Baha'i Library Online

COLLECTIONLetters from the Universal House of Justice
TITLEPermissibility of Circulating Photographs of 'Abdu'l-Bahá Online
AUTHOR 1 Universal House of Justice
ABSTRACTGuidance and quotations regarding the use of images of Abdu'l-Baha in print, newsletters, and social media.
TAGS`Abdu'l-Bahá, Pictures and portraits; Social media

… Mr. … asks if there is additional guidance concerning the display of images of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in public forums other than the passage from a Persian letter written by Shoghi Effendi in July 1925 published in full in Tawqí‘át-i-Mubárakiy-i-arat-i-Valíyy-i-Amru’lláh ([Letters of the Guardian], Ṭihrán, 129 B.E., volume 1, page 249). The Research Department offers the following comments.

In 1925 Shoghi Effendi cautioned that large-scale circulation of images of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was not appropriate:

It is not permissible to have many copies made of the photograph of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the recording of His voice and His movie film, and to put them in circulation among the masses of the believers or the non-believers. It is likewise not permissible to use or show them at any and all occasions. Such acts are detrimental to the interests of the Faith and do not comply with the dignity and reverence due to these precious and holy relics.1

In subsequent letters written on his behalf, it was intimated that he had no objection to the circulation of photographs of the Master among the believers. Two examples below are quoted from letters dated 15 November 1935 and 11 July 1942 written on his behalf to two individual believers.

Regarding the use of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s photographs, Shoghi Effendi sees no objection to their circulation.

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.

The guidance of the Universal House of Justice regarding photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá being printed in newsletters is that these should be used most sparingly and always in a dignified context in keeping with His station. Furthermore, the policy of the House of Justice regarding all publications, audio-visual productions, and the like, is that these should be submitted for the approval of the National Assembly in the area where they are to be published.

Regarding the use of images pertaining to the Faith in social media profiles, the House of Justice has not established particular guidelines but has advised taking into consideration some general principles such as paying careful attention to the development of a sincere attitude of reverence towards that which is sacred. It has not prohibited the publication of photographs of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá online but, again, has advised that they should be used most sparingly and always in a dignified context in keeping with His station.

(From a memorandum dated 29 January 2024 prepared by the Research Department at the request of the Universal House of Justice)

1 This is a provisional translation as there is presently no authorized English translation available.
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