Saturday, March 21, 2009

Does Baha'u'llah describe the spirit in which a Baha'i should turn to the Universal House of Justice, since the line of Guardians has ended?

In the Baha'i Faith, after Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha, there are twin sources of divine guidance—the Universal House of Justice, and the Guardianship, specified in the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha as a line of hereditary Guardians. There is a passage in the most important doctrinal work of Baha'u'llah, the Book of Certitude, in which He directs the believers how to conduct themselves towards the remaining of the two sources of divine guidance after the hereditary line ends.

In Islam, similarly, there was a hereditary line of succession—the institution of the Imamate which provided guidance to the Muslim community after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad. This was an institution that began with Muhammad's son-in-law Ali, who was also blood kin as His cousin. The succeeding Imams were Muhammad's grandsons, great-grandsons, and so on, until the line of Imams ended.

In the Book of Certitude, in the course of His discussion of the majesty of the Qur'an, Bahá’u’lláh states that Muhammad left to His followers two sources of divine guidance — the “twin testimonies” of His Book, and of His sacred lineage, the Imams (The Book of Certitude, paragraph 221, p. 201). After 260 lunar years, the Family line ended, leaving only one of these “twin testimonies” to guide His followers. In the Book of Certitude, Bahá’u’lláh describes the spirit in which a believer in Islam should turn to that remaining source of guidance.


I think this is instructive for us Bahá’ís, since the hereditary line has also ended in our Faith. Similar language to the "twin testimonies" is used in the Baha'i Writings — we have the “twin institutions” of the Guardianship and Universal House of Justice as the Successors to Bahá’u’lláh and Abdu'l-Baha; and now after the end of the line of Guardians, the Universal House of Justice leads us. I think that Bahá’u’lláh's admonition on how to turn to the remaining of the “twin testimonies” in Islam instructs us in the spirit in which to turn to the remaining of the “twin institutions” in Bahá’u’lláh's Administrative Order: With our whole hearts, and with absolute conviction.

There are similarities in the terminology Bahá’u’lláh uses in the Book of Certitude to describe the Qur'an, and the terminology in the Bahá’í Writings describing the Universal House of Justice. The point of showing these parallels, is to demonstrate the validity of applying what Baha'u'llah says about the spirit in which Muslims should turn to the Qur'an after the end of the line of Imams, to the spirit in which Baha'is should turn to the Universal House of Justice after the end of the line of Guardians.

Writing of the Qur'an, Baha'u'llah says “Its guidance can never err,” and writing of the Universal House of Justice, Abdu'l-Baha says that it is “freed from all error.”
(The Book of Certitude, paragraph 221, p. 201; and the Will and Testament of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 14).

Baha'u'llah writes that the Qur'an has a “divine origin,” and Shoghi Effendi writes that the Universal House of Justice is “divine in origin.”
(The Book of Certitude paragraph 224, p. 203; and The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh p. 148)

Baha'u'llah writes that the Qur'an is “the embodiment of truth;” Abdu'l-Baha writes that the decisions of the Universal House of Justice are “the Truth and the Purpose of God Himself”
(Book of Certitude, paragraph 224, p. 203; and the Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 19)


Bahá’u’lláh writes in the Book of Certitude of the situation in Islam after the ending of the line of Imams—that the Imams had “passed away” and that only the Qur'an remained to guide the people. Similarly, in the Baha'i Faith the hereditary line ended when the Guardian passed away, leaving the remaining testimony, the Universal House of Justice, to which all must turn.

And the point of all of the foregoing is to suggest that we apply the following passage to the spirit in which we turn to the Universal House of Justice and seek its guidance:

“Inasmuch as Muhammad hath confined His testimonies to His Book and to His Family, and whereas the latter hath passed away, there remaineth His book only as His one testimony amongst the people....And now, we ask, is it fair for this people to view with doubt and misgiving this most weighty Testimony, the divine origin of which God hath proclaimed, and pronounced it to be the embodiment of truth? Is it fair for them to turn away from the thing which He hath appointed as the supreme Instrument of guidance for attainment unto the loftiest summits of knowledge, and to seek aught else but that Book? How can they allow men's absurd and foolish sayings to sow the seeds of distrust in their minds? How can they any longer idly contend that a certain person hath spoken this or that way, or that a certain thing did not come to pass? ... O friend! It behooveth us not to waive the injunction of God, but rather acquiesce and submit to that which He hath ordained as His divine Testimony .... God speaketh the truth and leadeth the way. He, verily, is supreme over all His people; He is the Mighty, the Beneficent."
(Baha'u'llah, The Book of Certitude, paragraphs 223-227, pp. 203-206)

View of the Seat of the Universal House of Justice from the
colonnade of the Centre for the Study of the Texts
Please click on photograph for larger image
Copyright 2006, Baha'i International Community
Reproduced with permission

The House of Justice has written:

“There being no successor to Shoghi Effendi as Guardian of the Cause of God, the Universal House of Justice is the Head of the Faith and its supreme institution, to which all must turn...”
(Constitution of the Universal House of Justice, p. 4)

The above-quoted passage from Baha'u'llah shows the confident spirit, free of all doubt or misgiving, in which to turn to "so august a body," the Universal House of Justice, which is, in this Day, "That which He hath ordained as His Divine Testimony."

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