The Sanctity and Nature of Bahá’í Elections
Category: Bahá’í
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The Sanctity and Nature of Bahá’í Elections is compiled by the Research Department from Extracts from the Writings of Shoghi Effendi and written on his behalf.

The Sanctity and Nature of Bahá’í Elections


Bahá’u’lláh, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi

© Bahá’í International Community

1. Fostering a Spiritual Attitude Towards Elections

From Letters Written by or on Behalf of Shoghi Effendi

— 1 —

On the election day the friends must whole-heartedly participate in the elections, in unity and amity, turning their hearts to God, detached from all things but Him, seeking His guidance and supplicating His aid and bounty.

27 February 1923 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of the East — translated from the Persian

— 2 —

Again I earnestly appeal to every one of you, and renew my only request with all the ardour of my conviction, to make, before and during the coming Convention, yet another effort, this time more spontaneous and selfless than before, and endeavour to approach your task — the election of your delegates, as well as your national and local representatives — with that purity of spirit that can alone obtain our Beloved’s most cherished desire….

23 February 1924 written by Shoghi Effendi to the Bahá’ís of America, ‘Bahá’í Administration, p. 65

— 3 —

In discharging this sacred function no influence whatever, no pressure from any quarter, even though it be from the National Assembly, should under any circumstances affect their views or restrict their freedom. The delegates must be wholly independent of any administrative agency, must approach their task with absolute detachment and must concentrate their attention on the most important and pressing issues.

12 August 1933 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, ‘The National Spiritual Assembly, p. 24

— 4 —

Such a rectitude of conduct must manifest itself, with ever-increasing potency, in every verdict which the elected representatives of the Bahá’í community, in whatever capacity they may find themselves, may be called upon to pronounce…. It must be exemplified in the conduct of all Bahá’í electors, when exercising their sacred rights and functions….

25 December 1938, Shoghi Effendi, ‘The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 26

From Communications Written by the Universal House of Justice

— 5 —

The conditions of limited manpower, of difficulties in travelling and of illiteracy among the local people are found in varying degrees in other countries of the world, and we have always and everywhere urged the National Spiritual Assemblies concerned to guide and teach the friends in proper Bahá’í administrative procedures, not only during the weeks immediately preceding local elections but indeed throughout the year, so that the friends would await the advent of Riḍván with anticipation and determine to observe and uphold correct principles of Bahá’í administration.

From a letter 24 September 1973 from the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly

— 6 —

The aim should always be so to educate the friends during the year that they consider their participation in Bahá’í elections not only as a right they exercise, but as a spiritual obligation which, when discharged in the proper Bahá’í spirit, contributes to the health and growth of the Bahá’í community.

From a memorandum 18 June 1980 from the Universal House of Justice to the International Teaching Centre

2. Qualifications of Those to Be Elected

From Letters Written by Shoghi Effendi

— 7 —

Due regard must be paid to their actual capacity and present attainments, and only those who are best qualified for membership, be they men or women, and irrespective of social standing, should be elected to the extremely responsible position of a member of the Bahá’í Assembly.

In the handwriting of Shoghi Effendi, appended to a letter 27 December 1923 written on his behalf to the National Spiritual Assembly of India and Burma, ‘Dawn of a New Day, p. 4

— 8 —

Let us recall His explicit and often-repeated assurances that every Assembly elected in that rarefied atmosphere of selflessness and detachment is, in truth, appointed of God, that its verdict is truly inspired, that one and all should submit to its decision unreservedly and with cheerfulness.

Shoghi Effendi, 23 February 1924, ‘Bahá’í Administration, p. 65

— 9 —

It would be impossible at this stage to … overestimate the unique significance of the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly … Supreme is their position, grave their responsibilities, manifold and arduous their duties. How great the privilege, how delicate the task of the assembled delegates whose function it is to elect such national representatives as would by their record of service ennoble and enrich the annals of the Cause! … it is incumbent upon the chosen delegates to consider without the least trace of passion and prejudice, and irrespective of any material consideration, the names of only those who can best combine the necessary qualities of unquestioned loyalty, of selfless devotion, of a well-trained mind, of recognized ability and mature experience.

Shoghi Effendi, 3 June 1925 to the Delegates and Visitors of the National Convention of the Bahá’ís of the United States and Canada, ‘Bahá’í Administration, p. 87

— 10 —

the elector … is called upon to vote for none but those whom prayer and reflection have inspired him to uphold….

Shoghi Effendi, 27 May 1927 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada, ‘Bahá’í Administration, p. 136

— 11 —

…I do not feel it to be in keeping with the spirit of the Cause to impose any limitation upon the freedom of the believers to choose those of any race, nationality or temperament who best combine the essential qualifications for membership of administrative institutions. They should disregard personalities and concentrate their attention on the qualities and requirements of office, without prejudice, passion or partiality. The Assembly should be representative of the choicest and most varied and capable elements in every Bahá’í community….

In the handwriting of Shoghi Effendi, appended to a letter 11 August 1933 written on his behalf to an individual believer, ‘Bahá’í Institutions, p. 71

— 12 —

If any discrimination is at all to be tolerated, it should be a discrimination not against, but rather in favor of the minority, be it racial or otherwise. … every organized community enlisted under the banner of Bahá’u’lláh should feel it to be its first and inescapable obligation to nurture, encourage, and safeguard every minority belonging to any faith, race, class, or nation within it. So great and vital is this principle that in such circumstances, as when an equal number of ballots have been cast in an election, or where the qualifications for any office are balanced as between the various races, faiths or nationalities within the community, priority should unhesitatingly be accorded the party representing the minority, and this for no other reason except to stimulate and encourage it, and afford it an opportunity to further the interests of the community….

Shoghi Effendi, 25 December 1938, ‘The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 35

— 13 —

The electors … must prayerfully and devotedly and after meditation and reflection elect faithful, sincere, experienced, capable and competent souls who are worthy of membership….

1 July 1943 to the National Spiritual Assembly of Persia — translated from the Persian

From Letters Written on Behalf of Shoghi Effendi

— 14 —

…concerning the qualifications of the members of the Spiritual Assembly: there is a distinction of fundamental importance which should be always remembered in this connection, and this is between the Spiritual Assembly as an institution, and the persons who compose it. These are by no means supposed to be perfect, nor can they be considered as being inherently superior to the rest of their fellow-believers. It is precisely because they are subject to the same human limitations that characterize the other members of the community that they have to be elected every year. The existence of elections is a sufficient indication that Assembly members, though forming part of an institution that is divine and perfect, are nevertheless themselves imperfect. But this does not necessarily imply that their judgement is defective….

Shoghi Effendi, 15 November 1935 to individual believers, ‘The Local Spiritual Assembly, p. 9

— 15 —

A believer has the right to vote for himself during the election time, if he conscientiously feels the urge to do so. This does not necessarily imply that he is ambitious or selfish. For he might conscientiously believe that his qualifications entitle him to membership in a Bahá’í administrative body, and he might be right. The essential, however, is that he should be sincere in his belief, and should act according to the dictates of his conscience. Moreover, membership in an assembly or committee is a form of service, and should not be looked upon as a mark of inherent superiority or a means for self-praise.

Written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi 27 March 1938 to an individual believer, ‘Dawn of a New Day, p. 200

— 16 —

There is no objection in principle to an Assembly being re-elected whether in toto or in part, provided the members are considered to be well qualified for that post. It is individual merit that counts. Novelty, or the mere act of renewal of elections, are purely secondary considerations. Changes in Assembly membership would be welcome so far as they do not prejudice the quality of such membership. Once Assembly elections are over, the results should be conscientiously and unquestionably accepted by the entire body of the believers, not necessarily because they represent the Voice of Truth, or the Will of Bahá’u’lláh, but for the supreme purpose of maintaining unity and harmony in the community….

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