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Justice

And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 29)


As forgiveness is one of the attributes of the Merciful One, so also justice is one of the attributes of the Lord. The tent of existence is upheld upon the pillar of justice, and not upon forgiveness. The continuance of mankind depends upon justice and not upon forgiveness. So if, at present, the law of pardon were practised in all countries, in short time the world would be disordered and the foundations of human life would crumble. To recapitulate: the constitution of the communities depends upon justice, not upon forgiveness.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 37)


As the Guardian once commented, our World Order is founded on justice, not love. Our governing institutions are Houses of justice, not love.
(Misc. Bahá’í, The Diary of Juliet Thompson)


As to the punishments for such acts as rape, these will be determined in the future by the Universal House of Justice.
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 8 June 1982)


As to the question regarding the soul of a murderer, and what his punishment would be, the answer given was that the murderer must expiate his crime: that is, if they put the murderer to death, his death is his atonement for his crime, and following the death, God in His justice will impose no second penalty upon him, for divine justice would not allow this.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 179)


As to the souls who are born into this world radiant entities and who through excessive difficulty are deprived of great benefits and thus leave the world—they are worthy of all sympathy, for in reality this is worthy of regret. It is for this purpose (that is, it is with regard to this wisdom) that the great Manifestations (of God) unveil themselves in this world, bear every difficulty and ordeal—to make these ready souls dawnings of light and confer upon them eternal life. This is the real atonement that His holiness Christ made-He sacrificed Himself for the life of the world.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 542)


Be not dismayed if your endeavors are dismissed as utopian by the voices that would oppose any suggestion of fundamental change. Trust in the capacity of this generation to disentangle itself from the embroilments of a divided society. To discharge your responsibilities, you will have to show forth courage, the courage of those who cling to standards of rectitude, whose lives are characterized by purity of thought and action, and whose purpose is directed by love and indomitable faith. As you dedicate yourselves to healing the wounds with which your peoples have been afflicted, you will become invincible champions of justice.
(The Universal House of Justice, 2000 Jan 8, To the Youth Congress in Paraguay)


Be thou not sad and dispirited on account of the opposition of the heedless ones. Soon they shall regret sorely. Reflect thou how the Pharisees persecuted and looked down in contempt upon His Holiness the Christ. The result was that His lamp became ignited, His light began to shine and His followers sparkled like unto the stars from the horizon of existence; and the consequence to the Pharisees was the pangs of remorse and regrets.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 221)


But here is the real solution. The rich should be merciful to the poor, but with their free-will, not with force. Should it be with force it would be useless. It should be according to law and not by violence, so that through a general law every one might know his duty. For example, a rich person has a large income and a poor person a small income. To put it in a more explicit way: a rich person in this case must be exempt from taxes. If the poor person gives one-tenth of his income and the rich person one-tenth of his income, it will be unjust. Thus in this way a law should be made that the poor person who has only ten kilos and needs them all for his necessary food, be exempt from paying taxes. But if the rich person, who has ten thousand kilos, pays one-tenth or two-tenths taxes on his products, it will not be a hardship to him. For example, if he gives two thousand kilos, he will still have eight thousand kilos. If a person has fifty thousand kilos, even though he gives ten thousand kilos he will still have forty thousand kilos. Therefore, laws must be made in this way. These laws must do away with the present system of wages and earnings. If today the owners of factories increase the wages of their employees, after a month or a year, they will again cry and strike and ask for more increase. This work has no end.
(Compilations, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 341)


But man hath perversely continued to serve his lustful appetites, and he would not content himself with simple foods. Rather, he prepared for himself food that was compounded of many ingredients, of substances differing one from the other. With this, and with the perpetrating of vile and ignoble acts, his attention was engrossed, and he abandoned the temperance and moderation of a natural way of life. The result was the engendering of diseases both violent and diverse.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 152-153)


But the community has the right of defence and of self-protection, moreover, the community has no hatred nor animosity for the murderer: it imprisons or punishes him merely for the protection and security of others. It is not for the purpose of taking vengeance upon the murderer, but for the purpose of inflicting a punishment by which the community will be protected.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 37)


Each man has been placed in a post of honour, which he must not desert. A humble workman who commits an injustice is as much to blame as a renowned tyrant. Thus we all have our choice between justice and injustice.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159)


For example, if someone oppresses, injures, and wrongs another, and the wronged man retaliates, this is vengeance, and is censurable.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 37)


Grieve thou not over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world, and have forgotten the remembrance of God … The day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68-9)


He (Bahá’u’lláh) has indicated that under certain circumstances, the parents could be deprived of the right of parenthood as a consequence of their actions. The Universal House of Justice has the right to legislate on this matter. It has decided for the present that all cases should be referred to it in which the conduct or character of a parent appears to render him unworthy of having such parental rights as that of giving consent to marriage. Such questions could arise, for example, when a parent has committed incest, or when the child was conceived as a consequence of rape, and also when a parent consciously fails to protect the child from flagrant sexual abuse.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)


He hath, however, caused you to be entangled with (the) affairs (of the world) , in return for what your hands have wrought in His Cause. This, indeed, is a chastisement which ye, of your own will, have inflicted upon yourselves, could ye but perceive it.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 209)


He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68-9)


I swear by God! The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: Taste ye what your hands have wrought!
(Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68)


If an individual violates the spiritual laws for his own development he will cause injury not only to himself but to the society in which he lives.
(The Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-1973, pp. 105-6.)


In caring for its community, a Spiritual Assembly should act as a loving father rather than as a stern judge in such matters. Nevertheless, if a believer’s behaviour is blatantly and flagrantly immoral and, therefore, is harmful to the good name of the Faith, the Assembly must counsel him (or her), urge him to reform his conduct, warn him of the consequences if he does not mend his ways and, ultimately, if the believer persists in misbehaviour, the Assembly must deprive him of his administrative rights. This deprivation remains in force until such time as the believer repents of his actions and is able to satisfy the Spiritual Assembly that he has rectified his behaviour.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 363)


In the same way they consider that the spiritual punishment, that is to say the torture and punishment of existence, is to be subjected to the world of nature, to be veiled from God, to be brutal and ignorant, to fall into carnal lusts, to be absorbed in animal frailties; to be characterized with dark qualities, such as falsehood, tyranny, cruelty, attachment to the affairs of the world, and being immersed in satanic ideas; for them, these are the greatest punishments and tortures.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 324)


Is it not an evidence of the justice of God that each of us, irrespective of family background, is assessed in terms of the efforts we have made to seize whatever opportunities existed in our lives, to develop and use our allotted talent, be it large or small? “Each shall receive his share from the Lord", is Bahá’u’lláh’s assurance.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)


It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize all that their hands have wrought. I swear by the Day Star that shineth above the horizon of Divine power! They that are the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe, while they that live in error shall be seized with such fear and trembling, and shall be filled with such consternation, as nothing can exceed.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 171)


It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed—that is to say, they may become the object of pardon through the bounty of God, not through His justice—for bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 232)


It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed—that is to say, they may become the object of pardon through the bounty of God, not through His justice—for bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved. As we have power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore, in that world also they can make progress.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 231)


It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed—that is to say, they may become the object of pardon through the bounty of God, not through His justice—for bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 17)


It is incumbent upon human society to expend all its forces on the education of the people, and to copiously water men’s hearts with the sacred streams that pour down from the Realm of the All-Merciful, and to teach them the manners of Heaven and spiritual ways of life, until every member of the community of man will be schooled, refined, and exalted to such a degree of perfection that the very committing of a shameful act will seem in itself the direst infliction and most agonizing of punishments, and man will fly in terror and seek refuge in his God from the very idea of crime, as something far harsher and more grievous than the punishment assigned to it.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)


It is inevitable that this community will, at times, be subject to delinquent behaviour of members whose actions do not conform to the standards of the Teachings. At such times, the institutions of the Faith will not hesitate to apply Bahá’í law with justice and fairness in full confidence that the Divine Law is the means for the true happiness of all concerned. However, it should be recognized that the ultimate solution to the problems of humanity lies not in penalties and punishments, but rather in spiritual education and illumination.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)


Justice hath a mighty force at its command. It is none other than reward and punishment for the deeds of men. By the power of this force the tabernacle of order is established throughout the world, causing the wicked to restrain their natures for fear of punishment.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 164)


Justice is not limited, it is a universal quality. Its operation must be carried out in all classes, from the highest to the lowest. Justice must be sacred, and the rights of all the people must be considered. Desire for others only that which you desire for yourselves. Then shall we rejoice in the Sun of Justice, which shines from the Horizon of God.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159-160)


Know thou that ordeals are of two kinds. One is for tests, and the other for punishment of misdeeds … that which is for punishment of deeds is sever retribution.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 85)


O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH! Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man’s injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed with My seal.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 64)


O heedless ones! Though the wonders of My mercy have encompassed all created things, both visible and invisible, and though the revelations of My grace and bounty have permeated every atom of the universe, yet the rod with which I can chastise the wicked is grievous, and the fierceness of Mine anger against them terrible.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 325)


Observe how many penal institutions, houses of detention and places of torture are made ready to receive the sons of men, the purpose being to prevent them, by punitive measures, from committing terrible crimes—whereas this very torment and punishment only increaseth depravity, and by such means the desired aim cannot be properly achieved.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 262)


Only if a believer committed an act which brought disgrace upon the Faith, or rose up actively in opposition to the Centre of the Cause, as Mirza Yahya did, was God’s justice invoked; then Bahá’u’lláh condemned his actions and even expelled him from His community. In spite of this, however, He always prayed God that the individual might mend his ways, repent and return to his Lord.
(Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 4, p. 86)


Only if you perceive honour and nobility in every human being—this independent of wealth or poverty—will you be able to champion the cause of justice.
(Universal House of Justice, Ridván Message 2008, paragraph 8)


Question. — Should a criminal be punished, or forgiven and his crime overlooked? Answer.—There are two sorts of retributory punishments. One is vengeance, the other, chastisement. Man has not the right to take vengeance, but the community has the right to punish the criminal; and this punishment is intended to warn and to prevent so that no other person will dare to commit a like crime. This punishment is for the protection of man’s rights, but it is not vengeance; vengeance appeases the anger of the heart by opposing one evil to another. This is not allowable, for man has not the right to take vengeance. But if criminals were entirely forgiven, the order of the world would be upset. So punishment is one of the essential necessities for the safety of communities, but he who is oppressed by a transgressor has not the right to take vengeance. On the contrary, he should forgive and pardon, for this is worthy of the world of man.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 268)


Shouldst Thou ordain evil for a servant by reason of that which his hands have unjustly wrought before Thy face, Thou wouldst test him with the benefits of this world and of the next that he might become preoccupied therewith and forget Thy remembrance.
(The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 192)


Some people are like bloodthirsty wolves: if they see no punishment forthcoming, they will kill men merely for pleasure and diversion.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 270)


Sustaining growth in cluster after cluster will depend on the qualities that distinguish your service to the peoples of the world. So free must be your thoughts and actions of any trace of prejudice—racial, religious, economic, national, tribal, class, or cultural—that even the stranger sees in you loving friends. So high must be your standard of excellence and so pure and chaste your lives that the moral influence you exert penetrates the consciousness of the wider community. Only if you demonstrate the rectitude of conduct to which the writings of the Faith call every soul will you be able to struggle against the myriad forms of corruption, overt and subtle, eating at the vitals of society. Only if you perceive honour and nobility in every human being—this independent of wealth or poverty—will you be able to champion the cause of justice.
(Universal House of Justice, Ridvan Message 2008)


The Kingdom of God is founded upon equity and justice, and also upon mercy, compassion, and kindness to every living soul. Strive ye then with all your heart to treat compassionately all humankind.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 158)


The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words 2)


The canopy of existence … resteth upon the pole of justice, and not of forgiveness, and the life of mankind dependeth on justice and not on forgiveness.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 28)


The community has no hatred nor animosity for the murderer: it imprisons or punishes him merely for the protection and security of others. It is not for the purpose of taking vengeance upon the murderer, but for the purpose of inflicting a punishment by which the community will be protected. If the community and the inheritors of the murdered one were to forgive and return good for evil, the cruel would be continually ill-treating others, and assassinations would continually occur. Vicious people, like wolves, would destroy the sheep of God. The community has no ill-will and rancor in the infliction of punishment, and it does not desire to appease the anger of the heart; its purpose is by punishment to protect others so that no atrocious actions may be committed.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 269)


The essence of all that We have revealed for thee is Justice, is for man to free himself from idle fancy and imitation, discern with the eye of oneness His glorious handiwork, and look into all things with a searching eye.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 157)


The only way we can prove to such people that they are wrong is to censure their conduct; if we sympathize with them we only fortify their perversity and waywardness.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 185)


The other kind of torment is gross—such as penalties, imprisonment, beating, expulsion and banishment. But for the people of God separation from God is the greatest torment of all.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 265)


The penalties for wounding or striking a person depend upon the severity of the injury; for each degree the Lord of Judgement hath prescribed a certain indemnity. He is, in truth, the Ordainer, the Mighty, the Most Exalted. We shall, if it be Our Will, set forth these payments in their just degrees—this is a promise on Our part, and He, verily, is the Keeper of His pledge, the Knower of all things.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 39)


Then what Christ meant by forgiveness and pardon is not that, when nations attack you, burn your homes, plunder your goods, assault your wives, children, and relatives, and violate your honour, you should be submissive in the presence of these tyrannical foes, and allow them to perform all their cruelties and oppressions. No, the words of Christ refer to the conduct of two individuals towards each other: if one person assaults another, the injured one should forgive him. But the communities must protect the rights of man.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 37-38)


Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight … All your doings hath My pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 63)


To recapitulate: the constitution of the communities depends upon justice, not upon forgiveness. Then what Christ meant by forgiveness and pardon is not that, when nations attack you, burn your homes, plunder your goods, assault your wives, children and relatives, and violate your honor, you should be submissive in the presence of these tyrannical foes and allow them to perform all their cruelties and oppressions. No, the words of Christ refer to the conduct of two individuals toward each other: if one person assaults another, the injured one should forgive him. But the communities must protect the rights of man. So if someone assaults, injures, oppresses and wounds me, I will offer no resistance, and I will forgive him. But if a person wishes to assault Siyyid Manshadi,[1] certainly I will prevent him. Although for the malefactor noninterference is apparently a kindness, it would be an oppression to Manshadi. If at this moment a wild Arab were to enter this place with a drawn sword, wishing to assault, wound and kill you, most assuredly I would prevent him. If I abandoned you to the Arab, that would not be justice but injustice. But if he injure me personally, I would forgive him.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 270-271)


Trust in the capacity of this generation to disentangle itself from the embroilments of a divided society. To discharge your responsibilities, you will have to show forth courage, the courage of those who cling to standards of rectitude, whose lives are characterized by purity of thought and action, and whose purpose is directed by love and indomitable faith. As you dedicate yourselves to healing the wounds with which your peoples have been afflicted, you will become invincible champions of justice.
(The Universal House of Justice, message to the Paraguay Youth Congress, 2000)


Wherever they reside, Bahá’ís endeavour to uphold the standard of justice, addressing inequities directed towards themselves or towards others, but only through lawful means
available to them, eschewing all forms of violent protest.
(Universal House of Justice, To the Bahá’ís of Iran, 2 March 2013)


While the Assembly should always be concerned about matters which might affect the good name of the Faith, it should be remembered that a believer involved in such matters is entitled to the understanding of the Assembly and may need its guidance and assistance both before and after any decision regarding sanctions is made.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 57)



You enquire whether you should take action to have your parents charged with murder, following the death of your brother. You should ascertain from a competent lawyer what are your legal obligations in this regard, and follow such requirements. If there is no legal obligation, it is left to your discretion to decide on this matter, in light of the circumstances However, you might well ask yourself, in the course of this decision-making, what beneficial result is to be gained from such an action, more especially if the action occurred some years ago and if legally-acceptable proof is difficult to establish; you should also weigh carefully the effect this might have on yourself, in the process of re-opening the subject, testifying about it in court, and doubtless incurring the antagonism of your parents.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)


… every aggressor deprives himself of God’s grace.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Will and Testament, p. 13).


… see for themselves beyond any doubt that there is no fiercer hell, no more fiery abyss, than to possess a character that is evil and unsound; no more darksome pit nor loathsome torment than to show forth qualities which deserve to be condemned.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 136)