Who is the Head of the Bahai Faith?

Found this article on the Internet – thought it would be interesting for my readers…

The Universal House of Justice, in Haifa, Israel, claims to be the Head of the Baha’i Faith. The PDF files attached here (“Selections, 1988 letter to UHJ”, and, “1994 detailed response to UHJ”) challenge that claim, or, rather, question the rationality of that claim.

UHJ 1194 Detailed Response | UHJ Selections From 1988

Bahai Clergy (or Mullahs) UHJ - Infallible members of Bahai Faith

Bahai Clergy (or Mullahs) UHJ – Infallible members of Bahai Faith

The PDF files are taken from letters I wrote to the UHJ in 1988 and 1994. I was once a Baha’i (decades ago), though I am no longer. My purpose in sharing the letters is to caution seekers investigating the Baha’i Faith. Nevertheless, I expect that the arguments contained in the PDF files may also be of use to those Baha’is who have either broken with, or distanced themselves from, the UHJ, and I wish to make my letters available to them as well. My primary purpose, however, is simply this: to speak the truth to the best of my ability, for I believe that truth matters. I may be wrong, of course, and what I think to be true may not be true at all. But perhaps that is where the UHJ and I truly part ways, for the UHJ believes that, in its collective decisions, it cannot be wrong; that it is infallible in its pronouncements. Such claims, I believe, call for very close scrutiny indeed.

What I have tried to do in the PDF files is to start from the premises and assumptions of the UHJ itself, and to demonstrate that its own claims contradict its own premises. In other words, I have tried to show that, although the UHJ accepts the Baha’i Writings as authoritative, the Writings themselves undermine the UHJ’s claims to represent the World Order of Baha’u’llah.

The essential thing to understand (at least in terms of the issues I am raising here), is this:

The Baha’i Faith was founded by a man whose Baha’i title is “Baha’u’llah”  (The Glory of God).   The UHJ claims that Baha’u’llah left the faith in the hands of his son, Abdu’l-Baha, who, it is claimed, received the gift of infallibility from his father (“conferred infallibility”).  Abdu’l-Baha then left the faith in the hands of his grandson, Shoghi Effendi, who likewise recieved the gift of conferred infallibility.  Both Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi are considered by the UHJ to be “an extension of the Word itself”, that is, their interpretations of Baha’u’llah’s teachings have the same authority as Baha’u’llah himself. 

One of Baha’u’llah’s teachings was that he was the harbinger of a New World Order, essentially a world at peace, united by a single world governement.  Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi furthur elaborated and clarified the meaning and structure of this New World Order.  Shoghi Effendi, the infallible “Guardian” and “Interpreter” of the faith, described the New World Order in what he himself called “clear and unambiguous language”, language which, he said, was “inexcusable to either misconceive or ignore”.  Indeed, his language is in fact exceptionally clear and unambiguous, and, for the UHJ, it lands them squarely in a Catch-22, for Shoghi Effendi describes exactly what the Baha’i World Order was to look like:

“The pillars that sustain its authority and buttress its structure”, he says, “are the twin institutions of the Guardianship [the hereditary line of male successors to follow Shoghi Effendi] and of the Universal House of Justice”, both of which he calls “essential in their functions” and “inseparable”.

And therein lies the proverbial “rub”, for Shoghi Effendi died without leaving a will appointing a successor. Neither was there, according to the UHJ, anyone to whom Shoghi Effendi could have passed on the reins of leadership. And thus the World Order of Baha’u’llah as described in the Writings is not the same World Order over which the UHJ presides, for it is missing the “essential” institution of the Guardianship; and the twin institutions that were explicitly declared “inseparable” (the UHJ and the Guardianship) have now in fact been separated.

And the rest, as they say, is history, or at least the story as the Universal House of Justice would like to tell it…  But what I attempt to demonstrate in my letters to the UHJ is that the story according to the UHJ simply cannot be true, for it is fundamentally irrational; for the UHJ claims that the Writings make the UHJ the Head of the faith in the absence of a Guardian, whereas in fact (as I try to show) the Writings say quite clearly that the UHJ cannot even exist, let alone function, without a Guardian.

In a nutshell, the problem (or, rather, one of the problems) is this: The UHJ itself admits that Baha’i law prohibits the UHJ from “defining its own sphere of jurisdiction”, which was to be the sole prerogative of the Guardian.  But, obviously, in the absence of any Guardian, the UHJ must in fact define its own sphere of jurisdiction (it wrote its own constitution, for example).  But it can’t (and it admits it can’t).  But it must (but it does not admit this).  But it can’t.  But it must. But it can’t…..

Hence, I would assert that the UHJ finds itself in a Catch-22 from which it cannot reasonably escape, and so it descends into unreason in its attempt to salvage what cannot be salvaged, namely, its claim to be the infallible Head of the World Order of Baha’u’llah as that Order was envisaged in the Writings.

For the rest of the argument, please refer to the PDF files above.

If you read the PDF file titled “1994 detailed response to UHJ”, I suggest you first read through the selections written by the UHJ itself (they are, I believe, in chronological order, and are numbered, but they are found on separate pages, separated by my own comments on them).  If you read the UHJ’s own words in their entirety first, you may better understand not only their position, but my response to it as well.

But you now have enough information to understand the PDF files….if you want to slog through all of that.  And it requires quite a bit of slogging, for the UHJ is exceedingly slippery in its reasoning….or so it seems to me.

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About imranshaykh
I am a student of comparative religion with a special interest in Islam and The Bahai Faith

2 Responses to Who is the Head of the Bahai Faith?

  1. This is such a thorough investigation of the claims, now seen as spurious, of the so-called UHJ in Haifa. Thanks so much. I have re-posted it to Facebook.

    • imranshaykh says:

      Thanks Michael. This is great!

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