Over the course of the development of the Baha'i Administration a concept has entered the Faith that women do not have the right to share the highest seat of authority with men on the Universal House of Justice.
"Yet another of the teachings of Baha'u'llah is the equality of men and women and their equal sharing of all rights." ('Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, pg. 249)
The following document explains why women have the right to be elected as honored members of that body.
If there be justice, this will be acknowledged; but there are some people who, even if all the proofs in the world be adduced before them, still will not judge justly! ('Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 36)
AN EXPLANATION OF THE ISSUE FROM THE APPOINTED BODY OF
THE UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE:
The service of women on Houses of Justice has been controversial ever since 'Abdu'l-Baha began setting up the administration with the early formation of local spiritual assemblies. Women were first put on local assemblies in the West, where sexism was not so deeply rooted as in the East. This formation of assemblies began early in the first decade of this century. At first women were not allowed on assemblies even in America. They served separately on "Assemblies of Teaching" and were not eligible for membership on the Local Spiritual Assembly. When questioned about this 'Abdu'l-Baha said,
The House of Justice, however, according to the positive commandments of the Doctrine of God, has been specialized to the men, for a (specific) reason or exercise of wisdom on the part of God, and this reason will presently appear, even as the sun at midday. (Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 90, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 80)
'Abdu'l-Baha made this statement sometime during the years 1906-09, it was not a statement for all time but for that specific time. It was in response to a question he received. He was not talking about the Universal House of Justice, which was a long way from coming into existence; he was talking about the current situation of the local assemblies which did not have women members at that time. This was why questions were being asked on this subject.
The reason 'Abdu'l-Baha was exercising wisdom and discretion was because of the prejudices of the people. In other words, 'Abdu'l-Baha provided this answer, not because it was intended as a permanent state of affairs, but because it was needed due to the exigencies of that time.
Gradually the situation changed. In April of 1910 'Abdu'l-Baha said,
The Spiritual Assemblies which are organized for the sake of teaching the Truth, whether assemblies for men, assemblies for women or mixed assemblies, are all accepted and are conducive to the spreading of the Fragrances of God. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, p. 411)
This was to do away with the segregation into male and female assemblies, at least on assemblies for teaching. The actual Spiritual Assembly gradually became integrated from this point onward. The situation in the Mid-East was more difficult. For a long time women were still not able to serve on local assemblies.
This was because some of the believers were adamant that Baha'u'llah had used the Arabic word "rijal" (translated into English as "men") in reference to the House of Justice. To this day there is much confusion surrounding this issue, stemming from prejudice and from the English/Arabic language barrier. What is the reality of this word "rijal"?
MEANING OF THE WORD RIJAL
According to the Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic (Hans Wehr), "rajul" (pl. rijal) means "man" and its derivatives mean "great, important men, leading personalities, men of distinction." And, in context, in expressions and phrases it means "statesmen, informants, sources of information." These usages of the word are generic and are not strictly specific to men. When Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha used the term "Rijal of Justice" it referred to both the male and female members of the Houses of Justice and was generic. 'Abdu'l-Baha said,
In Persian and Arabic there are two distinct words translated into English as man: one meaning man and woman collectively, the other distinguishing man as male from woman the female. The first word and its pronoun are generic, collective; the other is restricted to the male. This is the same in Hebrew. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 76)
The Hebrew word for man which is restricted to the male is "zakar" (Strong's Concordance, #2145) this is the equivalent of the Arabic "dakar." The first letter in the Arabic word "dakar" is also transliterated as dh, giving a transliterated spelling of dhakar. Shoghi Effendi instructed that the letter dh should be pronounced with a "z" sound. (Baha'i World, Vol. 12, also, Baha'i Administration, p. 48, and Light of Divine Guidance, Vol. 1, p. 49) Thus dhakar would be pronounced "zakar." This shows that it is actually the same word probably stemming from the Hebrew and Arabic parent language, Aramaic. Also, variations of both the Hebrew "zakar" and the Arabic "dhakar" mean "to remember" further showing that this is the same word.
Thus, when we investigate we find that the Arabic word "dakar" (pl. dukur) which means "male" and which is sometimes translated "man" and "men" is the word `Abdu'l-Baha intended by "the other distinguishing man as male from woman the female... is restricted to the male." The Arabic "dakar" is never translated generically to include women because it is not generic in the slightest. A derivative of this word means "penis". "Rajul" (pl. rijal) on the other hand, can be translated generically to include women.
An example of generic usage of the word "rijal" is from the Quran. In the Yusuf Ali translation, which is the most respected English translation, Surih 7:155 and Surih 72:6 have the word "rijal" translated as "people" and "persons" respectively.
Another example of generic usage of the word "rijal" is found in the book, The Problem of Diglossia in Arabic. On page 78, the Arabic word "rijal" is translated as "people" and "person." On page 79, an example of the usage of "rijal" in a phrase is given, 'ir-rijjal iddayi' haqqa mayiskut' which was then translated, 'the person who's right is squandered will not remain silent.'
Yet another example of its generic usage is in a book title, Rijal-i Iran, dar Qarn-i 12 and 13 Hijry. This is a Persian history book of important people (rijal) of the last 200 years that includes Tahirih and other women.
Baha'u'llah and 'Abdu'l-Baha didn't speak English. They spoke Persian and Arabic. They never said "men." They said "rijal." We must ask ourselves: Who are these "rijal" of the House of Justice? What does it mean that the House of Justice is confined to the "rijal"?
In the religion of God, the word "rijal" refers to the believers, both men and women.
According to the Will and Testament of 'Abdu'l-Baha, the Universal House of Justice is to be elected by "universal suffrage," meaning that all people are to participate, and then he adds, "that is, by the believers," showing that the Universal House of Justice, as well as the houses on the local and national levels, is confined to the believers. This concept of the word "rijal" meaning the true believers in every day and age is attested to throughout Baha'i history.
The Baha'i Glossary (Baha'i Glossary, p. 32, compiled by Marzieh Gail) refers to the "Rijal of the Unseen" as that invisible hierarchy of saints thanks to whose intercessions the cosmic order endures. This refers to the Concourse on High which is made up of all the believers both men and women. Can you imagine heaven being males only? That would be hell. According to Muhammad, heaven is filled with beautiful women. Obviously heaven is confined to the believers ("rijal"), whereas there is a whole other place for those that do not believe.
Likewise, Shayk-Ahmad, the first forerunner of the Bab, was said to be an expert in the science of Rijal. The "ridjal" in Islam were those faithful men and women who were the accurate transmitters of the Hadith. This gave rise to giant "ridjal" lexicons that included the histories and biographies of these faithful men and women, all of whom are referred to as "ridjal." Again these faithful ones, these "ridjal," can only be of the believers.
The Arabic word "rijal" which in common usage came to be used to mean "men" actually means "believers." We find a similar situation in the changing meaning of the English word "man." Its original meaning was "to think" and the word "man" designated those who had the intellect, the humans. In common usage it was understood to mean only "men" as in males because the females were thought to be sub-human. In many cultures women were viewed as not even having a soul. Thus they were thought not to have the force of the human spirit, the ability to think in the abstract, the ability to fulfill God's purpose in creating mankind, and thus they were not counted as men, they were not counted as human. Today the people know better. The English language often uses the words man and men generically to include females as well as males. What makes them "man" is not their sex organs but the fact that they have a soul.
In this Dispensation those who are counted as "rijal" are those who are believers, those who are fulfilling the purpose for which God created mankind in the first place. Baha'u'llah said that women who were believers in His Manifestation were counted as being men:
Throughout the centuries and ages many a man hath waited expectant for God's Revelation, and yet when the Light shone forth from the horizon of the world, all but a few turned their faces away from it. Whosoever from amongst the handmaidens hath recognized the Lord of all Names is recorded in the Book as one of those men by the Pen of the Most High.
Baha'u'llah, Women, p. 359; see also Women, p. 4 #7
In the Kitab-i-Aqdas, the word "rijal" refers specifically to those believers, both men and women, who are eligible for election by plurality ballot to the membership of the local, national and universal Houses of Justice.
The wisdom of this, which was to be revealed in the future, is that it will be important to specify that only believers are eligible to election, as there will be a transition phase during which the secular peoples of the world will be interacting with the Baha'i government. The faith is to evolve through an era of transition with living creatures beside the wheels within wheels, (See Ezekiel 1:15:21) i.e., we will have a parallel system of religious courts next to that of the secular courts and eventually these will all be under the authority of the Supreme Tribunal (the 3rd stage of the UHJ) which has both men and women on it, all of whom will be believers.
'Abdu'l-Baha knew that it was his Father's intent to have women serve fully in every level of the administration. In a Tablet in Paris Talks he writes of women:
In no movement will they be left behind... They will enter all the administrative branches of politics... They will attain in all such a degree as will be considered the very highest station of the world of humanity and will take part in all affairs. Rest ye assured. Do ye not look upon the present conditions; in the not far distant future the world of women will become all-refulgent and all-glorious, For His Holiness Baha'u'llah Hath Willed It so! . . . the entrance of women into all human departments is an irrefutable and incontrovertible question. No soul can retard or prevent it.
'Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 182-184
When 'Abdu'l-Baha put women on the local spiritual assemblies these prejudiced ones were forced to accept it but they assumed that even though women were on local assemblies they wouldn't be on the national or universal ones. There was an assumption that since the text said "rijal," somewhere along the line women were going to be excluded from God's Plan.
'Abdu'l-Baha knew they were misconstruing his, and his Father's, statements but he did nothing to clear up the matter. He stated that the wisdom of this would become known in the future like the sun at noon day. This meant that because of the extreme prejudice of the people the light of equality of men and women could only be revealed gradually.
Some examples showing the gradual introduction of the equality of men and women in Islamic countries follow.
In India and Burma: On December 27th, 1923 Shoghi Effendi informed the Baha'is of India and Burma that women were now eligible to serve on local and national spiritual assemblies.
In Iran: In 1947 the National Assembly of Iran started a 4-year plan which included the promotion of the interests of women members of the community. In October of 1952, Shoghi Effendi, announcing the goals of the upcoming 10-year plan for Persia (1953-63), listed the membership of women on local and national assemblies, thus ordering that nation to make the equality of women a reality. This goal was achieved, after the passage of two years, in 1954. The fact that it wasn't achieved immediately shows the high level of resistance to it, even in the face of a direct order from the Guardian.
In Egypt: In April of 1951, the right of membership on local assemblies was extended to women believers in Egypt. In April of 1956 women achieved the right to serve on the National Assembly in Egypt and to serve as delegates to the National Convention.
Even though Shoghi Effendi specifically established that women were eligible to serve on Local and National Spiritual Assemblies throughout the Middle-East and Asia, a perusal of Local Spiritual Assembly photos found in the Baha'i World volumes (from the 1950s up to recently) shows that, shockingly, the nature of prejudice against women was still to such an incredible extent in the Middle-East, Asia, Japan, Indonesia and in predominately Islamic areas of Africa, that women were rarely ever elected, and when they were it was in very scant numbers (sometimes one, maybe two).
When Shoghi Effendi put women on the national spiritual assemblies
these prejudiced ones were forced to accept it but they
found hope in their assumption that even though women were
eligible to election on local and national assemblies the
UHJ would still be confined to men. They could rest assured
that the Universal House of Justice would be a last bastion
for male isolation from the presence of women. Also, it
was unthinkable, even blasphemous, to them that the institution
which was to receive Divine Guidance from God and lead the
faith could have women participating on it.
During the interim Shoghi Effendi placated them with assurances that women would not be on the UHJ but he always left the door open for a different interpretation of his statements because he disclaimed any understanding of what 'Abdu'l-Baha meant in the Tablet on which all of this controversy was based. Thus it was left obscure, making it possible for the UHJ itself to make the proper adjustments later on.
On January 9, 1951 Shoghi Effendi finally announced the formation of the International Baha'i Council (IBC). This was in a cablegram announcing the formation of the first embryonic council, called the first International Baha'i Council, which would effloresce through a four-stage process and eventually become the Universal House of Justice. In his first cablegram, Shoghi Effendi did not explain that women would be appointed to the embryonic stage of the UHJ. Knowing that 'Abdu'l-Baha stated the embryo possesses from the first all perfections of the adult, ('Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 231) the believers assumed the embryonic institution would not include women. Also, many of the older, established, and respected Baha'is were happy about this, thinking that they could finally get Shoghi Effendi on there and outvote him. But this was not to be because Shoghi Effendi had decided to appoint all the members himself.
Two months later Shoghi Effendi announced that he had placed 'Abdu'l-Baha's son at the head of the IBC with a woman for the vice-president. A year later, in early March of 1952, Shoghi Effendi took decisive action announcing the appointed members, with women comprising more than one-half of the membership of the embryonic council of the Universal House of Justice. Not only that, but in this announcement he also notified them that he had appointed a woman as his representative (his liaison officer)! Shoghi Effendi was infallibly guided to place women on that council, in spite of the prejudices of the believers against women.
These prejudiced ones were appalled and furious. They wrote strong letters to put pressure on Shoghi Effendi. We don't know whether these letters were nasty notes or vicious diatribes at the beloved guardian, but we know what the effect was.
In his Will and Testament, 'Abdu'l-Baha says Shoghi Effendi is "tender" and that the friends were to "take the greatest care of Shoghi Effendi... that no dust of despondency and sorrow may stain his radiant nature..." Shoghi Effendi was a delicate and sensitive soul. When he was a small child a European pilgrim said of him, "Master, if I may speak openly, I must say that in this boy's face are the dark eyes of a sufferer, one who will suffer a great deal!" 'Abdu'l-Baha said in response, "My grandson does not have the eyes of a trailblazer, a fighter or a victor, but in his eyes one sees deep loyalty, perseverance and conscientiousness." (both quotes) The Priceless Pearl, p. 12
When Shoghi Effendi was loaded with the responsibility of leading God's Cause at the age of only twenty-five years, many of the Baha'is felt it was a mistake that he had been made head of the faith. His own mother and grandmother bemoaned the fact, unfavorably comparing him to 'Abdu'l-Baha with the implication that he fell far, far short of what was needed in such a leader.
Shoghi Effendi was small in stature and later on during his ministry one of the ways that he protected himself from being browbeaten by visitors with an agenda was that the friends were not allowed to visit him without an appointment. The arrangements were very formal and structured; when the time was up the person would be escorted out.
In the early years of his ministry he received many challenges to his leadership from Covenant-breakers such as Ahmad Sohrab, Ruth White, also his own relatives who later joined forces with Muhammad-Ali. He had to remove all of these people for Covenant-breaking.
A history of Shoghi Effendi's life (written by Ruhiyyih Khanum) records that even the supposedly loyal friends made subtle challenges against Shoghi Effendi.
There is no doubt in my mind, from things he told me at different times, that in the opening years of his Guardianship he sensed from certain prominent believers a desire to be on a body such as the House of Justice or some interim institution, and that he felt a belittling of his judgment and capacity on their part and a trend to seize the reins of the Cause of God; these were men old enough to be his father, who, whatever their thoughts about the Master's Will, looked upon him in some ways as an inexperienced young man.
Ruhiyyih Rabbani, The Priceless Pearl, p. 250
So Shoghi Effendi could only go just so far in his attempts to set matters aright in relation to the membership of women on the UHJ.
After being questioned about his placement of women on the IBC, Shoghi Effendi relented saying that when the International House of Justice was elected there would only be men on it, but he qualified his statement by prefacing it with,"At present there are women on the International Council, and this will continue as long as it exists,..." (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, p. 80) meaning there will be women on it through all its four stages of existence including the universal stage.
Over the years Shoghi Effendi had received so much resistance from the Baha'is in relation to the membership of women on local and national councils that he played along with their prejudices, mollifying them with the assurance that while women were on local and national houses they would not be on the international one. There was a real danger of the majority of Baha'is, who lived in the Islamic countries, walking out of the faith. Thus he left this battle for the future Universal House of Justice itself to fight.
In spite of the prevailing attitudes, he shrewdly made the following statement in God Passes By:
In it [the Aqdas] He [Baha'u'llah] formally ordains the institution of the "House of Justice," defines its functions, fixes its revenues, and designates its members as the "Men of Justice," the "Deputies of God," the "Trustees of the All-Merciful,"...
Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 214
If we carefully read this, judging justly, we can perceive that Shoghi Effendi is talking about all the Houses of Justice when he says "the institution of the House of Justice."
This is because not only does Shoghi Effendi not specify any particular one, but here he is itemizing the provisions of the Aqdas and the Aqdas ordains both the local and the universal houses. Shoghi Effendi doesn't itemize the local and universal ones separately, so we can perceive that he is speaking collectively of the Houses of Justice when he says:
In it [the Aqdas] He [Baha'u'llah] formally ordains the institution of the "House of Justice," defines its functions, fixes its revenues, and designates its members as the "Men of Justice," the "Deputies of God," the "Trustees of the All-Merciful,"...
Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 214
This means that all of these expressions, including the expression "Men of Justice" (in the Aqdas-Arabic: Rijal u'l-'Adl) designate the members of the Local Houses of Justice as well as the members of the universal one. (Of course this would include the national ones also.)
So the expression "Men of Justice" (Rijal u'l-'Adl) definitely includes the members of Local Houses of Justice.
At the time Shoghi Effendi wrote "God Passes By" (where the above-referenced itemization of the Aqdas occurs) in the early 1940s, women were already serving as members on local and national Baha'i assemblies (Houses of Justice) in most of the countries of the world where these assemblies could be found. This was not an accident but had been deliberately prescribed, sometimes even enforced, by 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi.
This shows that "Men of Justice" (Rijal u'l-'Adl) is an expression applying to the membership of any of the Houses of Justice, including those that already had women on them. Meaning, when Baha'u'llah, according to Shoghi Effendi, used the phrase "Men of Justice" He was referring to Houses of Justice comprised of both male and female members.
In other words, the expression in Arabic "Rijal u'l-'Adl" (Men of Justice) used by Baha'u'llah in the Aqdas, designates all the members, both male and female, of the Houses of Justice.
This means the Arabic word "rijal" (translated into English as "men") is inclusive of women whenever it is used in relation to membership of Houses of Justice, and it also means the Arabic word "rijal" is not exclusive of women whenever it is used in relation to membership on Houses of Justice.
Therefore, from his explanation in "God Passes By" it is reasonable to assume that Shoghi Effendi understood that:
* The term "rijal" did not exclude women from membership on Local Houses of Justice (local assemblies).
* The term "rijal" did not exclude women from membership on National Houses of Justice (national assemblies).
Baha'u'llah's use of the term "rijal" in the Aqdas in reference to the House of Justice, was not intended to mean women were to be excluded from membership on local and national houses of justice. Therefore the Arabic word "rijal" cannot be construed to have that meaning.
How, then, could the term "rijal" be construed to mean that women were to be excluded from membership on the Universal House of Justice?
The term "rijal" cannot be construed to mean that women are to be excluded from membership on the Universal House of Justice, any more than the term "rijal" could be construed to mean women are excluded from membership on local and national Houses of Justice. Judge fairly!
Shoghi Effendi knew this.
* He knew the term "rijal" did not exclude women from membership on Local Houses of Justice (local assemblies).
* He knew the term "rijal" did not exclude women from membership on National Houses of Justice (national assemblies).
* And likewise, Shoghi Effendi knew the term "rijal" did not exclude women from membership on the Universal House of Justice. This is why he placed women on the embryonic Universal House of Justice, and why he stated that women would be on it for as long as it existed (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, p. 80).
So, in the Aqdas we find that Baha'u'llah uses the word "rijal" in referring to the members of the House of Justice. This reference does not refer exclusively to the members of the Universal House. It does not refer to any House of Justice in particular. There is no link between the word "rijal" and the Universal House specifically. In the Aqdas, Baha'u'llah does not distinguish between the local, national and Universal Houses of Justice.
Shoghi Effendi disclaimed any understanding of what 'Abdu'l-Baha meant in the Tablet on which all of this controversy is based. He said:
The Baha'is should accept this statement of the Master in a spirit of deep faith, confident that there is a divine guidance and wisdom behind it, which will be gradually unfolded to the eyes of the world.
Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, p. 79
...the Master said the wisdom... would become manifest in the future. We have no other indication than this.
Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, p. 80
As the Master says the wisdom of this will be known in the future, we can only accept, believing it is right but not able to give an explanation...
Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Divine Guidance, p. 613
The reason Shoghi Effendi could not give an explanation for why women couldn't be on the UHJ was because there is no explanation. There was no reason for this other than the people's prejudices and opposition to it. So he deliberately left it obscure, which places it under the jurisdiction of the UHJ itself to decide on.
Shoghi Effendi's statements to the effect that there would be no women on the UHJ were only given to appease the prejudiced mind-set of the vast majority of Baha'is who resided in the Islamic countries of the Middle-East. This stance of appeasement was sometimes employed, out of discretion, by 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi in response to deeply ingrained attitudes among the people.
Some examples of this are the statements of 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi against men having two wives even though this is allowed in the Aqdas. That was on behalf of Westerners who find the concept offensive. Another example is 'Abdu'l-Baha's and Shoghi Effendi's statements of agreement with the Catholic doctrine of the immaculate conception of Jesus (meaning He did not have a human father). This was on behalf of the Christians. Another example is that when local assemblies were established in America, statements were made that these were not political and had nothing to do with material affairs or with a government. The name "House of Spirituality, or "Spiritual Assembly" was even substituted for the name "House of Justice!" This was to appease the government.
If we examine the writings we will find several more examples. The purpose of this was partly out of mercy to the ones who held these beliefs to ease their transition into the Faith, and partly to protect the newly born Faith from too much opposition by pacifying these segments of the population. 'Abdu'l-Baha said that when the doctor has a sick patient he might lie to him and tell him there is hope, so in cases like these, while lying is normally wrong, in such an instance it is not blameworthy.
Shoghi Effendi said,
If certain instructions of the Master are today particularly emphasized and scrupulously adhered to, let us be sure that they are but provisional measures designed to guard and protect the Cause in its present state of infancy and growth until the day when this tender and precious plant shall have sufficiently grown to be able to withstand the unwisdom of its friends and the attacks of its enemies.
Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 63
This shows that, in relation to the reality of women's membership on all levels of the institution of the House of Justice, appeasement was necessary on behalf of the sexism of Baha'i men of Islamic background. Many of the Baha'is of Islamic countries were heedless behind thick veils and rooted in the darkness of their apostate Islamic culture. In the Mid-East the oppression of women is even more severe, extreme and entrenched than it is in the West. So, the reality of woman's equality with man had to be introduced and established very slowly amongst the peoples of the world, even in the West.
When the sun dawns over the horizon it doesn't immediately jump to the brilliancy of high-noon, for if it did all life would wither and this is not in conformity with the method of God. The sun dawns gently and gradually giving the creatures of earth time to adjust to its brightness. Likewise, the spiritual rays of the Realities of the Baha'i Revelation, must be unveiled slowly, rising gradually to their zenith. This is Mercy on the part of God.
Know of a certainty that in every Dispensation the light of Divine Revelation hath been vouchsafed unto men in direct proportion to their spiritual capacity. Consider the sun. How feeble its rays the moment it appeareth above the horizon. How gradually its warmth and potency increase as it approacheth its zenith, enabling meanwhile all created things to adapt themselves to the growing intensity of its light. How steadily it declineth until it reacheth its setting point. Were it, all of a sudden, to manifest the energies latent within it, it would, no doubt, cause injury to all created things... In like manner, if the Sun of Truth were suddenly to reveal, at the earliest stages of its manifestation, the full measure of the potencies which the providence of the Almighty hath bestowed upon it, the earth of human understanding would waste away and be consumed; for men's hearts would neither sustain the intensity of its revelation, nor be able to mirror forth the radiance of its light. Dismayed and overpowered, they would cease to exist. (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings, p. 87-88)
The outer sun is a sign or symbol of the inner and ideal Sun of Truth, the Word of God. Inasmuch as this is the century of light, it is evident that the Sun of Reality, the Word, has revealed itself to all humankind. One of the potentialities hidden in the realm of humanity was the capability or capacity of womanhood. Through the effulgent rays of divine illumination the capacity of woman has become so awakened and manifest in this age that equality of man and woman is an established fact. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 74)
So, the light of woman's equality with man could only dawn gradually over the hearts of the Baha'is, in a spirit of patience, especially with those from an Islamic background, corresponding to the degree of fanatical prejudice, on their part, against this equality.
'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi knew that they had been appointed by God to serve in a transitional capacity because the world at large, even the Baha'is, were not ready for the Universal House of Justice to be established. Their service was for the exigency of the time, the needs of the people of that time, and they knew that anything they set up for the exigency of that time would later be rectified as necessary by God's Universal House of Justice. Shoghi Effendi said,
It should also be borne in mind that the machinery of the Cause has been so fashioned, that whatever is deemed necessary to incorporate into it in order to keep it in the forefront of all progressive movements, can, according to the provisions made by Baha'u'llah, be safely embodied therein. To this testify the words of Baha'u'llah, as recorded in the Eighth Leaf of the exalted Paradise: "It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable to them. God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth, and He, verily, is the Provider, the Omniscient."... the House of Justice [has] been invested by Baha'u'llah with the authority to legislate whatsoever has not been explicitly and outwardly recorded in His holy Writ... Such is the immutability of His revealed Word. Such is the elasticity which characterizes the functions of His appointed ministers. The first preserves the identity of His Faith, and guards the integrity of His law. The second enables it, even as a living organism, to expand and adapt itself to the needs and requirements of an ever-changing society. (Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 22-3)
Today this House finds that there is nothing explicitly or expressly recorded in the Aqdas about women's membership on the UHJ.
This is what the Aqdas does say,
We have decreed that a third part of all fines shall go to the Seat of Justice, and We admonish its men [rijal] to observe pure justice, that they may expend what is thus accumulated for such purposes as have been enjoined upon them by Him Who is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. O ye Men [rijal] of Justice! Be ye, in the realm of God, shepherds unto His sheep and guard them from the ravening wolves that have appeared in disguise, even as ye would guard your own sons. Thus exhorteth you the Counsellor, the Faithful. (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 38)
This does not constitute an explicit law on women's membership on the UHJ.
To illustrate what is an explicit law: The Aqdas explicitly reveals that women are not obliged to fast when they are menstruating, lactating or pregnant, for it says, God hath exempted women who are in their courses from obligatory prayer and fasting... those who are with child or giving suck, are not bound by the Fast;... (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 23-24, 25)
There is no explicit statement in the Aqdas that women are not allowed to serve on the Universal House of Justice. So, in accordance with the writings of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi the IBC is within its sphere to decide on this issue. It is clearly established by Baha'u'llah, by 'Abdu'l-Baha, by the texts of the Covenant, and by Shoghi Effendi, that the UHJ has the final authority to decide on anything which is not explicitly revealed in the Aqdas.
It is incumbent upon the Trustees of the House of Justice to take counsel together regarding those things which have not outwardly been revealed in the Book, and to enforce that which is agreeable to them. God will verily inspire them with whatsoever He willeth, and He, verily, is the Provider, the Omniscient. (Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 68)
The Most Holy Book is the Book to which all peoples shall refer, and in it the Laws of God have been revealed. Laws not mentioned in the Book should be referred to the decision of the Universal House of Justice. ( 'Abdu'l-Baha, Establishment of the U.H.J., p. 322 and Persian and Arabic Tablets, Vol. III, p. 499)
Unto this body all things must be referred. It enacteth all ordinances and regulations that are not to be found in the explicit Holy Text. By this body all the difficult problems are to be resolved... ('Abdu'l-Baha, Will and Testament, p. 14)
Unto the Most Holy Book every one must turn, and all that is not expressly recorded therein must be referred to the Universal House of Justice. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Will and Testament, p. 19)
...deliberate upon all problems which have caused difference, questions that are obscure and matters that are not expressly recorded in the Book. Whatsoever they decide has the same effect as the Text itself. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Will and Testament, p. 20)
...the powers and prerogatives of the Universal House of Justice, possessing the exclusive right to legislate on matters not explicitly revealed in the Most Holy Book;... (Shoghi Effendi, God Passes By, p. 326)
What has not been formulated in the Aqdas, in addition to matters of detail and of secondary importance arising out of the application of the laws already formulated by Baha'u'llah, will have to be enacted by the Universal House of Justice. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, p. 3,4)
Therefore this issue is under the sphere of authority of Shoghi Effendi's successor to determine.
Today the Universal House of Justice in its appointed stage determines the truth and purpose of God and no one else! This is because no one other than the true UHJ itself has the interpretive power to truly understand the intent of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi. So, the believers should not allow themselves to be agitated due to the fact that Shoghi Effendi said,
...when the International House of Justice is elected, there will only be men on it, as this is the law of the Aqdas. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, p. 79-80)
He also said,
All matters not specifically provided by Baha'u'llah are to be referred to the Universal House of Justice. (Shoghi Effendi, Huququ'llah, p. 515)
Further, he disclaimed that his authority superseded that of the UHJ's authority to decide on issues related to the Aqdas.
It must be also clearly understood by every believer that the institution of Guardianship [Shoghi Effendi's Guardianship] does not under any circumstances abrogate, or even in the slightest degree detract from, the powers granted to the Universal House of Justice by Baha'u'llah in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and repeatedly and solemnly confirmed by Abdu'l-Baha in His Will.(Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 8)
Those powers granted to the UHJ in the Kitab-i-Aqdas, and confirmed in the Will and Testament, include the authority to decide on those issues which may be related to the Aqdas but which are not explicitly recorded therein. This authority is not revoked in the least by Shoghi Effendi's statements. There is nothing in the Aqdas to establish that women are not to be on the UHJ.
In addition, Shoghi Effendi disclaimed a complete understanding of the Aqdas.
We stand indeed too close to so monumental a document to claim for ourselves a complete understanding of all its implications, or to presume to have grasped the manifold mysteries it undoubtedly contains. (Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 8)
He said that the real meaning of the Aqdas, especially in relation to the constituent elements of the UHJ, were too futuristic for that generation to comprehend.
I consider it my duty to warn every beginner in the Faith that the promised glories of the Sovereignty which the Baha'i teachings foreshadow, can be revealed only in the fullness of time, that the implications of the Aqdas and the Will of Abdu'l-Baha, as the twin repositories of the constituent elements of that Sovereignty, are too far-reaching for this generation to grasp and fully appreciate. (Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 16)
This means that the people of that day were blind to the reality of these things; this was mostly because of their prejudice. He said the UHJ would give a clearer and fuller understanding of these issues.
To attempt to estimate its full value, and grasp its exact significance after so short a time since its inception would be premature and presumptuous on our part. We must trust to time, and the guidance of God's Universal House of Justice, to obtain a clearer and fuller understanding of its provisions and implications. (Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 62-63)
Finally, there is no law in the Aqdas prescribing that only males are eligible to the UHJ. Shoghi Effendi made it clear that he cannot make such a law on his own.
...upon the international elected representatives of the followers of Baha'u'llah has been conferred the exclusive right of legislating on matters not expressly revealed in the Baha'i writings [meaning Baha'u'llah's and 'Abdu'l-Baha's]. Neither the Guardian of the Faith nor any institution apart from the International House of Justice can ever usurp this vital and essential power or encroach upon that sacred right. (Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 153)
Shoghi Effendi did not explain the reason for the statements about women not being on the UHJ. He just said that we should be confident that there was a divine guidance and wisdom behind it, that this wisdom would become manifest in the future and that the meaning would gradually unfold to the eyes of the world. Shoghi Effendi said he was not able to give an explanation about the issue and that he had no indication other than what 'Abdu'l-Baha had said about it. As has already been explained, 'Abdu'l-Baha never said women would not be on the UHJ. His statement that women would not be on the House of Justice referred to the Local Spiritual Assemblies and was only meant as a temporary measure. Later, the people took this completely out of context of the circumstances for which it had been written. When these people, out of prejudice, insisted that it meant women were to be excluded from the UHJ, Shoghi Effendi pretended to go along with it in order to placate them.
Shoghi Effendi made it possible for the UHJ to eventually rectify this, in that he left the issue in obscurity. As Shoghi Effendi made it clear that he did not have an understanding of the issue, this again places it within the sphere of the UHJ to resolve. This is why he said:
...the Universal House of Justice... function... is to lay more definitely the broad lines that must guide the future activities and administration of the Movement,... (Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 63)
He also made it possible that this should be rectified by disclaiming any definite infallibility in areas where he didn't have all the facts. That is, without all the facts Shoghi Effendi couldn't arrive at a basic understanding of the issue and therefore such a decision would be according to the need of that time only.
He likes to be provided with facts by the friends, when they ask his advice, for although his decisions are guided by God, he is not, like the Prophet, omniscient at will, in spite of the fact that he often senses a situation or condition without having any detailed knowledge of it... (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 449)
God was guiding Shoghi Effendi to make statements about women's membership on the UHJ and his responses were infallible for the needs of that time when there was still so much prejudice against women. However, as that solution to the difficulty was for the needs of that time only, the UHJ is free to institute the actual truth of the matter.
The meaning of "rijal" and the meaning of its usage in the passage of the Aqdas relating to the Houses of Justice has now been made explicit. The issue of whether or not women will be on the UHJ is no longer obscure. They will be. Our ruling on this issue is the actual truth and reality of the question and is not something offered for the exigency of this time. Therefore this ruling will not be within the realm of a future UHJ to overturn. They will not need to.
Due to opposition, 'Abdu'l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi were not able to make this full reality of women's equality with men known to the people of their day. The light of it barely dared to peek over the horizon. In this day its reality is able to shine more brightly.
The realities of things have been revealed in this radiant century, and that which is true must come to the surface. Among these realities is the principle of the equality of man and woman -- equal rights and prerogatives in all things appertaining to humanity. Baha'u'llah declared this reality over fifty years ago. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 283)
Consider the mysteries revealed during the last half century, all due to the effulgence of the Sun of Reality, which has been so gloriously manifested in this age and cycle. In this day man must investigate reality impartially and without prejudice in order to reach the true knowledge and conclusions. What, then, constitutes the inequality between man and woman? Both are human. In powers and function each is the complement of the other. At most it is this: that woman has been denied the opportunities which man has so long enjoyed... ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 75)
At last this century of light dawned, the realities shone forth, and the mysteries long hidden from human vision were revealed. Among these revealed realities was the great principle of the equality of man and woman,... ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 74)
In reality, God has created all mankind, and in the estimation of God there is no distinction as to male and female. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 133)
Out of mercy to those who weren't ready, this reality was temporarily obscured. Whatsoever is latent in the innermost of this holy cycle shall gradually appear and be made manifest, for now is but the beginning of its growth and the dayspring of the revelation of its signs.
'Abdu'l-Baha, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 146
When the membership of women on the UHJ was hidden from the people as a mercy from God, the people came to believe, contrary to reality, that the restriction of women from the UHJ was the reality. However, Justice is the Ultimate Reality of this cycle.
O Son Of Spirit! The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice... (Baha'u'llah, Arabic Hidden Words, p. 2)
'Abdu'l-Baha explained this reality, or justice, as it relates to the equality of men and women.
If we say man and woman differ in creational endowment, it is contrary to divine justice and intention. Both are human. If God has created one perfect and the other defective, He is unjust. But God is just; all are perfect in His intention and creative endowment. To assume imperfection in the creature is to presuppose imperfection in the almighty Creator. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 233)
...why should woman be considered inferior? This is not according to the plan and justice of God. He has created them equal; in His estimate there is no question of sex. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 174-175)
Thus, a Universal House of Justice without women eligible to membership on it would not be a House of Justice at all, but of injustice.
Did Baha'u'llah not know that there would be such opposition to the complete equality of women? Of course He knew! That's why He and 'Abdu'l-Baha revealed so many tablets on women's equality with men.
All should know, and in this regard attain the splendours of the sun of certitude, and be illumined thereby: Women and men have been and will always be equal in the sight of God. The Dawning-Place of the Light of God sheddeth its radiance upon all with the same effulgence. Verily God created women for men, and men for women... The friends of God must be adorned with the ornament of justice, equity, kindness and love. As they do not allow themselves to be the object of cruelty and transgression, in like manner they should not allow such tyranny to visit the handmaidens of God. He, verily, speaketh the truth and commandeth that which benefitteth His servants and handmaidens. He is the Protector of all in this world and the next. (Baha'u'llah, Women, p. 379)
Throughout the centuries and ages many a man hath waited expectant for God's Revelation, and yet when the Light shone forth from the horizon of the world, all but a few turned their faces away from it. Whosoever from amongst the handmaidens hath recognized the Lord of all Names is recorded in the Book as one of those men by the Pen of the Most High. (Baha'u'llah, Women, p. 359; see also Women, p. 4 #7)
Know thou, O handmaid, that in the sight of Baha, women are accounted the same as men, and God hath created all humankind in His own image, and after His own likeness. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Baha, p. 79)
In the estimation of God there is no gender. The one whose deeds are more worthy, whose sayings are better, whose accomplishments are more useful is nearest and dearest in the estimation of God, be that one male or female. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 374)
It has been objected by some that woman is not equally capable with man and that she is deficient by creation. This is pure imagination. The difference in capability between man and woman is due entirely to opportunity and education. Heretofore woman has been denied the right and privilege of equal development. If equal opportunity be granted her, there is no doubt she would be the peer of man. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 135)
...the female sex is treated as though inferior, and is not allowed equal rights and privileges... In the Divine Creation there is no such distinction. Neither sex is superior to the other in the sight of God. Why then should one sex assert the inferiority of the other, withholding just rights and privileges as though God had given His authority for such a course of action?
'Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, 1961 U.K. edition, p. 161
In proclaiming the oneness of mankind He taught that men and women are equal in the sight of God and that there is no distinction to be made between them. The only difference between them now is due to lack of education and training. If woman is given equal opportunity of education, distinction and estimate of inferiority will disappear. The world of humanity has two wings, as it were: One is the female; the other is the male. If one wing be defective, the strong perfect wing will not be capable of flight. The world of humanity has two hands. If one be imperfect, the capable hand is restricted and unable to perform its duties. God is the Creator of mankind. He has endowed both sexes with perfections and intelligence, given them physical members and organs of sense, without differentiation or distinction as to superiority; therefore, why should woman be considered inferior? This is not according to the plan and justice of God. He has created them equal; in His estimate there is no question of sex. The one whose heart is purest, whose deeds are most perfect, is acceptable to God, male or female. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 174-175)
Briefly, history furnishes evidence that during the past centuries there have been great women as well as great men; but in general, owing to lack of educational advantages, women have been restricted and deprived of opportunity to become fully qualified and representative of humankind. When given the opportunity for acquiring education, they have shown equal capacity with men.
Some philosophers and writers have considered woman naturally and by creation inferior to man, claiming as a proof that the brain of man is larger and heavier than that of woman. This is frail and faulty evidence, inasmuch as small brains are often found coupled with superior intellect and large brains possessed by those who are ignorant, even imbecilic. The truth is that God has endowed all humankind with intelligence and perception and has confirmed all as His servants and children; therefore, in the plan and estimate of God there is no distinction between male or female. The soul that manifests pure deeds and spiritual graces is most precious in His sight and nearer to Him in its attainments. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 283)
The truth is that God has endowed all humankind with intelligence and perception and has confirmed all as His servants and children; therefore, in the plan and estimate of God there is no distinction between male or female. The soul that manifests pure deeds and spiritual graces is most precious in His sight and nearer to Him in its attainments. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 283)
The solution to the prejudice against women was to gradually lift the veil and this is why Baha'u'llah didn't come right out in the Aqdas with a statement that women would be on the UHJ. However, if God had really intended Baha'u'llah to exclude women a clear law would have been revealed on this in the Aqdas. Also, instead of using the word "rijal" Baha'u'llah would have used the other Arabic word for man "dakar" (pl."dukur") which strictly means "males" but it can also be translated as "man" or "men".
In the beginning the Baha'is, out of prejudice, assumed that by "rijal" was meant men only. This was in opposition to what Baha'u'llah meant: the believers-both men and women. This prejudice was seemingly validated when initially, in the lifetime of `Abdu'l-Baha, only men were members on the local houses of justice, entitled local spiritual assemblies. This was true in both the East and the West.
Even today people are prejudiced against equality of men and women. When the people first became Baha'is they brought their prejudices into the faith with them. The confusion in the minds of some of the believers regarding women on the UHJ stems from this prejudice. The Aqdas of Baha'u'llah and certain Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha have been misunderstood, misinterpreted and even mistranslated on the basis of the prejudice and negative mind-set of the people against the role of women on the UHJ.
It is time that all these prejudices must be put aside, once and for all.
Again, Baha'u'llah declares that all forms of prejudice among mankind must be abandoned and that until existing prejudices are entirely removed, the world of humanity will not and cannot attain peace, prosperity and composure. This principle cannot be found in any other sacred volume than the teachings of Baha'u'llah.
Another teaching is that there shall be perfect equality between men and women. Why should man create a distinction which God does not recognize? ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 434)
Baha'u'llah said that the women (handmaidens) who were believers were counted as men in the Aqdas.
Whosoever from amongst the hand-maidens hath recognized the Lord of all Names is recorded in the Book as one of those men by the Pen of the Most High. (Baha'u'llah, Women, p. 359; see also Women, p. 4 #7)
Baha'u'llah gave instructions on how to understand the Aqdas in the text of the Kitab-i-Aqdas itself.
He says we should weigh it (try to understand it) according to its own standard and not according to the current standards of the people.
Weigh not the Book of God with such standards and sciences as are current amongst you, for the Book itself is the unerring Balance established amongst men. In this most perfect Balance whatsoever the peoples and kindreds of the earth possess must be weighed, while the measure of its weight should be tested according to its own standard, did ye but know it. (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 56)
This means that the correct meaning of the word "rijal" as used in the Aqdas is determined by the Aqdas itself. In everyday street-usage Arabic the word "rijal" is commonly used in its sense of "men," however, this is only one of its meanings. Even though this meaning may currently be the most common one among Arabic speakers, this does not mean that Baha'is should assume the word "rijal" when used in the Aqdas means "men" only, exclusive of women, otherwise we should be weighing the Aqdas according to standards current amongst you and not according to its own standard.
As that Book records women believers as being men, the usage of the word "rijal" cannot be understood by Baha'is to mean restricted to males only.
Baha'u'llah, in His Aqdas, puts women believers on all levels of the Houses of Justice, including the UHJ, and this is part of its Constitution. Like Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha didn't distinguish whether it was the local, national or universal houses of justice when he said it was confined to the "rijal." This is because the word "rijal" is inclusive of all of them, and of all their members, both male and female. In this light, the Master's Tablet in Paris Talks shows that women are eligible for membership on the UHJ, just like on all other levels of the House of Justice, as part of the Constitution of that UHJ.
As regards the constitution of the House of Justice, Baha'u'llah addresses the rijal. He says: 'O ye rijal of the House of Justice!... When the women attain to the ultimate degree of progress, then, according to the exigency of the time and place and their great capacity, they shall obtain extraordinary privileges. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 184)
This statement was prefaced with,
"They will attain in all such a degree as will be considered the very highest station of the world of humanity and will take part in all affairs. Rest ye assured. Do ye not look upon the present conditions; in the not far distant future the world of women will become all-refulgent and all-glorious, For His Holiness Baha'u'llah Hath Willed It so!... the entrance of women into all human departments is an irrefutable and incontrovertible question."
Thus every fair-minded inquirer will see that what 'Abdu'l-Baha meant by, When the women attain to the ultimate degree of progress... is that then they shall be on the UHJ. By progress is meant education and learning. 'Abdu'l-Baha explained that lack of education was the only thing holding women back from complete equality with men. The following statement from the Aqdas reveals the ultimate degree of education and learning, this is the ultimate degree of education and learning that women must attain to in order to be eligible for membership on the UHJ.
We have decreed, O people, that the highest and last end of all learning be the recognition of Him Who is the Object of all knowledge; and yet, behold how ye have allowed your learning to shut you out, as by a veil, from Him Who is the Dayspring of this Light, through Whom every hidden thing hath been revealed. (Baha'u'llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 57)
The ultimate degree of progress for any human being, male or female is that they are believers. In order for women to serve on the UHJ they must be believers! It is not important that they be male! What is important in the eyes of God is whether or not they are believers! "Rijal" means believers!
Translating the Tablet from Paris Talks accordingly and without prejudice it would read, As regards the constitution of the House of Justice, Baha'u'llah addresses the believers. He says: 'O ye believers of the House of Justice!
Accordingly, Shoghi Effendi's original Constitution of the UHJ in its embryonic stage provided women as more than half the membership. Before Shoghi Effendi announced this membership to the Baha'is he sent a cablegram proclaiming the formation of the International Baha'i Council saying,
Hail with thankful, joyous heart at long last the Constitution of International [Baha'i] Council which history will acclaim as the greatest event... (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Baha'i World, p. 8)
It is clear that Shoghi Effendi was infallibly guided to place women on that council, in spite of the prejudices of the believers against women. He decisively placed all the constituent parts of the Universal House of Justice on this embryonic institution. For example, he placed the Davidic King, 'Abdu'l-Baha's son, at the head of it, this is the executive branch. He appointed all the members himself, this is the legislative/judicial branch. He gave it a vice-president, a secretary, assistant secretaries, a treasurer and other members. This wasn't because the International Baha'i Council needed those positions at that time, it wasn't functioning yet, it wasn't born into the world of activity. Shoghi Effendi placed these components on there because the Universal House of Justice would need them in all its later stages of development. This is like the baby in the womb, it has eyes and ears, etc., not because it needs them in the womb, but because it needs them in this life. Likewise, the Universal House of Justice had women on it in its embryonic form because it needs women on it in all of its stages of existence.
The embryo of the UHJ had women on it and when it was born into the world on January 9th, 1991, as the appointed stage of the Universal House of Justice, it still had women on it. An embryo passes through different stages of evolvement, but whether it goes on to become an infant, a child, an adolescent or an adult, it is still the same entity through all of these stages of its existence. Because the first stage of the Universal House of Justice was born into the world with women on it, when it comes to the adult stage, the fully-elected UHJ, it will still have women on it. The membership of women on the embryonic UHJ is not like the tail that a human embryo has -- which falls off while still in the womb, or other parts that may change such as the sex cells which differentiate into either male or female. What the child has in the womb, and is then born with, remains with the child its whole life, and the only change is that these things gradually develop and evolve to greater perfection.
'Abdu'l-Baha explained that the world of the Divine politics which is created by God, "the most excellent of Makers," goes through this same pattern of evolvement.
The world of politics is like the world of man; he is seed at first, and then passes by degrees to the condition of embryo and foetus, acquiring a bone structure, being clothed with flesh, taking on his own special form, until at last he reaches the plane where he can befittingly fulfill the words: "the most excellent of Makers." Just as this is a requirement of creation and is based on the universal Wisdom, the political world in the same way cannot instantaneously evolve from the nadir of defectiveness to the zenith of rightness and perfection. Rather, qualified individuals must strive by day and by night, using all those means which will conduce to progress, until the government and the people develop along every line from day to day and even from moment to moment. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 107-108)
The evolvement of this UHJ runs parallel and corresponds with the development of the people, the Faith itself. To the extent that their prejudices and other failings make them unreceptive to its light, its reality will remain obscured. In the degree that the believers are prepared to receive its light its reality will shine more brightly upon them and throughout the entire world.
We have reached the point of evolvement at which the Baha'is are able to accept the fact that women are eligible to the UHJ; that all levels of Houses of Justice are confined to male and female believers. People must simply accept this reality, this is final.
Now, to be against the membership of women on the UHJ is to be in violation of the Constitution of it. In Some Answered Questions, on page 198, 'Abdu'l-Baha said it is only freed from all error when it is established with the necessary conditions, meaning women must serve as this is part of its essential Constitution.
For instance, the Universal House of Justice, if it be established under the necessary conditions -- with members elected from all the people -- that House of Justice will be under the protection and the unerring guidance of God. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 172)
To be elected "from all the people" means that all the people must be eligible to be elected to it. A UHJ elected from all the people would have to include women as women comprise half the population. `Abdu'l-Baha makes it clear that women are to be on the UHJ.
It is a fundamental principle of the law of God that all living things have both the male and female elements.
...this union of the male and female exists in all living beings and plants. This pairing of things is even shown forth in the Qur'an: "Glory be to Him Who has created all the pairs: of such things as the earth produceth, and of themselves; and of things which they know not" that is to say, men, animals and plants are all in pairs -- "and of everything have We created two kinds" -- that is to say, We have created all the beings through pairing. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 87)
And thus the UHJ must have the female element or else it is not in accordance with divine law and will not have the divine force. There is no separate female UHJ to "pair" with an all-male UHJ -- that would be unimaginable! Therefore within itself the UHJ must have both components.
Shoghi Effendi illustrates what is to be the result if Baha'u'llah's principle of the equality of men and women is dissociated from the administration.
To dissociate the administrative principles of the Cause from the purely spiritual and humanitarian teachings would be tantamount to a mutilation of the body of the Cause, a separation that can only result in the disintegration of its component parts, and the extinction of the Faith itself. (Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 5)
To deny women membership on the UHJ is to separate the reality of the spiritual teaching of women's equality with men from the reality of the UHJ. This separation can only result the mutilation, disintegration and extinction of that body.
All of this means that the UHJ will not be infallible without both men and women members. 'Abdu'l-Baha said that it won't fly without both wings.
The world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized; humanity cannot wing its way to heights of real attainment. When the two wings or parts become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary... until this equality is established, true progress and attainment for the human race will not be facilitated. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 375)
Flight is symbolic of entrance to the highest spiritual realm possible to mankind, the realm of divine guidance. In order for the UHJ to attain this it must be properly constituted, and in order for mankind to attain this they must abandon their prejudices and submit to that properly constituted UHJ.
The following explanation from 'Abdu'l-Baha shows that, without the participation of women, the UHJ will not attain completion and perfection, meaning it would not be the "UHJ" at all.
Again, it is well established in history that where woman has not participated in human affairs the outcomes have never attained a state of completion and perfection. On the other hand, every influential undertaking of the human world wherein woman has been a participant has attained importance. This is historically true and beyond disproof even in religion. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 134)
'Abdu'l-Baha reveals that women are completely capable of serving on the UHJ.
The woman has greater moral courage than the man; she has also special gifts which enable her to govern in moments of danger and crisis. ('Abdu'l-Baha, 'Abdu'l-Baha in London, 1982 UK edition, p. 103)
The membership of women on the UHJ is a vital necessity for many reasons one of which is that the mission of the UHJ is to bring about world peace and this is not possible without the participation of women on that body.
Strive that the ideal of international peace may become realized through the efforts of womankind, for man is more inclined to war than woman, and a real evidence of woman's superiority will be her service and efficiency in the establishment of universal peace. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 284)
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; for woman will be the obstacle and hindrance to it. This is true and without doubt. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 135)
Another fact of equal importance in bringing about international peace is woman's suffrage. That is to say, when perfect equality shall be established between men and women, peace may be realized for the simple reason that womankind in general will never favor warfare. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 167)
Therefore, as woman advances toward the degree of man in power and privilege, with the right of vote and control in human government, most assuredly war will cease; for woman is naturally the most devoted and staunch advocate of international peace. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 375)
'Abdu'l-Baha refers here to women's voting and voice in government. In the past this has been interpreted to mean that when women have a vote in council elections, then war will cease. However, the peoples' voice is not heard through their vote in an election. The members of the Houses of Justice do not represent the people who elected them and are not obligated to vote according to the wishes of the people, but they are commanded in the writings to vote their own conscience. So the voice of women will only be heard through their having a direct vote in the decisions that are made. The only way that women will be able to put an end to war is to serve on the very highest level of government.
Therefore when 'Abdu'l-Baha said,
As regards the constitution of the House of Justice, Baha'u'llah addresses the believers. He says: 'O ye believers of the House of Justice! He went on to say, when its members are to be elected, the right which belongs to women, so far as their voting and their voice is concerned, is indisputable. When the women attain to the ultimate degree of progress, then, according to the exigency of the time and place and their great capacity, they shall obtain extraordinary privileges. ('Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 184)
The meaning is that women are eligible to serve on the UHJ. The right to be elected as members belongs to the women, in that their right to voice their concerns through voting is indisputable. The women will raise the cry for peace in the council chambers of the Universal House of Justice in all its levels of evolvement.
Women and men are to be equal in every capacity. This principal is a fundamental teaching for a unified world civilization, a civilization devoid of war and carnage, a civilization in which the prejudices that inhibit the peoples from partaking of their equal share in the bounties of God will have ceased to exist.
In the 1950s Shoghi Effendi ordered those of Iran to re-elect their National Assembly until women were on it, invalidating the election if they weren't. The UHJ must likewise have women on it to be constituted correctly and established under the necessary conditions. If not that election will be declared invalid.
The word "rijal" is generic, referring to men and
women both, but confined to those who are believers. Women
will sit on the UHJ in all its stages. This is the final
word of God on this subject. As rijal forms part of the
explicit text this is not subject to change or alteration
ever! This is final.
Based upon the Explicit Holy Text and the clear and manifest proofs and evidences contained within, and in accordance with, the revealed statements of Baha'u'llah, 'Abdu'l-Baha, and Shoghi Effendi, the Universal House of Justice shall be comprised of both men and women.
And furthermore, that:
The membership of both men and women on the Universal House of Justice is constituted within the Baha'i Administrative Order, that is, the membership of both men and women on the Universal House of Justice forms an irremovable part of the constitution of the Universal House of Justice in all its stages.
And therefore, that:
In conformity with, and in enforcement of, the Explicit Holy Text, if women are not elected to the Universal House of Justice than that election shall be declared invalid.
[Approved this eighteenth day of Mulk in the year one hundred and fifty-two of the Baha'i Era (February 24, 1996)]
How pressing and sacred the responsibility that now weighs upon those who are already acquainted with these teachings! How glorious the task of those who are called upon to vindicate their truth, and demonstrate their practicability to an unbelieving world! Nothing short of an immovable conviction in their divine origin, and their uniqueness in the annals of religion; nothing short of an unwavering purpose to execute and apply them to the administrative machinery of the Cause, can be sufficient to establish their reality, and insure their success. How vast is the Revelation of Baha'u'llah! How great the magnitude of His blessings showered upon humanity in this day! And yet, how poor, how inadequate our conception of their significance and glory! This generation stands too close to so colossal a Revelation to appreciate, in their full measure, the infinite possibilities of His Faith, the unprecedented character of His Cause, and the mysterious dispensations of His Providence. (Shoghi Effendi, World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 24)