The Universal House of Justice membership and related topics

May 1, 2010
Detail of the "Chronological Membership of the Universal House of Justice" from www.bahairants.com

Detail of a graph at the bottom of Baquia’s blog: Universal House of Justice: Results of By-Election

Bahai Rants” began in December 2004 and I wrote a summary about the Bahai Rants blog here.

In March 2010 Baquia wrote a blog in response to two new members being elected to the Universal House of Justice and noted that both had been previously members of the International Teaching Centre, to which they had been appointed to by the UHJ itself.
B’s statement:
“The most important trend is that we have, since 2008, a membership drawn completely from the ITC – which itself is appointed by the Universal House of Justice. So in essence, there is a closed loop with the UHJ appointing its future candidates”
is supported by a graph showing the history of the membership of the Universal House of Justice, a detail of which is above. The orange sections indicate the individuals who were previously members of the ITC.

Below are a few of my comments that I posted on Bahai rants. Each post has a link back to its location on Bahai rants, should you wish to read the other responses surrounding this and you can make your response there.
Responses here are moderated, mainly for practical reasons: I couldn’t cope the traffic that the Bahai Rants blog has. Also my purpose on the blog is just to have a reference for my own responses on particular topics. I am not looking at creating a forum or community. So if you wish to be 100% sure your response is aired, then post it on Bahai Rants. Posting it on Bahai Rants means I’m likely to find it there and even better, you would have the bonus of feedback from the diversity of a community.

Sonja’s comment posted on 2 April 2010
So L, I’m one of “the rest of the Bahais” [you refer to] and I’m all for nuance, diversity, open debate, change, and going to the source of the Writings (as much as is possible and in ways which will always involve flexibility and change) till the day I drop.

In a nutshell, what I think we lost with not having the guardianship, is flexibility. Look at Shoghi Effendi’s own writings, how one of his main missions seemed to be to limit and to spread power.
Getting back Baquia’s original blog here, I think one of the problems of the elected becoming more and more, it seems, a consequence of being appointed is a loss of flexibility that comes with new blood and differing views. Locally, what is happening is that now individuals appointed by the NSA or by cluster things or by the Ruhi system, are managing things where previously elected bodies such as the LSAs did this. I haven’t done my homework on this, so it would be good hear from others of their experiences on this change from the elected to the appointed at local community levels.

And finally, when the first UHJ was to be elected, the Hands of the Cause (who had been appointed) informed everyone that they were not eligible for election, thus keeping in the spirit of openenss and new blood. The UHJ could easily announce that members of the ITC cannot be elected onto the UHJ if they wanted to. It could help keep a balance of the appointed and the elected distinctive. A feature I think Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi intended.

Sonja’s comment posted on 4 April 2010
I wrote: “The UHJ could easily announce that members of the ITC cannot be elected onto the UHJ if they wanted to. It could help keep a balance of the appointed and the elected distinctive.
A feature I think Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi intended.”

L wrote: “Interesting idea could you support it?”

My response: The differences between the appointed and elected institutions, and ways they complement each other, have been worked out in many UHJ messages, but they derive ultimately from the fact the Will and Testament refers to both the Guardianship and the Hands (appointed), and the Houses of Justice (elected). That already indicated a complementary relationship with different roles, which Shoghi Effendi then detailed in his World Order letters.
For example:
“It must be also clearly understood by every believer that the institution of 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 Bahá’u’lláh in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, and repeatedly and solemnly confirmed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His Will. It does not constitute in any manner a contradiction to the Will and Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, nor does it nullify any of His revealed instructions. It enhances the prestige of that exalted assembly, stabilizes its supreme position, safeguards its unity, assures the continuity of its labors, without presuming in the slightest to infringe upon the inviolability of its clearly-defined sphere of jurisdiction.”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 8 )

“An attempt, I feel, should at the present juncture be made to explain the character and functions of the twin pillars that support this mighty Administrative Structure — the institutions of the Guardianship and of the Universal House of Justice. … these twin institutions of the Administrative Order of Bahá’u’lláh should be regarded as divine in origin, essential in their functions and complementary in their aim and purpose. Their common, their fundamental object is to insure the continuity of that divinely-appointed authority which flows from the Source of our Faith, to safeguard the unity of its followers and to maintain the integrity and flexibility of its teachings. Acting in conjunction with each other these two inseparable institutions administer its affairs, coordinate its activities, promote its interests, execute its laws and defend its subsidiary institutions. Severally, each operates within a clearly defined sphere of jurisdiction; each is equipped with its own attendant institutions — instruments designed for the effective discharge of its particular responsibilities and duties. Each exercises, within the limitations imposed upon it, its powers, its authority, its rights and prerogatives. These are neither contradictory, nor detract in the slightest degree from the position which each of these institutions occupies. Far from being incompatible or mutually destructive, they supplement each other’s authority and functions, and are permanently and fundamentally united in their aims…. ”
(Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 147-8 )

and lots more, see

L then wrote: “if the master was against the appointed serving on the UJH why did he make the Guardian (an appointed person) a life time member of the UHJ? it seems that he had no problem with a member of the appointed serving on the UHJ. and none of the experts provided suggest otherwise. Im sorry but no where do they say that the appointed should not be elected to the UHJ in these quotes provided. Could you post some that do please?”

my response: I was explaining the principle of having the elected and the appointed as “twin pillars that support this mighty Administrative Structure” (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 8 ) and in support of this principle, I gave the example of how the Hands of Cause chose not to make themselves available for election to the UHJ. I saw their action as meaning, they saw the need for new blood as a good thing. Perhaps they even thought that being appointed and in the public positions each of them had, that unless they did this, they would have been elected to the UHJ?
Of course, I have no idea what their motive was, all I am saying is that they did this and my suggestion is that if the members of the ITC chose to do this, this would help maintain this principle of having the elected and the appointed as complimentary aspects of the Bahai administration.

L: the source for this is:
“The Hands of the Cause in their message of November 4, 1961, referred to the election of the Universal House of Justice in these terms:
“That all male voting members throughout the Bahá’í world are eligible for election to the Universal House of Justice. The Hands do not limit the freedom of the electors. However, as they have been given the explicit duties of guarding over the security and ensuring the propagation of the Faith, they ask the electors of the House of Justice to leave them free at this time to discharge their duties. When that Supreme and Infallible Body has been elected, it will decide on all matters concerning its own membership.”

(Custodians, Ministry of the Custodians, p. 392)

At the moment what is happening at the highest level of the Bahai administration is that individuals are being appointed by the UHJ to the ITC, and then the males of the ITC are being elected to UHJ. The issue is that membership of the UHJ has become a result of the UHJ chosen appointments. Given that membership on the UHJ is a matter of just 9 members, my suggestion is: if the UHJ decided to make ITC members ineligible or if members of the ITC chose to make themselves ineligible, then surely there are plenty of other males perfectly suitable to serve on the UHJ. That’s my suggestion based on the above thinking. I am not suggesting it is bad to have appointed members of the ITC move to the UHJ, but when since 2008 (see Baquia’s graph) ALL NINE members of the UHJ come from the ITC, then it indicates that the electoral process is not bringing in any new blood. Here’s just one of the many quotations in the Bahai writings on the importance of new blood.

“Upon the local Assemblies, whose special function and high privilege is to facilitate the admission of new believers into the community, and thereby stimulate the infusion of fresh blood into its organic institutions,…”

(Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, p. 11)

Sonja’s comment posted on 5 April 2010
in response to:
Surly you must have some excerpt that supports your claim that Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi did not intend for members of the appointed to serve on the UHJ

L: Please read my posts more carefully, I wrote:
“It could help keep a balance of the appointed and the elected distinctive.
A feature I think Abdul-Baha and Shoghi Effendi intended.”

The second sentence refers to the former sentence, a balance. The point of my responses has been to see how the principle of this balance could work better.

re: your idea that the Guardian was intended to be a member of the UHJ:
Abdu’l-Baha wrote in the Will and Testament:
“By this body [the UHJ] all the difficult problems are to be resolved and the Guardian of the Cause of God is its sacred head and the distinguished member for life of that body. Should he not attend in person its deliberations, he must appoint one to represent him.”
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 14)

From this we can see that the Guardian is not eligible for election (he is appointed), and that he is not just a member of the UHJ, since he can appoint someone else to represent him. It is not stated that the Guardian does not have a vote on the UHJ, but this is implied, first because nothing is said about whether the Guardian’s representative would have a vote, and second because that would mean there are ten votes rather than nine, which would be allow for the possibility of a 5-5 split. I’d say that it’s unlikely that Abdu’l-Baha would discard the symbolism of 9, and raise the possibility of a hung vote, by making the UHJ a ten-member body.

Instead it seems, in preserving this principle of the distinctions of the elected and appointed, the Guardian or his representative who could have been a woman, would not be a member of the UHJ but rather that s/he sat at meetings and participated, and most likely did not have a say in the final decisions that would be made.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s