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The Kitáb-i-Aqdas

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41. When We heard the clamor of the children as yet unborn, We doubled their share and decreased those of the rest. ¶20

In the Báb’s laws of inheritance the children of the deceased were allotted nine parts consisting of 540 shares. This allocation constituted less than a quarter of the whole estate. Bahá’u’lláh doubled their portion to 1,080 shares and reduced those allotted to the other six categories of heirs. He also outlines the precise intention of this verse and its implications for the distribution of the inheritance (Q&A 5).

42. the House of Justice ¶21

In referring to the House of Justice in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh does not always explicitly distinguish between the Universal House of Justice and the Local House of Justice, both of which institutions are ordained in that Book. He usually refers simply to “the House of Justice,” leaving open for later clarification the level or levels of the whole institution to which each law would apply.

In a Tablet enumerating the revenues of the local treasury, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá includes those inheritances for which there are no heirs, thus indicating that the House of Justice referred to in these passages of the Aqdas relating to inheritance is the local one.

43. Should the deceased leave offspring, but none of the other categories of heirs ¶22

Bahá’u’lláh clarifies that “This ruling hath both general and specific application, which is to say that whenever any category of this latter class of heirs is absent, two-thirds of their inheritance pass to the offspring and the remaining third to the House of Justice” (Q&A 7).

44. We have assigned the residence and personal clothing of the deceased to the male, not female, offspring, nor to the other heirs. ¶25

In a Tablet, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá indicates that the residence and personal clothing of a deceased man remain in the male line. They pass to the eldest son and in the absence of the eldest son, they pass to the second-eldest son, and so on. He explains that this provision is an expression of the law of primogeniture, which has invariably been upheld by the Law of God. In a Tablet to a follower of the Faith in Persia He wrote: “In all the Divine Dispensations the eldest son hath been given extraordinary distinctions. Even the station of prophethood hath been his birthright.” With the distinctions given to the eldest son, however, go concomitant duties. For example, he has the moral responsibility, for the sake of God, to care for his mother and also to consider the needs of the other heirs.

Bahá’u’lláh clarifies various aspects of this part of the law of inheritance. He specifies that if there be more than one residence, the principal and most important one passes to the male offspring. The remaining residences will, together with the other possessions of the deceased, have to be divided among the heirs (Q&A 34), and He indicates that in the absence of male offspring, two-thirds of the principal residence and the personal clothing of the deceased father will revert to the female issue and one-third to the House of Justice (Q&A 72). Further, when the deceased is a woman, Bahá’u’lláh states that all her used clothing is to be equally divided amongst her daughters. Her unworn clothing, jewels and property must be divided among her heirs, as well as her used clothing if she leaves no daughter (Q&A 37).

45. Should the son of the deceased have passed away in the days of his father and have left children, they will inherit their father’s share ¶26

This aspect of the law applies only in the case of the son who predeceases his father or mother. If the daughter of the deceased be dead and leave issue, her share will have to be divided according to the seven categories specified in the Most Holy Book (Q&A 54).

46. If the deceased should leave children who are under age, their share of the inheritance must be entrusted to a reliable individual ¶27

The word “amín,” translated in this paragraph as “reliable individual” and “trustee,” conveys in Arabic a wide range of meanings connected principally with the idea of trustworthiness, but signifying also such qualities as reliability, loyalty, faithfulness, uprightness, honesty, and so forth. Used in legal parlance “amín” denotes, among other things, a trustee, guarantor, custodian, guardian, and keeper.

47. Division of the estate should take place only after the Ḥuqúqu’lláh hath been paid, any debts have been settled, the expenses of the funeral and burial defrayed ¶28

Bahá’u’lláh specifies that the order of precedence for payment of these expenses is first the funeral and burial expenses, then the debts of the deceased, then the Ḥuqúqu’lláh (see note 125) (Q&A 9). He also specifies that when applying the estate to these, payment must first be made out of the residue of the estate and then, if this is insufficient, out of the residence and personal clothing of the deceased (Q&A 80).

48. This is that hidden knowledge which shall never change, since its beginning is with nine ¶29

In the Arabic Bayán the Báb described His inheritance law as being “in accordance with a hidden knowledge in the Book of God—a knowledge that shall never change or be replaced.” He also stated that the numbers by which the division of the inheritance was expressed had been invested with a significance intended to aid in the recognition of Him Whom God will make manifest.

The “nine” mentioned here is represented in the Arabic text by the letter “Ṭá,” which is its equivalent in the abjad notation (see Glossary). It is the first element of the Báb’s division of inheritance, where He designates “nine parts” as the share of the children. The significance of nine lies in its being the numerical equivalent of the Greatest Name “Bahá,” alluded to in the next part of this verse as “the concealed and manifest, the inviolable and unapproachably exalted Name.” (See also note 33.)

49. The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established ¶30

The institution of the House of Justice consists of elected councils which operate at the local, national and international levels of society. Bahá’u’lláh ordains both the Universal House of Justice and the Local Houses of Justice in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, in His Will and Testament, provides for the Secondary (National or Regional) Houses of Justice and outlines the method to be pursued for the election of the Universal House of Justice.

In the verse cited above, the reference is to the Local House of Justice, an institution which is to be elected in a locality whenever there are nine or more resident adult Bahá’ís. For this purpose, the definition of adult was temporarily fixed at the age of 21 years by the Guardian, who indicated it was open to change by the Universal House of Justice in the future.

Local and Secondary Houses of Justice are, for the present, known as Local Spiritual Assemblies and National Spiritual Assemblies. Shoghi Effendi has indicated that this is a “temporary appellation” which,

…as the position and aims of the Bahá’í Faith are better understood and more fully recognized, will gradually be superseded by the permanent and more appropriate designation of House of Justice. Not only will the present-day Spiritual Assemblies be styled differently in future, but they will be enabled also to add to their present functions those powers, duties, and prerogatives necessitated by the recognition of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh, not merely as one of the recognized religious systems of the world, but as the State Religion of an independent and Sovereign Power.

50. the number of Bahá ¶30

The abjad numerical equivalent of “Bahá” is nine. The Universal House of Justice and the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies currently have nine members each, the minimum number prescribed by Bahá’u’lláh.

51. It behooveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men ¶30

The general powers and duties of the Universal House of Justice, the National Spiritual Assemblies and the Local Spiritual Assemblies and the qualifications for membership are set forth in the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, in the letters of Shoghi Effendi, and in the elucidations of the Universal House of Justice. The major functions of these institutions are outlined in the Constitution of the Universal House of Justice, and in those of the National and Local Spiritual Assemblies.

52. take counsel together ¶30

Bahá’u’lláh has established consultation as one of the fundamental principles of His Faith and has exhorted the believers to “take counsel together in all matters.” He describes consultation as “the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way” and as “the bestower of understanding.” Shoghi Effendi states that the “principle of consultation … constitutes one of the basic laws” of the Bahá’í Administrative Order.

In Questions and Answers, number 99, Bahá’u’lláh outlines an approach to consultation and stresses the importance of achieving unanimity in decision making, failing which the majority decision must prevail. The Universal House of Justice has clarified that this guidance concerning consultation was revealed before Spiritual Assemblies had been established and was in answer to a question about the Bahá’í teachings on consultation. The House of Justice affirms that the emergence of Spiritual Assemblies, to which the friends may always turn for assistance, in no way prohibits them from following the procedure outlined in Questions and Answers. This approach may be used by the friends, should they wish, when they desire to consult on their personal problems.

53. Build ye houses of worship throughout the lands ¶31

The Bahá’í House of Worship is dedicated to the praise of God. The House of Worship forms the central edifice of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár (the Dawning-place of the Praise of God), a complex which, as it unfolds in the future, will comprise in addition to the House of Worship a number of dependencies dedicated to social, humanitarian, educational, and scientific pursuits. ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá describes the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár as “one of the most vital institutions in the world,” and Shoghi Effendi indicates that it exemplifies in tangible form the integration of “Bahá’í worship and service.” Anticipating the future development of this institution, Shoghi Effendi envisages that the House of Worship and its dependencies “shall afford relief to the suffering, sustenance to the poor, shelter to the wayfarer, solace to the bereaved, and education to the ignorant.” In the future, Bahá’í Houses of Worship will be constructed in every town and village.

54. The Lord hath ordained that those of you who are able shall make pilgrimage to the sacred House ¶32

Two sacred Houses are covered by this ordinance, the House of the Báb in Shíráz and the House of Bahá’u’lláh in Baghdád. Bahá’u’lláh has specified that pilgrimage to either of these two Houses fulfills the requirement of this passage (Q&A 25, 29). In two separate Tablets, known as Súriy-Ḥajj (Q&A 10), Bahá’u’lláh has prescribed specific rites for each of these pilgrimages. In this sense, the performance of a pilgrimage is more than simply visiting these two Houses.

After the passing of Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá designated the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh at Bahjí as a place of pilgrimage. In a Tablet, He indicates that the “Most Holy Shrine, the Blessed House in Baghdád and the venerated House of the Báb in Shíráz” are “consecrated to pilgrimage,” and that it is “obligatory” to visit these places “if one can afford it and is able to do so, and if no obstacle stands in one’s way.” No rites have been prescribed for pilgrimage to the Most Holy Shrine.

55. and from this He hath exempted women as a mercy on His part ¶32

In the Bayán, the Báb enjoined the ordinance of pilgrimage once in a lifetime upon those of His followers who were financially able to undertake the journey. He stated that the obligation was not binding on women in order to spare them the rigors of travel.

Bahá’u’lláh likewise exempts women from His pilgrimage requirements. The Universal House of Justice has clarified that this exemption is not a prohibition, and that women are free to perform the pilgrimage.

56. to engage in some occupation ¶33

It is obligatory for men and women to engage in a trade or profession. Bahá’u’lláh exalts “engagement in such work” to the “rank of worship” of God. The spiritual and practical significance of this law, and the mutual responsibility of the individual and society for its implementation are explained in a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi:

With reference to Bahá’u’lláh’s command concerning the engagement of the believers in some sort of profession: the Teachings are most emphatic on this matter, particularly the statement in the Aqdas to this effect which makes it quite clear that idle people who lack the desire to work can have no place in the new World Order. As a corollary of this principle, Bahá’u’lláh further states that mendicity should not only be discouraged but entirely wiped out from the face of society. It is the duty of those who are in charge of the organization of society to give every individual the opportunity of acquiring the necessary talent in some kind of profession, and also the means of utilizing such a talent, both for its own sake and for the sake of earning the means of his livelihood. Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession, for work, especially when performed in the spirit of service, is according to Bahá’u’lláh a form of worship. It has not only a utilitarian purpose, but has a value in itself, because it draws us nearer to God, and enables us to better grasp His purpose for us in this world. It is obvious, therefore, that the inheritance of wealth cannot make anyone immune from daily work.

In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá states that “if a person is incapable of earning a living, is stricken by dire poverty or becometh helpless, then it is incumbent on the wealthy or the Deputies to provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence.… By ‘Deputies’ is meant the representatives of the people, that is to say the members of the House of Justice.” (See also note 162 on mendicancy.)

In response to a question concerning whether Bahá’u’lláh’s injunction requires a wife and mother, as well as her husband, to work for a livelihood, the Universal House of Justice has explained that Bahá’u’lláh’s directive is for the friends to be engaged in an occupation which will profit themselves and others, and that homemaking is a highly honorable and responsible work of fundamental importance to society.

Concerning the retirement from work for individuals who have reached a certain age, Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf stated that “this is a matter on which the International House of Justice will have to legislate as there are no provisions in the Aqdas concerning it.”

57. The kissing of hands hath been forbidden in the Book. ¶34

In a number of earlier religious Dispensations and in certain cultures the kissing of the hand of a religious figure or of a prominent person was expected as a mark of reverence and deference to such persons and as a token of submission to their authority. Bahá’u’lláh prohibits the kissing of hands and, in His Tablets, He also condemns such practices as prostrating oneself before another person and other forms of behavior that abase one individual in relation to another. (See note 58.)

58. To none is it permitted to seek absolution from another soul ¶34

Bahá’u’lláh prohibits confession to, and seeking absolution of one’s sins from, a human being. Instead one should beg forgiveness from God. In the Tablet of Bishárát, He states that “such confession before people results in one’s humiliation and abasement,” and He affirms that God “wisheth not the humiliation of His servants.”

Shoghi Effendi sets the prohibition into context. His secretary has written on his behalf that we

…are forbidden to confess to any person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person’s forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so.

The Universal House of Justice has also clarified that Bahá’u’lláh’s prohibition concerning the confession of sins does not prevent an individual from admitting transgressions in the course of consultations held under the aegis of Bahá’í institutions. Likewise, it does not preclude the possibility of seeking advice from a close friend or of a professional counselor regarding such matters.

59. Amongst the people is he who seateth himself amid the sandals by the door whilst coveting in his heart the seat of honor. ¶36

Traditionally in the East it has been the practice to remove sandals and shoes before entering a gathering. The part of a room farthest from the entrance is regarded as the head of the room and a place of honor where the most prominent among those present are seated. Others sit in descending order towards the door, by which the shoes and sandals have been left and where the most lowly would sit.

60. And among the people is he who layeth claim to inner knowledge ¶36

This is a reference to people who claim access to esoteric knowledge and whose attachment to such knowledge veils them from the Revelation of the Manifestation of God. Elsewhere Bahá’u’lláh affirms: “They that are the worshipers of the idol which their imaginations have carved, and who call it Inner Reality, such men are in truth accounted among the heathen.”

61. How many a man hath secluded himself in the climes of India, denied himself the things that God hath decreed as lawful, imposed upon himself austerities and mortifications ¶36

These verses constitute the prohibition of monasticism and asceticism. See the Synopsis and Codification, section IV.D. 1.y.iii.-iv. In the Words of Paradise Bahá’u’lláh amplifies these provisions. He states: “Living in seclusion or practicing asceticism is not acceptable in the presence of God,” and He calls upon those involved to “observe that which will cause joy and radiance.” He instructs those who have taken up “their abodes in the caves of the mountains” or who have “repaired to graveyards at night” to abandon these practices, and He enjoins them not to deprive themselves of the “bounties” of this world which have been created by God for humankind. And in the Tablet of Bishárát, while acknowledging the “pious deeds” of monks and priests, Bahá’u’lláh calls upon them to “give up the life of seclusion and direct their steps towards the open world and busy themselves with that which will profit themselves and others.” He also grants them leave “to enter into wedlock that they may bring forth one who will make mention of God.”

62. Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years ¶37

The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh will last until the coming of the next Manifestation of God, Whose advent will not take place before at least “a full thousand years” will have elapsed. Bahá’u’lláh cautions against ascribing to “this verse” anything other than its “obvious meaning,” and in one of His Tablets, He specifies that “each year” of this thousand year period consists of “twelve months according to the Qur’án, and of nineteen months of nineteen days each, according to the Bayán.”

The intimation of His Revelation to Bahá’u’lláh in the Síyáh-Chál of Ṭihrán, in October 1852, marks the birth of His Prophetic Mission and hence the commencement of the one thousand years or more that must elapse before the appearance of the next Manifestation of God.

63. This is that of which We gave you forewarning when We were dwelling in ‘Iráq, then later while in the Land of Mystery, and now from this Resplendent Spot. ¶37

The “Land of Mystery” refers to Adrianople, and “this Resplendent Spot” is a reference to ‘Akká.

64. Amongst the people is he whose learning hath made him proud … who, when he heareth the tread of sandals following behind him, waxeth greater in his own esteem ¶41

In the East, the practice has been for followers of a religious leader, out of deference, to walk a pace or two behind him.

65. Nimrod ¶41

The Nimrod referred to in this verse is, in both Jewish and Islamic traditions, a King who persecuted Abraham and whose name became symbolic of great pride.

66. Aghṣán ¶42

“Aghṣán” (plural of Ghuṣn) is the Arabic word for “Branches.” This term is used by Bahá’u’lláh to designate His male descendants. It has particular implications not only for the disposition of endowments but also for the succession of authority following the passing of Bahá’u’lláh (see note 145) and of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá. Bahá’u’lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, appointed ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, His eldest son, as the Center of His Covenant and the Head of the Faith. ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, in His Will and Testament, appointed Shoghi Effendi, His eldest grandson, as the Guardian and Head of the Faith.

This passage of the Aqdas, therefore, anticipates the succession of chosen Aghṣán and thus the institution of the Guardianship and envisages the possibility of a break in their line. The passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957 precipitated the very situation provided for in this passage, in that the line of Aghṣán ended before the Universal House of Justice had been established (see note 67).

67. revert to the people of Bahá ¶42

Bahá’u’lláh provides for the possibility that the line of Aghṣán would terminate prior to the establishment of the Universal House of Justice. He designated that in such a situation “endowments shall revert to the people of Bahá.” The term “people of Bahá” is used with a number of different meanings in the Bahá’í Writings. In this instance, they are described as those “who speak not except by His leave and judge not save in accordance with what God hath decreed in this Tablet.” Following the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the Hands of the Cause of God directed the affairs of the Cause until the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963 (see note 183).

68. Shave not your heads ¶44

In some religious traditions it is considered desirable to shave one’s head. The shaving of the head is forbidden by Bahá’u’lláh, and He makes it clear that the provision contained in His Súriy-i-Ḥajj requiring pilgrims to the Holy House in Shíráz to shave their heads has been superseded through this verse of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas (Q&A 10).

69. it is not seemly to let the hair pass beyond the limit of the ears ¶44

Shoghi Effendi has made clear that, unlike the prohibition on shaving the head, this law forbidding the growing of the hair beyond the lobe of the ear pertains only to men. The application of this law will require clarification by the Universal House of Justice.

70. Exile and imprisonment are decreed for the thief ¶45

Bahá’u’lláh states that the determination of the degree of penalty, in accordance with the seriousness of the offense, rests with the House of Justice (Q&A 49). The punishments for theft are intended for a future condition of society, when they will be supplemented and applied by the Universal House of Justice.

71. on the third offense, place ye a mark upon his brow so that, thus identified, he may not be accepted in the cities of God and His countries ¶45

The mark to be placed on the thief’s forehead serves the purpose of warning people of his proclivities. All details concerning the nature of the mark, how the mark is to be applied, how long it must be worn, on what conditions it may be removed, as well as the seriousness of various degrees of theft have been left by Bahá’u’lláh for the Universal House of Justice to determine when the law is applied.

72. Whoso wisheth to make use of vessels of silver and gold is at liberty to do so. ¶46

In the Bayán the Báb allowed the use of gold and silver utensils, thus abrogating the Islamic condemnation of their use which stems not from an explicit injunction of the Qur’án but from Muslim traditions. Bahá’u’lláh here confirms the Báb’s ruling.

73. Take heed lest, when partaking of food, ye plunge your hands into the contents of bowls and platters. ¶46

This prohibition was defined by Shoghi Effendi as “plunging one’s hand in food.” In many parts of the world it has been customary to eat with the hands from a communal bowl.

74. Adopt ye such usages as are most in keeping with refinement. ¶46

This is the first of several passages referring to the importance of refinement and cleanliness. The original Arabic word “laṭáfah” rendered here as “refinement,” has a wide range of meanings with both spiritual and physical implications, such as elegance, gracefulness, cleanliness, civility, politeness, gentleness, delicacy and graciousness, as well as being subtle, refined, sanctified and pure. In accordance with the context of the various passages where it occurs in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, it has been translated either as “refinement” or “cleanliness.”

75. He Who is the Dawning-place of God’s Cause hath no partner in the Most Great Infallibility. ¶47

In the Tablet of Ishráqát, Bahá’u’lláh affirms that the Most Great Infallibility is confined to the Manifestations of God.

Chapter 45 in Some Answered Questions is devoted to an explanation by ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá of this verse of the Aqdas. In this chapter He stresses, among other things, the inseparability of essential “infallibility” from the Manifestations of God, and asserts that “whatever emanates from Them is identical with the truth, and conformable to reality,” that “They are not under the shadow of the former laws,” and “Whatever They say is the word of God, and whatever They perform is an upright action.”

76. Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing ¶48

‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, in His Tablets, not only calls attention to the responsibility of parents to educate all their children, but He also clearly specifies that the “training and culture of daughters is more necessary than that of sons,” for girls will one day be mothers, and mothers are the first educators of the new generation. If it is not possible, therefore, for a family to educate all the children, preference is to be accorded to daughters since, through educated mothers, the benefits of knowledge can be most effectively and rapidly diffused throughout society.

77. God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adulteress, to be paid to the House of Justice ¶49

Although the term translated here as adultery refers, in its broadest sense, to unlawful sexual intercourse between either married or unmarried individuals (see note 36 for a definition of the term), ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá has specified that the punishment here prescribed is for sexual intercourse between persons who are unmarried. He indicates that it remains for the Universal House of Justice to determine the penalty for adultery committed by a married individual. (See also Q&A 49.)

In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá refers to some of the spiritual and social implications of the violation of the laws of morality and, concerning the penalty here described, He indicates that the aim of this law is to make clear to all that such an action is shameful in the eyes of God and that, in the event that the offense can be established and the fine imposed, the principal purpose is the exposure of the offenders—that they are shamed and disgraced in the eyes of society. He affirms that such exposure is in itself the greatest punishment.

The House of Justice referred to in this verse is presumably the Local House of Justice, currently known as the Local Spiritual Assembly.

78. nine mithqáls of gold, to be doubled if they should repeat the offense ¶49

A mithqál is a unit of weight. The weight of the traditional mithqál used in the Middle East is equivalent to 24 nakhuds. However, the mithqál used by the Bahá’ís consists of 19 nakhuds, “in accordance with the specification of the Bayán” (Q&A 23). The weight of nine of these mithqál equals 32.775 grams or 1.05374 troy ounces.

In relation to the application of the fine, Bahá’u’lláh clearly specifies that each succeeding fine is double the preceding one (Q&A 23); thus the fine imposed increases in geometrical progression. The imposition of this fine is intended for a future condition of society, at which time the law will be supplemented and applied by the Universal House of Justice.

79. We have made it lawful for you to listen to music and singing. ¶51

‘Abdu’l‑Bahá has written that “Among certain nations of the East, music was considered reprehensible.” Though the Qur’án contains no specific guidance on the subject, some Muslims consider listening to music as unlawful, while others tolerate music within certain bounds and subject to particular conditions.

There are a number of passages in the Bahá’í Writings in praise of music. ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá, for example, asserts that “music, sung or played, is spiritual food for soul and heart.”

80. O ye Men of Justice! ¶52

It has been elucidated in the writings of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá and Shoghi Effendi that, while the membership of the Universal House of Justice is confined to men, both women and men are eligible for election to Secondary and Local Houses of Justice (currently designated as National and Local Spiritual Assemblies).

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