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For Baha’is, the purpose of marriage is to create a divine institution that gives birth to the next generation of teachers who will arise to further proclaim the Cause of God. As Baha’u’llah says:
Enter ye into wedlock, that after you another may arise in your stead.Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p.49
There are, of course, many factors that influence whether and when to have children, including education, financial stability, career or physical ability. A letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice states:
They should realise, moreover, that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation of children. A couple who are physically incapable of having children may, of course, marry, since the procreation of children is not the only purpose of marriage. However, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Teachings for a couple to decide voluntarily never to have any children.From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, November 3, 1982, Lights of Guidance, p. 379
Although there are legitimate reasons for not having children, in today’s modern society we find that an increasing number of married couples willingly choose never to raise a child despite their ability to do so. Many couples are also unaware of the spiritual effects that children attract to the relationship between husband and wife. Ruhiyyih Khanum states:
The purpose of marriage is children, and yet in our modern world, especially in the busy life of big cities, this fact is rapidly being lost sight of. We have drifted so far away from the good, clean earth that begot us, so lost in the maze of our material civilisation, that the most primitive joys and blessings which every beast possesses we are ever increasingly denying ourselves.Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Prescription for Living, p. 71
According to the 2011 Australian Census, the percentage of couple families without children has increased from 28% in 1976 to 37.8% in 2011. Similarly, 44.6% of couple families in Australia had children in 2011, down from 59.5% in 1976. These figures continue to trend in a similar manner. 1
A document released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicating the social trends in the 2012 March quarter revealed that while the rate of marriages registered in Australia each year had remained relatively stable, Australians were marrying at an older age and delaying having their first child until later in life. 2">Australian Social Trends, March Quarter 2012, Australian Bureau of Statistics, March 4, 2012,
While there is nothing in the Baha’i writings that specifies the ideal time to have children, it was interesting to note that the reasons for later childbearing related to material aspects of life such as spending more time on educational pursuits, and concerns regarding financial stability.
Similar trends are apparent in the United States. An article entitled The No Baby Boom stated that more couples were opting for the child-free life because “the benefits go beyond dollars and cents. There’s less guilt, less worry, less responsibility, more sleep, more free time, more disposable income”. 3 As we immerse ourselves in this material world, it becomes easy to overlook how children can in fact bring life and energy to our lives rather than simply more stress and less sleep. Ruhiyyih Khanum goes on to say:
It is our nature to have children. It is not only good for us physically to have children and necessary for society that we do, but it is a spiritual blessing for us as well. To have created a new life, a life like yourself, springing from you, dependent on you, calls forth a whole gamut of new emotions from the human heart. Dead indeed the heart of the man that does not beat faster at the touch of the hand of his baby! It tears away some of the selfishness with which we are always overburdened. It brings a new, keen interest into life, a new sense of responsibility. It makes a man think more of himself and more of his honor. It calls forth a new kind of love, a love that perforce must give and be patient and self-denying. In fact to have a child can be a self-purification for the parents. It adds zest to life; here is a very demanding task, this new human must be provided for, helped, trained, educated. It binds the mother and father closer, renews the springs of their love, puts out green leaves on the marriage tree.Ruhiyyih Rabbani, Prescription for Living, p. 71
So while one outcome of marriage is to be able to raise servants who will obey the laws and ordinances of Baha’u’llah, there are also hidden spiritual blessings that children attract to the marriage itself. Having children forces us to rethink how we spend our time in this life and to whom we direct our love. It forces us to think less about ourselves, and more about educating another in every facet of life. It engrains in us the virtues of patience, perseverance, selflessness and honour, and purifies us from our material desires.
Know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind and no nobler deed than this can be imagined.Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, no. 114.1
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