Select Page

 

As Father’s Day approaches, I thought I’d take a look at the father’s role in the Baha’i family and see what the Baha’i Writings have to teach us about it.  Let’s have a look! 

Choose Your Wife Wisely!

If the mother is not a believer, the children are deprived of faith, even if the father be a believer convinced and firm:

Consider that if the mother is a believer, the children will become believers too, even if the father denieth the Faith; while, if the mother is not a believer, the children are deprived of faith, even if the father be a believer convinced and firm. Such is the usual outcome, except in rare cases.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 287)

Love

Fathers love, pray for, care for, educate and provide for their children, even when his time to be with his child is limited:

This does not mean that the father does not also love, pray for, and care for his baby, but as he has the primary responsibility of providing for the family, his time to be with his child is usually limited.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

Equality

In this Revelation, the women go neck and neck with the men:

`Abdu’l-Bahá has stated:  In this Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, the women go neck and neck with the men. In no movement will they be left behind. Their rights with men are equal in degree. They will enter all the administrative branches of politics. They will attain in all such a degree as will be considered the very highest station of the world of humanity and will take part in all affairs.  and again:  So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease;…  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 230)

Equality of status does not mean identity of function:

That the first teacher of the child is the mother should not be startling, for the primary orientation of the infant is to its mother. This provision of nature in no way minimizes the role of the father in the Bahá’í family. Again, equality of status does not mean identity of function.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 383)

The concept of a Bahá’í family is based on the principle that the man has primary responsibility for the financial support of the family, and the woman is the chief and primary educator of the children:

The concept of a Bahá’í family is based on the principle that the man has primary responsibility for the financial support of the family, and the woman is the chief and primary educator of the children. This by no means implies that these functions are inflexibly fixed and cannot be changed and adjusted to suit particular family situations, nor does it mean that the place of the woman is confined to the home. Rather, while primary responsibility is assigned, it is anticipated that fathers would play a significant role in the education of the children and women could also be breadwinners. As you rightly indicated, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged women to ‘participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world’.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

The mother has a right to be supported by her husband:

A corollary of this responsibility of the mother is her right to be supported by her husband — a husband has no explicit right to be supported by his wife. This principle of the husband’s responsibility to provide for and protect the family can be seen applied also in the law of intestacy which provides that the family’s dwelling place passes, on the father’s death, not to his widow, but to his eldest son; the son at the same time has the responsibility to care for his mother.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife) 

Active Role

It is highly important for man to raise a family:

It is highly important for man to raise a family. So long as he is young, because of youthful self-complacency, he does not realize its significance, but this will be a source of regret when he grows old.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 219)

The father’s role changes as the child grows older and more independent:

The great importance attached to the mother’s role derives from the fact that she is the first educator of the child  . . . This does not mean that the father does not also love, pray for, and care for his baby, but as he has the primary responsibility of providing for the family, his time to be with his child is usually limited. . .  As the child grows older and more independent, the relative nature of its relationship with its mother and father modifies and the father can play a greater role.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

 Education of Children

The father should, above all else, continually call to his mind the remembrance of God:

The father must always endeavour to educate his son and to acquaint him with the heavenly teachings. He must give him advice and exhort him at all times, teach him praiseworthy conduct and character, enable him to receive training at school and to be instructed in such arts and sciences as are deemed useful and necessary. In brief, let him instil into his mind the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Above all he should continually call to his mind the remembrance of God so that his throbbing veins and arteries may pulsate with the love of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

Men should hand over a portion of what he earns in his occupation, 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.'”   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing:

Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet. He that putteth away that which is commanded unto him, the Trustees are then to take from him that which is required for their instruction, if he be wealthy, and if not the matter devolveth upon the House of Justice. Verily, have We made it a shelter for the poor and needy. He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My loving kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world.  (Bahá’u’lláh, A Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 15-16)

Every father must educate his children, both boys and girls, in the sciences and in morals, and in crafts and professions:

God hath prescribed unto every father to educate his children, both boys and girls, in the sciences and in morals, and in crafts and professions. Thus have We instructed you in Our Most Holy Book, revealed by Us from Our all-hallowed Realm. Well is it with him who cleaveth fast to this with a power from Our own Self; he verily is a man related to this Station.  Make ye an effort that there may issue forth from you that which befitteth the days of your God, the King before Whom all heads bow down.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 1)

The father must choose for his daughter the glory that never dies:

It is to be regretted, however, that her husband is still wrapped in the veils of his idle imaginings. If her dear daughter be trained according to the instructions of God, she will grow to be a peerless plant in the garden of the heart. It is incumbent upon the father to choose for his daughter the glory that dieth not. Nevertheless, this is up to him; he may educate her in any way he desireth.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Rosenberg Tablet)

 Rights and Obligations

The father can be regarded as the “head” of the family:

The Research Department has not come across any statements which specifically name the father as responsible for the “security, progress and unity of the family: as is stated in Bahiyyih Nakhjavani’s book, but it can be inferred from a number of the responsibilities placed on him, that the father can be regarded as the “head” of the family. (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

To read the entire letter in context

The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the indi­vidual members must not be transgressed:

All the virtues must be taught the family. The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the indi­vidual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother — none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have their certain preroga­tives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each, the comfort of all; the honor of one, the honor of all.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 168)

The husband should not unjustly dominate the wife:

Wives, in some cases, have a tendency to exert an unjust degree of domination over their husbands which, of course, is not right, anymore than that the husband should unjustly dominate the wife.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

There are times when a husband should defer to his wife:

There are, therefore, times when a wife should defer to her husband, and times when a husband should defer to his wife, but neither should ever unjustly dominate the other. In short, the relationship between husband and wife should be as held forth in the prayer revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which is often read at Bahá’í weddings: ‘Verily they are married in obedience to Thy command. Cause them to become the signs of harmony and unity until the end of time.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

Consultation:

Consultation of a father with his son, or vice versa is one of the fundamental elements of the foundation of the Law of God:

Regarding thy question about consultation of a father with his son, or a son with his father, in matters of trade and commerce, consultation is one of the fundamental elements of the foundation of the Law of God. Such consultation is assuredly acceptable, whether between father and son, or with others. There is nothing better than this. Man must con­sult in all things for this will lead him to the depths of each problem and enable him to find the right solution.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 228)

Role of Sons

To serve their fathers:

Verily, We have enjoined on every son to serve his father. Such is the decree which We have set forth in the Book.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 138)

Show honour to your parents and pay homage to them:

Say, O My people! Show honour to your parents and pay homage to them. This will cause blessings to descend upon you from the clouds of the bounty of your Lord, the Exalted, the Great.  (Baha’u’llah, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

Don’t do anything to sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers:

Beware lest ye commit that which would sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers. Follow ye the path of Truth which indeed is a straight path. Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to Me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such service be a path leading you to Me. This is My exhortation and command unto thee. Observe therefore that which thy Lord, the Mighty, the Gra­cious, hath prescribed unto thee.   (Baha’u’llah, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

The son must show forth the utmost obedience towards his father;  ensure his comfort and welfare; and constantly strive to bring gladness to the hearts of his father and mother:

The son, on the other hand, must show forth the utmost obedience towards his father, and should conduct himself as a humble and a lowly servant. Day and night he should seek diligently to ensure the comfort and welfare of his loving father and to secure his good-pleasure. He must forgo his own rest and enjoyment and constantly strive to bring gladness to the hearts of his father and mother, that thereby he may attain the good-pleas­ure of the Almighty and be graciously aided by the hosts of the unseen.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

Physical fatherhood and sonship are not important:

Clear it is that physical fatherhood and sonship are not factors of true import. Canaan was the son of Noah and Abraham was the son of Adhar. One father was a Prophet, but His son was disowned and cut off. Another father was an idolator, yet his Son was the great and exalted Friend … Therefore be not saddened. Pray thou and supplicate at the threshold of the One True God, begging forgiveness for thine earthly father.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted in H.M. Balyuzi, Eminent Baha’is in the Time of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

A real son is one who has branched from the spiritual part of his father’s soul and heart:

O dear one of `Abdu’l-Bahá! Be the son of thy father and be the fruit of that tree. Be a son that hath been born of his soul and heart and not only of water and clay. A real son is such one as hath branched from the spiritual part of man. I ask God that thou mayest be at all times confirmed and strengthened.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá”, p. 140)

Consequences for Not Doing His Duty

Should the father neglect this weightiest of all concerns, his paternal right shall be forfeit and he shall be accounted guilty in the sight of God:

O Muhammad! The Countenance of the Ancient of Days is turning towards thee, and He maketh mention of thee, and He commandeth the people of God to educate their chil­dren. Should the father neglect this weightiest of all concerns, which hath been revealed from the Pen of the Ancient King in the Most Holy Book, then his paternal right shall be forfeit and he shall be accounted guilty in the sight of God.  (Baha’u’llah, Extracts on Fatherhood in the Baha’i Writings)

 

How has this helped you understand the role of fathers and husbands better?  Post your comments below!