
on matters not expressly revealed in the teachings. The interpretation of the
Guardian, functioning within his own sphere, is as authoritative and binding
as the enactments of the International House of Justice, whose exclusive
right and prerogative is to pronounce upon and deliver the final judgment on
such laws and ordinances as Bahá'u'lláh has not expressly revealed. Neither
can, nor will ever, infringe upon the sacred and prescribed domain of the
other." WOB
I should think nothing could be clearer than Shoghi Effendi's statement.  The
Universal House of Justice does not have the authority to Interpret the
Baha'is scriptures authoritatively.  And, if these quotes were not enough,
the House of Justice wrote me, personally, in the early 1990s affirming that
they did not have the right to Interpret.
So, Derrick is perfectly correct here.
cheers   Juan

In article <>,
  "Mike C" <> wrote:
>   Derrick,
>        It is so sad to see that you can  question the UHJ. Don't you know
> that  Baha'u'llah promissed guidance to the UHJ. Don't you know that if you
> question the UHJ , its means you are questioning God. Don't you
> know that this is a part of convenant  established by baha'u'llah.
>        Let me know if you need to know about that, i will love to give  or
> tell  you where you can find  it .Otherwise,
> if you knew about that,you will be questionning  Baha'u'llahah, himself, i
> will tell you to investigate again  the station of baha'u'llah, his
> authority ,in brief who is he for mankind in this day
>       I think you worry a lot  about Bahai administration,Those worries have
> be happenning since hundrends and hundreds of  years by believers of
> differents religions ( multitudes of sects were born since the passing of
> their leaders or prophets).
>        This day is the day of God , there is no worry any more for those who
> know and believe in this faith, the UHJ  have been  promised to be guided in
> all its decisions.( the scriptures of past says that in this day ,God
> will come down and reign with mankind).
>         Adelard R
> >> >Dear Melissa,
> >> >
> >> > I will repeat, yet again, the House does NOT have the right of
> >> >Interpretation! Period! And the Office of the Secretariat _certainly_
> cannot
> >> >abrogate the clear Texts of the Central Figures (God knows they've
> tried!).
> >> >If you wish to ignore the clear Writings and choose to obey letters
> written
> >> >by ordinary Baha'is, then please do so. If I were a Baha'i, I could not;
> for
> >> >I would be a Hypocrite. Darrick Evenson
> >> >
> >>
> >
> >-----------== Posted via Deja News, The Discussion Network ==----------
> >       Search, Read, Discuss, or Start Your Own
Juan Cole, History, U of Michigan
Buy *Modernity and the Millennium: The Genesis of the Baha'i Faith* at:
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