Abdu’l-Bahá - pictures of

In addition, it is important to bear in mind the difference between, on the one hand, actual photographs of the Master and, on the other, paintings, drawings or, photographs of paintings of Him. In a letter written on behalf of the House of Justice to our National Assembly dated May 6, 2009, we received the following guidance: On this point the Guardian's secretary wrote on his behalf to an individual believer on 11 July 1942:

He was pleased to receive the picture of the Master which your friend made, and though he sees no objection to people having portraits of the Master in their homes, if it gives them pleasure, he prefers that for distribution and for purchase, they should confine themselves to His photographs, as these are, of course, a much more perfect likeness of Him.

Universal House of Justice to the USA-NSA, 6 May 2009

The House of Justice has explained that in keeping with the guidance of Shoghi Effendi the friends are not prohibited from making drawings or paintings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and placing them in their homes. What is not permitted is to widely distribute or circulate copies or photographs of such a painting.

Universal House of Justice to the USA-NSA, 6 May 2009

Anyone who has a question about the appropriate use of the image of the Master in a particular situation is encouraged to consult with his or her Local Spiritual Assembly. While Local Assemblies are entrusted with the task of reviewing all “special materials” created by Bahá’ís for sale and distribution (that is, all items other than literature and audiovisual materials), Assemblies are welcome to contact the National Assembly for guidance if they wish.

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, November 21, 2011

Generally speaking, individuals are welcome to make personal use of photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, such as by displaying them in their homes, and to publish them, as appropriate, in books. However, in recent letters written on its behalf, the House of Justice has expressed caution with respect to individuals engaging in the "widespread commercial distribution of photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá," stating that "it is generally not appropriate for individuals to be involved in the marketing of photographs of the Master, a practice that would not be in keeping with the profound respect and dignity that must be accorded to His station."

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, August 16, 2011

Generally, the question of propriety must be considered on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the context and circumstances. However, there are certain guidelines which can be recognized as basic to ensuring a dignified and accurate presentation:

• According to specific guidance from the Universal House of Justice, it is not acceptable to place a photo of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on the outside cover of a book, nor to represent Him as a character in a dramatic work.

• Similarly, it would not be appropriate to include His photo in a flyer or on a publicity poster, nor on any item for common use (such as a cup, keychain, postcard or CD).

• In line with our previous letter, drawings or paintings of the Master may not be posted online.

• Clearly, the image of the Master should not be used as a name icon on Facebook or similar social-networking services.

• Use of the video of the Master is reserved for occasions of utmost reverence and sanctity, as determined by the House of Justice. (See letter from the National Assembly dated September 23, 2008, on the Administrative Website, www.usbnc.org.)

• Use of the audio recording of the Master’s voice is also reserved for special occasions. (See chap. 10 of Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, also at www.usbnc.org.) Thus, neither the video nor audio recording of Him should be posted online.

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, November 21, 2011

In summary, photographs of the Master may be distributed for purchase. Drawings or paintings are to be distributed in a limited way and may not be sold. Photographs of paintings of the Master may not be distributed or sold.

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States to the American Bahá’í Community, August 16, 2011