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Integrating Spiritual Principles into Our Work Life

Recently I was listening to a talk called “A Baha’i Perspective on the Meaning of Work” by Dr. Tiffani Razavi and as someone in recovery from workaholism and work anorexia (also called underearning or under-being), it got me wanting to know more about what the Writings have to say about work.

What is the Bahá’í Standard for Work?

 I think many of us are familiar with this quote: 

[Bahá’u’lláh exalts] work, performed in the spirit of service, to the rank of worship.  (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 281-282)

But how do we know if we are performing our work in the spirit of service?  And what is service?  These are the questions I started with.

First of all, the best definitions of work done in the spirit of service I’ve found are:

Bahá’u’lláh has even said that occupation and labor are devotion. All humanity must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion, at the same time seeking to lift the burden of others, striving to be the source of comfort to souls and facilitating the means of living. This in itself is devotion to God . . . But the energies of the heart must not be attached to these things; the soul must not be completely occupied with them. Though the mind is busy, the heart must be attracted toward the Kingdom of God in order that the virtues of humanity may be attained from every direction and source.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

It is the commandment of the Blessed Beauty, may my life be a sacrifice at His Threshold, that whosoever engageth in a craft, should endeavour to acquire in it utmost proficiency. Should he do so, that craft becometh a form of worship. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

In the Baha’i Cause arts, sciences and all crafts are (counted as) worship. The man who makes a piece of notepaper to the best of his ability, conscientiously, concentrating all his forces on perfecting it, is giving praise to God. Briefly, all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 176-177)

This suggests that:

  • paid employment requires both exertion and seeking to lift the burden of others
  • neither should be the focus of our attention
  • our attention should be focused on drawing closer to God and acquiring the virtues we’ll need in the next world
  • if we do our jobs with utmost proficiency we will be worshipping God
  • if we do our job to the best of our ability, conscientiously, concentrating all our forces on perfecting it, we are giving praise to God
  • all effort and exertion must come from the fullness of our hearts and be prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity

The dictionary suggests that service is:

  • an act of helpful activity; help; aid
  • ready to be of help or be of use to someone
  • something made or done for the public benefit and without regard to direct profit

So the implication is that we do our jobs, with an attitude of helpfulness, usefulness and of benefit to others, without expectation of payment.  Can that be true?  The Bahá’í Writings seem to suggest that it is.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:

All government employees, whether of high or low rank, should, with perfect integrity, probity and rectitude, content themselves with the modest stipends and allowances that are theirs. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)

Let them be content with their wages, and seek distinction in truthfulness, straightforwardness, and the pursuit of virtue and excellence; for vanity in riches is worthy of none but the base, and pride in possessions beseemeth only the foolish.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)

So far from acting thus, he should content himself with his salary and allowances, seek out the way of righteousness, and dedicate his life to the service of state and people. Such must be the conduct and bearing of the Bahá’ís. Whoso transgresseth these bounds shall fall at length into manifest loss.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 344)

They should … content themselves with the salaries they are receiving, taking pride, rather, in the degree of sagacity, competence and judgement that they can bring to their work. If a person content himself with a single loaf of bread, and perform his duties with as much justice and fair-mindedness as lieth within his power, he will be the prince of mortals, and the most praiseworthy of men. Noble and distinguished will he be, despite his empty purse! Pre-eminent will he rank among the free, although his garb be old and worn!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 343)

So to summarize, these quotes seem to suggest that we should:

  • be content with our wages, salaries and allowances, no matter how modest
  • take pride in the degree of competence and sound judgement we bring to our work
  • seek distinction in truthfulness, straightforwardness, and the pursuit of virtue and excellence instead of delighting in riches

If we achieve this, even if our purses are empty and our clothes old and worn, we will be the prince of mortals, the most praiseworthy of men, noble, distinguished and pre-eminent

And if we don’t do it, we will fall into manifest loss.

Similarly, this quote applies specifically to teachers, who occupy so high a station in the Bahá’í Faith, that they receive a portion of a person’s estate, if they die without leaving a will (see the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 254).  In neither quote do we understand the meaning of the word “teachers”.  Could it be “teachers of the Cause”?  Teachers of Children?  Teachers of Higher Education?  We don’t know, and maybe it doesn’t matter.  The principle is the same:

This matter of teachers requires the greatest condition; that is, they should never stain themselves with the world, they should not look for the least pecuniary reward from any soul; nay, rather they should bear the utmost poverty and with the perfect wealth of nature [a state wherein man can dispense with things and be happy in their absence], through the bounty of God, may they associate with the people. They should seek no reward nor recompense. Freely have thy received, freely should they give.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 359-360)

Teachers should not look for a financial reward or recompense but bear the utmost poverty and be happy.

Let’s look at what else the Writings can tell us about our work.

What are the Principles?

Bahá’u’lláh’s solution of the social question provides for new laws, but the different social classes are preserved. An artisan remains an artisan; a merchant, a merchant; a banker, a banker; a ruler, a ruler; the different degrees must persist, so that each can render service to the community. Nevertheless, every one has the right to a happy, comfortable life. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 83-84)

Work is to be provided for all and there will be no needy ones to be seen in the streets. The vocational labor adjustment provided by BAHA‘O‘LLAH precludes there being people too poor to have the necessaries of life on the one hand, nor the idle rich on the other.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 83-84)

Bahá’u’lláh has even said that occupation and labor are devotion. All humanity must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 186)

So from these quotes we learn that under Bahá’u’lláh’s new laws:

  • everyone has the right to a happy, comfortable life
  • everyone must obtain a livelihood by sweat of the brow and bodily exertion
  • work is to be provided for everyone
  • there will not be people too poor to have the necessaries of life or too rich they can be idle
  • the different social classes are preserved, so that everyone can render service to the community

What is the Standard?

Let’s start by looking at some quotes:

Bahá’u’lláh enjoins work on all. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 462).

No one need ever be ashamed of his job.  (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 462).

In the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh, it is incumbent upon every soul to acquire a trade and an occupation. For example, I know how to weave or make a mat, and you know some other trade. This, in itself is an act of worship, provided that it is conducted on the basis of utmost honesty and faithfulness. And this is the cause of prosperity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 19, No. 7, p. 219)

It is necessary for all to learn a craft, through which the people may earn their living. This commandment is universal.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

It is the commandment of the Blessed Beauty, may my life be a sacrifice at His Threshold, that whosoever engageth in a craft, should endeavour to acquire in it utmost proficiency. Should he do so, that craft becometh a form of worship. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

Perfection in worldly things is a joy to the body of a man but in no wise does it glorify his soul.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)

Please God, the poor may exert themselves and strive to earn the means of livelihood. This is a duty which, in this most great Revelation, hath been prescribed unto every one, and is accounted in the sight of God as a goodly deed. Whoso observeth this duty, the help of the invisible One shall most certainly aid him. He can enrich, through His grace, whomsoever He pleaseth. He, verily, hath power over all things.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 202)

Service to humanity is a primary motivation for those employed by Bahá’í institutions. In addition, the attitude that work is a form of worship is one of Bahá’u’lláh’s healing remedies for mankind which should permeate Bahá’í institutions. (Universal House of Justice, Guidance for Bahá’í Radio, p. 14)

The most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 26)

The work done by the individual in trade, craft, art or profession is the core of his life and not merely the source of his living. Work performed in the spirit of service can today be accounted as an act of worship. The obligation to work is essentially a moral obligation and one not discharged by possession of wealth.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1947 Feb, A Bahá’í Declaration of Human Obligations and Rights)

Thus the right to work, the right to contribute to society, takes on a spiritual dimension, and the responsibility to be productive applies to everyone. This attitude toward work profoundly influences the Bahá’í approach to social and economic development.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Feb 12, Human Rights Extreme Poverty)

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. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

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. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

Every individual, no matter how handicapped and limited he may be, is under the obligation of engaging in some work or profession.  (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

It is obvious, therefore, that the inheritance of wealth cannot make anyone immune from daily work. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

There are no solitaries and no hermits among the Baha’is. Man must work with his fellows. (‘Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 93)

This seems to suggest:

  • those in charge of the organization of society must give everyone the opportunity to acquire and use a necessary talent in some kind of profession
  • everyone must acquire a craft, trade and an occupation, even the handicapped, the rich and the poor
  • this is the core of our life and not merely the source of our living
  • perfection in worldly things doesn’t glorify our souls
  • the obligation to work is a moral obligation, not discharged by possession of wealth
  • the most despised of men in the sight of God are those who sit idly and beg
  • idle people who lack the desire to work can have no place in the new World Order
  • we need to work with others
  • prosperity comes from conducting our jobs with the utmost honesty and faithfulness
  • when we strive to earn the means of livelihood, we can count on the help of the invisible One

When we apply all of these principles in our work life, there’s no need for anyone to ever be ashamed of his job

Why Do We Work?

Let’s look at some quotes:

Every person must have an occupation, a trade or a craft, so that he may carry other people’s burdens, and not himself be a burden to others.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

If a man is successful in his business, art, or profession he is thereby enabled to increase his physical wellbeing and to give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62)

To engage in some profession is highly commendable, for when occupied with work one is less likely to dwell on the unpleasant aspects of life.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 175)

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, specially 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. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 12-13)

Ye are the trees of My garden; ye must give forth goodly and wondrous fruits, that ye yourselves and others may profit therefrom. Thus it is incumbent on every one to engage in crafts and professions, for therein lies the secret of wealth, O men of understanding! For results depend upon means, and the grace of God shall be all-sufficient unto you. Trees that yield no fruit have been and will ever be for the fire. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 281)

You should also endeavour to engage in some useful occupation, or by training yourself to have such an occupation, as work in itself another means at our disposal, in accordance with our Teachings, to draw nearer to God, and to better grasp His purpose for us in this world. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 282)

The attitude that work is a form of worship is one of Bahá’u’lláh’s healing remedies for mankind . . . (Universal House of Justice, Guidance for Bahá’í Radio, p. 14)

When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 26)

These seem to suggest that we work because by working we:

  • carry other people’s burdens instead of being a burden to others
  • are able to increase our physical wellbeing and give our bodies the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights
  • are less likely to dwell on the unpleasant aspects of life
  • draw nearer to God and are better able to grasp His purpose for us in this world
  • find the secret of wealth
  • benefit from one of Bahá’u’lláh’s healing remedies
  • obtain a token of God’s infinite and all-pervasive bounty

How do we choose a career?

We assess our talents, skills, specialized training and material resources, and then we consider how much time and energy we want to expend, and whether or not we can apply Bahá’í principles:

Let them step forth to take their places in the arena of service where their talents and skills, their specialized training, their material resources, their offers of time and energy and, above all, their dedication to Bahá’í principles, can be put to work in improving the lot of man.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 546)

We weigh the earning capacity of the job with the benefit of the work to mankind:

Every Bahá’í has a duty to work and earn his living, and in choosing a career a Bahá’í should consider not only its earning capacity but also the benefit of the work to his fellowmen. All over the world Bahá’ís are rendering outstanding services in this way.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 513)

We choose a field of science that profits the people of the world:

Knowledge is as wings to man’s life, and a ladder for his ascent. Its acquisition is incumbent upon everyone. The knowledge of such sciences, however, should be acquired as can profit the peoples of the earth . . . Great indeed is the claim of scientists and craftsmen on the peoples of the world.  (Tablets of Baha’u’llah Revealed After the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 51-52)

This includes craftsmanship:

One of the names of God is the Fashioner. He loveth craftsmanship. Therefore any of His servants who manifesteth this attribute is acceptable in the sight of this Wronged One. Craftsmanship is a book among the books of divine sciences, and a treasure among the treasures of His heavenly wisdom. This is a knowledge with meaning…. (from a Tablet of Baha’u’llah’s, translated from the Persian)

We place our whole trust in God:

Concerning the means of livelihood, thou shouldst, while placing thy whole trust in God, engage in some occupation. He will assuredly send down upon thee from the heaven of His favour that which is destined for thee. He is in truth the God of might and power.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 267)

In the Workplace, What Attitudes Should We Have Towards Work?

To the extent that work is consciously undertaken in a spirit of service to humanity, Bahá’u’lláh says, it is a form of prayer, a means of worshipping God.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Mar 03, The Prosperity of Humankind)

True reliance is for the servant to pursue his profession and calling in this world, to hold fast unto the Lord, to seek naught but His grace, inasmuch as in His Hands is the destiny of all His servants. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 155)

We have enjoined upon all to become engaged in some trade or profession, and have accounted such occupation to be an act of worship. Before all else, however, thou shouldst receive, as a sign of God’s acceptance, the mantle of trustworthiness from the hands of divine favour; for trustworthiness is the chief means of attracting confirmation and prosperity. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 335)

Every man of discernment, while walking upon the earth, feeleth indeed abashed, inasmuch as he is fully aware that the thing which is the source of his prosperity, his wealth, his might, his exaltation, his advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men. There can be no doubt that whoever is cognizant of this truth, is cleansed and sanctified from all pride, arrogance, and vainglory.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 44)

It behoveth the craftsmen of the world at each moment to offer a thousand tokens of gratitude at the Sacred Threshold, and to exert their highest endeavour and diligently pursue their professions so that their efforts may produce that which will manifest the greatest beauty and perfection before the eyes of all men. (Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 144)

Having taken up an occupation, youth naturally try to contribute to their field, or even to advance it in light of the insights they gain from their continued study of the Revelation, and they strive to be examples of integrity and excellence in their work. (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 29 December 2015)

The right attitudes seem to include:

  • performing our jobs with diligence, in order to produce results that manifest beauty and perfection
  • performing work that is consciously undertaken in a spirit of service to humanity
  • contributing to their field or advancing it in light of insights gained from study of the Revelation
  • having true reliance on God, holding fast and seeking nothing but His grace
  • trusting that in God’s Hands lies our destiny
  • being grateful
  • receiving the mantle of trustworthiness from the hands of divine favour, as the chief means of attracting confirmation and prosperity
  • striving to be examples of integrity and excellence in their work
  • being fully aware that the source of our prosperity, wealth, might, exaltation, advancement and power is, as ordained by God, the very earth which is trodden beneath the feet of all men

If we are aware of this truth, we will be cleansed and sanctified from all pride, arrogance, and vainglory.

How Do We Handle Problems at Work?

When problems arise at work, and we want to overcome them, we need to first of all to centre our whole hearts and minds on service:

An individual must center his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá’u’lláh. When this is done, the Hosts of the Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome.  (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 20)

Then consult in a spirit of unity and love, without ego and without insisting on your own opinion:

Strive with all your hearts and with the very power of life that unity and love may continually increase. In discussions look toward the reality without being self-opinionated. Let no one assert and insist upon his own mere opinion; nay, rather, let each investigate reality with the greatest love and fellowship. Consult upon every matter, and when one presents the point of view of reality itself, that shall be acceptable to all. Then will spiritual unity increase among you, individual illumination will be greater, happiness will be more abundant, and you will draw nearer and nearer to the Kingdom of God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 183)

And then be content and resigned to whatever God has ordained.

However, one of the most important attributes for one who earns his living is to be content and resigned to whatever God has ordained for him. ‘The source of all good,’ Bahá’u’lláh states, ‘is trust in God, submission unto His command, and contentment in His holy will and pleasure. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 281)

What About Mothers and Homemakers?

In relation to your specific queries, the decision concerning the amount of time a mother may spend in working outside the home depends on circumstances existing within the home, which may vary from time to time. Family consultation will help to provide the answers.  (Universal House of Justice, Compilation on Women)

Mothers can now be the primary agents for empowering individuals to transform society. They alone can inculcate in their children the self-esteem and respect for others essential for the advancement of civilization. It is clear, then, that the station of mothers, increasingly denigrated in many societies, is in reality of the greatest importance and highest merit.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1995 Aug 26, Girl Child A Critical Concern)

You ask about the admonition that everyone must work, and want to know if this means that you, a wife and mother, must work for a livelihood as your husband does… . You will see that the directive is for the friends to be engaged in an occupation which will be of benefit to mankind. Home-making is a highly honourable and responsible work of fundamental importance for mankind. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 625-626)

The principles seem to be:

  • the station of mothers is of the greatest importance and highest merit
  • home-making is a highly honourable and responsible work of fundamental importance for mankind
  • decisions about the amount of time a mother may spend in working outside the home depends on circumstances existing within the home
  • this may vary from time to time
  • this should be decided by family consultation

What About Those Who Can’t Work?

 The House of Justice will provide him with a monthly allowance for his subsistence:

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.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes, p. 193).

What About Retirement?

The House of Justice will have to legislate on this matter in the future:

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”.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 192)

Earning Money

We do earn money while working, so what do we do with it?

We spend it first on ourselves, then on our families for the love of God:

The best of men are they that earn a livelihood by their calling and spend upon themselves and upon their kindred for the love of God, the Lord of all worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words, 82)

When we get into debt, there are five things we have to do:

Thou hast asked regarding the means of livelihood. Trust in God and engage in your work and practice economy; the confirmations of God shall descend and you will be enabled to pay off your debts. Be ye occupied always with the mention of Bahá’u’lláh and seek ye no other hope and desire save Him.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 375)

  • trust in God
  • engage in our work
  • practice economy
  • always be occupied with the mention of Bahá’u’lláh
  • seek no other hope and desire but God

How Do We Have Work/Service/Life Balance?

In this materialistic world, where employers demand more of our time and attention, where one person does the work of three, it’s hard to not become a workaholic.  This is compounded by the demands of the Faith, which are so urgent and demand many sacrifices and a herculean effort.  So how do we have a work-life balance?

Here are some suggestions:

Now I shall tell you the essence of service. Share your time with God. Spend half of the day in search of livelihood, guaranteeing your material life and dignified appearance and dedicate the other half in the acquisition of moral virtues and service at the threshold of God (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 17, Mar. 1927, p. 365)

It is a compromise between the two verses of the “Aqdas”, one making it incumbent upon every Bahá’í to serve the promotion of the Faith and the other that every soul should be occupied in some form of occupation that will benefit society. In one of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh says that the highest form of detachment in this day is to be occupied with some profession and be self-supporting. A good Bahá’í, therefore, is the one who so arranges his life as to devote time both to his material needs and also to the service of the Cause.  (Universal House of Justice, The Importance of the Arts in Promoting the Faith)

The delicate balance between the claims of the Cause of God and the claims of one’s profession is an intensely personal matter which can only be resolved eventually in the heart and soul of each individual. Many Bahá’ís have become, and are, distinguished in their professions and at the same time have rendered and are rendering great services to the Cause and it is obviously possible to achieve distinction in one’s profession and calling and to serve the Cause of God at the same time. The House of Justice realizes, however that circumstances can conspire at critical times in the fortunes of the Faith, to require individuals to make the heart- searching decision of sacrificing one’s own prospect for the apparent good of the Cause. Here again, the history of the Cause provides many examples of believers who have willingly forgone promotion in, or even the continued practice of, their professions in order to meet the needs of the Faith. As in all difficult decisions facing individual officer, such as a Counsellor or Board member, or even one or two friends of his own choosing. Even then, however, the eventual decisions rests with the individual himself.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 31-32)

These seem to suggest:

  • a good Bahá’í devotes time both to his material needs and also to the service of the Cause
  • it is possible to achieve distinction in one’s profession and calling and to serve the Cause of God at the same time
  • a guideline to aspire to is to spend half the day in your profession and half the day in service
  • it’s a delicate balance and an intensely personal matter
  • it requires us to make heart-searching decisions
  • it requires us to sacrifice our own prospects for the apparent good of the Cause
  • we can study the history of the Cause for examples of those who have willingly forgone promotion in, or even the continued practice of, their professions in order to meet the needs of the Faith
  • we can consult a Counsellor or Board member, or even one or two friends
  • the decisions rests with the individual
  • it can only be resolved eventually, and in the heart and soul of each one of us

Conclusion:

I’d like to end with this quote from the Bahá’í International Community:

Thus the right to work, the right to contribute to society, takes on a spiritual dimension, and the responsibility to be productive applies to everyone. This attitude toward work profoundly influences the Bahá’í approach to social and economic development.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Feb 12, Human Rights Extreme Poverty)

What would you add to this discussion?  Post your comments below.

Newsletter – on Work

In this issue – Work 

The New Business Model – Baha’i Style

A Thought on a Profession

Baha’i Principles – Work, Nobility and Worship 

Becoming Truly Customer-Focused—No Matter Where You Work

Eggs, Starving Artists and True Wealth 

Ethical Leadership: Baha’i Principles at Work

Serving Humanity on the Job

On Work as Worship: Finding a Dream Job as a Baha’i

The Law of Work

Working Joyfully in the Spirit of Service

Featured Story:

3 Stories About Work

One day ‘a man passing by the gates of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s house in Haifa, carrying a basket, put it down as soon as he saw Him, saying that he could not find a porter and had to carry the basket himself. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá remarked afterwards that a man should not feel ashamed of doing useful work.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 166)

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During ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s last days at Green Acre He met many people, including one girl who said, “I have come to ask for your assistance. Please tell me what I am fitted to do so that I may occupy myself with it.” The Master asked, “Do you have trust in Me? She replied, “Yes”. He then said to her, “Be a perfect Bahá’í. Associate with Bahá’ís. Study the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh. Then you will be assisted in whatever you undertake to do.” She then said, “I am a good Jewess.” The Master then said: “A good Jew can also become a Bahá’í. The truth of the religion of Moses and Bahá’u’lláh is one. Turn toward Bahá’u’lláh and you will acquire peace and tranquility, you will hear the melody of the kingdom, you will stir people souls and you will attain the highest degree of perfection. Be assured of this.” When she heard the Master’s words she was so impressed that she threw herself at his feet and wept.  (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 172-173)

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A workman who had left his bag of tools in the hall was welcomed with smiling kindness by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. With a look of sadness the man said: “I don’t know much about religious things, as I have no time for anything but my work.” “That is well. Very well. A day’s work done in the spirit of service is in itself an act of worship. Such work is a prayer unto God.” The man’s face cleared from its shadow of doubt and hesitation, and he went out from the Master’s presence happy and strengthened, as though a weighty burden had been taken away.  (Lady Bloomfield, The Chosen Highway)

Featured Prayer:

Prayer for a Job

We ask God to … raise them unto a station where the world and the lordship thereof shall not turn them aside from looking toward the Supreme Horizon, and where anxiety for gaining a livelihood and providing household goods shall not divert them from the thought of that day whereon the mountains shall be made like carpets … By my Lord, were I given the choice between the glory and opulence, the wealth and dignity, the ease and luxury wherein they are, and the distress and affliction wherein I am, I would certainly choose that wherein I am today, and I would not now exchange one atom of these afflictions for all that hath been created in the kingdom of production! Were it not for affliction in the way of God my continuance would have no sweetness for me, nor would my life profit me … And in all this we give thanks to God, the Lord of the worlds, and we praise Him under all circumstances,—verily He is a witness unto all things.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 79-80)

Featured Video:

For Baha’is, work done in the spirit of service to others is, as Abdu’l-Baha puts it, “the highest form of worship.” In this new series of 3 video essays from Baha’i Teachings,   journalist Temily Tianmay explores the professions, occupations and crafts of various Baha’is, to see how they express the powerful injunction of Baha’u’llah that work equals worship

Work as Worship: Interview with Meena Datwani

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.  (Baha’u’llahThe Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 192)

Work as Worship: Interview with Investment Counselor Peter Oldziey

Man’s merit lieth in service and virtue and not in the pageantry of wealth and riches.  (Baha’u’llah: Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)

Work as Worship: Interview with Layli Miller-Muro of the Tahireh Justice Centre

It is enjoined upon every one of you to engage in some form of occupation, such as crafts, trades and the like. We have graciously exalted your engagement in such work to the rank of worship unto God, the True One. Ponder ye in your hearts the grace and the blessings of God and render thanks unto Him at eventide and at dawn. Waste not your time in idleness and sloth. Occupy yourselves with that which profiteth yourselves and others. Thus hath it been decreed in this Tablet from whose horizon the day-star of wisdom and utterance shineth resplendent…. Hold ye fast unto the cord of material means, placing your whole trust in God, the Provider of all means. When anyone occupieth himself in a craft or trade, such occupation itself is regarded in the estimation of God as an act of worship; and this is naught but a token of His infinite and all-pervasive bounty. (Baha’u’llahTablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 26)

Education holds an important place in the new order of things. The education of each child is compulsory. If there is not money enough in a family to educate both the girl and the boy the money must be dedicated to the girl’s education, for she is the potential mother. If there are no parents the community must educate the child. In addition to this widespread education each child must be taught a profession, art, or trade, so that every member of the community will be enabled to earn his own livelihood. Work done in the spirit of service is the highest form of worship. (Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 83)

 

Featured Books:      

 

 The Calling: Master Getting and Giving in the World of Work

by Alice Bing

 

What is a career if there is no passion or fulfillment in what you do for others? Considering that the average person spends one third of their day working, the need for job satisfaction and reward is more pressing than ever before. No matter where you are in your professional life, The Calling will inspire you in your search for a meaningful and purpose-driven career. Whether you’re just entering the business world or you’ve found yourself mid-career looking to change paths, you’re sure to find inspiration on every page of The Calling.

For more information and to buy the book 

Featured Coach: 

 

Alice Bing

Our Featured Author, Alice Bing, is also a consultant who makes finding joy at work easier.  She helps you find the career that matches your unique profile, and helps you stay energized and effective in your professional life.  She sees working as an opportunity to make something awesome happen.  She believes we can gain self-fulfilment and make a difference by giving to others.  She will help you reframe and re-imagine everyday subjects about work, to find the profound in the mundane, the significant in the trivial, and the unifying in the controversial.

To visit her homepage

To read her blog

To find her on Facebook

To find her on Linkedin  

Featured Business:

 

 

Canadian entrepreneurs Zack Cooper-Black, Foster Rae, Danjuma Mba, Mia Ohki, Shane Green, Theo Tahririha and Autumn Rae have big dreams to help change the world by helping those who want a brighter future for others build the life of their dreams.

Lots of us want to help the world in many ways, like eliminating poverty or protecting an endangered species, but sometimes the funds to do so aren’t available, and big ideas die. These youth want to eliminate this financial barrier, so that the inventors, creatives, and dreamers can set their ideas loose, with nothing to stop them. They want the ambitious, motivated people in our society to get the support they need to make the world a better place.

Everything Proper Clothing and Apparel sells is unisex, and includes items such as ball caps, baseball jerseys, t-shirts and tank tops.  They sell primarily through farmers markets and will soon have an online store.

By buying their clothes, you’ll be helping fund scholarships that targets people with goals bigger than themselves.  When you wear their clothes, they want you to feel a connection to everyone that supports this idea.

To see their full range of products

To visit their website 

To read an article about them

To find them on Facebook 

Our Readers Write:

Thanks for sharing this dear Susan . I truly enjoyed Tom Price’s talk . It was only half an hour. Is that right?  (Nooshi Samimi Saberi)

I replied:

As far as I know it should be 1:47 hours.  Hope you’re able to hear it all!  It’s definitely worth it!

Thanks to all who write in!  Your encouragement really keeps me going!  

By the way, I accept donations!  If you like the materials in these newsletters and on my website, please consider making a donation. Your help and feedback is GREATLY appreciated, to defray the costs of making these available to you!!!  There’s a PayPal “Donate” Button at the bottom of every page on my website. Thank you!!!

See you next month!  Hope it’s a month filled with all the names of God! 

 

 

Newsletter – on Agriculture

Welcome to the Month of Names 172!

In this issue – Agriculture

A Special Regard For Agriculture  

Agriculture and Rural Life  

Baha’i Quotations on Environment and Sustainable Development  

Compilations : Economics, Agriculture, and Related Subjects 

Food, Justice, and the Baha’i Faith

For A Saskatchewan Family, Farming Is A Noble Tradition

Nutrition from a Bahá’í Perspective: Food for the Body, Food for the Soul  

The Baha’i Faith References on Agriculture 

The Baha’i Position on Agriculture 

The Bahai Community And Agriculture 

The Power of Community Gardens

Featured Story:

‘Abdu’l-Baha on Agriculture

There was a large agricultural convention and State Fair in town when they arrived which interested the Master. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá visited the agricultural exhibition and spent some time exploring it. He visited a display of agricultural machines, asking about their cost and use, then went to the area where fruits and vegetables were displayed. As He examined the grapes, apples, pears, pomegranates, cabbages and very large pumpkins, He praised American agricultural progress. When the section manager saw his exotic visitor he rushed over to be introduced, then accompanied ‘Abdu’l-Bahá through the area, offering him samples of fruit (though sale and consumption were prohibited). Afterwards, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá directed his attendants to buy seeds of some of the fruits and flowers to be sent to the Holy Land to be planted at the shrine of Bahá’u’lláh.  (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 208-209)

Featured Prayer:

Prayer of Gratitude

He is God, exalted is He, the Lord of might and grandeur! O God, my God! I yield Thee thanks at all times and render Thee praise under all conditions.
In prosperity, all praise is Thine, O Lord of the Worlds, and in its absence, all gratitude is Thine, O Desire of them that have recognized Thee!
In adversity, all honour is Thine, O Adored One of all who are in heaven and on earth, and in affliction, all glory is Thine, O Enchanter of the hearts of those who yearn after Thee!
In hardship, all praise is Thine, O Thou the Goal of them that seek after Thee, and in comfort, all thanksgiving is Thine, O Thou whose remembrance is treasured in the hearts of those who are nigh unto Thee!
In wealth, all splendour is Thine, O Lord of them that are devoted to Thee, and in poverty, all command is Thine, O Thou the Hope of them that acknowledge Thy unity!
In joy, all glory is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and in sorrow, all beauty is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
In hunger, all justice is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and in satiety, all grace is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
In my homeland, all bounty is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and in exile, all decree is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
Under the sword, all munificence is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and in the safety of home, all perfection is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
In the lofty mansion, all generosity is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God, and upon the lowly dust, all favour is Thine, O Thou besides Whom there is none other God!
In prison, all fidelity is Thine, O Thou the Bestower of gifts, and in confinement, all eternity is Thine, O Thou Who art the ever-abiding King!
All bounty is Thine, O Thou Who art the Lord of bounty, and the Sovereign of bounty, and the King of bounty! I bear witness that Thou art to be praised in Thy doings, O Thou Source of bounty, and to be obeyed in Thy behests, O Thou Ocean of bounty, He from Whom all bounty doth proceed, He to Whom all bounty doth return!
(Bahá’u’lláh, Translated from the Arabic at the Bahá’í World Centre, 5 May 2014)

Featured Video:

In this month’s video, we’re introduced to Simon Arana, a Baha’i in Belize, who talks about his farm, which has become a sustainable development project.  Using primarily just a machete and lots of hard work, Simon has carved this food producing farm out of the bush. It is an example of the Baha’i goal to foster ongoing, sustainable work projects and, in doing so, to provide a positive role model to others.

Sometimes farmers (and others!) experience severe hardship through natural disasters.  In those times, we can all say:

Dominion is God’s the Lord of the seen and the unseen, the Lord of creation (known in Persian as Yá Ilaha‘l-Mustaghath)

The House of Justice has told us:

With regard to the number of times these words are to be repeated, the repetition of this invocation is not definitely fixed, and there is a great deal of flexibility concerning the repetition of this and other prayers.  While the invocation is prescribed in the Writings of the Báb to be repeated 2098 times during occasions of great need, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in one Tablet states that this verse is to be repeated 95 times and, in another Tablet, 81 times. Letters from the Guardian concerning this invocation , as well as other prayers, indicate that repetition is a matter of individual choice. In a postscript added in his own handwriting to a letter to an individual he stated: “There is no objection to saying “Yá Ilaha‘l-Mustaghath” any time you like and as often as you like.”  (Universal House of Justice, 25 Nov 1999)

For our second video, I’d like to present Shadi Toloui-Wallace singing her version of this prayer, which she calls “When Sorrow Comes”   

 

For more information on this talented musician

Find her on Facebook  

Featured Book:

The Spirit of Agriculture:  Agriculture and Religion: A Necessary Unity is a series of essays edited by Paul Hanley, containing such diverse topics as:

·         Agriculture and Religion: A Necessary Unity

·         Agriculture in the World s Religions

·         A Survey of the Bahá í Writings on Agriculture

·         The Involvement of the Central Figures of the Bahá í Faith in Agriculture

·         A Perspective on Food in the Bahá í Faith

·         Rethinking the Management of Small Rural Businesses

·         Reinventing the Village

·         The Genetic Modification of Crops: A Bahá í s Perspective

·         Igi Oko: The Tree Farms in Nigeria circa 1927 by Richard St Barbe Baker

·         Strengthening Local Economies and Community Identity: FUNDAEC s Experience

·         Balancing Science with Inspiration: A Bahá í Scientist s Struggle to Discover the Hidden Secrets of Restoring Corals and Fish to Degraded Coral Reefs

·         Gardens for Mongolia: Growing the Capacity of Mongolia s Families

It also looks at 6 projects:

·         An Investment for Well-being: Restoring the Agricultural Environment on Bolivia s Altiplano

·         A Tanzanian School Promotes Self-reliance

·         Rural Education in Northern Honduras

·         Felin Gelli Rural Training Farm

·         EcoAg Service: Farm Apprenticeships For Youth

·         The Garden Terraces of the Shrine of the Báb – An Interview with the Architect, Fariborz Sahba

For more information and to buy this book 

Featured Coach:

Laurel Anderson-Rostami 

This month’s coach has a link to agriculture, in that she is a Raw Foods Chef and Wellness Coach who inspires others to integrate living food and joyful living into daily choices. She guides clients to an eating plan that resonates while facilitating a healthy relationship with food and oneself. Laurel increases awareness about more food choices, she teaches how to use food to support mental and physical health and how to resolve eating disorders. She has 36 years of research and training in food-based wellness, served as a speaker for Eating Disorders Northwest, and taught raw foods classes. Guidance is also available on how to deepen the body’s ability to take in all forms of nourishment, shopping for nutrient rich food, preparation and how to determine what food provides you with the best nourishment. Education is catered to each individual situation with plenty of raw and cooked options and loads gluten-free creativity.

Laurel Anderson-Rostami is also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who works with individuals, couples, families and corporations.  She specializes in generational trauma, chronic pain, injuries and physical illness, trauma and shock, joyful living, nutritional, life, career and corporate coaching.  She believes that healing is the cultivation of our spirit regardless of what the journey may be and she loves to witness her clients as they uncover more of their innate capacity for healing.

To visit her website  

To find her on Linkedin 

Featured Business:

 

Breezy Ridge Farm

This month I’m happy to introduce you to Breezy Ridge Farm, owned by my spiritual parents Phil and Liz Smith.  It’s truly a family farm, as their two sons, David and Nicolas are also in the family business.

The farm consists of 45 Hectares (100 acres) in Southern Ontario (Canada); and is dedicated to raising about 300 purebred Rideau sheep.  The flock has twice won awards:

  • “Consistency Of Carcasses” from the Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency (OSMA)
  • “Excellence in Commercial Wool Production” from the Canadian Cooperative Wool Growers Ltd

Their lambs are born 3 times a year, in late winter, late spring, and early November.

Since 1984 they have grazed their mature sheep out on pasture 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the grazing season, which runs from mid-April to mid-December.  To protect the sheep from coyotes, black bears, timber wolves and cougars, they use Great Pyrenees guard dogs and even a llama that lives with the main ewe flock.

To visit their website  

To read more about the farm in an article titled “Experience, Efficiency and Success:  One Farm Family’s Story”

Part 1 

Part 2

 

Our Readers Write:

Thanks to all who write in!  Your encouragement really keeps me going!  

By the way, I accept donations!  If you like the materials in these newsletters and on my website, please consider making a donation. Your help and feedback is GREATLY appreciated, to defray the costs of making these available to you!!!  There’s a PayPal “Donate” Button at the bottom of every page on my website. Thank you!!!

See you next month!  Hope it’s a month filled with the right kinds of words! 

Should Bahá’í Mothers Stay at Home?

 

Should Baha’i mothers stay at home?

Here’s a question I hear a lot!  Let’s look at what the Bahá’í Writings have to teach us!

The idea of mothers not working outside the home makes sense when we consider 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:

With regard to your question whether mothers should work outside the home, it is helpful to consider the matter from the perspective of the concept of a Bahá’í family. This concept 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. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

This doesn’t mean 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:

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 amount of time a mother may spend in working outside the home depends on circumstances existing within the home, which may vary from time to time:

In relation to your specific queries, the decision concerning the amount of time a mother may spend in working outside the home depends on circumstances existing within the home, which may vary from time to time.  (Universal House of Justice, Compilation on Women)

Family consultation will help to provide the answers:

Family consultation will help to provide the answers.  (Universal House of Justice, Compilation on Women)

In general, though, the task of bringing up a Bahá’í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá’í writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother:

The task of bringing up a Bahá’í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá’í writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother, whose unique privilege is indeed to create in her home such conditions as would be most conducive to both his material and spiritual welfare and advancement. The training which the child first receives through his mother constitutes the strongest foundation for his future development.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 148)

The primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband:

Similarly, although the primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband, this does not by any means imply that the place of woman is confined to the home.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

The mother is the first educator of the child:

The mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development.   (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

This makes sense because the infant’s primary orientation is to its mother:

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.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 383)

Mothers need to be closely associated with children during their formative years:

The mother is usually closely associated with the baby during this intensely formative time when it is growing and developing faster than it ever will again during the whole of its life. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

It would seem preferable that children should receive their first training at home at the hand of their mother, rather than be sent to a nursery:

With reference to the question of the training of children; given the emphasis placed by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the necessity for the parents to train their children while still in their tender age, it would seem preferable that they should receive their first training at home at the hand of their mother, rather than be sent to a nursery. Should circumstances, however, compel a Bahá’í mother to adopt the latter course, there can be no objection.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 149-150)

Spiritual training given directly from the mothers is the beginning of the process and the essential basis of all the rest:

Thou didst ask as to the education of children. Those children who, sheltered by the Blessed Tree, have set foot upon the world, those who are cradled in the Faith and are nurtured at the breast of grace — such must from the beginning receive spiritual training directly from their mothers. That is, the mother must continually call God to mind and make mention of Him, and tell of His greatness, and instill the fear of Him in the child, and rear the child gently, in the way of tenderness, and in extreme cleanliness. Thus from the very beginning of life every child will be refreshed by the gentle wafting of the love of God and will tremble with joy at the sweet scent of heavenly guidance. In this lieth the beginning of the process; it is the essential basis of all the rest.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

This is a high and exalted position, and we are not allowed to slacken in our responsibility:

It is incumbent upon to train the children from their earliest babyhood!… It is incumbent upon you to attend to them under all aspects and circumstances, inasmuch as God-glorified and exalted is He!-hath ordained mothers to be the primary trainers of children and infants. This is a great and important affair and a high and exalted position, and it is not allowable to slacken therein at all!”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. III, p. 606)

Whatever children learn in that early stage of development will become part of their nature and leave its traces upon their whole life:

He is very glad to know that you attach importance to the training of the children, for whatever they learn in that early stage of their development will leave its traces upon their whole life. It becomes part of their nature.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)

If a mother fails to train her children, and start them on a proper way of life, the training which they receive later on will not take its full effect:

 So long as the mother faileth to train her children, and start them on a proper way of life, the training which they receive later on will not take its full effect. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 138)

A firm foundation must be laid in early childhood, because it is extremely difficult to teach the individual and refine his character once puberty is passed:

It is extremely difficult to teach the individual and refine his character once puberty is passed. By then, as experience hath shown, even if every effort be exerted to modify some tendency of his, it all availeth nothing. He may, perhaps improve somewhat today; but let a few days pass and he forgetteth, and turneth backward to his habitual condition and accustomed ways. Therefore it is in early childhood that a firm foundation must be laid. While the branch is green and tender it can easily be made straight.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 24-25)

If the baby is trained right, it will grow right, and if crooked, the growth unto the end of its life will also be crooked:

The first trainer of the child is the mother. The babe, like unto a green and tender branch, will grow according to the way it is trained. If the training be right, it will grow right, and if crooked, the growth likewise, and unto the end of life it will conduct itself accordingly.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 399)

We must attach great importance to this matter, and carry it forward with enthusiasm and zeal:

The beloved of God must attach great importance to this matter, and carry it forward with enthusiasm and zeal.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 24-25)

The time for pursuing a career is in the future, where there is no area or instance where they will lag behind; they have equal rights with men, and will enter into all branches of the administration of society:

In the Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh, women are advancing side by side with men. There is no area or instance where they will lag behind: they have equal rights with men, and will enter, in the future, into all branches of the administration of society. Such will be their elevation that, in every area of endeavor, they will occupy the highest levels in the human world.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

It is often difficult to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, but Bahá’í children who see these things practiced in the home, will see it as natural and necessary:

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 Bahá’ís, who are now, as adults, accepting this glorious Faith, no doubt some of the ordinances, like fasting and daily prayer, 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 Bahá’í children who see these things practiced 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, Lights Of Guidance, p. 343)

It is in this context of mutual and complementary duties and responsibilities that one should read the Tablet in which `Abdu’l-Bahá gives the following exhortation:

O Handmaids of the Self- Sustaining Lord! Exert your efforts so that you may attain the honour and privilege ordained for women. Undoubtedly the greatest glory of women is servitude at His Threshold and submissiveness at His door; it is the possession of a vigilant heart, and praise of the incomparable God; it is heartfelt love towards other handmaids and spotless chastity; it is obedience to and consideration for their husbands and the education and care of their children; and it is tranquility, and dignity, perseverance in the remembrance of the Lord, and the utmost enkindlement and attraction.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

How has this helped advance your understanding on this topic?  What would you add to it?  Post your comments below!

Bahá’í Education of Children

 

As part of my series on parenting, I thought I’d look at the Bahá’í education of children.  Let’s have a look at what the Bahá’í Writings have to say!

Who Has The Primary Responsibility for Educating Children?

Mothers are supposed to make the child’s education as their first importance:

Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 289-290)

Mothers must provide spiritual training right from the beginning:

Thou didst ask as to the education of children. Those children who, sheltered by the Blessed Tree, have set foot upon the world, those who are cradled in the Faith and are nurtured at the breast of grace—such must from the beginning receive spiritual training directly from their mothers. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

Fathers also have the responsibility of educating their children

Although the mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development, the father also has the responsibility of educating his children.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

Both parents must train their children with life and heart in the school of virtue and perfection:

Therefore, the beloved of God and the maid-servants of the Merciful must train their children with life and heart and teach them in the school of virtue and perfection. They must not be lax in this matter; they must not be inefficient. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 398-399)

 Both parents should counsel their children in goodly character, over a long period:

Ye should consider the question of goodly character as of the first importance. It is incumbent upon every father and mother to counsel their children over a long period, and guide them unto those things which lead to everlasting honour.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. pp. 133-134)

Both parents are in a critical position to shape the spiritual development of their children:

Independent of the level of their education, parents are in a critical position to shape the spiritual development of their children. They should not ever underestimate their capacity to mold their children’s moral character. For they exercise indispensable influence through the home environment they consciously create by their love of God, their striving to adhere to His laws, their spirit of service to His Cause, their lack of fanaticism, and their freedom from the corrosive effects of backbiting. (The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 157, 2000, p. 9)

Responsibility for the spiritual education of children is not the exclusive responsibility of the community:

And now we wish to address a few words to parents, who bear the primary responsibility for the upbringing of their children. We appeal to them to give constant attention to the spiritual education of their children. Some parents appear to think that this is the exclusive responsibility of the community; others believe that in order to preserve the independence of children to investigate truth, the Faith should not be taught to them. Still others feel inadequate to take on such a task. None of this is correct. The beloved Master has said that “it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son,” adding that, “should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord.”  (The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 157, 2000, p. 9)

Spiritual Assemblies should provide mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children:

It is incumbent upon the Spiritual Assemblies to provide the mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children, showing how, from infancy, the child must be watched over and taught. These instructions must be given to every mother to serve her as a guide, so that each will train and nurture her children in accordance with the Teachings.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 138)

What is a Mother’s Responsibility?

The task of bringing up a Bahá’í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá’í writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother:

The task of bringing up a Bahá’í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá’í writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother, whose unique privilege is indeed to create in her home such conditions as would be most conducive to both his material and spiritual welfare and advancement. The training which the child first receives through his mother constitutes the strongest foundation for his future development.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 148)

Mothers must establish faith and certitude; the love for and fear of God, and all good qualities and traits within their children:

Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 289-290)

Women should be encouraged to attract their husbands and male members of their families to the Faith:

Women should also be encouraged to attract their husbands and male members of their families to the Faith so that the Bahá’í community will be representative of the society of which it forms a part. Gradually the spirit of unity and fellowship, as set forth in our teachings, will be reflected in the life of Bahá’í families.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 616)

This is because if the mother is a believer, the children will become believers too, even if the father denies 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:

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)

What is a Father’s Responsibility?

The primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband:

Similarly, although the primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband, this does not by any means imply that the place of woman is confined to the home.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

Fathers also have the responsibility of educating their children

Although the mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development, the father also has the responsibility of educating his children.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

Why Do We Educate Our Own Children?

Education and training of children are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary, for both the father and mother:

In this New Cycle, education and training are recorded in the Book of God as obligatory and not voluntary. That is, it is enjoined upon the father and mother, as a duty, to strive with all effort to train the daughter and the son, to nurse them from the breast of knowledge and to rear them in the bosom of sciences and arts. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 398-399)

The connection between mother and child is so strong, that even her thoughts can put a child to sleep:

A mother rocks and rocks her babe to sleep in a cradle, but the thoughts of the child’s sleep may so take possession of her mind that sometimes she is able to put him to sleep without the aid of the cradle. This effect is produced by the mother’s magnetism.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 517)

If children are raised to be spiritual and godly Bahá’ís, they will remain safe from every test:

The children must, from their infancy, be raised to be spiritual and godly Bahá’ís. If such be their training, they will remain safe from every test.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 274-275)

 When Does Baha’i Education Begin?

Systematic training begins in the nursery; they must learn though play, amusement and speech and not through books:

These children must be given a good training from their earliest childhood. They must be given a systematic training which will further their development from day to day, in order that they may receive greater insight, so that their spiritual receptivity be broadened. Beginning in childhood they must receive instruction. They cannot be taught through books. Many elementary sciences must be made clear to them in the nursery; they must learn them in play, in amusement. Most ideas must be taught them through speech, not by book learning. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education, p. 73)

Classes for children under the age of five can be held provided you keep in mind that their attention span is relatively short so the duration of classes should be measured accordingly:

The House of Justice adds that you should feel free to hold classes for children under the age of five provided you keep in mind that their attention span is relatively short and so the duration of their class periods should be measured accordingly.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 147)

 When the child has reached the age where he can make distinctions, let him be placed in a Bahá’í school:

And when the child hath reached the age where he can make distinctions, let him be placed in a Bahá’í school, in which at the beginning the Holy Texts are recited and religious concepts are taught. At this school the child is to study reading and writing as well as some fundamentals of the various branches of knowledge, such as can be learned by children.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

From the age of five their formal education must begin so during the daytime they should be looked after in a place where there are teachers:

From the age of five their formal education must begin. That is, during the daytime they should be looked after in a place where there are teachers, and should learn good conduct.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 39-40) 

When Do Children Study?

Every morning, teach them to chant and recite the communes and prayers:

Every day at first light, ye gather the Bahá’í children together and teach them the communes and prayers. This is a most praiseworthy act, and bringeth joy to the children’s hearts: that they should, at every morn, turn their faces toward the Kingdom and make mention of the Lord and praise His Name, and in the sweetest of voices, chant and recite.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, p. 139)

The children must study every day, from morning till noon, so they learn to read and acquire an art or skill:

He must study every day from morning till noon, so that he may learn how to read and write. From noon till about sunset he should acquire a craft. The children must both learn to read and acquire an art or skill.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 3)

When the children are ready for bed, let the mother read or sing them the Odes of the Blessed Beauty, so that from their earliest years they will be educated by these verses of guidance:

When the children are ready for bed, let the mother read or sing them the Odes of the Blessed Beauty, so that from their earliest years they will be educated by these verses of guidance.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 39-40) 

Where Are They Taught?

We should avoid sending Bahá’í children to orthodox religious schools, especially Catholic:

He is sorry to hear your little boy is not developing satisfactorily; very few children are really bad. They do, however, sometimes have complicated personalities and need very wise handling to enable them to grow into normal, moral, happy adults. If you feel convinced your son will really benefit from going to….,…’s school you could send him there. But in general we should certainly always avoid sending Bahá’í children to orthodox religious schools, especially Catholic, as the children receive the imprint of religious beliefs we as believers know are out-dated and no longer for this age. He will especially pray for the solution of this problem.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 151) 

What is the Standard for Baha’i Education?

Whatever other children learn in a year, Bahá’í children should learn in a month:

It is incumbent upon Bahá’í children to surpass other children in the acquisition of sciences and arts, for they have been cradled in the grace of God.  Whatever other children learn in a year, let Bahá’í children learn in a month.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 140)

What Should Children be Taught?

Let all the lesson be entirely devoted to the acquisitions of human perfections:

The subjects to be taught in children’s schools are many, and for lack of time We can touch on only a few: First and most important is training in behavior and  good character; the rectification of qualities; arousing the desire to become accomplished and acquire perfections, and to cleave unto the religion of God and stand firm in His Laws: to accord total obedience to every just government, to show forth loyalty and trustworthiness to the ruler of the time, to be well wishers of mankind, to be kind to all.  And further, as well as in the ideals of character, instruction in such arts and sciences as are benefit, and in foreign tongues. Also, the repeating of prayers for the well-being of ruler and ruled; and the avoidance of materialistic works that are current among those who see only natural causation, and tales of love, and books that arouse the passions.  To sum up, let all the lesson be entirely devoted to the acquisitions of human perfections.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Lights of Guidance, p. 147)

From their earliest years, children should be taught to deliver speeches of high quality:

Encourage ye the school children, from their earliest years, to deliver speeches of high quality, so that in their leisure time they will engage in giving cogent and effective talks, expressing themselves with clarity and eloquence.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. pp. 133-134)

During ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s days it was a usual work of the children to learn Tablets by heart:

The Master used to attach much importance to the learning by heart of the Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh and the Báb. During His days it was a usual work of the children of the household to learn Tablets by heart’ now, however, those children are grown up and do not have time for such a thing. But the practice is most useful to implant the ideas and spirit those words contain into the mind of the children.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)

The Dawn Breakers has interesting stories about the early days of the Faith, which children like to hear:

With ‘the Dawn- Breakers’ in your possession you could also arrange interesting stories about the early days of the Movement which the children would like to hear. There are also stories about the life of Christ, Muhammad and the other Prophets which if told to the children will break down any religious prejudice they may have learned from older people of little understanding.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 150)

 They should be educated in several languages at once:

At the start the teacher must place a pen in the child’s hand, arrange the children in groups, and instruct each group according to its capacity. When the children have, in a given place, been seated in rows, and each holdeth a pen, and each hath a paper before him, and the teacher hath suspended a blackboard in front of the children, let him write thereon with his chalk and have the children copy what he hath written. For example, let the teacher write an alif (a) and say, “This is an alif.” Let the children then copy it and repeat: “This is an alif.” And so on, till the end of the alphabet.

As soon as they properly recognize the letters, let the teacher make combinations of the letters, while the children follow his lead, writing the combinations on their paper, until, by this method, they come to recognize all the letters, singly and combined in words. Let the teacher then proceed to writing sentences, while the children copy what he hath written, each on his own sheet of paper. Let the teacher then explain the meaning of the sentence to the children.

And once they have become skilled in the Persian tongue, let the teacher first translate and write out single words and ask the students the meaning of those words. If a pupil hath grasped a little of this, and hath translated the word, let the teacher praise him; if all the students are unable to accomplish this, let the teacher write the foreign language translation beneath the given word. For example, let him write sama (heaven) in Arabic, and ask: “How do we say this in Persian?” If one of the children replieth, “The Persian translation of this word is asiman”, let the teacher praise and encourage him. If they are unable to answer, let the teacher himself give the translation and write it down, and let the children copy it.  Later, let the teacher ask: “How do they say this in Russian, or French, or Turkish?” If they know the answer, excellent. If not, let the teacher say, “In Russian, or French, the translation is thus and so”, write the word on the board, and have the children copy it down. When the children have become skilled in translating single words, let the teacher combine the words into a sentence, write this on the board and ask the children to translate it. If they are unable, let the teacher himself translate the sentence and write down the translation. It would of course be preferable for him to make use of several languages.  In this way, over a short period — that is, three years- -the children will, as a result of writing the words down, become fully proficient in a number of languages, and will be able to translate a passage from one language to another.

Once they have become skilled in these fundamentals, let them go on to learning the elements of the other branches of knowledge, and once they have completed this study, let each one who is able and hath a keen desire for it, enroll in higher institutions of learning and study advanced courses in the sciences and arts.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282) 

How Should Children be Taught?

Mothers must continually call God to mind and make mention of Him, and tell of His greatness, and instill the fear of Him in the child, and rear the child gently, in the way of tenderness:

That is, the mother must continually call God to mind and make mention of Him, and tell of His greatness, and instill the fear of Him in the child, and rear the child gently, in the way of tenderness, and in extreme cleanliness. Thus from the very beginning of life every child will be refreshed by the gentle wafting of the love of God and will tremble with joy at the sweet scent of heavenly guidance. In this lieth the beginning of the process; it is the essential basis of all the rest.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

Children should be taught to read through play:

Here they should be taught, in play, some letters and words and a little reading — as is done in certain countries where they fashion letters and words out of sweets and give them to the child. For example, they make an ‘a’ out of candy and say its name is ‘a’, or make a candy ‘b’ and call it ‘b’, and so on with the rest of the alphabet, giving these to the young child. In this way children will soon learn their letters.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Bahá’í Education, pp. 39-40) 

They should be taught through questions and answers:

One child must question the other concerning these things, and the other child must give the answer. In this way, they will make great progress. For example, mathematical problems must also be taught in the form of questions and answers. One of the children asks a question and the other must give the answer. Later on, the children will of their own accord speak with each other concerning these same subjects. The children who are at the head of the class must receive premiums. They must be encouraged and when any one of them shows good advancement, for the further development they must be praised and encouraged therein. Even so in godlike affairs. Oral questions must be asked and the answers must be given orally. They must discuss with each other in this manner.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education, p. 73) 

Are Daughters and Sons Taught the Same?

Both Daughters and sons must follow the same curriculum of study:

Daughters and sons must follow the same curriculum of study, thereby promoting unity of the sexes. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 174-175)

The training and culture of daughters is more necessary than that of sons, for these girls will come to the station of motherhood and will mold the lives of the children:

If it be considered through the eye of reality, the training and culture of daughters is more necessary than that of sons, for these girls will come to the station of motherhood and will mold the lives of the children.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 399)

What About Higher Education?

The child’s own preference and inclinations should direct his advanced studies:

Not all, however, will be able to engage in these advanced studies. Therefore, such children must be sent to industrial schools where they can also acquire technical skills, and once the child becomes proficient in such a skill, then let consideration be given to the child’s own preference and inclinations. If a child hath a liking for commerce, then let him choose commerce; if industry, then industry; if for higher education, then the advancement of knowledge; if for some other of the responsibilities of humankind, then that. Let him be placed in the field for which he hath an inclination, a desire, and a talent.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)

What Happens to Parent’s Who Don’t Meet Their Responsibility?

This responsibility for the education of children is so weighty that failure to exercise it is an unpardonable sin, for which parents will be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord:

Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord. This is a sin unpardonable.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 398-399)

They could even lose the rights of parenthood:

This responsibility is so weighty that Bahá’u’lláh has stated that a father who fails to exercise it forfeits his rights of fatherhood.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

Where Do We Go To Learn More About This Training?

Spiritual Assemblies should provide mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children:

It is incumbent upon the Spiritual Assemblies to provide the mothers with a well-planned programme for the education of children, showing how, from infancy, the child must be watched over and taught. These instructions must be given to every mother to serve her as a guide, so that each will train and nurture her children in accordance with the Teachings.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 138)

Single parents could also benefit by encouraging access to counseling or support services, ensuring that transportation to needed services or Bahá’í activities is available, and offering scholarships to Bahá’í conferences, schools and workshops:

The single parent may suffer from inadequate material resources, lack of skills and confidence, and the emotional support of a partner in parenting. The Assembly may wish to assist by encouraging access to whatever counseling or support services may be available, by ensuring that transportation to needed services or Bahá’í activities is available, and offering scholarships to Bahá’í conferences, schools and workshops.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 130)

What Would This Training Consist Of?

Your efforts should focus on helping parents in their function as educators of the rising generation; and women should be encouraged to attract their husbands and male members of their families to the Faith:

The House of Justice regards the need to educate and guide women in their primary responsibility as mothers as an excellent opportunity for organizing women’s activities. Your efforts should focus on helping them in their function as educators of the rising generation. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 616)

Children’s Classes

In addition to the efforts made at home, the parents should support Bahá’í children’s classes:

Of course, in addition to the efforts made at home, the parents should support Bahá’í children’s classes provided by the community. It must be borne in mind, too, that children live in a world that informs them of harsh realities through direct experience with the horrors already described or through the unavoidable outpourings of the mass media. Many of them are thereby forced to mature prematurely, and among these are those who look for standards and discipline by which to guide their lives. Against this gloomy backdrop of a decadent society, Bahá’í children should shine as the emblems of a better future.  (The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 157, 2000, p. 9)

The Role of Children’s Class Teachers

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered is the education and training of children… It is very difficult to undertake and even harder to succeed at it:

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children… It is, however, very difficult to undertake this service, even harder to succeed in it. I hope that thou wilt acquit thyself well in this most important of tasks, and successfully carry the day, and become an ensign of God’s abounding Grace; that these children, reared one and all in the holy Teachings, will develop natures like unto the sweet airs that blow across the gardens of the All- Glorious, and will waft their fragrance around the world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. pp. 133-134)

Among the greatest of all great services is the education of children and the more you persevere in this most important task, the more will you witness the confirmations of God:

Among the greatest of all great services is the education of children, and promotion of the various sciences, crafts and arts. Praised be God, ye are now exerting strenuous efforts toward this end. The more ye persevere in this most important task, the more will ye witness the confirmations of God, to such a degree that ye yourselves will be astonished.  This verily is a matter beyond all doubt, a pledge that shall certainly be redeemed.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 276)

Children’s teachers are servants of the Lord God and must offer praise with every breath, for being able to educate their spiritual children:

Praise thou God that thou hast succeeded in becoming a teacher of young Bahá’ís, young trees of the Bahá Paradise, and at the same time art able to benefit the other children as well. According to the explicit divine Text, teaching the children is indispensable and obligatory. It followeth that teachers are servants of the Lord God, since they have arisen to perform this task, which is the same as worship. You must therefore offer praise with every breath, for you are educating your spiritual children. (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 273-274)

The spiritual father is even greater than the physical one, for he endows his child with life everlasting:

The spiritual father is greater than the physical one, for the latter bestoweth but this world’s life, whereas the former endoweth his child with life everlasting. This is why, in the Law of God, teachers are listed among the heirs.  Now you in reality have acquired all these spiritual children free and gratis, and that is better than having physical children; for such children are not grateful to their fathers, since they feel that the father serveth them because he must — and therefore no matter what he doeth for them, they pay it no mind. Spiritual children, however, are always appreciative of their father’s loving kindness. This verily is out of the grace of thy Lord, the Beneficent.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 273-274)

Teachers of children’s classes have every reason to feel pride:

O thou teacher of the children of the kingdom! Thou hast arisen to perform a service which would justly entitle thee to vaunt thyself over all the teachers on earth. For the teachers of this world make use of human education to develop the powers, whether spiritual or material, of humankind, whilst thou art training these young plants in the gardens of God according to the education of Heaven, and art giving them the lessons of the Kingdom. The result of this kind of teaching will be that it will attract the blessings of God, and make manifest the perfections of man.  Hold thou fast to this kind of teaching, for the fruits of it will be very great. (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 274-275)

 

How has this helped you understand the topic better?  Post your comments below!

Bahá’í Involvement in Politics

 

It’s election season again, which always generates both discussion and confusion about what Bahá’ís can and can’t do, so I thought I’d delve into the Bahá’í Writings to help find some answers.

Why Would We Want to Get Involved in Politics?

We’re desperately searching for solutions to social and economic problems:

The desperate search for solutions to the social and economic problems afflicting these countries is tempting people, in increasing numbers, to indulge in partisan political activities; the indigenous Bahá’ís should refuse to be drawn into such divisive pursuits.  (The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 153, 1996 – Australia, the Cook Islands…)

We think we can somehow aid our fellows better by some activity outside the Faith:

It is often through our misguided feeling that we can somehow aid our fellows better by some activity outside the Faith, that Bahá’ís are led to indulge in politics. This is a dangerous delusion. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 31-32)

What is the Bahá’í standard?

Conversation:

We can’t speak a word of politics:

O handmaid of the Lord! Speak thou no word of politics.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 92-93)

We can’t assign blame, take side, further designs, or identify ourselves with any system prejudicial to the best interests of the world:

In such controversies they should assign no blame, take no side, further no design, and identify themselves with no system prejudicial to the best interests of that world-wide-Fellowship which it is their aim to guard and foster. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 448)

We can’t either side with or denounce any political figures:

The Guardian wishes me to draw the attention of the friends through you that they should be very careful in their public utterances not to mention any political figures-either side with them of denounce them. This is the first fact to bear in mind. Otherwise they will involve the friends in political matters, which is infinitely dangerous for the Cause.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 441)

We can’t express support or opposition for a candidate during an election:

During an election season, however, an incumbent is often an electoral candidate and neither support nor opposition should be expressed for the candidacy.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, To the American Bahá’í community, September 14, 2012)

We can’t be drawn into what might become divisive debates on governmental policies:

As many of you are aware from media reports, on Friday 7 September the Government of Canada announced that it had closed its Embassy in Tehran and declared all Iranian diplomats in Canada personae non gratae, requiring that they leave the country within five days. The National Spiritual Assembly seeks your assistance in advising the Bahá’í community that Bahá’í institutions have no comment to make on the government’s decision, which concerns relations between states.  It will also be helpful to remind the friends to scrupulously avoid being drawn into what may become divisive debates surrounding this issue, recalling the guidance of the beloved Guardian: “Let them (the Bahá’ís) refrain from associating themselves, whether by word or by deed, with the political pursuits of their respective nations, with the policies of their governments and the schemes and programs of parties and factions.”  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Canada, To all Local Spiritual Assemblies, 11 September 2012)

Political Involvement:

We can’t associate with the political pursuits of our countries, with the politics of their governments and the schemes and programs of parties and factions:

Let them refrain from associating themselves, whether by word or by deed, with the political pursuits of their prospective nations, with the politics of their governments and the schemes and programs of parties and factions. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 448)

We can’t actively support an individual who has announced his candidacy for political office:

Active support of an individual who has announced his candidacy for political office is not permissible to Baháís. (Universal House of Justice, May 25, 1992)

We can’t express support for one political candidate over another:

Bahá’u’lláh has written that “He Who is your Lord, the All-Merciful, cherisheth in His heart the desire of beholding the entire human race as one soul and one body.”; The mere self-characterization of candidates as opponents of one another is inconsistent with this approach, let alone the much more censurable practices now taken for granted in political campaigns. Thus, it is clear that a Bahá’í would not express support for one political candidate over another.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, To the American Bahá’í community, September 14, 2012)

We can’t provide written and oral endorsements, praise or criticize a candidate or post a candidate’s photo on a social media site:

Written and oral endorsements, together with praise or criticism of a candidate, would fall into this category. Nor would he or she take actions that could be easily interpreted, during the electoral season, as support for one candidate over another, such as the posting of a candidate’s photo on a social media site. The National Assembly is confident that the friends will take this guidance to heart, given the following standard set by Shoghi Effendi: “Absolute impartiality in the matter of political parties should be shown by words and by deeds.” (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, To the American Bahá’í community, September 14, 2012)

We can’t seek political power; accept governmental political posts; affiliate themselves with political parties; become entangled in partisan issues, or participate in programmes tied to the divisive agendas of any group or faction:

Bahá’ís do not seek political power. They will not accept political posts in their respective governments, whatever the particular system in place, though they will take up positions which they deem to be purely administrative in nature. They will not affiliate themselves with political parties, become entangled in partisan issues, or participate in programmes tied to the divisive agendas of any group or faction.  (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

We can’t allow ourselves to become the tools of unscrupulous politicians:

Let them beware lest they allow themselves to become the tools of unscrupulous politicians, or to be entrapped by the treacherous devices of the plotters and the perfidious among their countrymen. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 448)

We can’t be party to any instigation to overthrow a government or interfere in political relations between the governments of different nations:

Bahá’ís will not be party to any instigation to overthrow a government. Nor will they interfere in political relations between the governments of different nations.  This does not mean that they are naive about political processes in the world today and make no distinction between just and tyrannical rule.  (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

What Can We Do?

Voting:

We can vote in civil elections, as long as we do not have to identify ourselves with any party in order to do so:

Bahá’ís vote in civil elections, as long as they do not have to identify themselves with any party in order to do so. (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

We can keep the candidate who we vote for strictly confidential:

The candidate for whom a Bahá’í votes remains a strictly private matter.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, To the American Bahá’í community, September 14, 2012)

We can vote for those who believe in God:

Also from the Suriy-i-Muluk: “Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful. This, indeed, is the truth, the undoubted truth. He that acteth treacherously towards God will, also, act treacherously towards his king. Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbour, nothing can induce him to walk uprightly.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 313)

Jobs:

We can take up positions which are purely administrative in nature:

. . . they will take up positions which they deem to be purely administrative in nature. (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

We can distinguish between such posts and functions as are either diplomatic or political from those that are purely administrative and which under no circumstances are affected by the changes and chances of political activities and party governments:

It is their duty to strive to distinguish, as clearly as they possibly can, and if needed with the aid of their elected representative, such posts and functions as are either diplomatic or political from those that are purely administrative in character, and which under no circumstances are affected by the changes and chances that political activities and party government, in every land, must necessarily involve. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 448)

Conversation:

We can speak well of politicians:

Except to speak well of them, make thou no mention of the earth’s kings, and the worldly governments thereof.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 92-93)

We can respect those, particularly women, who choose to pursue political aspirations or to engage in political activity:

At the same time, Bahá’ís respect those who, out of a sincere desire to serve their countries, choose to pursue political aspirations or to engage in political activity.  (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

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… (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 135)

We can rise above all particularism and partisanship, vain disputes, petty calculations and transient passions:

Let them rise above all particularism and partisanship, above the vain disputes, the petty calculations, transient passions that agitate the face, and engage the intention, of a challenging world. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 448)

We can engage in public discourse on issues of general concern to society, based on Bahá’í principles such as global climate change, race unity, the advancement of women, global prosperity etc.

Notwithstanding the guidance above, the friends are encouraged to engage in public discourse on issues of general concern to society, many of which are also addressed by political candidates. Our contributions should be based on Bahá’í principles rather than partisan viewpoints. Material related to issues as varied as global climate change, race unity, the advancement of women, and global prosperity, produced under the guidance of the Universal House of Justice and various National Spiritual Assemblies, is readily available to assist the friends in such discussions.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, To the American Bahá’í community, September 14, 2012)

We can spread the blissful tidings of the Kingdom of God; demonstrate the influence of the Word of God; tell of abiding joy, spiritual delights and godlike qualities; and of f the blowing of the spirit of life into the body of the world:

Rather, confine thine utterance to spreading the blissful tidings of the Kingdom of God, and demonstrating the influence of the Word of God, and the holiness of the Cause of God. Tell thou of abiding joy and spiritual delights, and godlike qualities, and of how the Sun of Truth hath risen above the earth’s horizons: tell of the blowing of the spirit of life into the body of the world.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 92-93)

Bahá’í Involvement:

We can acquire a more profound insight into the nature of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, which offers a pattern for a future society:

[We] should strive to acquire a more profound insight into the nature of the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, which offers a pattern for a future society distinguished by justice and unity, far removed from the contention of competing political interests.  (The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 153, 1996 – Australia, the Cook Islands…)

We can stand firmly and unreservedly for the way of Bahá’u’lláh:

Let them affirm their unyielding determination to stand, firmly and unreservedly, for the way of Bahá’u’lláh, to avoid the entanglements and bickerings inseparable from the pursuits of the politician, and to become worthy agencies of that divine policy which incarnates God’s immutable Purpose for all men.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 448)

We can pray and be well-wishers of elected governmental officials:

Bahá’ís are the “well-wishers” of the [elected governmental office holders], praying that they may be guided to take action for the betterment of society; but believers must be strictly neutral in connection with [electoral candidates]. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, To the American Bahá’í community, September 14, 2012)

We can sacrifice our political pursuits and affiliations and wholeheartedly and fully support the divine system of Bahá’u’lláh:

The world situation is so confused and moral issues which were once clear have become so mixed up with selfish and battling factions, that the best way Bahá’ís can serve the highest interests of their country and the cause of true salvation for the world, is to sacrifice their political pursuits and affiliations and wholeheartedly and fully support the divine system of Bahá’u’lláh.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 444)

We can shape our lives and regulate our conduct so that no charge secrecy, fraud, bribery or intimidation may be brought against us:

Let them so shape their lives and regulate their conduct that no charge secrecy, of fraud, of bribery or of intimidation may, however ill-founded, be brought against them. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 448)

We can build up our Bahá’í system, and leave the faulty systems of the world to go their own way:

We must build up our Bahá’í system, and leave the faulty systems of the world to go their own way. We cannot change them through becoming involved in them; on the contrary they will destroy us.  (Shoghi Effendi, Wellspring of Guidance, p. 134-135)

 Why Don’t We Get Involved?

The Bahá’í goal of establishing the unity of humankind includes our support for the organization of the countries of the world in a global federal system and requires a re-orientation of how each element of society views and interacts with each other:

In contrast, the Bahá’í goal of establishing the unity of humankind includes not only our support for the eventual organization of the countries of the world in a global federal system, but requires a re-orientation of how each element of society; individuals, families, civic organizations, towns, racial and ethnic groups, classes, and nations; views and interacts with all other elements of society.  (NSA-USA, to the American Bahá’í Community, September 14, 2012)

Non-involvement in politics is not intended as a statement expressing some fundamental objection to politics in its true sense; indeed we understand that humanity organizes itself through its political affairs:

The approach adopted by the Bahá’í community of non-involvement in such activity is not intended as a statement expressing some fundamental objection to politics in its true sense; indeed, humanity organizes itself through its political affairs.  (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

We view government as a system for maintaining the welfare and orderly progress of a society, and we observe the laws of the land in which we reside:

In this connection, they view government as a system for maintaining the welfare and orderly progress of a society, and they undertake, one and all, to observe the laws of the land in which they reside, without allowing their inner religious beliefs to be violated.  (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

Society is disintegrating so rapidly that moral issues, which were clear a half century ago, are now hopelessly confused and mixed up with battling political interests:

What we Bahá’ís must face is the fact that society is disintegrating so rapidly that moral issues which were clear a half century ago are now hopelessly confused and, what is more, thoroughly mixed up with battling political interests. That is why Bahá’ís must turn all their forces into the channel of building up the Bahá’í Cause and its administration. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 31-32)

The divisive nature of politics runs counter to the belief that unity is essential to the progress of civilization:

The divisive nature of politics runs counter to the fundamental Bahá’í belief that unity is essential to the progress of civilization. (NSA-USA, to the American Bahá’í Community, September 14, 2012)

The near paralysis of elected governments bears witness to the enervating effects of partisanship:

The near paralysis of elected governments today, not just at the national level, but with growing frequency at the state and local levels, bears witness to the enervating effects of partisanship. (NSA-USA, to the American Bahá’í Community, September 14, 2012)

We can’t seek to establish patterns of thought and action that give expression to the principle of oneness yet engage in activities which reinforce an entirely different set of assumptions about social existence:

Within the framework traced out by the above ideas, then, it is possible to consider the second dimension of the Bahá’í community’s efforts to contribute to the advancement of civilization: its involvement in society at large. Clearly what Bahá’ís see as one aspect of their contribution cannot contradict the other. They cannot be seeking to establish patterns of thought and action that give expression to the principle of oneness within their community, yet engage in activities in another context which, to whatever extent, reinforce an entirely different set of assumptions about social existence.  (Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)

Promoting someone’s candidacy over that of other competitors is an act of partisanship, which is inimical to the principles of the Faith:

Even if the person is not attached to a political party, the very fact of promoting his candidacy over that of other competitors is an act of partisanship, which is inimical to the principles of the Faith.  (Universal House of Justice, May 25, 1992)

The political realm pertains only to the Rulers of those matters: it has nothing to do with the souls who are exerting their utmost energy to harmonizing affairs, helping character and inciting (the people) to strive for perfections:

If any person wishes to speak of government affairs, or to interfere with the order of Governors, the others must not combine with him because the Cause of God is withdrawn entirely from political affairs; the political realm pertains only to the Rulers of those matters: it has nothing to do with the souls who are exerting their utmost energy to harmonizing affairs, helping character and inciting (the people) to strive for perfections. Therefore no soul is allowed to interfere with (political) matters, but only in that which is commanded.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 407)

Our task concerns the life of the soul, for this leads to our joy in the world:

Thy task concerneth the life of the soul, for this verily leadeth to man’s joy in the world of God. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Selections From the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 92-93)

The Bahá’ís would find themselves arousing antagonism instead of love

If the institutions of the Faith, God forbid, became involved in politics, the Bahá’ís would find themselves arousing antagonism instead of love. If they took one stand in one country, they would be bound to change the views of the people in other countries about the aims and purposes of the Faith.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 444)

If we build up the Bahá’í pattern, we can offer it as a remedy when all else has failed:

They can neither change nor help the world in any other way at present. If they become involved in the issues the governments of the world are struggling over, they will be lost. But if they build up the Bahá’í pattern they can offer it as a remedy when all else has failed.  (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 31-32)

We cannot change them through becoming involved in them; on the contrary, they will destroy us:

We must build up our Bahá’í system, and leave the faulty systems of the world to go their way. We cannot change them through becoming involved in them; on the contrary, they will destroy us.  (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 31-32)

Instead of changing the world or helping it, we would become lost and destroyed:

By becoming involved in political disputes, the Bahá’ís instead of changing the world or helping it, would themselves be lost and destroyed.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 444)

How has this helped you understand what we can and cannot do; and why?  Post your comments below!