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COLLECTIONEssays and short articles
TITLEBahá'í Ethics: Answers to 55 Questions Submitted by Arthur Dobrin
AUTHOR 1Dianne Bradford
AUTHOR 2Fiona Missaghian
AUTHOR 3Udo Schaefer
AUTHOR 4Robert Stockman
CONTRIB 1Jonah Winters, comp.
VOLUMEArthur D. Dobrin, ed.
TITLE_PARENTReligious Ethics: A Sourcebook
PUB_THISHindi Granth Karyalay
ABSTRACTAnswers to questions submitted in preparation for a source book in religious ethics for a college course at Hofstra University, New York, fall 2001.
NOTES Compiled and edited by Jonah Winters from answers and quotations provided by Dianne Bradford and Fiona Missaghian, with input from Bill Garlington, Jason Sandlin, Robert Stauffer, Robert Stockman. Prefaced with introduction by Udo Schaefer
TAGS- Interfaith dialogue; - Living the life; - Philosophy; Abortion; Abuse; Alcohol; Animals; Autopsy; Behaviour; Biology; Capital punishment; Children; Church and state; Cosmetic surgery; Cosmetics; Creation; Day of Judgment (or Day of Resurrection); Decline and renewal of religion; Diet; Divorce; Drugs; Education; Environment; Equality; Ethics; Euthanasia; Evil; Evolution; Family; Food; Gambling; Gender; Genetic engineering; Hair (general); Health and healing; LGBTQ; Laws; Masturbation; Moderation; Monogamy; Morality; Nature; Polygamy; Punishment; Questions and Answers (Kitáb-i-Aqdas); Religion (general); Science; Sexuality; Smoking; Sociology; Suicide; Tattoos; Tests and difficulties; Unresolved matters; Violence; War (general); Western culture; Women
    Abdu'l-Bahá (1844-1921): Eldest surviving son of Bahá'u'lláh and his designated successor; regarded as being the perfect "Exemplar" of the Bahá'í Faith and the first of two infallible interpreters of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.

    Báb, The (1819-1850): The Prophet-Forerunner of the Bahá'í Faith; seen as a "bridge" of sorts between the Islamic revelation and the Bahá'í revelation.

    Bahá'í: lit. "Of Bahá," i.e. Bahá'u'lláh. A follower of the religion revealed by Bahá'u'lláh.

    Bahá'u'lláh (1817-1892): lit. "Glory of God." The Prophet-Founder of the Bahá'í Faith and the Manifestation of God for this era; the author/revealer of the core teachings of the Bahá'í revelation.

    Guardian, The: honorific of Shoghi Effendi

    Manifestation: A Prophet of God in any age, e.g. Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, and The Báb. "Minor" prophets such as Isaiah or Amos are not manifestations. The Manifestations are not God descended to earth, but rather perfect human reflections of the divine, such that the face of God as reflected in the Manifestations can be regarded as God Himself.

    Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957): Grandson of Abdu'l-Bahá. Protector and "Guardian" of the Bahá'í Faith, and second of two infallible interpreters of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation.

    The Universal House of Justice: Supreme elected administrative body of the Bahá'í Faith, consisting of a nine-member committee acting as a single executive voice. First elected in 1963, its seat is in the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa, Israel.
Some prefatory comments:
  1. All writings and texts quoted below can be found online at the Bahá'í Academics Resource Library,

  2. By common Bahá'í convention, extracts from the writings of the Bahá'í Faith's primary figures (The Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, Abdu'l-Bahá, and Shoghi Effendi) have been italicized. Extracts from the writings of the Universal House of Justice and their agencies (including the Notes to the Kitab-i-Aqdas where quoted below) have not been italicized.

  3. A few respondents expressed their concern that the following 55 ethics questions might not be neatly answerable in a Bahá'í context. Reasons for this vary, but some primary objections have been:
    1. From a Bahá'í perspective, many of the answers to these questions would require a degree of contextualization rather than a blanket 'yes or no,' 'this or that' answer. This is best expressed in a letter from the Universal House of Justice dated June 1988:
      The Universal House of Justice does not feel that the time has come for it to provide detailed legislation on subjects such as abortion, homosexuality and other moral issues.... [I]n most areas of human behaviour there are acts which are clearly contrary to the law of God and others which are clearly approved or permissible; between these there is often a grey area where it is not immediately apparent what should be done. It has been a human tendency to wish to eliminate these grey areas so that every aspect of life is clearly prescribed. A result of this tendency has been the tremendous accretion of interpretation and subsidiary legislation which has smothered the spirit of certain of the older religions.
            On behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 5 June 1988
      While the same could be said of other religions, in the Bahá'í Faith context is also informative in light of the Faith's fundamental tenet that certain religious truth itself is relative. This is expressed in the Faith's teaching of the "Progressive Revelation" of certain religious truth; God sends his Manifestations to each people and each time as they are needed, and no Revelation is final. The Revelations thus differ in many points of context and cultural relevance. The core spiritual teachings of all religions, though, are universal and unchanging. (For more on the Faith's relativism, see Future Bahá'í law, when universalized and globalized, may thus sometimes have to focus on the spirit of the law rather than its letter.

      However, the Bahá'í Faith also teaches that ethical conduct can be universalized. Certain beliefs and actions are considered as wrong and immoral regardless of the historical context. But individuals are not necessarily capable of determining on their own which laws have contextual versus universal application. Bahá'ís are thus very conscientious about adhering as closely as possible to the written word of the Bahá'í Faith, its extensive body of sacred text left for the community by the Faith's Central Figures.

      In a certain sense, making ethical determinations is a requirement for and mark of maturity. The human race is slowly but presently coming of age, the Bahá'í Faith teaches, and the capacity to discern ethical behavior is becoming a capability and responsibility of all believers. As the Universal House of Justice continued in the above letter, there are
      ...area[s] of the application of the laws [which are] intentionally left to the conscience of each individual believer. This is the age in which mankind must attain maturity, and one aspect of this is the assumption by individuals of the responsibility for deciding, with the assistance of consultation, their own course of action in areas which are left open by the law of God.

    2. Besides the relativity of religious truth, the Bahá'í Faith also contains a certain relativity of historic truth. Authorized teachings of the Bahá'í Faith go back to the advent of the revelation of the Báb, 1844. Authorized interpretations of Bahá'í Teachings then extend to the death of Shoghi Effendi, 1957, and still inform present-day legislation of the Universal House of Justice. In that 150 years Bahá'í history has spanned place as well as time, with its Manifestations [prophets; see definition above] living in and revealing from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Palestine/Israel, and its authorized interpreters living in or speaking in England, Egypt, continental Europe, North America, and Israel. Some Bahá'í texts might have contextual but not universal relevance. Descriptions of specific ethical teachings must sometimes be described contextually and could be misleading when generalized. Examples include teachings on war, the treatment of apostates, martyrdom and suicide, genetic engineering, and bigamy.

    3. The Bahá'í Faith is a very text-centered religion, in no small part because the tens of thousands of extant writings from its five central authorities (The Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, Abdu'l-Bahá, Shoghi Effendi, and the Universal House of Justice) contain guidance on thousands of topics. A corollary of this is that the three latter authorities were/are very careful only to interpret or legislate within the sphere of teachings left by their respective predecessors. By extension, present-day Bahá'ís and the Universal House of Justice refrain from extrapolating from precedents and hence avoid ruling on or offering interpretations about issues not previously addressed. Therefore, if any of the following answers lack clearly supporting quotations, they should be considered individual interpretation only and might or might not accurately represent Bahá'í teachings.

From Dr. Udo Schaefer, "On the Difficulty of Dealing with Ethical Questions," a chapter from "In A Blue Haze: Smoking and Bahá'í Ethics" (Prague: Zero Palm Press, 1997), online at
The question of whether a certain behaviour is permitted or prohibited, good, evil, or neutral, is a question of ethics. A Bahá'í who wants to know how to act in a given situation, will begin by turning to his conscience, and since this has been formed by the revealed Word, to the Scripture, i.e. the sum of the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and the authoritative interpretations of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi. What might appear to be self-evident for every religious person is not necessarily so, as we shall shortly see.

Today the presentation of concrete ethical standards has become problematic in our society. Certainly, the highest ethical values in the Bahá'í Revelation, the love of one's neighbour and of all humanity, or the cardinal virtue of justice, are sure to meet with approval. One can agree to these highly abstract values without having to commit oneself to changing any patterns of everyday life. However, when it comes to assessing actual everyday behaviour affecting one's own self, especially when it comes to prohibitions, irritation can set in quickly.

The Bahá'ís are living in this society and are influenced by the prevalent ways of thinking whether they want to be or not, and in this society, thinking in moral categories is becoming more and more unfashionable. Many people are unaccustomed to it. To many it seems increasingly questionable that there should be such things as rigid norms and unalterable duties which unequivocally state what should or should not be done. This is concomitant with the decay of religion and the resulting erosion of the Christian value system.

In many parts of the world morality, called an "honourable form of stupidity" by Friedrich Nietzsche, has not only lost its general binding force but also its self-evident importance and is actually seen by many as a kind of stupidity. It has largely disappeared from everyday speech and is almost only used with an ironical undertone. A person who maintains moral points of view is considered a "morality apostle", with whom no one wants any interaction. This is evident in political discussions or in talk shows on television where interlocutors are admonished, for God's sake not to moralise. Especially in regard to so-called "social fringe groups" (criminals, social outcasts, prostitutes, drug addicts, homosexuals) or on the issue of abortion one should kindly refrain from any moral approach whatsoever. Persons who fail to do so disqualify themselves, exposing themselves as Pharisees and die-hard reactionaries. This process of "demoralisation" began with sociology; how far it has already spread can be seen by the semantic cleansing of our language, which bans the use of all terms that might hold any moral reproach.

Of course, Bahá'ís do not think that way. Experience with these issues shows, however, that they often have similar feelings, which is not surprising in this social climate. Therefore, a person presenting ethical demands and thus drawing an ideal of humanity "in light of which one's own everyday existence fails a thousandfold", is easily suspected of affectations or insincerity by being a moralist, a hell-and-brimstone preacher, as well as by violating the cardinal norm that prohibits self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is a distorted form of righteousness. According to Confucius the self-righteous are "the spoilers of morals." They were frequently and uncompromisingly rebuked by Bahá'u'lláh even as He praised the truly righteous, "well is it with the righteous that mock not the sinful, but rather conceal their misdeeds". When someone uses the pretext of moral responsibility to scrutinize commonly accepted social norms of behaviour, isn't that person preoccupied with the faults and sins of others? In the end, doesn't such a person violate the imperatives of his or her own ethics?

If this were the case, it would actually be totally inadmissible to be concerned with Bahá'í ethics, which as in all religions do make up a substantial part of our theology. However, we are not dealing here with a specific individual's unique and personal behaviour, but rather with abstract human behaviour. And to judge this behaviour in the abstract is not only permissible, but imperative, since God's Book is the "unerring Balance" "in which all who are in the heavens and all who are on the earth are weighed", through which "truth shall be distinguished from error". At a time "when no man knoweth how to discern light and darkness or to distinguish guidance from error", we are challenged to reflect what our duties are, whether certain ways of acting, accepted or disputed in society, are permitted or prohibited. How else could we then accomplish the task which 'Abdu'l-Bahá defined in a prayer: "to refute what is vain and false" and "to establish the truth"?

      Udo Schaefer




1. What does it mean to be a good person?

Submission under God's command is considered "good", but it needs to be pointed out also that this implies to follow (the most recent of) God's Messengers, Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'u'lláh says:
The source of all good is trust in God, submission unto His command, and contentment with His holy will and pleasure.
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Words of Wisdom, pp. 153-155

Our duty to the Covenant of Bahá'u'lláh is first recognize the Manifestations of God and follow their teachings, from which goodness follows:
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation. Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed. It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other...
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas

Some Bahá'ís believe that striving towards social good would also define what a good person is, and many Bahá'ís have dedicated themselves to social improvement. Ultimately, according to Bahá'í teachings, only God and His Messengers know what is the right and good thing to do, since only God has the "complete picture," hence the command to submission. God demands that His people strive towards the social good.

Bahá'ís also believe that being good or being an ethical person has consequences for this world and the world beyond, so the ethical teachings of the Bahá'í Faith have a spiritual and "other-worldly" dimension as well. One needs to keep this in mind when asking why one should be good etc. Being an ethical person is strongly connected with the purpose of existence: know God through His Messengers and follow the laws.


2. Why be good?

1) By divine command. Bahá'u'lláh says:
... Live ye one with another, O people, in radiance and joy. By My life! All that are on earth shall pass away, while good deeds alone shall endure; to the truth of My words God doth Himself bear witness....
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 70, pp. 44-45

Other reasons include:
2) Universal Eschatology: Because God knows what is good for His people and He only wants them to be happy, content and to live a life in peace.
3) Individual Eschatology: Because everyone's station after death will depend on one's goodness in this world (and of course God's acceptance
4) Purely for Love for God (Ultimate and most selfless reason).

'Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's appointed Successor and authorized Interpreter of His words, says:
... And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world's multitudes should become a source of social good. Is any larger bounty conceivable than this, that an individual, looking within himself, should find that by the confirming grace of God he has become the cause of peace and well-being, of happiness and advantage to his fellow men? No, by the one true God, there is no greater bliss, no more complete delight.
Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 2-3


3. Is it possible to be a good person and not be a member of your religion?

Yes, especially if one is a member of another of God's religions, which the Bahá'í Faith regard as all authentic; "The holy Manifestations Who have been the Sources or Founders of the various religious systems were united and agreed in purpose and teaching" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace)

Abdu'l-Bahá even encouraged people to become "true Christians":
Thou didst begin thy letter with a blessed phrase, saying: 'I am a Christian.' O would that all were truly Christian! It is easy to be a Christian on the tongue, but hard to be a true one. Today some five hundred million souls are Christian, but the real Christian is very rare: he is that soul from whose comely face there shineth the splendour of Christ, and who showeth forth the perfections of the Kingdom; this is a matter of great moment, for to be a Christian is to embody every excellence there is. I hope that thou, too, shalt become a true Christian.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,

While one can be good without being a Bahá'í, there is a great advantage to recognizing the truth of Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings. For example, say there existed a book series, and the first book in the series with all of its sequels contained the answers to all of the questions you could ever have. Now say you find one of these books. It could be one of these books that was already owned by a family member or one you came across unexpectedly. You read the book and realize what a treasure it is. You might even seek out and read some of the earlier books in this series because this one is so exciting and you hope for more sequels as well. But either because you don't know that there exists another sequel in this wonderful series of books or because you have been convinced by others that this book which you read is the last book of the series, you don't even look for any other sequels.

Now, since each sequel in the series summarizes or restates the answers found in all of the previous books, not going back to read any of the previous books in the series may not hurt you; although you would miss out on the beauty and excitement of these books by not reading them. However, since each book contains more of these answers than any of the ones previously written, not reading these sequels means that there are answers on which you are missing out.

The Revelation of God is like that series of books. As humanity matured as a race, a greater measure of God's Revelation was revealed through each succeeding Manifestation. To reveal too much too early would be to give the people more than they could handle. Therefore the Revelation of God's Will and mysteries was revealed slowly and progressively according to the capacity of the people of the time to receive it. Bahá'u'lláh's Revelation contains the fullest measure of God's Revelation thus far given to humanity. Therefore, to miss out on Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings is to keep yourself from knowing as much as you can about the mysteries of God, God's Will for humanity, and the solutions for the world's problems--solutions given by God Himself through Bahá'u'lláh. In addition, Bahá'u'lláh has clearly written that He is not the last of God's Manifestations/Messengers either. So, in a few centuries we can expect another sequel to the Books of the Revelation of God.

Ultimately, though only God can decide who is "good" and who is not. Until we face Him nobody can say for sure if He accepts our acts, even if we think they are good and even if they are in accordance with Bahá'í law.


4. Is it possible to be a good person and no longer believe in your religion? I.e., can an apostate be a good person?

Yes, but one does not fulfill the purpose of one's creation. As earlier quoted from the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh says:
The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws.... Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 1, p. 19

However, the Bahá'í teachings also emphasize that "One's beliefs are an internal and personal matter; no person or institution has the right to exert compulsion in matters of belief." (Universal House of Justice, private correspondence April 4 2001). As explained by Abdu'l-Bahá, "The Cause of God hath never had any place for denouncing others as infidel or profligate, nor hath it allowed anyone to humiliate or belittle another." (


5. Is there a difference between religious requirements and morality?

God is the source of all good and His commandments help distinguish between right or wrong. The standards of morality are established by Religion and they are renewed with the appearance of each Manifestation of God. Therefore, what religions require of their followers is the utmost in morality .

'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
The real bond of integrity is religious in character, for religion indicates the oneness of the world of humanity. Religion serves the world of morality. Religion purifies the hearts. Religion impels men to achieve praiseworthy deeds. Religion becomes the cause of love in human hearts, for religion is a divine foundation, the foundation ever conducive to life. The teachings of God are the source of illumination to the people of the world. Religion is ever constructive not destructive. Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 43


6. What is the source of ethics?

God, as announced through God's Messenger for this Age. 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
... The divine religions embody two kinds of ordinances. First, there are those which constitute essential, or spiritual, teachings of the Word of God. These are faith in God, the acquirement of the virtues which characterize perfect manhood, praiseworthy moralities, the acquisition of the bestowals and bounties emanating from the divine effulgences - in brief, the ordinances which concern the realm of morals and ethics. This is the fundamental aspect of the religion of God, and this is of the highest importance because knowledge of God is the fundamental requirement of man. Man must comprehend the oneness of Divinity. He must come to know and acknowledge the precepts of God and realize for a certainty that the ethical development of humanity is dependent upon religion. He must get rid of all defects and seek the attainment of heavenly virtues in order that he may prove to be the image and likeness of God... As God is loving and kind to all men, man must likewise manifest loving-kindness to all humanity. As God is loyal and truthful, man must show forth the same attributes in the human world. Even as God exercises mercy toward all, man must prove himself to be the manifestation of mercy. In a word, the image and likeness of God constitute the virtues of God, and man is intended to become the recipient of the effulgences of divine attributes.'
Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 403-404


7. Can someone be a good person and be an atheist?

Yes, since the morality brought by God's Messengers eventually becomes the standard for society. However, they are depriving themselves of attaining the purpose of their creation "to know and worship God." Someone who does the same thing as a religious person would do, but just does not believe in God, may be a good person in that he or she produces good for this world, but the purpose of his or her creation was not fully fulfilled.

The short obligatory prayer of Bahá'u'lláh, which many Bahá'ís recite daily, says:
I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth.
There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
Prayers and Meditations by Bahá'u'lláh, # CLXXXI

Further, it is possible that religion may at times be itself bad and immoral (however, presumably the following quote doesn't contrast religion with atheism, i.e. actual disbelief in God):
Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion. All the holy prophets were as doctors to the soul; they gave prescriptions for the healing of mankind; thus any remedy that causes disease does not come from the great and supreme Physician.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace,


8. How do you decide what is right and what is wrong?

By the standards of religion. As it has ever been, God tells humanity what is right and what is wrong through His Manifestations, teachings which we learn and internalize largely through prayer and meditation. It is no different with Bahá'u'lláh. He, Himself, affirms:
We have, under all circumstances, enjoined on men what is right, and forbidden what is wrong. He Who is the Lord of Being is witness that this Wronged One hath besought from God for His creatures whatever is conducive to unity and harmony, fellowship and concord. By the righteousness of God! This Wronged One is not capable of dissimulation. He, verily, hath revealed that which He desired; He, truly, is the Lord of strength, the Unrestrained.
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 38-39

About the Laws which He has revealed at God's bidding, Bahá'u'lláh says:
Think not that We have revealed unto you a mere code of laws. Nay, rather, We have unsealed the choice Wine with the fingers of might and power. To this beareth witness that which the Pen of Revelation hath revealed. Meditate upon this, O men of insight!
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 5, p. 21

In addition, a certain amount of testing is also a part of each Revelation. Again turning to Bahá'u'lláh's Writings, we read:
... from time immemorial even unto eternity the Almighty hath tried, and will continue to try, His servants, so that light may be distinguished from darkness, truth from falsehood, right from wrong, guidance from error, happiness from misery, and roses from thorns...
The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 8


9. Why do bad things happen to good people?

The Bahá'í Faith offers a number of responses to this question. These include that suffering produces personal growth; that suffering need not prevent happiness, for one can be joyous in the midst of severity; that some people bring suffering upon themselves through their neglecting to follow the teachings of the Prophets; and finally that the reason for some suffering might only be known to God.

Tests and trials make us stronger.
Not until man is tried doth the pure gold distinctly separate from the dross. Torment is the fire of test wherein the pure gold shineth resplendently and the impurity is burned and blackened. At present thou art, praise be to God, firm and steadfast in tests and trials and art not shaken by them.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,

Shoghi Effendi, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's appointed successor and Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, wrote:
... As long as there will be life on earth, there will be also suffering, in various forms and degrees. But suffering, although an inescapable reality, can nevertheless be utilised as a means for the attainment of happiness. This is the interpretation given to it by all the prophets and saints who, in the midst of severe tests and trials, felt happy and joyous and experienced what is best and holiest in life. Suffering is both a reminder and a guide. It stimulates us better to adapt ourselves to our environmental conditions, and thus leads the way to self improvement. In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings..
Unfolding Destiny, p. 434.

The Guardian also wrote:
...the world is full of suffering. Bahá'u'lláh tells us that the deeper are the furrows it digs into our very being, the greater will be the fruit of our life and the more enhanced our spiritual development. All the Saints that shine in the history of society had to pass through tribulations. Their form was various but their effect has always been the same, namely, the purification of our heart and soul for receiving the light of God.
Quoted in Lights of Guidance, No. 678, p. 204.


10. Is there a difference between a religious offence and a moral/secular offence?

Since we learn what is moral from religion, the two are inextricably entwined, and an offense in one is also reflected in the other. However, the Bahá'í Faith does recognize a distinction between certain public and private ethical behavior; if a Bahá'í drinks at home he has only God to judge, but if he drinks in public he harms the Faith. Similarly, the Faith recognizes that non-Bahá'ís do not and are not expected to follow all Bahá'í laws. Again with the case of drinking, the Faith does not chastise or judge the consumption of alcohol by those who do not follow them.

It is always most unfortunate when Bahá'ís of long standing, and even members of institutions at the national level, partake of alcoholic beverages, thus damaging themselves, harming the good name of the Faith in the eyes of non-Bahá'ís, and setting a bad example for the rank and file of the believers.

Of course, the Assemblies should not pry into the lives of individual believers; but in the case of any Bahá'í who blatantly violates the law, he should be counselled


11. Who enforces the moral rules of your religion?

The individual is responsible to enforce the rules of his/her own personal religious laws (prayers, fasting, pilgrimage, charity), and the observance or non-observance of these laws is between the individual and God. As for the other social laws which protect and guide the community at large, Bahá'u'lláh has established the institution of the House of Justice as follows:
The Lord hath ordained that in every city a House of Justice be established... It behoveth them to be the trusted ones of the Merciful among men and to regard themselves as the guardians appointed of God for all that dwell on earth. It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 30, p. 29

Bahá'u'lláh has also set forth ordinances which helps to provide the Houses of Justice with the funds they will need to care for those under their jurisdictions. Of these Houses of Justice Bahá'u'lláh also says:
...Verily have We made [them] a shelter for the poor and needy... (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 48, p. 37)

At present there is only one House of Justice established in the world, the Universal House of Justice, which deals with the world-wide affairs of the Bahá'í Faith, and has made itself available to world leaders for consultation as well. Indeed, several of the leaders and governments in the world have already availed themselves of this priceless guidance based upon Bahá'u'lláh's teachings offered by the Universal House of Justice. National and local Houses of Justice at the present time go by the name of Spiritual Assemblies. (see further explanation in Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá vol. 1 p. 6; also Robert Stockman's Bahá'í Faith in America vol. 2 note 139, p.448)

These "Local Spiritual Assemblies" and "National Spiritual Assemblies" run the affairs of the community and enforce moral behaviour in the rare cases that such enforcement is necessary (e.g., by repeated and egregious public behavioral offenses). Enforcement comes first in the form of patient counselling to make sure the individual is familiar with Bahá'í law, and in the most egregious cases culminates in the retraction of the believer's voting rights and other aspects of community participation.

The Universal House of Justice explains the process:
The Universal House of Justice feels that it is vital, for the sound development of the Cause of God in those communities where there remains any doubt among the friends as to the importance of obedience to [Bahá'í] law, that the National Spiritual Assemblies ensure that all believers are clearly informed of it. Of course, the Assemblies should not pry into the lives of individual believers; but in the case of any Bahá'í who blatantly violates the law, he should be counselled, assisted to overcome the habit, warned repeatedly of the consequences of continued disobedience, and ultimately, if he does not respond positively, be deprived of his administrative rights.
online at


12. Should the moral rules of your religion apply to everyone?

When Bahá'u'lláh wrote His books with laws and teachings He did not think that they will only benefit His followers, but the whole planet, that they in fact have the purpose to unite the whole world and enable it to live in peace. But of course everybody has the freedom to choose.

Since the morality brought by God's Messengers eventually becomes the standard for society, they will inevitably apply to everyone eventually. About the Laws which He has revealed, Bahá'u'lláh says:
They whom God hath endued with insight will readily recognize that the precepts laid down by God constitute the highest means for the maintenance of order in the world and the security of its peoples. He that turneth away from them is accounted among the abject and foolish. We, verily, have commanded you to refuse the dictates of your evil passions and corrupt desires, and not to transgress the bounds which the Pen of the Most High hath fixed, for these are the breath of life unto all created things. The seas of Divine wisdom and Divine utterance have risen under the breath of the breeze of the All-Merciful. Hasten to drink your fill, O men of understanding! They that have violated the Covenant of God by breaking His commandments, and have turned back on their heels, these have erred grievously in the sight of God, the All-Possessing, the Most High.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 2, pp. 19-20.


13. What role should religion play in secular society?

Religion should serve the spiritual and social needs of all those willing to accept such help and where it is allowed by secular laws. It is an indispensible part of society. Again we turn to the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá for clarification of the role and importance of religion to society:
... Religion is the light of the world, and the progress, achievement, and happiness of man result from obedience to the laws set down in the holy Books. Briefly, it is demonstrable that in this life, both outwardly and inwardly the mightiest of structures, the most solidly established, the most enduring, standing guard over the world, assuring both the spiritual and the material perfections of mankind, and protecting the happiness and the civilization of society - is religion.
'Abdu'l-Bahá: Secret of Divine Civilization, pp. 71-72


Use of Force


14. Is killing ever justified?

Yes, if justice warrants it, such as in cases of self-defense and criminal justice. In the endnotes added to the English translation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, where further explanation and clarification can be found regarding some of its passages, is written:
... Shoghi Effendi in a letter written on his behalf has also indicated that, in an emergency, when there is no legal force at hand to appeal to, a Bahá'í is justified in defending his life...
Anonymous, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes Section, Note 173, p. 241

Abdu'l-Bahá explains in more depth:
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...

The communities must punish the oppressor, the murderer, the malefactor, so as to warn and restrain others from committing like crimes. But the most essential thing is that the people must be educated in such a way that no crimes will be committed; for it is possible to educate the masses so effectively that they will avoid and shrink from perpetrating crimes, so that the crime itself will appear to them as the greatest chastisement, the utmost condemnation and torment. Therefore, no crimes which require punishment will be committed.
Some Answered Questions, #77

There is no explicit statement on euthanasia yet. The Universal House of Justice has said that it is "a matter which the Universal House of Justice will have to legislate." Until they do, "decisions [in these matters] must be left to the consciences of those responsible.'" (Lights of Guidance, pp. 291-292)


15. Is war ever justified?

Yes, if in defense of the innocent. Where one state rises against another, all other states are to rise to defend the attacked. Bahá'u'lláh says:
"Should one king rise up against another, all the other kings must arise to deter him. Arms and armaments will, then, be no more needed beyond that which is necessary to insure the internal security of their respective countries.
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 31

Peace is of course preferable. Bahá'u'lláh says:
"... They must put away the weapons of war, and turn to the instruments of universal reconstruction. Should one king rise up against another, all the other kings must arise to deter him. Arms and armaments will, then, be no more needed beyond that which is necessary to insure the internal security of their respective countries.
Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, pp. 30-31

Abdu'l-Bahá summarizes how to avoid war:
To remedy this condition there must be universal peace. To bring this about, a Supreme Tribunal must be established, representative of all governments and peoples; questions both national and international must be referred thereto, and all must carry out the decrees of this Tribunal. Should any government or people disobey, let the whole world arise against that government or people.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,


16. Is violence against innocent people justifiable?

No. The Universal House of Justice has written:
'The use of force by the physically strong against the weak, as a means of imposing one's will and fulfilling one's desires, is a flagrant transgression of the Bahá'í Teachings. There can be no justification for anyone compelling another, through the use of force or through the threat of violence, to do that which the other person is not inclined.
'Abdu'l-Bahá has written:
O ye lovers of God! In this, the cycle of Almighty God, violence and force, constraint and oppression, are one and all condemned.
Quoted in letter from the Universal House of Justice, reprinted in The American Bahá'í, November 23, 1993, pp. 10-11


17. Can someone be a conscientious objector?

In our faith it is not allowed, though we can seek to serve in a non-combatant role. We are to obey just governments. Shoghi Effendi states:
Our position as Bahá'ís is not that we won't obey our Government or support the country if attacked, it is that we do not believe in, or wish to take part in, killing our fellow-men. We are not conscientious objectors at all; we will serve, but wish, as there is a provision in the law in the U.S.A. covering our attitude, to be classified as non-combatants. If you need to consult on this matter, you should refer to the N.S.A., as this question continually arises, and they can give you advice which will be the most accurate and applicable to present conditions.
Lights of Guidance, No. 1352, p. 407


18. Is force justifiable against children?

Regarding the disciplining of children, 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
... Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary. It is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child's character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, No. 95, p. 125

The Universal House of Justice emphasizes just how important this is:
Among the signs of moral downfall in the declining moral order are the high incidence of violence within the family, the increase of degrading and cruel treatment of spouses and children, and the spread of sexual abuse. It is essential that the members of the community of the Greatest Name take the utmost care not to be drawn into acceptance of such practices because of their prevalence. They must be ever mindful of their obligations to exemplify a new way of life distinguished by its respect for the dignity and rights of all people, by its exalted moral tone, and by its freedom from oppression and from all forms of abuse.
From a letter online at


19. Is force justifiable against a spouse?

Again, this depends on the circumstances. A wife defending herself against an abusive husband would be allowable if such force is in self-defense and no other options exist.

The Universal House of Justice has written:
For a man to use force to impose his will on a woman is a serious transgression of the Bahá'í Teachings. 'Abdu'l-Bahá has stated that:
'The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting; force is losing its dominance, and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy.

Bahá'í men have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world around them a new approach to the relationship between the sexes, where aggression and the use of force are eliminated and replaced by cooperation and consultation. The Universal House of Justice has pointed out in response to questions addressed to it that, in a marriage relationship, neither husband nor wife should ever unjustly dominate the other, and that there are times when the husband and the wife should defer to the wishes of the other. If agreement cannot be reached through consultation, the couple should determine exactly under what circumstances such deference is to take place.

'From the Pen of Bahá'u'lláh Himself has come the following statement on the subject of the treatment of women:...
'No Bahá'í husband should ever beat his wife, or subject her to any form of cruel treatment; to do so would be an unacceptable abuse of the marriage relationship and contrary to the Teachings of Bahá'u'lláh.'
From a letter online at


20. Is suicide ever justifiable?

Our religion forbids suicide, but there have been many Bahá'í martyrs who knowingly went to their deaths.

One reason not to commit suicide is because of the harm it can do to the spirit. Shoghi Effendi says that
'Suicide is forbidden in the Cause. God Who is the Author of all life can alone take it away, and dispose of it in the way He deems best. Whoever commits suicide endangers his soul, and will suffer spiritually as a result in the other Worlds Beyond.... '
Lights of Guidance, No. 677, p. 204

There was one prominent Bahá'í, Nabil, who drowned himself shortly after the death of Bahá'u'lláh in 1892. However, his action is neither condemned nor viewed as a role model. Shoghi Effendi explained that "Nabil's suicide was not insanity but love. He loved Bahá'u'lláh too much to go on in a world that no longer held Him." (Unfolding Destiny, Page 406)


21. To what extent is martyrdom acceptable?

Martyrdom is permitted if it is not done at one's own hands and is inflicted solely by others without solicitation, when, solely on account of our religious beliefs, others put us to death. We are to try to prevent this from happening, but we should not seek to save our life by denying our faith.

Martyrdom is one of the highest stations to which we can attain. Bahá'u'lláh says:
This is a Revelation, under which, if a man shed for its sake one drop of blood, myriads of oceans will be his recompense. Take heed, O friends, that ye forfeit not so inestimable a benefit, or disregard its transcendent station. Consider the multitude of lives that have been, and are still being, sacrificed in a world deluded by a mere phantom which the vain imaginations of its peoples have conceived.
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, sect. III, pp. 5-6.

However, martyrdom does not necessarily mean literally being killed for one's Faith. Those who sacrifice themselves by devoting their lives to teaching the Faith are equally martyrs. Martyrdom is also characterized by the high degree of detachment and sacrifice shown by the martyr. We have been told by the Universal House of Justice that what the Cause of God needs at this time are living martyrs. Even as 'Abdu'l-Bahá has stated:
... Martyrdom is the supreme test of belief. Great martyrs will arise in this Cause in the years to come. A believer is sometimes called upon to suffer a living martyrdom.
Quoted in Ten Days in the Light of Akka, Julia Grundy, p. 5.

The meanings of early Bahá'í martyrdom are discussed in depth in Jonah Winters' thesis "Dying for God: Martyrdom in the Shí'í and Bábí Religions," at


22. Is it right to kill an innocent person in order to save the life of another?

This is not allowable in most circumstances. It might be permissible in the case of an abortion of a fetus which endangers the life of the mother or in cases at times of tragedy when a choice must be made who receives medical attention first, etc. The Universal House of Justice says:
Abortion and surgical operations for the purpose of preventing the birth of unwanted children are forbidden in the Cause unless there are circumstances which justify such actions on medical grounds, in which case the decision, at present, is left to the consciences of those concerned who must carefully weigh the medical advice in the light of the general guidance given in the Teachings...
Lights of Guidance, No. 1155, p. 345


23. Is capital punishment acceptable; if so, for what offenses?

As an act of justice, capital punishment for murder is permitted, though life imprisonment is an acceptable alternative: "The law of Bahá'u'lláh prescribes the death penalty for murder and arson, with the alternative of life imprisonment." (Anonymous: The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, note 86, page 203-204).

The reason for such punishment must be understood to be corrective, not retributive. It is understood to have a cathartic result on the soul of the criminal and in taking away his life he will not have to pay for his crime in the next world. The above note continues:
In His Tablets Abdu'l-Bahá explains the difference between revenge and punishment. He affirms that individuals do not have the right to take revenge, that revenge is despised in the eyes of God, and that the motive for punishment is not vengeance, but the imposition of a penalty for the committed offence. In Some Answered Questions, He confirms that it is the right of society to impose punishments on criminals for the purpose of protecting its members and defending its existence."

Having said this, capital punishment will only be enforced in a future Bahá'í society when humanity has "reached a much higher point of evolution," not in the society that we are living in now. It cannot be said in advance how a future Bahá'í society will apply which punishments to which types of offenses:
The details of the Bahá'í law of punishment for murder and arson, a law designed for a future state of society, were not specified by Bahá'u'lláh. The various details of the law, such as degrees of offence, whether extenuating circumstances are to be taken into account, and which of the two prescribed punishments is to be the norm are left to the Universal House of Justice to decide in light of prevailing conditions when the law is to be in operation. The manner in which the punishment is to be carried out is also left to the Universal House of Justice to decide.

Finally, arson in the above is not necessarily meant as an offense resulting in capital punishment:
In relation to arson, this depends on what "house" is burned. There is obviously a tremendous difference in the degree of offence between the person who burns down an empty warehouse and one who sets fire to a school full of children.


Science and Medicine


24. Under what circumstances, if any, is abortion allowable?

Abortion is considered morally wrong if it is done only to take the life of the unborn and not to save another life; abortion might be permitted in cases where the doctor and family involved decides it is necessary to save the life of the mother, in which case it is left to them to decide.

The Universal House of Justice says:
Abortion and surgical operations for the purpose of preventing the birth of unwanted children are forbidden in the Cause unless there are circumstances which justify such actions on medical grounds, in which case the decision, at present, is left to the consciences of those concerned who must carefully weigh the medical advice in the light of the general guidance given in the Teachings. Beyond this nothing has been found in the Writings concerning specific methods or procedures to be used in family planning. It should be pointed out, however, that the Teachings state that the soul appears at conception, and that therefore it would be improper to use such a method, the effect of which would be to produce an abortion after conception has taken place.
Lights of Guidance, No. 1155, p. 345

Regarding the case of rape, the Universal House of Justice says:
One of the most heinous of sexual offenses is the crime of rape. When a believer is a victim, she is entitled to the loving aid and support of the members of her community, and is free to initiate action against the perpetrator under the law of the land should she wish to do so. If she becomes pregnant as a consequence of this assault, no pressure should be brought upon her by the Bahá'í institutions to marry. As to whether she should continue or terminate the pregnancy, it is left to her to decide on the course of action she should follow, taking into consideration medical and other relevant factors, and in the light of the Bahá'í Teachings ...
Quoted in The American Bahá'í, November 23, 1993, pp. 10-11


25. Are autopsies allowable; if so, under what circumstances?

Autopsies are not forbidden, but proper respect to the body must be given and the autoposy must be followed by a proper burial according to religious law. The Báb explains the importance of treating the dead body with respect:
As this physical frame is the throne of the inner temple, whatever occurs to the former is felt by the latter. In reality that which takes delight in joy or is saddened by pain is the inner temple of the body, not the body itself. Since this physical body is the throne whereon the inner temple is established, God hath ordained that the body be preserved to the extent possible, so that nothing that causeth repugnance may be experienced. The inner temple beholdeth its physical frame, which is its throne. Thus, if the latter is accorded respect, it is as if the former is the recipient. The converse is likewise true.

Therefore, it hath been ordained that the dead body should be treated with the utmost honour and respect.."
Selections from the Writings of the Bab, The Persian Bayan, V, 12, p. 95


26. Are there rules about body modification e.g. tattoos, cosmetic surgery or amputations?

There are no specific injunctions against them, but moderation should be observed. One is not to become a cause of displeasure to others, as pertains to one's dress and appearance.

On a similar subject, the Guardian has written:
Regarding Bahá'í women using facial make-up: individuals are entirely free to do as they please in such purely personal matters. As Bahá'ís are enjoined to use moderation in all things, and to seek the Golden mean, the National Spiritual Assembly can, if it deems it necessary or advisable, counsel the believers to use moderation in this respect also.
Shoghi Effendi: Dawn of a New Day, p. 193

Most especially, nothing should be done that would be harmful to one's body. Bahá'u'lláh says:
... Beware of using any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor in the human temple and inflicteth harm upon the body. We, verily, desire for you naught save what shall profit you, and to this bear witness all created things, had ye but ears to hear.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 155, p. 75


27. Are transfusions allowed?

Transfusions are not prohibited. Indeed, we are instructed to seek and follow the advice of a competent physician when healing is needed. 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
According to the explicit decree of Bahá'u'lláh one must not turn aside from the advice of a competent doctor. It is imperative to consult one even if the patient himself be a well-known and eminent physician. In short, the point is that you should maintain your health by consulting a highly-skilled physician.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, No. 135, p.156


28. Should extraordinary means be used to prolong life?
29. Should family and/or patients have the right to end suffering?

Extraordinary means to extend a life may be permissible with a doctor's advice and if it is not a cause of injustice. Regarding euthanasia, the Universal House of Justice has written:
We have received your letter of March 18, 1974 in which you ask for the Bahá'í viewpoint on euthanasia and on the removal of life support in medical cases where physiological interventions prolong life in disabling illnesses. In general our teachings indicate that God, the Giver of life, can alone dispose of it as He deems best, and we have found nothing in the Sacred Text on these matters specifically but in a letter to an individual written on behalf of the beloved Guardian by his secretary regarding mercy killings, or legalized euthanasia, it is stated:

"...this is also a matter which the Universal House of Justice will have to legislate."

Until such time as the Universal House of Justice considers legislation on euthanasia, decisions in the matters to which you refer must be left to the consciences of those responsible.
Lights of Guidance, pp. 291-292


30. Does anyone have the right to hasten death?

As a general principle, individuals are not to arrogate to themselves the responsibility for determining who may live. The Universal House of Justice has written: '... In general our teachings indicate that God, the Giver of life, can alone dispose of it as He deems best ... (Lights of Guidance, pages 291-292)

There are, of course, some exceptions: e.g. when abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother, or in the case where a criminal has incurred the death penalty. However, appropriate action in both cases must be decided by competent doctors and courts, respectively. Any other exceptions will have to be legislated by the Universal House of Justice as the issues arise.


31. In the case of conjoined twins when both will die if nothing is done to separate them but only one will live (and the other die) if the operation takes place, is the killing of one acceptable in order to save the life of the other?

The Bahá'í Faith has no explicit statement on this. The principle of preservation of life above all else would certainly apply, but how it would be applied would depend on the situation.


32. Is genetic engineering permissible?

There is no broad statement on this in the Bahá'í writings or legislation. The Universal House of Justice has written:
The House of Justice has not found anything specific in the Bahá'í writings concerning the ethics of genetic engineering on human tissue, including foetal tissue, and on possible means of biologically creating replacement limbs and organs for human beings. It regards it as premature to give consideration to these matters and to their spiritual consequences. For the present, believers confronted with such issues are free to come to their own conclusions, based on their knowledge of the pertinent Bahá'í teachings.
online at

The ethics of certain aspects of genetic engineering are thus left up to the individual. As the House recently clarified in response to a question about stem-cell research,
For the present, believers faced with questions about them are free to come to their own conclusions based on their knowledge of the Bahá' i teachings on the nature and purpose of life.
online at


33. Is the theory of evolution compatible with your religion?

Yes, in its broad strokes the Bahá'í Faith accepts the theory of evolution. This fits in with the principle that science and religion each have their sphere of truth, and neither sphere can overrule the other sphere's authority. If a religion issues a teaching or ruling on a purely scientific fact which is contrary to the informed contemporary scientific consensus, then Bahá'ís are to accept the scientific explanation.

Speaking specifically about evolution, Abdu'l-Bahá explained;
[M]an, in the beginning of his existence and in the womb of the earth, like the embryo in the womb of the mother, gradually grew and developed, and passed from one form to another, from one shape to another, until he appeared with this beauty and perfection, this force and this power. It is certain that in the beginning he had not this loveliness and grace and elegance, and that he only by degrees attained this shape, this form, this beauty and this grace. There is no doubt that the human embryo did not at once appear in this form... Gradually it passed through various conditions and different shapes, until it attained this form and beauty, this perfection, grace and loveliness.
Some Answered Questions, section 47

Having said that, the Bahá'í Faith does not accept certain metaphysical extrapolations of evolutionary theory. For example, Abdu'l-Bahá explains that, though changing in outward form, the human identity has remained distinct from that of the animal.
[Man's] aspect, his form, his appearance and color change; he passes from one form to another, and from one appearance to another. Nevertheless, from the beginning of the embryonic period he is of the species of man--that is to say, an embryo of a man and not of an animal; but this is not at first apparent, but later it becomes visible and evident. For example, let us suppose that man once resembled the animal, and that now he has progressed and changed. Supposing this to be true, it is still not a proof of the change of species. No, as before mentioned, it is merely like the change and alteration of the embryo of man until it reaches the degree of reason and perfection. We will state it more clearly. Let us suppose that there was a time when man walked on his hands and feet, or had a tail; this change and alteration is like that of the fetus in the womb of the mother. Although it changes in all ways, and grows and develops until it reaches the perfect form, from the beginning it is a special species.
Some Answered Questions, p. 193

Shoghi Effendi offers a bit of clarification:
We cannot prove man was always man for this is a fundamental doctrine, but it is based on the assertion that nothing can exceed its own potentialities, that everything, a stone, a tree, an animal and a human being existed in plan, potentially, from the very "beginning" of creation. We don't believe man has always had the form of man, but rather that from the outset he was going to evolve into the human form and species and not be a haphazard branch of the ape family.
Arohanui: Letters to New Zealand, No. 75, p. 85


34. Are environmental concerns part of your religious ethic?

Yes, the Bahá'í Faith believes not only that this world is important for our development, but also that it has been entrusted to our stewardship. Therefore, care must be taken to preserve and better our physical environment. Shoghi Effendi says:
... For it is only through such divine precepts that the world can obtain peace and tranquility, and become an environment within which man can spiritually progress and attain his noble destiny.
Shoghi Effendi: Light of Divine Guidance Vol.1, No. p. 46

Moderation is again a key principle to achieving this end. Plant and animal species, many of which are important to our physical health and well-being, will not become endangered or extinct if moderation is exercised in how we use them and their environment. For example, regarding hunting, Bahá'u'lláh says:
... Take heed, however, that ye hunt not to excess. Tread ye the path of justice and equity in all things. Thus biddeth you He Who is the Dawning-place of Revelation, would that ye might comprehend.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 60, pp. 40-41


35. Do animals have any moral standing?

No, but Bahá'ís are exhorted to treat animals with the utmost respect. Bahá'u'lláh writes: "Burden not an animal with more than it can bear. We, truly, have prohibited such treatment through a most binding interdiction in the Book" (Kitáb-i-Aqdas, para. 187).

However, animals lack spiritual susceptibilities, are ignorant of divine religion, and have no knowledge of God. They thus do not have their own morality. This is discussed more fully online in Arthur Dahl's "The Bahá'í Attitude towards Animals" at

Though hunting is permitted, Bahá'u'lláh gives this warning:
... Take heed, however, that ye hunt not to excess. Tread ye the path of justice and equity in all things. Thus biddeth you He Who is the Dawning-place of Revelation, would that ye might comprehend.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 60, pp. 40-41

Bahá'ís are also not required to be vegetarians. However, Abdu'l-Bahá did state that humanity would gradually turn away from a meat-based diet and begin to rely much more heavily on fruits and grains. When asked "What will be the diet of the future?" Abdu'l-Bahá answered:
Fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten. Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food."
Ten Days in the Light of Akka, online at

Abdu'l-Bahá explains that we should regard harmful animals, not as ethically impure, but as pragmatically harmful; justice then requires that we treat harmful animals with less tolerance but be fully loving to the peaceful animals:
Most human beings are sinners, but the beasts are innocent. Surely those without sin should receive the most kindness and love - all except animals which are harmful, such as bloodthirsty wolves, such as poisonous snakes, and similar pernicious creatures, the reason being that kindness to these is an injustice to human beings and to other animals as well. If, for example, ye be tender-hearted toward a wolf, this is but tyranny to a sheep, for a wolf will destroy a whole flock of sheep. A rabid dog, if given the chance, can kill a thousand animals and men. Therefore, compassion shown to wild and ravening beasts is cruelty to the peaceful ones - and so the harmful must be dealt with. But to blessed animals the utmost kindness must be shown, the more the better. Tenderness and loving-kindness are basic principles of God's heavenly Kingdom. Ye should most carefully bear this matter in mind.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, No. 138, pp. 159-160


36. Does your religion predict an end of time? If so, when will that be and what will the world be like for humans?

This question could refer to three different issues: (a) the Big Bang; (b) a metaphysical beginning and ending to temporality itself, or (c) the Day of Judgment. The Bahá'í Faith affirms (a) via its emphasis on the primacy of science to solve scientific questions; it teaches that the metaphysics of (b) has no clear scientific answer; and it affirms the reality of and explains (c), the Day of Judgment. I'll explain further:

A) Big Bang:

Little need be said about this. The scientific consensus on the reality of the Big Bang and subsequent cosmology/planetary genesis is so broad and detailed that Bahá'ís accept it as scientific fact. However, this does not mean that Bahá'ís necessarily accept all metaphysical meanings physicists might express about their theories.

B) Beginning and ending of time itself:

There will not be an end of time. 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
... For example, by present consideration we say that God is the creator. Then there must always have been a creation.... Therefore, God has no beginning and no ending; nor is His creation limited ever as to degree. Limitations of time and degree pertain to things created, never to the creation as a whole. They pertain to the forms of things, not to their realities. The effulgence of God cannot be suspended.
Foundations of World Unity, p. 53

Having said that, Bahá'í metaphysics also recognize that concepts such as the finiteness or infiniteness of time are just that -- metaphysical concepts only. In the "Tablet of Wisdom," Bahá'u'lláh explained:
As regards thine assertions about the beginning of creation, this is a matter on which conceptions vary by reason of the divergences in men's thoughts and opinions. Wert thou to assert that it hath ever existed and shall continue to exist, it would be true; or wert thou to affirm the same concept as is mentioned in the sacred Scriptures, [i.e., that time had a beginning in Creation] no doubt would there be about it, for it hath been revealed by God...

That which hath been in existence had existed before, but not in the form thou seest today. The world of existence came into being through the heat generated from the interaction between the active force and that which is its recipient. These two are the same, yet they are different. Thus doth the Great Announcement inform thee about this glorious structure."
Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, online atáh/tb/8.html

C) Day of Judgment:

As for what many believe to be the Day of Judgement, the Day of God, or the Day of Resurrection, Shoghi Effendi says:
'Concerning the meaning of "Resurrection": although this term is often used by Bahá'u'lláh in His Writings, as in the passage quoted in your letter, its meaning is figurative. The tomb mentioned is also allegorical, i.e. the tomb of unbelief. The Day of Resurrection, according to Bahá'í interpretation, is the Judgement Day, the Day when unbelievers will be called upon to give account of their actions, and whether the world has prevented them from acknowledging the new Revelation.

'The passage in Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet in which He explains the Sura of "The Sun" should not be interpreted literally. It does not mean that after the Day of Resurrection praise and peace will cease to be vouchsafed to the Prophet. Rather it means to the end of time, i.e. indefinitely and for all times."
Dawn of a New Day, pp. 79-80

Indeed, this Day of God comes whenever a new Manifestation appears in the world. Bahá'u'lláh says:
It is evident that every age in which a Manifestation of God hath lived is divinely ordained, and may, in a sense, be characterized as God's appointed Day. ..."
Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, Sect. XXV, p. 60)

However, the appearance of the next Manifestation of God, and therefore the next Day of God, is not for many years to come. Bahá'u'lláh says: " Whoso layeth claim to a Revelation direct from God, ere the expiration of a full thousand years, such a man is assuredly a lying impostor. ..." (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 37, p.32)

As for humanity's immediate future: following the periods of test and travail that invariably precede paradigm-shifting growth, Shoghi Effendi quotes Bahá'u'lláh:
' "The winds of despair," writes Bahá'u'lláh, as He surveys the immediate destinies of mankind, "are, alas, blowing from every direction, and the strife that divides and afflicts the human race is daily increasing. The signs of impending convulsions and chaos can now be discerned, inasmuch as the prevailing order appears to be lamentably defective." "Such shall be its plight," He, in another connection, has declared, "that to disclose it now would not be meet and seemly." "These fruitless strifes," He, on the other hand, contemplating the future of mankind, has emphatically prophesied, in the course of His memorable interview with the Persian Orientalist, Edward G. Browne, "these ruinous wars shall pass away, and the 'Most Great Peace' shall come.... These strifes and this bloodshed and discord must cease, and all men be as one kindred and one family." "Soon," He predicts,"will the present-day order be rolled up, and a new one spread out in its stead." "After a time," He also has written, "all the governments on earth will change. Oppression will envelop the world. And following a universal convulsion, the sun of justice will rise from the horizon of the unseen realm." "The whole earth," He, moreover, has stated, "is now in a state of pregnancy. The day is approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings." "All nations and kindreds," Abdu'l-Bahá likewise has written, "...will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations, will be approaching when it will have yielded its noblest fruits, when from it will have sprung forth the loftiest trees, the most enchanting blossoms, the most heavenly blessings." "All nations and kindreds," Abdu'l-Bahá likewise has written, "...will become a single nation. Religious and sectarian antagonism, the hostility of races and peoples, and differences among nations, will be eliminated. All men will adhere to one religion, will have one common faith, will be blended into one race, and become a single people. All will dwell in one common fatherland, which is the planet itself."
Shoghi Effendi: The Promised Day is Come, pp. 116-117




37. Is sex outside marriage permissible?

No. Bahá'u'lláh forbids adultery in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, His Book of Laws:
"Ye have been forbidden to commit murder or adultery, or to engage in backbiting or calumny; shun ye, then, what hath been prohibited in the holy Books and Tablets." (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 19, p. 26)
He then sets the penalty for it:
God hath imposed a fine on every adulterer and adulteress, to be paid to the House of Justice: nine mithqals of gold, to be doubled if they should repeat the offence. Such is the penalty which He Who is the Lord of Names hath assigned them in this world; and in the world to come He hath ordained for them a humiliating torment. Should anyone be afflicted by a sin, it behoveth him to repent thereof and return unto his Lord. He, verily, granteth forgiveness unto whomsoever He willeth, and none may question that which it pleaseth Him to ordain. He is, in truth, the Ever-Forgiving, the Almighty, the All-Praised.
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 49, p. 37

In the endnotes section of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, it is written:
'The Arabic word "zina", here translated as "adultery", signifies both fornication and adultery. It applies not only to sexual relations between a married person and someone who is not his or her spouse, but also to extramarital sexual intercourse in general. One form of "zina" is rape. The only penalty prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh is for those who commit fornication (see note 77); penalties for other kinds of sexual offence are left to the Universal House of Justice to determine.'
Anonymous, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes Section, Note 36, p.181


38. Is sex only for procreation?

No, though procreation is one major reason for sex within marriage. Bahá'u'lláh writes:
... Enter into wedlock, O people, that ye may bring forth one who will make mention of Me amid My servants. This is My bidding unto you; hold fast to it as an assistance to yourselves.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 63, p. 41.

However, the Bahá'í Faith also recognizes the sex impulse, and that there is a place for that in the lives of the individual. The Universal House of Justice quotes the Guardian as follows:
'The Guardian has clarified, in letters written on his behalf, that "The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse," and that "The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this very purpose that the institution of marriage has been established."'
The Universal House of Justice, from a Message dated January 24, 1993, reprinted in The American Bahá'í, November 23, 1993, pp. 10-11


39. Is masturbation allowed?

It is discouraged. Shoghi Effendi wrote:
The Bahá'í Faith recognizes the value of the sex impulse, but condemns its illegitimate and improper expressions such as free love, companionate marriage and others, all of which it considers positively harmful to man and to the society in which he lives. The proper use of the sex instinct is the natural right of every individual, and it is precisely for this purpose that the institution of marriage has been established. The Bahá'ís do not believe in the suppression of the sex impulse but in its regulation and control.
Lights of Guidance, No. 1156, p. 345.

However, it is also a matter Bahá'ís are encouraged not to dwell unduly on. The Universal House of Justice says,
You should remember, however, that [masturbation] is only one of the many temptations and faults that a human being must strive to overcome during his lifetime, and you should not increase the difficulty you have by over-emphasizing its importance.... Be vigilant against temptation, but do not allow it to claim too great a share of your attention. You should concentrate, rather, on the virtues that you should develop, the services you should strive to render, and, above all, on God and His attributes, and devote your energies to living a full Bahá'í life in all its many aspects."
Lights of Guidance, No. 1220


40. Is genital sex the only morally permissible type?

The Bahá'í Faith has no explicit statement on this. Bahá'u'lláh did expressly forbid liwat, but there is some disagreement on the exact meaning of this Arabic word. It almost exactly translates as Sodomy, in that the word liwat means "the crime of Lot," i.e. the escapee from Sodom. However, just as the English word "sodomy" has multiple legal meanings, so did liwat. Its application to the Bahá'í context has yet to be clarified by the Universal House of Justice. More detail is found at

Shoghi Effendi provides some general principles:
On the question of sex the Bahá'ís are, in most of their fundamental views, in full agreement with the upholders of traditional morality. Bahá'u'lláh, like all the other Prophets and Messengers of God, preaches abstinence, and condemns, in vehement language, all forms of sexual laxity, unbridled licence and lust. The Bahá'í standard of sex morality is thus very high, but it is by no means unreasonably rigid. While free love is condemned, yet marriage is though not forced, to perform. Sex instinct, like all other human instincts, is not necessarily evil. It is a power which, if properly directed, can bring joy and satisfaction to the individual. If misused or abused it brings, of course, incalculable harm not only to the individual but also to the society in which he lives. " 6 April 1936
Unfolding Destiny, pp. 434-435


41. Are there moral codes regarding dress and hairstyles?

Moderation and courtesy in dress and appearance must be practiced, so as not to offend. Regarding the hair, Bahá'u'lláh says:
Shave not your heads; God hath adorned them with hair, and in this there are signs from the Lord of creation to those who reflect upon the requirements of nature. He, verily, is the God of strength and wisdom. Notwithstanding, it is not seemly to let the hair pass beyond the limit of the ears. Thus hath it been decreed by Him Who is the Lord of all worlds.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, par. 44, p. 35.

The exact meaning of these statements has not yet been defined, e.g. what it means for hair to "pass beyond the limit of the ears."


42. Is transvestism immoral?
43. Is homosexuality immoral?
44. Should gay marriages be recognized by the state?

While there is no statement on transvestitism (wearing gender-alternate clothing), regarding transsexuality (gender dysphoria) the Universal House of Justice considers the change of sex to be "a medical question on which the advice of medical experts should be sought." See

Homosexuality is considered immoral:

No matter how devoted and fine the love may be between people of the same sex, to let it find expression in sexual acts is wrong. To say that it is ideal is no excuse. Immorality of every sort is really forbidden by Bahá'u'lláh, and homosexual relationships he looks upon as such, besides being against nature.
From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian, March 26, 1950

In practice, though, it's regarded more as a handicap than a moral failing, especially if it's the result of a treatable psychological disorder.
A number of sexual problems such as homosexuality and transsexuality can well have medical aspects, and in such cases recourse should certainly be had to the best medical assistance. But it is clear from the teaching of Bahá'u'lláh that homosexuality is not a condition to which a person should be reconciled, but is a distortion of his or her nature which should be controlled and overcome. This may require a hard struggle, but so also can be the struggle of a heterosexual person to control his or her desires.
From a letter of the Universal House of Justice, cited in Messages from The Universal House of Justice 1968-1973, p. 110-111

Part of the reason for this emphasis on "normal" sexuality is given as an endnote to the English translation of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, which also explains why the state must not recognize gay marriage:
The Bahá'í teachings on sexual morality centre on marriage and the family as the bedrock of the whole structure of human society and are designed to protect and strengthen that divine institution. Bahá'í law thus restricts permissible sexual intercourse to that between a man and the woman to whom he is married.
Anonymous, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Notes Section, Note 134, p. 223


45. Should all people have equal rights under the law even if they engage in immoral behavior?

If the immoral behavior is determined to be criminal by secular law, then those convicted of such should lose some or all of their rights. But as long as behaviour is not criminal or harmful to society, justice is the right of every individual, without prejudice of any kind. However, if the immoral behaviour is itself considered a crime, then the individual is then subject to the penalties set for that crime if convicted, just as every other individual is subject to the same laws and incurs the penalties for breaking a law.


46. Is it immoral to have more than one spouse at time?

Bahá'u'lláh officially limited the number of wives a man might have from four -- the prevailing Muslim standard as prescribed by Muhammad -- to two but encouraged only one. He states:
God hath prescribed matrimony unto you. Beware that ye take not unto yourselves more wives than two. Whoso contenteth himself with a single partner from among the maidservants of God, both he and she shall live in tranquillity....
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 63, p. 41

However, Abdu'l-Bahá clarified that, by conditioning bigamy upon justice, Bahá'u'lláh was in practice allowing only one wife; fully equal justice would not be possible in a marriage of two women to one man. An endnote to the Kitáb-i-Aqdas quotes Abdu'l-Bahá:
'Know thou that polygamy is not permitted under the law of God, for contentment with one wife hath been clearly stipulated. Taking a second wife is made dependent upon equity and justice being upheld between the two wives, under all conditions. However, observance of justice and equity towards two wives is utterly impossible. The fact that bigamy has been made dependent upon an impossible condition is clear proof of its absolute prohibition. Therefore it is not permissible for a man to have more than one wife.'
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Note 89, pp. 205-206


47. Is divorce acceptable?

Divorce is provided for in Bahá'í law, but is highly discouraged except in cases where reconciliation is impossible. Bahá'u'lláh says:
Should resentment or antipathy arise between husband and wife, he is not to divorce her but to bide in patience throughout the course of one whole year, that perchance the fragrance of affection may be renewed between them. If, upon the completion of this period, their love hath not returned, it is permissible for divorce to take place. God's wisdom, verily, hath encompassed all things.
The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 68, pp. 43-44

However, it must be observed that divorce was seen as only a last-resort option. In the next paragraph, Bahá'u'lláh continued:
Truly, the Lord loveth union and harmony and abhorreth separation and divorce. Live ye one with another, O people, in radiance and joy. By My life! All that are on earth shall pass away, while good deeds alone shall endure; to the truth of My words God doth Himself bear witness. Compose your differences, O My servants; then heed ye the admonition of Our Pen of Glory and follow not the arrogant and wayward.
ibid, p. 44, #70

Regarding its prevalent practice in Western society, Shoghi Effendi wrote:
There is no doubt about it that the believers in America, probably unconsciously influenced by the extremely lax morals prevalent and the flippant attitude towards divorce which seems to be increasingly prevailing, do not take divorce seriously enough and do not seem to grasp the fact that although Bahá'u'lláh has permitted it, He has only permitted it as a last resort and strongly condemns it.
Lights of Guidance #1309


48. Are the roles played by men and women a moral issue?

Their roles are largely a consequence of nature, but their equality is an indisputable religious, and therefore moral, fact. 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
'In this divine age the bounties of God have encompassed the world of women. Equality of men and women, except in some negligible instances, has been fully and categorically announced. Distinctions have been utterly removed.' That men and women differ from one another in certain characteristics and functions is an inescapable fact of nature; the important thing is that He regards such inequalities as remain between the sexes as being 'negligible'.
Quoted in a "Women, A Compilation"; Lights of Guidance, No. 2102, p. 622


49. Are men and women separate but equal?

Yes, though Abdu'l-Bahá explains that women excel men in some categories and men excel women in other categories.

In the Introduction to The Kitáb-i-Aqdas is found this statement:
... That men and women differ from one another in certain characteristics and functions is an inescapable fact of nature and makes possible their complementary roles in certain areas of the life of society; but it is significant that Abdu'l-Bahá has stated that in this Dispensation "Equality of men and women, except in some negligible instances, has been fully and categorically announced.
Anonymous, introduction to The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 7

However, Abdu'l-Bahá also explains that the world's gradual equalizing of male and female roles will give the impression of a femininization of society, as the once-underrepresented feminine ideals and attitutes take equal place with masculine ones.
The world in the past has been ruled by force, and man has dominated over woman by reason of his more forceful and aggressive qualities both of body and mind. But the balance is already shifting--force is losing its weight and mental alertness, intuition, and the spiritual qualities of love and service, in which woman is strong, are gaining ascendancy. Hence the new age will be an age less masculine, and more permeated with the feminine ideals--or, to speak more exactly, will be an age in which the masculine and feminine elements of civilization will be more evenly balanced.
Abdu'l-Bahá, quoted in Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era, 1976 U.S. edition, p. 156


50. Is the use of drugs and/or alcohol allowable?

No, unless proscribed by a competent doctor. A letter from the Universal House of Justice writes:
...One of these ordinances is the clear prohibition in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh of the consumption of alcoholic drinks. This has been explicitly revealed in His Most Holy Book, the Kitáb-i-Aqdas. He states, "It is inadmissible that man, who hath been endowed with reason, should consume that which stealeth it away. Nay, rather it behooveth him to comport himself in a manner worthy of the human station, and not in accordance with the misdeeds of every heedless and wavering soul.

Abdu'l-Bahá explains the harmful effects of drugs:
As to opium, it is foul and accursed. God protect us from the punishment He inflicteth on the user. According to the explicit Text of the Most Holy Book, it is forbidden, and its use is utterly condemned. Reason showeth that smoking opium is a kind of insanity, and experience attesteth that the user is completely cut off from the human kingdom. May God protect all against the perpetration of an act so hideous as this, an act which layeth in ruins the very foundation of what it is to be human, and which causeth the user to be dispossessed for ever and ever. For opium fasteneth on the soul, so that the user's conscience dieth, his mind is blotted away, his perceptions are eroded. It turneth the living into the dead. It quencheth the natural heat.

Shoghi Effendi explains that these prohibitions apply to all drugs:
[The Bahá'í Faith] requires total abstinence from all alcoholic drinks, from opium, and from similar habit-forming drugs.


51. Should prayers be allowed in public schools?

There is no statement on this, nor a clear principle I can think of that would shed light on this. There is the statement that "spiritual education is the light of the world of humanity and that its absence in the world is darkness itself," but extending this to cover prayer in school would be a stretch. The Bahá'í Faith does support the current separation of church and state.


52. Should the state subsidize religious schools or programs?

The state is not obligated to do so. However, it would be in the best interests of the state to do everything possible to see that all receive not only education that trains the mind, but also the spiritual education, which includes morals, that religion is so ideal for teaching. About the importance of religious and moral education, 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that "spiritual education is the light of the world of humanity and that its absence in the world is darkness itself." (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 331)

'Abdu'l-Bahá also comments on the education of children and the importance which their training in morals has to society:
Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning. A child that is cleanly, agreeable, of good character, well-behaved - even though he be ignorant - is preferable to a child that is rude, unwashed, ill-natured, and yet becoming deeply versed in all the sciences and arts. The reason for this is that the child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned. If, however, the child be trained to be both learned and good, the result is light upon light.

"Children are even as a branch that is fresh and green; they will grow up in whatever way ye train them. Take the utmost care to give them high ideals and goals, so that once they come of age, they will cast their beams like brilliant candles on the world, and will not be defiled by lusts and passions in the way of animals, heedless and unaware, but instead will set their hearts on achieving everlasting honour and acquiring all the excellences of humankind.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, No. 110, pp. 135-136

However, any state-subsidized religious school would not be able to indoctrinate into politics:
Politics are occupied with the material things of life. Religious teachers should not invade the realm of politics; they should concern themselves with the spiritual education of the people; they should ever give good counsel to men, trying to serve God and human kind; they should endeavour to awaken spiritual aspiration, and strive to enlarge the understanding and knowledge of humanity, to improve morals, and to increase the love for justice.

This is in accordance with the Teaching of Bahá'u'lláh. In the Gospel also it is written, 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's '.
'Abdu'l-Bahá: Paris Talks, pp. 158-159


53. Is the food a person eats a religious and/or moral concern?

We are taught to respect the gift of the body we have been given by the Creator. However, there are few restrictions regarding one's diet: alcohol is forbidden, as are the results of some hunting practices. Regarding the latter, in the Questions and Answers Section of The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh clarifies the passage regarding hunting as follows:
[Concerning hunting] He saith, exalted be He: "If ye should hunt with beasts or birds of prey" and so forth. Other means, such as bows and arrows, guns, and similar equipment employed in hunting, are also included. If, however, traps or snares are used, and the game dieth before it can be reached, it is unlawful for consumption.
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Questions and Answers Section, No. 24, p. 115

As to the food of the future, when asked what this would be, 'Abdu'l-Bahá said:
Fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten. Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground. The people will gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food.
quoted in Ten Days in the Light of Akka, Julia Grundy, pp. 8-9

Food does become a religious matter during the period of the Fast. This is March 1 - March 20 each year, during which time Bahá'ís refrain from all food and water from sunrise to sunset and are to use their hunger to help meditate on the meaning of the body and of the spirit.


54. Is gambling allowed?

No, Bahá'u'lláh forbids gambling in the following paragraph from His Book of Laws: "Gambling and the use of opium have been forbidden unto you. Eschew them both, O people, and be not of those who transgress." (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Par. 155, p. 75)

This is elaborated in the endnotes to the Aqdas:
The activities that are included in this prohibition have not been outlined in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh. As both 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi have indicated, it is left to the Universal House of Justice to specify the details of this prohibition. In response to questions about whether lotteries, betting on such things as horse races and football games, bingo, and the like, are included under the prohibition of gambling, the Universal House of Justice has indicated that this is a matter that will be considered in detail in the future. In the meantime, the Assemblies and individuals are counselled not to make an issue of these matters and to leave it to the conscience of the individual believers.

The House of Justice has ruled that it is not appropriate for funds for the Faith to be raised through lotteries, raffles, and games of chance.
Bahá'u'lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, endnote #169


55. Is smoking allowed?

Yes, though tobacco only, and yet it is highly discouraged. 'Abdu'l-Bahá says:
But there are other forbidden things which do not cause immediate harm, and the injurious effects of which are only gradually produced: such acts are also repugnant to the Lord, and blameworthy in His sight, and repellent. The absolute unlawfulness of these, however, hath not been expressly set forth in the Text, but their avoidance is necessary to purity, cleanliness, the preservation of health, and freedom from addiction.

Among these latter is smoking tobacco, which is dirty, smelly, offensive - an evil habit, and one the harmfulness of which gradually becometh apparent to all. Every qualified physician hath ruled - and this hath also been proven by tests - that one of the components of tobacco is a deadly poison, and that the smoker is vulnerable to many and various diseases. This is why smoking hath been plainly set forth as repugnant from the standpoint of hygiene... [I]n the sight of God, smoking tobacco is deprecated, abhorrent, filthy in the extreme; and, albeit by degrees, highly injurious to health. It is also a waste of money and time, and maketh the user a prey to a noxious addiction. To those who stand firm in the Covenant, this habit is therefore censured both by reason and experience, and renouncing it will bring relief and peace of mind to all men. Furthermore, this will make it possible to have a fresh mouth and unstained fingers, and hair that is free of a foul and repellent smell. On receipt of this missive, the friends will surely, by whatever means and even over a period of time, forsake this pernicious habit. Such is my hope.
Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, pp. 147-148

For an entire monograph on the ethics of smoking, see "In A Blue Haze: Smoking and Bahá'í Ethics" at
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