1. the sweet-smelling savor of My garment ¶4
This is an allusion to the story of Joseph in the Qur’án and the Old Testament, in which Joseph’s garment, brought by his brothers to Jacob, their father, enabled Jacob to identify his beloved long-lost son. The metaphor of the fragrant “garment” is frequently used in the Bahá’í Writings to refer to the recognition of the Manifestation of God and His Revelation.
Bahá’u’lláh, in one of His Tablets, describes Himself as the “Divine Joseph” Who has been “bartered away” by the heedless “for the most paltry of prices.” The Báb, in the Qayyúmu’l-Asmá’, identifies Bahá’u’lláh as the “true Joseph” and forecasts the ordeals that He would endure at the hands of His treacherous brother (see note 190). Likewise, Shoghi Effendi draws a parallel between the intense jealousy which the preeminence of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá had aroused in His half-brother, Mírzá Muḥammad-‘Alí, and the deadly envy “which the superior excellence of Joseph had kindled in the hearts of his brothers.”
2. We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. ¶5
The consumption of wine and other intoxicants is prohibited in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (see notes 144 and 170).
Reference to the use of “wine” in an allegorical sense—such as being the cause of spiritual ecstasy—is found, not only in the Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, but in the Bible, in the Qur’án, and in ancient Hindu traditions.
For example, in the Qur’án the righteous are promised that they will be given to drink of the “choice sealed wine.” In His Tablets, Bahá’u’lláh identifies the “choice Wine” with His Revelation whose “musk-laden fragrance” has been wafted “upon all created things.” He states that He has “unsealed” this “Wine,” thereby disclosing spiritual truths that were hitherto unknown, and enabling those who quaff thereof to “discern the splendors of the light of divine unity” and to “grasp the essential purpose underlying the Scriptures of God.”
In one of His meditations, Bahá’u’lláh entreats God to supply the believers with “the choice Wine of Thy mercy, that it may cause them to be forgetful of anyone except Thee, and to arise to serve Thy Cause, and to be steadfast in their love for Thee.”
3. We have enjoined obligatory prayer upon you ¶6
In Arabic, there are several words for prayer. The word “ṣalát,” which appears here in the original, refers to a particular category of prayers, the recitation of which at specific times of the day is enjoined on the believers. To differentiate this category of prayers from other kinds, the word has been translated as “obligatory prayer.”
Bahá’u’lláh states that “obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God” (Q&A 93). ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá affirms that such prayers are “conducive to humility and submissiveness, to setting one’s face towards God and expressing devotion to Him,” and that through these prayers “man holdeth communion with God, seeketh to draw near unto Him, converseth with the true Beloved of his heart, and attaineth spiritual stations.”
The Obligatory Prayer (see note 9) referred to in this verse has been superseded by the three Obligatory Prayers later revealed by Bahá’u’lláh (Q&A 63). The texts of the three prayers currently in use, together with instructions regarding their recital, are to be found in this volume in Some Texts Supplementary to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas.
A number of the items in Questions and Answers deal with aspects of the three new Obligatory Prayers. Bahá’u’lláh clarifies that the individual is permitted to choose any one of the three Obligatory Prayers (Q&A 65). Other provisions are elucidated in Questions and Answers, numbers 66, 67, 81, and 82.
The details of the law concerning obligatory prayer are summarized in section IV.A.1.–17. of the Synopsis and Codification.
4. nine rak‘ahs ¶6
A rak‘ah is the recitation of specifically revealed verses accompanied by a prescribed set of genuflections and other movements.
The Obligatory Prayer originally enjoined by Bahá’u’lláh upon His followers consisted of nine rak‘ahs. The precise nature of this prayer and the specific instructions for its recitation are unknown, as the prayer has been lost. (See note 9.)
In a Tablet commenting on the presently binding Obligatory Prayers, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá indicates that “in every word and movement of the Obligatory Prayer there are allusions, mysteries and a wisdom that man is unable to comprehend, and letters and scrolls cannot contain.”
Shoghi Effendi explains that the few simple directions given by Bahá’u’lláh for the recital of certain prayers not only have a spiritual significance but that they also help the individual “to fully concentrate when praying and meditating.”
5. at noon and in the morning and the evening ¶6
Regarding the definition of the words “morning,” “noon” and “evening,” at which times the currently binding medium Obligatory Prayer is to be recited, Bahá’u’lláh has stated that these coincide with “sunrise, noon and sunset” (Q&A 83). He specifies that the “allowable times for Obligatory Prayers are from morning till noon, from noon till sunset, and from sunset till two hours thereafter.” Further, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá has stated that the morning Obligatory Prayer may be said as early as dawn.
The definition of “noon” as the period “from noon till sunset” applies to the recitation of the short Obligatory Prayer as well as the medium one.
6. We have relieved you of a greater number ¶6
The requirements for obligatory prayer called for in the Bábí and Islamic Dispensations were more demanding than those for the performance of the Obligatory Prayer consisting of nine rak‘ahs that was prescribed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (see note 4).
In the Bayán, the Báb prescribed an Obligatory Prayer consisting of nineteen rak‘ahs which was to be performed once in a twenty-four-hour period—from noon of one day to noon of the next.
The Muslim prayer is recited five times a day, namely, in the early morning, at midday, in the afternoon and evening, and at night. While the number of rak‘ahs varies according to the time of recitation, a total of seventeen rak‘ahs are offered in the course of a day.
7. When ye desire to perform this prayer, turn ye towards the Court of My Most Holy Presence, this Hallowed Spot that God hath … decreed to be the Point of Adoration for the denizens of the Cities of Eternity ¶6
The “Point of Adoration,” that is, the point to which the worshiper should turn when offering obligatory prayer, is called the Qiblih. The concept of Qiblih has existed in previous religions. Jerusalem in the past had been fixed for this purpose. Muḥammad changed the Qiblih to Mecca. The Báb’s instructions in the Arabic Bayán were:
The Qiblih is indeed He Whom God will make manifest; whenever He moveth, it moveth, until He shall come to rest.
This passage is quoted by Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (¶137) and confirmed by Him in the above-noted verse. He has also indicated that facing in the direction of the Qiblih is a “fixed requirement for the recitation of obligatory prayer” (Q&A 14 and 67). However, for other prayers and devotions the individual may face in any direction.
8. and when the Sun of Truth and Utterance shall set, turn your faces towards the Spot that We have ordained for you ¶6
Bahá’u’lláh ordains His resting-place as the Qiblih after His passing. The Most Holy Tomb is at Bahjí, ‘Akká. ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá describes that Spot as the “luminous Shrine,” “the place around which circumambulate the Concourse on high.”
In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi uses the analogy of the plant turning in the direction of the sun to explain the spiritual significance of turning towards the Qiblih:
… just as the plant stretches out to the sunlight—from which it receives life and growth—so we turn our hearts to the Manifestation of God, Bahá’u’lláh, when we pray; … we turn our faces … to where His dust lies on this earth as a symbol of the inner act.
9. We have set forth the details of obligatory prayer in another Tablet. ¶8
The original Obligatory Prayer had “for reasons of wisdom” been revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in a separate Tablet (Q&A 63). It was not released to the believers in His lifetime, having been superseded by the three Obligatory Prayers now in use.
Shortly after the Ascension of Bahá’u’lláh, the text of this prayer, along with a number of other Tablets, was stolen by Muḥammad-‘Alí, the Arch-breaker of His Covenant.
10. the Prayer for the Dead ¶8
The Prayer for the Dead (see Some Texts Supplementary to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas) is the only Bahá’í obligatory prayer which is to be recited in congregation; it is to be recited by one believer while all present stand in silence (see note 19). Bahá’u’lláh has clarified that the Prayer for the Dead is required only when the deceased is an adult (Q&A 70), that the recital should precede the interment of the deceased, and that there is no requirement to face the Qiblih when saying this prayer (Q&A 85).
Further details concerning the Prayer for the Dead are summarized in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.A. 13.–14.
11. six specific passages have been sent down by God, the Revealer of Verses ¶8
The passages that form part of the Prayer for the Dead comprise the repetition of the greeting “Alláh-u-Abhá” (God is the All-Glorious) six times, each followed by nineteen repetitions of one of six specifically revealed verses. These verses are identical with those in the Prayer for the Dead revealed by the Báb in the Bayán. Bahá’u’lláh added a supplication to precede these passages.
12. Hair doth not invalidate your prayer, nor aught from which the spirit hath departed, such as bones and the like. Ye are free to wear the fur of the sable as ye would that of the beaver, the squirrel, and other animals ¶9
In some earlier religious Dispensations, the wearing of the hair of certain animals or having certain other objects on one’s person was held to invalidate one’s prayer. Bahá’u’lláh here confirms the Báb’s pronouncement in the Arabic Bayán that such things do not invalidate one’s prayer.
13. We have commanded you to pray and fast from the beginning of maturity ¶10
Bahá’u’lláh defines the “age of maturity with respect to religious duties” as “fifteen for both men and women” (Q&A 20). For details of the period of fasting, see note 25.
14. He hath exempted from this those who are weak from illness or age ¶10
The exemption of those who are weak due to illness or advanced age from offering the Obligatory Prayers and from fasting is explained in Questions and Answers. Bahá’u’lláh indicates that in “time of ill health it is not permissible to observe these obligations” (Q&A 93). He defines old age, in this context, as being from seventy (Q&A 74). In answer to a question, Shoghi Effendi has clarified that people who attain the age of seventy are exempt, whether or not they are weak.
Exemption from fasting is also granted to the other specific categories of people listed in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.B.5. See notes 20, 30 and 31 for additional discussion.
15. God hath granted you leave to prostrate yourselves on any surface that is clean, for We have removed in this regard the limitation that had been laid down in the Book ¶10
The requirements of prayer in previous Dispensations have often included prostration. In the Arabic Bayán the Báb called upon the believers to lay their foreheads on surfaces of crystal when prostrating. Similarly, in Islám, certain restrictions are imposed with regard to the surface on which Muslims are permitted to prostrate. Bahá’u’lláh abrogates such restrictions and simply specifies “any surface that is clean.”
16. Let him that findeth no water for ablution repeat five times the words “In the Name of God, the Most Pure, the Most Pure,” and then proceed to his devotions. ¶10
Ablutions are to be performed by the believer in preparation for the offering of obligatory prayer. They consist of washing the hands and face. If water is unavailable, the repetition five times of the specifically revealed verse is prescribed. See note 34 for a general discussion of ablutions.
Antecedents in earlier Dispensations for the provision of substitute procedures to be followed when no water is available are found in the Qur’án and in the Arabic Bayán.
17. In regions where the days and nights grow long, let times of prayer be gauged by clocks and other instruments that mark the passage of the hours. ¶10
This refers to territories situated in the extreme north or south, where the duration of days and nights varies markedly (Q&A 64 and 103). This provision applies also to fasting.
18. We have absolved you from the requirement of performing the Prayer of the Signs. ¶11
The Prayer of the Signs is a special form of Muslim obligatory prayer that was ordained to be said in times of natural events, like earthquakes, eclipses, and other such phenomena, which may cause fear and are taken to be signs or acts of God. The requirement of performing this prayer has been annulled. In its place a Bahá’í may say, “Dominion is God’s, the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of creation,” but this is not obligatory (Q&A 52).
19. Save in the Prayer for the Dead, the practice of congregational prayer hath been annulled. ¶12
Congregational prayer, in the sense of formal obligatory prayer which is to be recited in accordance with a prescribed ritual as, for example, is the custom in Islám where Friday prayer in the mosque is led by an imám, has been annulled in the Bahá’í Dispensation. The Prayer for the Dead (see note 10) is the only congregational prayer prescribed by Bahá’í law. It is to be recited by one of those present while the remainder of the party stands in silence; the reader has no special status. The congregation is not required to face the Qiblih (Q&A 85).
The three daily Obligatory Prayers are to be recited individually, not in congregation.
There is no prescribed way for the recital of the many other Bahá’í prayers, and all are free to use such non-obligatory prayers in gatherings or individually as they please. In this regard, Shoghi Effendi states that
…although the friends are thus left free to follow their own inclination … they should take the utmost care that any manner they practice should not acquire too rigid a character, and thus develop into an institution. This is a point which the friends should always bear in mind, lest they deviate from the clear path indicated by the Teachings.
20. God hath exempted women who are in their courses from obligatory prayer and fasting. ¶13
Exemption from obligatory prayer and fasting is granted to women who are menstruating; they should, instead, perform their ablutions (see note 34) and repeat 95 times a day between one noon and the next, the verse “Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendor and Beauty.” This provision has its antecedent in the Arabic Bayán, where a similar dispensation was granted.
In some earlier religious Dispensations, women in their courses were considered ritually unclean and were forbidden to observe the duties of prayer and fasting. The concept of ritual uncleanness has been abolished by Bahá’u’lláh (see note 106).
The Universal House of Justice has clarified that the provisions in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas granting exemptions from certain duties and responsibilities are, as the word indicates, exemptions and not prohibitions. Any believer is, therefore, free to avail himself or herself of an applicable exemption if he or she so wishes. However, the House of Justice counsels that, in deciding whether to do so or not, the believer should use wisdom and realize that Bahá’u’lláh has granted these exemptions for good reason.
The prescribed exemption from obligatory prayer, originally related to the Obligatory Prayer consisting of nine rak‘ahs, is now applicable to the three Obligatory Prayers which superseded it.
21. When traveling, if ye should stop and rest in some safe spot, perform ye—men and women alike—a single prostration in place of each unsaid Obligatory Prayer ¶14
Exemption from obligatory prayer is granted to those who find themselves in such a condition of insecurity that the saying of the Obligatory Prayers is not possible. The exemption applies whether one is traveling or at home, and it provides a means whereby Obligatory Prayers which have remained unsaid on account of these insecure circumstances may be compensated for.
Bahá’u’lláh has made it clear that obligatory prayer “is not suspended during travel” so long as one can find a “safe spot” in which to perform it (Q&A 58).
Numbers 21, 58, 59, 60, and 61 in Questions and Answers amplify this provision.
22. Upon completing your prostrations, seat yourselves cross-legged ¶14
The Arabic expression “haykalu’t-tawḥíd,” translated here as “cross-legged,” means the “posture of unity.” It has traditionally signified a cross-legged position.
23. Say: God hath made My hidden love the key to the Treasure ¶15
There is a well-known Islamic tradition concerning God and His creation:
I was a Hidden Treasure. I wished to be made known, and thus I called creation into being in order that I might be known.
References and allusions to this tradition are found throughout the Bahá’í Writings. For example, in one of His prayers, Bahá’u’lláh reveals:
Lauded be Thy name, O Lord my God! I testify that Thou wast a hidden Treasure wrapped within Thine immemorial Being and an impenetrable Mystery enshrined in Thine own Essence. Wishing to reveal Thyself, Thou didst call into being the Greater and the Lesser Worlds, and didst choose Man above all Thy creatures, and didst make Him a sign of both of these worlds, O Thou Who art our Lord, the Most Compassionate!
Thou didst raise Him up to occupy Thy throne before all the people of Thy creation. Thou didst enable Him to unravel Thy mysteries, and to shine with the lights of Thine inspiration and Thy Revelation, and to manifest Thy names and Thine attributes. Through Him Thou didst adorn the preamble of the book of Thy creation, O Thou Who art the Ruler of the universe Thou hast fashioned! (Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, XXXVIII)
Likewise, in the Hidden Words, He states:
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.
‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, in His commentary on the above-cited tradition, wrote:
O wayfarer in the path of the Beloved! Know thou that the main purpose of this holy tradition is to make mention of the stages of God’s concealment and manifestation within the Embodiments of Truth, They who are the Dawning-places of His All-Glorious Being. For example, before the flame of the undying fire is lit and manifest, it existeth by itself within itself in the hidden identity of the universal Manifestations, and this is the stage of the “Hidden Treasure.” And when the blessed Tree is kindled by itself within itself, and that Divine fire burneth by its essence within its essence, this is the stage of “I wished to be made known.” And when it shineth forth from the Horizon of the universe with infinite Divine Names and Attributes upon the contingent and placeless worlds, this constituteth the emergence of a new and wondrous creation which correspondeth to the stage of “Thus I called creation into being.” And when the sanctified souls rend asunder the veils of all earthly attachments and worldly conditions, and hasten to the stage of gazing on the beauty of the Divine Presence and are honored by recognizing the Manifestation and are able to witness the splendor of God’s Most Great Sign in their hearts, then will the purpose of creation, which is the knowledge of Him Who is the Eternal Truth, become manifest.
24. O Pen of the Most High! ¶16
“Pen of the Most High,” “the Supreme Pen” and “the Most Exalted Pen” are references to Bahá’u’lláh, illustrating His function as Revealer of the Word of God.
25. We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period ¶16
Fasting and obligatory prayer constitute the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. Bahá’u’lláh in one of His Tablets affirms that He has revealed the laws of obligatory prayer and fasting so that through them the believers may draw nigh unto God.
Shoghi Effendi indicates that the fasting period, which involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset, is
…essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.
Fasting is enjoined on all the believers once they attain the age of 15 and until they reach the age of 70 years.
A summary of the detailed provisions concerning the law of fasting and of the exemptions granted to certain categories of people is contained in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.B.1.–6. For a discussion of the exemptions from fasting see notes 14, 20, 30 and 31.
The nineteen-day period of fasting coincides with the Bahá’í month of ‘Alá’, usually 2–20 March, immediately after the termination of the Intercalary Days (see notes 27 and 147), and is followed by the feast of Naw-Rúz (see note 26).1
26. and at its close have designated for you Naw-Rúz as a feast ¶16
The Báb introduced a new calendar, known now as the Badí‘ or Bahá’í calendar (see notes 27 and 147). According to this calendar, a day is the period from sunset to sunset. In the Bayán, the Báb ordained the month of ‘Alá’ to be the month of fasting, decreed that the day of Naw-Rúz should mark the termination of that period, and designated Naw-Rúz as the Day of God. Bahá’u’lláh confirms the Badí‘ calendar wherein Naw-Rúz is designated as a feast.
Naw-Rúz is the first day of the new year. It coincides with the spring equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, which usually occurs on 21 March. Bahá’u’lláh explains that this feast day is to be celebrated on whatever day the sun passes into the constellation of Aries (i.e. the vernal equinox), even should this occur one minute before sunset (Q&A 35). Hence Naw-Rúz could fall on 20, 21, or 22 March, depending on the time of the equinox.
Bahá’u’lláh has left the details of many laws to be filled in by the Universal House of Justice. Among these are a number of matters affecting the Bahá’í calendar. The Guardian has stated that the implementation, worldwide, of the law concerning the timing of Naw-Rúz will require the choice of a particular spot on earth which will serve as the standard for the fixing of the time of the spring equinox. He also indicated that the choice of this spot has been left to the decision of the Universal House of Justice.2
27. Let the days in excess of the months be placed before the month of fasting. ¶16
The Badí‘ calendar is based on the solar year of 365 days, 5 hours, and 50 odd minutes. The year consists of 19 months of 19 days each (i.e. 361 days), with the addition of four extra days (five in a leap year). The Báb did not specifically define the place for the intercalary days in the new calendar. The Kitáb-i-Aqdas resolves this question by assigning the “excess” days a fixed position in the calendar immediately preceding the month of ‘Alá’, the period of fasting. For further details see the section on the Bahá’í calendar in The Bahá’í World, volume XVIII.
28. We have ordained that these … shall be the manifestations of the letter Há ¶16
Known as the Ayyám-i-Há (the Days of Há), the Intercalary Days have the distinction of being associated with “the letter Há.” The abjad numerical value of this Arabic letter is five, which corresponds to the potential number of intercalary days.
The letter “Há” has been given several spiritual meanings in the Holy Writings, among which is as a symbol of the Essence of God.
29. these days of giving that precede the season of restraint. ¶16
Bahá’u’lláh enjoined upon His followers to devote these days to feasting, rejoicing and charity. In a letter written on Shoghi Effendi’s behalf it is explained that “the intercalary days are specially set aside for hospitality, the giving of gifts, etc.”
30. The traveler … not bound by the Fast ¶16
The minimum duration of a journey which exempts the believer from fasting is defined by Bahá’u’lláh (Q&A 22 and 75). The details of this provision are summarized in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.B.5.a.i.–v.
Shoghi Effendi has clarified that while travelers are exempt from fasting, they are free to fast if they so wish. He also indicated that the exemption applies during the whole period of one’s travel, not just the hours one is in a train or car, etc.
31. The traveler, the ailing, those who are with child or giving suck, are not bound by the Fast; they have been exempted by God as a token of His grace. ¶16
Exemption from fasting is granted to those who are ill or of advanced age (see note 14), women in their courses (see note 20), travelers (see note 30) and to women who are pregnant and those who are nursing. This exemption is also extended to people who are engaged in heavy labor, who, at the same time, are advised “to show respect to the law of God and for the exalted station of the Fast” by eating “with frugality and in private” (Q&A 76). Shoghi Effendi has indicated that the types of work which would exempt people from the Fast will be defined by the Universal House of Justice.
32. Abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sundown ¶17
This relates to the period of fasting. In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, after stating that fasting consists of abstinence from food and drink, further indicates that smoking is a form of “drink.” In Arabic the verb “drink” applies equally to smoking.
33. It hath been ordained that every believer in God … shall, each day … repeat “Alláh-u-Abhá” ninety-five times. ¶18
“Alláh-u-Abhá” is an Arabic phrase meaning “God the All-Glorious.” It is a form of the Greatest Name of God (see note 137). In Islám there is a tradition that among the many names of God, one was the greatest; however, the identity of this Greatest Name was hidden. Bahá’u’lláh has confirmed that the Greatest Name is “Bahá.”
The various derivatives of the word “Bahá” are also regarded as the Greatest Name. Shoghi Effendi’s secretary writing on his behalf explains that
The Greatest Name is the Name of Bahá’u’lláh. “Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá” is an invocation meaning: “O Thou Glory of Glories!” “Alláh-u-Abhá” is a greeting which means: “God the All-Glorious.” Both refer to Bahá’u’lláh. By Greatest Name is meant that Bahá’u’lláh has appeared in God’s Greatest Name, in other words, that He is the supreme Manifestation of God.
The greeting “Alláh-u-Abhá” was adopted during the period of Bahá’u’lláh’s exile in Adrianople.
The repetition of “Alláh-u-Abhá” ninety-five times is to be preceded by the performance of ablutions (see note 34).
34. Perform ye … ablutions for the Obligatory Prayer ¶18
Ablutions are specifically associated with certain prayers. They must precede the offering of the three Obligatory Prayers, the daily recitation of “Alláh-u-Abhá” ninety-five times, and the recital of the verse prescribed as an alternative to obligatory prayer and fasting for women in their courses (see note 20).
The prescribed ablutions consist of washing the hands and the face in preparation for prayer. In the case of the medium Obligatory Prayer, this is accompanied by the recitation of certain verses (see Some Texts Revealed by Bahá’u’lláh Supplementary to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas).
That ablutions have a significance beyond washing may be seen from the fact that even should one have bathed oneself immediately before reciting the Obligatory Prayer, it would still be necessary to perform ablutions (Q&A 18).
When no water is available for ablutions, a prescribed verse is to be repeated five times (see note 16), and this provision is extended to those for whom the use of water would be physically harmful (Q&A 51).
The detailed provisions of the law concerning ablutions are set out in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.A.10.a.–g., as well as in Questions and Answers numbers 51, 62, 66, 77 and 86.
35. Ye have been forbidden to commit murder ¶19
The prohibition against taking another’s life is repeated by Bahá’u’lláh in paragraph 73 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. Penalties are prescribed for premeditated murder (see note 86). In the case of manslaughter, it is necessary to pay a specified indemnity to the family of the deceased (see Kitáb-i-Aqdas, ¶188).
36. or adultery ¶19
The Arabic word “ziná,” here translated as “adultery,” signifies both fornication and adultery. It applies not only to sexual relations between a married person and someone who is not his or her spouse, but also to extramarital sexual intercourse in general. One form of “ziná” is rape. The only penalty prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh is for those who commit fornication (see note 77); penalties for other kinds of sexual offense are left to the Universal House of Justice to determine.
37. backbiting or calumny ¶19
Backbiting, slander and dwelling on the faults of others have been repeatedly condemned by Bahá’u’lláh. In the Hidden Words, He clearly states: “O Son of Being! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.” And again: “O Son of Man! Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.” This strong admonition is further reiterated in His last work, “the Book of My Covenant”: “Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men.”
38. We have divided inheritance into seven categories ¶20
The Bahá’í laws of inheritance apply only in case of intestacy, that is, when the individual dies without leaving a will. In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (¶109), Bahá’u’lláh instructs every believer to write a will. He elsewhere clearly states that the individual has full jurisdiction over his property and is free to determine the manner in which his or her estate is to be divided and to designate, in the will, those, whether Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í, who should inherit (Q&A 69). In this connection, a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi explains that:
…even though a Bahá’í is permitted in his will to dispose of his wealth in the way he wishes, yet he is morally and conscientiously bound to always bear in mind, while writing his will, the necessity of his upholding the principle of Bahá’u’lláh regarding the social function of wealth, and the consequent necessity of avoiding its overaccumulation and concentration in a few individuals or groups of individuals.
This verse of the Aqdas introduces a lengthy passage in which Bahá’u’lláh elaborates the Bahá’í law of inheritance. In reading this passage one should bear in mind that the law is formulated with the presumption that the deceased is a man; its provisions apply, mutatis mutandis, when the deceased is a woman.
The system of inheritance which provides for distribution of the deceased’s estate among seven categories of heirs (children, spouse, father, mother, brothers, sisters, and teachers) is based on the provisions set out by the Báb in the Bayán. The major features of the Bahá’í laws of inheritance in the case of intestacy are:
If the deceased is a father and his estate includes a personal residence, such residence passes to the eldest son (Q&A 34).
If the deceased has no male descendants, two-thirds of the residence pass to his female descendants and the remaining third passes to the House of Justice (Q&A 41, 72). See note 42 concerning the levels of the institution of the House of Justice to which this law applies. (See also note 44.)
The remainder of the estate is divided among the seven categories of heirs. For details of the number of shares to be received by each group, see Questions and Answers, number 5, and Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.3.a.
In case there is more than one heir in any category the share allotted to that class should be divided between them equally, be they male or female.
In cases where there is no issue, the share of the children reverts to the House of Justice (Q&A 7, 41).
Should one leave offspring, but either part or all of the other categories of heirs be nonexistent, two-thirds of their shares revert to the offspring and one-third to the House of Justice (Q&A 7).
Should none of the specified categories exist, two-thirds of the estate revert to the nephews and nieces of the deceased. If these do not exist, the same shares revert to the aunts and uncles; lacking these, to their sons and daughters. In any case the remaining third reverts to the House of Justice.
Should one leave none of the aforementioned heirs, the entire estate reverts to the House of Justice.
Bahá’u’lláh states that non-Bahá’ís have no right to inherit from their Bahá’í parents or relatives (Q&A 34). Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf indicates that this restriction applies “only to such cases when a Bahá’í dies without leaving a will and when, therefore, his property will have to be divided in accordance with the rules set forth in the Aqdas. Otherwise, a Bahá’í is free to bequeath his property to any person, irrespective of religion, provided however he leaves a will, specifying his wishes.” It is always possible, therefore, for a Bahá’í to provide for his or her non-Bahá’í partner, children or relatives by leaving a will.
Additional details of the laws of inheritance are summarized in the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.C.3.a.–o.
39. to the brothers, five parts … to the sisters, four parts ¶20
Questions and Answers amplifies the provisions of the law as it relates to the shares of the inheritance allocated to the brothers and sisters of the deceased. If the brother or sister is from the same father as the deceased, he or she will inherit his or her full allotted share. If, however, the brother or sister is from another father he or she will inherit only two-thirds of the allotted share, the remaining one-third reverting to the House of Justice (Q&A 6). Further, in the case where the deceased has full brothers or full sisters among his heirs, half-brothers and half-sisters from the mother’s side do not inherit (Q&A 53). The half-brothers and half-sisters will, of course, be due to receive inheritance from their own father’s estate.
40. the teachers ¶20
In a Tablet, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá compares teachers who are involved with the spiritual education of the child to the “spiritual father” who “endoweth his child with life everlasting.” He explains that this is the reason that “teachers are listed among the heirs” in the “law of God.”
Bahá’u’lláh specifies the conditions under which the teacher inherits and the share he or she receives (Q&A 33).