The importance of marriage in the Baha’i Faith is clearly stated in the Baha’i writings. Marriage is considered not only a physical union, but also as a spiritual union between two people who have decided to share their life adventures together. As a result of marriage between two souls, new relationships form between the couple, their families and even friends. The Baha’i writings say:
The true marriage of Baha’is is this, that husband and wife should be united both physically and spiritually, that they may ever improve the spiritual life of each other, and may enjoy everlasting unity throughout all the worlds of God. This is Baha’i marriage. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 118
The simple yet profound laws for Baha’i marriage contribute to a healthy and progressive marriage that unites families and societies. One of these laws is parental consent. Although in the Baha’i Faith, parents cannot interfere with choosing a partner, couples who are planning to get married should seek their parents’ consent regardless of their parents’ religion or marital status. Getting parental consent before marriage is essential for the validity of the marriage.
The validity of a Baha’i marriage is dependent upon the free and full consent of all four parents. The freedom of the parents in the exercise of their right is unrestricted and unconditioned. They may refuse their consent on any ground, and they are responsible for the decision to God alone. – On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 444
But why is parental consent significantly important for a healthy Baha’i marriage?
1. The station of parents
The Baha’i writings emphasize respect towards parents and how children should behave towards them. Parents educate the children and support them materially and spiritually until they become independent. They also know their children’s character better than anyone else and usually can tell if their children are ready for the responsibilities of a married life. Parents are able to see various aspects of a matter that two people who are deeply in love are unable to see. Therefore, it is essential to include them in the most important decision of life, which is marriage, and seek their advice and consent. The parents’ pure prayers will aid their children in building a successful marriage, both materially and spiritually.
Asking for consent shows appreciation for all the efforts made by parents who sacrifice their lives for the well-being of their children. Because of this, the bonds between parents and children become stronger.
If thou wouldst show kindness and consideration to thy parents so that they may feel generally pleased, this would also please Me, for parents must be highly respected and it is essential that they should feel contented, provided they deter thee not from gaining access to the Threshold of the Almighty, nor keep thee back from walking in the way of the Kingdom. Indeed it behooveth them to encourage and spur thee on in this direction. – Abdu’l-Baha, Lights of Guidance, p. 230
2. Union of families
Beside the union of couples, marriage unites families. Therefore, it is indispensable that both families are wholeheartedly satisfied with the union. When families are truly united through their children’s marriage, they are more willing to support them throughout their life. Couples also have the advantage of receiving their families’ support in educating and raising their child with a world-embracing vision.
Consider the harmful effects of discord and dissension in a family; then reflect upon the favours and blessings which descend upon that family when unity exists among its various members. What incalculable benefits and blessings would descend upon the great human family if unity and brotherhood were established! – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West vol. 17, no. 7
3. Fostering consultative spaces in families
The Baha’i writings encourage Baha’is to consult about every issue that arises in their communities or families. The decision of marriage and parental consent opens a door for consultation in the family setting. A consultative space where each person can share their opinions freely without any fear or form of prejudice will bring the families closer. It will also prevent any dispute or conflict between parents and children.
It is surely a very unfortunate case when the parents and children differ on some grave issues of life such as marriage, but the best way is not to flout each other’s opinion nor to discuss it in a charged atmosphere but rather try to settle it in an amicable way. – On behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 29 May 1929
4. The station of mothers
In many of the religions of the past, only the father’s consent was required before marriage. But in the Baha’i Faith, the mother’s consent is also required, which shows how the station of mothers is valued and how mother and father should consult and make the decision regarding their son or daughter’s marriage. Men and women are equal, so both sons and daughters should seek consent from both their mothers and fathers.
This great law he has laid down to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of children for those who have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator. …The Baha’is must, through rigid adherence to the Baha’i laws and teachings, combat these corrosive forces which are so rapidly destroying home life and the beauty of family relationships, and tearing down the moral structure of society. – Shoghi Effendi, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, 25 October 1947
Seeking parental consent is a way to ensure a healthy nuclear family. Although the consent of all living parents is required, it is advised that parents should not abuse this power in order to prevent their children from marriage or enforce their opinions without any reasonable justification. Instead, it should be valued as an opportunity to bring the families closer together and foster the unity of communities.