In all such cases, I believe, our departed Master urged the utmost care and consideration on the part of those Bahá’í believers whose husbands were not in sympathy with their work. He thought that they ought to be won by love perhaps more than argument, but it would be very unfortunate if he objected to her work for the Faith, over and above all that she is to give to her family.
When such difference of opinion and belief occurs between husband and wife it is very unfortunate for undoubtedly it detracts from that spiritual bond which is the stronghold of the family bond, especially in times of difficulty. The way, however, that it could be remedied is not by acting in such wise as to alienate the other party. One of the objects of the Cause is actually to bring about a closer bond in the homes. In all such cases, therefore, the Master used to advise obedience to the wishes of the other party and prayer. Pray that your husband may gradually see the light and at the same time so act as to draw him nearer rather than prejudice him. Once that harmony is secured then you will be able to serve unhampered.
Shoghi Effendi trusts that … your wife will be able to devote a little more time to her family, but he also hopes that you will be able to assist her in obtaining the time and opportunity to serve a Cause that is so dear and near to her heart and in which her services are much appreciated.
In regard to your question concerning the nature and character of Bahá’í marriage: As you have rightly stated, such a marriage is conditioned upon the full approval of all four parents. Also your statement to the effect that the principle of the oneness of mankind prevents any true Bahá’í from regarding race itself as a bar to union is in complete accord with the Teachings of the Faith on this point. For both Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá never disapproved of the idea of interracial marriage, nor discouraged it. The Bahá’í Teachings, indeed, by their very nature transcend all limitations imposed by race, and as such cannot and should never be identified with any particular school of racial philosophy.
The Bahá’í standard of sex morality is thus very high, but it is by no means unreasonably rigid. While free love is condemned, yet marriage is considered as a holy act which every human being should be encouraged, though not forced, to perform. The sex instinct, like all other human instincts, is not necessarily evil. It is a power which, if properly directed, can bring joy and satisfaction to the individual. If misused or abused it brings of course incalculable harm not only to the individual but also to the society in which he lives. While the Bahá’ís condemn asceticism and all extreme forms of self-mortification they at the same time view with disfavour the current theories of sex ethics which cannot but bring ruin to human society.
For Bahá’u’lláh explicitly reveals in His Book of Laws that the very purpose of marriage is the procreation of children who, when grown up, will be able to know God and to recognize and observe His Commandments and Laws as revealed through His Messengers. Marriage is thus, according to the Bahá’í Teachings, primarily a social and moral act. It has a purpose which transcends the immediate personal needs and interests of the parents.
As regards your husband’s attitude towards the Cause: unfriendly though that may be you should always hope that, through conciliatory and friendly means, and with wise, tactful and patient effort, you can gradually succeed in winning his sympathy for the Faith. Under no circumstances should you try to dictate and impose upon him by force your personal religious convictions. Neither should you allow his opposition to the Cause to seriously hinder your activities for its spread…. You should act patiently, tactfully and with confidence that your efforts are being guided and reinforced by Bahá’u’lláh.
But while the Guardian fully approves of your wish to dedicate your whole life to the service of the Cause, he also feels the necessity of drawing your attention to the fact that in case you get married it would be your duty as a Bahá’í wife not to neglect your home duties, which indeed form a close and vital part of your general Bahá’í work. Family considerations should of course be subordinated to the collective interests and welfare of the Cause. But they should be given their due importance, if a Bahá’í wishes to lead a normal, well-balanced and constructive life. The loyalties facing a Bahá’í are not equally binding and important, but this does not necessarily make them irreconcilable.
Briefly stated the Bahá’í conception of sex is based on the belief that chastity should be strictly practised by both sexes, not only because it is in itself highly commendable ethically, but also due to its being the only way to a happy and successful marital life. Sex relationships of any form outside marriage are not permissible therefore, and whoso violates this rule will not only be responsible to God, but will incur the necessary punishment from society.
The Bahá’í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expression such as free love, companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá’ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control.
The institution of marriage, as established by Bahá’u’lláh, while giving due importance to the physical aspect of marital union, considers it as subordinate to the moral and spiritual purposes and functions with which it has been invested by an all-wise and loving Providence. Only when these different values are given each their due importance, and only on the basis of the subordination of the physical to the moral, and the carnal to the spiritual, can such excesses and laxity in marital relations as our decadent age is so sadly witnessing be avoided, and family life be restored to its original purity, and fulfil the true function for which it has been instituted by God.
The question you raise as to the place in one’s life that a deep bond of love with someone we meet other than our husband or wife can have is easily defined in view of the teachings. Chastity implies both before and after marriage an unsullied, chaste sex life. Before marriage absolutely chaste, after marriage absolutely faithful to one’s chosen companion. Faithful in all sexual acts, faithful in word and in deed….
… Outside of their normal, legitimate married life they should seek to establish bonds of comradeship and love which are eternal and founded on the spiritual life of man, not on his physical life. This is one of the many fields in which it is incumbent on the Bahá’ís to set the example and lead the way to a true human standard of life, when the soul of man is exalted and his body but the tool for his enlightened spirit. Needless to say this does not preclude the living of a perfectly normal sex life in its legitimate channel of marriage.
He is very sorry to hear of the difficulties that have arisen between you and your husband regarding the education of your children. In all cases where Bahá’ís marry non-Bahá’ís, especially of another Faith, they should have some understanding beforehand about the children’s future religious training; when this has not been done, and if the parents cannot agree, the Bahá’í should turn to his Assembly for advice.
He feels very strongly that Bahá’ís, if possible, more especially Bahá’ís who serve the Cause as actively and conspicuously as you and your family do, should set the newer believers and the young Bahá’ís a high example in every way. As Bahá’u’lláh was so very much against divorce (even though He permits it) and considered marriage a most sacred responsibility, believers should do everything in their power to preserve the marriages they have contracted, and to make of them exemplary unions, governed by the noblest motives.
Marriage problems are often very involved and subtle, and we Bahá’ís, being enlightened and progressive people, should not hesitate, if it seems necessary or desirable, to turn to science for help in such matters. If you and your husband talked over your problems—together or separately—with a good physician you might find that you can cure your own husband, or at least try to do so. It is a great pity that two believers, united in this glorious Cause, and blessed with a family, should not be able to live together really harmoniously, and he feels you should take constructive action and not allow the situation to get worse. When the shadow of separation hangs over a husband and wife they should leave no stone unturned in their effort to avert its becoming a reality.
He advises you to, at least for a period of time, try and placate your husband by devoting yourself to him, being loving and patient. Perhaps in this way you can soften his opposition towards the Faith. However, he has no right to try and make you give it up. The relation of the individual soul towards its Creator is a purely personal and sacred one, and no one has a right to dictate in such matters.