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I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the husband’s obligations to his wife and children during a year of patience, both on the part of Assemblies and individuals.  Many couples are in financial shock at a time of severe mental and emotional stress, trying to find a way to support two households during that time.  I thought I’d see what the Bahá’í Writings have to say, and share it with you.  Let’s have a look!

Financial Obligations

The basic principle of Bahá’í Law is that the husband is responsible for the support of his wife and children until the granting of the divorce:

Bahá’u’lláh requires the husband to maintain the wife during the year of patience.  (NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities)

The basic principle of Bahá’í Law is that the husband is responsible for the support of his wife and children so long as they are married; that is until the granting of the divorce. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 396)

A financial obligation to the wife normally takes place at the end of the year of waiting unless it has to be postponed pending the granting of a civil divorce:

The husband is obligated to support the wife and children until the granting of the Bahá’í divorce. This normally takes place at the end of the year of waiting unless it has to be postponed pending the granting of a civil divorce. (Universal House of Justice to Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers, 5 January 1983)

Following the divorce, the father continues to be responsible for providing necessary funds for the support of the children, but he has no continuing obligation to support his former wife:

Following the granting of the divorce the father continues to be under the obligation of providing the necessary funds for the support of the children, but he has no continuing obligation to support his former wife. (Universal House of Justice to Spiritual Assemblies and individual believers,  5 January 1983)

In cases where the wife was the bread-winner; or both husband and wife have earning income, the Assembly will not change this because a year of patience is running:

In a particular case, however, it may have been the wife who was the bread-winner of the family or both the husband and wife may have been earning income. The Assembly should not ignore such specific situations and change them merely because a year of waiting is running. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 396)

If a woman is being divorced because of a proven act of infidelity, she will not receive maintenance during the year of patience:

Should a woman be divorced in consequence of a proven act of infidelity, she shall receive no maintenance during her period of waiting.  (Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, para. 70)

Even after the divorce, both parties should hand over to a trusted person, a portion of their income for the training and education of children:

In the Tablet of the World, Bahá’u’lláh Himself has envisaged that women as well as men would be breadwinners in stating:  ‘Everyone, whether man or woman, should hand over to a trusted person a portion of what he or she earneth through trade, agriculture or other occupation, for the training and education of children, to be spent for this purpose with the knowledge of the Trustees of the House of Justice.'”  (“Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas”‘p.90)   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

Financial Agreements

If the matter can be amicably arranged between the parties, well and good:

If the matter can be amicably arranged between the parties, well and good. (Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, February 24, 1983)

If the Assembly is unable to get the couple to agree, it should leave the matter to the civil court:

If the Assembly is unable to get the couple to agree, it should leave the matter to the civil court.  (Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, February 24, 1983)

Taking someone to court is not the preferred course of action, though, since the entire time is thus given over to litigation, and their life, instead of being devoted to beneficial undertakings and necessary personal affairs, is completely involved with the dispute:

There can be no doubt that this state of affairs has confused every important issue and must jeopardize the very foundations of society. For neither the plaintiff nor the defendant ever loses hope of eventual success, and each in turn will waste his life in the attempt to secure a later verdict which would reverse the previous one. Their entire time is thus given over to litigation, with the result that their life instead of being devoted to beneficial undertakings and necessary personal affairs, is completely involved with the dispute. Indeed, these two litigants might just as well be dead, for they can serve their government and community not a particle. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 38)

It would be much better spiritually, for you to manifest magnificent patience during this time; forgive and overlook the shortcomings which have appeared in your spouse:

If one of thy relations oppress thee, complain not against him before the magistrate; rather manifest magnificent patience during every calamity and hardship. Verily thy Master is the Lord of Faithfulness! Forgive and overlook the shortcomings which have appeared in that one, for the sake of love and affection. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 374-375)

Role of the Assembly

One of the duties of the Assembly is to see that the requirements of Bahá’í law governing the year of waiting are not violated—that is to say, that the two parties live apart and that proper provisions are made for the financial support of the wife and children:

One of the duties of the committee is to see that the requirements of Bahá’í law governing the year of waiting are not violated—that is to say, that the two parties live apart and that proper provisions are made for the financial support of the wife and children. (Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, February 24, 1983)

This is a matter that needs to be considered for each case on its own merits

As you will see from the enclosures, this is a matter that needs to be considered for each case on its own merits.  (Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, February 24, 1983)

The way the Assembly applies these principles is not an adjudication which the Assembly requires the couple to accept, but a basis for an arrangement which the couple will amicably agree to and present to the court for endorsement:

The application of these principles should not be in the form of an adjudication which the Assembly will require the couple to accept, but as a basis for an arrangement which the couple will amicably agree to and present to the court for endorsement.  (Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom, February 24, 1983)

When These Principles Seem Unjust

Like a lot of things in the Faith, on the surface, these quotes may not seem to apply to this time in history, under situations such as yours.  God’s wisdom is a mystery!

God’s wisdom is, indeed, inscrutable to us all, and it is no use pushing too far trying to discover that which shall always remain a mystery to our mind.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 434)

In many ways, following this guidance may seem hard to understand and even harder to accept:

It is often difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult.  With you, and indeed most Baha’is, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances . . . are hard to understand and obey at first.  But we must always think that these things are given to all men for a thousand years to come.  For Baha’i children who see these things practised in the home, they will be as natural and necessary a thing as going to church on Sunday was to the more pious generation of Christians.  (Shoghi Effendi:  Living the Life, p. 19-20)

Nevertheless, we must obey these ordinances trusting that as we obey them, we will gradually come to see the benefits they confer:

Baha’u’llah would not have given us these things if they would not greatly benefit us, and, like children who are sensible enough to realize their father is wise and does what is good for them, we must accept to obey these ordinances even though at first we may not see any need for them.  As we obey them we will gradually come to see in ourselves the benefits they confer.  (Shoghi Effendi:  Living the Life, p. 19-20)

The laws give us the divine prescription of how an individual must act in order to achieve true freedom and spiritual happiness in this world and the next:

The laws do not represent a sterileand inhumanelegal code, but rather the divine prescription, a definitionof how an individual must act in order to achieve true freedom and spiritual happiness in this world and the next.  (Universal House of Justice, Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05)

Learning to be obedient is a lifelong process of endeavouring to implementthe teachings on personal conduct:

When an individual becomes a Bahá’í, he or she accepts the claim of Bahá’u’lláh to be the Manifestation of God bringing a divinely-inspired message from God for the benefit of mankind. Implicitin the acceptance of this claim is the commitmentof the believer to embarkon the lifelong process of endeavouring  to implementthe teachings on personal conduct. (Universal House of Justice, Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05)

We can’t pick and choose the laws we want to obey.

In this Day, We can neither approve the conduct of the fearful that seeketh to dissemble his faith, nor sanction the behavior of the avowed believer that clamorously asserteth his allegiance to this Cause. Both should observe the dictates of wisdom, and strive diligently to serve the best interests of the Faith.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 343)

There are spiritual bounties in following them, especially when they are hard:

Sometimes the course may seem very hard, but one can witness, again and again, that the soul who steadfastlyobeys the law of Bahá’u’lláh, however hard it may seem, grows spiritually, while the one who compromiseswith the law for the sake of his own apparenthappiness is seen to have been following a chimera: he does not attain the happiness he sought, he retardshis spiritual advance and often brings new problems upon himself.  (Universal House of Justice, Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05)

Rather than seeing this as a challenge to your faith, you can look at it as an opportunity to acquire a deeper understanding of the Bahá’í teachings and their implications:

The Universal House of Justice understands the concern you feel upon discovering that the Faith includes teachings . . . which differ so markedlyfrom your own views. This discovery may best be regarded not as a challenge to your faith in Bahá’u’lláh but rather as an opportunity for you to acquire a deeper understanding of the Bahá’í teachings and their implications.  (Universal House of Justice, Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05)

Coming into alignment with the teachings often involves great personal sacrifice, but when we do the right thing, God gives us the strength to carry it out; we attract His blessings; and come to see that our calamity is indeed a blessing:

This involves often great personal sacrifice, but we know that, when we do the right thing, God gives us the strength to carry it out, and we attract His blessing.  We learn at such times that our calamity is indeed a blessing.  (Shoghi Effendi:  Living the Life, page 26)

I would encourage you to write to the House of Justice about this, if you are still feeling angry after prayer to follow the will of God, meditation and study of these Writings.  Their email address is secretariat@bwc.org

What has been your experience with this topic; or your reaction to the guidance?  Post your comment below: