International Convention and the Election of the Universal House of Justice

The Seat of the Universal House of Justice in Haifa, Israel (Photo courtesy Adib Roy via Flickr).

As Baha’i’s around the world continue to celebrate the 12 days of Ridvan, and local Baha’i communities in cities, towns and villages elect their Local Spiritual Assemblies, an important event, which only takes place once every five years is currently underway in Haifa, Israel: The election of the Universal House of Justice.

The Universal House of Justice is the supreme administrative body for the Baha’i international community. In reference to the role of the Universal House of Justice, Baha’u’llah stated:

The men of God’s House of Justice have been charged with the affairs of the people. They, in truth, are the Trustees of God among His servants and the daysprings of authority in His countries… Inasmuch as for each day there is a new problem and for every problem an expedient solution, such affairs should be referred to the Ministers of the House of Justice that they may act according to the needs and requirements of the time.1

The first election of the Universal House of Justice was 50 years ago in 1963, and it coincided with the centenary of the declaration of Baha’u’llah which took place in the Ridvan Gardens in Baghdad in 1863. Since its inception, the Universal House of Justice is elected every five years by members of National Spiritual Assemblies worldwide, and these members gather together at what is called the International Baha’i Convention. The electoral process is carried out by these attendees (or ‘delegates’ as they are also known) in a spiritual atmosphere of prayer and reverence. All delegates cast their votes via a secret ballot, and, as in all Baha’i elections, any form of nominating or electioneering for candidates is strictly forbidden in the Baha’i Writings. Those who cannot attend the International Baha’i Convention in person must cast their ballot via mail.

The election of the Universal House of Justice was ordained by Baha’u’llah in The Most Holy Book (Kitab-i-Aqdas), and delegates are able to vote for any nine males over the age of 21 from around the Baha’i world. The fact that the election is based on ‘male members’ of the community has often been a point of much discussion in light of the explicit Baha’i belief that men and women are equal (and perhaps this can be looked at in more depth in a future article); but Baha’is view positions on Baha’i institutions as roles of service rather than power, and Abdu’l-Baha clearly states that the reason for this law “will erelong be made manifest as clearly as the sun at high noon.”2

In Abdu’l-Baha’s Will and Testament, He writes that members elected to serve on the Universal House of Justice…

…must be manifestations of the fear of God and daysprings of knowledge and understanding, must be steadfast in God’s faith and the well-wishers of all mankind.3

As mentioned, much emphasis is placed on delegates approaching the election process in a prayerful attitude, and the team here at Baha’i Blog hopes that you will join us in keeping the delegates during this very special event in our thoughts and prayers.

  1. Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh Revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, [rev. ed.] (Haifa: Bahá’í World Centre, 1982), pp. 26-27 []
  2. Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 80 []
  3. Will and Testament of Abdu’l-Baha p. 14 []

About the Author

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for two decades. He’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the "DawnBreaker Collective" and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of "MANA" albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable while working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the "Building Momentum" and "Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience" videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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Discussion 7 Comments

  1. “…and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

    9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”

    (King James Bible, Isaiah)

    also…. seem to recall that Zeal is a translation of the name Shoghi but do not remember where.

  2. Just a note that ‘Abdu’l-Baha says that the “wisdom”‘ of the membership of the Universal House of Justice will become apparent, not the “reason.” Because the equality of women and men is a fundamental principle of the Baha’i Faith, the membership provisions of the Universal House of Justice have nothing to do with any superiority of men or inferiority of women. The Universal House of Justice is duty bound, by the teachings of Baha’u’llah Himself, to establish the equality of women and men in the world. For that reason, it has made the advancement of women and their rights one of the top public affairs foci of the Baha’i International Community.

    The election of the Universal House of Justice is one of the very few truly global elections that take place anywhere. There is nothing quite like seeing people from Papua New Guinea and Poland, Bahamas and Belarus, Indonesia and Ivory Coast, cast their ballots for a world council with a diverse membership that has come to include members from all continents.

  3. Further to Bill’s Biblical references and his observations of the representative diversity of the attendees at the election of the Universal House of Justice, It is no longer the case that the meek shall inherit the earth, but the meek have inherited the earth.

  4. James comment made me wonder as to the original Aramaic word for ‘meek’ voiced by His Holiness Jesus Christ
    The Greek of course came later
    And the Guardian has said that the holy Bible is the book of Guidance but it is not a verbatim or word perfect account of Christ’s words
    Every thing below this sentence was composed by a Christian scholar, Wayne Jackson, and I’ve just cut and pasted from a Christian site:

    In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ declared: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). There are two misconceptions commonly connected with this passage.

    First, the nature of meekness is misunderstood.

    Second, some contend that the verse speaks of a future, eternal abode upon the earth.

    To many, “meekness” suggests the idea of passivity, someone who is easily imposed upon, spinelessness, weakness. Since Jesus declared Himself to be meek (Matthew 11:29), some perceive Him as a sissy-type character.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Greek New Testament, “meek” is from the Greek term praus. It does not suggest weakness; rather, it denotes strength brought under control. The ancient Greeks employed the term to describe a wild horse tamed to the bridle.

    In the biblical sense, therefore, it describes one who has channeled his strengths into the service of God.

    Underline the word in Matthew 5:5, and in the margin of your Bible write: See Numbers 12:3; Zephaniah 2:3. The former passage describes Moses as the meekest man on earth — certainly no weakling; the latter verse declares that the meek of the earth are those who have kept Jehovah’s ordinances. The meek person submits to God!

    As to the expression “inherit the earth,” the following facts should be noted:

    (1) God is the owner of this earth (Psalm 24:1).

    (2) Those who obey Christ become children of God (Galatians 3:27; Hebrews 5:9), and “joint-heirs” with the Lord (Romans 8:17).

    (3) The Father supplies all our needs (Philippians 4:19), we therefore enjoy this earth and its blessings more than all others.

    (4) Mainly, however, our inheritance is spiritual (Acts 20:32); we are heirs in the kingdom of Christ (Ephesians 5:5), and citizenship in that kingdom is available now on this earth (cf. John 3:3-5; Colossians 1:13).

    (5) Finally, we also look for an inheritance that is reserved for us in heaven (1 Peter 1:4), because we are aware that the earth will be destroyed when Christ returns (2 Peter 3:10).

    Thus, underline “inherit the earth,” and make some appropriate notations in your margin.

  5. It is indeed unfortunate that as tolerant as the Baha’i Faith is, there is still sexism in its main governing body. To say that the reason for this will be made manifest someday sadly sounds like a convenient and to be perfectly honest, a lazy way of saying that one sex is more capable than the other, to be part of the Universal House of Justice. As a woman of sound mind and body with a soul in search of a more tolerant faith, this is the one aspect of being Baha’i that has turned me off from it. I thank you for your well-written blogs, but my search continues.

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