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Inevitably problems arise between us, but what are we to do when we disagree with someone? What’s the Baha’i way of handling disagreements? Let’s have a look at what the Writings can teach us.

The Problem

Don’t dispute with anyone about the things of this world:

Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. Out of the whole world He hath chosen for Himself the hearts of men – hearts which the hosts of revelation and of utterance can subdue. Thus hath it been ordained by the Fingers of Bahá, upon the Tablet of God’s irrevocable decree, by the behest of Him Who is the Supreme Ordainer, the All-Knowing. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, no. CXXVIII)

If two souls quarrel, both are wrong.

In brief, O ye believers of God! The text of the divine Book is this: If two souls quarrel and contend about a question of the divine questions, differing and disputing, both are wrong. The wisdom of this incontrovertible law of God is this: That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise . . . This is the irrefutable command! (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

Do not quarrel with anybody, and shun every form of dispute:

Do not quarrel with anybody, and shun every form of dispute. (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Άbdu’l-Bahá, p. 210)

Everyone is seeking truth; and there are many roads leading to it; so don’t turn away from those whose opinions differ from yours:

Likewise, when you meet those whose opinions differ from your own, do not turn away your face from them. All are seeking truth, and there are many roads leading thereto. Truth has many aspects, but it remains always and forever one. (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 53-54)

Disagreements separate us from others as we hold the hatred and strife in our hearts:

Do not allow difference of opinion, or diversity of thought to separate you from your fellow-men, or to be the cause of dispute, hatred and strife in your hearts. (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 53-54)

The Solution

Search diligently for the truth and make all men your friends

Rather, search diligently for the truth and make all men your friends. (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 53-54)

We need everyone’s opinion:

Every edifice is made of many different stones, yet each depends on the other to such an extent that if one were displaced the whole building would suffer; if one is faulty the structure is imperfect. (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, pp. 53-54)

Use the Word of God – if it’s accepted, your purpose is attained; if not, leave him to himself and trust in God:

Utter the Word of God. If he accepteth it the desired purpose is attained, and if he turneth away leave him to himself and trust to God. Such is the attribute of those who are firm in the Covenant. (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Άbdu’l-Bahá, p. 210)

Speak to each other with amity and love:

That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise; that they may speak with each other with infinite amity and love. (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

Remain silent at the least trace of controversy:

Should there appear the least trace of controversy, they must remain silent, and both parties must continue their discussions no longer, but ask the reality of the question from the Interpreter. This is the irrefutable command! (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

Questions are to be raised in a manner which avoids disputes:

There is ample scope within the channels of the Administrative Order for questions to be raised and discussed in a manner which avoids dispute. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Stop arguing:

The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Suppress every critical thought and harsh words:

You should urge your fellow-Bahá’ís to take this point of view, and to support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and His service. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Put the past behind and refrain from mentioning the subjects that have led to misunderstanding:

When criticism and harsh words arise within a Bahá’í community, there is no remedy except to put the past behind one, and persuade all concerned to turn over a new leaf, and for the sake of God and His Faith refrain from mentioning the subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Forget these insignificant disturbances and rush to the rescue of humanity:

When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances, and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Teach the Bahá’ís that love of God, and each other will produce enables us to be patient and forgiving:

Regarding your question about the need for greater unity among the friends, there is no doubt that this is so, and the Guardian feels that one of the chief instruments for promoting it is to teach the Bahá’ís themselves, in classes and through precepts, that love of God, and consequently of men, is the essential foundation of every religion, our own included. A greater degree of love will produce a greater unity, because it enables people to bear with each other, to be patient and forgiving. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, no. 1299)

If we show love, patience, and understanding and seek to encourage, others will do the same:

We can never exert the influence over others which we can exert over ourselves. If we are better, if we show love, patience, and understanding of the weaknesses of others; if we seek to never criticize but rather encourage, others will do likewise, and we can really help the Cause through our example and spiritual strength. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, no. 1469)

Set aside every personal sense of grievance – justified or unjustified – for the good of the Cause:

All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance – justified or unjustified – for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world: love and unity. (Shoghi Effendi, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 55)

Put God between you:

If any differences arise amongst you, behold Me standing before your face, and overlook the faults of one another for My name’s sake and as a token of your love for My manifest and resplendent Cause. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 315)

Taking Baha’is to Court

While the Assembly does not have the authority to prohibit a believer from having recourse to the civil courts:

. . . the Assembly does not have the authority to prohibit a believer from having recourse to the civil courts if he decides to do so. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, no. 1466)

It’s preferable to avoid taking others to court:

The Guardian wishes to emphasize the importance of avoiding references to civil courts of cases of dispute between believers, even in non-Bahá’í issues. It is the Assembly’s function to endeavor to settle amicably such disputes, both in order to safeguard the fair name and prestige of the Cause, and to acquire the necessary experience for the extension of its functions in the future. (Shoghi Effendi, in Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 28)

Take your differences to the Assembly and abide by their decision:

[T]he House of Justice … states that believers should take their differences to the Spiritual Assembly and abide by the decision of the Assembly. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, no. 1466)

If the dispute remains unsettled after reasonable efforts to assist, the Assembly may withdraw in favor of civil proceedings or seek advice from the NSA:

If, after reasonable efforts to assist the parties, the dispute remains unsettled, the Assembly may withdraw in favor of civil proceedings or seek advice from the National Spiritual Assembly about how to proceed. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 21)

If the Assembly can’t arbitrate a solution, then you can have recourse to civil courts:

However, if Bahá’ís cannot negotiate a settlement of a dispute between them, and if the Spiritual Assembly cannot succeed in arbitrating a solution to the dispute, then there is no objection to the Bahá’ís having recourse to the civil courts. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, no. 1466)

If, after reasonable efforts to assist the parties, the dispute remains unsettled, the Assembly may withdraw in favor of civil proceedings. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 21)

Assemblies can refuse to act in a case which they feel is more properly a situation for the courts:

The Assembly should not hesitate to refuse to act in a case which it is satisfied is more properly a question for the law courts. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, no. 1466)

Assemblies should ask Baha’is to agree in writing, not to compel the Assembly to testify or produce records in any legal proceeding:

Assemblies are advised to ask any parties wishing to consult with it on any matter involving a dispute to agree in writing not to compel the Assembly to testify or produce records in any legal proceeding regarding the matter. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 19)

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