Monday, July 11, 2016

The Broad Scope of the Authority of the Universal House Justice


The purpose of this posting is to demonstrate the broad scope of the authority of the Universal House of Justice set forth in the Baha'i Writings - to see that its authority and infallible divine guidance are not limited to the enactment of legislation.

It is often thought that the sole authorized function of the Universal House of Justice is legislation, and in fact there are passages from the Baha'i Writings describing it as "the Legislature" (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 215)  and as the "highest legislative body" in the Baha'i Faith. (Shoghi Effendi, Citadel of Faith, p. 95)


The House of Justice has itself has written that the authority conferred by Baha'u'llah and the Master on the House of Justice is broad in nature:
"An understanding of the principles by which we explore the Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh depends, too, on an appreciation of the broad nature of the authority conferred on the Universal House of Justice." (Letter of March 14 1996 from the Universal House of Justice

This broad scope is seen in the following excerpts from the Baha'i Writings:

ALL AFFAIRS ARE COMMITTED TO IT

"...all affairs are committed to the care of just kings and presidents and of the Trustees of the House of Justice." Lawh-i-Dunya, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 93)

ALL THINGS MUST BE REFERRED TO IT

"Unto this body all things must be referred."
(The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 14)

  THE HOUSE OF JUSTICE NOT ONLY ENACTS LEGISLATION WHERE THE TEXT IS SILENT; IT ALSO APPLIES THE LAWS WHEN THE TEXT IS NOT SILENT

It is particularly important to see that the Universal House of Justice is not only empowered to enact supplementary legislation. Perhaps no less importantly, the House of Justice is specifically authorized to "apply" Baha'u'llah's revealed laws.

"...Bahá'u'lláh has Himself ... conferred the necessary authority on the body designed to supplement and apply His legislative ordinances."
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 144)

"Moreover these general statements we have in the teachings have to be explained and applied by the House of Justice before we can really appreciate their signifiance."
Extract from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi dated October 21, 1932; Compilation on Agriculture, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. III, p. 16, #18)

ALL IMPORTANT AND FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS MUST BE REFERRED TO IT

"...the Universal House of Justice, to which, according to the Master's explicit instructions, all important and fundamental questions must be referred."  (Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 47)

IT WILL RESOLVE ALL THE DIFFICULT PROBLEMS

"By this body all the difficult problems are to be resolved..."
(The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 14)

IT WILL DECIDE UPON ALL PROBLEMS WHICH HAVE CAUSED DIFFERENCE

"...all problems which have caused difference..."
(The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 20)

"Praise be to God, all such doors are closed in the Cause of Bahá'u'lláh for a special authoritative Centre hath been appointed -- a Centre that solveth all difficulties and wardeth off all differences. The Universal House of Justice, likewise, wardeth off all differences and whatever it prescribeth must be accepted and he who transgresseth is rejected."  (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 215)

"In case of differences, 'Abdu'l-Bahá must be consulted. They must revolve around his good pleasure. After 'Abdu'l-Bahá, whenever the Universal House of Justice is organized it will ward off differences." (From the Compilation on the Covenant, Compilation of Compilations, Vol. I, p. 117, #224)

IT IS CHARGED WITH THE AFFAIRS OF THE PEOPLE

"The eighth Ishraq. This passage, now written by the Pen of Glory, is accounted as part of the Most Holy Book: The men of God's House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people. They, in truth, are the Trustees of God among His servants and the daysprings of authority in His countries."  (Tablet of Ishraqat; Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 128)

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE WILL GUIDE US TO A CLEARER AND FULLER UNDERSTANDING OF THE WILL AND TESTAMENT OF ABDU'L-BAHA

"We are called upon by our beloved Master in His Will and Testament not only to adopt it unreservedly, but to unveil its merit to all the world. To attempt to estimate its full value, and grasp its exact significance after so short a time since its inception would be premature and presumptuous on our part. We must trust to time, and the guidance of God’s Universal House of Justice, to obtain a clearer and fuller understanding of its provisions and implications." (Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 62)

ITS DECISIONS WILL BE THE REAL TRUTH AND GUIDED BY GOD

"Whatever will be its decision, by majority vote, shall be the real truth ..."
(Abdu'l-Baha, quoted in a letter of the Universal House of Justice dated 9 March 1965, Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1963-1986, page 52, paragraph 23.11)

WHATEVER IT DECIDES IS OF GOD

"Whatsoever they decide is of God."
(The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 11)

THE LAWS ENACTED BY THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE ARE INSPIRED AND SPIRITUAL

"Say, O people: Verily the Supreme House of Justice is under the wings of your Lord, the Compassionate, the All-Merciful, that is, under His protection, His care, and His shelter; for He has commanded the firm believers to obey that blessed, sanctified and all-subduing body, whose sovereignty is divinely ordained and of the Kingdom of Heaven and whose laws are inspired and spiritual."
(From a Tablet by Abdu'l-Baha)


ITS DECISIONS ARE THE TRUTH AND THE PURPOSE OF GOD HIMSELF

"That which this body, whether unanimously or by a majority doth carry, that is verily the Truth and the Purpose of God Himself."  
(The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 19)


GOD INSPIRES THE DELIBERATIONS OF THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE


"God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth..."
(Kalimat-i-Firdawsiyyih, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 68)

THE DECISIONS OF THE HOUSE OF JUSTICE HAVE THE SAME EFFECT AS THE TEXT ITSELF

"Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself."
(The Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 20)

THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE HAS A JUDICIAL FUNCTION

[The members of the Universal House of Justice] "...must weigh dispassionately in their minds the merits of any case presented for their consideration..."
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 153)

ITS DECISIONS ARE GUARDED FROM ERROR

"Should that House of Justice decide, either unanimously or by a majority, upon a matter that is not explicitly recorded in the Book, that decision and command will be guarded from error."(Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions Chapter 45, paragraph 4)

ITS AUTHORITY IS UNCHALLENGEABLE

"As you recognize, the authority of the Universal House of Justice is unchallengeable." (3 June 1997 letter from the Universal House of Justice)

It is particularly important to see that the Universal House of Justice is not only empowered to enact supplementary legislation. Perhaps no less importantly, the House of Justice is specifically authorized to "apply" the laws revealed by Baha'u'llah:

"...Bahá'u'lláh has Himself ... conferred the necessary authority on the body designed to supplement and apply His legislative ordinances."
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 144)
Just as the sphere of authority of Shoghi Effendi was not limited to interpretation of the Word -- only a portion of his life's work was interpretation--in like manner, the Baha'i Writings provide a sphere of authority of the Universal House of Justice broader than legislation.  These Writings have been distilled into its Constitution.

So while we realize that the Universal House of Justice is the divine legislature, we will have a more accurate understanding of this Body if we appreciate the broad scope of its authority.

No comments:

Post a Comment