Involvement of the faithful in political life, and showing justice in all walks of life

Evening of Saturday, November 18, 1911, in the home of Monsieur Dreyfus, Paris

A provisional translation from Khetabat-e Mubarakeh (Talks of ‘Abdu’l-Baha) vol. 1, 174-79 (and from page 180 in the 1-volume edition). There are English notes of this talk, published in Star of the West 3:2 page 7, April 9 1912, and a less reliable version of these published in The Wisdom of Abdul Baha in 1924 and in almost identical form in Paris Talks. For the date of the talk, see the second comment below.

He is God.

In the world of existence, a human being should have the hope of reward and the fear of punishment, particularly those who serve in the government, and have the affairs of the state and the people in their grasp. If government officials do not have such a hope of reward and fear of retribution, they will certainly not behave with justice.

Rewards and punishments are the two poles on which the tent of the world is raised. Thus government officials are held back from committing injustice by the fear of punishment and eager hope for reward.

Consider despotic governments in which there is neither fear of punishment nor hope for rewards. As a result, the affairs of such governments do not pivot upon justice and fairness.

Rewards and punishments are of two sorts. One is political rewards and punishments, and the other is divine rewards and punishments. It is certain that, if some souls are firmly persuaded of divine rewards and punishments, and they are under the constraints of political rewards and punishments as well, those persons are more perfect, for they will constrained and deterred from practicing oppression. If both the fear of God and the fear of retribution are present, that is, if there is both spiritual and political deterrence, of course this is more perfect.

Some government officials, who both fear the chastisement of the state and dread divine torment, naturally observe justice to a greater extent. In particular, those who fear eternal punishment and have hope of everlasting reward: such souls make the greatest possible efforts in thinking how to implement justice, and they are averse to oppression.

For, for those who are firm believers, to commit tyranny is to be visited by divine punishment in the eternal world. Naturally, they will shun oppression and wrong-doing, especially since firm believers, if they dispense justice, will draw near to the threshold of grandeur, gain eternal life, enter into the Kingdom of God, and their faces will be illumined by the lights of divine grace and loving-kindness.

Thus, if government officials are religious, naturally that is better, for they are the manifestations of the fear of God.

My intent with these words is not that religion should have any business in politics. Religion has absolutely no jurisdiction or involvement in politics. For religion is related to spirits and the conscience while politics is related to the body.

Therefore the leaders of religions should not be involved in political matters, but should devote themselves to rectifying the morals of the people. They admonish and excite the desire and appetite for piety. They sustain the morals of the community, they impart spiritual understandings to the souls, and teach the [religious] sciences, but never get involved in political matters.

Baha’u’llah commands this. In the Gospels, it is written that you should give Caesar what is Caesar’s, and God what is God’s.

The essence of the matter is this: in Iran the righteous Bahai government officials observe the utmost justice, because they fear the wrath of God and hope for the mercy of God. However there are others who do have no scruples at all. However capable they may be, they never cease their oppressive and negligent acts. This is why Iran is in such difficulties.

I hope that all the friends will be the exponents of justice in all matters. Justice is not something that concerns only senior government officials: the merchant should show justice in transactions, the industrialist should show justice in his industry. [note 1] All people, great and small, must be committed to justice and equity. Justice can be defined as not exceeding one’s own rights, and dealing with all others as one would wish to be dealt with oneself. This is divine justice.

“God be praised! The sun of justice has risen above the horizon of Baha’u’llah. For in his tablets the foundations of such a justice have been laid as no mind hath, from the beginning of creation, conceived. [note 2] A station has been ordained for every human rank, which must not be exceeded. For example, it is said that industrialists of every kind must show justice in their industry. That is, they should not claim more than their due. If they are oppressive in their own business, they are no different to a tyrannous king. Every person who does not exhibit justice in his own dealings with others, is like a tyrannous ruler. Thus every human being is able to be just or tyrannous.

Therefore I hope that you will all be just in your dealings, and that you should have no thought but to associate with all peoples and exhibit the purest justice and equity in all your dealings. You should even put the rights of others before your own rights, and the interests of others before your own interests, so that you may be the manifestations of divine justice and live according to the teachings of Baha’u’llah. In his own life, Baha’u’llah experienced the greatest hardships and afflictions, so that all humanity might be well nurtured, just, and show all the human virtues. Turn your faces to eternal edification. Seek divine justice. Become the manifestations of the bounties and mercy of God that surround all peoples. This is my sincere prayer for you.

[The talk concludes with a prayer in Arabic that does not appear to have been translated elsewhere.]

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